I am aching for freedom. Or maybe I should say, I am aching for more freedom.
AuntieLex recently wrote a post that I read about having the label of alcoholic. How do we end up with that label? Who decides?
I’ve struggled with the stigma of the word “alcoholic” for years. When I finally surrendered to the label in December of 2016, more shame, guilt and dishonor piled on top of the mountain of negative feelings I already had about myself. I only used it when absolutely necessary with my closest family and friends, no more than a handful, and mostly it was to remind myself and those same people, my loving enablers, that I just cannot drink anymore. With tears streaming down my face and my breath catching between sobs, I blurted out to my therapist in one particular session that, “I AM an alcoholic” and it felt more like I was punishing myself by making myself say that loaded word to a stranger (in a sense) rather than owning a self-truth.
Reflecting on this made me think of Laura McKowen’s recent blog post. McKowen provokes her readers by suggesting that the real question we should be asking ourselves isn’t, “Am I an alcoholic?” but rather, “Am I free?”
Ever since I read her post, this question has been stirring in my heart. It’s a question that allows me to own my truth – that I have a problem with alcohol. That I lose control and become a person I am not proud of and make choices that I don’t remember but make me feel as though I’ve violated myself, others around me, and the world. That I am anything but free when I drink. As a result, I’ve stepped back from using “alcoholic” as part of my identity. It doesn’t change the fact that I simply cannot drink ever again because when I do drink, I lose the freedom that I have learned I so desperately need.
While sobriety has given me a freedom that I forgot existed, there are other ramifications I also forgot about. A clear mind means every feeling must be felt, thoroughly, and often many times over. This leads to fully understanding that there are areas of my life that can no longer be silenced with a blackout. I am trapped by my own inability and unwillingness to make changes in these areas and as so many of us painfully know, feeling trapped will eventually lead to my downfall if I do not attempt to address them head on.
As difficult as I know this will be, I am acutely aware that I must do so. I want more freedom. I want to be free from the feelings of guilt, inadequacy, resentment, anger and unresolved issues surrounding my broken marriage. I want to be free from feeling under-appreciated and undervalued yet overwhelmed at my job. I want to be free from the feelings that I’m just not cut out to be a mother and I’m screwing up my kids left and right.
I want more freedom. I need more freedom. My soul, my sober soul, is demanding it, screaming from the deepest depths of me that while I’m no longer held prisoner by my addiction, I am still trapped in so many ways.
Recovery is about so much more than just staying sober. As I recently told my therapist, it would appear I’m actually in recovery from life.