From Flawless to Flawed
It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; It’s what we say to ourselves about what happens.”
– Pema Chodron
Last night I dreamed I was on Heartland Mountain again. I was hiking through the wooded path, almost home again. It must have been early summer because the wildflowers were in full bloom. I watched the morning shadows dance over Sandy and Bella, my two BFF’s – a golden retriever and a yellow lab. Both have long since passed onto doggie heaven, but in the dream I didn’t know that yet. It was misty and fog-shrouded as only dreams can be, as it often was in my little corner of the Blue Ridge Smokey Mountains. I woke up remembering, feeling the bliss of that moment so vividly. Sweet Jesus.
Was I ever really so unbroken?
That’s as good a place to start as any, I suppose. Then, I was called “normal”. Perhaps even better than normal. I had enough wealth to feel unlimited. My youth, health and physical fitness so extreme it could be easily taken for granted. I was more than blessed with attractive features and I am not being vain in saying that. Beauty surrounded my home life as it did for the dozens of family-like neighbors who comprised this exclusive mountain community. I loved my husband. I felt that we were connected to each other and grounded to the granite mountain. We were excited to be starting our family soon, our spirits were soaring. I never felt lonely, my life was picture perfect and I was happy.
How was I to know that an addictive personality was lurking beneath?
Was it perfection I was unknowingly addicted to? Of course I didn’t see then how perfectionism could lead to addictive behavior. Only in hindsight does my journey begin to make sense. For now, I’ll begin with my ignorance.
Back then, I would never have imagined that I could become an alcoholic.
For one thing, I drank only fine wines, but not too often as I was big into exercise and healthy living. Fresh veggie juices were my favorite daily drinks. In my twenties, I became quite the connoisseur as I learned to enjoy fine wines with the best of them.
But I had that natural stop button. One or two glasses of wine were always enough.
I had no idea then that alcoholism was actually a disease. I thought that alcoholics and drug users were like homeless people on the street who were probably lazy, had a weak character and likely had endured great hardships.
I used to give them money, a kind word and a silent blessing. I truly felt compassion for them but at some level I judged them. Without realizing it, I felt superior. I didn’t know that one day I would be one of them. Truth is, alcoholism is subtly deceptive and progressive. It can really sneak up on you.
One morning during breakfast, my husband, as cavalier as talking about the weather, told me he wanted a divorce. He said he simply changed his mind about wanting to be married and didn’t want to start a family after all. Three months later we were divorced.
This was when I started searching for something – actually someone – to fill up the void in the life I had so carefully and perfectly planned. I lived to love again but then lost my new fiancé when my life was again stopped dead in its tracks. This time was due to the debilitating health diagnosis of Lyme disease as well as heavy metal poisoning. Later, there was a crippling back injury. This ended up being a decade long struggle. Gone was the youth of my thirties and all hope of ever having my own children.
Oh yes, I had plenty of reason for a pity-party.
Still, life happens to everyone. We all have our challenges, losses and wishes denied. Yet, not everyone develops an alcoholic mind, as I did. Was it due to the lost dreams that turned into lost hope? Was it dealing with the numerous life-threatening health complications? Also, there were the worrisome expenses and endless searches for the right doctors and the right information which were always just out of reach. Every year contained deep loneliness from perpetual isolation. Didn’t the stresses in my new life of poverty justify my need to escape reality?
Actually, it was none of these unfortunate events that caused my addiction to drugs and alcohol. It was my response to these events that was the real problem. My flawed thinking established my alcoholic mind-set and I wasn’t even aware it was happening.
Acceptance means events can make it through you without resistance.”