7.20am on the last day of December 2013. It is so cliché to sit and contemplate the year just past. I’ve managed to thoroughly annoy myself with the fact I feel the need to write my thoughts and experiences of 2013 down, but that’s what writers do. We contemplate, express, and feel way too much. Sometimes it can be quite bothersome actually. Even when I’m not writing my head is full of words and ideas trying to formulate rational expression. There is always a story bouncing around in there or an essay with some earth shatteringly important point to be made; or so I believe in my delusion. Anyway, delusional or not I’m going to write because this year has held some of the most important experiences and biggest revelations about myself in my life to date and for me it’s important to share them.
I guess the added advantage for alcoholics and addicts in recovery is that we have the opportunity to measure our success or failure, our learning, and our new experiences to a greater degree than a non alcoholic/addict. After all most of us have come from pretty nasty places. It is the basic fact for us that staying sober is the ultimate achievement and a precursor to our life or death. The attainment of self awareness is one of the biggest challenges for an addict/alcoholic to master but it is life threateningly important, because without it we cannot stay clean and sober. Personally, I find it exhausting. My natural disposition is to be rebellious and naughty so trying to stay in the good girl zone can cause me great distress sometimes. Being mindful of my own behaviour and actions means I constantly have to call myself on my own shit. However, it’s working. I still have a long journey to attain quality mental and emotional sobriety, but I haven’t touched a drink or a drug in almost four years. My life seems to be ascending into happiness and I owe it all to the fact that 12 step programs exist. So here is my 2013 story.
At the very beginning of this year, perhaps a day or two into the New Year, I made a decision to submit something to be published for the first time in my life. I wrote on and off since I was a little girl, but during the most chaotic years of my drinking and using I pretty much forgot that I ever wrote, and over 15 years passed without me ever putting pen to paper for anything other than filling out some form, signing an occasional cheque or writing a birthday card.
My passion for writing returned when I finally got sober and met another writer in recovery who inspired me to start again. So I did and my first piece submitted to writing.ie was accepted and published along with a subsequent three other essays. http://www.writing.ie/?s=nicola+o+hanlon. The flood gates opened and I got an opportunity to blog for the recovery site In The Rooms at http://iloverecovery.com/ and write about my experience living with alcoholism for Anna David on her new recovery website AfterPartyChat http://afterpartychat.com/?s=nicola+o+hanlon. I was published in psychology today and psycmed.com both online psychology magazines and I was featured in freshly pressed on the wordpress.com blogging community http://nicolaohanlon.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/the-video-that-reminds-me-why-im-sober/. You may think that I put those links in as a method of unashamed self promotion, but the fact is that I put them in there so people will believe that all that happened, or perhaps more so that I believe it myself!
That kind of exposure, in anyone’s book, is one hell of an achievement for someone who started writing seriously less than 12 months ago. But my alcoholic/addict brain still tells me that I’m not quite deserving of this. That really my ability as a writer is mediocre at best and someone is going to jump out at any moment and tell me it was all a bad joke and actually my skills as an ink slinger are pretty dire so say the least. But in fact, hundreds of people read my work every week and some of them even like it! That is most definitely life beyond my wildest dreams. I was never even capable of dreaming such a thing in my previous life as a professional active alcoholic. That happened to intelligent, talented, artistic people with degrees from Yale and Oxford. Christ, I found it hard to spell words correctly never mind have something published. I think the inventors of spell check deserve a Nobel Prize quite frankly. Alas, I still feel like I’m telling someone else’s story. My therapist (yes of course I have one), tells me I have a huge block when it comes to accepting my good and in the New Year we are going to dissolve that block and help me digest the reality of my life as it is today. Sounds like a plan!
For me today, success is proportionate to how much I have learned from a certain situation or if I have contributed to the learning and development of someone else. The aim of my writing is not to make money, (which is a good thing because I make very little), or to gain notoriety. My aim is to break the taboo and stigma around addiction and the catastrophic life events that occur in people’s lives because of it. My life’s mission is to reach out to people who have gone through or are going through the same experiences I did, and hopefully to give them a comforting hand to pull themselves out of their horror. I want to contribute to making the world a more compassionate place for my children to live in and to let them and other people know that it’s ok to be who they are. I’m tired of the struggle to fit in with societal views of what “normal” is and I want to help people realize that they are not alone, that there is help and understanding and real friendship.
This year I have caught up with my life. I have made more progress in this past 365 days than I have in the previous 38 years of my life. I am becoming all that I can be as a human being. But it is hard bloody work. Trying to stay recovered kicks my ass on a daily basis. I have nightmares and flashbacks from horrible past experiences. I still cry a lot. I still get bouts of hopelessness and depression. I still get lonely and wonder what the hell is it all about and sometimes I get to the point where all I want to do is to kill the pain with a mouthful of Jack Daniels.
But there is no denying that if I go back there, everything I have achieved, everything good in my life will disintegrate. I see the positive changes not only in myself but in my children and my extended family. I see that every single ounce of blood sweat and tears to stay sober and find a meaning in life is worth it and that is what gives me the strength to keep going. Even though sometimes I experience emotions too big for my body to hold I will continue on this path to find out what it’s all about. I believe that it gets easier and that the best is most definitely yet to come. 2014 holds for me an opportunity for more growth and development in my work and in my recovery. Life has become an adventure for me, albeit sometimes a difficult one, I have made a commitment to myself and to my Higher Power to see it through to the end.
My wish for you all in 2014 is that you find your path to becoming all that you can be, all that you were created to be and find peace and contentment on your Journey.
|An Old Celtic Blessing|
|May the blessing of light be on you—
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great peat fire.