A PCT soul hike

Over 100 days sober and the universe is still leaving me post it notes reminding me why I quit drinking. I imagine I will find them for the rest of my life. And, to be honest, I hope I do. But hopefully they don’t always have to be so damn painful. Most of them are a dagger straight to my heart, making me tear up, and sometimes they make me full on ugly cry. Maybe one day, it’ll be a happy note from the peppy present showing me how great life is right now. Until then, you, dear reader, will have to endure the agonizing memories from some of my more uncomfortable moments which are also immediate reminders of my why.

September through December were the darkest months of my life, so far (a little Homer Simpson reference for you.) I was deep in my cups every night. I was going through a handle of whiskey a week (usually less than a week). I wasn’t sleeping. I was in a perpetual state of brain fog. I would wake up from what few hours of sleep I had, if you could even call it sleep, swear off drinking then go to a boozy lunch at work where I of course ordered a fancy old fashioned while everyone else drank an innocent beer. I cycled between hungover wakefulness, the in between where I was actively consuming, blacking out, passing out, then waking up in the middle of the night, riddled with anxiety and shame. I looked to all the holistic health modalities to explain why I was so tired all the time. Waking up at 3am every night is linked to the liver meridian, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is said to store anger and resentment. That must be it! I need to do some soul searching to uncover this anger and resentment. And I’ll do it with a whiskey in my hand. I didn’t dare admit that my beloved drink was to blame. The drink evoked a warmth that uncoiled in my belly and slowly slithered into my every nook and cranny, a false sense of happiness. The drink made me feel alive. That was, until I couldn’t feel anything at all.

I mostly work from home now. Since the start of the year, I’ve been into the office twice. The second time was this week and it was a total last minute decision. My manager’s manager was in town but no one told me in advance. THANKS GUYS. When I sat at my desk, it was so foreign to me (no diffuser! The horror!) that I had to clean up some papers, move binders to the filing cabinet, you know, general tidying. In the process, I found a blue post it note. On it, I, at some point, had written “losing you to you.” I don’t have any recollection of writing this note. I don’t know where or how I came up with such a saying. What I do know is there is not a more concise way to describe what eventually happened because of my drinking. I lost myself to myself. I looked in the mirror and no longer recognized who I was. I didn’t like what I saw and wasn’t willing to accept what I saw. So, I drank. I drank to blur the image of my own existence. I drank to hide who I was. Actually, I drank to change who I was is more like it. I didn’t want to be me or to have the life I have. I wanted something else.

These last 100+ days have been nothing short of humbling. I am constantly reminded of my humanness and my deep desire to belong. Nevermind the fact that I never belonged to myself. I never pulled a chair out for myself and gave myself a seat at my own table. I wanted to be at someone else’s table, even when that table only had two legs and the head of the table held up the third side with his hand. It wasn’t a stable table. So when the head of the table got tired and dropped that side, the table came crashing down and none of us had a place to sit. I was back to my chameleon ways, eyeing the table for one in the sunny corner with a stack of books next to it, but denying myself the opportunity to nourish my soul by finding an even more sketchy table to stand around. There were no seats for me. But there was a group of people that I could stand around/with to look like I belonged. Surely that would be better than sitting by myself. Ensue groupthink.

I’ve said before, I love to learn but I can be a slow learner. Not drinking has been an act of rebellion in a lot of ways. It’s rubbed some people the wrong way and made them uncomfortable. But I’m no longer here to manage anyone else’s uncomfortableness. Not drinking has allowed me to stand rooted in my strength, something that I would NOT have done just 109 days ago. And something I DIDN’T do 109 days ago when opportunity actually arose. I’m no longer “losing myself to myself.” I’m welcoming myself to myself. I’m learning what inspires me, what creativity looks like/feels like for me, what my values are. I’m slowly coming home to myself. And the journey back has been that of a mountaineering professional on a PCT thru-hike. Burn areas, dessert, snow, forest, peaks, valleys, stream crossings, hail storms, thunderstorms, sunny days, windy days, scrambles, flat terrain. A few forks in the trail where I went left when I should’ve gone right but eventually got back. And yet, it’s been the most purposeful experience of my life. I’m exposing myself to the elements and remembering how strong I truly am. How resilient I am. How brave I am.