Tears welled up in my eyes as I hugged her goodbye. They spilled over and ran down my cheeks as I whispered my prayer for the journey ahead. Trying to smile, I wiped the drops away as we parted. In that moment I was embarrassed by my tears but driving away I realized that showing my emotions, rather than keeping them hidden away, is a strength.
I am happy for her and at the same time sad for me. I know that what lies ahead will be a wonderful adventure and is part of God’s plan for her life. I also know that the foundation of friendship and trust that God allowed us to build in these few years of a shared life’s journey is strong and will withstand the pressure that the physical separation of geography will place upon it.
My heart is sad and my eyes are a bit puffy, but my spirit is not nearly as burdened as it would have been if I had not let out the tears. If I had tried to ‘stay strong’ and be cheerful in our goodbye, I would not have been honest and authentic in the moment of our parting. In reality, I could not have held in my tears, no matter what I did. But in other situations I have held my emotions and feelings inside, hidden from view. But also, hidden from those who might benefit from seeing my reality rather than a facade.
What is the value in keeping up appearances and hiding behind illusions? That is not reality.
A few moments after I wrote the words you’ve just read, I dashed out the door to my Wednesday meeting. I was excited because this week I marked 90 days! I was looking forward to collecting my 90 day chip, the first I would get since I received my 24 hour chip several years ago after I attended my first AA meeting. Back then I was not really ready to admit to my reality and 24 hours was all I could manage.
Unfortunately, the recognition I was expecting did not happen. Ours is not a regular “chip meeting”. You must let the leader know so someone can bring the chip that day so several weeks ago I recorded the date on the group calendar as I’d been told to do. I know the oversight was not intentional. I know that it was a result of a communication breakdown among people who have much heavier burdens to bear than I. Therefore, I chose not to announce my milestone once it was clear no one else was going to acknowledge it.
For the second time today tears welled up, but this time they did not spill over. I stayed silent because I could not share without crying and I did not want to show my pain. Part of me still does not feel safe in this Meeting room. Part of me still feels that some do not think that I belong. When the meeting was over I left. On the way out I confided in one of the few people I do trust because I did not want this disappointment to happen to someone else. In some ways, the encouragement that she gave me in that moment meant more to me than a room full of Good Job’s and Well Done’s from strangers.
Back when I was drinking, when something like this would happen, when I would feel invisible, unimportant, or unappreciated and I’d head home and simply drown the voice in my head with a glass, or 2 or 3, of wine. I’d silence the pain and disappointment with alcohol. It would not change the situation, but it would make it easier to ignore.
I do not have that option today. I cannot silence the voice in my head with wine, I must listen to it. But, as a result of listening to it, I can try to understand it better. I can try to process and decipher why I am having these feelings. When I would drink to silence the voices and feelings, I could not grow and learn as a person. When we silence the voices that give us pain, we also silence the voices that can provide us help.
I was saddened when I heard the news of Kate Spade’s suicide. One news report referenced self medicating with alcohol. While I do not know if that was true for her, I do know it was true for me. I know first hand how easy it is to use alcohol to hide from feelings. I know first hand how comforting it is to pull the blanket of a drunken haze over my head to escape from the stresses that are chasing me.
I am so thankful that I am no longer on that destructive path. I am so thankful that I stepped off the train long before it got to the point when I had lost my way completely. I am grateful for the life I have. I am grateful for the blessing of true friendship, even when that blessing brings me to tears. I also know, without a doubt that life is so much better today than would be if I were still drinking.
I don’t need a room of strangers to cheer for my 90 days. I am strong and the people who truly matter in my life know. I no longer have to keep up any illusions in front of them and that is a wonderful way to live!