The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart
—Derek Walcott, Love After Love
I’ve started going to appointments on my own. Being stuck in a waiting room with sobriety on the horizon no longer fills me with rage; instead, I take the time as an opportunity to do breathing exercises and practice mindfulness. When something minor goes wrong I don’t shut down anymore. I can handle small amounts of stress without being overwhelmed. Leaning into my anxiety and making peace with it has given me a modicum of inner strength I thought was forever lost. I’m starting to feel less helpless, less like a victim.
It’s a sign that I’m on the mend. The trauma of the past is starting to lose its effect on me. Heather doesn’t have to use a vacation day to accompany me on every check-up, and we can spend that time connecting in a more meaningful way1.
Developing resources to be self-sufficient also means learning to be responsible for my own happiness. In the past, I would save songs, shows, and movies so I could experience them for the first time with another person. This was especially true when ____ was still in my life; every moment was better when I could share it with her. But that meant I would constantly be denying myself the pleasure, and totally reliant on someone’s company to be happy.
So I’ve started enjoying things on my own as a way of treating myself well. Making sure I do something that gives me joy every day has opened up a world of ways to be compassionate to myself. Poor self-esteem has historically made it difficult for me to feel like I deserved to have fun unless I had done something to earn it, while bad emotional habits meant I never believed I was doing enough. None of that is an problem when I simply want myself to be happy.
That’s not to say I still don’t miss ____ tremendously — even after she decided to abandon me and blame me for it — but I don’t need her like I used to. I know I’m finally getting over her after so many years when I can finish the shows we started without getting overwhelmed with emotion. Learning that I have the ability to heal myself also comes as a huge surprise. I’ve been spending so much effort on recovery, trying to feel like my old self again, that I forgot it’s possible to grow in new ways and become an even better version of the person I used to be.
Still; I can’t remember the last time a song really hit me, something worth rating five stars in my playlists2. Music doesn’t bring me the same manic rush of joy anymore. In the last few years, this was directly related to the amount of trauma I experienced. Hardship has a way of bringing perspective to one’s life, and reducing the significance of things both good and bad.
Now I can tell it’s the price to pay for stability. The highs don’t seem as high anymore when I’m content most of the time, but that’s okay. I’m starting to understand that the euphoria I would seek as relief from my suffering isn’t sustainable. That’s a dragon I no longer need to chase when I can remember that pain is part of life, and letting it in is an important part of healing.