Success, however we define it, is harder to pin down. Especially when we're making major life changes, like getting sober, going through a divorce, recovering from illness or the loss of a loved one.
I've spent the past year working on self-care, on changing the tape in my head from one that tells me I'm not enough, to one that tells me I'm okay just the way that I am.
A year ago, my husband had recently moved out. I couldn't drive a car. I didn't have a job. I had to call a number every morning to find out if I had to go in for random alcohol testing. I had a probation officer.
All around me lay the wreckage of the life that had been familiar to me for decades. I was slowly repairing my relationship with my kids, adjusting to life without a husband. I felt fractured, broken into a thousand pieces. All I knew for certain is that if I stayed sober, everything else would fall into place.
Days passed very, very slowly. When you can't drive, or escape through work or staying busy, you spend a LOT of time in your head, staring at the walls surrounding you and feeling ALL the feelings.
If I wanted to stay sane, I had to stay in the moment. The literal moment. Days were carved into manageable bites: take a shower, go for a walk, meditate, read, ask for rides to grocery shop, get your kid to soccer or go to a recovery meeting. Go to bed at a reasonable hour, get up the next morning and do it all again.
I suffered when I thought too far ahead, when I got tangled in the wires of self-doubt and seemingly insurmountable hurdles: how will I get a job with my record? How can I possibly be a single parent when I don't drive? Who am I if I'm not someone's wife? Will my kids ever trust me again?
I suffered when I went back in the past, too, and rehashed all the "what-ifs" and "should haves".
All I had was the moment I held in my hands that very second. And then the next. And the next.
And I sat with the feelings. ALL the feelings. I couldn't numb out or escape. I found that I didn't want to, because I finally, finally understood that the only way out, dammit, is through.
Staying present in the moment, sitting with feelings and not labeling or dismissing. them, and accepting life just exactly the way it was became a daily, life-saving practice. For just over 18 months, I practiced. I stayed still. I repaired, bit by bit, by working on myself, cleaning up my side of the street. I focused on self-care, which is so counter-intuitive for someone like me, who just wants to FIX everything and everyone. Instead, I focused on fixing myself.
I got my license back on August 3rd. I no longer had a probation officer. I no longer had to check in for random testing. I had adjusted to life as a single mom, as much as anyone can adjust. My children trusted me again. I could sit with feelings, hold them in a sacred safe space and listen to what they had to teach me.
The work of rebuilding my exterior life could begin.
It is unfathomable to me that August 3rd was only a little over three months ago. I have a job. I spend hours in the car zooming around from place to place - school, soccer, play dates. My day starts at 6:40am and doesn't end until the last excruciating math problem is finished, usually around 10pm.
I'm divorced. My emotional wounds are healing into scars, and they remind me that I never, ever have to go back, that I am now free to move forward.
It is my practice, now, not to let gifts of recovery, of doing the work, of healing, lead me away from the present moment. I must make space for myself, each day. I check in to my gut, to my heart, and I listen to their sacred messages.
As the exterior gifts come my way, I turn up the volume on my journey inward. Back to my Ellieness.
I don't ever want to lose sight of her again. I remember who she was, before the addiction, before the failed marriage, before the chaos and destruction. I travel inside, deep down to the core of me, and she is still there - she always was - it's just that she got buried under layers of distractions, masks, and adult-ness. I spend time with her, in the stillness of healing, and I finally love her again.
I do not want to legally change my name back, because I don't want to have a different last name than my kids.
But I want to honor my return to self, somehow. And what better way than to make it Facebook official? I'm going back to my maiden name, Strong, at least online.
It seems, well, fitting.
Keep going, Strong, but don't forget to stay where you are, too.