One salty tear plopped onto the envelope, smearing the ink.
I was innocently addressing my holiday cards, and suddenly there I was, weeping.
This happens sometimes, usually at the most unexpected moments. I'll be minding my business, moving through my day, and WHAM. A memory will surface that stops me in my tracks.
I had dashed off about forty cards with nary a thought. As I went to slide the 41st card into its envelope, I looked at the picture. I mean, really looked at it. Our holiday cards arrived in the mail last week (from the fabulous Paper Culture) and I double checked spelling and style and moved on to the next thing.
My hand trembled as I examined our faces. My brother, who is a photographer by trade, snapped the picture on Thanksgiving Day. The kids are beaming at the camera, my husband has his strong arms wrapped around all four of us. We look happy.
We are happy.
What made the tear roll down my cheek was a memory from Before, from five years ago. I remember staring at our holiday card and marveling at how normal we looked. On the inside I was crumbling from fear and addiction, desperately hoping my dark secret would never be discovered. On the outside we we looked happy, smiling away at the camera. As I stuffed the pictures into envelopes I kept thinking: I am such a fraud. If people only knew.
When I look at that picture through the lens of today, though, I see how worn out we look. The cracks were starting to show:
My world was getting smaller and smaller back then. I think I sent out about twenty-five cards. Total.
My life was full of deceit - from hiding how much I drank to hiding how deeply flawed I felt - I had woven myself a web of lies so thick even I couldn't discern truth from fiction anymore. All I knew was that I had to keep the outside looking okay so nobody would peer too closely.
The thing that set me free was the thing I was most fearful of: the truth. Today I know that no matter how bad things get speaking my truths out loud will keep me safe.
My life now is so full of friendships and light and love that I feel far away from the woman I was Before. I know she's there, because she whispers to me sometimes, but her voice is as small as a single tear in a vast ocean.
Today I sent out more than three times the number of cards I did five years ago. The list is full of people who are so dear to me I can't imagine there was a time I didn't know them. Recovery friends, new friends, old friends I have reconnected with in sobriety. Bloggy friends and local friends. The list goes on and on.
It all started with ripping down the web of lies and telling One Simple Truth: that I am an alcoholic and I need help.
I dropped the pretenses, the need to seem perfect. I started looking inward for my sense of self-worth, instead of scrabbling away in the outside world and begging you to like me so I'd feel okay with myself.
It's easy to forget how dark and awful it was, how small my world had become. But I didn't weep because I feel remorseful or shameful; I wept because I'm so very grateful.
Happy Holiday Season, everyone, from our family to yours: