I received an email that stopped me in my tracks. The subject line read, simply: Why Is This So Hard?
She was talking about drinking. How she would string sober days together, one time up to 100 days, and then a glass of wine at a family gathering seemed utterly harmless. Weeks later she was right back in the spiral again. Then she would steel herself again, go a week without drinking, and one drink would lead her right back again.
Five simple words, but inside them is a mountain of pain: why is this so hard?
Here is part of how I responded:
It's hard because we're wired differently than other people - I've heard it described like an allergy, which makes sense to me, because it doesn't matter how much I thought, or knew, about my drinking, the urges eventually got me every time. This is a disease of the body, as well as the mind. And the truth of it is that there isn't any such thing as controlled drinking for us.
It's hard because we don't feel different - we have lives just like everyone else; we don't fit the 'stereotype', we're smart, creative and loving and everything in our lives is clicking along okay, except for this. How can we be so strong, so capable, in other aspects of our lives and have such a hard time with alcohol?
It's hard because it's bigger than we are. If you're anything like me, you're not used to anything being too much for you
There is more, though, that I didn't say. Words that felt strange in an email to someone I don't know, but that somehow don't feel strange here, because I am speaking not to one person but to anyone who is struggling to get sober:
It's hard because any meaningful change in life is supposed to be hard.
It's hard because when the alcohol is gone we don't get to glide through life half awake, partially medicated, numbing out pain, enhancing joy. We have to feel everything. Just as it is.
It's hard because in the early days of sobriety feeling everything seems impossible. We've spent years avoiding the tougher emotions, reaching for a glass to cure boredom, resentments, rage, guilt, shame and fear. We've used alcohol to create brighter, smarter, funnier, prettier versions of ourselves. We like that version of ourselves. No, we love that version of ourselves, and we fall deeply in love with the myth we've created at the expense of authenticity, self-love and truth.
It's hard because when you get sober, you find out who you really are. What you're really made of.
I didn't want to know who I really was; my mind had been full of guilt, deceit, shame and fear for so long I believed that was all that remained. I was sure I didn't want to find out who lived under that mask. I was convinced you wouldn't like her. I was convinced I didn't like her.
So, yes, it's hard. It's very, very hard. But it's not impossible. And it is quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to you, this struggle of yours, even though it doesn't feel like it now. Because on the other side of all the pain is freedom and light. On the other side of this seemingly insurmountable hurdle are friendships that will fuel your soul, and everyday moments that will make your heart soar with gratitude.
On the other side is you. You as you were meant to be, with all your fault lines and laugh lines. On the other side is peace of mind, freedom, and self-love. Real self-love, the kind that is wrapped in acceptance and truth.
And the good news is also the bad news: the ticket for entry to the other side begins with two simple things: put down the drink, and ask for help.
Don't do it alone, but do the one thing that scares you most.
Go find you.