Stroking Your Scars

We all have scars.

I have a small line at the bottom of my stomach from a last minute C-Section that birthed two beautiful babies a year ago.  I stroke that perfect scar often and reflect.  I relish this scar.  I remember exactly where I was and vaguely remember what happened.  I remember the pain but mostly I remember the victory and the moment everything changed and life as I knew it was rocked and rolled in the most profound way.

I have a scar on my knee from when I fell off a train stumbling drunk as I was carrying my cat in a carrier and missed the step while carrying on a very important conversation with her.

I have a scar on my forehead from having the chicken pox as a kid.

You would think the most physical of these scars leave the deepest impression but they don’t.  They represent what the world sees, but the most painful reminders are usually our internal scars that no one will ever see unless we shine a light on them.  Until we bring them to the surface and voice our pain to other people who can lesson our burden, we are truly in the dark.

We all have scars.

We all carry around reminders of our past and our present hurt and if you could tick through each scar, both the ones you can see and the ones that are hidden, we would create a beautifully horrific tapestry that nobody would ever want to pay a buck for on Antiques Roadshow.

Most of us will never ever share each scar.  I don’t know that we need to or if it’s possible to share each experience you’ve ever had with another human being.  There are some things that need to be uniquely ours.

But when our pain causes us to continue to hurt ourselves and others, we are in a precarious position.  I always thought that when I drank I wasn’t hurting anyone but myself.  That’s absolutely false.  Everyone in your world is affected by your using.

Drinking and drugs is a choice for us when we first partake.  That is true.   But if your brain is wired the way an addict’s brain is wired, the way my brain is wired, one is too many and 100 is never enough.  Once we flip the switch, we no longer have a choice.  We must keep using.  That’s the thing that is so hard for non-addicts to understand.

We finally have a way to hide our scars.  As long  as we keep using we don’t ever have to deal with the problems that cause us to drink and drug.  How convenient.  Except for the fact that we never know what drink or hit is going to kill us.

The scars that are so deeply hidden from view are the ones that will kill us.  They will never heal because we don’t expose them.  So they fester.  They grow like a bulbous tumor inside of us until we are so uncomfortable with the torture that we use again to hide from the pain and the sadness.

Everyone and their mother has written about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death and how it has affected them, so I didn’t really want to add to that.  Honestly, I had to stop myself from reading too much as for an addict like me, it makes me squirrely. Especially because he had so much clean time and went back out.  It’s terrifying from where I stand, but also a reminder.  To be vigilant.  To not ever think I have this thing licked.

I have a hell of a time dealing with the deaths of people from substances because I know it’s not really the substances that kill them, it’s the underlying sadness and regret and hopelessness.  We have to walk over the bodies in recovery.  There will always be people who die from addiction, but really it’s from sadness, hopelessness and despair.  But they don’t ever put those reasons on a death certificate.

I didn’t party.  I didn’t drink to have fun or loosen up.  In the end for me, it was to die.  I wanted to die.  And if I hadn’t had a moment of grace, I would be dead.  I have no earthly idea why I’m still here and others aren’t, but I am and so I go in peace and try to help others.  That’s how I give back.  My scars are very fresh and I purposely keep them there.  My past is my past and yet I carry it with me into the present because I need to remember.

I am an alcoholic and if I drink I will lose everything.  This is my responsibility.  I am responsible to my kids and my family and my employer and everyone in my life, I am responsible.  Nobody else can do this for me.  If I drink, I will die.  Maybe not right away, but I will die.  That’s a heavy burden to bear, especially with kids.

But even knowing all that, the siren of the drink still beckons.  It still calls out to me after a decade-plus sober when I don’t want to deal with something.  When I want to escape.  When I just want a god damned moment of peace, alcohol seems like my friend.  Alcohol is liar.  ALCOHOL IS A LIAR.  I have to get to the source of what’s really happening and feel all the feelings and not let it get to the point where a drink is the only answer.  That is terrifying.  But if I am sober today, I can make the choice to be sober tomorrow.

Stroke your scars.  Get familiar with them.  Expose them to the light.  Share them.  Find people who will listen and not care that you’ve told them the same thing 800 times.  Those are your people.  Work on making yourself be OK with your scars.  Accept them even.  ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEM because chances are whoever you are blaming may never own up or make good.  This is your responsibility.  Get comfortable with discomfort.  It doesn’t last forever.  It’s a treacherous journey, this being a human being thinking doing.  We need each other to help carry the load.


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