When I think about my personal growth and evolution as a human being, there are two things that I am most proud of: the first is that I no longer feel that "need" for an alcoholic drink. I can take it or leave it. 99% of the time I now find myself leaving it. The other 1% has become a glass of wine on "special occasions," like a birthday, or a nice dinner out. This is... huge. Truly. A high accomplishment for me that many people in my life still have yet to comprehend because they, "did not think I had a problem with alcohol," or, "would not see me as someone who they think needed to remove alcohol."
This may come as a surprise, but it turns out you do not have to be a public, sloppy mess to abuse your vices.
The second thing I am most proud of has been my ability to reflect on who I was - or really, who I portrayed that I was - to people who have known me throughout my life. When I think about this I specifically mean - the person who vented and joked away the stress and hardships in my home for the entertainment of "other people." In reality, those jokes were never for others, those were for myself. A way of coping as an alternative to... feeling the feeling! Shocker.
And unfortunately, this portrayal of myself is a hard one for me to live with today. It does hurt to reflect on this when I talk with a coworker or a friend and they "never realized I cared so much about 'X," or had "no idea I was so involved with 'Y.'" It is hurtful when I hear this - to know I have not shared my life with other people who are sharing theirs with me solely because I am that untrusting and private; or that I would lead people to believe I lack any compassion. Characters from books or shows with this personality piss me off a little bit. As the viewer I'm thinking... "What the fuck? Just tell them you care about them?!"
*Cough* *Severus Snape* *Cough*
This is most certainly not who I have ever been, nor someone I want to be perceived as. These instances have been rare, but they have happened, and initially I was defensive hearing this, because how could these people actually believe this about me? But the reality today is that this is how I was perceived based on my own behavior, and I cannot blame someone else for that.
The realization that this is who people think I am (or thought that I was), and that this is not how I want to be perceived, is the evolution I am proud of.
This was when I started realizing how people perceived me and whether or not I was comfortable with that perception. Now, if all my cards were on the table and the perception from people was still entirely wrong about me, then fuck them. But I know these specific scenarios this perception is not wrong. This is what I portrayed.
And because I am not comfortable with this perception, I have been working very hard to change this pattern; but breaking free of the mold is so difficult. It requires vulnerability and behavioral changes. It requires tapping into your spirituality, whatever that means for you. Sometimes it requires a lot of therapy, which is fucking expensive. And once you do start implementing some of this shit, there will be people who do not care for the changed behaviors - like the people who used to take advantage of you as a people pleaser (using this as an example because this is totally me).
Then there are the nay-sayers. The sickly, cynical ones that refuse to believe that you have made and sustained any change; refuse to believe that your mindset could shift so drastically on a certain subject, or that you really do not want to have a drink at the bar. I mean, I myself, have been known to say, "people don't change."
They do though.
People change behavioral patterns all the time.
People quit smoking. People quit drinking. People quit lifestyles and change their appearance. People quit their jobs and go back to school. People quit drugs and raise wholesome families to provide their children with a childhood they never had. People quit generational patterns. People quit mindsets and adopt new ones. People quit self-harm and harming others.
Because human beings are fucking incredible. That's why.
It just does not happen overnight.
We live in a society where we expect something right now. You want something, you go get it. You want to be rid of something? Throw it away.
But this is not how brain development works. We have so much patience and grace with babies as they learn to crawl, then walk. Eventually they will learn animals, colors, and numbers. Someday they become an athlete or the valedictorian, or BOTH. All through time. Through learning and development.
Why can we not have that grace with ourselves as we decide to make a change? Why does society tell us we cannot change? Why does the change have to happen overnight?
It fucking doesn't, and it won't.
Just one+ years ago I was drinking almost every night. My life and the activities that I pursued revolved entirely around where I was going to have a drink. I exercised because I needed to physically look good in order to like myself in any way - explicitly stating, "my body is the only thing I like about myself," many times behind closed doors. I rarely ate food before the afternoon hours, so my brain was depleted before I ever made it to 12pm. I hated my work, and because I hated my work I told myself it was because I was incapable, not smart enough, not good enough. I told many people a monkey could do my job better than I could - which then lead people to actually believe that about me at certain points throughout my career.
I was the ultimate people-pleaser. I spent years bending over backwards to give others what they needed or wanted from me both personally and in the workplace. I was never able to express how much I did not want to travel to X, spend money on Y, or even simply take a phone call. All of my disposable income was spent on everyone but myself, my PTO used on trips for everyone but myself - so people believed I was this laid-back, functioning adult, who had no career struggles, no monetary troubles, and the perfect upbringing to boot.
All the while, I was wildly depressed from never once taking care of myself first. I gave away every single piece of me to everyone else, and shit-talked myself when I would become too exhausted to give anymore. I did struggle with self-harming thoughts throughout the years. By the time I entered a relationship, I was a downright nightmare to my partner, who became the dumping ground for me.
Yet he never left.
And people like to ask what he would do without me.
Now here we are.
It has been 17 months since I began working with my therapist. 13 months since Serenity died. 9 months since I quit my job. 7 months since I dropped alcohol. 6 months since I started the coursework to help me change my career.
All the while, my mindset has been evolving. I have learned how to process emotional waves and complicated grief, be present and explore my own hobbies, set boundaries, address what I need from my partner, receive (and also give) constructive criticism, comprehend that my mental health actually heavily influences my physical health (not the other way around), be kind to myself and discover that affirmations actually do work; and ultimately - create a new perception of who I really am. Someone I want to be and to be seen as.
And I am just now able to reflect and see the progress.
17 months later.
This is the proof. Proof that people change. Proof that people can break out of their molds with a little support, and a whole lot of patience. Proof that learning and development is important for adults, too. Proof that we need to trust the process - the process that often goes [nearly] unnoticed in the background through day to day life.
One day we are crawling, the next we are pulling ourselves up to stand.
One day we are walking, the next we are running.
Where does the time go... they grow up so fast...