intransitive verb: to box with an imaginary opponent especially as a form of training
The greatest thing that I’ve learned thus far is that I know nothing.
I spent most of my life trying to be the ringmaster in my own personal chaotic circus. I thought I could train the people in my life to play different roles for me, to perform different tricks. I may have needed you to be the tightrope walker. Perhaps I needed you to be the knife thrower or the clueless clown. I could have asked you to be the juggler or the lion tamer. Whatever it is I needed you to be in that moment, you would have to play along or you were of no use to me. It was my own masterpiece, and I enjoyed being the puppet master.
Until you told me that you wouldn’t be willing to fulfill that role anymore.
Then you became useless to me and I would have to fight to find a new person to replace you in my distorted reality. I have found myself constantly fighting, Not in the sense of a verbal or physical fight at all, but in my mind I couldn’t let my guard down. I had to be prepared for everything and anything, I had to practice over and over. No one could hurt me if I was strong. If I was capable. If I was in control. I became an olympian shadowboxer.
Training for a knock-out.
I came to win.
Punching the air, ready to attack the enemy.
I won’t be hurt again.
I attended twelve-step meetings and heard over and over again how I needed to rely on something bigger than myself to help me cope with life on life’s terms. I nodded my head. I said proudly that I had turned my will over to this Higher Power of mine, but in reality I was lying. Mostly to myself.
I had no problem being transparent and honest with others, but I spent most of my time telling myself lies that I thought would help me get through the day. I thought I was doing the right thing. I told myself that the daily exhaustion and emotional blackouts were due to other factors, They had nothing to do with the constant war in my mind that told me I wasn’t good enough, no power in the world could protect me from reality and my solution was to tighten my fists and stand on guard at all times.
My thoughts would spiral. My mind was cramped with the “what-ifs” and “ I can do this, i should be strong enough to do this.”
I was two years sober and absolutely miserable. I felt fatigue in a way I had never known possible before. I wanted my divorce to be over. I wanted my kids to be happy and adjusted. I wanted a boyfriend to fill the hole from my empty marriage. I wanted to go above and beyond for my kids, not realizing they didn’t need a super mom.
They just needed me.
I laid in bed every night feeling like I had ran a marathon. Every cell in my body just wanted to rest. I couldn’t figure out how to let shit go, trust that everything was going to be ok, or actually use the tools I had been so freely given from other alcoholics. Every once in awhile I would experience a brief moment where I could let my guard down and rest. This usually happened in a room with a bunch of other drunks. I heard them talk over and over how it worked for them. Their experiences, their strength and hope. A little lightbulb would turn on in my head briefly to hear the message- if I wanted to live a life worth living I had to let go of the control.
Turn it over.
Alcohol no longer controlled my thoughts or actions, but my alcoholism refused to let go completely. I thought it was my job to heal my heart alone. I thought it was my job to make sure my kids never experienced life on life’s terms. I thought my terms were a better bet. I wanted to be successful, in love, and filled with peace.
That’s the insanity.
If I just unclenched my fists and opened my heart, if I could just have faith that things didn’t have to be so hard. I didn’t have to sucker punch the shadows lurking inside in order to survive.
I had to stop fighting and go with the flow.
Time to rest.
Time to retire from my former job title as “ Coordinator of Chaos”.
Day by day I started to notice the changes within myself. We’ve all heard the phrase, “ You can’t control people, places, or things.” It takes up so much energy to try to change a person who isn’t you. It takes less energy to see my capability to change myself with the help from a God of my understanding. A few weeks ago, I was driving from Illinois to Connecticut with my three little girls and sister. My brain was all over the place. I was consumed with the stress of driving, stress of keeping kids entertained, and trying to make sure that my sister was ok with the three squealing children in the back seat. I put my earbud in and listened to some recovery podcasts and tried to pray. I prayed for patience and peace. At some point during the two day trip I felt a shift. I had been trying so hard to put my guard down and trust that things would be ok.
All of a sudden, I knew things were ok. I knew I would be ok. I knew my kids would be ok. I knew that the sudden peace and calm that hit me like a freight train happened in that moment for a specific reason. Moments pass, but the clarity stuck. I had been hiding behind the fear of change for over a decade. I had to walk through that fear not only for myself, but for my kids. I had to surrender and go with the damn flow.
The flow led to an opportunity to move back home after seventeen years. I made the decision. I got a job. My family opened up their homes and hearts for us. I would be naive to say this was some sort of easy process. It was excruciating and painful for everyone, especially the other side of my daughter’s family. But- I never faltered. I had been given the grace from God to know that I can get through pain. Pain is necessary sometimes for growth, and it had been a long time since I’d had a growth spurt. For the first time in a long time, I can provide for my kids, have a roof over our heads, and embrace the love and stability my family has showered us with.
A year ago, or even six months ago, I would have laughed in your face if you told me that I’d be moving back to the area I grew up in with three daughters, a dog, two cats and a job. But- here we are. Home at last.
This has been one of the hardest things my kids have had to experience so far in life. They are moving across the country from a family that loves them unconditionally and will miss them terribly. I knew that I would not be able to give them the kind of life and home they needed if I didn’t take this leap of faith.
We are still a family.
Home is where the heart is, and our hearts are here, there, and everywhere.
I don’t have to throw punches to protect myself life. I just have to let it go and follow the flow.