Do you remember when you were a kid, and people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And you just knew, without giving it a second thought, that you could be anything you wanted. It was your choice. Nothing was off the table. There was this huge array of things to choose from, and you had the fun of deciding what you wanted to be.
My dad asked me this when I was about eight years old, and I said, “A hippie. Just like Laurie on the Partridge Family.” My dad, who has never gotten a traffic ticket, was dismayed. “You’ll change your mind,” he said. I was indignant. “No I won’t!” I shot back, angry that he would suggest such a thing.
He was right. I did change my mind, but now I’m changing it back. I still want to be a hippie. After decades of “mom wear,” including matching sweater sets, I’m going to reinvent myself.
And why not? Sobriety gives you that chance. But there’s a trick to it: You have to withdraw who you were while drinking to allow the real you to emerge.
But change can feel dangerous and heartbreaking. I recognize this in some of my earlier blogs, as I wrestled with giving up that woman at the party — the “fun” girl who was reliably late, forgot you name, and rambled on enthusiastically with the other drinkers. That woman seemed like who I was, and I played her part for twenty-five years. That’s a lot of time to establish myself as that person. I really thought that she was me.
Guess what? I’m someone better now, though I feel endless compassion for the women at the party. She seems like someone I used to know, who stumbled along like the rest of us, trying to prove something she never had to. She only exists in photographs now, like someone who has gone on to a better place.
So after mourning the party girl, I get to choose again who I want to be. I no longer have to blend in to the woodwork as someone labeled “woman with a drinking problem” anymore. I have no drinking problem. I very wisely chose not to drink. No problem there. It’s more like a rock star asset, if you ask me.
So now, at a little over two years’ sober, I’m going to buy some loud clothes. I’m going to practice being noticed, after years of only feeling worthy of notice after I’d had a drink or two. It will be so much fun! I’m going to get some weird earrings, the kind that scream “I’m into some crazy shit!” (I am, by the way.)
So there is opportunity in every seeming calamity. My decades of drinking were an invitation to rise above it. I was given this invitation every single day that I drank. Sometimes I listened; more often, I did not. But every day is a rebirth, and I’m continually being reborn now, without offering myself another lesson in pain.
What seemed like pain at the time, I recognize now, was just me at a crossroads, choosing the road of pain over and over again. Now I see the gift wrapped inside the pain of the crossroads … I get to choose again.