I’m about to finish my first semester of grad school. I took two classes – Human Behavior in the Social Environment and Social Welfare Policy. I shed some tears and felt a serious amount of stress, but overall, my experience has been amazingly worthwhile.
I forgot how to use my brain in a classroom learning capacity, so that adjustment took some time. There is an incredible amount of reading required for a graduate degree (duh) and I’m surprised at how quickly I got into a groove of getting my shit done way in advance, absorbing the content, and kicking ass on assignments. As in, getting a 100% on my second policy paper after I cried hysterically over the first.
I went through a period in the first few weeks when I would dread the start of the live session (online program-speak for ‘class’. Just picture a Skype session with 16 other people set up in a grid with live chatting capabilities and you’ve got it.) But now that I’m almost done with week 13 of 14 of live sessions, I feel comfortable before class starts, not anxious as fuck about whether or not I’ll know how to contribute to the conversation in a meaningfully appropriate and graduate level way. I’ve continually surprised myself, which is new. I’ve unknowingly pushed myself out of my comfort zone and so far, I’m doing better than I thought I would.
I don’t know how to express how unimaginable it still feels to me that I have actually begun this process. I mean, a year and a half ago I was…lost, still broken, looking for attention in destructive places and ways, not loving myself, not engaged in anything meaningful and generally depressed. I was a shadow of who I am today. I’ve woken up from my coma of self-medicating and escaping. There’s a quote by Mary Karr who wrote a memoir about her recovery experience called ‘Lit’, that I have on my laptop’s lock screen and I see it every time I fire this baby up. It says: ‘There are women succeeding beyond their wildest dreams because of their sobriety.’ It forces a tiny knowing smile onto my face every time I read it.
The word sobriety has multiple meanings for me. A year ago it meant that I had to stop drinking entirely because I was a hopeless, disgusting, and troubled addict. ‘Sobriety’ felt urgent. It felt like an emergency. It felt like my last resort. That kind of sobriety will never stick, at least for me.
Today, the word feels like a departure from the thinking and behavioral patterns that were holding me down and less like an urgent need to immediately stop every single last bad habit I have in their dirty tracks. Now, it’s more a letting go of the fear that I wasn’t good enough. It’s also an acceptance that every bad decision I made during those days do not define who I am as a person. I used to feel so disgusted with myself. So fucking fed up and angry at myself for not being able to be better. And, yes, I still feel like that as I occasionally feel the pull to say ‘fuck it’ and succumb to the waves of sadness or worry or stress that often come over me. There’s a difference between letting the feelings completely bowl me over to the point of needing to say ‘fuck it’ and, feeling the emotion, giving it the time it needs to be felt and moving on without needing to escape from that discomfort. The decisions I used to make and will sometimes make in the future are only that, decisions. They don’t in any way mean I am a terrible person. I’m a good person who had/has a few bad habits.
As I move farther away from my days of drinking to numb and escape and acting out sexually and ghosting through my existence, I marvel at how dependent I unknowingly was on those behaviors to get me through. I had a conversation with an old friend recently who is going through a tough time and is self-medicating in much the same way that I used to. I can see so much of my addictive behaviors in her. I can see the hurt. I can feel the pain. I can practically smell the self-loathing drifting off her skin. I wish I could coax her out of this process and make her heal the wounds she’s desperately and defensively licking but I can’t. I have to let this period in her life run its’ course, much as I had to let the drinking days in my life run theirs.
This addiction/sobriety thing is a tricksy asshole, isn’t it?
I’m beginning to feel grateful for it because living through and growing from my experiences is going to make me a pretty badass social worker once I’m done with school. Nothing will be able to stop me and my success will be wild.