This Is Us.
“…I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you, that I almost believed that these pictures are all I can feel…”
- The Cure. 1989
This past Christmas, our first without Darcy, I spent some time scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, of course, and saw all the family holiday photos of my friends and loved ones. Most often they are traditional family portraits with two parents, big joyous smiles and twinkling eyes. New babies, new life, whole hearts. Feelings and experiences captured so beautifully. I remembered what that beauty felt like and I was missing it. We had just HAD that. Where had it gone?
I was thinking about our new family of three and how I would present US on that Christmas Day. I had always posted fun pics for the friends and family that live elsewhere. This year, more than ever, I needed to post an update and I didn’t want it to bring on a bunch of sadness or a barrage of pity. How would I frame US now?
All the images we have of ourselves and our lives have a basic framework of smaller ideas that support the bigger picture. For example, when I was relying on alcohol as a way to numb painful feelings from my past and distract myself from the challenges of life, I had an image of myself as an irresponsible, weak, uncommitted person. Whenever I tried to eliminate alcohol I had these ideas about myself swimming around in my head. A loud "gremlin" voice telling me I was “less than” because I “couldn’t control it” or “wasn’t capable of just having one drink”… These smaller ideas supported that low image of myself. It was a weak and unsupportive frame around one hot mess of a painting.
How would I ever be able to rise out of my addiction with thoughts like THAT running through my head? That negative self-talk is the stuff that drives us to numb in the first place. How would my efforts to change ever be a success if I had a picture of myself that was so unflattering? The short answer is they wouldn’t. Those feelings I had about myself were the REASON I stayed tethered to the safety net of the daily vino for so long, BUT (and this is the good news for us optimists) we always have the ability to REFRAME our image of ourselves and our situations. We can shift and strengthen our views to support a better outcome. It was a simple but profound “reframe” that finally landed me in sobriety almost two years ago.
Here is what happened…
I was at an event for my dōTERRA business – nothing to do with addiction or sobriety - and one of the first speakers of the day, Aimee, shared a personal story about how she had successfully transitioned to a sober life a couple years earlier when she asked herself a question about what was holding her back in her business and keeping her from stepping into the best version of herself. She simply asked “what if my dependancy on alcohol is the ONE thing that is getting in my way?” Mic drop. After about 25 years of struggling with this same challenge, a total stranger (now a favorite friend!) had just unintentionally nudged me in the direction of the best REFRAME of my life.
No fireworks. No great mysterious secrets of success unlocked… just a different way of viewing the problem. Her question didn’t suggest her powerlessness. Her question suggested that she had a CHOICE in this. That she could empower herself by knowing better and doing better. Maybe I could too!
If Oprah was there she’d have been all “AHA!!!!”
That is how i felt.
Of course that reframe comes along with some work. And by that I mean “The Work”. Once we reframe we still have to redesign the art. We need to create a better image. For me, this came from learning how to sit with my feelings instead of with a glass (okay, bottle) of wine… and that was hard work, but with my new view of it all, it felt like a real possibility! This new approach was one that let ME be in control and with this feeling of empowerment I wasn’t going to loop back into the same old pattern as a result of feeling bad about myself. I was choosing this path now. It was no longer a punishment or penance. I was a masterpiece now! Or at the very least, I was a blank canvas. A clean fresh, powerfully white and bright canvas with a whole new frame AND I was the artist.
It is still a miracle to me that I lived through the disappearance and death of my favourite person, and all that has come with that, without ever feeling the need to numb my feelings with booze. We all have coping strategies that we rely on to take our mind off things (Netflix, anyone?) and that's okay - as long as it isn't complicating your relationship with yourSELF. Alcohol complicated my relationship with ME and that is why I chose to eliminate it. It wasn't serving me at all.
(I still shop sometimes, though…nobody’s perfect!).
Just like choosing sobriety required me to reframe lots of things, so has losing my husband. With the exit of booze, I had to totally reimagine what celebrations and beach holidays looked like. What sporting events and BBQ’s and weddings and date nights looked like. It was almost unimaginable at the start...excruciating, really...but I DID reframe those events and now I love my life without drinking. Today, I am pondering what it will look like to love my life, even without Darcy.
It’s a lot for one heart to take but with practice and purpose and a ton of gratitude for the gifts that come from being present with the people I love, I fully intend to figure it all out.
Deciding what it looks like to be a family of three and how to make that look and feel WHOLE is a work in progress but, like always, my starting point will be a reframe.
I’ll adjust the filter and let in a little more light. It works every time.
Til next time,
Heal and be healed.