Once upon a time I was a young girl, perched at my favorite window, nestled in my coziest corner, pencil and paper in hand. I had grand fantasies in my head poised to weave into stories. The wind would rush in as the corn stalks swayed in the fields that surrounded my house. Many a youthful summer day was spent writing my thoughts down and releasing ideas to make room for new poetic dreams. I wanted to be a writer. Always. Except when I thought I wanted to be a librarian. Still…words. Always words. On paper, either of my own design or those of someone else.
What happened to that innocence? To the flowing creativity, the exceptional wonder of my adolescence?
This is when the once upon a bottle begins.
I have heard countless times in my sobriety, “we are so glad you are back, we missed you, you are finally with us again.” Truth be told, I’m not back. Not the person my disease portrayed to society for 20 odd years. Not at all. I am not back because I have never been my authentic self. Those around me can see a fire finally ignited in my soul. The cold bitter sorrow slowly dissipating. They are welcoming back a Kellie that was never gone and meeting the woman that hadn’t yet been revealed.
The first time I actually heard this exclamation of my being “back” was a few months after my divorce. I did exude (I suppose) a sense of freedom that would have been perceived as a rebirth. While my marriage was nothing terrible, it did lack a sense of intimacy. For years I felt a disconnect that perhaps I blamed on my nuptials, I would tend to drink those feelings into deep submission. Yes, for a few months’ post-divorce I was acting differently, more at ease in my own skin. I didn’t realize that a sense of a new self still hid the underlying issues that would eventually lead to my spiritual and sober demise.
Six years went by before I hit the bottom of my disease. What I thought were the darkest days during my divorce and life as a single, mostly unskilled, mother, were shadows compared to the depth of what I was about to entertain as the beginning of my sobriety.
So began the excavation of my life. Digging, trudging, through years of anxiety and fear that I had buried in cabernet and eventually, benzos. Heaps of emotions carried inside, buried so deep that even I had forgotten who I was meant to be. Those dreams of being a writer, story teller, or at the very least, librarian succumbed to the depths of my illness.
I recall looking in the mirror for months near the end, not seeing myself at all. How could I, when it was through the eyes of a stranger that I glimpsed my own reflection. I would glare in those yellow, bloodshot eyes and wonder who I was supposed to be. How did I even get here? Drunk, scared, alone, and a miserable wretch of a mom, sister, daughter, and friend. The woman I struggled to see was the me whom I had abandoned years ago.
At about eight months of sobriety this all started to make sense. That phrase of “You are back…” became somewhat offensive. Back? What did they mean? I don’t even know who I am now or what I once was, how can they claim to know I am back? My discomfort in these thoughts I kept to myself while I started pondering my current situation as a sober, 46-year-old woman. Who the hell am I? Who am I supposed to be now? What do I do?
Guess what? I can do ANYTHING. I can be ANYONE. I can shape my life into exactly what I want to be. It’s the sincerest second chance. I remember sitting on the shore of the river, tears streaming down my face as I realized that I don’t need to be welcomed back into society as the person I once presented myself to be. I am a clean slate. An open book and in my sobriety I intend to fill those pages with a brand new story.
The refreshing thing is I’ve only just begun; the prologue has been started. There is a new higher power dictating my story and directing my pencil. If I listen, I will finally be exactly as I was originally intended to be.