I was restless and drained. All the security and solidity I felt when I proposed to my soon-to-be wife had buried itself in that hidden part of my brain that opens up and swallows all good things as soon as I start feeling safe.
I sat next to a homeless man and offered him a cigarette. We said nothing to each other and stared out at the same empty street. I let my old self rush back in. It didn’t take much. In seconds she was there. The street kid. The junkie. The victim. The abused teen. The self-harmer. The girl with all the labels. I questioned everything. And not in that grown-up “philosophical-journey-towards-self-awareness” way, but in that “I-feel-like-I-deserve-nothing” way.
What am I doing? Getting married, making a home, maybe even starting a family? My last relapse was four years ago. I may not self-harm, but I still pick at my skin when I’m stressed. My soon to be wife has a master’s degree. I didn’t finish high school. She has memories and family and photos of good times. I have rage and solitude and clenched muscles that constantly focus on stifling a very, very strong tendency to choose escape. I have a childhood I can’t look back on and a permanent defense system designed to simply keep me alive. What on earth do I think I’m doing?
I should find some drugs and sabotage this whole thing right now. This is who I am. The street. The smoke. The scars. The fear. The anger. Nothing else.
Ι clenched my fist. Typical. This is what I do best. Go there. To that place of emptiness. It was easy. Too easy. And I don’t like easy. Easy has never been good to me.
I inhaled the stench of the city and closed my eyes.
Come on decades of therapy, do your thing. Come on endless sessions in rehab, remind me that I am more than my rage. Come on Freya, you know how to do this.
It didn’t happen all at once and it felt much less comfortable than questioning it all, flirting with relapse, and threatening myself with the self I knew best. But I eventually exhaled and let the answers roll, in small (and often annoyingly unfamiliar) waves.
I am these things, but I am much more. I have spent a lifetime battling with my self-worth and I am finally moving to the winning side. This is it isn’t it? This is where I’ve been trying to get to. I may not know how to thrive but I do know how to survive. I am the woman she chose. I am the manager that climbed ranks with skill and not credentials. I will make my family with the person that put me first and not those who put me last. I will not repeat mistakes.
Recovering addicts are not supposed to promise themselves any “I will never’s” but I know that while I may continue to doubt myself at times, I will never allow myself to stay there. In that easy comfortable state of undeservedness. I will pick myself up and fight. Now and always. For her, yes, but mostly for me.
I look at my naked finger, soon to be armored with a ring that announces a permanence that goes a little further than “one day at a time.” I look at the ladder of scars on my arm. I am no longer an open wound, vulnerable and unsafe. I am a scar. Visible, but healed.
What are you doing on the street, kid? Get up, grow up, go, do, be. You got this.