"I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me."
- Cheryl Strayed
You are not alone. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. All that hurt in your heart and in your gut; I have carried it too. I have stood where you stand. A rage of self-pity and anger and what the fucks and how the hell did this happen to me?!
I get it sister. I get it. Lean in. Let me hold you for one moment. Feel my breath against your breath. Let my calm meet your calm. You have it in you. You are not this moment, or those moments. You are not your bad decisions or your mistakes or your fuck its.
And you stand here, lost and cold. And you think I am brave, because I have overcome. And I take in the compliment. "I am brave. Thank you." You are too. You may not see it yet. I didn't either. Sometimes it is buried deep. Sometimes it comes out easily and quick and it surprises us.
But, here, in this moment - you look at me and you ask for help. And I wonder what I can say to you. Advice that I could give. How I can make this right. I wonder what I could do to make you hurt less. To make you cry a little softer.
But that is not my job. That is your job.
Your job is to pick yourself off the floor and put one foot in front of the other and remind yourself who you fucking are.
I know it doesn't make sense. Nothing anyone told me in early sobriety made sense. I didn't get it.
But, I listened. I closed my ears to all the you cants’ and you wonts’ and you shouldn't. And I said yes to all the positive “I statements” that told me I can and I will and I did.
I said YES to my life.
I fucking did it.
So in this moment, when your tears are full, and your eyes are swollen, and your gut is begging for something you can't recall - let me tell you what you can do to ease this becoming.
Let me make a promise.
I promise you, sweet girl, that sobriety is the best gift you will ever give yourself.
And when I tell you sobriety is the best gift you will ever give yourself, I know you will repeat this line to all the women who come after you, and to all the women who come before you, because that is the truest truth you’ll ever know.
I’m going to be blunt for one moment. Because, it's time to tell you something that may sound harsh. And I haven't answered your question.
Quit talking about quitting and actually quit.
Stop. Stop Drinking/Using/Abusing.
At least, TRY.
This is the first thing we do. We put down the bottle or the wine glass or the pill or the pipe or the dude or the sex or the vice. We stop doing it. We don't talk about stopping. We actually fucking stop.
This step is the hardest step you will ever take. It will feel like the heaviest footstep you have ever known. You will feel like your shoes weigh more than you’ve ever remembered. You will want to remove those shoes. Take them off. Chuck them out the window.
Go ahead. Do it. Do WHATEVER it fucking takes.
But, stop. The action. The verb. Not the want. Not the desire. But, the actual process of not picking up, no matter what. Do that.
“Once You Make a Decision, the Universe Conspires to Make It Happen” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Don't wait. When you know something is true, with every fiber of your being, you act. You trust yourself. You move your body. You live out what you already know. The truth is that it’s no longer serving you. The act is in the knowing. The dumping. The flushing. The disposal.
Talking about it might help, but it just delays the process of becoming. And I know you want to become.
It might not be easy. In fact, it is very rarely easy. And you might drink or use again. You might. And that's OK baby. It's really OK. I promise. We all make mistakes, slip up, fall. Some of us don't. But, most of us DO. The fact of the matter is: it is an option. It will always be there. No matter what your vice is and how hard it is to get, it is available. It is out there. Sometimes, it is constantly there.
But if you slip, just stand up, rise, and stop again. Keep going.
You can do hard things. Like terrifyingly hard things. I know.
My good friend, and teacher, Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety, says it like this: “Know what you can’t fuck with.”
So right now, I want you to make a list of all those things you can’t fuck with. You might carry it in your head. You might know it like the way you know the wrinkles in your lovers’ eye. But, write it down. And read it. Every night at first. Until it’s ingrained in you. Until it lives in your skin.
Secondly, and lastly: “We all got scars.”
The line is from a Nate Ruess song called "Harsh Lights." I am listening to it as I type you this letter. I am pumping my fists. I am dancing along. I am raising my arms in the air and singing:
"We all got scars, we all got scars
We all got scars, we all got scars, so what?"
If you thought I was going to say something eloquent and moving or possibly more action oriented, I’m not and I won’t.
This is not the time. Right now, I want to tell you a few things.
First, dance sober. I am dancing sober as I write you this. I am listening to these lyrics and I am dancing. Glennon Doyle Melton says:
"Dancing sober is just honest, passionate, living."
This is the truth. And this is what I want to tell you.
I want to remind you: you, this beautiful creature, who says she has been ran over by a truck at least 7x over and fears she'll never survive, that we ALL have scars.
Do you know what this means? This means that regardless of what you have done, there will be someone else who has done worse. This means that regardless of what happened, you will be forgiven. And you will forgive yourself.
Pain and hurt are relative so I fear I’m missing the point in the comparison game. The point is:
We all got scars.
We have all been hurt.
Done something we fear we will never be forgiven for.
Got a DUI.
Lost a child.
Thought we were not enough.
Thought we would never be enough.
Sought approval, validation, sex. Blow job queen.
Ran through our apartment complex naked. Forgot to put on pants.
We all got scars.
Whatever the fuck it is, it doesn't matter.
We all have scars.
You will deal with the root of this later.
All you need to know, RIGHT NOW, in this moment, is that you are not broken. You are whole.
Here in this moment, when you fear you are at your lowest, you are actually the highest you have ever been. To me, you are the most beautiful. You are whole. You are alive. You are standing in front of me asking for help. You have enough guts and strength and courage to do something about your life. To wake up.
You are here, wanting to live….
Welcome to your arrival.
“The fuck is your life, answer it.”
– Cheryl Strayed