True Ambition

This was the topic of our meeting this morning. I remember so well trying to be the very best of everything so that you would not question my drinking. Or, more truthfully, that I would not question my drinking. I mean how could I be an alcoholic if I had a family, house, car, degrees, career? Despite all of these outward indicators of success by the world’s standards, the light in my soul had gone out and my spirit had left the building. Drinking the way I was, I felt I had to keep taking on projects, committees, positions, titles, commitments. How could you question me as a human being when I was achieving so much? I remember that I had been described as a “high capacity team member” by one organization. And as “a star” by another. I am certain this is because I never said “no” to any ask by leaders around me who wanted me on their team. I drove myself hard. I would not let up or back down. I felt that if I said no, then the mask would come off and the world would see me as I really was: a burned out, sad human who had to drink herself to sleep every evening simply to manage the stress, emotions, and tapes in my head. Not very successful. My insides did not match my outsides. Living this way took a toll.

Three years ago, rushing into my classroom, trying desperately to keep my head above water, I smashed my face into a shelf and gave myself a concussion. That stopped me dead in my tracks with lots of time to evaluate how things were going. I was angry at myself for being careless. I did not want to stay at home, not allowed to read, not allowed to watch TV, not allowed to surf the internet. Tough to avoid myself when all of my go-to distractions were forbidden by my doctor. When I ignored his medical advice, I was further angered by the fact that engaging in those distractions made me dizzy and want to vomit. I believe that smack to the melon was the universe, higher power or whatever you want to call it, telling me to slow down or I would be stopped  whether I liked it or not. And I would not have any choice in how the “stopping” would occur.

Today I find that I still have the habit of wanting to take on too much. My autopilot reaction in my head to requests is still, “of course I can do that!” Slowly I notice a new response developing whereby I do something revolutionary: I say, “No, that is not something I can commit to right now…” While it is hard for my ego to say that, the peace in my soul confirms it is the right thing to do. That way when I carefully consider and then decide to say yes to something, I know the task it is mine to do and I jump in with gusto and joy rather than dread and resentment. I was just away at a ski hill with a close friend of mine who has known me many, many years. She was my closest drinking buddy back in the day. She commented that there is a peace that comes from me now that was never there before. What a complement! I may not be described as “high capacity” any longer. But these days I would rather be described as “high serenity” anyway… Wishing you a peaceful, sober day!

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2 thoughts on “True Ambition”

  1. I nod yes to each and every single thing you wrote here.
    We are clearly long lost twins.

    I still sometimes say yes too much. When I step back it almost always comes from that desire for external validation.
    My husband helps me with this a lot. He sees my distress before I do (perhaps he is the recipient of cranky Anne’s nagging).

    But every time I say no it reminds me that no one really expects me to say yes all the time. They are ok with a no. Better a no now then later.

    I do less too. But I do it with a smile on my less wrinkly face.

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