Learning to Trust Myself by Danielle McCarron

Guest Blogger, Danielle McCarron, shares her story of addiction and returning home to her intuition.

‘I’ve been reflecting lately on my journey with trust – trusting myself and trusting others. I think I lost the trust somewhere in my childhood. Where? I am not really sure. And that’s okay. All I know is that I had no self-esteem and felt like I trusted the opinions of others way more than my own. I thought your ideas were better than mine, you knew more than I did about everything and that since you seemed to have received the manual to happy living that I was missing, I have to trust you more than me. This was also an easy scapegoat when shit fell apart. I could easily point to you being the problem, since I let you make the decisions. Ultimately, I was the typical people-pleaser and codependent who understood that in order for me to be okay, you have to be okay, and I will always put your needs above my own.

I think that’s where it all began – when I didn’t know how to make myself a priority. I didn’t believe I was important or that I mattered. Even the first night I drank when I was 14 was absolutely because other people wanted me to. That being said, I did like the effect it had on and would take every opportunity to drink for the next decade. During that time, I made a lot of decisions based off of the fear that you wouldn’t love me if you saw the real me. Alcohol helped. Alcohol soothed the pain it felt to be in my skin. It relieved the crippling anxiety and made the depression an ally. I was already living in this grave disconnect from who I really was, and alcohol took it a step further. I could embrace the disconnect instead of feeling lost in the in between. If I was so far gone, then I wouldn’t feel the shame or pain of moving closer to my true self anymore. That game was too hard to play; toying with going back and forth. I much preferred staying completely numb.

Emotions are scary. Thoughts are scary. We are taught to hide the ones deemed as bad, like sadness, grief, anger, sorrow and rage and only show the ones deemed as good, like joy, happiness, and love. Nobody teaches us that these are all part of us, and that by numbing the bad, we also numb the good. As Brené Brown says, we cannot selectively numb our emotions. I would have rather been completely numb and give up the good than feel the pain that I thought would destroy me.

So, I kept drinking, numbing, drinking, drugging, drinking, sexing, eating and drinking (ad infinitum), until one day, I was feeling things again. It was awful. I was drunk and sloppy and was still feeling all of the pain I had worked so hard to push down. WTF was happening? After still drinking and still feeling it suddenly became clear: this isn’t working anymore. What’s the point of it all if I am just going to be in so much pain all of the time? I overdosed, intentionally, on April 18th, 2014 and then again 3 days later. I am not sure if I really wanted to die, but I know I didn’t see any other option.  I drank for 2.5 more months before finally acknowledging that drinking was a major source of my problems.

The day I decided to put down the booze for good was messy, exhausting and devastating. It wasn’t unlike other days I had had, but my family was witnessing it now. I had been living in London, England and now was back in Toronto, Canada and my parents were seeing all of the destruction. I was 24-years-old and I had finally had enough. I asked a woman who I knew was sober for help that day and didn’t turn back.

4.5 years later, here I am. Sober and free. It doesn’t mean every day is good, but it does mean I haven’t had to pick up a drink over the pain again. It means that I am feeling everything, the stuff that I tried so hard not to feel. Here’s the thing (well one of like, a million things I’ve realized): when I move through the pain and emotions, I can actually release it. It doesn’t stay festering inside of me. It can’t destroy me. When I shine light on the shame, it dissolves. Honesty does that.

With that realization came this one: alcohol or anything else I may use to numb my emotions is not the real problem. It can cause a hell of a lot of pain and turmoil in my life, but it’s not the real issue. The issue is my inability to sit in discomfort and my inability to let go of control. It is the struggle between ego and spirit, between fear and love. If I get honest about what I am going through, no matter how ugly it may appear, I will be able to heal. If I pick up a drink over it, I may not.

The last few months have brought a lot of pain to the surface. More is being brought to the surface for me to heal. The beautiful thing is that now, a few years later, I know that no matter what comes up, I can handle it. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt like hell, but it will pass. Trusting myself is one of my favourite gifts of recovery.’

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