This is my best friend, Laurie, dancing at my youngest son’s recent wedding. We met when I was pregnant with him twenty-seven years ago. The man to her left is her endearing husband of 30 plus years.
Believe it or not, she’s completely sober… but let me tell you the back story.
Twenty-seven years ago, Laurie wasn’t sober. When my cousin introduced us, we were reluctant to get to know each other. Both of us were holding secrets that relational closeness would expose. Secrets that would reveal the images we were trying to portray of having it together weren’t real. Our fear of being exposed was too great for having a real friend and the risk too high to take.
Because Laurie lived only a few blocks away, loneliness and desperation won out, and we began to spend time together. We soon realized we were in the same predicament. Behind the façade, we were both carrying deep trauma wounds, suffered from debilitating mental health obstacles, and both of us felt overwhelmed and confused by the responsibilities of motherhood in particular, but in general, the responsibilities of just being alive.
We managed our inner conflicts the same way everyone else did- by pretending. She numbed her pain with secret addictions, and I was working hard to keep up the wall I had built of being a “good Christian.”
The acknowledgement to each other of our shared state gave us the courage to make a decision. We wanted better for ourselves and our children. Together, we decided we would take the path of healing and do whatever we needed to break free from our false images, and the damaging habits of protecting those images.
We were not prepared for the aftermath of that decision. Facing the truth about ourselves used up all of our emotional energy so we no longer had enough to hold up the scaffolding of our false selves. It was one or the other…not both.
To stay on this path, the false images had to go. This was not only scary and painful for us; it was scary and painful for the people in our lives. Both Laurie and I became lightning rods of pity and ridicule. The things we were admitting made others feel uncomfortable. Our friends and loved ones dismissed us as being "dramatic" and "over emotional.” They tried to help us see that our self-destructive behaviors weren't bad, but “normal” and “to be-expected”. We were frequently given advice as to how we could get back into the game. But we didn’t want to go back. There was no life there.
The battle, as it turned out, was much less about what was going on inside of us, and much more of breaking away from the path we were on, (and expected to stay on) even though it wasn’t working for us.
What we didn’t know then, but know now, is that we were playing the long game. They were playing the short game (and that game has to be played over, and over again without winning until you die).
The inner conflict was INTENSE deciding daily if we were going to go back to the comfort of the familiar, or continue on the hard road into the unknown. We were forging new ground. We didn’t know how long the war would rage. Weeks, months, and years went by. But eventually it was over. We were free.
It’s not that we don’t have battles now, But after you win so many, and you get so far down the new road, going back to the way things were is no longer an option. When that option no longer exists, the only battles you're fighting are the ones right in front of you in your own small world...and they are winnable.
We are now in our mid-fifties. Our kids are getting married. We’re empty-nesters. Laurie a licensed counselor, and I’m writing this blog and building a business.
Take another look at the picture of Laurie and use that image as the exclamation point of this encouragement.
Set yourself on a healing path of openness, and honesty, and truth seeking, and never look back...no matter how hard it gets or what opposition you will inevitably face.
Getting on that path will be the hardest battle you’ll ever fight. But it will be worth it. The life we have now is worth every sleepless night we had, every tear we cried, and every “friend” we lost. We do not regret that long-ago decision… and neither will you.