“Why can’t I just be ‘normal’?”
“Who am I anyway?”
“Things would be so much easier for everyone if I just wasn’t….”
That last thought would lead me to dark places. This is how I lived my life. Or, quite frankly, this is how the voices in my head took away the very thing life was meant for: living.
Prior to March 9th, 2019, I was a slave to my unrelenting negative thoughts. Nothing was ever good enough and I was never good enough for anything. Dating back as far as I can remember, I struggled with this troubling thinking. Looking at my life through an objective lens, there was no reason for me to feel so insecure, so envious, so anxious, so resentful, so…. sad.
On goes my “everything’s great” mask. With every interaction came an internal dialogue, specifically with the question I hated the most: “How are you?”
I’d put my mask on, brighten my smile, and respond, “I’m great! How are you?”
But the voice in my head would say, “I feel terrible, I’m 30 pounds overweight, I hate my life and don’t really see much hope for me so I’m not really seeing a point in being here. How are you?” (Just kidding, the voice in my head never cared about how other people were doing.)
My mind became a constant, exhausting battle. Continuously searching for an answer to the question that I thought would solve all of my problems: Why?
My search led me to the bottle. I tried my hardest to look through every last drop; I never found an answer. Yet, I did find that with each drop came less and less noise. That voice in my head went away. Things became quiet…finally. This was what I was looking for.
Shutting up the voice in my head through bottle after bottle came with a heavy price. Fast forward 5 years and I feel as alone, depressed, anxious, fearful, angry, and pathetic as I’ve ever felt. I couldn’t dare tell a soul how I truly felt and how much I was struggling. God forbid they think less of me (as I lay in my dark room surrounded by trash, dirty laundry, and empty bottles). I lost interest in everything. Once a kid who loved music, movies, shooting hoops, kicking a soccer ball around with some friends became a young man whose only desire became sitting alone in a room with a Big Mac my right hand and a liquor bottle in my left.
I tried my hardest to not ask for help, to not tell anyone how I was feeling, to not get truly honest with myself. As long as the liquor store was open, my problem was solved. If people would just leave me alone and let me solve my problem my way, everyone could go on living their lives. What I failed to see, or chose not to see, was as I was treating my mind and body like a punching bag, it was negatively affecting the people around me. I couldn’t comprehend that people cared about my happiness, my health, my potential. I didn’t even care about these things, why would they? I couldn’t comprehend that people cared about….me.
That was until 3/9/19. On this day, people told me that I didn’t have to live the way I was living, that there was a different way to live, and that I could stop living in the problem and start living in the solution. People told me this before, but for some reason I finally heard it. You mean to tell me I can finally stop losing the battle to this damn voice in my head every single day? Sign me up. On this day, I stopped asking the question “Why?” and started asking my new favorite question: “What now?”
Prior to 3/9/19, I was blind to all of the love and support that was around me. While I was looking for answers at the bottom of the bottle, I slowly became less and less aware of the love that was around me; I felt more and more alone. Sobriety helped open my eyes to all of it, to just how truly lucky I am to be alive, surrounded by those who loved me for me.
I began working out, eating clean, connecting with others, laughing, and saying yes to life. I began living. I took time to find out my true interests and passions, to discover what drove me.
For me, this was lifting weights. I lost 30 pounds, got stronger, became more energized, and felt healthier. I was building confidence. The confidence that was manifesting in the gym began to manifest itself outside of the gym. It taught me discipline, patience, and toughness. I recognized areas of improvement and embraced the challenge. I learned to chase progress, not perfection, and how to combat self-doubt.
No longer do the voices in my head run my life. Sure, they pop up, particularly those that echo feelings of inadequacy, fueling self-doubt and worry. However, I have tools to fight these battles in my own head, much more healthy and effective tools than the ones I found in the bottle.
“It gets better.”
“You’ve been through worse.” “Pick up the phone.”
“Ask for help.”
“You are strong.”
The voices I was once slave to evolved into opportunities to practice tolerance, patience, forgiveness, kindness, gratitude, and love. I’ve stumbled along the way, and expect to stumble again, but no longer do I feel like I need to fight the battle with my own head alone. The greatest gift that has been given to me over the past 22 months is the removal of the stubborn blinders that deprived me of the love that is around me, and the courage to ask for help. I have so many people in my corner willing to fight with me, and if you’re reading this, you do too.
With Love, Merrick