Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I wish I knew at my darkest times what I know now, six years sober. I wish I could go back to my 20 year-old younger struggling self and tell her what would happen if she continued on her path of destruction.

I’d love to hold her hand, to comfort her, and give her some coping strategies for her overwhelming life—a life she just can’t make sense of. I’d love to tell her that it wasn’t her fault—that she was primed for this path—and that she could learn to love herself enough to stop her harmful and addictive behaviors.

 

This is what I would tell her:

Dear Younger Struggling Self,

It’s not your fault you are here: faced with overwhelming stressors in life, unable to cope, and no resources to grab on to. No one told you that you were enough. No one validated you, and no one showed you healthy coping strategies.

It is not your fault.

Alcohol, cocaine, starvation, and men are not the answer—even though they seem like the only thing that alleviates your overwhelming pain in life. I get it. I know your pain is so great that numbing has become your main purpose in life.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you were to visualize how this path works out—even though contemplating a future seems hopeless—you’ll see that the more you numb, the more pain you’ll cause yourself. And over time the numbing becomes harder and harder to achieve. This is a path destined for destruction: you’ll drink more than you’d ever imagine and you’ll do all the things you said you wouldn’t. You will turn into the very people you didn’t want to become.

Before you know it, you’ll be drinking every day—sometimes in the morning—and by the end of the week your bins will be overfilling with empty bottles that you’ll hide in shame. Your days will become clouded by hangovers—trying to get through without throwing up and taking a cocktail of pills. Your appetite for numbing will become insatiable.

And there will never be enough.

The pain will become so palpable that you’ll feel like you’re going insane. Sobbing, binging, purging, obsessing, deceiving, and denial will become your identity. “Liv the Liability” they’ll call you.

That Isn’t A Life, It’s Hardly Even An Existence

This path is like climbing into bed with the devil: it will only get worse.

It may feel like you’re continuing to enter a chasm of despair, but there is a way out. You don’t have to lose hope—it exists. Stop now. I know it seems like you might enjoy it—or even like it is the only coping strategy you have—but you truly don’t.

The more you drink, the more a piece of the real you dies—washed away in buckets of wine and blisters of empty pill packets. That isn’t a coping strategy at all.

It is a path towards an early death.

Trust Me When I Say It Is Possible To Stop

It is possible to live a life free of that crippling anxiety and brutal low self-esteem. It is possible to exist in this overwhelming world that feels so bright and so loud. You simply need to stop. Once you stop, you can learn all the ways to help cope with your troubles, and soothe your pain, way more effectively than using these substances. Self-soothing isn’t accessed at the bottom of the wine bottle, at the end of a line, or in a pill packet.

Know this: you have the power to stop the pain and you have the power to live your best life. You did not cause the pain you have been trying to escape for so long—the pain that has been drowning you.

You have the strength, power, and resilience to step over your pain, learn from it, and join the millions of other people who have walked your path. You’re really not on your own; there are people who will help you. If you take a leap of faith you’ll develop a life beyond your wildest dreams.

You ARE absolutely worth your best shot at trying.

Your older, wiser self.

What I have learned in my recovery—particularly these last few years—is that much of my pain is my childhood pain. I was trying to escape that pain in unhealthy ways. I began the process of healing through the practice of:

  • Trauma therapy
  • Somatic experiencing
  • Daily practices to calm my nervous system
  • Loving kindness toward myself
  • Creative outlets
  • Honoring my voice
  • Exercise and eating well, and
  • A community of like-minded people

My world—while not always easy—is much calmer, more fulfilling, and peaceful the other side of the bottle. I wish I knew then what I know now.


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Olivia Pennelle
Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is a freelance writer and the creator and managing editor of Liv's Recovery Kitchen: a website focused on the journey toward health and wellness for those in recovery.

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