Caroline Grace Pullen (Photo source: Elis Avellan // http://alicerabbit.com/ )

Caroline Grace Pullen (Photo source: Elis Avellan // http://alicerabbit.com/ )

 

it is being honest about my pain that makes me invincible. 
 
i fell apart many times.
so.
what does that say about me
besides
I live through
wars.
 
– nayyirah waheed
 
★★★

I’ve been reluctant to write down or share my story with others, mostly because I’m right in the middle of my story. I thought I’d wait until I got myself together a little more, until I was maybe three years sober with a little more wisdom under my belt. You’re only allowed to share your story when you can tie a neat, lovely bow around it – right? But I’m learning otherwise. We must honor all parts of our story: the messy past, the beginning — multiple beginnings in my case — the middle, the good chapters,  the dark chapters, the horrible rough drafts, and the gems alike.

Isn’t that our nature, though? We are all so damn concerned with presenting ourself to the world with our best foot forward. We answer the “How are you’s?” with a chipper “Fine!” and “Doing great!” when really, we aren’t. But that’s the only socially acceptable way to answer that question, we think. We hold fast to the belief that it’s not OK to be not OK. We are willing to share things that we’ve accomplished and been through, but afraid to share when and what we’re going through.


We are willing to share things that we’ve accomplished and been through, but afraid to share when and what we’re going through.


I’m not where I used to be and I’m not where I want to be. And I’m at peace with that today. In fact, I think that’s exactly where I should be today. If I got to exactly where I wanted to be, if I had arrived, then what growth would be left? What need would there to be to rely upon God?

I’ve begun to feel a certain urgency in sharing my story. Fear and insecurity tell me “No way girl, keep your cats in the bag. You’re rocking the facade, don’t stop now.” But I think we all ought to feel a sense of urgency in speaking our truth, in sharing honestly, because, as Laura McKowen tells it: We desperately need to hear each other’s most honest stories. When we find the courage to become vulnerable, we allow someone else to take a deep breath, and own their story, all parts of it.

We allow someone to feel less alone, to hear their story in ours, to say “Me, too” with relief.

My whole life, I’ve appeared to have all of my cute little ducks in a row. I don’t recall ever trying to arrange the ducks just so, but nevertheless, I appeared to have it all together. I measured my successful appearance by what the scale said, so much so that I developed an eating disorder at age fourteen. I was voted captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, nominated to homecoming court, and had the love and devotion of a sought after guy in high school. My childhood experiences were all wonderful and I hailed my roots from a family that was well-educated, cultured, and had money. I attended church, was a Young Life leader, and I knew the Bible well. I received a solid education, traveled the world, learned another language, made great money at jobs I worked hard at and was able to provide for myself. I also had a community of friends and loved ones who supported me through everything.


I’m actually quite broken, a lovely mess, a complicated little puzzle that’s been well acquainted with darkness and lightness alike.


When looking at these external things, everything was OK. All of our lists of external things may look different, but the notion is the same: These things make us alright. But when I looked inside, I knew otherwise. I never realized until I came into recovery that for so long, I relied upon these things to be my identity and my worth. To me, living on these “things” as my identity sure as hell beat the real truth, which was and is that I’m actually quite broken, a lovely mess, a complicated little puzzle that’s been well acquainted with darkness and lightness alike.

The realization took its sweet time to come around to me, but it did, and it was a devastating blow to learn that these external things, no matter how long my list of accomplishments or the amount of worldly riches I had acquired; nothing, and I mean NOTHING, exempt me from the disease of addiction.

My story is one characterized by failed attempts at outsmarting God, half-hearted promises I’d break to myself, defeat, resilience, getting back up, victories, small and great. And a story of hope and loads upon loads of relentless grace.

It’s important for me to tell you before I share my story that I am proudly in recovery, I am sober now, but I’m still being made whole. My story is still being written. Parts of it may seem dark, because it was dark. But please don’t get too stuck on this and miss out on how the bright, brilliant light defies and defines the darkness.

This is me honoring my story, all of the pieces.

***

This blog post is the first installment of a series. Read part two here.


For another story on addiction, check out Jordan Roger’s short film: