Buzzkill

Self-Care Started by Recognizing the Ways I Was Failing

My friend Melinda McCarthy gave me this typewriter and note as a reminder to keep writing.

We can find it everywhere: social media memes, bookstores, podcasts, Netflix — even if you’re not having the conversations, self-improvement talk is hard to avoid. And I’ve been rolling my eyes at it all since I was a child.

So what’s changed? Why am I suddenly taking conscious steps in improving nearly every facet of my life?

Well, when I turned 30 I also decided to get sober. These two enormous milestones made jumping on the self-betterment wagon a real no-brainer.

Since turning 30 was largely out of my control, my efforts fell into the Get Sober project. It took serious effort, a lot of outside help from many loved ones and professionals, and cost me more than I can know. But one thing kept me focused and determined.

Potential.

However, the prospect of a wholly better life was not exactly the motivating factor.

See, I’ve been living with major depressive disorder since my late teens and it had taken a very dark turn at the end of my 20s. Not only had my drinking become a dangerous habit, but I had just about lost the ability to think my life could get any better. And it’s not because I was so happy — I was miserable and felt stuck in it. Going to sleep meant having to wake up and endure another day. It was no way to live.

The gist of what got me up and out of it is that a good friend promised me that I could get sober and I could get better. I still don’t fully understand why that got through to me, but it did. She promised me that I was worth saving and that I actually could do it. And I believed her.

As a habitual worse-case-scenario thinker, I reasoned that at the very least the change would be enough — that even if getting sober didn’t make me happy, I’d at least have extra money and worry a bit less about bills.

And I was right. It didn’t make me happier.

Instead, I became braver.

I began to see — to really see, understand, and appreciate the gravity of how I was hurting myself. I learned that I was not simply poisoning my body with alcohol. I was neglecting every part of myself.

As I got the hang of sobriety, I realized I accomplished something I didn’t think I could do.

Now, I’m learning to nurture myself — because if I wasn’t even trying before, what kind of person will I be if I actually put care and love into myself? I really don’t know the answer, but I do know one important thing about myself now: I have potential.

What I Write About In Here

My experiences in detox, rehab, and various aftercare programs were published in a six-part series of personal essays called “Buzzkill.” These were originally published by The Blunt Post and also make appearances on my Medium account.

Now that I’ve got substantial sober time and the mental/emotional fortitude to do so, I often look back and wonder how and why it happened to me. How did I become so depressed? How did my drinking become such a dangerous coping strategy? How did I give up on myself?

I don’t have answers yet, but I’m working to understand and articulate them.

My best effort so far is with the story “Barkeep,” which is a self-portrait of me shortly before and during active addiction. My former partner is an important part of this story because of how he related (or couldn’t) to my experience with major depressive disorder. I’ve come to understand him functioning as a mirror of my insecurities and low self-esteem — a living trope for my internal struggles.

Efforts to better understand my spiral have been, and will continue to be, coupled with real development in my personal and professional life. Since the changes I made at this pivotal moment in my life were sweeping — I left that town and the friends and jobs I had there, I’m living mostly in new territory.

I’ll keep track of my growth here, too.

So look out for new posts — I might just have a breakthrough.