When I was drinking I worked very hard to make my life look perfect because I certainly did not want anyone to know how messed up it really was. The entire charade was almost an addiction in itself as my yearning for a “normal” life, was as strong as my need to drink.
In public, I was always well dressed and made up. I would actually take a shower and put on makeup to go to the store to get my wine, even though I was usually hungover or still drunk. I usually chatted with the cashier about my “hard” day at work spent performed highly skilled tasks. I also made sure to visit a different store each day, so that no one would know that I bought wine that often. Then I would get home, close the curtains, and get drunk alone, wearing raggedy sweats and an old t-shirt.
This was a fine balancing act and every day I walked on the tightrope struggling not to fall off. After some time in recovery, I felt that I no longer needed this charade as I strived for openness and honesty to keep me sober. However, I had a hard time figuring out who I really was.
You see, most of my life I always became whoever you wanted me to be, or whoever I thought you wanted me to be. Either way, neither was actually me. To actually develop who I think I am, has taken lots of effort. Initially, I felt as if I had no clue where to start. I seemed to have missed the milestones that others normally met during their lives. Do I start from now and move forward, or do I backtrack and do all the things I missed first?
Of course, to start any of this I had to know what I wanted to do or be. But I didn’t. Nevertheless, I went full force ahead making up for the lost time, and for all the wasted years that I felt if I had, I would be able to then be in that perfect place. You know the place where the other 40 something people are – probably married and with kids, with a house and a few cars, and really good jobs and good salaries.
In all this making up of lost time and creating the real me, a new addiction has sprung – perfectionism! Maybe my perfectionism came about because I felt that it was always expected of me. Failing was always equated to being worthless because my parents placed huge expectations on us kids and seemed to value us purely through our achievements – and being an alcoholic was definitely not an achievement. Yet at the same time, there was no or little parental approval or even any feedback at all, and therefore we had no yardstick to tell whether what we were doing was ever good enough.
So, I finally realized that I have been working really hard at being perfect. Perfect by some strange standards, which I am not sure I actually created but I could definitely say that they felt perfect – I lived in a house with my beautiful kids, and a great hubby, and I had a nice job, car, clothes, and stuff. But at the same time, I was hiding the true state of what my life was really like because pretending to be perfect was way more important.
I forgot that what makes us human are our shortcomings, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities! It’s the glue that helps us grow and rebuild and conquer the difficulties of life. It’s that nitty-gritty uncomfortable stuff that ends up bringing our family and friends closer.
Now I am learning to see life in all its shades. I am learning to accept that mistakes happen and that they should happen. Not making mistakes means never having the opportunity to truly learn and grow. I am learning that perfection is just an illusion – no one and nothing is actually perfect!
Most importantly, I no longer have to pretend that I am someone who I am really not. Sober, I can finally just be me!
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).