If you’re already doing the thing then you’re it, you’re doing it. Nothing makes it more true than when you allow yourself to say it’s true. I have become my own proof.
It has taken me nearly 34 years to realize I have a story in me. And each day I’m noticing more and more it’s not a singular story, but a collection.
I doubted myself, my stories, my words. I told myself they were unimportant because I didn’t feel important. I felt my ideas were small because my words were small. I felt I mustn’t have something worthy to say because my vocabulary wasn’t worthwhile. I felt embarrassed by my inability to be someone greater than who I was. I didn’t think I had stories because I wasn’t a good storyteller. Well, that’s not entirely true. There was one story in me. The story I told myself on repeat: You’re not really that good. That’s a fun game to play to think you are.
And now I am telling myself a new story. I am changing my narrative.
I’ve reached for goals and attained them and took risks many others may have never considered, but this believing I have something to say is new. It’s everything. It’s the heart-thumping, finger trembling, ready to shout from the rooftops validation I’ve needed my whole life. I’m so thankful I’m here. Even if it took almost 34 years.
I can write that now, as it’s something I believe now. But it didn’t just come to be one day. It took time. It took many months of fast forward-backward crawl-slip up-fall down growth. It was all the little times I chose to believe in myself over listen to the voice that kept me small.
Though, if I were to pick a time when it shifted, I have to call on the summer of 2019. At that point I had turned away from social media and was not using it all that much. I was letting go of what didn’t serve me before I had the words to say “I’m letting go of what doesn’t serve me.” I was abuzz with my growth from sobriety but I also felt a little isolated. I craved a sober community and didn’t realize at the time I also desperately wanted a place to share myself. So, I turned back to social media with a little more purpose.
One night I joined the This Naked Mind message board and started writing there. It felt so freeing. It felt complete. I loved the instant connection to people who understood my experience. I got a taste of what blogging could be, but more than that I had a space and opportunity to process my thoughts, and that was simply delicious.
I also decided that I would make an Instagram account with my moniker, @thecouragetodo. From the beginning I knew that I wanted to be selective in who I followed or what I shared. I didn’t want it to become just another internet dump. I consciously set out to make it a wellness space–a place I could go to for sending and receiving inspiration. A place I could hopefully foster true connection. It wasn’t (isn’t) a solely sober account, but it was something. It was more. It was getting towards what I wanted even though I wasn’t entirely sure what that was. It was saying “Yes” to me.
And so it was that I found many, many people owning their stories; owning their corner of the world. I felt I struck gold.
One day in what felt like total serendipity I saw that one account, Sober Mom Tribe, was looking for people to contribute to their blog. How perfect, I thought! I felt so excited and terrified at the same time. Could I? Could I openly share myself with others? Yes, I’ve been doing it on TNM community, but could I do it “for real”?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the generation I grew up in–the one when the internet was born. I’ve been thinking a lot about how so much of our early upbringing was cautioned with “not putting yourself on the internet.” You used screen names for anonymity. You didn’t really tell someone your age or where you lived–because, stalkers. And you certainly didn’t go on about anything identifying, like your spontaneous sobriety or wavering mental health. I mean, what if someone actually found you? This, coupled with being a teacher, felt like a total non-existence on the internet. Yes, sure, I could go about my business in real time, but even then I had to be watchful. What if those kids saw me at the bar? What if they find out who I am? I hadn’t realized how much I cautioned myself in person, too.
That’s what’s so interesting to me now. I’m openly sober and I’m not currently teaching and somewhere since I’ve dropped the veil on who I thought I had to be so I could become who I am. I’m letting myself be seen. I haven’t fully thought out the cause and effect relationship of how some professions might unconsciously stifle your personality but for me there is no denying the correlation.
The more I logged into my new IG account and the more I wrote blogs on the message board, the more I began to feel this ‘other’ way of living was attainable for me, too. More than any time in my life I started to see that perhaps I had something to share, too. Not only that, I had a chance to go after what I wanted. To say it was inspirational is an understatement.
So with the calling for new writers on Sober Mom Tribe, I did the thing that scared me so much. The thing that I knew would set me free, that my heart was reaching for: I gave myself a chance at something. I didn’t know what I wanted to say, but I knew I needed to say something. Some thought-ideas were swimming around my head and before they were fully formed I decided to just reach out to Alyson, the founder. I’m so grateful she said yes! Even if she had said no, I was so proud of having the courage to even ask!
The article I wrote for SMT was about the parallels between new-motherhood and sobriety, namely the similarities between my questioning if I had postpartum depression or was an alcoholic (which, I know now are not the questions I needing to be asking at the time). In writing that article, I knew I was riding the wave of courage of doing something new but I didn’t see it as more than that. Yes, I knew I wanted to write because I was tired of selling myself short. I wanted to write to tell myself I could. Only, I hadn’t realized then how much impact it would have. I couldn’t have predicted the ending.
As I wrote and edited and tried to make sense of and process my experiences I realized for the first time–holy shit–I never really validated myself. I didn’t acknowledge my own pain. Not then, or any of my years prior. I was often clouded by trying to maintain a positive mindset. When in a tough situation I always thought someone else had it worse or my troubles were in vain. I never acknowledged how difficult some of my life experiences were because they paled in comparison to others’. They happened, but they happened to me, and because it all felt so passive, I stayed passive.
In writing that piece I healed a part of myself.
After that first article, I wrote another and the desire continued to grow. Summer ended, fall flew by, and winter came. The fire continued to accumulate until one day not too long ago I arrived at the burning actualization: I am a writer. Finally seeing myself as a person who could write changed it all. Finally seeing myself as a person who has stories changed it all.
I learned through that initial writing process just how often I took myself out of my own stories. I never owned them. I never claimed them. Which, writing here, and saying aloud, sounds so astonishing, but it’s true. I lived my whole life not fully realizing the power of being my own author. Now I realize the true potency of putting pen to paper. I stopped thinking I had to be someone important to tell stories and I just started to realize that my stories ARE important. Even if they are important to no one but me they’re important because they’re mine and they’re valid on their own. I see the beauty in being able to take pride of your own story. I now understand the power that provides.
I thought I struck gold when I found others living their best lives and in a way, I did. Today, however, I see the greater value: I gave myself the title to a million open books. I gave myself the courage to reach. I gave myself a voice. I found my worth.