Pretending to have your shit together is a lot like baking your own birthday cake and then eating it alone. A lot of effort that ultimately ends up leaving you feeling worse about yourself than when you started.

When my life was a train-wreck all my energy went into my appearances. Well, all the energy that wasn’t spent procuring drugs and getting shitfaced, that is. My idea of “self-care” consisted of never running out of lipgloss and keeping my manicure and lashes on point 24/7. Cute dresses and shoes were a must, and I never left the house without my handy makeup bag or hair straightener in tow.

I was a complete mess, but as long as I didn’t look like one it didn’t matter.

But like that nail polish you keep painting over in a lazy attempt to avoid a fresh pedicure, you can only hide the real issues for so long. And just like the 4th coat of polish, by the time I realized I could no longer cover my problems the damage had long been done.

The crazy thing is, faking “normal” actually worked wonders for a while. On the surface I was #lvingmybestlife, but just beneath was a world of trouble just waiting to explode.

Tapped Out

Have you ever noticed how the last ¼ of anything runs out the fastest? A tank of gas, an eight ball of cocaine, a cell phone battery – you name it. It’s a fact of life: once you have less than a quarter left of any of these things, you may as well be out.

As my addictions progressed, my capacity to handle the problems that came along with them began plummeting at a rapid rate. My life was spiraling out of control and before I knew it I was completely depleted. I barely had the energy to brush my hair, let alone even THINK about handing the real issues.

I had been neglecting myself for so long that I didn’t see the warning signs until they hit me square in the face. Here I was, thinking I was this cool shiny Porsche cruising down the freeway with enough gas to get by, when in reality I was a beat up lemon who was lucky to have even made it this far unscathed.

I had long been tapped out emotionally and mentally, but now my outsides reflected what I had so carefully kept hidden all these years. I was naked and exposed for the world to see, and I was left with no other choice but to confront the mess I had made head-on.

I had years of repressed emotions, trauma wounds, and unresolved mental health issues staring me right in the face, and for the first time in my life I was too exhausted to do anything but surrender.

I had been so focused on tricking the world that I didn’t realize the only fool I was tricking was myself.

Facing the Mess of My Life

In a strange way, “rock bottom” brought with it a sense of relief. The charade was up and it was time to face my demons. And as with a lot of daunting tasks, dreading it turned out to be exponentially worse than actually getting started.

Something funny happens when you surrender to your truth. When you no longer have a secret to keep or an addiction to hide, weight lifts off your shoulders and pieces of your life begin effortlessly falling into place.

I had no idea how difficult I had been making life for myself until I stopped drinking. This misguided attempt to sneak past the tough stuff had unknowingly left me trudging through mud, and it wasn’t until I became honest with myself about all the inner work I had ahead of me that I finally gained the strength to persevere.

I was starting to realize that neglecting myself all these years was having a much bigger impact on my life than I ever could have imagined. I was fine with ruining my own life, but once I took a step back, I could clearly see that my lack of self care had been hurting others too.

At work, I had turned into a complete mess. I was perpetually late, in a perpetually bad mood, and frankly; perpetually inappropriate. I was the queen of squeaking by with the bare minimum. No one could rely on me anymore to do important tasks, and e-mails would go unanswered more often than not because I was too “busy” to care.

Looking back now, it is obvious that my drinking was hurting more than just me, but because no one actually said something, I thought they were none the wiser.

I was a crappy girlfriend too. I  was convinced that my only job was to show up and look pretty for the nice dinners and trips my boyfriend constantly planned for us. All I cared about was how things looked from the outside. My self-worth was measured solely on my appearance, and as long as I looked “fine” and my boyfriend and I “looked” like a perfect couple, that was all that mattered in my life.

My 1st Crack at Self-Love

Not drinking gave me the clarity to make shifts in my mindset that would have taken me years to figure out. It illuminated the fact that not only did I not give a shit about myself, but I clearly didn’t give a shit about how others treated me either.

I began focusing on what I had only paid lip service to in the past – my mental health, creativity, body, self-love. I was becoming a person I didn’t even recognize, and I was really growing to like her.

Where before, sipping a mug of tea while writing in a gratitude journal sounded like bullshit psychobabble I couldn’t get behind, it suddenly became the thing I craved the most to get me through the day.

I was starting to realize that enjoying the “little things” in life is really just code for “enjoying quiet moments with yourself.” No wonder this advice was terrifying when I was an addict – I hated everything about myself. Why the hell would I want a cup of tea with that bitch?

But I was learning to love myself and things were changing fast.

Sobering Truth

The moment I quit drinking was also the moment I woke up to reality in my relationship. I was living in a bubble of lies and denial, and as much as I conveniently ignored my own shitty behavior, I was also unable to register the shitty behavior I was allowing from others as well.

Without drugs and alcohol to hide behind, nothing made sense anymore. I knew that I had been disrespecting myself with substance abuse, but now I could see that I had unknowingly given my boyfriend a free pass to disrespect me too.

My self love and self worth had been non-existent up until this point, and so were my boundaries with others. Now that things were starting to shift within me, it was affecting my outside world in ways I never could have imagined.

I was no longer tolerating abuse from myself, so why the fuck would tolerate it from others? I was scared to set boundaries before because I didn’t feel like I deserved them, but now the rules had changed.

I was not going to accept anything less than what I was now able to give myself.

New Love, New Chapter

I am learning skills at 31 that are forcing me to reevaluate everything in my life, from my own mistakes to the way I interact with the world. It’s uncomfortable at times to be so vulnerable with myself and others, but for the first time in my life I feel worthy enough to have these emotions.

While on the surface this story is about drugs and alcohol, the lesson is much bigger. I’m realizing that the way I treat myself is the way the world will treat me. And that is exactly what this journey is really all about.

I’m done putting limitations on myself. I am ready to hold myself to higher standards and eager to give this life the respect it deserves. I am embarking on a new chapter in my life. I am done standing in my own way.