Toxic Band-Aid

I felt out of sorts. Like a visitor in my own body. Slightly different, less than. Too skinny and awkward. A square peg trying to fit in a round hole. On the outside looking in. I think more people feel this way than don’t, but it took me a long time to realize that… I am still realizing that.

Then I found alcohol, and that fixed everything. 

Remember when you were a kid and you scraped your knee? How mom would put on a band-aid and say “… all better.” Somehow, magically, it did seem to make it “all better”. Alcohol was like that for me. All those raw, sore emotions, those thoughts of not fitting in, those feelings of not belonging were made “all better” by drinking. Alcohol soothed the hurt of life. Not that it made me more confident, but that it insulated me from my fear. Liquid courage. I felt a sense of ease and comfort being in my own skin that I had been searching for my entire life. I paid less attention to my fear of other people and their power over me. I was finally free, given the keys to the city! But that newfound confidence I portrayed was a facade. All fake. I kept it up for quite a few years though. I desperately needed to. I never wanted to lose that “all better” feeling.

Band-aids are designed to protect a wound from further harm and help keep it clean so it can heal properly over time. My alcohol bandage didn’t work like that. In fact, the opposite was true.

It covered the wound, sort of. But no healing took place, no regeneration. It just sat there, between my wound and the outside world. Slowly becoming dirty, infected. Sickening my entire being. Fusing to the wound I thought it was protecting. Infecting everything underneath. A “Toxic Band-Aid.”

Life is about evolving, growing as a human, maturing. For me, that growth includes trying to help others. I did none of that in my disease. There is a theory that an alcoholic stops maturing at the age their disease takes them. I see the validity in that. I found myself in my thirties, still processing emotions and responding like a teenager. Or worse, like a drunken teenager. Alcohol stunted my emotional growth, insulating me from the need to hold myself accountable for my actions. Moreso, alcohol kept me from or severely limited my ability to actually do anything. I lived like a pinball. A life of reaction, primarily.

So then, sobriety is like ripping the band-aid off, right? Oof, yup… scary, painful, ugly. You know it’s the right thing to do and know that it needs to be done but dread actually doing it. But every day wasted makes it worse. How much worse will you let it get?

Fortunately, there was a solution for me that still works. I found recovery as the result of an intervention. The pain of staying the same became greater than the fear of change and I became willing to pull the bandaid off. I exposed my wounds to the world and began the actual healing process. I started telling the truth, admitting my shortcomings, asking for help, and taking it. My recovery program is simple, but it doesn’t exclude pain. Pain is a normal part of life. So are joy, growth, and empathy. I know that now and have never felt more comfortable living in my own skin. Now when faced with a difficult situation I address my uncomfortable feelings, heal normally, and grow as a human. Feelings are to be felt, not childishly covered up with a Toxic Band-Aid.

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