When life throws you lemons
Life is a crazy ride. Like on a rollercoaster at an amusement park, you experience life’s ups and downs. The ups of excitement and breaching that pinnacle of what is possible and the downs of fear and worry whether you will ever survive life’s hurdles.
This past week felt that way for me. Or more precisely, it was like the ground under my feet had shifted. I was off balance since learning about the death of Paul Yeaton, my ex-husband. He died from an accidental overdose of pills with alcohol.
Having done years of work on myself to find a balance between the ups and downs of the rollercoaster called life, it was not long after hearing that terrible news that I realized I could make art out of pain. As artists we do that, right? In fact, as one wise woman, Andrea Balt, has said: “Your life is your art, even when you’re not feeling it.”
Overcome with realizing how much alcohol — or in the case of my loved ones, depression or anxiety that led to the abuse of alcohol — had affected the course of my life, I’ve decided I want to share my painful story.
It’s a story of how I came through life as the daughter of an alcoholic mother, the ex-wife of an alcoholic so recently deceased, and how I am now married to someone who managed to beat the demon of alcohol. It’s a story of how, in spite of my repetitive painful relationships, I nonetheless have grown stronger and wiser.
I’m a writer. So, I went to a storyteller’s workshop last Saturday to figure out how to formulate this story. I received some very positive and helpful feedback. A few days later, I recounted the story again, while feeling very nervous for sharing something so personal, at my Toastmasters club meeting. There was a deep appreciation for the courage it takes to share something difficult for the purpose of helping others. As hard as it is to talk about this stuff or write about it, I can’t NOT create something from this life I’ve lived.
I believe that when you’ve gone through something substantial, no matter what it is, it gives you a free pass to be the voice of the survivor. Be the hero who knows what it was like to be in the depths of hell and made it out the other side. Your story WILL be a light of clarity for others who are still struggling. Silence that voice inside you that says it’s too personal, too painful. It’s more painful to not share it and keep it inside. Trust me on that.
What I have learned from all this is that you can’t control what life throws at you. Sometimes it’s lemons over and over. But you can either let the difficult parts of life that drum up painful emotions break you down, or you can use them to build yourself up. I’m learning to make lemonade from the lemons.
I loved someone, several someones, with an addiction to alcohol. I couldn’t save any of them. They either drowned or survived, and all I could do was watch and hope. I did what I needed to do to save myself.
I’m here to say: no one is there to rescue you. You have to rescue yourself.
Life is about enjoying life. Feeling life. As hard as your life might be, as difficult as it might feel, numbing your feelings or putting them aside and not addressing them is always a slippery slope. It can never end well. Numbing is not a solution.
And yes, you CAN beat an addiction. To do that, you have to realize that life is precious. Don’t take your life for granted. Be good to yourself, because this is the only life you’ve got.
If you’re the loved one of an addict, you CAN survive it, too. Find that place inside of you that says “I deserve to be happy.” And if you wonder if you will ever be unhappy again, believe the place inside of you that will do everything it can to put its foot down and say: “Not if I can help it.”
I am grateful: to the True Tales Live workshop leaders and Exeter Speak-Ups members who listened and gave kind feedback. To Sarah Ban Breathnach and her book “Something More” which gives voice to the desire in all of us to live life authentically. My most special and deepest thank you to the teachers in my life: Anne Roy-de Jong and Paul Yeaton (may they rest in peace), and the light of my life James Buchanan, the strongest man I’ve ever known.
[Photo by Kathetinn Aleksa on Unsplash]