“By seeking and blundering we learn.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I have a confession to make: I am human and I make mistakes.
That’s right friends, you heard it here first: Despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not perfect. I know you are shocked and maybe even a little disappointed. But it’s true – I am flawed.
Of course I am being facetious since obviously no one is concerned with how flawed or flawless I am, but the truth is that no one is harder on me than me. I am a total perfectionist and when I make a mistake (and it happens often), I get pretty angry with myself. It often creates an indescribable storm inside my head that pushes me into a tug of war between depression and anxiety. I have lived my whole life trying to come to terms with the fact that I am not perfect and it is an ongoing battle. But I am getting better at accepting my imperfections.
That being said, I’d like to share a story with you.
In mid-April I was in a car accident. I was completely unharmed, as was the other driver who was involved with the accident. Unfortunately my car was totaled and I was pretty devastated about that (I get very attached to my vehicles and that car was definitely my favorite). But life goes on, right? More than anything I was/am sincerely grateful that no one was injured and the other driver’s car wasn’t even scratched (she clearly had a more robust vehicle than I did).
About a week after that accident I went on vacation with my family, and while on vacation I decided to have a couple of beers (as you may recall from my previous blog post, until that point in time, I was actually choosing to abstain from alcohol for various health reasons). At the time I rationalized that I was on vacation and deserved a couple of drinks. Then I had a couple more drinks after I got home from my vacation, because I was still trying to maintain that good, relaxed feeling. And then last weekend I went on a pub crawl with some friends, which led to even more drinks, because it was Cinco de Mayo and, well, I felt like celebrating. These were all choices I made; I was in full control of my decisions, just as I was in full control when I chose NOT to drink. I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want – right? Well, yeah, but…
As soon as I resumed consuming alcohol after having a period of abstinence, I noticed some things about my health: my headaches returned, my acid reflux came back, my skin broke out, and my anxiety became considerably less manageable. Surprise, surprise – I proved myself right – alcohol consumption, whether in small or large quantities, does not play nice with my system. In fact, it completely throws off my equilibrium both mentally and physically. And it thrusts me into a loop that I strongly dislike: I consume alcohol to relax, and I end up feeling more anxious, so then I consume alcohol to relax, and I end up feeling more anxious…it goes on and on. To me, it’s just not worth it to feel this lousy. Plus, when I feel this unhealthy, I stop exercising and eating well too. And we can’t have that happening on top of everything else!
Quite honestly, looking back on this past month, I think the real reason I decided to step away from my "non-drinker status" was to cope with the stress and frustration of my car accident. Sure, I was “on vacation” when I gave in and had a couple of beers, but I can be on vacation and not have alcohol. I can do anything sober and still enjoy myself (I went to a beer festival last month and was the designated driver for my friends - and it didn't suck at all. So if I can hang out for 4 hours at a beer festival, drink water the whole time, and have fun - then I can do anything without booze!). So when I decided I wanted to have a couple of drinks on vacation and the weeks following that vacation, I was going through something. I realize that now.
Remember what I said earlier about being flawed? And about how I often get pissed at myself for being flawed? That car accident I was in was an error I can’t take back and it is one that cost me a car that I loved. And it cost me some money too. Even though the accident wasn’t technically my fault (it was a wrong place, wrong time situation), I was still left with that angry storm in my head, and I was quite busy beating myself up over it. And in an effort to relax some of that storm in my head, I ignored what I knew was good for me. Flawed humans sometimes do that, I hear. J
Now that I realize the real reason I gave up on my non-drinker status this past month, I know I need to get better at giving myself a break once in a while. Perhaps I should try treating myself the same way I treat others – with a great deal of open-mindedness, compassion, and forgiveness. And I need to get back to focusing on healthy ways to cope with stress. Running is my favorite way to cope with everything, and so that is exactly what I have been doing this week (and will continue to do going forward). I ran 2 miles this morning before work and you have no idea how great I feel.
Even though this past month was a little rough for me, I am glad I went through this. We can’t necessarily undo our mistakes and as humans we are all bound to make them once in a while, so the best we can do is learn from our experiences and try to do better next time. I have learned a lot about my health over the last couple of months, particularly where alcohol is concerned. I know I don't need alcohol to cope with difficult emotions anymore...and after a little trial and error, I now know that I am the best me when I embrace life as a non-drinker. I feel like Dorothy when she was told she always had the power to get home from Oz. J
And now that I have this knowledge, what will I do with it? The answer is simple: move on, make healthier choices in the future, and forgive myself for the mistakes I may make. It's all I can do.