The Promise I Made
When I share parts of my story, a response I often receive is “Oh my god, how are you not dead in a ditch somewhere?”
Or addicted to drugs…Or insert some other deeply tragic fate so many people with dark pasts and demons fall into.
My answer is usually “I have no idea.” Which is partially true. Growing up where all the people who are supposed to love you, believe that you are horrible, is a lot for a child to handle. I could have believed it too. I could have spent my life believing I was horrible and didn’t deserve love and subsequently spent the next however many years repeating some vicious psychological cycle that could have eventually destroyed me.
But somehow– I knew I wasn’t bad. I knew they were wrong, but what I struggled to understand was why they felt that way. Now I know, but that’s a story for another time.
My point is, I have no idea how I was able to hold firm on that resolve that they were wrong. That if they truly knew me, they’d see the real me, not the me they believed me to be.
The other part, the part that maybe has saved me from slipping too far down a dark path, was the promise I made when I was 18. It was probably after 3am and I was in the woods, dragging my belongings in a overstuffed laundry bag through the wet foliage as I ran away from my boarding school; and I was pep-talking myself.
“I will not be like the others. I won’t. I swear, I will do whatever it takes to not let these demons swallow me whole. Ever. I won’t fall into drugs, abuse or anything else that will ruin my life. I know that if I slip I will pick myself back up. I know I am capable of that and I know exactly where to go if I need help.”
You see, as I watched people leave, whether they ran away or graduated, I heard stories about many of them. Stories about how they were doing drugs and partying amongst other things. Many who had graduated, simply white-knuckled it through school to get out, and when they did, they went crazy with all the things they hadn’t been allowed to do.
I didn’t want that for myself.
While I wasn’t perfect by any stretch, I stuck to my promise. As soon as I got to safety I attended an NA meeting. I was clean and sober for an entire year after I left. Not because I felt I was an addict, but because I was terrified, and because I wanted to ensure I had a support system to turn to if things went south for me. Over the years, whenever I started to get in too deep with something I was able to recognize it and stop myself before it was too late. Drugs, cheating, an abusive relationship…six months into being physically addicted to pain pills I asked myself, “What the fuck are you doing?” and spent the next few weeks weaning myself off.
I felt compelled to tell you about this because a girl I went to boarding school with, overdosed and died last week. She and I weren’t close post-school but we had our moments of bonding while there. It hurts and it really deeply saddened me when I found out. There is an unbreakable tie that all of us who went there share and it kills me every time we lose one of our own. She is not the first and likely will not be the last.
I know now this is why I fight so hard. This is why I preach self-love and scream about mental health, because I am hoping to be a wake up call. I am hoping to get across the point that no matter where you are or how low you feel, you are not alone and you can always come back from this. I know what the darkness is like and I know that there is always light if you will just turn your face towards it and keep going. I am here for you.
Sleep with the angels Caitlinn, I hope you have finally found your peace.
Read the next installment of Self-Love Sunday here.