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“As my denial broke, I became aware that I was exhausted all the time.”
Courage to Change, Al-Anon Daily Reader

2014 was a blur.

It didn’t feel like a blur when I was living it, but looking back on it, my memory of it is a blur.

I didn’t realize just how much of a blur it was until I got sick. No, not the first time, but the second time. When I spent about two weeks of my holiday break sick, I realized my body was telling me something. And then, a week after I thought I was good to go, I got sick a third time. “Upper respiratory infection,” the doctor said. “No exercise. Rest. You’re run down.”

“Al Anon defrag,” another friend said. This is what happens when you stop. When you step outside of your life and look at what you’ve been living. When you let your denial break.

2014 was a blur. It was a blur of drama and anxiety and war and expectations and deadlines and work and class and school. But that’s the blurry part. Looking back on it is like watching a movie on fast forward. What gets me, what stands out, what I can’t stop thinking about now are the patterns.

Now that I’m in this oddly surreal place of being inside and outside my life at the same time, I’m noticing the patterns in my life, my patterns of behavior, the patterns in the way people treat me, the way I have allowed myself to be treated, the way I have treated myself. Awareness is the first step, I think. And then I figure out if I want to keep those patterns or change them.

I didn’t think I was good enough to be with someone who didn’t need fixing.

I didn’t know how to be with a problem without trying to fix it.

I didn’t know how to focus on myself.

I didn’t really think about what I wanted my relationships to look like, because that wasn’t a priority for me. I was too caught up in fixing and in wanting to feel needed. I figured the happy part could come later. I needed to feel needed because it made me feel like I had a purpose. If I wasn’t feeling needed, then why was I there? Why am I here? It was as if I couldn’t exist purely on my own.

Al Anon’s creed, that personal welfare should come first, still feels oddly selfish to me. But this is one of the core points of the program, to teach you how to put yourself first. Not only because if you’re not caring for yourself, you can’t possibly care for others properly, but because you deserve better. Because you are good enough. Because you are worth it.

At last night’s meeting, one of the women said, “I was so scared of finding out who I was and hating it,” and I knew how she felt. What is my purpose if I’m not helping others? How will my ego survive not being needed? What will be left when I strip all the familiar patterns away?

But if you want something different, you’ve not only got to do something different, you’ve got to be someone different. To quote another woman from the meeting, “Even when everything is going great, I am still in the bondage of my own self.”

You’re stuck with yourself, so why not figure out how to make the most of it? You might be scared of finding out who is inside, but that’s the only person you’ve got.