I’m not a terribly brave person. If anything, I’m rather cowardly.
Exhibit A: I flee from confrontation
Exhibit B: The thought of a spider crawling across my arm sends me into apoplectic shock
Exhibit C: A crowded room makes me want to crawl into myself and disappear
Exhibit D: I’m not into extreme sports like cow tipping or, to my husband’s eternal dismay, skydiving
Exhibit E: It took me about a decade of writing experience before I summoned the bravery to share my work with others
That’s a lot of evidence against me, enough for me to write myself off as a cowardly lion, which I’ve always done. But as one of my favorite writers said, “Courage is found in unlikely places.”
Working within this fear-filled framework I have accomplished feats of which I thought myself incapable. After all, everyone knows that bravery isn’t the absence of fear, but the act of proceeding in spite of it.
See, I was born with a piece of me missing; the part of humans that causes them to feel things and not allow the feelings to destroy them. It was too much to bear, the feelings and the being human. They ripped me open and left me bleeding constantly.
Depression from a very young age exacerbated this defect. Once I discovered alcohol, I found the solution to the feelings: kill them all.
With that act of violence against myself, though, came the obliteration of any resemblance to my fellow humans. I killed the good along with the bad.
Thankfully, God offered me a way out, and at least I had enough sense to grab onto it with both hands. I didn’t understand it then, but taking this step was my first act of true bravery.
Going to rehab took courage. Starting my life over with nothing in the face of great obstacles took courage.
It takes courage to simply live without drinking everyday. It takes courage to feel something and not want to smother that feeling with the pleasant haze of booze. It takes courage to put yourself out there to help others, when many are likely judging you because addiction is the ugliest of human maladies. Addiction makes people uncomfortable, makes people misunderstand, makes us give up on each other. It turns people into monsters, relationships into fragmented memories.
I still can’t believe I made it out alive. Even more so, I can’t believe the person I am today. She doesn’t remotely resemble that creature who killed her humanity with substance abuse. Though she still fears what others think about her, she fights through the fear with the satisfaction of knowing she’s doing the best she can just by being herself instead of hiding inside a cocktail (or ten).
It takes courage to be who you are, societal expectations be damned.
So being purely myself, day after bloody hard day: that is the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
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