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

"Sweet dreams, little snack-size."

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.”

Out of the Wild

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.

Me at the Ranch

One of the few photos of me at rehab, working in the garden.

– – –

Finish the Sentence Friday


Comments

The Bravest Thing I’ve Ever Done — 44 Comments

  1. Good for you and you should definitely be proud that you made it out the other end of your addictions so much the better for it. I dated someone back in the day, who had both drug and alcohol addictions. He tried rehab a few times and still went back to his previous addictions. I loved him, but eventually I couldn’t stand by and be an enabler. So, I do from this experience first hand how addictions can ruin people and relationships, too. Thank you for sharing this here with us and for linking up again this week!!
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Huge One Year Blogiversary Giveaway~The Bravest Thing I Ever Did: FTSF 37My Profile

  2. Natalie, you’re absolutely 100% amazing.

    Have you come across the blog ‘Momastery’? The writer, Glennon, is the only other person I’ve come across than you who has written about ‘feeling things too much’ and being destroyed by them. I think she also struggled with alcohol. She writes most beautifully (as do you) and her story might interest you.

    I’m so pleased you have been able to be brave, and share your story and your wonderful person through your writing.
    Considerer recently posted…7 Quick Takes #46 x FTSFMy Profile

  3. Very well said, and something to think about. You always hear “One day at a time” and specifically relate it to the source of the addiction, but it really goes beyond that to “fighting through the fear,” etc. Kudos to your for your accomplishments. And by the way, I’d be OK with a spider, but if it was a roach, you’d have to peel me off the ceiling!! 😉
    Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe recently posted…Finish the Sentence Friday: “The bravest thing I’ve ever done…”My Profile

  4. You are so brave. My brother is a recovering alcoholic (sober for 17 years now I think). I know it’s not easy. You wrote about your feelings and courage so beautifully. I commend you for not only coming out of your entire experience alive, but for being able to share it so eloquently. Thank you for that.
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…Bravery and Winners AnnouncementMy Profile

  5. {I too freak out about spiders or any type of creepy-crawly}. You are so brave…. I think it is so hard for people in our society to admit addiction, so I applaud you for sharing your story so honestly and openly. I love how you describe that it is brave not just to get help, but to live without drinking every day. I guess I’ve always thought about getting help as the brave step, but you’ve made me see it as an every day act of courage. So beautifully written.
    Sarah | LeftBrainBuddha recently posted…Bravery and Desire: Wisdom from Pink and the BuddhaMy Profile

  6. This was a beautiful and honest post, Natalie. Except the first sentence is wrong. You *are* a terribly brave person. You are being yourself and you are living sober; that is terribly, wonderfully brave.
    Dana recently posted…Brave for youMy Profile

  7. That is an amazing story, Natalie. I had all these smart-ass things to write about us having things in common in terms of a lack of courage, how much I freak out over bugs, and how much you would have hated the crowded school BBQ I attended tonight (as I very much hated it…)

    And then I kept reading and was rendered speechless. True bravery. That’s what you illustrated with this post. You astonish me.
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. recently posted…Surviving A Rough PregnancyMy Profile

  8. It’s super super hard to live without our masks, whether that mask is an attitude we’ve adopted or alcohol. And addiction is so misunderstood. Your true friends are the ones who will get it or even the ones who won’t get it and love you anyway.
    Ilene recently posted…Modern FamilyMy Profile

  9. Just wanted to say that I am so glad to have found your blog all those months ago. You inspire and encourage me. You have a beautiful gift and a rare strength. Don’t ever give up, God has great things in store for you. 🙂
    Tamara T. recently posted…Friday FunniesMy Profile

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