I wrote this post last week when I decided to unload Beyond Blue Foundation to a better owner (Psych Central Community Connection). I do think that learning how to be true to yourself is perhaps the hardest lesson of all.
Every once in a while I pull out my one-year sobriety chip, which reads on the front, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” I have been sober for over 26 years now, but it was my one-year chip that meant the most to me, because during that first year I realized how difficult it is to be true to yourself.
Everyone thought I was crazy for calling myself an “alcoholic” and going to 12-step support meetings. I mean, at 18 years old, I wasn’t even legal to drink. My mom and dad certainly didn’t understand, and consulted with a clinical psychologist that confirmed that I was not an alcoholic. My sisters made fun of my decision. Even my friends thought I had gone over the deep end.
However, in the still part of my heart, I knew that alcohol was leading me to a dark place. Once I started to drink, I rarely could stop and almost always blacked out. I tried to give it up for Lent three years in a row, and was simply unable to on my own. So after the last Lent—and the final scary blackout—I cried uncle and started going to meetings.
I return to that courage I had at 18 every time I’m about to make a difficult decision. Giving up booze during my senior year of high school is the second most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life—as well as staying sober during my freshman year of college, when most of the bonding experiences among incoming students revolved around drinking. (The most difficult thing was staying alive in the midst of a two-year suicidal depression.)