One of the heartaches of being a relinquished person is that our identity is often fragmented, or at least in need of repair. As a youth I didn’t trust myself so much and I didn’t trust others. Why would I? The universe has proven that I was unwanted (why would I then trust myself?) by giving me to a mother who gave up on me, and from that moment on I could never be sure that it wasn’t going to happen again. I was adopted into a loving, caring family, but even with that in place I wasn’t entirely sure who I was and what was expected of me. I knew I had to be cheerful and polite and not make any trouble – it was a huge risk for me to step out or draw outside of the lines, metaphorically. I was a good boy and I was a good teenager and then I was a good young man.
Sure, I threw parties and did a few things outside of the law (nothing serious), and I drove drunk and partook in soft drugs – but everybody did those things. There was nothing about it that would warrant an intervention. As for my identity, I accepted the one of gregarious, friendly David, and I used alcohol to keep at it as I grew older. It eventually caught up with me. I suffered from a sort of a cognitive dissonance – not exactly agreeing with what I was doing, but also having no idea how to get to the place that would align with my actual perceptions and reality. I was always at war with myself. Even at my most cheerful, carefree, I was suffering inside and fighting my own mind.
I like to look at a particular photograph of myself on the trading floor, the shock of my red hair visible like fire even though I am surrounded by dozens of scrambling people. Everyone is yelling and throwing papers in the air, everyone is excited, the numbers are flying on the boards above, you can practically hear the noise, the screeching printers. And then there’s me, somewhat somber, very tall, that red hair, on my face an expression that tells me I’d rather be… sailing. I remember wanting to be there very much at that time, but my face showed something else. Fortunately, I did get my wish and went sailing, but that’s a story for another time.
Fast forward to now, years into my recovery and into recognizing myself as someone who is complex and interesting with an identity that aligns with my reality and perceptions. It took me some time to get here, and it wasn’t an easy road. The double heartache I talk about had to do with having to leave the old David behind. As relieved as I was to never see him in the mirror again, I had a moment here and there where I missed the abandon and the false freedom that alcohol and drugs allowed me to experience. I missed being spontaneous and doing things that I would never think of doing sober because of embarrassment or upsetting a loved one. But we look back on our past with sentimentality, and I am no different. I, too, look back and see pictures of myself young and wild and I don’t entirely hate that period.
Of course, I don’t stay in the land of the past for too long because my future is far more interesting and my present is far more rewarding. I have my loving family with me, I live in a beautiful place, I do meaningful work. I wouldn’t trade one day today for a month of fun back in my 30s. Maybe for an hour – I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to party with impunity and need no sleep and ski drunk and full of mirth? I’m just kidding, the idea appeals to me for exactly a split second, and then I remember the day after an excursion like that, and it’s a headache that is much worse than this temporary heartache I’m feeling!
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