The Empty Space

On July 3 of this year, I celebrated my 48th birthday. I also celebrated 18 months of sobriety. This is huge for me. Staying sober and clean has been one of the biggest challenges I have taken on (although raising three teenagers wasn’t/isn’t a picnic either).

The last 18 months have been full of heartbreak, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, self-hate, emptiness and then healing, feeling hopeful, feeling worthy, having self-love, and finding faith and then realizing I actually have not found all those things and falling back into my old patterns.

I have moments, days, weeks of cravings. I get this kinda “jittery” feeling. I get snappy. I can’t sit still, I am bouncing and busying myself by obsessing over things that don’t really need my attention or matter, like wiping down the counter 5 times, cleaning dishes that are already clean, running around doing a hundred things but accomplishing nothing.

I am doing this because I am trying to keep my mind off what I really want to be doing, filling that big void, that emptiness that I used to fill with alcohol and weed. Now I am filling it with things that still don’t serve me well.

To be perfectly honest, there aren’t a lot of days lately that I don’t think about having a glass of wine or a puff of a pipe. I miss it. I truly do and it’s a battle with myself everyday. But I don’t miss who it turned me into and so far that memory helps me win this battle.

I distracted myself in the beginning with fitness. With my looming bikini competition. That was my why. That was why I couldn’t take a drink or a toke or eat the package of Oreos. I was terrified of what would happen to me when the competition was over. The only thing I could think of to avoid the crash and depression that comes after you train so long for something was to load my life up with other distractions…. and that I did.

I loaded myself so full to avoid wanting to drink or get high that it is biting me in the ass and causing me to be overwhelmed and stressed and then I want to drink so bad that some days, I swear I can taste it.

I am in that zone of having so much to do I am not doing anything well. My heart isn’t in what I am doing. The things I usually love, hanging with my kid or my husband, working out, writing, my goats, my dogs… are just being rushed now and I am not in the present moment with them. Then the things I don’t necessarily “love” to do, studying, housework, cooking, work… are only being done half ass and maybe with a little resentment. And self-care, the things I need to do for myself so I can take care of what and who I need to, well that just isn’t happening.

“The key to happiness is letting go of that idea of perfection”

– Debra Messing

I have realized that I can’t have perfection in everything I do and that is okay. It is okay not to be perfect. It is okay to fail as long as I pick myself up and keep trying.

This summer we have too much on our plates, we have so much work that I have to pick something to drop because I can’t do it all. I am going to suck at something(s) in order to accomplish all that is on this list. If I don’t pick one or two things to let go, I will just keep sucking at everything.

So maybe we are going to live out of a laundry basket, and perhaps we will be able to write our names in the dust on the furniture, and I can get an extension on my fitness/wellness course. We will live through it and it will be there in September for me to deal with then.

Once I realized that, it felt better. It was a relief and I know that I can put more focus into what has to be done now and do it well. I can have my priorities in the correct order.

Sobriety vs Recovery

If you google this, you will find explanations similar to these…

When an addict is “sober” from the addiction without attending a group program and/or treatment then they are “white knuckling” their sobriety. These individuals may be staying away from drugs/alcohol, but they are not treating the underlying issues that had either led to their addiction in the first place or developed as their addiction progressed. 


Sobriety is the first step on your road to recovery. When you are “sober,” it simply means that you have eliminated the alcohol and drugs from your life. Many people who are simply abstinent from drugs or alcohol for a time, end up relapsing because they have not made any fundamental changes.

 Hmmmm, I think I am missing a huge step here. This could explain all my failures before. I need to find a group. I have done so much of this work, this healing, this sobriety on my own and I am very proud of that but what is left to do is beyond me. It is beyond my ability, my knowledge and my experience. I have never gotten this far before. I need someone to hold me accountable to my practice. I would have usually quit by now and gone back to my old ways with a vengeance and now I know why…

I never asked for help.

But not this time. Not this time because I didn’t come this far to only have come this far. I am putting my ego aside and I am going to my first meeting and I am terrified and nervous and so emotional as I write this.

Making it sober for over a year, while not being pregnant, even if I have been “white knuckling” it, is a really big deal for me. I wanted to mark the occasion by having something etched in my body forever as a reminder, that no matter what happens to me, I will be okay. That no matter how far I fall (and I will fall, I will fail at things from time to time) I will rise up.

So it only makes sense to have the beautiful mythical phoenix, who always rises from the ash, placed on my body. A bit of a cliche but we all need a good cliche in our lives don’t we?

I have had two sessions so far and after each one my husband asks “is it done now?” I reply “No” with a sigh, annoyed that it is isn’t done. I don’t have the patience to wait for the artist to come up with the next step. I want it finished and I want it finished now! But something happened after my last session. I looked at her in the mirror and then I looked at me. I had a big cry as I realized just how much she represented my life. How much she was me. It wasn’t just a tattoo…

The big void, the empty space

Right now she has a big void, an empty space in the center of her. My tattoo artist has a “plan” and I was very impatient with this, it irritated me and I wanted it filled in right away, I even snapped at him in frustration. (Which I apologized for)

But after looking at it really hard I realized that it is the same emptiness I hold inside myself. The void I still long to fill with drugs and alcohol. Like the blank space in my phoenix, I just want it filled and some days I don’t care what I fill it with it hurts so much to deal with that space.

I think I knew that I haven’t been okay for a long time but I didn’t want to admit it. I still have work to do. I am not finished, just like my phoenix.

I have decided I am leaving her unfinished for now. She is a work in progress, just like me. I don’t want to rush this. I want to take my time and make sure I am ready to move on before I add more. For I have learned that adding more before you are ready, can set you back very quickly and you become disappointed with the results.

I want to live with each change to make sure that I am ready to move forward. That void in the center of her is not meant to be filled until I can figure out how to fill the void, the emptiness in my center.

So that is the work I have laid out in front of me. Instead of filling my life up so my cup is overflowing because I think it will solve my problems, when clearly it makes things worse. I need to take time, work it through, just breathe, have patience and rise….

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