As my 30-year high school reunion quickly approached this summer, I was filled to the brim with ambivalence and negativity about attending. High school really was NOT my favorite thing, I didn’t enjoy it and I don’t have the fond memories some people often have. Many factors play into this sentiment, one of the primary reasons being that I moved around often as a child and high school was, by my count, the 10th school I attended. As the perennial new girl, in order to fit in and feel comfortable in my own skin, I drank and later used my way through my teenage years.
Fast forward to last week, one of my besties from high school, who also lives nearby, talked me into going. She remarked, “Why wouldn’t you? It’s local so it’s not like you have to travel anywhere. It will be fun!” In addition to my friend’s input, it also hit me that I have almost all the prerequisites for a perceivably successful life right? I’m fit and healthy and I have the house, the husband, the vacations, and the business – of course all very superficial things! I decided “what the heck!” and I signed up a day before the deadline. The only thing on my mind at the time was what I would wear.
As the reunion approached, the Facebook picture posts started – everyone uploaded all of their wonderful high school memories. They all looked so happy and popular and, of course, so very, very young! While everyone was reliving all of their happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world, days of youth on Facebook, all my painful memories of not feeling a part of the popular crowd started to surface. Memories and feelings I certainly knew I had dealt with years and years ago!
Then, someone posted a list of the alumni who had signed up and a guy’s name appeared on the list that I hadn’t thought of in 30 years. Just seeing his name, wham, took me back to 1985 – to that scared, lonely girl that drank and used to make herself feel better, that did things she regretted because she just wanted to be loved and awoke ashamed the next day, which in turn led to her drinking and using more and more. A vicious, never ending cycle of guilt, shame and remorse.
The crazy part?? Literally, and I mean literally, really, not once has that name entered my mind since I left high school. He didn’t show up on any of my resentment lists the numerous times I’ve worked the 12-steps and his name never came up during any therapy sessions I had, nor did he surface in the many conversations I had with my 12-step sponsor. But for a few days, I descended into a verifiable funk, feeling awful about myself while definitely not wanting to go to the reunion. I even confessed everything to my wonderful, ever-understanding husband, telling him (in a very dramatic fashion of course) we weren’t going to the reunion. And I really was set on not attending the reunion.
The following morning, I woke up and told myself, “enough of this feeling sorry for yourself, you’ve got too many things to do to continue sitting on the couch watching Netflix and Castle reruns.” So after a cup of coffee, I went out to my happy place – my garage gym – and lifted some weights. During my workout, my heavy thoughts melted away as I morphed into a lean mean weight lifting machine – strong and confident, able to conquer all. In the middle of doing a deadlift, I was thinking “I wonder how many other people in my high school class are deadlifting right now, lifting weights, trying to be a better person, helping people or all of the other things I do on a daily basis to maintain good citizen status in this world of ours?” Suddenly, I was thunderstruck with the following realization and heard a voice in my head say –
YOU ARE NOT WHO YOU ONCE WERE, SUSAN!
My eyes teared up when I realized how true this statement is – I am no longer a drunk, a drug addict, a slut, a criminal, a liar, a cheater or a thief. I no longer have to self-medicate in order to find the allusion of love and acceptance. People from my past only have the power to remind me of what I no longer am if I give them that power and I absolutely refuse to do this! No way José! And to quote the infamous Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live – “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me!”
So…I will attend the reunion (in a fabulous new dress of course!) with my head held high, because I am NOT who I once was. I am a strong, proud woman in long-term sobriety. As long as I continue to do the work to in order to become a better person while sticking to my sobriety, I will never have to be that scared, lonely little girl again.
When sudden memories from the past catapult you back causing feelings of inadequacy to surface, remember all of the things you have conquered to get to where you are today and reflect on the beautiful strong person you have become. And always listen to that oh so quiet voice encouraging you –