Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Being Successful

When I was a little girl, I thought I was successful when came home from school with a gold star stuck to my sweater for winning the week’s
2nd grade spelling bee.  Or, the time my writing was chosen as the “Paragraph of the Month” in 5th grade English class.  Or, after being horrifically teased most of my elementary school years as being fat, I entered 8th grade having lost 15 pounds and got a lot of positive attention … even from the cute boys!

In high school, I felt successful when chosen as only one of three freshmen to be on the elite pom-pom squad, or when I was elected to class
council all four years.  Yet perhaps the greatest success felt during those years was when I wrote a plea for scholarship funding from an outside resource.  The funds would allow a future student to attend my school.  The scholarship funding was granted and shortly thereafter, my picture along with a story of the grant money being awarded, appeared in our local paper.  At the age of 17, it just doesn’t get better than that.

As I got older, success came by way of my college degree, my first job and my continued climb up the corporate ladder.  I thought since I couldn’t have children, I’d never be able to achieve a woman’s purest accomplishment, so it was even more imperative that I get my name on a business card sitting next to what I believed to be a really important business title.

When that day came, I felt I had truly “made it”!  I had a bunch of people reporting to me, I was managing mulit-million dollar accounts and although I couldn’t have children, at least I could have clients singing high praise for a job well done.

But, what I didn’t realize though all this determination was how I lost myself along the way.  In order to assure everything I was responsible for was buttoned up, I’d burn the candle at both ends.  In many cases, I had little control as to whether or not what I worked on would ultimately play
out, but you can bet I was in control of my weight and having a bottle of wine within arms distance.

This dance, whereby I pushed myself beyond human limits, went on for years.  Many, many loved ones would suggest I “take it easy” or not worry about things so much, but I never listened.  As a matter of fact, when they would say something like that, I’d think, “Do you have any idea what it takes to keep it all together?  Do you even know what needs to be done to have it perfect?  You must be crazy to think I can take it easy or relax!”

I never realized their words of concern were ultimately what I was looking by way of my unending quest to “have it all.”  I never realized my desire to feel accepted, loved and needed was lying within their expression of concern.  Their words were shared out of love for me.  They didn’t want to see me destroy myself, they needed me in their life.  I didn’t have to push for acceptance, it was always there.

I didn’t awaken to this truth until my life spun out of control and I nearly died from alcoholism and anorexia.

When I took the journey of getting sober and fighting an eating disorder, it was the first time I did something truly for myself and no one else.  I didn’t have to “prove” myself to anyone but me.

The other night I told my husband I didn’t think I could do something and was somewhat concerned it might not be a success.  Without skipping a beat he said, “Well, in my eyes, you’re already a success, so anything you do beyond that is gravy.”  When I asked him to clarify, if he meant because of our marriage or my career, he said, “What I mean is, you’re alive which is your greatest success of all.”

Being a success is sometimes the simple act of being here.

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One thought on “Being Successful

  1. Claudia Donohue on said:

    The simple last line is a great one sentence summary of: recovery with serenity.

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