Alison's Insights

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

Living in “M”

Until I stepped through the doors of recovery I believed there were only two ways to consider anything; right or wrong, good or bad, my way or no way. Rarely was anything between these polar options.

Such was the thinking of a massively controlling, alcoholic, anorexic, perfectionist. Nothing was “sort of”. People were either what I wanted them to be or off my radar. Jobs provided me a great title, lots of money and prestige, or the company, clients and co-workers were worthless and I was out the door. Relationships had to fuel some self-centered need of mine or I wanted out. Weekend fun would be going for drinks with food optional or I wasn’t going.

In general, everything had to be perfect or perfectly my way or they were nothing. And that included what I believed about myself.

I was either a great wife, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, neighbor, boss, employee or soldier in this thing called life or I wasn’t needed, wanted or necessary.

Yet when I picked up a glass of chardonnay and pushed my food aside, I would start to believe I was doing a great job as wife, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, neighbor, boss, employee and soldier in this thing called life which made me feel needed, wanted and necessary.

So when my world started crashing and I couldn’t put down the glass of chardonnay or pull the food back toward me, I lost any choice at all. I’d been slowly teaching people I couldn’t be trusted which is the show-stopper. When trust is gone, feeling needed, wanted or necessary is beyond reach.

The day I turned the handle and stepped through those doors of recovery, I began to dissect my life down to the tissues of my soul. In the process I came to realize I had viewed myself as if by some strange relationship with the alphabet. I regarded myself as being either “A” for absolute or “Z” for zero. Never considering the many letters in between; particularly the letter “M” which happens to fall in the “m”iddle.

I never considered any sort of middle ground because I vehemently fought against being average. I wanted to shine. I wanted to be the best in everything or at the very least recognized for being close. In school I prayed we’d be seated according to first name so I could grab that front seat believing if I was under the nose of the teacher I’d be her pet.

Yet as I continue burrowing my way through the past I’ve found many examples when, unbeknownst to me, being in the middle suited me just fine. For example, I’ve always been relatively good at sports; not great but not awful. During gym class in elementary school I knew I wouldn’t be picked first and always exhaled when not picked last. I was relieved to be good not great, bad but not the worst; in other words, relieved to be in the middle. Then there’s always the fact I am a middle child. I never had to set the precedence for the other kids in my family and I never had to be my parent’s last experience with a milestone.

As each of these seemingly minor instances were recalled, I’m finding I had many experiences when things didn’t end up being all or nothing. I’d actually felt relieved with answers of “maybe”, “could be”, or “possibly”.

Now I realize people don’t have to be what I want them to be. And perhaps more importantly, what business is it of mine how people conduct themselves? I’ve learned to accept people for who they are. They don’t have to be wrong for me to be right and vice versa.

Now I realize every relationship will be fulfilling in some way but not to fuel my self-centered needs. Relationships are meant for me to experience someone else’s perspective; to grow emotionally, spiritually or mentally.

Now I realize everything doesn’t have to be considered as right or wrong, good or bad, my way or no way because I’ve opened my heart and mind to the idea there’s a lot of in between.

I like knowing there’s still plenty of room for improvement and plenty of room to let things go. More importantly I breathe easier knowing I don’t have to be “the one”, I can simply be “one of”.

Yes, living in the middle is where I’ve found freedom and certainly no coincidence the word freedom ends with an “M”.
Have you found relief knowing there’s a lot of grey area in life? If so, I’d love for you to share that experience by leaving a reply in the comments section below.

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2 thoughts on “Living in “M”

  1. Alison,
    Bravo! What a great blog. You open my eyes and make me evaluate myself closer each time you write.
    Thank you for being so honest and allowing others to grow with you through recovery.

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