Nothing will ever prepare you for how sad it is to get better.
There’s a particular kind of melancholy that arrives with unlearning and unpacking. In the end you’ll be better, sure, but there’s a miles-long stretch of grieving before you arrive.
Perhaps without ever realizing it, your habits have been formed by your coping mechanisms. And they have become a warm blanket in the winter of surviving; comfortable, well-worn in the right places. Yes, bad things happened to you but they’re over now and you’ve learned how to live with them. Maybe life is even kinda good. You’re just fine.
I was just fine. I was, perhaps, even good. Far beyond the choppy waters of my most turbulent years, deeply ensconced in a life I’d built on my own. But there was just a bit of disquiet at the edges- a whistle, not a howl- that I could hear when it was quiet. A whisper that said it wasn’t sustainable. That it was pretty, but not solid. That I’d built so many things that mattered to me on sand and not concrete. The next big storm could, would, decimate almost everything.
I spent a longer time than I care to admit seeking noise to drown out the whistle. Things and places and accomplishments and people that would add a full chorus to the din of my life. I thought not being able to hear it was the same as it going away. And instead, like anything you don’t listen to, it got louder, more insistent, more urgent. The wolves were at the door. I could burrow deeper into the security blanket of the vices and the ways of getting through I’d invented and called dealing.
Or I could slay the beast.
Ultimately, I chose to charge into the fray headfirst, eyes open, axe swinging. More often than not, the battle feels like losing. I am hurt and angry and tired. And alone. A thing I vowed to never be again but realize now was probably needed the last five years; a village at a distance, present but far enough away as to not be a crutch.
It’s better. The foes on the battlefield thin out daily. I draw closer to the beckoning fires of the village I left behind to find what was missing. It does get a little better, bit by bit, mile by mile.
But there is grief in winning I didn’t know to expect. The shedding and losing at times feels unbearable even as it makes me lighter. I know I’m on the right path. But it doesn’t make the walk hurt any less.