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Mental Health

82 Ways to Save Your Own Life

  1. Experience a couple of Really Big Traumas and a plethora of smaller traumas, consistently, throughout your whole life, starting from when you are very young.
  2. Start drinking at 15, the same time the panic attacks start. Don’t stop. Drink to find solace. Drink for the thrill. Drink because it makes you feel like a bad girl. Drink so it’s easier to express your sexuality. Drink because you are repressed and sad. Drink because you are angry. Drink because you’re bored. Drink because it’s the only hobby you have. Drink because it makes you let go and feel like a kid. Drink because you need to hide from your mind.
  3. Try to quit. Fail.
  4. Drink so much, for so long, you start to wake up at 3 am and bargain with God in your late 20s.
  5. Try to quit. Fail.
  6. Move to a big city, move up in your industry, in your company, in your life. Use what Adult Children of Alcoholics calls “an overdeveloped sense of responsibility” or overachieving coping mechanisms to maintain a semblance of having your shit together to the outside world. Crumble, melt, fold over inside yourself so many times you become unrecognizable.
  7. Try to quit. Fail.
  8. Feel extreme emotions, feel the upswing of euphoria and the downswing of darkness, daily. Beg for a middle ground, receive it very rarely and when you do complain it feels ‘beige’.
  9. Invoke chaos as often as possible. Retraumatize yourself. Invite in those that will do you harm because, on some level, you believe you deserve it.
  10. At some point, go from weekly to daily panic attacks. Multiple times a day at work, at home, anywhere, really; debilitating. Create a “Panic Journal” on your phone to log what was happening before they begin to try to make sense of what’s triggering them. Don’t write that you are hungover every day.
  11. Try to quit. Fail.
  12. Start making art as a way to channel the volcanic anger that simmers inside you. Use it as a good excuse to drink alone. Listen to a lot of dark music, try on the tortured artist identity, begin sharing your art on Instagram under a pseudonym. Drink so much during those nights you begin to joke to your partners and friends what you create is always a surprise the next morning.
  13. Keep people at arm’s length — your partners, your friends, your family. Try not to let anyone see you.
  14. Feel things start to shake, to get more out of your control. See the cracks begin to form, wonder how you’re fooling anyone.
  15. Fill your body with poison: booze, nicotine, pot, bad food in excess, sleep poorly every day, for years. Pull out clumps of hair from your scalp one evening in the shower. Gain a significant amount of weight.
  16. Do a thousand big and little shitty things every day until your self-esteem is a vulture picking at itself, trying to kill itself from the inside out.
  17. Stop drinking and smoking cigarettes cold turkey one Thursday morning in November as you’re sobbing, holding your partner while he has a grand mal seizure in your arms, triggered by lack of sleep, because he stayed up waiting for you to come home but you were too busy dropping full margaritas on the floor of a bar on the west side of Chicago with your coworkers to remember his needs as an epileptic.
  18. Take that day off work. Sleep next to him as his body returns to stasis and your hangover fades. Go to Whole Foods once he’s recovered, get food from the hot bar and a B12 shot. Tell him you’re never drinking again and mean it this time.
  19. Try to go to work the next day. Sweat and shake in a conference room while explaining to a leader who isn’t your boss (because your boss is in Australia) — explain to this relative stranger how you can’t work and you have to get sober because you’re killing yourself. Oddly, he will cry for you and tell you to take the time you need.
  20. Take the time you need for a month. Your recovered alcoholic father will tell you it’s a blessing your company and boss are so understanding. Learn they couldn’t fire you anyway because recovering from an addiction is considered a disability.
  21. Find a therapist. Panic when a searing, sticky, tense week into your sobriety you’re sitting in her office for your first session and she tells you she wishes you had gone to the hospital to detox instead of quitting cold turkey with no supervision.
  22. Sleep more than you’ve ever slept. Sleep the deepest sleep so when you wake you feel you’ve slept for hundreds of years.
  23. Feel fucking glorious. Feel deep shame. Feel bored. Feel time slow down.
  24. Start journaling again, like you did before you found alcohol when you would lay on the ground of your bedroom, listening to music, writing.
  25. Wander around your house in the early morning sun and drink coffee.
  26. Listen to podcasts and read books and journal and cry and stay in your house for all of December except to go to hot yoga and therapy and the grocery store and the occasional recovery meeting when you feel especially desperate to sit in a room of people who know what this white-hot, steely realness feels like. Don’t put up a single Christmas decoration.
  27. Make all these grand plans about how you’re going to make up for lost time. Lose your shit when you realize you will never get that time back. Feel immense sadness for past you, move into your first wave of grieving. Pity, then begin to care for her. Talk to her. Apologize to her, comfort her, tell her it will be okay, that she’s safe now.
  28. Read Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol and when you finish it, know there is no going back. Actually feel the neural pathways in your brain begin to rewire. Sigh as the grip of addiction loosens a little more.
  29. Come out to your friends and family as sober because you’re getting married later that month and they have to know not to push booze onto you. Hear a lot of “I didn’t know you had a problem”.
  30. Decide you don’t want to be labeled as an alcoholic, but as a person who experienced addiction and is now recovering.
  31. Lose a lot of friends. Easily lose anyone you never had a sober conversation with.
  32. Attend your rehearsal dinner sober. Attend your wedding on your 30th day, sober. Feel and remember every single moment. Cry when your sober best friend brings sparkling grape juice for the champagne toast.
  33. Begin to understand that in order to heal yourself you must first look at your darkest, yuckiest stuff. Have night after night of dreams that consist of you in rooms of closed boxes, closets with drawers shut.
  34. Slowly, decide to look at your darkness.
  35. Begin to unpeel your darkness. Allow yourself to acknowledge it.
  36. Begin to really feel everything, where what you thought was “feeling your emotions” those first few weeks looks like kid stuff compared to the intense grief process that marches to the front, refusing to budge until it is addressed in full. Feel the little traumas and then dip your toes into the Really Big Traumas. When you’re feeling brave, furiously write about the Really Big Traumas and with every word typed, every nod to their impact, begin to let them go.
  37. Buy yourself a membership to the Art Institute of Chicago. When you need to ground yourself to something bigger than yourself you will walk around with noise-canceling headphones on blasting music and journal in front of the same few paintings (Matisse, Magritte, Debuffet, especially Matta’s “The Earth is a Man”), for hours.
  38. One day your dreams change — you begin to open the boxes, pull out the drawers.
  39. Learn about the victim loop and the accountability loop. Talk to anyone who will listen about them. Practice getting out of the victim loop at a faster clip each time you find yourself in it. Consider the accountability loop your new, shiny hamster wheel.
  40. Stop having panic attacks.
  41. Learn it takes time to rewire your brain once you quit ingesting addictive substances. Learn about the physiology of what you are experiencing, the cyclone that builds and builds on itself, that was triggered early on, that compounded, that unless you quit ingesting the addictive substances completely, your brain will continue to crave the release of withdrawal by requesting you ingest them.
  42. Make more art. See how your expression changes as you heal your mind and heart. Find great release in your studio.
  43. Stop eating like shit.
  44. Drink so much LaCroix. Dabble in mocktails.
  45. Start an anonymous, sober Instagram account and spew your heart onto it. Connect with people. Find other sober women around the world and in your city. See how not alone you really are.
  46. Still, feel alone.
  47. Participate in 10 weeks of group therapy with four other women who are in as desperate need of self-esteem as you are. Build your foundation of self-love here. Heal a lot of broken parts of you here. Practice being honest with strangers with your true story for the first time outside of individual therapy here. Go to group therapy and individual therapy every week for 10 weeks that first summer you’re sober.
  48. Feel exhausted by the rate you are doing the work.
  49. With the help of your therapist, define and begin to live by your own values.
  50. Begin to view sobriety as a blessing.
  51. When spring comes, hear the birds chirp for the first time in quite possibly your entire life. Feel the weight of this while you wander around your neighborhood early on weekend mornings. (You will never take for granted the magic you feel being sober and awake at 7 am on a Sunday.)
  52. Go on your first work trip sober. Learn what it’s like to do business travel without the bars, the men, the hangovers, the shame.
  53. Go on an all-American road trip with your sober best friend. Do whatever the fuck you want. Eat, sleep, chill, talk, feel free and beautiful and as glamorous as alcohol promised. Walk along the ocean in Monterrey and cry with gratitude to God while the waves crash around you, like out of some movie.
  54. Come out to your recovering alcoholic grandfather, the patriarch of your family, as queer and polyamorous. Ask if he would have ever tried poly had it been an option since he spent the majority of his young adult life chasing tail and cheating and hurting those around him. Listen as he says he wishes he had left the town he grew up in. Learn the name he was born with; the one his birth mother gave him. You will see then how pain is generational.
  55. Come out to your parents as queer and poly. They will tell you they love you unconditionally no matter what, that they’re proud of you for being brave. Never really talk about it again after that.
  56. Come out to your brother as queer and poly. Hear him say he doesn’t agree with it because of his values but that he loves you; he will thank you for being brave enough to share. You will talk about your childhood and your shared trauma and become closer after this call, despite your fundamental differences. Learn the meaning of unconditional love.
  57. Have your first solo art show. Sell a ton of art. Eat sushi with your boyfriend beforehand, watch him watch your parents but not talk to them while your husband and his girlfriend mingle in the corner. Watch your friends look at your art. Watch your therapist buy a piece of your art. Look at your art — art from before you quit drinking and art from after you quit drinking, feel exactly where you’re supposed to be. Go to bed emotionally drained.
  58. Go on a tropical vacation for a week. One night, when you’re at dinner, a friend you used to binge drink with will say he’s trying on sobriety. He’ll tell you he was sick and tired. Listen, nod, smile, feel your heart expand.
  59. Come out to yourself as an optimist!
  60. Go hiking alone.
  61. Practice setting and keeping boundaries. Learn just how hard this is in the beginning, especially with the people you love, then see how it gets easier the more your self-esteem grows and the more you do it. Fuck it up a few times, but keep doing it.
  62. Feel angry at the people around you who don’t heal themselves or decide to grow. Learn how to forgive them, how to empathize, how to be patient, how to let go. How to show them the way. Watch as they slowly start to come around and begin their own work. Learn what it means to be patient.
  63. Become closer to the friends you have. Let them see you. Show up for them. Celebrate them. Let them show up for you and celebrate you. Empower each other, consistently and loudly. Listen to each other.
  64. Learn what kinds of clothes you actually like to wear. Figure out your personal style. Heal the parts of you that were a chameleon against everyone around you because you didn’t have your own identity.
  65. Learn how to cook.
  66. Learn how to mother yourself.
  67. Learn how to talk to God.
  68. Begin to heal your relationship with money. Heal your trauma with money. Read about money. Talk about money. Think about money. Learn how to love money, how to see it as energy, as a resource, as a means to an end, as a path to help others.
  69. Leave your job. Get a better one.
  70. Move into a luxury apartment. (You will feel fucking giddy about this!)
  71. Join a Crossfit gym. Go to the gym as often as you can and feel your body scream and stretch and grind. Lose pound after pound, safely and consistently and joyfully. Become the most fit you’ve ever been.
  72. Learn how to connect with your family in ways you didn’t know you could. Go to breakfast with your brother and sister in law and stare at your baby niece in wonder, then hold her hand as she picks up rocks and moseys along the sidewalk. Touch her soft, curly hair.
  73. Sleep, work hard, eat healthy food, drink water and coffee and tea, pray, cry, write, make art, connect with others, go to sleep, fuck up and try again, every day, try to be a good person and do right by yourself and others, guided by your values, expand and think about what’s next, the life bigger than yourself. Don’t drink. Do this every fucking day for two years.
  74. Midway into your second year of saving your life, learn about existentialism and how nothing has meaning until we assign it value.
  75. Decide to assign your past trauma and heartache and pain a positive value.
  76. Begin to feel happy every day, regardless of what’s going on around you.
  77. Start to forget how sad and angry you once were.
  78. Tell people you’re grateful for your pain and mean it. See it as a “life hack”. See it as a means to living a profound life, to writing a really good book or three, as you’ve always wanted to. See it as necessary.
  79. Start to forget how hard life once was. How that doesn’t mean life isn’t hard, but that when it’s hard you’re able to stay centered and not fly off in any extreme direction.
  80. Realize you get to live like this forever.
  81. Realize you’re healing yourself; you’re changing your life, you rewired your mind and are healing your body and mending your heart and repairing your relationships and learning how to believe in your power, your strength, your light, the power of your love. Spook yourself when you wake up and realize you’re starting to live the life you wanted, you’re actualizing your dreams, and wonder what’s next? When do you stop growing?
  82. Keep going.
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by phoebeclaireconybeare

I was created to create. When I’m not in full-on data/process nerd mode as an Analyst at a research firm, I spend my time contemplating the things we can’t outrightly see - those spiritual, liminal states and our unlimited, expansive potential for growth.

Change, acceptance, awareness, love, recovery, addiction, polyamory, my queer (femme) identity, fluid sexuality, and self-actualization are themes I dance through in the things I paint, draw, sketch, write and create. I was created to create.


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