The past two days have both been milestones for me- Friday was one year since my last drink and yesterday is one year since the suicide attempt. As I’ve written before, I have some mixed emotions about both. One the one hand it’s been a tremendous year in terms of getting better, both mentally and physically. On the other hand, looking back means reflecting on some particularly painful memories. At first I was concerned about the progress (or perceived lack thereof) that I was making. Fortunately some helpful comments from friends and family and a productive session with my therapist helped me to contextualize how I was feeling. As one friend summed it up rather neatly:
“Judge yourself on how difficult it was FOR YOU to accomplish what you accomplished (which you know), and not on how difficult that same task seems to be for other people.”
In therapy I asked what was typical of people who have these types of anniversaries- are they celebrated, somberly noted, etc? Of course the answer is different for everyone.
As I said, it involves some rough memories, and on Friday those emotions were a little overwhelming, so I left the office a little early and just tried to take my mind off of things. I went to the mall and walked around, did some people watching. I went out to lunch. I got my car washed. I went and had a cup of coffee and caught up on the news. I wasn’t just hanging around the house feeling sorry for myself or thinking of what might’ve been. I spent the evening talking with my parents on the phone, with my brothers. It was good.
Yesterday I spent some time in quiet meditation. It’s been too long since I’ve made a point to dedicate a big chunk of an afternoon to mindfulness; to do nothing but sit quietly and try to clear my mind, focusing on my breathing and allowing any thoughts to simply pass without judgement (much harder than it sounds). Then I went for an early dinner with my family to mark the anniversary at one of my favorite local spots. When I came home, I marked one year with a cupcake.
It was my mom who told me that she thought I should treat the anniversary as a kind of second birthday. I still have mixed feelings about that but looking back over the past year I can recognize the growth and the progress. I may not be where I want to be yet, there are still areas where I fall short of my own expectations for myself, but maybe the most important lesson I’ve learned is that that’s OK. I’m making progress. I think one of my favorite posts on this blog has been the one about progress and recovery- each is defined by the other. I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing next year. But I can say pretty confidently that I’ll be alive and that I’ll be making progress.