“Until you’re willing to revel in your weirdness, you’ll never really be happy.”
– Bernie Siegel
When I was 12 years old and going to Catholic school, I thought no one liked me because I was poor. I thought that if I had a lot of money, everyone would like me, and I would be one of the beautiful people. And then I would be happy.
At 13, my family moved from Ohio to Mississippi and I hoped that my life would change. I even got my own bedroom for the first time. All four of my brothers were popular in school but nothing changed for me, because I was still me. My motto was “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go eat worms.”
High school continued on just as grade school and middle school had. No boys every asked me out and I never got invited to school dances or the prom. I did have a few quiet girlfriends who depended on me because I was a natural caretaker. I had high anxiety and although I didn’t know it at the time, I could feel everyone else’s feelings and mistook them for my own. I was, and am still, an empath.
In our community there was a gathering place for students called the Youth Center. They had a jukebox there, they had ping pong, pool tables, snacks and sodas. I never felt like I fit in.
I would go there with my friends and sit and drink Cokes and watch the beautiful people dance. Inside a part of me longed to dance, but I was too self-conscious and anxious.
When I was a junior, I met a guy who used to sit out in front of the Youth Center and drink beer in his car. He invited me to join him and offered me a beer. This made me feel important, and that finally I might be ok because somebody liked me enough to talk to me.
I drank my first beer. I went back inside and found out that I could dance as good as anyone else. A new side of me appeared and I liked her. That was the beginning of me being able to come out of my shell. Alcohol became the medicine that hid my anxiety and self-consciousness and helped me be the person I thought I wanted to be.
Fast forward to LSU. I met my future husband in front of the French Lab when I was 18. He was driving by and my friends and I jumped in his car and said, “C’mon – you’re the only one with a car. Take us down to get a beer.” Suffice to say we hit it off, and a year later we were married with a baby on the way.
My husband graduated from college but I never did because (according to the family expectations) it was my job to stay home and be a good wife and mother. My husband went on to be a very successful businessman.
We had the big house, belonged to the country club, had nice clothes and horses, and traveled around the world. I had everything I thought I always needed to be happy, and yet inside I was still miserable and depressed. Something was missing and I didn’t know what it was.
While my husband worked, I was constantly searching to find real meaning in my life. I started an antique imports business, which took me to Europe, traveling by myself several times a year for weeks at a time.
When I was away from home, I finally felt like I could be me. I didn’t have to please anyone when I was traveling by myself. Connecting with the world and my creative self gave meaning to my life and I tasted happiness for the first time. And I was accepted by others just as I was. Until I went home.
I always felt sick on the plane ride home. My antique business became very successful in our small town in a short period of time, and I realized I was capable and and smart and could make it in the world on my own.
My three children had been sent to boarding school and we were left with a 5,000 sq ft empty nest, which felt very empty. Both workaholics, my husband and I passed each other in the hallway going in and out of town. I then realized there was nothing left in my marriage.
I looked around my house at all the fancy trappings – everything I thought I had always wanted and needed to make me happy – and felt even more empty inside. I left my husband and my business and moved to California.
I wanted to start a new life but recognized that alcohol was in my way. I sought treatment. While reading Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, I learned that mental illness is relative to the distance between you and your creator.
I heard the sober women in my twelve step program say that once they got sober, the steps and accompanying spiritual path had offered them a way to become truly happy. I wanted that, so I leapt into the program and began my re-creation process.