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Why We Can’t Fill Our Cracks

When I made the decision to quit  _______, I had reached the “up to here” point.

I draw a long line to fill in the blank, because really, I have quit so many things at this point, you can fill in the blank.

Binge Eating
Legal Work
Race Starts
Writing a fiction book
Writing another book

I think I will stop listing my quits now.  Not making me feel so great. Ha. 🙂

But of course, my biggest quit was alcohol. I quit drinking because the “I have had it up to here point” was long-reached, and I was overdue for one of the following:

  1. Sobriety
  2. Suicide
  3. Jail
  4. Suicide in jail
I am not making light of those choices either.  Dead serious.

I tell my story to my Grateful Sobriety group in one way. In a different way than I talk to my blog. In a different way than I talk to Instagram.

But the story goes like this:

When I was a drinker, I would drive down this very long hill near our house several times a day. And yes,  I was sober when I drove it.

I could easily hit 50 MPH going down this puppy, and I drove it often.  As many times as I drove past it, I probably fantasized about driving my car into the big pine tree at the bottom of it.

[And if you know anything about pines–they aren’t the bendy type trees.]

If someone had asked me in that period of time if I was suicidal, I would have said, “NO. What do you mean?”

In other words, I would have lied right through my teeth about that.

I also didn’t really think that I was “suicidal.” More along the lines of, “I really don’t want to live any more.”

Some people would say that’s the same… but others of us know exactly what I am saying.

But what was my issue??! Afterall, I was great on paper! Hello! I was doing all sorts of racing.  I was a four-time IRONMAN athlete. I was an attorney. My kiddos were great and healthy. I was married to a great guy. I had the perfect life on paper.

And I also had a one bottle plus more a day drinking “habit.”

Ohhhhhhh… that.

When people ask me, “How do I tell my _____ that they need to quit drinking?” the first thing I say is: “You can’t.”

You can, but they won’t hear.
Or they will hear, and they will hate you.
Or they will hear, ignore it, get sober ten years later, and hate you later.

I don’t know if those are really true. But I do know that when someone told me to stop drinking–I drank more.

This was my business, and no one was going to get into it.

When the driving myself into a tree scenario began to worry me, I realized that I was coming to a crossroads.

I knew I had to quit. I had to, and I was completely terrified of making that “final” decision.

So I did what anyone does when faced with a terrifying decision:  I made a pros/cons list, of course.

Yes, really.

But in all seriousness, why are we paralyzed by fear and choices sometimes-especially when we know exactly what we need to do?

Tim Ferris, in his TED talk, has a method for sorting out this stuff called “fear-setting.”

With fear-setting, he sets forth an easy-to-implement exercise where he decides whether to do, or not to do something. Basically, it’s a fancy pro/con/oh shit list that takes up three pages of paper.

“On the first page, he lists (1) what he is afraid will happen as a result of making the decision, (2) what he could do to prevent unwelcome outcomes, and (3) how he might handle the worst-case scenario.

“On the second page, he writes down the possible benefits of even a partial success in making the decision.

“And on the third page, he describes what the “cost of the status quo” would be — i.e., the “atrocious cost” of “not doing anything.” [summary from this Thrive Global article]

In his talk, he says, “The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — these are very often exactly what we most need to do.”

No one says this stuff is easy.
No one promises that making the hard choices is all perfection.

But fear-setting is a way to see what the problem is really about, what the change might mean… and then, when framed in that sort of lens, the decision to change (for the good) is almost unavoidable.

In making the hard choices, we create a certain power within ourselves. We take our power back. We decide that we will course-correct, and that life is not futile and hopeless.

Making the decision that something has to change, and that we will be the one to change it?  That’s a certain kind of commitment to ourselves that we are often scared of making–for fear of letting ourselves down? For fear of admitting failure? For fear of humiliation, shame, guilt, and more.

Maybe.

Or maybe it’s a simple as this:

Somewhere back down the road in our lives, someone took it upon themselves to break us.

I will repeat that.

Someone broke us.

Maybe we were too young to know what happened.  Maybe we were old enough to stop it from happening, and we did nothing. Maybe we know exactly what happened and when, and well, screw that person forever. 

But when we are behaving in a self-destructive way—it’s not necessarily “our fault.”  We are coping in a way that makes us feel better (for a time), and escape (for a time.)

When someone breaks us–no matter how “small” a fissure, we learn to fill the wide, breaking and breathing gap with addiction, escapism, food, or anything that make the break feel full, unnoticeable, and pretty.

We fill the crack with something—and often it’s not good crack-filling stuff. It’s the bad stuff–drugs, binge eating, affairs, alcohol, work addiction, whatever.

Because somewhere in the crack-making manual, the person, place or thing that broke us—knew that crack-filler would be very expensive and costly.  And whether they meant to or not, they sealed a deal of control with their breakage.

But it’s time to break free from our breakage.

The fear of having nothing but time, space and clarity to deal with that fissure seems impossible.

I get it. I have lived it on many, many levels. But here’s the thing:  The crack was not our fault. The brokenness, though a part of us, is not who we are.

By taking the step to face the fears—no matter how awful and daunting—and making a promise to ourselves that we deserve better,  we can (and will) move beyond the crack—it will heal or stay open–and either way, that will be okay.

But we can’t really fill the crack.  We have to move beyond it.

Because you will be you, regardless of the crack.

Time is our friend.  And time will help us take back ourselves, and our power.

And there’s literally no end to the possibilities of where we can go.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

#NationalSuicidePreventionAwarenessMonth

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-273-8255

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Learn how YOU can help someone in #BeThe1to5 Action Steps:

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_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

“Oh the Places You’ll Go,” Dr. Seuss

9 Comments

  • Elise

    September 17, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Your comment about not being able to get someone to stop drinking rings true. I was an RA in college, and part of our training was a session from our university’s wellness resource center about drinking. They told us that you can’t make someone stop drinking but every time you express concern about someone’s drinking habits, you push them one step closer to making that choice for themselves. Curious what your thoughts are about that? It really resonated with me, but I also don’t drink alcohol (never have) so I don’t have the same perspective as you.

    Reply
    • Swim Bike Mom

      September 17, 2017 at 11:46 am

      My personal belief is that the person is well aware of their issue. They don’t want to do it anymore, deep down. And they will come to the process and decisions on their own. Some people have been impacted by direct intervention but I think people are more indirectly impacted… sharing a blog :), a podcast etc. thanks for reading 🙂

      Reply
    • Swim Bike Mom

      September 17, 2017 at 11:47 am

      My personal belief is that the person is well aware of their issue. They don’t want to do it anymore, deep down. And they will come to the process and decisions on their own. (Caveat: danger to themselves or others. Different sorry). Some people have been impacted by direct intervention but I think people are more indirectly impacted… sharing a blog :), a podcast etc. thanks for reading 🙂

      Reply
  • Kristy

    September 17, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Wow. This resonates with me. I am a workaholic, always have been according to my husband. Even though I am less a workaholic now that I have had children, I still feel that I am one. Not only that, but what you said about filling the crack with work, alcohol, drugs, etc. is so true! I can only think that my parents divorce and my own mother “broke” me. She is a toxic person, one in which her three children no longer speak to her. I have been filling this crack with alcohol, working and running for so long now, I don’t even know any other way. I can’t even tell you how many antidepression meds, anxiety meds, etc. I have been on to no avail. I have contemplated suicide in the past, most recently over the summer. No one knows except for my husband and my doctor. Therapy has proven to be just okay for me since I don’t like to discuss emotions or my issues. Maybe I just haven’t found the right one? I am glad that you have taken control of your life, though I am not sure how you did it! I quit drinking and am currently on a nurtition plan to improve my overall health and running. I have not had a drink for 7 days now. Any tips on how to gain control of your life? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Swim Bike Mom

      September 18, 2017 at 6:01 am

      Please join our group, Grateful Sobriety. It’s free (check the link: GratefulSobriety.com) – it’s just a support group where you can lean on people and ask them what works for them. If alcohol is your issue, check out some of the resources in the link here: https://www.swimbikemom.com/2016/03/a-sobering-thought.html. 🙂 For me personally, I made a decision that I would NOT drink again, and I stuck with it… it wasn’t about “willpower” it was about “power” to take charge of my life and change. I wanted to KNOW that I could do that. 🙂 I did, and you can too

      Reply
  • LAURIE ERICKSEN LARSON

    September 28, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Hi M. I have been trying to fill the crack all my life. Grateful Sobriety has helped tremendously, I am no longer filling the crack with wine. But the crack is still there. I am working on it. Your message has come at just the right time. I was trying to figure out why quitting drinking, while helpful, wasn’t completely fixing me. It isn’t going to be as easy to fix me as I thought. But at least I am not drinking, and can think about it a little more clearly.
    Thanks. LL

    Reply
  • dona cardenas

    September 28, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Love this!
    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself
    any direction you choose.
    You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
    And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

    “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” Dr. Seuss

    Reply
  • Kristin

    September 28, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you Meredith! I love to read your posts, everything you write strikes a chord with me. Your grateful sobriety group and posts have been instrumental in my sobriety. It has saved my life. Thank you so very much.

    Reply

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