Throughout my forties, I have gradually gotten used to the fact that “things change”.

One day I woke up and my right boob was just…bigger. (Yes, I scooted in for a mammogram. Diagnosis: Right Boob Bigger.) High heels are no longer my friends. And don’t even get me started on the chin hair phenomenon.

It’s all okay, though. Truly.

I pluck, fluff, adjust and I don’t mind at all. I rather love getting older.

It threw me, however, when I sat down to my dressing table recently and noticed my grandmother’s eyebrows had replaced my own. Oh dear. How did this happen? I have always had great eyebrows, strongly arched and defined. I’d been plucking stragglers and taming the forest between them since I was 12, tinting them since 35, but now at 47 they’d gone rogue. Well, shit.

Ah, but here’s a lesson in everything, my friends.

Sometimes we are moving along, doing things the way we always do, and then suddenly (or so it seems) it all stops working. As a person in recovery, I know this pattern intimately. It worked until it didn’t, and then it needed fixing.

The analogy became crystal clear to me as I was lying in an esthetician’s chair for my emergency eyebrow repair consultation.

Katie had been recommended by a friend with excellent browscaping. Serious business, this was.  Peering through a suspended lit magnifying glass, Katie silently measured my face and lifted individual hairs delicately with a metal tool to assess the situation. At last, she spoke quietly and gravely.

“I can fix this, but I need you to stop everything you’ve been doing. Come back in two weeks. Do not touch them between now and then.”

I don’t think she understood. That might work for everyone else, but I am different. I’m special.

“Um, well you see, I normally pluck them every day. Like, I have to pluck them every day. So, there’s no way I could go for two weeks. That’s, um, impossible. I am sure that’s the normal process, and not to undermine your expertise, but I just can’t do that. My grandfather was Scottish.”

She was having none of it.

“Just pull your bangs forward. And quit trimming them.”

“My bangs?”

“No, your eyebrows. You’ve been cutting them. Stop that.”

I gasped. She could tell I trimmed my eyebrows? My secret shame exposed! I was horrified. Could she see up my nostrils as well? Oh God.

“I have to,” I whispered dryly. “They….grow…. long….like a man’s.”

It was too late for crying. She knew everything now. I hated those long-growing hairs so much that I had become accustomed to trimming them and pretending it never happened. The shame was buried so deep inside my heart; I hadn’t even thought to mention it.

“Oh Jean,” she said kindly. “Lots of women gets those, it happens. But cutting them is what has ruined your eyebrow shape over time.”

Wait, what? I was causing this to happen? My efforts to fix things were making them disastrously worse? I exhaled.  The solution was worsening the problem? Three-plus years of sobriety had prepared me well for this moment.

“I surrender,” I said and pulled my bangs forward.

Two weeks later I was back in Katie’s chair. A flurry of activity was being carried out above me but I rested quietly and felt the dobbing of tint, then a warm swipe of wax and the sharp tug of removal. It was all out of my hands. I was utterly powerless. I had to trust and wait, and stop doing everything that I’d thought was working so well.

I confess I catch myself in the mirror now and look a moment longer. It will take some time to get used to the change, but I truly see improvement. This is a much better way. I am trusting the process.

My name is Jean and I am a person in successful long-term recovery from alcohol addiction and eyebrow plucking.