Kids say the smartest things.
A decade or so ago, when I was still caught in a cycle of hustling for worthiness all day and numbing my discomfort with wine, my then-eleven-year-old delivered a truth bomb that I am still unpacking to this day.
I had paused for breath (and dramatic effect) while delivering an anecdote/monologue to my husband over dinner that was meant to illustrate the stupidity I was forced to deal with out there in the world. There were a lot of emphasized words and faces and gestures accompanying the story, a lot of so I saids and then he saids and seriouslys.
I was really selling it, but then came the little voice into my pause.
My son had been watching me and I assumed he was impressed with his strong, smart, tough mom who had spent the day setting egomaniacs straight. Instead he said this:
“You, like, really enjoy being right.”
If an adult had said that, I would have been defensive and wounded. Instead, I was (uncharacteristically) receptive to the honest observations coming from my own child. I had no idea what to do with that information, but I sensed it was powerful and tucked it into my pocket for safekeeping.
It would take years, but eventually I’d start unpacking that and other nuggets I had gathered over time and wonder if they could be put to better use. I am learning, but it is a slow process.
I know this much. I confuse being right with being safe. I confuse approval and worth. I confuse others with myself.
After eight years alcohol-free and reading a million books and listening to others and thinking thinking thinking and filling multiple journals, I am undoing the hairball of mixed-up ideas I believed were true. One revelation leads to another. It takes time, though, to go from awareness to change.
That is what recovery is all about: slow, methodical, intentional change.
I am still too easily wounded by criticism and swayed by flattery, but also quicker to ground myself and assess my own opinion. That is progress.