I found bliss on the cusp of losing everything I cared about.
I’d like to think of myself as an intelligent person, however history shows otherwise. I had a wonderful life, a husband who loved me, beautiful daughters, a caring family, a successful career and yet couldn’t see the joy that was available to me.
My life has been happy, there have been joyful moments but the state of bliss is something I have only recently understood. For a huge portion of my life I chased this elusive state of being. During the chase, I didn’t consciously realize what I was doing. At the time I thought I was striving for success as I had been taught. Being the “best” and obtaining “success” were the targets, and once I achieved them I would have “arrived.”
These endeavours were primarily positive: obtaining two diplomas, establishing my career, gaining promotions, getting married, birthing two children, buying a home and cars . . . each of which are goals worthy of achieving.
What wasn’t positive were my inner thoughts. With each project finished or target met, I was left with a feeling of emptiness and self-doubt. With this emptiness came the need for new projects and the cycle would begin again. Irrelevant of my efforts and successes, I didn’t feel worthy of it all, I questioned my decisions and over-analyzed my efforts. I was well and truly caught up in the “worldly” view of life.
For years I was stuck in that cycle, determined to make the finish line only to have it moved further back as I drew close. I didn’t see it at the time and didn’t bother dealing with my emotions; I pasted on a happy smile and continued to waste my efforts.
This became wearing over time, and I began to drink more on weekends with friends. My weekly girls nights were highly coveted; I had always been a social drinker and didn’t even notice the rug being pulled out from under me.
The last few years of my weekend drinking seem to morph into one big blur. I had quite a system in place to ensure I could drink safely, with my children being looked after. Friday at 6 p.m., the babysitter would arrive and I would uncork the wine; my friends would arrive by 8 p.m. and we’d enjoy appetizers and drinks. My husband worked evenings in this season of our marriage and came home to this often. Those girls nights quickly turned into saying goodnight to friends at midnight and opening up another bottle of wine, irrelevant of my husband’s feelings. At this stage I was truly unaware; I was a blackout drinker. I had no memory of my actions. I would often wake feeling the shame before my eyes were open. My need for instant gratification was destroying me.
I finally faced my alcoholism in February 2010. To say this is a frightening process is the understatement of all time. Can you seriously picture yourself never drinking again in this society?
After a few weeks of sobriety and 12 Step meetings, I was just beginning to understand the state of “bliss”; I was learning to value myself again.
With 20 days of sobriety, I was in a car accident that has left me with back/neck injuries and a mild brain injury. Forty seconds is all it took to tear my abilities from me. I cannot lift my little girls, I can’t perform my job, my short-term memory is comically challenged . . . and yet it was those 40 seconds that have taught me bliss.
I’ve had to truly get to know who I am on the inside, to develop my spiritual foundation and accept myself. After a year and a half of fighting to recover, I am able to say that I have found my bliss. In those 40 seconds I faced death and have since found life.
It’s not the “worldly” things or concerns that bring me bliss. Bliss was within me the whole time; I had to look within and accept who I am (the good and the bad) and appreciate what truly matters.
I’ve learned to stand in serenity amidst the chaos of this journey we call life—that, to me, is bliss!
Julie Elsdon-Height is a wife and mom of two girls and blogs about family, faith and alcoholism at soberjulie.com.