Finding a New Joy: Who Am I Now?
Dr. Shari Long Romero is a nurse-midwife practicing in Littleton, Colorado. She is also a certified life and recovery coach who specializes in empowering women with a history of addiction, alcoholism, sexual trauma, or domestic violence through pregnancy, birth, and the transition to motherhood. Shari is married and the proud mom to four children and grandmother of two. Connect with Shari at www.sharilongromero.com or https://www.facebook.com/sharilongromero/.
So often we identify ourselves by the roles we play in our self-important lives. I felt so defined by the heroic characters I portrayed as a mother, wife, nurse, and midwife that I could not imagine any image that would encompass terms like addict or alcoholic. I was forced into recovery by a regulatory board, kicking, crying, shaking my head, and denying I ever had a problem. And even if some things had happened, some really bad things, they weren’t really my fault. I was a victim. In my right mind, I would have never hurt the people I loved and cared about the most. The raging storm in my head that denied my culpability as I sat being accused time after time was just so convincing. The havoc and devastation of my life was evidence of my addictions, but I simply could not let go of who I had been and the role I still wanted to play to somehow prove my self-worth.
So much of my value came from outside sources. I was being challenged at every turn now that I couldn’t step in to the personas that had allowed me to continue playing normal during the insanity of my compulsions. My inner dialogue was deafening as I fought the help that was being so freely given to me. White knuckle sobriety was really no way to live, just a way to survive marking time. I was told in my 12-Step program to find a higher power, but I didn’t want to belong to this club, this culture. I was fixated on going back and getting it all back and forgetting any of this had ever happened. And, of course, I relapsed and denied it was my fault. I had approached sobriety as a way to avoid all the negatives instead of embracing the mindful joy of recovery.
There are so many defining moments; incidents that eventually changed my perspective over time. I guess you could say I kept learning the hard way and then finally started seeing miracles evolve in others and in my own life. I had already lost so much; nearly every single person and every single thing that ever meant anything to me. I ultimately lost all the illusions and pretenses that had sustained me. I was no longer the perfect soccer mom. My kids and the public knew my secrets. I was no longer married, which in reality was a blessing, but it felt like another failure. I was still a nurse, but I was not practicing my calling of midwifery. The healer was no longer mother earth. I was left looking at myself in the mirror without a filter and coming to terms with some painful truths. I had to make the decision that within the nakedness of my soul was a being worthy of breath and life and nourishment and nurturement. I had to find a new joy in just being me in order want to live.
The first step in this process was to let go of what I thought the past represented. All of those accomplishments were holding me back and keeping me in a place of constant regret and resentment. All the longing and wishing that my using days and the hurts I caused had never happened only served to keep me paralyzed in fear and remorse. I started every single morning as soon as I woke up with the words, “Thank you”, and I meant them. Living in gratitude literally became something I practiced every day in preparation for the marathon of life. I found that the more thankful I became for even the smallest things, the more positivity I was able to find, and the more the universe started bringing back to me.
Keeping my focus on the present and the things I could currently control changed my daily routines and gave me energy and inspiration. I wrote down goals for the day, week, and year. I also stopped apologizing. After my initial making amends sessions and realizing that I could not change the past, I decided to make huge strides on a better future for myself, my children, and eventually for the patients who I wanted to be able to serve, not only as a midwife, but as a woman in recovery. Taking on this new role, just being me, was unfamiliar and scary at first but gave me an incredible freedom. And telling the truth on a daily basis is such a relief.
The things I do as a mom, a nurse, and a midwife are all now simply gifts I am able to give back because of the ultimate pleasure of living day by day knowing that I am given unconditional love and acceptance from the one person who counts the most… me. Using my time in recovery to care about what I think of myself and how I treat myself is really the secret to living strong and free and having meaning beyond measure. I found that new joy, and I didn’t have to play any special part to get it. I just had to open up and receive the blessing that is me.