Cleaning out the attic, I stumbled across a picture. I don’t have many pictures from my past. Most of them were lost in between moves and crashing electronics. Pictures stored on hard drives within old computers. Some of them were stuffed into a shoebox, and forgotten. Then we found a dust covered shoebox. Our hands were already black with decades worth of sifting.
I opened the box and there sat three envelopes with glossy pictures. They had been developed from actual film. The negatives were still in their appropriated front envelope. Inside the larger part of the envelope were pictures from a beach vacation. One of the first vacations my husband (then boyfriend) took to Myrtle Beach. As glossy as the pictures felt in my hand, something about one picture I will never be able to gloss over. I can’t shine it up. I can’t crop, edit, or filter out the truth.
There I sat with an ugly face-to-face truth. One hundred pounds heavier. Staring back into my clearer eyes was my beginning deep, descending dive into addiction. There sat a face I recognized, barely. But I knew the girl.
It’s me. Glassy glazed over eyes. Uncomfortable in my too tight, ill-fitted tank top. My shorts crept too far upwards and looked like granny panties. I don’t have a thigh gap. I’ve never had a thigh gap. I will never have a thigh gap. Those humid beach days caused my shorts to ride up and stick to my excess skin and weight, which apparently some women don’t have. Until a few years ago, I thought all women had some meaty parts on the tops of their thighs. Then the term “thigh gap” got combined with a boatload of Photoshop. And I soon found out the truth or the manufactured created truth: Not everyone has the privilege to rock a thigh gap.
In this picture I saw more of the girl I used to be. I saw sadness. A 20-something looking to crawl into pill bottles, hoping to find answers. Turn off the pain. Make the memories stop. I looked inside of those bottles for salvation, and eventually I hoped I would be redeemed.
The pill mill upped the dosage. I took more and more and more. The picture above is what I would become. An incoherent shell. Numb to life. Careless. I didn’t care about myself. I didn’t care about losing jobs. I loved my partner tremendously, but I didn’t have the capability to show any love, either for him or myself.
Today, he will say: I should have left you during the Xanax years.
When we found this picture over the weekend, I asked if he remembered me being that heavy? He said he only remembers me not coming home. Staying out. Worrying. He never had time to assess the physical change. I gained almost 90 pounds during those three years when I snorted the prescribed pills. I would wake up and cook food in the middle of the night. Eat as much I could cram into my mouth before I passed out again. The only way to figure out what had happened during those midnight munching hours would be to count dirty pots and pans. To peer inside them for the contents of blacked-out cooking. When I’d wake up, I would look down to see the dirty plates surrounding me. They were covered with half-eaten, strewn about food that had fell into the floor next to where I slept.
I wanted to keep my addiction picture. Sometimes I still see this girl. I still see a college girl who hated herself. I still see the mistakes I can never undo. I see lonely. I see unhappy. I see the desire to numb a life from knowing someone stayed with me when they shouldn’t have. I live daily with the hate and the resentment because he stayed with me. And he shouldn’t have, and perhaps he hates either me or himself for staying. These are words only spoken through anger. I don’t know the validity in their truth.
I think to myself, Maybe he should’ve left. I was a pill-popping prescribed junkie.
I USED TO BE.
Had he left, he would have missed out on the person I am today. A chalkboard which has been washed clean and painted new. Fresh chalk waiting to write the next chapter. I’m a renovated soul. He’d missed all the success. All the laughs. The nights where we are something special to each other.
More than all those things. He’d missed out on seeing a good mom, experiencing fatherhood with the son we made together. There wouldn’t be a two story home filled with the people living in it now. Had we not stayed together, we would have different lives. Decisions change an entire life course. When I stopped opening the pill bottles, that one choice changed my entire direction.
Because this is who I am now.
This is the last picture I took of myself and I felt pretty. I’d gotten a new t-shirt. It symbolized a part of me. The Misfit.
My husband has asked one question repeatedly when referring to this site and the amount of time I regularly devote to it: “Is all this work worth it?”
I answer, “HELL YES!”
I look at the first picture and see the lost person. I tried looking for answers. The answers were inside of me the entire time. The key to my happiness is right here. It is symbolizing that I am person who is uncomfortable because I don’t fit in. But I am comfortable with not fitting in. Trying to conform, trying to find normal, made me unhappy.
Happiness came when I found the Misfit. When I found a home for these words.
My true happiness and my self esteem could never be rectified with 3 pills. At thirty pills a day, I couldn’t function enough to recognize the root of my problem stemmed from lacking self expression while trying to embrace normality.
I never hated the outward appearance in my addiction picture. I hated the way I felt on the inside, because I still feel the loathing at times. So much has changed since then. I do work hard. Harder than I ever worked before.
But when I snap a picture of me wearing a new t-shirt, I am proud of that person. Each time I feel the tiniest bit of good about myself in the present time, the old addict in me dies. I bury her insecurities, her hurt and her self-hatred scrap by scrap. Each time, I throw another handful of dirt on top of her polluted and toxic body. The former addict stops existing. By doing this, I am allowing room for something better to be born and nurtured inside of me.
Yes, it’s worth it. I don’t ever want to become the drug-riddled, unhappy, sad girl ever again. That girl is dying. In her place is room to allow a Misfit to grow.