I’m a masochist to the core. At least this is how I’ve lived most of my life. When I fuck up, I rarely go the route of being kind to myself. Instead, I cut my hair, get a tattoo, and spend hours hating myself by reliving my fuck-up over and over again.
And then, when I think I can’t stand it anymore and that I’ve punished myself enough, I’ll go for another round. Sometimes three rounds, if time permits. I never allow a moment to see my humanity and forgive myself. It’s just not in my DNA to offer myself compassion and it’s something I’ve struggled with since, well, I was a kid.
When I drank regularly—meaning every night of the week with binges lasting from Thursday through Saturday—I knew it wasn’t right… per se. Granted, I surrounded myself with people doing the exact same thing. But I also knew my genes were chock full of alcoholism and, considering how guilty I felt every morning after a binge, I was cognizant enough to realize I had no business drinking like I was.
It’s just not in my DNA to offer myself compassion and it’s something I’ve struggled with since, well, I was a kid.
But even then, when I was fucked up beyond belief, did things I shouldn’t have done, and was told of the things that I said that I should have never told a soul, I made sure I punished myself. No forgiveness involved. I’d force myself to sit with that regret and embarrassment, the same way I’d force myself to relive my non-drinking fuck-ups. I’d even drag my hungover ass out of bed on 95-degree days in the summer, take the F train all the way from the East Village down to Manhattan Beach, and lay there in the sweltering sun, trying to convince myself that I could torture my bad habits, vices, addictions, whatever out of my system.
It never worked. I remained the Nurse Ratched of my own fuck-ups: a heartless woman who, in her warped mind, thought she was doing what was best to protect me from myself. Then I’d just drink again later that day.
I’d be lying if I said this still wasn’t my method. I rarely miss deadlines, but when I do, even if it’s for a good reason, you better believe my inner masochist kicks into gear and makes sure there is a level of suffering involved. When I spend too much on a pair of shoes, that I’ve rationalized I don’t deserve but buy anyway, that masochist comes knocking. Part of me revels in it; accepts it as part of who I am. Another part rejects it in the same vein I reject authority, completely ignoring where I have failed.
But failure should never be misplaced, forgotten, or shelved. Without failure, and recognizing it, we have nothing and nowhere from which to grow.
Without failure, and recognizing it, we have nothing and nowhere from which to grow.
Which brings me to the possibility of slipping up and drinking this holiday season. I have a game plan for how to get through the season sober. But game plans aren’t foolproof—and I’m well aware. What’s also not foolproof or, more specifically, a habit that’s not easy to break is how I deal with my fuck-ups.
Although I’ve become softer, kinder, and gentler toward myself in the last couple of years, after a series of devastating events that can only make one be such a way, in order to survive with grace and dignity, I still struggle with forgiving myself. For lots of things.
I’ve beaten myself up for splurging on first class tickets, accidentally fucking up the spelling of a source in an article, lying to my nephew about not eating the last box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese (I totally did), and, yes, having one small glass of wine at dinner over a month ago in France with friends. No matter how big or small, reconciling, for me, isn’t an easy task. But it’s also a personality trait that my friends and my family, especially, are very much aware of.
So, my plan of attack for forgiving myself if I drink this holiday season? Lean on those I love most.
Although I’m independent, self-reliant, and steeped in high personal expectations to a fault, I have a network of people in my life who understand this part of me and who— no matter what the issue—have my back. I still struggle with trying to “convince” some of my friends that I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. But what they can’t deny is that I’m too hard on myself about everything.
Although the jury is still out, for some of them, about my drinking problem, the jury did conclude years ago that I don’t give myself enough of a break; I don’t know how to forgive myself. I forgave my husband of less than two years for cheating on me with someone more than half his age, but I can’t forgive myself for missing a deadline, canceling last minute on a friend, or not reaching my monthly quota of articles. I mean, that’s some fucked up shit.
We all have to look in the mirror and say out loud, “I can’t do this alone.”
So, because my anxiety, my overly analytical brain, and my penchant for masochism is an inherent part of who I am and who I will always be, I’ve decided that if I want to forgive myself for any slip-ups this holiday season, I need to turn to the people in my life—my immediate family, in particular. I know they’ll take a less dramatic, harsh, and unforgiving route than I’m capable of giving myself, but sometimes we need that. Although relying on them won’t be ideal, at some point, we all have to look in the mirror and say out loud, “I can’t do this alone.”
I’ve done that. I had to do that for myself and my progress. Maybe it’s a cop-out that I’ll rely on others to forgive myself this season, but if it works for me and they’re cool with it, then right now it’s the best option I have.