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How Sobriety Helped Me Recover A Part Of Myself I Thought Was Lost

April 06, 2020
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Image by Jovana Vukotic / Stocksy
April 06, 2020
"Four years ago, married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman." So starts NYT bestselling author Glennon Doyle's third book, Untamed, a stunning memoir about how she found her voice again after she'd buried it beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. Read an excerpt from Untamed below!

I was never completely gone. My spark was always inside me, smoldering. But I sure as hell felt gone for a long while. My childhood bulimia morphed into alcoholism and drug use, and I stayed numb for 16 years. Then, when I was 26, I got pregnant and sober. Sobriety was the field in which I began to remember my wild. 

It went like this: I began building the kind of life a woman is supposed to build. I became a good wife, mother, daughter, Christian, citizen, writer, woman. But while I made school lunches, wrote memoirs, rushed through airports, made small talk with neighbors, carried on with my outer life, I felt an electric restlessness buzzing inside me. It was like constant thunder rolling right there beneath my skin—a thunder made of joy and pain and rage and longing and love too deep, scalding, and tender for this world. It felt like hot water simmering, always threatening to boil.

I was afraid of what was inside me. It felt powerful enough to destroy every bit of the lovely life I'd built. Like how I never feel safe on a balcony because: What if I jump?

It's OK, I told myself. I'll keep myself and my people safe by keeping my insides hidden.

I was amazed at how easy this was. I was filled with electric thunder, simmering water, fiery red and gold, but all I had to do was smile and nod and the world would take me for easy, breezy blue. Sometimes I wondered if I wasn't the only one using her skin to contain herself. Maybe we are all fire wrapped in skin, trying to look cool.

Image by Jovana Vukotic / Stocksy

My boiling point was the moment Abby stepped through that doorway. I looked at her, and I could no longer contain myself. I lost control. Fire-red and golden rolling bubbles of pain and love and longing filled me, brought me to my feet, threw my arms open wide, insisting: There. She. Is.

For a long while, I thought that what happened that day was some kind of fairy-tale magic. I thought the words There She Is came to me from on high. Now I know that There She Is came from within. That wild rowdiness that had simmered for so long and then turned itself into words and lifted me was me. The voice I finally heard that day was my own—the girl I'd locked away at 10 years old, the girl I was before the world told me who to be—and she said: Here I Am. I'm taking over now.

When I was a child, I felt what I needed to feel and I followed my gut and I planned only from my imagination. I was wild until I was tamed by shame. Until I started hiding and numbing my feelings for fear of being too much. Until I started deferring to others' advice instead of trusting my own intuition. Until I became convinced that my imagination was ridiculous and my desires were selfish. Until I surrendered myself to the cages of others' expectations, cultural mandates, and institutional allegiances. Until I buried who I was in order to become what I should be. I lost myself when I learned how to please. 

Sobriety was my painstaking resurrection. It was my return to wild. It was one long remembering. It was realizing that the hot electric thunder I felt buzzing and rolling inside was me—trying to get my attention, begging me to remember, insisting: I'm still in here.

So I finally unlocked and unleashed her. I set free my beautiful, rowdy, true wild self. I was right about her power. It was too big for the life I was living, so I systematically dismantled every piece of it.

Then I built a life of my own.

Image by Isabel Alcaine / Stocksy

I did it by resurrecting the very parts of myself I was trained to mistrust, hide, and abandon in order to keep others comfortable:

My emotions

My intuition

My imagination

My courage

Those are the keys to freedom.

Those are who we are.

Will we be brave enough to unlock ourselves?

Will we be brave enough to set ourselves free?

Will we finally step out of our cages and say to ourselves, to our people, and to the world: Here I Am.

Image by Danielle Siess / Random House

Untamed by Glennon Doyle is available now.

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