This past weekend, on February 19th, I celebrated two years of continuous sobriety. The week before that, I celebrated my 3 year anniversary of being suicide attempt free. A few weeks before that, I celebrated one year of being self-harm free.
The first thing I felt on my suicide attempt free anniversary was not pride or happiness, it was shame. I felt shame that I was still celebrating these kinds of milestones. I felt shame that I was in a place 1, 2, 3 years ago that scared people and nearly ended in my death. I felt shame that one some of my biggest accomplishments are just…being.
I was talking to a friend about all of these anniversaries and she said “I am so proud of you. You have come so far, even though I didn’t know you at your worst. I’m glad you’re celebrating.” And that was when I decided it was time to turn off the self-critical voice in my head saying I didn’t deserve to be excited about these things.
Here’s what I realized in that moment: I am allowed to be excited about every aspect of the recovery process. Yes, sometimes it feels ridiculous that I celebrate my ability to keep myself alive, sober, and do not hurt myself. Yes, I am still challenged by the self-critical demon that is my brain.
The fact is though, if I didn’t celebrate these things, I wouldn’t be the person I am. If I didn’t go through these things, I wouldn’t be me.
I was looking back on all of the things I’ve done since my last attempt, since I got sober, since I last self-harmed, and I have come so far. I recognize the me from the past as someone recognizes a fiction character. You know what they did, you know their story, but you also know they aren’t real.
The real me was never, and is not, the person in those memories. The real me is the one sitting here writing this today. If the real me doesn’t recognize what the me in my memories did, how dark their life was, I have a high and dangerous probability of becoming that person again.
In learning from our pasts, we have to look at them. If I don’t look at who I was, then I have no reason to continue growing.
I celebrate to remind myself why I don’t want to be the person I was, or do the things I did. We all have things we celebrate that may not seem like celebrate in recovery. Things like getting out of bed all week, taking a shower, brushing your teeth. Things that mark progress from where you were to where you are now.
For me, this month was full of those things, and the person I am is grateful to the person I was for the progress I have made.
I am not ashamed of the fact that I celebrate life a little differently. I am proud that I am still here to celebrate life a little differently.