For many years I perceived myself to be one of life’s victims. In my mid-teens, I rather warmed to the notion that men were drawn like magnets towards women who were a little emotionally fragile. I was physically weak as a teenager too, often allowing days on end to pass by with barely so much as an apple going down my neck in the name of sustenance (together with numerous pints of beer, of course). But, even once I’d resumed normal eating patterns the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, the victim mentality remained a constant in terms of my non-physical self.
I never found the guts to confront my problems head on
I never found the guts to confront my problems head on, but instead relied on the boyfriend I had at any given time to bail me out. Flat tyres, falling-over drunk, running out of money, encounters with violent and destructive men. Whichever disaster I happened to be caught up in, I could not seem to muster the courage to deal with it myself. Heavy drinking was a further manifestation of my deep-seated desire to be protected. Becoming so inebriated that I was no longer able to exercise self-care meant that those around me were routinely forced to pick up the pieces.
I started soul searching
This cycle of negativity continued throughout my adult life until the first year I spent as a non-drinker, a period in which I finally began to conduct some much required soul-searching in an effort to put things right.
Aged thirty-five, I was acutely aware of how little self-reliance I possessed. As the alcohol-free months turned into years, I steadily built up feelings of self-belief that had been so clearly lacking previously. When I re-examined my past romantic encounters and (with brutal honesty) assessed my own patterns of behaviour that had frequently wandered into ‘mentally fragile’ territory, I could see how unsettling and miserable those relationships had been.
I thought I was a feminist
In my late teens and early twenties I was downing pints and playing pool in the pub on an almost daily basis in the misguided name of feminism. I truly believed that succumbing to such activities propelled me towards equal status with the men. And in some ways, maybe it did – but rather than elevating me to a positive position of parity with the opposite sex, my behaviour merely dragged me down to the low expectations and restricted lives of men who had become defined by their alcohol consumption. It was not feminism as I see it today.
I’m no longer frightened of my own strength
Now I’m forty. I’ve come a long way from the insecure, unhappy and confused girl I was at sixteen. A striking difference in who I was then and who I’ve become is that I’m no longer frightened of my own strength; the strength it took to conquer a dependency upon alcohol; the strength it took to plough through the mire of divorce; the strength it took to be a single parent for many years; the strength it took to beat tenacious demons that undermined my self-confidence and frequently led to me hating myself; the strength it took to finally regain control of my life; the strength it took to truly like myself.
These days, I don’t overly rely on anyone. Yes, I have wonderfully supportive friends and family who I can count on, but at the end of the day, when the proverbial hits the fan, I am my own rock. It’s who I am now.