They all say I’ve got to take Plan B off the table before I can move forward in my recovery, but I honestly don’t know how.
Sometimes my memory is fuzzy, out of focus, but I know this much is clear: Plan B has been a carrot dangling in my mind for as long as I can recall. It hasn’t always looked the same nor did I always know what to call it. Yet, it’s always been that emergency exit visible in the background.
As a child, I imagined vanishing, being swept away in the breeze: a way to simply no longer exist, allowing the pain and emptiness inside to merely evaporate in the sky. Sometimes I’d envision running away, but without dreams of a destination. Other times things were more resolute and I knew the ultimate goal was to stop breathing (and I’d try).
Some growing and countless tearful days later, my maturing mind now knew what to call my Plan B, but it still didn’t know how, when, or why the desire still burned inside. On the days when I’ve felt the loneliest, I’d consider it in the kitchen. On nights when I fill with self-hatred, I contemplate weaponizing a pillow.
At this point, Plan B is my default.
It’s my way to cope. That carrot that dangles when I’m feeling my worst. It’s never that I truly want to die, it’s just that I want the pain to stop. How do you get that pain to stop?
The thing about having a Plan B or that panic switch you can flip when shit hits the fan is this: it’s a distraction and a scapegoat. Why would anyone do the difficult work when they can simply cheat and take the easy way out? We all cut corners, try to cheat the system, make the load as easy to manage as possible. We automate, we pay someone to do it for us, we drive-thru, we do all the things in life to avoid that struggle, that feeling of hard work.
So why can’t I quit you, Plan B? Why can’t I throw this awful temptation away, put it to rest, and move forward?
In some ways, thought patterns can become an addiction. It’s become an antidote, and I associate it with those dark and twisty feelings. We all have those vices, those nasty habits we cling to: substances, disordered eating, isolation, frivolous spending, breaking things, suicidal ideation… we think we need them to cope, to make it to the other side, to feel alive again, to punish ourselves, to feel nothing at all.
The truth is, though; we don’t need any of it.
Last night, as my best friend reluctantly bid me goodnight, succumbing to her body’s call for sleep over my desire for comfort and constant validation, I had a revelation. Nobody can save me from this but me. The only person that can overcome addiction is the addicted person. The only one who can part ways with my Plan B is myself.
They say the best of things take time, as do the most difficult of tasks. Saying goodbye to Plan B is both for me. It’s going to be one of the most difficult things I’ve endured, to look myself in the eye and say, “We’re not doing this anymore.” It’s going to be the worst possible kind of struggle to tell myself to keep on living in those moments when I’d rather fade away. It’s going to be my personal Mount Everest to climb, to remove all desire and contemplation from my mind.
But I’m going to do it. I’m going to push myself. I will overcome.
One of my favorite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt says, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” So, let’s do the thing we think we cannot do. Let’s do it now, not later. Do it today. Because, here’s what you really need to know: Beautiful girl, you can do all the hard things.