Meredith Atwood reached out to me after watching my interview on the Rich Roll Podcast. We connected on a lot of levels – recovering addicts, depression, suicide attempt survivors, lawyers (well, I’m a former lawyer), and dedication to a second life of health and purpose. Soon after, she asked me to be a guest on her podcast, The Same 24 Hours. When I read about the publishing of her new book, The Year of No Nonsense, I asked her to write a blog post for prisonist.org.
For a really long time I carried the burden of self-hatred.
From a young age, I was always made to feel that I was shameful—in a myriad of ways—none of which were on purpose from my family. It was a sign of the times and an oppressive church at a very young age. By the time we found a decent church, the “damage” had been done, and I found myself in my teen years feeling ashamed of everything—from my body to my own shadow, my thoughts and my desire to kiss boys.
By the time I was in my late twenties, I had developed a full-on drinking problem. From that point forward, the self-hate ran deep and dark. I had identified none of my trauma(s) to date.
When I tried to take my own life at twenty-one, everyone brushed it under the table as a “one off.” I was tired. That wasn’t like me to try something like that. It was because I was drunk. I didn’t really want to die.
Even my psychologist didn’t make a follow-up, and I was out in the world—off to law school, then being a lawyer and raising children.
But now, I know that I did—in fact—want to die back then. I was that low. I was suffering that deeply. Much of it was at my own hand, my own “fault,” and my own “choices.”
In my mid-thirties, I began to fantasize about driving myself into a tree. Over and over again. The same tree. I thought, I could just detour this car and… I would think this as I drove home to my nice house in the suburbs, in my nice car, with my Louis Vuitton seated next to me, from my lucrative job as a lawyer in Atlanta.
I wanted to slam my SUV into a tree. Just to make it all stop.
On the day I had the kids in the car and I had this same thought, I was shaken. It shook me deep. I was suddenly wide awake. I heard a voice inside of me say, “Meredith, you will not be alive in one year if this continues. You will die by alcohol. Or, you will die by this tree.”
I believed that voice.
That voice, I wouldn’t say was God.
That voice—was me. It was the certainty that came from a knowing exactly what was happening, deep inside of myself. I realized that I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to end it all.
I simply wanted my suffering to end.
Little by little, I changed some things that I could see were causing some suffering. Drinking, for one. I got sober. I changed jobs—also a place of suffering for me, because I wasn’t living my perceived Purpose. I worked on a lot of things.
During the writing of my second book, The Year of No Nonsense, everything cracked wide open for me.
Because I uncovered the darkness that started all of the pain, the suffering, and potentially the addiction cycle. I learned that I wasn’t shameful. I believed (truly) that I was no longer shameful. I realized that some things were my fault, but some things were not. I learned that I had to forgive myself in order to move forward.
Through all the cracks in myself, I could see the light. The light was self-compassion, forgiveness and desire to learn to live—to truly live—through my faults and fears.
In this precious light of forgiving myself, I found a way to move forward.
Meredith Atwood is an author, speaker, former attorney, founder of Swim Bike Mom, 4x IRONMAN triathlete. Host of the Top 50 iTunes (fitness) podcast “The Same 24 Hours” and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman, and upcoming, TheYear of No Nonsense: How to Get Out of Your Way and On with Your Life (Hachette Books, December 2019), You can pre-order the book through December 17, and then find it in Target, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble and your favorite bookstores and online. She is a writer for Psychology Today, Triathlete Magazine, Women’s Running and the founder of Grateful Sobriety—an online sobriety community. She is a certified USA Triathlon, IRONMAN, and USA Weightlifting coach.