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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Marlink

Throwing up cigarette butts

This morning's breath practice brought up a memory I haven't thought about in a long time. I was in a fancy bathroom stall curled over the toilet staring down at the cigarette butt I had just thrown up. Apparently I had picked up the wrong beer on the patio at some point and drank someone else's ash tray. On top of that, my work pants were soaked from ass to knee because I had tipped over the glass of water my best friend had set on the floor for me.

I was a mess. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

This wasn't my first rodeo when it came to heavy drinking. I considered myself a pro at holding my own in a bar. I was blaming the newly discovered cigarette butt as the reason for becoming such a hot mess. My best friend just laughed at my explanation and called the guy I was dating to come pick me up. My drunken state didn't excuse me from the shame and embarrassment that washed over me as my new crush asked my best friend if I had peed myself.

Then I remembered earlier that day I had received my test score for the CPA exam. It was my final section of the four part test and I was ready to celebrate being done. Except there wasn't anything to celebrate. I failed. Missed by 2 points and I was devastated. The fact that I was so close was frustrating, but the thing that really tore me apart was knowing that my 3 other test scores were expiring. I would have to study and retake all 4 parts of the exam in order to become a CPA and be eligible for my next promotion.

I didn't have the heart to tell anyone what had happened. I didn't have the emotional capacity to handle the devastation of failure in my 20s, so I did what I knew best. I drank to numb the pain. I was working for a public accounting firm at the time and that's what we all did. So, in many ways it felt normal. There was never a shortage of drinking buddies when you received bad news or had a shitty day. No one even asked any questions when you walked by their cube and said, "Thirsty?" We all knew that was code for "I need a drink" and we'd sneak away to the bar next to the office.

As I laid in my bed with this memory floating in my awareness, I saw my current self begin telling my younger self "I love you." I just kept repeating those words and telling her that everything was going to be ok. This wasn't the end of the world and she wasn't stupid. She was going to learn one day why this was happening and how to process all of the pain that she was hiding away. I held her and loved her with all my heart. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I moved to my desk and began writing to my younger self.

I forgive you. Of course you didn't know how to handle your emotions, so you chose what you did know - drinking to numb the pain. I don't blame you. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I'm sorry you felt like such a failure for not passing the exam. I'm sorry that you didn't feel loved. I'm sorry you felt so ashamed. I'm sorry you hurt so badly and didn't even know it because you had become so detached from your body. I'm sorry. I love you. Please forgive me. Thank you. Thank you for showing me what suffering feels like so I can understand the full spectrum of human emotion. Thank you for disconnecting from your body to ease your own pain and to give me something to learn and grow back into. Thank you for struggling with the exam so I could remember just how brilliant I was as a child. Thank you for feeling embarrassed so that I would eventually decide this is not how I wanted to live anymore. Thank you for being so incredibly strong in the face of a life that was doing its best to shatter you. Thank you for pretending everything was ok when it wasn't. I see how you were trying to protect me. I see how you were trying to shield yourself and others from the pain that was tearing apart your insides. I love you. I love you for the woman you have been and for the woman you are becoming. I love all of you. Every memory. Every fault. Every mistake. Every pain. Every failure. Every drunk moment. Every heartbreak. All of it. I love all of you and every single thing that has happened along the way to bring you here and now. I love you Tiffany. I love you.

I could chose to hold on to the pain and shame of that memory, but that would only led to more suffering. I've said this before and I'll say it a million times again.

Suffering is a choice.

I'm not a perfect human, nor will I ever be. And I'm not going to blame myself for not having the tools and emotional intelligence that I needed when I was younger. If I didn't have those experiences, I wouldn't be where I am now.

I love myself for the things that have happened in my life. In fact, it's some of the darkest moments that I hold the closest to my loving heart because they connect me to the humanity of living on this planet. My wounds are no longer running my emotional operating system, but those moments are what allow me to live with compassion where there once was rage, blame and victimhood.

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