I don’t like coming face to face with myself.
I don’t like confronting demons.
But I have learned to appreciate those moments of clarity because they become moments of self-discovery—while they often knock me flat on my backside and turn my world upside down, they also cut through the lies I’ve been allowing myself to believe.
I think the catalyst happened at the end of November. I self-harmed in a way I never had. I don’t know what triggered it (although I have some ideas) but I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and called it a day.
That was the absolute low-point; but it didn’t really get better. When I get too overwhelmed, I retreat. I don’t know how to reach out and ask for help, so I self-medicate. And my medication of choice is alcohol—so, I started drinking. It allowed me to numb out when I was alone; and it was something to take the edge off when I encountered social situations I didn’t feel equipped to handle.
There were moments when I thought, “this isn’t good for you, slow down,” but I couldn’t shake that desire to not feel anything. 2015/early 2016 was a year of loss. Relationships that had become part of my foundation fractured. I moved through it as graciously and with as much dignity as I could, and I grieved when it grabbed me and forced me to my knees. But another loss. Another hit.
And so the drinking became a pattern and then a habit.
And the landslide only stopped because I had to make a decision and it should have been an easy one. But it wasn’t. I waffled back and forth in ways I haven’t before when it comes to this. I started begging for answers and clarity.
I finally clicked over to my Enneagram App* after enough stray thoughts that I should explore what happens to my type (nine) when it’s disintegrating.
…When 9 goes to 6, reactivity and worry replaces passivity…
…Goes to self doubt; feels a sense of frozenness…
…Result of…handling change/loss…
…Becomes suspicious; anxiety intensifies; is more pessimistic
I felt breath fill me in a way that had been absent. It was the ah-ha moment—clarity. I knew I was unhealthy, but understanding why and naming it allowed me to understand and be gracious with myself. It gave me the freedom to set some boundaries, but more importantly, I was able to be kind to myself. It wasn’t my fault that I had experienced so much change and loss; I was grieving and it was OK to fall short.
It’s OK to fall.
Through the lens of the Enneagram I have learned to be kind to myself as I live and grow. I am on a journey, not yet finished. Through this language I have found a way to reconcile the who I want to become with the who I am right now. One is not better or worse.
I couldn’t become the one without the other.
As I’m moving through a place of disintegration to a place of (hopefully) integration, I’ve learned some things.
Doug told me I get mean when I’ve been drinking. Another friend recently brought it up because I have hurt her. Both these instances invited me to self-examine—an examination I wanted to avoid. Doug, that kind man that he is, knows I have a hard time “just being,” so decided a long time ago to not worry about it (the meanness) because he loves me. He knows it’s not the real me. She hasn’t made the same commitment so it was fair of her to say something.
I didn’t like being called mean so I had some hard conversations with Doug. I wanted to understand more about what I was experiencing and why. In my pursuit, I read more about nines.
I’m a gut type in the Enneagram, one of the “hostile” types. To quote Richard Rohr,** “Gut people react instinctively…Life is for them a sort of battleground…They are concerned, often unconsciously, with power and justice…Gut people are…ruled by aggression…” So flattering, I know. My pastor once said the other two types (heart and mind types) have a hard time understanding the gut type. We rub them the wrong way.
But here’s the thing—I’m a nine, too. So I am gentle (most of the time) but my wings are high-tension and energy laden (so says Richard Rhor). The clarity I found is not that I’m mean when I’m drinking; it’s that my nine-ish gentleness gives way to my other two wings, who become more dominant, so I say what I mean, but the gentleness (that usually lets me get away with it) is missing.
Now I’m not saying it’s OK. It’s not better or beneficial to drink so much that I throw powerful words around—my power comes from being a gentle prophet. When I lose that, I lose part of myself and my unique gifting.
I am saying it makes sense. I am a hostile person. What Doug calls mean, is mean through his lens. What my friend called to account is true—but knowing that it’s an innate part of me that I get to work through gives me the freedom and the power to make the choices I want to make.
In other words, I’m not just being mean—I’m just being more than what people are used to getting from me.
Even before she confronted me I started Whole 30. Because of the drinking. Because while I want the freedom to chose, I am also a creature of habit and comfort, so I needed the drastic disruption to create new, healthier-for-me rhythms.
It’s only been eleven days.
IT’S BEEN ELEVEN DAYS!!
I’m not sure which is true. But I feel myself moving towards a healthier space. I feel myself accepting myself as I am and working to become the person I want to be. I find myself confronting my weaknesses, but not striving against them. Instead, I am lovingly examining and coming to terms with the mistakes and the selfishness.
I am learning to carry the weight of being a nine with the glory of being a nine.
**The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr