In five days time I am returning to South Africa after living and working abroad for close to eleven years. I cannot contain my excitement at the thought of being home again, with the people I love, but there is also another feeling lurking inside me. I am more than a little nervous of figuring out where I fit in with my loved ones after being away for so long. There have been visits over the years and a couple of them have been a few months, but on the whole I haven’t spent more than a two or three weeks in South Africa for a very long. It’s not about worrying whether the people in my life are looking forward to having me back, it’s more about finding my place again in the day-to-day space of everyday living.
I’ve made it my mission over the years (before and after sobriety) to stay in touch with the people that are important to me. The vast majority of correspondence is initiated by me on any given day, and I learned to make peace with that a long time again. It’s not that people weren’t interested in me, it’s just that when you are out of their immediate sphere it’s much harder to maintain close relationships. So I made it my business to stay in touch with the people I wanted to keep close over the years. There are ebbs and flows in any relationship, but the ones that I have nurtured to ensure that they didn’t die across distance are still in place. The majority of these people have been in my life a long time and I am blessed that they stood by me through the more challenging years of our friendship. But now after eleven years it is time to go home and fit into life on a more regular basis.
Visiting home for holidays means dinners, braais (SA barbeques), nights out and other social events. There’s always something exciting going on and lots of quality time spent with friends and family. But going home permanently I am going to have to remember that this is not how life is usually. I’m going to have to rediscover what is expected of me as a friend, a partner, a sister and a daughter. Last time I lived in South Africa I was a very different person to the person I am today and I know that I will cross paths with those from my younger years when I was drinking. I’m proud of who I am today, but the past craziness inevitably gets mentioned in a conversation with old friends and acquaintances who I haven’t seen for a while. So there are often awkward moments in conversations with people, but I just need to remember in these instances how far I have come in the last six and a half years.
I suppose it will take a little time to work out how things are going to work from day to day and week to week. Where will I spend Christmas this year? Will my mother be upset if I choose not to travel to her for the holidays? Will my boyfriend and I, who have been in a long-distance relationship for over a year, have strong enough feelings to find ourselves in a “real-time” relationship? Am I expected to spend time on a regular basis with my father and his wife? How often should I see my best friends? There are so many questions racing through my mind at the moment it’s a little overwhelming. It may sound odd that I am unsure of myself in relation to these questions, but I am really in personally uncharted territory at the moment.
And the truth is that as someone in long-term recovery there are still times that I am unsure of myself. Days when my self confidence is a little low and I am wary of where I stand with others. But I’ve learned to acknowledge those feelings on the days that I experience them and instead of pushing them away I let them into my conscious thought patterns. Banishing them only gives them strength in my experience until I am a overawed by them and in a state of emotional confusion. So I let myself feel the insecurity, think it through and try to understand why I am feeling like I am. And instead of fighting the negative emotions, they are integrated into my day and dealt with in a proactive way, rather than hoping they’ll just go away. It can be difficult to do this as it takes some personal stock-taking and honesty, but in the end it’s far less exhausting and a lot more productive than waging emotional war with myself.
So as I count down the last few days in the desert I am both excited and nervous about the next stage in my journey. I have been moving for a very long time and this allows avoiding certain things to some extent. Now it is time to stop, drop anchor and really find my place in the world, with myself and the people I love.
‘Til next time