I was in the bookstore the other day, hunting down more Brené Brown books to add to my “Must Read Soon So As To Save My Life” mini-library I’ve started to build. And Brené? She’s the solid and brave foundation I’m building that library on, held fast together with the mindful mortar of Thich Nhat Hahn and the likes of Jack Canfield and Tara Brach.
I eventually found what I was looking for, in the Self Development section. I love how the genre has outgrown the label of “Self Help” – as if each book came with a hidden life preserver inside. Self Development, on the other hand – that’s the stuff that you can build on. It may just be semantics, but it sits so much better with me. It leaves me feeling like I’m gathering tools to help myself build something better, instead of reaching for anyone or anything to just pull me out of this mess already.
The insight I’m garnering from all those Self Development wizards is helping me to (slowly) pull it all together into a solid, wonky sort of fortress of awareness that even the Big Bad Wolf can’t blow down. It’s a far cry from the flimsy straw and stick huts I’ve holed myself up in for so long, like the ones the first two lazy pigs built in the story of The 3 Little Pigs.
No wonder they ended up getting eaten.
Alcohol (barrels of wine, in particular) has always been that Big Bad Wolf for me, always waiting for me just outside my door, ready and waiting to blow my house down. And he’s come pretty damn close more than once, and I’m sure he would have if I hadn’t just been standing there the whole time holding the door wide open, inviting him in.
Instead of devouring me in one fell swoop, he’d just nibble a little of me away every day.
I could have prepared and built a house of brick with enough padlocks to put Fort Knox to shame. But, no. It was easier to just grab at whatever was close enough and good enough, throw it all together and call it a day. I was more concerned with making sure the Big Bad Wolf had a comfortable seat in my house each night than I was of my own well-being. And every day, he’d creep back in, taking a little more of me with him when he left.
When I’d hear him holler “Little pig, little pig, let me come in” I never once replied “Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin” but something more along the lines of “Finally, Mr. Wolf, it’s about time! Come in, come in, and bring bottles of wine!”
I may as well have just sprinkled salt on myself, sitting there like a pound of bacon waiting to be devoured.
Meanwhile, just down the street was the sweet wee pig I really wanted to be. Whole, complete, and not picked apart into shreds of himself by the Big Bad Wolf. Secure and safe in his little brick house, because he hadn’t been afraid of doing the work. He knew his survival depended on the walls he built around himself, and he prioritized that above the immediate gratification I always gave in to.
It took way too long before I
started to realize admitted that the wolf was taking more than just pieces of me with him every night. He had started stealing all the things I held dear. And one by one, my house grew emptier, until he stopped coming by every day and officially moved in, instead.
I had become a hostage to the very guest I had willingly invited into my home.
I lived like that for years – shrinking, insecure, and living with a roommate I never wanted, but thought I couldn’t live without. Always jealous of everyone safe and sound in their homes of stone, while mine shuddered and swayed in the barest of breezes.
The Big Bad Wolf had won, and his crap was spread all over my stupid straw house.
In a terrifying moment of courage, I promised myself I was going to kick him out. For years, I sabotaged my dreams of freedom from the wolf by fixating on all the horrible, scary possibilities, and stalling myself because I was afraid of the pain, and the work, and the discomfort. I finally managed to admit to myself that the pain of what I was about to go through to escape him was much less than the pain of nothing ever changing.
Eventually, there would be nothing left of me.
After all, it was my apathy in the first place that got me into this hostage situation.
And so, I sucked it up and started doing the hard work. I began laying bricks, one by one. My back hurt. My heart hurt. I wanted to be sick, but I wanted to be safe even more. I wanted to be rid of the wolf once and for all.
It took a long time, and a lot of bricks – and it’s still not complete. The wolf, of course, lost his shit and started banging on my door all day, every day once he realized he was no longer welcome. He started staring through my windows and hiding behind trees – he was stalking me wherever I went, leaving me notes to remind me of all those good times we shared.
He never bothered to remind me of how much he had stolen.
You already know how the story ends. The Big Bad Wolf tries to sneak in through the chimney and lands straight in the cauldron of hot water left waiting for him, a fitting end considering all the hot water he used to get me in.
All those self development books, all the gross, uncomfortable days of transition and withdrawal, all the people I’ve met on this journey of sobriety – you know, the ones who have successfully managed to kick that wolf out once and for all – they’re my bricks. My burning desire to never be held hostage like that again, or to be consumed bit by bit, day by day – that’s what stokes the fire and keeps the cauldron boiling.
For a welcome change, I’m prepared and ready to catch him when he tries to sneak back in.
And he will.
At some point every day, I see him.
There are always more Big Bad Wolves.
But for now, I’m happy to be holed up in my little brick house, built by doing the hard work and lifting the heavy stuff for a change. When the wolf comes around and he huffs and he puffs, the only thing coming down are the blinds on my windows, because I’m really tired of looking at his face.