I was 8 years old when I met Nicki. Oh, I’d seen her around; knew others who knew her, but we hadn’t officially met. As with most relationships, there have been times when we’ve been very close and other times, not at all. They say that great relationships can withstand the test of time; true friends can go a long while without talking or spending any time together…. and when they do get together? Well, it’s as comfortable and easy as it’s always been.
I think the same can be said of bad relationships.
My relationship with Nicki has been like that. Some saw her as just a good time; someone to have a coffee with now and then. That’s how we got close. I found that she was always there when I needed her to be. Nonjudgmental…..she made me feel better, calmed me down even. There were things about her I didn’t care for, but I looked past those and focused on what I got out of the relationship.
My folks didn’t like that I spent time with her; few did. Not everyone who met her liked her. Many had only terrible, nasty things to say. There were pictures of her ugly side….some of them would literally scream warnings at me about what spending time with her might do to me.
Though I knew the warnings were true, I chose time and again not to heed them. I didn’t care. My desire for her was, well, addictive and as troublesome as that was, what over time became even more so was the secrecy of our relationship.
I wasn’t addicted to cigarettes at 8, but it was at that young age that my life-long, on-again, off-again, relationship with smoking started. Over a span of 41 years I have “quit” more times than I can count. I’ve bought and thrown packs of them out the window, only to turn around and pick them up again. I’ve confessed my guilty pleasure to a few people, some of whom I asked to hold me accountable, but accountability only works when I’m honest. Eventually, bound by the shackles of my own shame, I would do what I do really well; I would hide.
It’s been 5 weeks to the day since I decided I’d had enough of the sneaking around and hiding. I’ve been thinking about doing this for quite some time and something I read today provided the motivation:
“There is healing in admitting that we don’t have it all together. There is restoration in hearing that someone else struggles, too. It brings us together to lean into each other’s uncertainty and encourage one another.” Melissa Wilcox
So this is me, leaning. Fighting to be free from the hidden struggles that keep me bound up and unhealthy in more ways than just physical. I don’t have it all together; none of us do, but as long as I keep quiet, keep to myself and continue hiding, there is no room for healing.
Smoking kills; so do secrets.