How Recovery from Alcoholism and Self-harm Transformed Me into a Better Version of Myself
by Beth Leipholtz
I consider myself an open book. But while I am very open about my recovery from alcoholism, I tend to completely forget that I’m in recovery from something else — self-harm.
I self-harmed for the first time in my middle school years. I don’t know what possessed me to think that cutting my own skin was a good way of coping, but somewhere along the line I decided it was. It happened infrequently, but when I cut I felt like I had control over a situation.
Fast forward a few years, and I grew out of harming myself. I had come into my own. The high school years were easy for me, and I never resorted to cutting myself to cope with emotions.
Then in college, I discovered alcohol. I realized I felt the same sort of release from drinking that I did from self-harm. It gave me a sense of control over a situation, made me feel like I was taking matters into my own hands. As my drinking escalated, there were a few times I resorted to self-harm while drinking. Drinking or cutting were bad enough by themselves, so I have no idea what I was thinking in combining the two.
My rock bottom (for both situations) came on May 7, 2013, after ending up hospitalized with a BAC of .35. That was the last time I drank, and I few weeks prior to that was the last time I self-harmed.
As I worked on my recovery, I came to realize sobriety was something I wanted to stick with. An idea for a tattoo had been floating around in the back of my mind. At that point I already had one tattoo (a small one on my hip that I had gotten while intoxicated, ironically).
I knew that I wanted my new tat to mark my recovery, but I wanted it to be elegant, small and easily concealable. The ribs seemed like a logical spot on my body, and having the tattoo (my sobriety date) done in Roman numerals versus a normal date added to the elegance factor.
My third tattoo came a year or so later. One day, I glanced at my arm, wishing the obvious scars from my past weren't so visible. But an idea came to me: rather than seeing them and disliking them, why not make them a reminder of what I’d overcome? As a writer, I also wanted a quote tattoo. So I decided to make my third tattoo cover both bases.
I spent a long time looking for the right quote to get tattooed over the scars on my arm. I finally found it.
We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.
It seemed appropriate. It felt strong and right to grace the skin that I had at one time sliced open, maybe even as a way of making peace with my past.
Each day I catch glimpses of these tattoos—or get comments on them (the one on my arm, in particular)—it’s a reminder that I’ve come out the other side of a difficult situation as a better version of myself. My broken parts ultimately let the light in, and remembering that is vital for my recovery.