The word martyr has four definitions in the dictionary.
Definition #4: A person who seeks sympathy or attention by feigning or exaggerating pain, deprivation, etc.
Growing up in the Catholic, I’ll say tradition, since we weren’t all too religious in my home, martyrs were abound. From my closest familial relationships to the friends I chose to surround myself with, I always seemed to find myself in the position of being the comforter. A seemingly selfless role. A cross to bear, if you will.
As I work through all the debris of my life as a young adult and onward, I’m starting to see that the role of the martyr is cyclical. People who martyr themselves, find themselves in positions where they feel it necessary to carry the load of others. Thereby, increasing their own load. Which, inevitably leads to their own unhappiness. Then, they find another who they can place their burden upon, sometimes unknowingly.
Learning about and growing into my own skin hasn’t been easy. And, this week’s revelation, a result of a one-on-one meeting with my counselor in treatment, was a particularly hard one. Mainly, because I saw something in myself I didn’t want to see. The martyr.
It’s true. I found myself, so many times, in places where I felt it necessary to take on the heavy load of others. I thought it was my duty to make them well, better, and if nothing else, take away their pain. I took on too much. It held me back. Stunted me. And, even when I was in the thick of it and knew that I couldn’t save these people that I so desperately wanted to, I sat tight, at my own expense. I carried that weight into the present, and, as a result, turned to others and alcohol to take that pain from me. A responsibility that was never theirs, just as the responsibility I had assumed in my earlier years was never mine.
It’s not a matter of pointing fingers any longer. It’s too late to go back and change things. But, when I think of how much time and effort I’ve put into blaming those people who attached that heavy yolk to my back, only now to watch myself become a mirror of those personalities…well, it stings.
I want to think that I’ve been the best I can be, carrying my own load. But, so often, in the depths of my alcoholism and outside of it, I have picked up the burden again and again, using it as an excuse and a shield. A reason to be dissatisfied and unhappy. When, all I had to do was accept the past, and, should it confront me in the present: face it.
Today I feel the weight of my own actions settle on my shoulders like an iron blanket. I have a severe case of the coulda, shoulda, wouldas. But, sobriety has given me the gift of acceptance, though today it feels hard and heavy. I have to see where and who I’ve been, then forgive myself and the people in my life and my past for what they’ve done, and march on.
I have decided to cast off my own yoke. To, from here on out, take on only what I can handle, and to confront those people in my life who ask me to carry more. I’ve always had a hard time saying no. I hate disappointing people. But, today, I’ve learned that disappointing myself, that, is the burden that is the heaviest, and the one that I will carry the longest.