What is the inner wild?
Is it the party girl who wants to feel sexy, flash her boobs for beads, or sing and dance loudly at 3:00 a.m., whirling and relishing in the feeling of being alive?
Is it something we should be afraid of? Untamed and free, is the inner wild inherently dangerous and results in poor choices and extremes of behavior?
While it is true that alcohol is a seemingly satisfactory way to indulge and set free the inner wild, for those of us who had one too many escapades and dangerous situations befall us due to poor choices made while intoxicated, there must be another way to embrace the wild child within.
The pandemic and quarantine have led to spikes in alcohol use. Liquor stores have been declared an essential business, resulting in many individuals questioning the amount they drink.
After a spectacular crash and burn culmination, I have been sober for three years myself. I resonate with those identifying their drinking as potentially problematic and wanting to make a shift but not necessarily knowing how to.
Many express that one of the biggest barriers to quitting drinking is the feeling that, “I won’t be fun anymore,” or “I won’t know how to have fun…or embrace my wild side.”
The inner wild is a critical component for many women and one that is potently expressed through alcohol use—drunken adventures, finally speaking up for ourselves, and daring, brave risk-taking. Without the alcohol, many of us remain entrenched in the role of the good girl, the people pleaser, and the one who makes the “right” choice.
The inner wild is a real and crucial part of who we are—both as humans and as women. Particularly as women who have been raised to do well in school, be polite, and achieve educational and societal status, yet remain active and nurturing caregivers. The inner wild claws at the inside of our chests, plays the drums of our beating hearts, and longs to be set free.
The inner wild is rooted firmly in our DNA. It whispers “hello” as we plant our naked feet on soft Earth. It sings inside of us when we stand atop a mountain peak. It frolics in a fountain of frosty delight when we submerge ourselves into an ice-cold lake or rushing river.
The inner wild is satisfied when we retire, fatigued and dirty, legs tired from many miles of trekking.
Recently, I spent six days backpacking solo through Smoky Mountain National Park. I carried a heavy pack and trudged uphill through tree roots and shale rock. I sat down more than once in the middle of the trail, precariously balancing my pack on an acceptably high boulder so I wouldn’t have to stoop to reposition it on my body.
I loved this time in the forest. I loved the simplicity and self-sufficiency that came with carrying all of my belongings on my back. But it wasn’t easy. There were days when I studied my maps for an early exit. Every day, I asked myself “why” and tried to make sense of this deep desire and unstoppable force inside me that decided to embark on this journey in the first place.
I didn’t question if I should be doing it or if it was smart. I was well prepared and being sober allowed for greater ease in planning and execution, even for last-minute trips, such as this one. But the “why” was a daily musing—a continuous question.
On the occasions I had text service, I would touch base with my good friends and relay either the bright sapphire satisfied wild of the morning or the forming blisters and suffering of late afternoon. “I don’t know why I am doing this” was written more than once.
“It isn’t fun?” my friend asked. On some days, I replied with a resounding “no!”
The “why” is, in great part, to both unleash and nurture my inner wild. If I leave her caged up, I am at a greater risk for turning back to alcohol—for acting out, for sinking into general discontent, anxiety, or depression.
We cannot ignore this vital part of ourselves. When we take the time to listen to our inner wild, to court her, to learn what she craves, what feeds her, and what makes her sing, we are able to step into the full richness of our lives and our human experience. We no longer crave alcohol in the same way because we don’t want or need a fuzzy fragmentation of the experience. Instead, we want the actual experience. We are not afraid of our inner wild, nor are we deaf to her needs.
Instead of simply viewing alcohol consumption as something we need to stop, to cease, in order to be healthy, why don’t we ask ourselves better questions? Take different actions to find out what we are drinking for in the first place. Is it to numb ourselves because we can’t take the stress anymore? To feel excitement, to come alive, and feel like life is interesting?
Instead, why don’t we look to cultivate true experiences that feed us, throttle us with aliveness, and give our inner wild a full platform for expression?
This is more important than simply abstaining from an addictive substance. This is what many of us are really looking for: a bridge back to ourselves, a gateway to who we really are, a compilation and organization of all the pieces of ourselves into one shining woman—humble and proud, sturdy and strong, full of life and alive.
Ask your inner wild what she wants. Take a walk in the woods and take time to listen, to be still, to let your fingers trail through the dirt and your eyes to take in the greenery.
Stop doing for just a moment and listen.
Your inner wild has a voice. She longs for you to hear it.
I ask you, are you listening?