Whenever I come back to writing, it’s like revisiting a sacred moment, or place. I’ve always been a bit of a time-traveler and being grounded in the banal platitudes of the present is a skill that I’ve had to continually hone and sharpen.
Like John Ruskin, I hold to the belief that quality of life is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. Van Gogh said: “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. And great things are not accidental, but must certainly be willed.“
I believe that with every atom of my being. I’ve reaped the results of a life I never dreamed was possible simply by committing to daily diligence, showing up, going to therapy, and doing the work - which has often involved changing my behavior/patterns. Changing my behavior these days is a simple course correction versus sailing in a hurricane. I don’t take everything personally (or as an attack), but I’m convicted whenever I behave/act wrongly, and more and more often - I’m convicted prior to bad behavior because I’ve experienced (hopefully) enough consequences of bad behavior to know better.
Acting out of hurt, pain, confusion, grief, despair, shame, anger, and/or resentment has never, ever, worked out or in my favor - it never has for anyone. And I don’t have to live in a cycle of insanity by repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. I know that no feeling is final (save sustained grief), and I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m at peace with that.
What matters, for me, is that I can look at myself in the mirror each morning without shame - without seeing some broken, haunted, monstrous, shattered thing staring back at me. And that I can be the kind of person I needed when I was broken. I have no doubt or fear what would be said about me at my funeral if I died in a car crash, or had an aneurysm tonight. That’s something you can’t put a price on, it’s something you can only live your way into. A significant part of learning how to live my way into a life I could be proud of was understanding that everything about me, except using/drinking again, was and is subject to change.
I thought a strong sense identity meant having a certain rigidity because I believed that was the opposite to moral flexibility, but I’m learning that a strong sense of identity means that I have to remain pliable, I just have to practice discernment in what and who I allow to shape and influence me.
I’ve been sober for over seven and half years now, and it’s not remotely a burden (or a mantle of shame). I haven’t wanted to use in years, not even at the height of repeated gaslighting and abuse - and I don’t feel like I’m “missing out” because I never enjoyed using, to begin with - it was always about “treating” the pain I was in, albeit was initially for physical pain from my spinal fusions, it later became the only way I knew how to “treat” (escape) emotional pain.
I have always felt things with a certain rawness and intensity, as I’m a naturally hardwired empath who’s learned that (developed and matured) empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what we can see. I have always been a healer/protector at heart - and recovery has given me a platform to put that calling into action.
While there is a significant emotional labor toll of seemingly being a crisis call center for people in all walks of recovery (not just sobriety, but mental illness, trauma, abuse, etc.) - there is nothing more important to me, nothing more meaningful, life-giving, more purposeful, there is nothing closer to God than helping, equipping, guiding, and providing an environment for others who are hurting to heal, recover, grow, and transform in.
I’ve always been able to extend others empathy, understanding, grace, and forgiveness, but have always struggled to extend those things to myself. And while I have unrealistic expectations for myself (and sometimes those that I’m closest to), one of the reasons I’ve failed to extend myself grace is because extending myself grace means I can’t fix, control or white-knuckle myself through a situation or circumstance with sheer-force-of-fucking-will. Extending myself grace means letting go, over and over. Extending myself grace goes hand-in-hand with radical acceptance. It means keeping my palms open like windows.
What I am learning is how to be here when I want to be anywhere else, doing something else. I am learning how to listen to my heart break, beat, and mend itself. I am trying to tune into the grief inside of my bones. I want to get past the static of the pain and hear the broadcast in its entirety without interruption. But I don’t know if that will ever happen, and I need to be ok with that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between resolution and transformation these days. And I don’t ever want to go back to the way things were. I want to continue to create something new, even if that new thing is just a life for myself.
I want to put my (metaphysical) hands to work and give myself grace before they start bleeding.
I know that something wonderful is happening to each of us if we allow it. I know that we have not forgotten each other. I think of you all with the utmost/excruciating warmth, and in a sense - I pray for each of you nightly.
And while I wish I could take each of your hands and hold them, dear, to my chest - want I wish for most is that each of you continues to be who you are, and who you’ve been called to be. And if you aren’t yet, I pray that you are convicted to. I wish for nothing more than a transformative experience in each of our lives, and an awakening of each of our hearts.
With all my love, strength, and tenderness