I’ve come to believe that life is a lovely mess. We can accept this fact about our lives and do our best to tidy up along the way, but also embrace the knowledge that if we don’t mess things up a bit—we’ll never learn anything.
I think we can all agree that social media has its pros and cons: I’ve met some amazing people on the various social media platforms; I’ve met people who seem to be salt of the earth kind of stable, and have also connected with people still struggling to overcome addiction or accept the fact that something in their life isn’t working, and maybe, just maybe, addiction is the root cause of all that distress. Still, others remain baffled by the whole idea of an obsession because they don’t have an addictive bone in their body. God bless them, but for those of us who wrestled with the beast, here’s a few warm thoughts:
The human heart has all of the same struggles; there’s unity in suffering, and I am constantly humbled by the common denominators that unite those of us who have the disease of alcoholism or addiction. I’ve met people via social media who couldn’t be more opposites; their lives have little in common, but underneath the superficiality of what the outward appearances would have us see, the struggles of the human heart unite us: the merchant marine out at sea for days or weeks at time wrestles with the same inner demons that the suburban mother living in her mini-mansions encounters. I’m constantly reminded that the feelings that accompany addiction and alcoholism are the same, regardless of your station in life, the struggle is all the same: the low-self-worth that needs built back up now that alcohol or drugs are removed from the equation. Some struggle to move past their regrets, more for the things they didn’t do than the things that they did, and their attempts at recovery can be at best, precarious. Other’s struggle to dig themselves out from beneath the mounds of fear—real and imagined—that has been the driving force in most all of their behavior. To delve into and uncover the motives that drives our behavior, is no easy task.
Self-honesty always comes with a price.
When we release the chemicals that trapped us in a world where we didn’t belong; the journey of self-discovery has just begun. When we live in addiction, regardless if it’s seemingly harmless wine o’clock behavior or a heroin addict still running from the next fix, none of us could know who we were or what we liked when we were immersed in a chemical world.
The journey to know thy-self is an arduous one, and probably the most significant thing we can ever do in our lives: To learn who we are, to understand what makes us tick, to know what we like and don’t like—and then to accept those discoveries even when they might not align with who we thought we were—that friends, takes more courage than anyone can imagine. It isn’t until you’ve walked through that forest and come out into the sunlight can anyone truly understand.
I got sober back in 1989, and everything I believed about myself turned out to be a lie: I thought I liked the corporate environment, but once I sobered up, I realized I didn’t want to work in that arena anymore. I didn’t have what it took to play the game of politics and had no interest in climbing the corporate ladder, and so I ended up in nursing school. I discovered I liked science classes far more than any of the many business classes I had taken. I learned that I wasn’t the extroverted party girl that alcohol had me believe I was, but instead, I discovered that I’m more comfortable with animals than people and my favorite place in the whole world to be is a barn—any barn, preferably one with horses. I like chunks of solitude, and though I love people, I prefer to wander alone or stay home. I like my space; I prefer weekends at the monastery where I can learn something, spend time in silence, and pray to the God that I’m still trying to figure out and understand—that person is far different than the one time flight attendant and advertising/marketing person that I used to be, flitting from bar to bar, city to city, always looking for the next party, the next cocktail, the next bout of chaos.
It took some years of pushing through the hard task of accepting myself and letting go. I had to redefine my identity and allowed myself to become the person I was meant to be, instead of living the life of the person that I thought I should be; I had to redirect and move away from a forced, self-imposed existence that didn’t resonate with my soul.
The first steps of the journey can be dark, and many stumble because they can’t imagine what waits on the other side; the thought of not having control over the journey keeps many stuck in their driveways. I encourage anyone who is struggling with their addiction to trust the recovery process and know that there is great unity, relief, and hope that will dawn when we surrender and release our self-imposed expectations. There is a great community waiting to embrace the next lost soul; there is great recovery on the other side. It is only when we can truly surrender our will that the light begins to shine through.
Life is more beautiful on the other side; don’t thwart your journey—instead, get out of your own way.