Welcome to Friday, November 8, 2019. This is a very special day for me!
I don’t get too caught up in holidays, birthdays or most days that we might define as significant. All days are very precious to me and though with some I’m more graceful than others, I do my best to make the most of each day. As I’ve seen many times in my life, no-one is promised a tomorrow. Not even you! But this day I hold very close to my heart. On this day eleven years ago, I was removed from drugs (prescription and illegal) and alcohol for what I hope to be the last time. November 8, 2008, is a day that marked the beginning of a journey imbued with depth, meaning, purpose and transformation.
I recall the shattering humiliation of walking into a residential rehab facility outside of Estes Park, CO. I was aghast of what my life had become, head hung low and ashamed. Literally disgusted with me. I was terrified! I was to be removed from the very substances that for so many years helped me to navigate this crazy messed up world yet somehow became responsible for my pain. How could that be? How could the very thing that made life tolerable be liable for my suffering? Disillusioned, as we say in recovery, I could not imagine my life with or without drugs or alcohol. What was my life going to look like? All I could imagine was a life riddled with tension, anxiety, worry, shame, guilt, remorse and boredom! Yes, Boredom! How could I possibly have any fun without a chemical enhancement? On this day eleven years ago, I was not a happy camper!
It’s crazy but true, yet somehow, I’m sitting here three and four finger typing away on an eight year old Dell laptop sporting a Way of Compassion Foundation sticker suggesting that we, “Be the Change, Practice Compassion.” It’s crazy but true, yet somehow, I’m sitting here wearing my sweatpants and the bathrobe of a woman with whom I have the most trusting, meaningful and intimate relationship with despite her living 5,812 miles away in Shanghai, China! It’s crazy but true, yet somehow, I’m (mostly) content! It’s crazy but true, yet somehow, I have peace and love in my heart. It’s crazy but true, yet somehow, I have a tremendous amount of fun in my sober life! How is this even possible? If someone would have told me eleven years ago that I would be living in Oregon, writing weekly mindfulness support letters, drinking lukewarm coffee from a mug bearing, “I love cats,” wearing the robe of a lady that I love unconditionally, content with life (most days) and having fun without a chemical boost, I would have laughed thinking that you were the one who belonged in rehab, or the state hospital!
In all my certainty, I had no clue!
In the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer asserts, “In order to be who you are, you must be willing to let go of who you think you are.” I couldn’t do this on my own. This had to be done for me. I didn’t have the wisdom to question my own identity – to look deep at who I was and what I was doing to myself. I didn’t have the insight to recognize that I was so incredibly identified with my thoughts – believing them with absolute certitude! Without having reached a point in my life where I was utterly despondent and down-right miserable, I would have never come to that place of willingness that cracks open the door of possibility and opportunity. Could I have gone on in despair and spent my whole life without ever having questioned my ego and fear-driven beliefs on what it meant to live a meaningful and purposeful life? EEK! Yes! I am grateful that my addiction brought me that place of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization” which smashed my ego enough to wake me the #@&% up!
I am grateful for all that pain! How is this possible? How can it be that I truly appreciate the pain I caused myself, and others? Because it landed me in the cozy chair I sit in meow – with peace, love, joy and contentment in my heart.
We typically have no idea what growth can come out of the most horrific situations. With my uninformed past as my only reference, I could have never imagined that life could be so fulfilling in recovery. Being too caught up in who I was left no room for an adventure in who I might become.
Today I do my best to not circumnavigate the storms. I do my best to face them head on, look deep into them, explore the turbulence and trust that unimaginable growth lies within the darkest of clouds. This is what kept me from growing for so many years – numbing and anesthetizing the very conditions which promote human potential. I spent a significant portion of my life running from adversity which actually amplified it. But no more!
Though we are all confronted with ominous situations to which there is no way to predict what our life might look like on the other side, and although they can be the cause of legitimate pain, these are the conditions that can transform our lives into something truly meaningful. Today, even though I get tossed around, I do my best to face the inevitable weather. And as it turns out, the most raging storms are within!
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!