It has come to my attention that some people think I am too hard on myself; Doctors, therapists, friends, family, complete strangers…Ok maybe I’m too self-critical — I call it self-awareness but no need for semantics, I am willing to concede to this kind lot that I am a bit hard on myself. I suppose not many writers receive messages from complete strangers requesting they “take it easy on yourself and enjoy your accomplishments!” So here goes: I am unmistakably a certified badass. Since I find little to no value in comparing myself to others I will say that what I have accomplished over the past 13 months is an extremely difficult thing to do. Even more difficult is the ability to be happy in this process, to make a positive impact on others, to be of service to others, and finally keep my complaining to a minimum (I hope). The cat is out of the bag; I am proud of myself!
But you knew this. I wouldn’t write and be honest with you if I wasn’t proud of myself. Perhaps what you didn’t see coming was my extreme behavior in this admittance, illustrating above that I can either beat myself up or speak like a man with an out-of-control ego — I find trouble landing somewhere between.
But what have I really accomplished? Aside from the improvements to my physical and mental health, the removal of fear and worry from those who love me, and the ability to be productive what is the thing that has changed within me? Obviously these improvements are incredibly important and in many ways they help keep me sober, but there is something else, something beneath it all.
I often write about experiencing a spiritual awakening or a psychic shift, but what do I mean by that and what role does it play now? Though difficult to explain and probably deflating to hear if you’ve never experienced this type of change, my spiritual awakening was in many ways the moment I was given clarity. It happened gradually; there was no gust of wind and I wasn’t on a mountaintop, but it happened nonetheless. It has allowed me to find happiness, to acknowledge and work to amend my past but not regret it or morbidly obsess over it. It has brought me closer to others and enabled me to positively impact them. My selfishness and self-pity have been cut down by a good amount and my willingness to be there for others has risen to a new height. Perhaps most convincing is the removal of any mental obsession for alcohol, at least for today. The desire for drink has left me, it doesn’t occur to me or make sense to me. When I am feeling lost or ashamed it is not what I think of. This, by itself, is a miracle beyond my comprehension.
If all of this sounds like the work of discipline to you I wouldn’t disagree; it is discipline. What makes this experience so significant is that I understand why I am doing these things; I have an understanding that was never present in my mind before. I do not work to become less selfish because someone told me it would keep me sober — I am not ok with being selfish because I find it offensive; I no longer see the justification in being selfish to meet my own needs. I do not work to improve my relationships with loved ones because I feel I owe a debt to them, this would be an unwanted act anyhow. I work to repair my relationships because I value these people and I want to be a useful person in their lives. The change happened for me when it wasn’t work, it was relief. I saw the beauty that occurs when humans connect, when someone comes to the aid of another just for the sake of helping a fellow person. I see this connection today and each day; it is a genuine and sincere bond without manipulation or ulterior motives. This awakening has done to me what couldn’t have been accomplished over the course of years of discipline of the will. If you ask me who I want to be I will tell you: I want to be a useful person who makes a positive impact on those around him. I want to be this person because my service can make other people happy. I can witness loneliness and sadness vanish from the eyes of others; this experience is the gift I receive.
Throughout all of this change there is a feeling deep within that I am somehow returning to something I had lost in another life. I feel as though I once had a freedom and joy within me and lost it, only to have it be returned to me. What to make of this? I have come to believe that what I seek as a human, the thing I want and need the very most, is a sense of oneness with the universe. This oneness is something I was born with, born with a feeling of connection to the universe. Each day from that point on has been an effort to move one step further away from this connection. I have made an effort to distinguish myself from others, to separate from the pack, to show that I am above, below, different, anything but together.
I had set out to live a life rooted and developed solely on self-will; I was going to become who I had always wanted and I was going to prove that I didn’t need anybody; I was capable enough. The problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted. My race became a dog chasing his tail, collapsing from time to time. My ideas began to drift towards delusion, thinking each day that I could become something spectacular, if only I could get out of bed. In this separation from all things human and nature I found myself completely lost and had to finally admit defeat; I couldn’t do it alone.
But in this admission I found that I wasn’t returning to anything, clarity had been returned to me so that I could set out on a new journey. This journey, however, would not be tried alone. There is a newfound bond with my fellows, a common belief that to succeed, to find happiness and fulfillment, we need each other. I cannot cross the parched desert towards progress by myself; I must find a connection that moves me beyond my capabilities. I must be part of the human experience and connection, riding towards it instead of severing ties and forcing independence where it is not of any good use.
So, what is it that I have accomplished? What is my shining achievement? I can’t answer this question. But to know me is to feel a closeness, to feel a connection either through my presence or through my words. So long as this is a positive presence it is the only answer I need.