“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait.”
– Walt Whitman
I have a sickness. At one time I was a sickness, but now I sit with the knowledge of having a sickness. It is something that is dealt with daily, not something that overcomes and becomes me. For years I was able to shut down part of my brain so that all feelings of guilt and shame would, for a time at least, disappear. Today I have the option to live that way but instead I choose to feel, I choose to be a part of the human experience. I choose to endure pain and sadness so that I may see beauty and love.
My sickness is a common one: generalized anxiety, social anxiety, depression, and neurosis. It does not go away when one gets sober and for me it has not gone away with a lifestyle built around ridding myself of them. My sickness is barely visible compared to what it once was but it is still impactful. Others may not see this and it is not their responsibility to see it; but I see it and I feel it. I have also accepted my sickness as something I have to deal with, I do not pretend it is not there, avoidance does nothing but harm.
I have learned through this acceptance that others may see me as selfish, imperfect, imbalanced, and thoughtless – and I have learned that it is ok for others to think that about me. I have learned that understanding how to live in this world is a challenge, both for 5-year-olds and 32-year-olds. I am able to see why others may not understand my process and the struggle I have, I get why some may think it is time for things to be normal again. But things were never normal in my life and I don’t believe there is ever a time when someone is fully recovered. For as long as one is willing to work on oneself the work will always be there to complete; I choose to work on myself and others may choose a different path. My path, however, has a lot of questions and it is the only way I know to lead an authentic life.
Authenticity is the difference between this life and the one I lived for 31 years. It is the reason I am not offended by the desires of others and the reason I can be patient with the judgment of others. It is what allows me to be happy even though my way of life doesn’t fit in with the plans of others. It gives me the knowledge and comfort that of the 500 mistakes I make each day not one of them is a mistake born out of manipulation or dishonesty. I own my mistakes and ask others for advice, but I do not ask others how I ought to live. Nobody can tell me the right way to live simply because they are not me. I have opinions, emotions, and feelings that are hurt at times as well – I am after all human. But my hurt emotions are for me to understand and overcome. I do not ask you to change to suit my life, I change myself to fit a life I understand to be positive, meaningful, and fulfilling. Whatever direction that takes me is the direction I am going, and I am ok with that.
I live with knowledge that I work each day to become better than I was yesterday, not for one person but for my role in this world. My first priority each day is to stay sober. This is something others may not ever understand but it is something that can never change for me, and I understand why.
This is the life I have always wanted to live, a life where I am ok with the person I am even though I know I am full of mistakes and error. I do not feel such a strong drive to explain myself to others, for I do not believe I have done anything wrong. This also means that I am able to ask others where I am missing, where I am lacking, and where I have hurt them. I will always seek ways to make amends for any damage I cause to another person, for again I know that any harm I cause is because of an honest mistake I have made and not out of self-seeking, dishonest motives.
I will not ask others to have patience with me or to understand me, it is an unworthy question. People will be who they will be. I am fortunate to have been blessed with a patient, albeit seemingly confused at times, group of people in my life. My way of life is new to almost everyone I know, and it is new to me also. Others will be hurt by my role in recovery, wondering if I will ever just be – and I will at some point be able to live with less congestion. My recovery ought to always be first in my mind but over time it will seem a memory to those around me.
This life has given me the ability to listen to others and to appreciate their feelings. I do not fear what others may say because others do not decide why I do the things I do – nobody but myself needs to understand why I live this way and I do not ask others why they choose the life they have chosen. I know who I am, and I am imperfect and at times forgetful, disorganized, distant, and selfish. But my motive each day is to always come out the other end sober, stronger, and a better person all the way around.
So, I do not ask for the patience and understanding of others. I do not expect others to be able to understand my reasons when they have not experienced my life, such is an impossible thing to ask of someone. I do not ask for anything, for there is actually nothing you can give me. Instead I tell you that I have faith in the work I am doing. I have faith that through my mistakes I will learn new ways of living and I will only become a better person and a more positive presence. I will not set out to live the way others believe I should but this does not mean I do not care. I will let my actions and my progress speak for me each day and will continue to have gratitude for the distance I have traveled over these past 16 months. My faith in these works is what has brought me here from the gates of hell. You need only a memory of who I was to understand how far I have come to get here – and for what it’s worth to you I have no plans of stopping this progress.