FEAR

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

Fear of not being taken seriously.

Fear of freedom and fear of light.

Fear of being superfluous.

Fear that you won’t love your enemy.

Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.

Fear that what you love will prove inconsequential.

Fear of death.

Fear of running out of time.

Fear of things left unsaid.

Fear of being forgotten.

Fear that your transformation has gone unnoticed.

Fear that you won’t be fully recognized.

Fear that they won’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Fear that you are too late.

Fear that you never arrived.

 

With sincerity, effort, and error.

Recovery & Stigma​

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

I am a recovering alcoholic living with depression, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is not news, but it has been a long time since I have written directly on the topic so I thought I would refresh your memory. My sobriety date is February 11, 2014, and I am without relapse, slip, or any other reference to the use of mind-altering drugs. I lead a fulfilling life with a loving family and a fellowship of people I would do most anything for. I am honest, dependable, thoughtful, compassionate, and spend most of my time of service to others in psychiatric wards, detox centers, an Alzheimer clinic, and as a mentor to a freshman in high school. I am proud of myself and my life, and I wonder how many people can get past the first sentence of this paragraph…

I am not here to defend addicts, and I own my alcoholism well. I do not shift blame to others, I do not play the victim, and my actions in the past are mine alone. I am also not looking for leniency or any other special treatment; I am here to give clarity concerning myself and people like me.


When I finally decided to get sober, I was somewhat shocked at how many people had no idea that I was in need of such a drastic overhaul. Granted people like myself often specialize in secrecy and at times work tirelessly to cover up the extent of our addiction, but to be genuinely shocked that I am an alcoholic took me by total surprise. I hear the same from other men and women every day; their spouse, boss, friends, none had any idea they had gotten so bad. And now we are all together admitting our past and hoping to recover, hoping to earn the trust of those we love and trying to cope with this world without any form of escape.

In many ways I got along pretty well in the world during my life; I was a miserable, dishonest character playing myself but all in all, I looked pretty good on paper. I was hired by well-run companies and organizations and had long-term relationships with women. My life on the outside never seemed as bad as it felt on the inside and of course that was by design; I didn’t want you to see me for who I was because I hated myself and further if you saw me as I really was I would have to admit the truth, I would have to agree this was all real. To admit my mistakes and character flaws were out of the question. I had built up so many defenses throughout my life, and though I had no idea who I was protecting, I was going to protect it to the gates of hell. To the gates I went, and all of my defenses shattered around me, leaving a confused, hurt, ashamed man; my true self as it was at that moment.

My past life is not littered with prison stays, violent behavior, dramatic meltdowns, or any other behavior often mistakenly associated with addicts and people suffering from mental illness. My past is a mixture of insecurity, dishonesty, selfishness, self-centeredness, ego, self-pity, pride, etcetera. My story isn’t fascinating either, at least not to someone who is eager to hear about wild nights, cops, violence, or the like. My point is that my life is not unique, neither astonishing nor deplorable, it is a life. But my life comes with an asterisk at times; I am a walking warning sign, and I entirely understand and accept this. But I am a warning sign because of things I have admitted openly and honestly – my character has been poured over to reach a level of comfort in life I never thought possible. I go through old wounds to find new answers, to find my way to a new life. My life is a work in progress; everyone is either a work in progress or stagnant – nobody is finished. I could have continued fooling some people, continued living a lie and gotten away with almost all of my behavior. I could have continued to live a life that wasn’t mine, but I no longer wanted to, the misery had grown too great, the hurt to others had become too clear, and my distance from humanity was too much to bear.  It was time to admit the truth. It was finally time to do the work, and the work is extensive, and at times it is painful, but it is authentic.


I wonder how rare this type of work is; I wonder how many walking warning signs I pass each day who do not have a problem with alcohol but have problems they still do not dare look at. I see so much jealousy, judgment, violence, dishonesty, and selfishness each day – I wonder if these people have faced their inner demons; I have faced my devil and I know him well – do you know your devil?

I wonder how many of them would sit with another and admit that they are angry, that they feel inadequate, that they hate their job. How many people have to put on a strong face before walking out the door? How many masks does a “normal” person have stowed away in their closet? My secret is out of the bag because I let it out; I wonder if anyone else has one or if it is just us addicts who should be so ashamed.

A therapist once told me that anyone can be in recovery, everyone has things they do not wish to admit about themselves and issues which are holding their life back. Anyone can sit and acknowledge that they are too greedy, angry, impatient, judgmental, overbearing, co-dependent, full of lust, high-tempered, quick-fused, insecure, pretentious, and on the list of flaws can go. But at what price does the admission of these faults come? How embarrassing is it to tell someone that you aren’t perfect? How low does a person have to go until they are able to admit they can improve themselves? For me I have paid hardly anything, and I have received a life without shame, regret, or fear.

And perhaps this is the answer; Perhaps the fastest way to improvement is the complete annihilation of self, something few people have to experience. My addiction has brought out qualities that others see as admirable, others are drawn to me almost magnetically, and this goes for the others I sit with as well. I sit in church basements along some of the warmest, intelligent, charming, and thoughtful people I have ever met. I know many of their faults, and none of these are embarrassing to hear, though for a time they are difficult to admit. I wonder how different people would feel if they could sit and talk to others about their fears, regrets, and flaws and do it all without fear of judgment.

If the non-addict who is riddled with anxiety and insecurity could tell someone how they felt instead of pretending it wasn’t there wouldn’t they feel a sense of freedom? Yet this freedom is in part denied to many for fear of judgment, criticism, and condescension. Where are all of the “listeners?” Being vulnerable enough to share your struggle is a sign of strength; however, others have used it to admonish those as weak-willed and unreliable. What motivates us to demean those who seek help yet reward those who pretend they have no struggle? There is a struggle behind each person’s front door, and still, we see strength in those who sit in judgment and disgust for others! We watch a lie unfold, an act of undeserved superiority, and we accept it because most of us are hiding too.

But I am not here to try and convince others. I cannot will someone to change, to want to rid themselves of their character flaws, to risk a little embarrassment for a wealth of freedom. I have learned that one does not need to go to the gates of hell to work on their flaws and become a better person; it is something I do each day without the pressure of anyone pushing me to change. The feeling that others have that their life is not working, that they aren’t happy, successful, or worthy – this feeling does not need to persist if they would only be honest. I had the fortune of being cornered, and for most it takes that kind of pressure to want to change, to want to become a better person.

Today, however, I can at least give the advice that life does not need to be lived in secrecy. That living a life that is not fulfilling only for appearances is never worth it. That changing your outlook each day does not always mean a radical overhaul of your beliefs. You do not need to identify as anything, you are in recovery from whatever it is that ails you. We recover from pain by facing the challenge, admitting our part and taking action to improve the situation. The more we avoid and deny our shortcomings the more we fall into unhappiness; it is the very thing we set out to avoid which causes the most pain and is the reason for our insecurity and lack of confidence. Avoiding our flaws is a hopeless and meaningless gesture – sooner or later the lock will break, and these secrets will come out. When our hidden life busts down the door it is never worth the years we kept up appearances; these things can be dealt with today and freedom of self would follow.

But I am not a preacher or a mind-reader. Perhaps most people are happy, joyous, and free. Maybe I am one of the very few in this world who needed to improve; perhaps I am the only warning sign on the block. Maybe people go to bed happy and wake up happy – perhaps the use of alcohol by “normal” people is really just for fun and never to cope with the struggle of daily life. Maybe I am wrong on all accounts, and I should admit that us addicts are so different from everyone else and that I am only now understanding what the rest of you already knew. But I wonder why so many are drawn to us, why our candor and compassion seem to take others by surprise. I wonder why people come to me for help and advice when there is a long list of others without my warning sign available.

In all of my questioning, the only thing I actually wonder is if people realize that at any moment they can improve themselves, find broader and stronger happiness, and do it all without embarrassment or shame. I share with you my flaws so that you feel comfortable in feeling your own. It is none of my business how clean your side of the street is, but it doesn’t mean I cannot look across and see the piles of wreckage and pain. It also doesn’t mean that I am judging you, I only want to give you proof that life is never beyond redemption; I am your proof and it is never done without help and never in silence.

Experience has taught me that to make an impact on this world I must truthful in my actions. I must lead by example and show that my actions are the reason for my freedom. When you get to know me, when you see my work with others, the words recovering alcoholic and mental illness begin to drift further from the mind, meaning less and less over time. I will be open with you so that you may be open to yourself; we all have to start somewhere.

Death of a relationship | Continue

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

If I should be brought before you

And am asked to skim the trees

To recollect my fondest thoughts

Amid a wasteland of memories

I should dig deep the shallow trenches

I will seek out every eye

For my past bear’s strong resemblance

To the ones I stand before

And I will know a soft resistance

As I push off from the shore


I wonder how all of this will come to pass; How you and I will remember one another. I don’t sit with this for very long, for I know where my mind often leads me. I do not drift to positive places. Instead, my mind seems to embrace the negative and haunting spaces. But I must think of this, of you and I and our past. My past, as it were, is what I must think of.

You were gentle with me; virtually every memory tells me this was your way. You knew that anger would cause me running, and your job was to have me stay. And at times you were overbearing, you wanted for yourself my good health. You wished my mind would pause, and you could rest. You cared much and sometimes in the wrong way. But I forgive your co-dependence, your expectations, and your disappointment. I overlook these things because I, too, am full of error, and I am not here to blame.

I am here to recover the past, not for keeping but to learn. What was it about our relationship that you wanted to hold onto? What was it about me that you seemed so keen on keeping close? I have asked myself this question, and sometimes it makes perfect sense. At times, I was honest and pensive, but others I was a complete waste of effort. Who holds onto the daily garbage? One who is sick themselves I believe. I look back with compassion, not wishing to change you, and this is not meant to enlighten you. This I doubt the entirety of you will ever read.

I can remember when you embraced me, and my embrace was a lie. I remember when you embraced me, and I felt your heart pouring into my chest. I heard your heart pouring into my chest, its crimson waves exposing the emptiness in me. I felt you sometimes, and other times you left me frozen, or I left you frozen.  We were just friends. We were lovers. We were enemies. All of it was real, though. You failed me and used me selfishly. You were so many people all at once; it’s no wonder I completely lost you at times.

But you are not unique … Christ, neither am I. I considered you less than you deserved and became the type of man I have always judged, hated. My selfishness knew no bounds and still, it was suffocated time and again. I had fallen so short of breath that our relationship had to change. All I could do was start over. I had no idea what this would mean but it was time to tear each other apart and continue, alone.

The beginning was beautiful. Leaves fell hard in those first few days, and for some those leaves are still rocks on their backs. But it was no longer excuse enough for me to hide behind. I loved them dearly, I truly did. I love them today differently because I am different and they are different. They are whole but hard to see. I send out eulogies because I was not always there when the moment surprised and seemed to ambush us. I am here now, I am here for the ones who wish to hear me.

I still seem to lose you at times, even though I feel we have been doing everything well. We outgrow each others usefulness, we no longer need one another. When you no longer need something it becomes a weight around your ankle unless you part ways while still feathers. In the beginning, it feels wrong; it angers me to part ways. But it is the best for both of us and the best way for the whole of us.

Sometimes I glance out the window and see your birds singing. Other times I turn my back to you, wishing you would at once turn away from me. I love you, I have forgotten you, and I hope to love you. Before the earth, before the lovers and the users and the apathetic bystanders, I hope I give you something you cannot hold but can use. I hope you see me and know that the past is real, but it is gone and only alive in your mind. This moment is real as well. I hope you see the power of this moment, and I hope you forget me and move on if that is what you must do.

You have nothing to say to me, and I nothing to say to you, for the most part. One day I will sit down and tell you what it all means, but today you must work on it yourself. It is your world that you must save from forever wilting. You do not live for me, I do not live for you, but we live for a purpose higher than both of us. I cannot define yours, and I know you cannot give me the relief I once sought. I appreciate you for who you are, and do not want you to change your colors to draw me closer. If I speak a foreign tongue to you and you wish to retreat, I do not blame you. Those who are meant to be in my life will be; others will become useful by becoming more like themselves.

I love you, I hope to love you, and I have forgotten and forgiven you. Do not fear whatever lay in front of us, it is meant to be there, and we no longer need to embellish who we are. This is the death of our relationship.

 

 

 

Now is When the Sun Shines Brightest

Essays, MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky 

Lately, things have been going well. I am turning 32 sometime this afternoon, and I have no idea what to say. I have no idea where I am going and no news on tomorrow. What fascinates me is that even though I have no certainties in my life, I am completely calm. I write, and I do volunteer work – I am not ashamed of my life today, nor should I be. What I have found interesting is that throughout my entire life I always presented myself as someone I was not. I would be anyone I thought you wanted me to be, albeit nobody ever told me to be a certain way. But I was so uncomfortable, so full of self-doubt that I thought if I just played the role of somebody significant I would, at some point, become someone significant.

The difference in my life today is that I do not live in fear – for I have nothing to fear. I can fall asleep without worry and am no longer tethered to the anxieties of my past. This lack of fear is not based in any knowledge of the future of course. What I have instead is understanding of the present. I know, for the first time in my life, who I am. What I once believed to be spectacular now pales in comparison to what I think my life has turned into.

I find only joy in the embrace of others and the eyes of strangers. I find myself in stages of passion that I never knew existed. The gift of life is only realized when one believes life can be fulfilling. A life that was once wildly confusing and based in a mental delusion is now lived with a fixed intensity on the day, letting go of my grip find my footing. The pathway to fulfillment and happiness is not found in magazines as I once believed. I have lived a life that has taught me precisely what does not bring me any satisfaction, and I have no room for them any longer.

I do not need to be known as anyone in particular. I only wish to be a source of light for those that need me and a place of compassion for those that do not understand me. I do not want to judge any longer – I have no room for it in my heart. I wish to grab the day with vigor and an unyielding passion for life in whatever form it comes. I would like to be present in the hearts of others, not as a burden but as a light.

I know who I want to be for the first time in my life, and it is not specific. I wish to be an impactful person, if only for brief moments in the lives of others. I would like to be a positive presence so that when I part company people will feel better than when I arrived. I hope to make an impression on you, to let you know that there is brightness deeper than you ever imagined inside of you. That you have the capacity to become more than you ever thought possible. I hope to instill in others the notion that we find no progress in comparing ourselves to others, rather we find progress in becoming better than we were yesterday.

I hope to trigger the emotion that leads others to see the benefits of reflection and honest introspection. That we have nothing to feel ashamed of so long as we continue breathing life into each moment. I hope to be this person because I have found a way to live a life beyond my expectations. At once I found that a life of fear, anger and pity is a life that is empty – a life that I do not wish to entertain.

I hope that you can feel the passion with which I type these words – the relentless pursuit of fulfillment and progress that comes with this life. I do not wish to bend your views to my opinion; I wish for you to build your energy into what you wish. I can face the world eye to eye and be the person I had always hoped to become – I sense the urgency each morning to prove to myself that I have what it takes to be better than I was yesterday.

Everything in my life lies one step in front of me. I do not rush life; I do not try to push it around. I do not wish the world to accept me; I would like to accept the world. I see the universe unleash its beauty in your smile – I see the sun shining fiercely in the eyes of those I love. I can accept the embrace of others – I can give more than I take. Each moment brings forth the bricks that I shall build my path with. Life is waiting for us to grab it – it is waiting for us to take hold of each other and carry love and compassion throughout the day instead of forcing ourselves upon others, smashing the dreams of those around us. I rise to meet the world eye to eye for the first time in my life. My happiness is not bound to anything in particular – it is found in the words I share with you and the smile I see in your eyes. Go out and take your life back and I will do the same – For the world will be whatever it will be, and I will be myself!

(un)comfortable

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES, QUOTE

How does one change? Others often tell me how much I have changed. There has been a swift change in my perspective – an occurrence that ‘s hard to explain. I believe that to make radical changes in my life I had to make radical changes! It sounds simple, or at least, it seems simple. What is not so surprising is that in the past whenever I had claimed that I wanted to change something in my life I had always tried to find the easiest way to change. I was convinced, somehow, that I could make changes in my life by putting in minimal effort. This does not work.  It is a painful process – it is challenging. What often happens is I retreat into an easier, softer way – instead of dealing with character defects I pretended that they weren’t there or simply hoped they would go away, but they never do. In fact, with time these defects grow out of control and the pressure is often too intense to bear. When I allow these defects to go untreated, I drift into isolation. Here comes the secret! If I honestly want to improve my life and finally face my demons I have to do things that make me uncomfortable. I have to stop behaving the way I once did. Everything that seemed to “complete” me had to go – I had to make radical changes. And doing things that make me uncomfortable are a subtle price to pay. Invariably, when I do the things that I know are healthy for me mentally, physically and spiritually I feel better. The turnaround is remarkable – and it is radical. There are no shortcuts, no handouts. It takes action, it takes effort and resiliency. This is the only way I know how to make effective changes in my life. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. The easy route doesn’t pay off –