The Sun Is Still Here

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

Though it satisfies my selfish mind to align myself, to toe the line, I must move away from mirrored minds and reflective voices on the chorus line shouting “we are right and they are lying.” I want my beliefs to be challenged, and you secure enough to be challenged.

I want to be without answers and confidently balanced.
I have no use for you who are right and you who are wrong.
I want to be steady on trembling roads where all is not right and all has gone wrong. I want to surprise my shadow and know that I am not all black nor all white.

Fling forth all beliefs and surrender all answers. They don’t mean a thing. The language will change and though we have the means we no longer feel the need. We will know how to move on these trembling roads and we will trust ourselves more than we did before.

Attachment melts from our golden eyes
The path we are on is not a pack of lies.
And as you beat your heart with no education
You will trust your words without hesitation.

You and I with golden eyes no longer need to proselytize or win the war or steal the skies. We just walk along on trembling roads and as we speak the pathway grows and roots are born and sorrow goes. And though the sun is sleeping even the blind can see that the brightness between us is the sunshine within us and the sunshine within us is the sun that you see.

 

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.

The Fall of Love | A Path To Love

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

   OUT OF SPITE I LOVED YOU.

RESISTING THE TEMPTATION OF REASON

                 IN SPITE OF THEM ALL, I LOVED YOU.

OR, I NEVER LOVED YOU IF IT EASES THE TIDE

 I MUST LOVE SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE.

                 THE DOOR HOLDS, WATCHING THE HINGE BEND

I cannot define love, but if I could, I would say that my definition of it has changed drastically over the last two years. Or rather, my sensibility surrounding the essence of love has changed a great deal. Judging by my current belief, I could say with some confidence that I never actually loved anyone in my life for the first 30 years; aside from natural, instinctual feelings primarily towards my mother as a young child. In fact, I would go so far as to say that none of my emotions, my feelings, were genuine for the first part of my life. This does not mean that my past is some demonic dwelling or scorched earth. There were plenty of notions floating around of love, forgiveness, sadness, anger, etcetera – I just experienced a perverse version of these emotions.

Love has always confounded me, and somewhere along the way I picked up the impression that many people loved one another by one person showing dominance towards the other, often instilling fear to get their way. I was turned off by this approach but had never picked up an alternative, so I created my own, as a child, and as you can imagine it was terribly flawed. My idea of love was one where I would do anything for another’s approval, anything so they had no reason to be upset or angry with me, and once I did I considered it love. I wanted so badly for others to accept me, for others to embrace and approve of me that I was like a wounded puppy, always expecting to be cast out into the storm unless I lay on my back with gifts and acts of submission. And as so often happens people begin to treat you as you show them how to use you – I was your “yes man” and you had no choice but to take advantage or to leave me. Few people wish to leave the wounded – and fewer realize the power they take; yet I allowed all of this and created much of this because I wanted to show you I loved you. I instead showed you I was dependent upon you, and when you left, I cursed you. I was a sick man, a wounded man, and you sadly tried to rescue me.

All of my emotions were based in fear; everything I felt was a safeguard against me feeling inadequate and not in the actual emotion itself. I felt pride when I sensed you were proud of me, yet I never felt pride alone. I felt anger only at myself, blaming all of your actions as reactions to my mistakes. Sadness came in the form of self-pity and forgiveness was used to avoid confrontation. Loneliness was perhaps my most genuine emotion – but I have always felt alone. Amongst millions I have felt loneliness in the pit of my stomach; In the darkest hours, I searched for isolation to rid myself of this feeling. I found a friend in my loneliness – I embraced my negative, harmful emotions because they accepted me. However, they failed me time and again; this foundation so weak that I fell further and further until I had felt nothing at all. I became numb. Finally, I became something I could live with.

Numbing pain, a numbing hatred, all directed inwards. I was able enough to take the hate, yet I was far too weak to be honest with myself. At this moment, I created my most delusional emotions, my most intense feelings of love and sadness were paper thin and frail. No foundation, no mortar or brick, nothing at all. 27 flights up and I felt the cool breeze – nothing and yet everything in front of me. My complicated emotions also saved my life – for it was pride that brought me back inside and onto a new life of genuine, painful, and confusing experiences.

And at times, it is just as lonely – but the utter sadness and hatred are gone. Loneliness beckons me, but I resist the depression and self-pity. Instead, I confront these feelings – I am ok with this loneliness. I step outside and ask to be placed in a position to be of service – to comfort those who feel they are without value. There those who seem to have no worries at all; there was a time when I seemed to like this to many. I can be of service by listening to people and understand that I never know what someone is going through. When others lash out it is because they are hurting, and I can be there to practice tolerance and compassion. It is not my turn to lash out at the world – I do not need to turn to hateful words. I understand this sickness, it makes us bite, bewildered and afraid. It takes control of our minds and hearts, and we are so vulnerable we don’t let anyone close. I won’t try to control you; I’ll wait outside, and my story won’t change. You always come out to me when you are ready.

This is my love – to be patient and to not control. When I love another, I want them to find happiness and fulfillment even if that doesn’t include me. I can work through the pain of loss because love tells me I am not losing anything; To love you is to want your brightness to reach its peak, and I remove myself and my pride. My love is not selfish – I know that you have your path in life. Sometimes our paths run parallel yet most times our paths go opposite ways and in these moments, I rest easy knowing I never tried to control you or bend your will to mine. I do not force you to come with me when your path winds the other way. Most times I don’t understand your way, but I support it.

Today I tell you that I want many things that I never receive, and I can smile because I know they weren’t meant for me. I know that my life puts me in a position to have positive experiences beyond my design, so I let go of the desire to design. My plans force you to be in my life; they force you away from your life, and I don’t want this.

I am myself; I am intense, overwhelming, passionate, sensitive, emotional, and I have a hard time dialing it all back. I can exhaust you, I can inspire you, I can turn you away or brighten your eyes. It all depends on you – there is no magic in my words. If you want what I have you will want more – if not you will continue. There is no trap outside my door, no poison to stall your steps. I only attempt to be as genuine as possible, as honest as possible, and as authentic as I can be. It scares most to hear such honesty and to many it is inappropriate! It is too much! But to me, it is all I know to be true of myself. My small talk is riddled with nervous apprehensions; I don’t know what to say. I can listen for hours, but I cannot listen to an empty heart.

My love took me to Bellevue psychiatric ward again tonight to speak to those who are sick and suffering in their right. And as I do with you I do with them; I sit outside and hope for a chance to share my song. I don’t pressure the vulnerable; I don’t lie about my life. I tell them the difficulty I have had, of the pain I have felt, and of the joy, I am fortunate enough to experience on a daily basis if I choose to experience it. They sense that I do not want anything from them just as I do not wish anything from you. Being allowed to share my song is enough; everything else is controlling and forceful, and I do not want this. I do not wish to deceive you, and I will not be whoever you think I should be.

I am myself, on my path, and I can love you from oceans away if I must. I will never try to change you, and I will never let you change me. I love you for everything you are and for your pain and your happiness. You let me sit outside the door; I expect nothing more. The moment you are ready I will be here; my message does not change. You can always find me on my path seeking balance amid the chaos. I fall over and over and over again, and my lips and knees are bleeding. But my heart and my mind are still and I get back up over and over and over again. I do not have to be right, I do not need to be perfect, I do not need to be understood. I only wish to be given the chance to know how you feel, to be a body to sit next to, to be someone who only wishes for you to find your brightness. I am always part of this when I take myself out of it.

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.