Feeling the Gravity
Sometimes when you tell your story, you relive it. It’s not just words; it’s not a narrative; and you can’t pretend it all happened to someone else. No, sometimes, you journey back in time and walk those paths again, feeling every pang of guilt and anguish and longing and despair.
My sponsor is taking me back through the steps from the beginning. We’ve worked steps over specific facets of life and relationships before, but this will be first time I’ve worked steps over my addiction with her (the last time I went through them all was three years ago with a different sponsor). Perhaps it’s just the place I’m at in my life right now or perhaps it’s the way she worded the assignment… maybe it’s just because I haven’t told the whole story in a while… whatever it was, writing it out was gut-wrenching for me.
From tossing back mine and my mom’s champagne at a wedding as a kid, through 4 years of running away to escape my childhood and mistakes I made, through marriage, kids and walking away when my demons surfaced, then slowly killing myself through shame and degradation until I finally walked in to something that looked like hope… I wrote it all down – what drugs and alcohol did FOR me and what it did TO me.
I sit here with my five years sober, fully grateful for all the nonsense I endured which brought me to this place. I remember darkness and naiveté. I recall the physical pain and shameful moments, but they’re all in the past. I’m a different person now and I have first world problems. From where I sit most days today, my past is a bad dream or a horror movie with a lead actress who bears a striking resemblance to myself. I can rattle off specific events in great detail with no real emotional connection. I can minimize the pain of others by relating my similar experiences and showing how I walked through them.
Ouch. Did I just admit that? Is this what recovery is all about for me? What is this ego trip I’m on where I can try to feel superior because I’ve been there or worse? Where is my empathy? Don’t I remember who I was when I lived through these things? Have I forgotten the suffocating hopelessness that accompanied the low times? Do I honestly believe that my bad days today aren’t a million times better than those from five, six, seven years ago?
So I wrote it down. I searched my memory for those moments that inched me ever closer to addiction. What did it do for me? What was the allure? What did it allow me to face… or avoid? I laced up my old shoes and walked back through my old life and every step brought me closer to the end. The me who sits here 5 years sober cried over the me of yesterday and how she didn’t know any better. And I felt everything. I felt the darkness closing in. I felt the hopelessness and shame like a millstone around my neck. I broke free a million times and ran right back to it a million times more. I knew there was a better way, but had no idea how to get there.
And when it was over, I put my head back against the wall and let the tears stream down my face. I am and will remain eternally grateful for the pain which brought me to this place of freedom. My life today is a dream. I bitch and complain as much as ever, but even when things get their worst now, I know I don’t have to run away. I don’t have to internalize the pain as shame or guilt. I don’t have to punish myself for not being perfect. And most importantly, I know that “this, too, shall pass.” All I have to do is not make things worse and things will get better. Back then, though, I did not understand these concepts and I had no better ways of coping with life on life’s terms.
There is a reason I have been given this life. I don’t know what all that reason is, but I do know that I have a special ability to reach other addicts in a way that not many can. If I minimize the pain of my past, if I forget what it was truly like, then I can no longer empathize with those placed in my path today and my recovery is purely selfish… and sketchy, at best. As much as it hurt to relive the pain of my past, I’m glad I was able to do so. It not only helps me to better appreciate who I am today, but it reminds me to put myself in the shoes of those still suffering and to be kind to them.
Still raw from the 1st step exercise, I heard Sara Bareilles’ song “Gravity” this morning. Music has always been huge for me. It often elicits strong emotion and imagery. Dance is the embodiment of music; so great choreography can speak to the heart and soul in ways words never could. I’m a huge “So You Think You Can Dance” fangirl and Mia Michaels is one of my favorite choreographers. Some of her pieces are forever etched in my memory. “Gravity” kills me every time, though, because it is the story of addiction. Though it’s a few years old by now, just to hear the song still brings up the image of Kupono grabbing Kayla’s arm and I can so identify with the anguish shown on her face. I want to share the video with you here because it touches me so deeply.