Early this morning I sat on a platform made from dark-stained wood, overlooking a valley of Colombian heartland. My feet, kept warm by wool socks, dangled over the edge without fear of the distance below.
On February 20, 2017, I celebrated thirty-months of sobriety and my commitment to the daily, life-long process of active recovery from addiction.
On December 22 of last year, my father picked me up from Ft. Lauderdale airport, the beginning of a visit home for the holidays. It had been nearly a year since we had seen one another, just enough time for me to forget how bright his eyes became when he saw me, how supportive he was when I spiraled enthusiastically down the corkscrew of my newest idea, and how erratic and stubborn of a highway driver he had become.
I don’t fit in with the sober kids. I didn’t find sobriety in the rooms: sobriety found me in Izmir, Turkey when she was the last thing I was looking for.
I didn’t work through the twelve steps: I took my own steps, set my own pace, and walked off-path, frequently, without knowing how to realign.
I’ve never read a page of the Blue Book: I’m currently reading a collection of short stories that are blissful confusion and strangeness and the cover does happen to be blue.
I don’t identify with a God and my notion of a higher power isn’t defined by a Higher Power.
On September 22, 2014, I didn’t introduce myself to a room full of strangers: I sat on the back patio of a Turkish mansion and asked myself to step away from my Self and be in objective observance. Was my Self and the decisions I was making in those surrounding days, in service of truest Self and deepest potential?
My first day of sobriety felt a lot like hosting a dinner party with old friends; unfamiliar characters began arriving in my mind.
The Creator was a guest. He mentioned that he hadn’t seen any of my recent work, I confessed I had none to share. The Daughter showed up unannounced, wondering why she hadn’t heard from me recently.
The Athlete. The Dancer. The Best Friend. The Lover.
All of my identities seemed to speak to me in isolation, neglected, undervalued, and frustrated that I had minimized their importance within my own Venn diagram. I had lost touch with conscious choice. I had surrendered decision making to a substance outside of my Self.
I sat inside the theater of my mind and let scenes of my life scroll behind my eyes like a film wheel. Years and months and days flowed past, and the character least familiar in every scene was my Self. I was embarrassed. I was confused. I was resentful.
Then it clicked. Rather than thinking hypothetically and retrospectively, I became curious: what would life moving forward be like if I removed the substance? The scapegoat? The crutch? The blame?
Could I develop a relationship between the strangers in my mind? Could this lead to an understanding of competing attributes: inferiority and self-confidence; vulnerability and reservation; trust and skepticism; masculinity and femininity; conservatism and sexuality; discipline and spontaneity.
On that back porch in Izmir, under a sunny Aegean sky and soft Mediterranean winds, surrounded by low-hanging pomegranates and bountiful figs, an acute awareness set in: if I ever wanted to truly love, to truly serve, I would first have to commit to loving and serving my Self. For the first time in my life, I decided to put my Self first.
And so began the commitment – surrendering to understanding this new reality by relinquishing control. And so began the understanding – breaking things down, digesting, categorizing, observing. And so began the forgiveness – acceptance, the wisdom of washing away, the power in letting go.
It was discerning. It was unifying. It took accepting both to begin to heal.
It’s September 22, 2016 and things are different now. I still have weekly dinner parties with the characters in my mind. I still struggle with balancing the patch-worked pieces of old decisions and new values. But things are different now: I have choice.
Every day I chose to cultivate an honest relationship with my Self; one that offers more love, confusion, frustration, and peace than I ever knew existed. It’s this honest relationship that allows me to trust. It’s this relationship that is a daily reminder of the powerful combination of choice and discipline. We chose to change, our actions drive the choice.
It doesn’t get easier, I never believed it would. But it’s two years later and the decision to be sober still promises to be worth it. It’s worth working through. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth all of it’s tests and tribulations and questions without answers. It’s worth everything. It’s worth you.
Two years later, and it’s so damn worth it. You are so damn worth it.
Thank you for being my friend. My lover. My sister. My brother.
Thank you for being everything.
Thank you for being there for me.
Thank you for supporting me, especially when you didn’t realize you were.
I know we don’t hang out as much as we should, or talk as much as we’d like, but just knowing you’re there is more comforting than you’ll ever know.
Thank you for reminding me that community is all around and all I need to do to feel it is to Take A Step Back. Observe. Realize. And Be Grateful.
Thank you for all the times you answered the phone when I needed to talk.
Thank you for all the times you didn’t answer your phone and let me leave a voicemail. Because you knew what I needed was to talk it through.
Thank you for letting me talk it through.
Thank you for telling me to stop talking and to just listen. To hear not only my words, but the words and subtle messages all around us – the hymn of the wind within the branches, how much is said without words.
Thank you for teaching me your mother’s way of making quiche and your father’s way of brewing coffee.
Thank you for showing me how to do a handstand, how to change the flat tire on my bike, how to take a good photograph.
Thank you for your patience. Because of you, I never want to stop learning.
Thank you for approaching that group of guys at the bar with me, and thank you for telling me that they weren’t worth my time. That I was better than that, then them, even if, maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t.
Thank you for holding me to higher standards.
Thank you for questioning my morals. Thank you for questioning my beliefs. Thank you for redefining who I am.
Thank you for challenging my world-view and for shifting my perspectives, even when I was stubborn and stuck and you couldn’t stand me.
Thank you keeping me accountable to becoming a better person.
Thank you for pushing me to my limits and empowering me to exceed my own expectations.
Thank you for never letting me forget my dreams and for helping me to dream bigger and bigger, year after year.
Thank you for reminding me that no dream is too outrageous and that it’s all within reach.
Thank you for experimenting with vegan brownies and taking 1am photo shoots on North Capitol and driving to the beach in the middle of the night to watch the meteor shower.
Thank you for being ridiculous and child-like, for embracing spontaneity and for making me laugh.
Thank you for brightening my world.
Thank you for helping me cultivate Self-Love.
Thank you for making me vulnerable to Love again – for inspiring me to continue opening my heart. To stay open.
Thank you for loving me for me and for making me promise to never change.
Thank you for letting me fly. Thank you for stumbling alongside of me. Thank you for letting me fall.
Thank you for leading me to exactly where I am now: single and sober and bursting with twenty-six years of patch-worked insights and experiences and heartache and scars.
Thank you for encouraging me to keep on the path I’m on. I know I’m not an easy friend to have, but I’m so, so grateful that you’re willing to sacrifice and make space for me, for us.
So Thank You. Thank you for helping me through these last twenty-six years. And Thank You for being a part of this next journey around the sun. Twenty-seven. 365 more.
I couldn’t have made it without You.