Service work doesn’t always look like service work. My first experience with sobriety started in January 2012 and lasted about 2 years. I went to meetings and worked the steps. My poetry circle friend, Kyle, introduced me to the program, and we helped each other stay sober with morning ballet lessons. I enjoyed teaching this tattooed boy how to float across the room, and he enjoyed learning something new and delicate. We felt brave and understood that we were a part of something important.
One morning, about 3 months into sobriety, we finished up our lesson and sat on the studio floor laughing, excited about how much progress he’d made in our lessons and how much progress we’d both made in general. I remember this moment, distinctly, where I wiped some sweat from my forehead and caught a glimpse of myself in those giant studio mirrors. The ones I knew from picking, rehearsing, teaching, and practically living in front of… those mirrors captured a facial expression I never saw before… on my own face! In that fleeting moment I saw myself and knew sobriety was bringing my facial expressions back to life. This insight to my true potential, I believe, was a glimpse of my soul. I saw another paint chip fall from the proverbial Jacqui window. I did not recognize it, but I felt that it had always been a part of me. “There she is”, I thought to myself.
Awakening the soul… sounds like a bunch of mystical nonsense, right? But what does the soul really even mean or look like to me? Now that I’m actually in my body, my perception of soul is very different than it used it be. It’s starting to look like me and feel more like me because we are the same. The me, my soul, and I concept wasn’t a thing a few months ago while listening to my yoga instructor talk about this purple light entering my body. I remember a very separate feeling at that moment like waiting for someone to introduce me to a stranger, but why did I expect to find something that I already knew? I did not expect to see myself in the mirror that morning in the studio because I did not long for a feeling or connection to my truth. I was living in my truth right as it happened. It’s easy to get distracted in longing because longing for something means you’re anticipating a moment or feeling that you already understand. How could I see my truth if I already had expectations about what I would look like and what would change once it “arrived”? For me, in this new perception of soul, I feel I can exist without restriction or expectation. It’s not easy, but it eases the feeling of “without” for me.
In this space where I allow the world to happen, I am constantly reminded of how little I actually know, so it’s hard to imagine how anyone outside of myself would know more about my truth than I do. This is difficult, but I am learning. There will always be other people who want to give you a reaction (I hate hearing this, but apparently it’s true). We all know the person who cannot sit with themselves if they are not the best. I see these people on Instagram all the time, and it’s exhausting. They don’t know how to celebrate you because you scare them, so how can they appreciate your success when they are almost obsessively trying to outshine it? They only see competition. The person who is always on top only knows a vertical life. They spend their time scoping out the horizontal playing field by looking down for potential competitors and exhaling once they’ve re-established that they are still indeed “the best”. If a person is too afraid of not being “the best” all the time, are they really the best at anything? Where is the bravery and humanity in that?
I keep hearing all of my role models telling me to “sit in the fire”, and after hearing it SO MUCH I’m finally absorbing what they might actually be talking about. It isn’t easy to go through, but drinking was not easy. Alcohol didn’t save me from the fire it just took my ability to restore and grow through it. The pain of the fire does not go away in sobriety. I will feel weak. I will feel afraid. I will still know failure, but now I’m allowed to experience it all the way. Now I am allowed to use it as the source of my strength. No one can take away my truth or define my reason, and the illusion that anyone could is my own obstacle. Today, I can proudly say that I live a fair life without alcohol, and the pain I feel is a beautiful reminder of all that was taken from me in those dark times. You are so much stronger than anything you’ve ever imagined if you just let it happen to you.