“Honey, it’s all been done before. Nothing’s really original. Not Homer or Shakespeare and certainly not you. Get over yourself.” – Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
Real change happens with a stare from across the heated room. It cuts through sweating bodies and the hanging exhales of an overly packed hatha session. Real change is a woman in a hurry with the slamming of her yoga mat and the shouting of mindless stories to a silent room. Real change is not where or when you expect it to happen. Real change leaves us lying at her feet completing savasana as if she is not there. She has no idea that anything is wrong. Is she on drugs? I don’t know, but she is not with the moment. She is here but also very far away. She is within and without. Real change completes a lesson of awareness that connects you to other people. It shows you versions of yourself through frames of other people. Real change happens when you stop trying to defend and start letting others come into your awareness. Look into the mirror of another person, and you will see yourself.
No one is telling you what to do, and if they are telling you what to do, this is way more about them than it is about you. It has taken me until just now in this life to really believe it.
Garden Variety Human Being
In A.A. there is a phrase for checking egos and specialness at the door. They knock out this idea of “other than” by calling everyone a “garden-variety alcoholic”. I do not identify as an alcoholic because for me, it feels disempowering. This conflicts with my healing process, but this is just for me personally. There are aspects of the 12 step program that I find useful and beautifully translatable to my recovery process now. I am a garden-variety human being who is sober from all mind altering substances. I am a part of something big along with everyone else. We all count here.
Half of the addiction process is secret keeping, in my opinion. Drinking and functioning on the levels that I functioned on meant that I had to devote a lot of attention and care to keeping up the appearance of stability. Since we spend so much time hiding our drinking from the world so we can appear like we have it all together, something splits within us. Long after we quit drinking, those double-life leading habits tend to linger. It takes time to realize that we are not hiding anything anymore. We are not keeping something shameful with us that requires constant monitoring and controlling, not in portions but protection and privacy. Drinking the way that I drank meant that there were plenty of unspoken close-calls and an almost impressive amount of caution and damage control.
Hiding these behaviors, also encourages the sliding scale of beautiful and terrible. It feeds the feeling of unique, separate, and alone. The more secrets and shameful behaviors that we keep hidden, the harder it is to accept ourselves completely because we still feed into the idea that there is something innately better or worse about us compared to everyone else. This is where the ego eliminating attitude of A.A. comes from. Twelve step programs work for so many people because of its idea that community and sharing will help reveal the similarities that allow us to step away from our secrets. This is why “You Are Not Alone” hangs in big letters on the walls of most meeting rooms. This is the most comforting news to someone in active addiction, or someone who is on day one of sobriety. That news saved my life at one point. I do want to note that even though I have my own path now, the two years of love and understanding I had in A.A. have only strengthened my journey. I would not be where I am now without it.
Rebuilding trust in ourselves and in other people takes time. Many of us have shared unfair relationships with a lack of respect for our own emotional codes, so we have learned to mistrust others and fight for basic things like respect and the feeling of love. This break in human bonding makes it difficult to feel a part of or willing to give up control because in the past other people have manipulated our power balance. These are traumas, and we are stronger for speaking them out, so they do not surface in other self-soothing methods. We need to feel a bond with other humans.
Forgiveness cannot be faked or hurried as much as we would like to think it can, and as we unfold our secrets this is also a form of learning to forgive ourselves. This is not about fixing ourselves or boot camp drilling us into a line. We have all spent enough time forcing ourselves into molds and lives that do not belong to us for our recovery to give us more of the same. This is not about covering up our true feelings about what happened through other people’s quotes and other people’s motivational seminars. No one can tell you how to grow or expect you to grow on a timeline of their understanding. Those aids and frames are lessons to help get us where we are going, but they are not the whole picture. This is true connection. We are allowed to let others in without feeling the need to shape shift into something that will please them. Real change comes with self awareness and the awareness of others. Take one thing at a time at first just like you take one day at a time. I had a sponsor tell me at one point, to take things one hour at a time. People supporting people in the sober community will find this if they are serious about recovery. This is the proper white flag response as a community. It means knowing how it feels to be where someone else is now without judgement. This is where we are needed the most. We need to lose the ego and embrace the journey.
It takes time to notice that you are not on vacation from something that’s been playing house in your head for a very long time. This is your life now. You are not on a temporary break from the way things were, so it might take a little while to get used to the set up in your mind. It will take persistence, and it may not be perfect because life lessons do not happen when things go right from my experience. I know we will reach that place on the hillside. The Fantasia dream from the other night will always be a chasing game, and I do not know where the ladder comes from. I only know that it exists. The belongingness will always keep me wondering, but it is possible to find a healthy sense of value in the world. We can share our experience. This is what the “healing not victory” means. We are learning to live and love, not to win because winning is a personal experience. It will not look the same for everyone. ❤ (Reminder: You are not lost.)
For more on the sobriety journey, follow The OAM on Instagram @the_oam, and check out The OAM facebook page. ❤