By the sober horse thief
Disclaimer: I am only one entity, speaking for nothing and no one but myself. I do happen to be an active participant in a 12-step fellowship.
There are all kinds of pain, but the pain I want to talk to you about today is loss of a romantic relationship. You see, I’ve always tried to cling to something, someone. The bond I formed with this one boy over the years with desperately holding onto him was toxic. I couldn’t even truly see the depth of the toxicity until it was over for a while. It was all I knew then. My natural state declares to me that I can never form an equal partnership with anyone. My defects attempt to validate that fear. They drove me to push everyone away. I was like that for so long I convinced myself I didn’t need anyone else. That doesn’t mean my sick relationship couldn’t have become anything good. It just means that, in my case, it didn’t. All things happen in their due time and if I follow my recovery program as best as I can I will be properly equipped to deal with it all.
I grew up always looking for love. I thought it would fix me and make me feel okay before the substances. The boy I had to separate myself from became the love of my life. My twin flame, my soul mate. My everything at the time. We came into crippling addiction together and came into recovery together. We had the same common thought patterns and the same appetite for destruction. The kind of bond that is formed in active addiction feels very real. It’s you and them against the world. We never truly got a sober breath together and I don’t think we were ever meant to. This relationship simply marks one phase of my life. The beginning and end of the relationship was the beginning and end of a phase of limiting beliefs, limiting concepts of the universe and a highly limited self-esteem. Phases like that do have to occur, but they’re only meant to be shed, like a butterfly sheds the caterpillar’s dried shell. Deep down I feel the hand that reached for others was really my hand trying to reach for my higher power, my creator, God, or whatever that may be.
I suppose the biggest question is, where do you go from here? What do you do when the world is pulled out from under you and you’re suspended in a completely different reality, startled and confused? That truly is the epitome of getting sober: waking up to a world you had forgotten about. It’s a very rude awakening, sort of like a break up. Your head may tell you the world is a cruel mistress. True the world may seem cruel, but we know that things aren’t always as they seem. I think the things I did to myself were cruel. My intense attachment and dependence on other people is a cruel way to live and I’ve already been told there’s another way…the path of a spiritual solution, whatever that may look or feel like.
My immediate thought when I realized we were over was that I should just end it because I knew a drink wouldn’t be enough to fix me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop drinking and I knew it would bring me lower and lower and I was already as low as I could imagine being.
I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me and I forgot about the God-concept, a common theme in my sobriety. I forgot there was a loving higher power that would see me through everything and anything. I just had to fight to stay connected with it. I believe that it is a huge part of the human experience, fighting to stay connected to the source, a God, if you will. This lifetime I currently live is all about the journey to and away from faith. There are many things that occur that bring me to and away from my higher power. The human experience, in buddhism, is 1,000 joys and 1,000 sorrows. Our suffering, they say, is dependent on how much we resist and fight the sorrows and how desperately we cling to the joys. This relationship was a messy little package of joys and sorrows and I always ran from the sorrows. It seemed it was finally time to face it.
So how do we stay connected with our higher power through pain and sorrow like this? I know for me, if I’m not connecting with other human beings, I am shutting myself off from some of my God. We are all pieces of God and we have the ability to acquire more and more of God as we go on. For whatever reason, the constant contact of human beings with each other is important. I need to keep up with my friends, or build new friendships if I was to survive. And even regardless of that, my love for him had to go somewhere and I funneled it into my platonic relationships with others. I could not go through this alone. I wouldn’t have made it.
Trying to be of service to this world and its inhabitants is monumental to my heart’s recovery from painful events. A huge core concept to my disease of addiction was self-centeredness. This ensured that any heartbreak could be the single most devastating thing on the planet. So, after our breakup, not only was I to build friendships, I had to find ways to be useful to others. This started from listening to others and turned into powerful moments of exchanging experiences and emotions. I try to help others by connecting them to their own personal God or their higher power. I try to do random acts of kindness. I try to do whatever I can to think about myself less. I do not do any of this perfectly, but I know that the less of me there is, the more God can step in and restore my heart. I was told that service would change my heart, and that has been true for me. The struggle I still have is continuing the momentum of that selfless service once I’ve started it.
I also resolved to become my own best friend, referring to myself in loving terms and touching myself with care and tenderness. I have to treat my physical body as if it is a blessing, and it does not usually or always feel that way. I’ve learned in recovery to do that. I use scrubs, moisturizers, nail polish, and regular hygiene habits to keep myself feeling my best. I try to eat three meals a day, carry water with me and do stretches and exercise. My physical body is connected to my mentality. I must treat it well if I want it to help me to perform positive mental tasks. This did not all come overnight, but it did come at some point because I kept going back to it and feeling the positive effects. Overall, I try to be gentle with myself, as if I were training a puppy.
Since I first came into sobriety unwilling to ever leave him, my sobriety and happiness deepened after we parted ways. It can be a seriously transformative experience if you stick with the pain and ride it out. As much as I love to have a solution, sometimes the real solution is just to sit on my hands and feel the pain. I can become obsessed with the spiritual solution the same way I was obsessed with using drugs and alcohol. Sobriety is a little different because I can’t always make the pain stop, but if I’m sober, I know that the pain will stop. Whereas in active addiction, I can run from the pain for a moment, but the pain never goes away for good and I can’t keep it from catching up to me.
My relationships with my friends are at a new level, deeper and more valuable than ever before. Since I don’t have the emotional support of a romantic counterpart, I get to rely on platonic relationships. In my opinion, there is a higher likelihood of those types of relationships staying the same because romance is more difficult to keep afloat. These people keep me grounded and safe. I believe my higher power works through them to help me stay sober and progress into my highest ideal self.
The reason my spirituality really took off after this breakup was because of how deeply this union ran into my soul. I was already trying to work hard at a program of recovery when I was with him, but I began seeking spiritual practices in a way I hadn’t before. I pick and choose various practices, prayers and vice versa and see if it clicks with me and responds to my needs and feelings. I believe everyone is able to cultivate a spiritual awakening in different ways. Some things that respond to me might not respond to you, and the other way around. For me, I got deeply entrenched in a 12-step program. Through the 11th step, which is basically seeking more of God, I looked into a lot of crystal healing, pagan rituals and other spiritual literature.
The Course on Miracles book comes highly regarded by me and others. Interestingly enough, I picked it up off a bookshelf before I ended things with this boy and never opened it until after we were over. I noticed that a page was marked with a note and I curiously flipped to the page. “Lesson 46: God is the love in which I forgive,” met my face. I always chuckle a little bit when these sorts of things happen because they have become a frequent occurrence since I began actively seeking my higher power. One of my favorite lines from this passage is, “Forgiveness is the great need of this world, but that is because it is a world of illusions.” There is so much we don’t see and don’t understand. The things that happen to me are only there to shape me into a human being capable of more happiness. I do not need to stay resentful of those painful things that have made that possible. Resentment is a very human process that we do have to go through, but staying in it long-term is our choice. The passage continues to say that those that forgive are releasing themselves of the illusions and those that withhold forgiveness only bind themselves to them. I encourage you to seek and go your own way towards a personal spirituality. More will constantly be revealed in the order it needs to be when I stay close to a God of my own understanding. It has never let me down.
But Then I Didn’t
we bonded over cigarettes and detention
we found love in a hopeless place within each other
our hearts on our sleeve, but our souls in a desolate fortress
i worshipped his beauty, while he praised mine
they tell me its a spiritual malady, a soul sickness
that makes me reach out for anything that is not me
i tell them it never had anything to do with god, it never will
they said, maybe it should.
we followed each other into the abyss,
our own lights shining so faintly that we were all we could see.
us against the world, ride or die, and i most certainly died.
so sick that when i started getting better,
I felt myself falling out of love
so sick that i would pray to god for something awful to happen
because otherwise i would never let you go
so sick that i felt like i could never leave,
so i lied to myself about what it meant to be with you.
see, when you feel like you can’t leave a situation,
that situation stops becoming real.
in my head, we were twin flames, starcrossed lovers,
a beautiful bow on a god-awful mess.
and in a way we were all of those things,
i will never regret our time together.
i needed you to live,
but then i didn’t.
i want you to find the same happiness.