You’d think it’d be simple to tell your own story.
We share our stories with each other all the time and hardly even seem to notice we’re doing it.
But perhaps that’s because we don’t tell the whole story.
In a real story there’s little absolute truth and there’s rarely finite understanding.
There are also no heroes or villains in a true story.
But while we can choose who we want to be at any given moment…
sometimes we aren’t able to be who we are yet.
And even if we are able to do this…
nobody is a hero or a villain all of the time.
The sharp shriek of rubber on dim lit linoleum takes me back three years in time as suddenly as it pierces the silence. That and the smell.
The musty air of the center at the centre of the air. The passages now almost dark as the group drifts out in ones and twos. Voices hushed to respectful whispers or guilty murmurs, depending on their time in this place.
I walk alone, head down, shoulders inevitably hunched. Avoiding eye contact and the conversation that may ensue out of friendly camaraderie for our similarities and not our differences. It’s something that’s bound to happen because, here, the newcomer comes first and it’s been long enough, since I’ve walked these halls sharing my experience, strength and hope with the wide-eyed recently found, for me to not be recognised in this part of town.
I wonder briefly what happened to the others, met here and almost befriended some years before, and I secretly hope they are safe.
“How did I end up here again?” I wonder to myself as I tread lightly down the wide stairs, also linoleum sealed and shiny even in the dim light. The entire building so clean. So attempted sterile. A grim, worn polished exterior and that sharp, musty smell filling everything up to even the high ceiling.
The community center is cold at night and I hunch my shoulders further as I finally step out into the car park, carefully avoiding eye contact with the here socially acceptable huddle of smokers already lit up and eyeing me curiously. I slip past and make for my car to light up alone in relieved silence. They say you reach a stage in your recovery when a meeting a day won’t cut it anymore and you’re only okay when you’re on a 12 Step call. I guess I’ve arrived at that station.
My musing on how did I get here again has little to do with drugs and alcohol this time. It’s the wondering of how a life that had taken three years to rebuild with a ton of effort, sacrifice, grit and courage could’ve been burned to the ground again in less than two years. And by life I mean myself more than the material stuff. How could I end up walking back through these doors in desperation and, knowing everything I know about these rooms and the strangers inside them…
how could I still feel so fucking alone?
I’m relieved to be inside the car. I’m relieved to be able to light a cigarette in the cozy warmth and fire up the engine, feeling like I have some control over something. The sound system lights up as well as I move off into the busy suburb.
I’m almost at peace now. I always feel this way when I leave a meeting. A sense of calm. As though I’m moving in a right direction, even though I came to these rooms for multiple years and never really moved that far in the direction I should’ve. I cleaned up though. I cleaned out a bit as well. I even earned a modicum of respect from the people in my circles and almost from myself. Hell… I even began to like myself a bit more. I drive out into the pumping Friday night bar and restaurant district and turn onto the double lane highway back towards the suburbs.
The lights of the city at night always turn me on. I get a rush from the multicoloured dark and the way it blurs as I pass by. Seeing the pixel landscape of them all orange, gold and white, endlessly to the horizon, I imagine the many lives and scenarios playing out at this exact moment across the city. This shape shifts me from lost and lonely into lone wolf as I travel through the night solo, with the option of any destination I choose. It’s a brief twenty minutes of enjoying the sense of freedom and its possibilities until I arrive home.
Home. It doesn’t sound right even as I say it.
I’ve never had a place feel like home.
I turn down the music as I approach the gunmetal security gate and hit the green button on the remote, commanding it to open for me. Control again. Be quiet. Stay undercover. Don’t bother the neighbours. Don’t make a scene. Don’t stand out. Don’t let people talk. I can feel myself pulling up the defences and shutting myself down even as the gate rumbles to a close behind me. I’m in the thick of the suburbs. Somewhere I never saw myself ending up.
Hitting a Friday night meeting in a dodgy suburb, over twenty minutes drive from home, may well be seen as the “gift of desperation” so often heard in over-earnest shares in recovery. I get it though. It rings true. It sure as hell did for me when I finally made it through those doors. I was desperate and I would’ve done anything suggested to find relief. But it was relief from the isolation and despair I was seeking the most. The final residing place of addiction. And it was in those rooms that I, honestly, felt like I was home for the first time.
The drugs and the alcohol were the easy part to quit. Bar the inevitable social awkwardness, at now infrequent parties, and the inevitable early retreat to avoid dealing with enthusiastic drunken revellers, as they descended into what they thought were sexier, funnier versions of themselves. There was loneliness in sobriety as well. But I chose it.
I chose to walk in two worlds of people, places and things. I’ve never committed myself to a group in all my life. I’ve moved between environments and transformed myself to suit different situations, never allowing anyone to get too close. I’d unconsciously become a master at this later on in life, so it went to follow I refused to commit to a 12 Step group as well.
Still, over the years, I built up a network of cool, sober friends. I did service for my 12 Step home group. I was in service for “Hospitals & Institutions” at a local lock-down facility once a week. I had four sponsees, and my own sponsor, to keep me sane in an insane world.
So how did I end up here again? Seemingly back to square one, as confused and full of despair as when I first walked through these doors so many Just for Todays ago. Feeling completely alone again. Worse this time because now I regretted the life I’d abandoned when the first time I abandoned my life…
I’d only felt immense relief.
It all began with a question.
One simple question that I couldn’t seem to let go of.
“If addiction is trauma related, why can’t it be healed?”
I had little idea that I’d receive my answer to this question one day, or what I’d have to experience to receive it.
I had no idea that the answer to this question wasn’t even what I was asking for.
The Accidental Theory: A journey to freedom