“I got my own self by my side
And mentally we gotta be free
I see the wickedness coming full speed
But I hold together like the ball needs the seam
I’m trying to do something not nothing,
You’re trying to hold me back and that’s fine
Nothing you say or do is worth my time
Good day to you, I respectfully decline
And now I’m coming stronger than ever
You say I’m a fool I say whatever
I’m in it for the good vibes together
And the love lasts forever
No time for the wicked, If you’re in my line, I’m a go around the side and still bring it
Sky is the limit, Out of my way, You can’t get me down”
-Rebelution, “Sky is the Limit”
An unusually brisk, overcast morning befell us for what was a normally bright, sunny, and vibrant environment – even in late January – even in the cloudy, emotional wake of my recent relapse, where I came to, in the middle of the desert, in a motel somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with virtually no clue of what, when, why or how this could have happened again. Other than finding out it had been a week since I checked in, the rest is and will remain a mystery other than what I learned about through third party accounts and following a rather confusing and nonsensical paper trail. This particular day, my treatment center had made arrangements for us to venture out on a hike; part of the physical aspect of resyncing mind, body, and spirit; in my case, a personal attempt to honestly harmonize them for the first time. The expedition started with a steady descent, accompanied by my latest rehab battalion, into one of a plentitude of canyons located along the Southern California coastline.
Almost immediately, I got the distinct feeling that this slide down into the foggy, gray canyon was metaphorically speaking to me; representing where my life plummeted to yet again by a series of bad decisions, disrespect for the power of this disease, and becoming complacent in my program (or lack thereof by this point); the seemingly never ending downward spiral that, when all is said and done, undeniably requires a decision to be made, if I even survive the whole ordeal in the first place. The first is to continue on downward; just give up altogether and succumb to the almighty power of Alcohol, slowly fade away into misery, despair, and ultimately concede to its mastery over me. The other, to admit defeat, fully surrender, and start the ever increasingly difficult backtracking; laboriously forcing myself into the uphill battle to regain some semblance of self-respect, dignity or, at the very least, an ability to look myself in the mirror without filth and disgust staring back at me.
At a certain point, we happened upon a fork in the trail; yes, a literal option to go one of two ways; not referring to a metaphorical, “fork in the road”, ladies and gentlemen. As a unit, we chose the way to proceed and our pilgrimage continued on to wherever it was we were going to end up. I’m rather confident in my belief that nobody really had any idea as to where this path led; we could have been marching towards the cult-like initiation ceremony featuring some insanely bizarre chanting and a human sacrifice for all I knew, but hey, wouldn’t that be quite the story to tell, huh? Fortunately, for whatever imaginary person being sacrificed for the, “greater good”, of some looney belief, we never came across such an event; I apologize to all you sicko’s out there for not having a tale of human sacrifice to share today.
(The Abandoned Barn we Came Across)
After a while, a clearing in the forest presented itself; lingering fog remained settled in between the range of hills that towered over us. A strange sense of uneasiness flooded over me; like I was in the presence of something mysterious or experiencing an infrequent phenomena of sorts. Off to the left of the trail in the field was an old, abandoned barn surrounded by chain-link fence and topped with barbed wire; a spot where graffiti artists and taggers would come to create and express their art; a form of art that I have always found fascinating and different; an entire subculture devoted to it in fact – one of which I am not nearly knowledgeable enough or qualified to comment on, but I have met a few people and made some friends in recovery that were involved in the scene. Whether it be considered criminal or not, in my opinion it’s one of the coolest and most creative ways to be rebellious if those were the cards you’ve been dealt as an individual. It was, however, also a place where junkies and alcoholics would come to become isolated from society, in the darkness, traveling through time and space with no purpose or direction – just a needle, a bottle or, perhaps both.
(A Glimpse Inside)
Amidst my fascination of this whole experience, which was starting to feel very spiritual and meaningful for me, I envisioned myself seeking shelter in a place like this if I continued down the path I’d been traveling; one of relapse after relapse – loss, loss, and more loss; pain, suffering, misery – to the point that, where from a societal and legal perspective, I’m technically homeless – the address on my driver’s license is that of my treatment facility’s main corporate office because I had nothing else to put; I’m no different from those folks hanging in that abandoned barn that suffer from what I suffer from, except in the cases where other serious mental illnesses are in the mix, of course. I went from living with my wife and kids in a household pulling in around $120,000 a year at one point, to being technically homeless, and it all happened pretty quick. I feel like I’m already living on borrowed time; time that is going to expire. I’ll be given no more chances to get it right; just a six-foot hole in the ground with a stone on the surface; name, dash, and some numbers; a dash that I really don’t want representing a life wasted or purposeless – but my fear and reality of the situation is that’s exactly where I’m headed if I don’t fully give myself to this thing called Recovery right now.
As we made our ascent from the canyon that day, rays of sunlight started piercing through the clouds, burning off the layer of fog down below; healing that dismal, gray environment. Coincidence? Maybe, but what I really believe is that the God of my understanding has been with me all along, and that day, was showing me He has not left my side and does not ever intend to, no matter what I do or how many times I fail, as long as I keep trying; I can’t say that about many people here on Earth, that’s for sure – at some point, most give up on me, or are embarrassed by me, or don’t want to acknowledge who it is I am in the interest of protecting their own interests or reputation and that’s just how other people are. I’ve made promises that I have not kept; there are those that have made promises to me that didn’t keep them, there were mutual promises made between myself and others – whether they were in the presence of God, of family, of friends, between friends or family, or even with employers. I guess in the end we are all just human and we all have our own struggles; I have to be okay with that – all I can really do is eventually clean up my side of the street and accept whatever it is that happens from there. The important part is that I have to be okay with me; with loving me. I have to be okay believing something, whether or not I call that something God, is bigger and greater than myself.
I threw my shades on and coasted the rest of the way back out of the canyon, enjoying the comforting warmth and essence of connecting with nature and feeling an authentic gratefulness to be alive.