I remember as a child before going to sleep, I’d turn the lights off and dash straight for the bed. I’d strain my eyes open, desperately seeking light- that minute of waiting felt like an eternity. I’d initially feel a sense of dread staring into the nothingness of the air, nothing could be seen beyond the opaqueness of the night. In that minute I’d think, “there is nothing, I am nothing.” I was small, consumed by a great void. This terrorized me. But as the minute passed, the darkness faded. Small rays of light dispersed through the room and I’d begin to see. I could see myself. I was put together. I wasn’t so small after all. I could look at my surroundings…my hands, and smile. The wonderful realization about this process was coming to understand later that no matter how dark I had perceived my surroundings to be, the light was always there, waiting for me to grasp it. I just had to hold on and patiently trust it would show up.
On a psychological and emotional level, we lose precious souls because it becomes too dark within. A moment of despair can feel like an eternity where light never comes. We desperately look around. We become restless. We feel small. We say we’re nothing or nothing matters. But the night is only temporary, it was only a reaction to a sudden change we needed to adjust to. The light is coming. It has come. You are awake… you look at yourself. You’re not so small. As a matter of fact, you’re pretty f****** beautiful. You love yourself more, and best of all, you’ve learned to love the night.
I always thought that statement was pretty tacky, something someone said when they had had no other way of consoling a friend in crisis. In times of difficulty, a few friends used these words and I’d brush them off, reflecting on the corny nature of the statement. As if four words can take away the burden of the presenting problem. I’d think how easy it was for them to say those words, those wasteful words they’d assume had some profound affect and I would snap out of my depression and resume a happy life all because I was “not alone.” But then one day it got pretty dark…so dark that I doubted I’d ever come out of it. Then, I heard the words “you are not alone.” These words became the flickering light in the depths of despair by which I was able to find my way back again.”
If you are hurting and in a dark place, please remember, you are not alone…
“During the dark night there is no choice but to surrender control, give in to unknowing, and stop and listen to whatever signals of wisdom might come along. It’s a time of enforced retreat and perhaps unwilling withdrawal. The dark night is more than a learning experience; it’s a profound initiation into a realm that nothing in the culture, so preoccupied with external concerns and material success, prepares you for.” ― Thomas Moore, Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals
We would all like to believe that the ending of our drug use signifies the dawn of bliss and enlightenment. Abstinence has often been perceived as a time where one immediately obtains clarity in a Utopian state of interpersonal stillness. This is not so with the addict, for with early recovery comes an ocean of uncertainty and inner turmoil. The reemergence of long suppressed emotions present themselves tenfold in every waking moment. Along intense fear, the addict grieves his drug and if he is committed to change, he will mourn it like a close friend. After all, his drug was what brought comfort, assurance, belongingness, and escape. Once the addict gives up his “acting out” he immediately finds himself in this transitional phase, an impenetrable voided state that symbolizes the in-between of a tumultuous past of active addiction and a clouded murkiness of uncertain possibilities in the future. In this place he hears or sees little and his only weapon is his ability to feel his way through the darkness.
In recovery no road is the same. While all share a common problem, the path to obtaining a solution is quite unique. There are many who have found recovery and although they share their experience with others, they can’t quite fully describe their ‘turning point.’ This is because this kind of change cannot be explained or taught. This experience can only be felt. Many who have gone down this road will understand this kind of obscurity. The transitional phase becomes clear in the heart but breeds confusion in the realm of logic. The addict that stands here will face loneliness from leaving the old life behind. Departing from old friends means attempting to make new ones which can be difficult due to an addict’s limitations with forming healthy friendships. These bonds take time–changing habits, lifestyles, and rituals take time. The interim is characterized by doubt, self-pity, depression, and fear. It’s surprising that few people realize that more devastating for the addict than using is abstinence.
I once heard someone say that the human race can be compared to a spaceship going thousands of miles an hour and none of us really know the destination. This can apply to early recovery in which addicts suffer from a common malady– facing an uncertain future but it is that uncertainty that paves the way to humility and enables reliance upon each other through the obscure phase of abstinence. The fact that you are not alone in the darkness, that others have gone through similar bottoms, that you can openly share on events you once thought you’d take to the grave, and are accepted for your brokenness rather than what you think you should be-serves as the guiding light in finding one’s way through the dark.
Difficult times are the catalyst for genuineness. It gives us clarity into what we really need: Each other.