The Art of Beginning

Jewels of Elul Blog Tour

“This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T’shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning… Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th – September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.”

I got involved with this writing project through Leah Jones/@chicagoleah. I realize that I’m not Jewish, but I think that anything that is about renewal, especially something that benefits a treatment center is something I can get behind. Helping others recover from something that seemingly has them beat is where I see truth and where I see hope. That’s really where it comes together for me. That’s the major renewal I can personally point to that turns me upside down and gets me on a path that really goes somewhere.

You all know the story. May 2001, I’m diagnosed manic-depressive and shit goes to hell from there. Outpatient for three weeks lands me inpatient on the fourth. Coming out, my close friends are done with me. There’s longer stories there on all counts, but the end result is that no one I considered my close compadre is willing to have anything to do with me; in fact, they are pushing me away at lightning speed. I have two friends left whose patience is saintly, because they only had to hear about how much I was destroyed by losing the lot of them.

Months pass being depressed and desperate and without the solution and saving grace of smoking marijuana or sweet Captain Morgan. Eventually, I timidly return to the drink, but only for a little relief and to prove I really am not an alcoholic. The fall turns to winter, and I fall to a long-distance relationship I know is not right for me, but will serve as substitute for the something that is ever missing in me, the something I can’t know is just a spiritual void. God, if you want to have a shorthand and aren’t being afraid of being called a “Jesus freak,” which I still sometimes am after all these years.

But that relationship is the last straw to my emotional bottom and toward a 12-step program (in January of 2002) that would finally reconnect me with that “Higher Power,” “Spirit of the Universe,” “Creative Intelligence,” oh my God, I just will say God, I’m so lazy! And slowly, ever so slowly, things would change as I very reluctantly took the steps/suggestions/directions given to me that would ease my worried mind/soothe my savage soul/rest my restless spirit.

Years later, I have changed in oh, so many ways. And due to my insolent stubbornness, so many things have stayed the same. Friendships have been mended, attitudes have been revised, resentments have melted. Habits have clung, ego has fought and mistakes have been repeatedly made. I am only as good as I allow the universe to make me. I am only as virtuous for as many of my defects I surrender on any given day.

But in the last six months or so, I have been called upon to use my experiences to help others. I have been in countless situations where my previously hurtful, sad, confusing and bewildering experience has been turned to good account. I can’t tell you the number of phone calls, tearful conversations and ER visits I’ve been involved in where *I* am the voice of reason — the person who has been there, done that, and who has genuine knowledge and understanding to pass along. Who knows what needs to be handled, what will pass, and what will endure as a legacy to it all.

I’ve been the one who knows to suggest a good doctor, to bring a notebook, to have a good book along, and to know what signs to watch for. I know what side effects are common, I know what doctors are good and when a doctor isn’t so kind. I know how to advocate and I know how to hold on tight when you think nothing will ever get better. And I know that sometimes the only way to change and come out the other side something new and stronger is to go through a trial by fire. But I know that despite the horror, it really does leave one forged in a way that no one can ever come close to understanding unless they’ve been there. And I’ve been there.

It’s a strange thing, really. To welcome it all. But I can say without a doubt that I know now that it really all happened for a reason. That much is beyond clear. It comforts me to know. It truly makes me feel like it really wasn’t for naught. And it’s just another piece of the puzzle I can pass on to those who come after me; those who are just starting their own metamorphosis and who are convinced this is only the worst thing that could ever happen. I can stand back and let them know it’s just the start of something new.

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