Seventeen Metaphors (and a dash of hyperbole)
Verb (used with object)
to get back or regain (something lost or taken away)
to make up for or make good (loss, damage, etc., to oneself).
to regain the strength, composure, balance, or the like, of (oneself).
Six months ago I moved into a house with a few friends after passing the prior four and a half years in what was essentially a glorified basement. In my new place, my bedroom window takes up almost an entire wall. It’s a northeast facing window, and I rarely set an alarm as just the right sliver of light shines around the edges of my new curtains to wake me up with the sun. Outside said window, there is a plum tree, and we are forming a relationship. All that wind a couple weeks ago shook her of her remaining purple leaves and for about a week while I waited for my velvet curtains to arrive the dark barren branches tap-tap-tapped at the window, keeping me up late at night, casting strange shadows at odd angles, like covert transcriptions spelling out the running of my mind across the ceiling.
Rain came next, and overnight, tiny pink blossoms, of course. They have been popping open like popcorn kernels ever since. Small birds (finches, I think? And some wrens) alite on the branches and pluck the blossoms off, unceremoniously spitting them out onto the ground, which might upset me if they weren’t so damn cute as they hop about, singing. Yes, these blossoms tell me spring is nearly here. Their beauty and reach and presence energizes me to keep up the fight during these difficult times. And, plum tree has also become a friend, an external reflecting back to me my own inner blooming when words inevitably fall short.
When you take the long view, as I do, as I am, this tree outside my window is like a map. A rhythm. A cycle not dissimilar to the one I find myself in, that is, the cycle of returning to who I was before I began to run and numb. To a more essential place, trusting that even in moments where I am empty, bereft, stark, cold, that if I simply stay, blossoms are sure to return.
Lately in my yoga classes I’ve been talking about moving through the postures as if the wisest place inside was guiding you. My classes start so so so slowly, we spend at least the first (and last) twenty minutes of a ninety minute class supine, connecting to breath, slowing down, watching our mind, letting our weight down, so to speak. We create a foundation of quiet, introspection, listening. And then as we proceed through the more dynamic poses, we are more able to remember, recall this deeply connected space, and allow it to guide us even during challenging poses (like extended plank holds, say).
So yeah, even though yoga drives me a bit insane, I continue to plug away at my own practice and even though it mostly looks like lying on the floor breathing I can’t deny that it does help. It’s another reason why I chose the name I did for this blog. Most of us in recovery/sobriety got into the messes we did because somewhere along the way there was a rupture in our connection to our wise self. Gut feeling, intuition, the teacher within, our inner compass. So, while part of all this is the obvious freeing ourselves from whatever thing we were hooked on, whatever thing was keeping us in disconnection, another part is slowing down enough to, well, reconnect.
Slowing down and being bored and muddling around through the gunk that is guaranteed to arise when we are feeling life fully and no longer running or numbing is so hard. It’s uncomfortable and itchy, not unlike how I imagine a snake feels as she sheds old skin. When snakes shed they don’t like to be handled, they move far less, their eyes glaze over and their vision becomes cloudy. They are in a vulnerable state, and as they make their way into their fresher form it’s often preceded by a period of quiet and extended stillness as the skin sloughs off and they are eventually able to slither on into the future.
(See what I mean about metaphors?)
There are many resources available to help with early sobriety. The stopping is important (even if stopping takes a while, or comes in fits and starts at first). But then what? How do we stay with ourselves, and all the things that made us check out? Sobriety is not a panacea (if only!), though it is a vital foundation. Steady ground is no small thing (in fact, it’s everything). And, what follows is the work of recovery, not just from substance, but of who we are under all the bullshit. I quit drinking and for at least the first six months I walked around my life feeling like a recently hatched chick, wondering every morning in my writing practice, who am I, really?
We get to choose, we get to build our lives by design. Our task, after the stopping, is to do the (complicated AF) work of creating a life where our inner and outer states align. Where we can lean on this congruence, where we can “regain the strength, composure, balance, or the like, of (oneself).”
This is what emotional sobriety means to me. I can’t change the choices I made, or didn’t make, I can’t change certain behaviors I indulged in over the years, all the ways I hid, there are certain things I said in certain states that I can’t take back. But I can choose to be different now. I can forgive myself. I can pause, I can ask what the wisest part of myself would choose, I can ask myself what fifteen year old Dani would choose. I can slow down. I can look at my life honestly. I can be like my plum tree: Steady. Rooted. Patient. Alive. Connected to seasons, cycles, rhythms of work and rest.
I don’t know what my eventual house will look like. But I’m in this for the long haul. And for the first time in forever, not knowing isn’t terrifying. It’s enlivening. So I’m going to keep going.