Last night out with some friends I was asked why, if I had a deep and powerful spiritual practice some years back, why I gave it up. Huh, leave it to friends to ask the hard questions. In the moment I cited getting burnt out on sitting in circles burning sage, and getting embarrassed by being so openly odd, wanting to become “normal”. Both of those are true, but in thinking about it this morning on my walk I realized the deeper, realer, more important answer is… I wrecked it on purpose.
Okay, so… I’m an alcoholic, right? Yup. Still am. This January will mark (g-d willing) seventeen years of sobriety. But at my core, I carry a secret beast that craves self destruction the way howler monkeys crave mangoes. For a long, long time I tried to figure out WHY. I thought if I could identify the root of this little character defects, I could pull it out by said roots, and be free free, greatgodalmightyfreeatlast! Wrong. Truth is, there is no there there. It’s like chasing electrons. The only answer seems to be… I’m an alcoholic. It’s kind of a relief actually. It’s like accepting that I’m never going to be an astronaut. Or a ballerina. Or a figure skater. It narrows the field in a calming fashion.
So… back when my spiritual life was really taking off… back when I was becoming an urban shaman… back when I practiced at my altar many days per month, and walking at Green Gulch was a normal part of my breathing life… things were getting really good. I was in the first five years of my sobriety. Eating organic. Playing music. Enjoying a wide circle of great friends. In school. Kicking ass, taking names. I was writing, getting published, performing, raising a young daughter, doing Waldorf parenting, getting well.
It seems very clear now… I had no idea how to live that way. It freaked me the fuck out. Things got too good, way too fast. I had to wreck it.
I picked a relationship with an unavailable man instead. One who would disappoint me and ignore me. One who would criticize me and find me wanting. One who would abandon me frequently.
I picked a friendship with a woman who was too scared of life to walk her dog, who spent most of her time living through her computer, who controlled most every aspect of our friendship together and hoarded me in her cave, almost demanding that all other humans be excluded from our world together.
I gave up everything else, including organic food, my spiritual life, saving the world from environmental destruction, and most every other aspect of life that had lasting and sustaining value to me. I traded them for a shallower, shinier, high sugar content laden, caffeinated, one dimensional version of a good life. I got naked on the internet and had a lot of really weird casual semi-sexual encounters with near-strangers. My life got very very odd, for quite a number of years.
Flash forward a buncha years… boyfriend married someone else… best friend buggered off out of state and burned our friendship down… being naked on the internet didn’t make me a rich porn star, in fact I lost my house, my investments, and finally lost my business. My daughter survived her childhood, but the teen years were a passage through the valley of the shadow of death.
I’m a poster child for alcoholism. Except it’s not just the drugs and alcohol that destroy lives. It’s the ISM. I can wreck things sober too. Watch me. It’s my mutant super power.
But now… now I’m waking up again. Even a big fuck up like me gets a second chance. Somehow I’ve been lead back again to my own interior. What else is there? All else is fleeting. But my connection with a power greater than myself, that remains. It can get very, very thin at times. I can lose the sight, feel, smell and sound of it. So it’s taking time to reawaken. Like pulling on a thread, in the dark, gently, gently. I don’t want it to snap.
Maybe this time I won’t freak out when things start to get good. Maybe this time I will be able to sustain a slow emergence into the light. Maybe this time I will know where to go when my nasty little beasty wakes up and wants to burn shit down. Feed it cookies. Laced with benedryl. Go back to sleep beasty. I choose life.