Exploring the Wilderness of Discomfort
“The spiritual life is not a theory, we have to live it”. Im on a train. Sitting here I feel for the first time in over a month a feeling I’ve foolishly came to expect to stay. Its been a while since I felt it. Not that long but long enough. Theres been some heavy shit involving a loved one and I’ve resisted the habitual responses and behaviours of my old life. It hasn’t been easy. Im on my way back from a meeting. I shared it out what I’ve been struggling with, what I’ve been resisting! An old timer approached me after and disclosed that even after all his years in the program he still finds it difficult to step aside when it comes to situations regarding his family. He then says something that blows me away. How his desire to fix the problems and end the pains of those he loves really stems from his need to remove the fear he feels regarding how the situation effects him. Honesty! still after five years of hearing it in its most raw and brutal form countless times, still it has the power to make me look at me and my part. I find myself on this train feeling like I’ve threw away the bag of shit I’ve been carrying around for weeks. The stink has gone and I feel light. A feeling I foolishly expected to stay. Expectations – the Mother of all Resentments!!
The train stops at a station. It hangs around longer than usual and I sense something. The driver informs we won’t be going any further. Theres an incident on a bridge ahead. Somebody is going to jump. The driver has been instructed to go back and all passengers are to disembark. Im cool, its not me on the bridge but some other unfortunate soul. They must be well fucked up! The other passengers start to complain. They feel inconvenienced, hard done to, how are they going to complete their journey? What about their night out? Selfish bastards. I resist the urge to let them know they make me want to throw up all over their party clothes. The driver moves to the opposite end of the train and that seems like that. Im cool. Its not me on the bridge but some other sick fuck. Ive ditched the bag of shit I’ve been carrying around for weeks. Unlike the guy on the bridge I’m sure I will get home somehow! Expectations…
“How fragile and strange the simple twist of fate that nudge us on the beam”
A great friend in the program is quick to remind me that our spiritual health is like a battery. We charge it up by practicing what we learn from those on the same path. Over any given period of time that battery starts to flatten. Before I walked into the meeting that night I was running on empty. My friend forgot to inform me, or maybe just took it for granted that I knew, that people or more specifically our reaction to them is what drains this battery. The world is full of sick people. Im sure of this, I should know, Im one of them! The changes brought about in me through daily working of the Steps have been nothing short of miraculous. People I interact with have absolutely no fucking idea, how could they? I barely recognise myself and who Ive become! That doesn’t change the fact the world is full of sick people, everyone of them, including anybody reading this who thinks that no way does that apply to them. After 5 years in the program stepping out of my front door is like an episode of the Walking Dead. Totally oblivious every one to a man! Though I see all my defects, weaknesses and insane shortcomings mirrored back to me at every turn every day my Mr Hyde is never more than sleeping it off!
What happens next is bizarre to a sober mind. But not that many years ago would seem like a misdemeanour mixed in with the reigning chaos of my everyday existence.
Theres a change of plan. The guys either jumped or came down, who knows, but the train is going to continue. I get back on. Im feeling calm and serene, first time in a while. Im enjoying the peace! I find myself in a different seat. At the next station a friend I haven’t met before, a brother from another gets on with his two bitches. Its obvious they’ve been drinking and probably drugging as well. The two girls are having a animated chat, seem to be enjoying themselves. Not my new friend, he seems a bit tight. I get the impression he feels a bit left out. Or maybe he thinks I’m staring at his girlfriends nearly exposed tits. The ones splattered with tattoos. Im guessing tattoos aren’t the only things those saggy monsters have been splattered with. He starts to make comments about me, its jail talk. He obviously thinks I wouldn’t understand. Why would I? I barely recognise myself!
Its been a while since I felt this peace. I was running on empty before the meeting. I expected it to stay. I want it to. The changes brought about in me over the last 5 years… I decide to just sit it out. The world is full of sick people. Im one of them! Hyde begins to stir!
Our friend continues, fancies himself as a real fucking joker. He should be on a stage… or perhaps in a cage! Im looking away, its nearly my stop. Ive really missed this peace, I was expecting it to stay! In my peripheral vision I notice the two lovely ladies glance at me. The peace is starting to fade. At last the train pulls up at my station and I get up. As the doors open our friend decides to make one loud parting comment. Thats fucking it Hyde wakes up! Its over before its started and the closing door siren is still going as I step onto the platform. All very well and good. I remember the days I would have went home and masturbated after such an encounter. Not now, I’ve woke a fucking monster up and he is thirsty! Dark fantasies crowd my mind mixed with a fear of how they make me feel. I tell myself Im been stupid, it’ll quickly pass if I concentre hard enough and wish it away. Like thats ever worked before! I phone my sponsor and we have a good laugh about it. I go to bed practicing the 180 thinking thats got me this far… praying for my sick friend and that all the good I wish for myself he gets his equivalent.
I wake up fuming and full of resentment!
Over the days that follow the disease sticks to me like shit. Resentment feeds the spiritual malady. I feel it getting stronger! My thoughts and emotions become totally unmanageable by me. I know Im back in the killing zone and have to put the proven action into practice quick. People, places and things become weapons my sickness uses to attack me with. A couple of people behave in a spoilt brat childish manner and I take it personally. Normally I would see it for what it is and pity them, but not now, Im hyper sensitive to others’ soul sickness. The illness is raging and Hyde is tempting! My mask is on and I project to the world outside the fellowship that all is ok. Im aware this slips once or twice and can see others’ baffled reactions.
Im making meetings, Im on the phone, Im hammering the 11th Step but its keeping up with me, toe to toe. Laughing and screaming that it can go another round, but can I? On the 5th day the thought comes. The one we dread! Its Hyde. He speaks with my voice. He’s not screaming or laughing anymore but tenderly, almost lovingly… He says “You know what will make this better, it’ll be different this time, just enough to kill the pain. Nobody will know”
He holds me there for what feels like a lifetime. Semiconsciously Im aware that Im entertaining him. Ive got to snap out of it. The clock says Ive got 10 minutes to get ready and head for the meeting. I entertain him longer. Too long, its too late. Im going for a drink! One last gasp effort and I pray for strength and along with it for the obsession and compulsion to be removed. Suddenly I feel utterly exhausted! I decide to go to bed for an hour, that I won’t let any of this stop or disturb my sleep. If the obsession and compulsion is there when I wake up then fuck it, fuck everyone and everything. I promise myself I will get drunk and stay that way. Enough is enough! The darkness swarmed me as my head hit the pillow and I was instantly asleep.
Opening my eyes I was aware it had gone. Through past experience Im also aware how quick it can come back. I spent the next 3 days telling everybody I trust with this shit exactly whats been going on inside me. A deep discomfort settled over me. A residue! This feeling I automatically try to reject. However I no longer trust my automatic responses. This is where the growth takes place, where the lesson appears. The lesson Hyde so desperately wants to rob of me! I need to explore this area. There is grace here that challenges me to step forward, not resistance. Its old habits that try to pull me back, daring me not to step forward into the wilderness of my own discomfort. Stepping forward across the edge of uncharted territories and allow myself to be swallowed by stillness. Choosing the opposite best I can when given the choice. Searching in the darkness and finding a strength not normally mine. This is the lesson. That I can continue to stare myself down, to put my arms around my dark side and hold it tight. Show it love and understanding. Not forcibly reject it. Its a part of me. It demands my attention and it also deserves it!
In the Light we find Love and Compassion. We find Joy and Peace. We find Hope and Contentment. But its only in the Dark that we find our True Strength and Courage. Those things that allow me to pick myself up, dust myself down and say “Bring it on, fuck yeah I can go another round”.
What happens next is what always happens next. After days of been wrapped in Self, completely sick of the sight of sick humans the Universe presents me with an opportunity. Close friends approach me with similar struggles of their own, reaching out for help. With no sign of trench fever in my face I can simply talk with them and say… “Here are the Steps I took”.
“The Darkness in me recognises the Darkness in you” ~ John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher” ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama
“I have fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and I have never seen the day when I did not pray for them” ~ General Robert E. Lee
D&O in Fresno