One of my favorite things about my self is that I have been a lying, cheating, stealing, drug-addicted neurotic bulimic.
I know, not many people would boast proudly of this sort of thing, but I am.
I lovingly refer to this time in my life as my years spent deep in douchbaggary.
Yes, I know this is not an actual word, but it sums up this period of my life perfectly. I lied, to everyone. My sister once told me she could tell when I was lying because I was talking. I stole from everyone. If you knew me then and you had a medicine cabinet, I stole from you.
I committed fraud, lied to numerous doctors, and even used my 2-year-old daughter as a scape goat for my dastardly deeds.
I have puked up thousands of dollars’ worth of food and obsessed fanatically and hatefully about my body.
I drank, a lot, and lied about it. If you saw me have a beer, there were probably four beers you did not see me have. I was so sneaky! I lied as easily as I breathed.
Sneaking, plotting, deceiving—this was the ugly life I had created for myself and I dreamed of running away from this hell. I dreamed of the oblivion of nothingness, if only to escape the bone crushing guilt I felt on a daily basis. My only coping skills were self-medication and escapism. I was hopelessly lost in the darkness. It is only through grace or sheer luck that I avoided arrests and a rap sheet.
And through grace I survived. I could have died many times—drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, ruptured esophagus form vomiting, electrolyte imbalances due to excessive use of laxatives—but I didn’t die, I’m still here.
Am I mad to be proud of such a thing? Yes and no.
It is common to deny our darkness; we push it down where it lurks in the shadows unseen, only to surface when everything is quiet. So we cling to our distractions: radio on, TV blaring. Our dishonesty is not pretty and it makes us uncomfortable. “I’ll pretend it’s not there and maybe it will go away.” I tried this for years but it would not be dismissed and I was forced to look at it.
Through daily meditation, many hours of self-work using “The Work” by Byron Katie and a fierce commitment to honesty, I have come to love my darkness.
I love my vile past because now I can say, with complete certainty, that I do not prefer the darkness, I prefer the light.
All the bad things I have done were completely necessary for me to become who I am now. Some people do not need to try out the darkness, perhaps they got that out of the way last lifetime, but for me it was necessary for my evolution. The sacred and profane, the pure and the corrupt all reside in me and I’m ok with that.
I love my darkness, it has been my gateway to the light and I would not change a thing.
I have experienced the excruciating disability that is active addiction. This understanding and accompanying humility has led to a profound compassion. Working as a nurse I see addiction everywhere: long term pain medication users, deadly septicemia because of IV drug use, end stage liver disease because of alcoholism, the terminal lung cancer patient who cannot stop smoking and countless drug overdoses.
Every day I witness the epidemic of our time: food addiction. We cannot stop eating highly processed sugar and fat laden foods even though we know we have diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease, strokes related to high cholesterol, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and the list goes on. We continue to eat for immediate satisfaction—addiction at its deadliest.
When I meet someone afflicted with addiction I am instantly filled with compassion. I know the pain of feeling out of control, the overwhelming guilt, and I understand the need for relief at any cost.
I cannot help a person overcome their addictions, that’s an inside job, but I can love them anyway. I greet them, look into their eyes, hold their hands, rub their backs and say without words, “I love you anyway.”
I set aside all my judgments, medical agendas and simply sit next to them, appreciating our mutual humanity.
When I look into their eyes my heart swells with recognition, I see myself and to quote Ntozake Shange:
“I love her, I love her fiercely.”
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Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Melanie Tata/Flickr