There are many things in my life that I have some very fond memories of. There are also many events from my life that I am less than pleased with. Truthfully I do not believe myself to be alone on either one of these points. Every person has a few skeletons in their proverbial closet to be sure. Whether or not they will admit to such is something else altogether. Myself- for all intents and purposes, was left little choice in that matter when I decided it was indeed time to become a sober individual. I needed to firstly admit I had a problem and in doing this I had to take a damn good hard look into my own sense of self in order to start anew. Intrinsically a difficult and sometimes downright impossible thing to hold one's self accountable for.
Step Eight of the 'Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous' states; 'We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all', is described in this fashion from the text, 'Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions' ; 'This and the next two steps are concerned with personal relations. Learning to live with others is a fascinating adventure. Obstacles: reluctance to forgive; non-admission of wrongs to others; purposeful forgetting. Necessity of exhaustive survey of past. Deepening insight results from thoroughness. Kinds of harm done to others. Avoiding extreme judgments. Taking the objective view. Step Eight is the beginning of the end of isolation.' One could say, with the exception of the part, 'learning to live with others is a fascinating adventure', this is indeed a very tall order.
I have to admit when I first attempted Step Eight, well, let's just say I was far from thorough. This of course was brought to my attention quite quickly by my then counselor of the moment, (bless her heart) she made me realize that by no means had I accomplished the task I had set out to do if in fact I wanted it to have any long term affect and effect on the rest of my days. Needless to say, I was less than pleased with her response to my effort. I was actually somewhat angry with her, and she knew it. Yet after some soul-searching and perhaps a little bitching to myself I understood completely what it was she was trying to impress upon me.
Utter and complete honesty was the only way this was going to have any purpose. So I tried again, then ripped it up, gave it a hell of a lot more insight, thought, perspective, and then mulled it all over just a wee bit longer and what I came up with was nothing short of a freakin' novel. Well two novels to this point.
Interestingly enough, after 'Step Eight' comes- yes you guessed it- 'Step Nine' and this is where the harder part of the hard part comes into play. 'We made directs amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.' Recently I have finally had some closure with a particular person in regards to 'Step Nine' and I gotta say, it feels pretty good. Even though she held no animosity whatsoever towards me, having this bit of closure for me was monumental in this journey of mine. I really have not gone into any of this step work with the idea that having someone accept my apology would make everything all better, that all of my past indiscretions would simply be wiped away, the slate would be clean, you know forgive and forget and all of that crap. That's not the way this works.
The act of apologizing is more the admittance of a wrongdoing, in all reality what a person is trying to do is to forgive themselves. That's it. Most miss this little point. If indeed one cannot forgive oneself, one will never be able to apologize to another with any sense of completion. It just will not feel as an accomplishment of one's goals, that being forgiveness. The reality though is, that forgiveness may never come dependent upon one's particular set of circumstance. I have been very lucky in this regard.
As when we were children, we were taught collectively, if we acted in a way so as to bring harm to another, in any form, usually an improper word was all it took to hurt another's feelings, we would apologize. Simple right? Unfortunately as adults things are not quite that simple. We can and do act in ways that indeed causes harm to others. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Addiction can be funny that way in the sense that well, one is unaware of those senses for the most part. The ease in which we can hurt others, emotionally and physically, is all too real. Generally we are oblivious to this fact from being under the influence. One of the things that can make a successful 'Step Eight' and 'Step Nine' so very difficult. That being the lack of a conscious memory because of the addiction.
In my case I have found the longer I am sober, the more memories that arise for me. Things I had completely forgotten about because of being so drunk for so very long. The kicker is trying to decide if these memories are real or perceived. Typically they are going to be real, but not always. Some of the memories I have had were simply a replay of a past event that previously held no meaning, and now returning in such vivid detail I must undergo a thorough and extensive evaluation of such memories to simply just determine their meaning before deciding whether or not anything can be done to right the wrong if there happens to be a wrong to begin with. Shit, like I didn't have enough on my mind already just trying to accept this new life of sobriety. Now I have to figure my past out at the same bloody time?
I find it comforting in these instances though to look back on those memories of the past that I do recall, such as with some of those black and white photos above. My grandfather for instance. Of him I have nothing but found memories of my youth, the time spent together at the lake with my siblings, taking turns paddling in the kayaks he made with his own two hands. The kindest man I think I have ever known. Did he ever have to apologize for anything? Yup, I'm sure he did, many times, although that gives me strength in my own quests now.
'To forgive is to forget' does not really ring true, to be forgiven is a blessing, yet we must never forget our wrongs simply to assure we never again repeat those past indiscretions......
Sobriety is hard, but the rewards are damn straight worth the effort.
The reasoning behind my motives are quite simple, what you are looking at is something I have the pleasure of seeing on a daily basis. This photo was taken behind the Salvation Army Harbour LIght Addictions Treatment facility in Vancouver. On any given day this can be seen first thing in the morning and then there are crews of former drug addicts and some still currently using addicts that roam these back alleys and clean this nonsense up. This particular picture is rather tame in contrast, typically it will be twenty to thirty plus used syringes- just outside the frame of this photo there were enough of them, most containing blood inside them to prompt me to call a service that comes and cleans this up in a safer manner than those which I have mentioned. Cherry pickers and surgical gloves, approved bio-hazard containers- the whole nine yards. The syringe in this photo is unused, the garbage strewn around here went on for twenty feet in all directions, there was quite a shindig on this particular evening. Many people got very high and apparently made a hell of a lot of noise in the alley. How do I know this? Well directly above this mess are the rooms of the clients in this treatment program. What a lovely thing for a recovering addict to see eh? So of course when feeding them breakfast the morning this picture was taken, the gossip was about the noise and the police and the arrests and the ambulances- all that had taken place in this alley the previous evening. Lovely eh?
This does beg the question- "How in the name of Christ is anyone going to recover in these conditions?" Seems next to impossible odds doesn't it...the thing is the odds of recovery are very slim to begin with, especially on the first attempt- that's just the way it is. Most addicts that enter treatment are not there because they want to be. More so with this facility, a good number of the men here are court-ordered to be here. The odds that they will stay clean when they leave are slim to none, they'll use and they will end up getting thrown back in the 'hoosegow' and the process starts all over again- until they get it- or they die. It truly is a frightening thing to watch over and over again. I have seen many people perish from this form of internal struggle. I have lost friends to this- some much closer than others, so many now I have lost count, as much as I hate to admit it- I have honestly lost count.
So why do I stay? A fair question...
I've been lucky, one of the things that has kept me sober for this long has been the sheer number of what I will refer to as, 'the atrocities of addiction' (just because I like the phrase), that I have seen during my stay in the Downtown East side. Originally I had a very hard time for a long time even going out the front door of the facility by myself. I did not want to be alone, it scared me, seriously frightened me to walk these streets any time of the day. What I was seeing I did not want to be a part of and it instilled in me a need to stay clean for fear of ending up on these streets. I truly was that close. Still scares me.
Three and half years later, I now worry these streets are having the exact opposite effect. Now I fear that I will give in and once more start to participate in those 'atrocities' all over again. This scares me even more. Just over two months ago there was an 'incident' wherein I was compelled from something I witnessed on my way to work, to ring the bell, get off the bus I was riding, and proceed to the nearest liquor store and just get completely knackered. I just wanted to forget, everything, even if only for a short time. It just didn't matter any more- I could not take the internal mental pain I have been witnessing for what seems like an eternity, it had to stop!!
Quite obviously I did not. My counselor Ashley was going to have field day with this. I saw her two days later, told her the entire scenario, and then explained what I was thinking of doing because of this whole sordid affair poking me in the ribs.
Yesterday I quit my job.
Yup the job I had worked so hard to get, returning to a company I once worked for, that I truly loved, something I thought could never ever happen, yet it did through persistence and hard work, yeah that job. I quit. Not because I disliked the job- far from it, the people are wonderful, I could do without the commute yet it does get me out of this godforsaken place I am temporarily calling a home.
It would seem this wonderful place is simply not enough any longer and the time has now come to return to to what I feel is truly my home, or what I want to become the last place I ever reside. Victoria is beckoning, and I am finally about to heed the call. Enough of the horror already. The things I have learned here are many, the people I have met are numerous also. Some I shall never forget, in both good and in bad fashion (not talking about their clothes). Some of these people I will forget quite quickly while others will be an everlasting memory. I believe very few of these individuals I shall ever see again, yet there will be a few. Honestly the time I have spent here has been invaluable yet it is the time for change and this I shall embrace wholeheartedly. New home, new job, new surroundings, the time has come for a brand new chapter to begin.....
I am excited!