We get so used to living our stories that sometimes we forget the power our stories can have for others, forget the power of community and human connection and how in sharing our truth we help give others courage to share theirs as well.
I spent my Friday evening listening to stories. Surrounded by laughter, thoughtfulness and styrofoam cups of coffee, I sat in a circle at a 12 step meeting, there in support of my husband who was asked to be the speaker and share his story. This past March marked his seventh year anniversary of sobriety.
As I sat listening to him talk I was struck by the same thought I always have when he gets to the grit and dirt of his recovery tale- that he shouldn’t be here, that he should be dead based on the path he was walking down the ugly disease of addiction. And yet here he is, sharing in this circle, carrying the message to others who have struggled with addiction and putting into practice the steps he’s taken throughout the years to stay sober.
When the meeting opens to shares, I choose to share. I tell the group who I am, tell them about our trip to L.A. last spring, tell them how we walked by the river where the worst of the worst went down, tell them how I walked under the bridge, tell them how I looked at the place he once lived when things finally hit rock bottom, and he didn’t see himself ever coming back up.
This world is full of miracles that happen on their own accord and in their own time: we think we know the way things are going to go and then life makes other plans.
Life gave him a miracle in the form of a black Labrador named Sam, a driver whose name he doesn’t remember (but who I affectionately think of as Clarence the Angel) and just about the longest van ride you can ever imagine from the dark of the streets of the City of Angels to the light of sobriety in Salem, Oregon. Someday I will tell this story in greater detail, but for the purpose of this post let’s just say that there is always hope in desperate places, someone is always, always listening, and we truly never know when Life will reach in and give a helping hand.
I end my share with saying that the fact that he is alive and well and free today is its own kind of miracle. How I pushed to have our wedding in Oregon so he could stand in front of the family and friends who never thought he would live to see the day. How I spoke in our vows that the fact that he was standing before me, before all of us “was proof that Life and Love redeems us.”
I suppose there are some people who in the getting to know you stages of a relationship would have ran in the other direction when they heard the words addiction and recovery; the thought never even entered my mind. I like to think I ran straight towards hope, ran straight towards courage, ran towards the kind of person who had sat with his darkest demons and still found a way to find his way out to the light.
My god, this is a man who will not run when life gets hard and the clouds come and I lose my sunlight, I thought. This is the kind of person who, no matter how grudgingly, has had to admit to vulnerability and learn to break open against the shores of life, who has learned to reform himself into something more tender, yet infinitely more powerful, than he was before. This is somebody who knows what it is to choose love. To choose life.
Of course I ran straight towards it.
The fact is that if you are walking around and breathing, you will be broken by this world. It is not a matter of whether it will happen, it is a matter of where and when and how. A matter of what we choose to do with those pieces. A matter of struggling with the whys and finding our own sense of resolution that allows us to evolve beyond a previous space of self and step into our own grace and light.
We all have our stories. Many of us are in the process of living those stories as they unfold, not quite knowing how the current chapter will end, choosing to have faith in the process and hold to the belief that if you brave the dark of not knowing, you will eventually find your way back to the clarity of sun. Last night I was once again reminded that no matter who you are or how black the path may seem, that change is always possible and we are never alone in the dark.
Life and love can always redeem us, if we let it. And when you find the people who are busy letting their hearts be arranged and offering them up for the changing, when you find those places in life where courage and transparency and brave heartedness dwell, when you find situations or places or relationships that transform you through the bittersweet beauty of the hope in humanity:
Run straight in that direction.