Sunday, March 16, 2014

Soul Sunday: Customize Your Spiritual Journey

I wanted to share this piece written by actress, author and friend, Kristen Johnston. She inspires me with her honesty, the time she takes to connect with others and her candidness with everyone she comes in contact with. She is silent no longer about her addiction and recovery which has served to help a great many people.  If you really get honest, we are all in recovery of some kind. From our past,  various substances, people, choices etc. We are also all on our own unique journey, a spiritual journey that we customize. On her 7th anniversary of sobriety (March 10) she shared the following story about her spiritual journey, something we can call relate to on some level.

I'm writing because 7 years ago today I walked into rehab a shivering, mortified, miserable, drunk & high mess. I went to The Meadows, in Wickenburg, Arizona...a town out of the old west, with cowboys, Indians and old storefronts like a set from 'High Noon.' 

I couldn't believe it, but I actually saw tumbleweeds blowing across the dusty road as we pulled in. It was a Sunday, so there was only one Nurse who took her sweeeeeet time checking me in. I was utterly dreading the opiate withdrawals, and begged her for something to offset the symptoms. However, she insisted I was WAY more of an alcoholic, and made me take Librium instead. I wandered around the rest of the evening in a dark murky haze, slurring my words & barely able to walk. NEVER check in to rehab on a Sunday.

Anyway, a friend who's struggling recently wrote me to say he knows he needs to stop drinking, but the thought of the spiritual journey it would take to get well was overwhelming to him. This reminded me of something that happened to me 7 years ago, and I decided to share it with the 3 of you still following me.

Once I got over the shock of being in rehab, I began to notice that people kept talking about things like "my spiritual journey" "higher power" and "god." I racked my brain, desperate to find a loophole 
so I could suspend my disbelief in this "faith" shit. 
The message I was getting was if I didn't, I'd never stay sober.

Having gone to Catholic grade school for 8 years, God & religion to me meant punishment, judgement, scratchy uniforms, miserable old priests, nuns who hated me, constant torment from schoolmates & endless, droning masses. 
I left believing in nothing. Kind of the opposite of a 'Born again.' 'Dead Again'?

There was this spiritual counselor at The Meadows who I avoided like the plague, for obvious reasons. Also, she wore tons of enormous turquoise rings on every plump finger, feather earrings, Birkenstocks, and stank like patchouli. 
As if her occupation & hairy legs weren't enough, she topped the whole look off with a PERMED MULLET. Yes, my friends. A full-on biz/front, partay/back. BUT WITH TIGHT CURLS.
When I'd see her in the cafeteria, I'd stop whatever I was doing & stare at her, imagining the discussions she had at her hair salon.
"Hi, Louise. Same as last time, but could you make the curls even tighter? I have a date Friday."

A few weeks into my stay there, she gave the Friday evening group lecture. 
I was surprised and a bit ashamed at myself when I discovered she was incredibly smart, quick witted & dry. I actually really liked her, and she had survived the death of a child, her husband's suicide and stage 4 breast cancer. Oh, and alcoholism. All with a sense of humor. My kinda gal.

Two days later, I was on my early evening walk to kill time/not smoke, and I happened to walk by her open door. She was at her computer. I knocked, not even sure why or what I was going to say.
"Hi, Sorr-" She held her hand up, not looking at me.

I stood there for about 3 minutes while she typed. I've never been good with silences, especially back then. I saw the Dreamcatcher above her desk & suddenly deeply regretted being there. I could hear the evening Volleyball game in the distance. I wish I hadn't...
"Hi Kristen. What's up?" She was looking at me expectantly.
", sorry, I, umm....well,I was thinking today and, um.....well, I'm sure you can't answer this....?" I said hopefully. 
She just smiled and waited. I looked at her dreamcatcher & took a deep breath.

"Ok. So everyone talks about spirituality & God here, and for many reasons I don't believe in any of it. I WANT to, but I'm sorry, I just can't & I'm worried I won't get sober if I don't."
I couldn't believe I was crying. "I guess I was wondering - what's been weighing on me is....what exactly IS a spiritual journey, and how do you start one?"
She smiled.
"You're already on one. You started the minute you asked that question."
"I know, but...Wait. Really?"
She laughed.
"Yes, Kristen. A Spiritual Journey is just being curious, asking questions & trying to find the right answers for you."
I can't put into words the relief I felt. I left her office with such hope in my heart. Hope that maybe, just maybe this was possible....that I could live my life sober, but still be me.

Before, the words "Spiritual Journey" always made me picture some lonely gal who watched way too much Oprah. Or a very thin, dirty bearded man who wandered the desert for weeks with no food or water, wearing nothing but a cloth diaper.
Or people who go to Church everyday, and have the Bible memorized.
Or people who attend self-help seminars every weekend.
Or people who hang dreamcatchers above their desks.

But it has nothing to do with any of that.
It's simply searching for our own answers, and trying every day to learn from our mistakes, forgive ourselves for ours & others for theirs....mostly, it's learning how to love ourselves no matter what.

In these past eight years, I've made many mistakes. The road to sanity is not smooth. No one's journey is the same, and sometimes our paths require us to make choices others don't understand or agree with.
And the minute I began to accept that, I began to let go. 

After a lifetime of drugs, alcohol, disappointing people, hurting loved ones, lying, people-pleasing, despising myself, so much heartbreak and sorrow...

Today I'm proud to be 8 years sober, I'm proud that I'm no longer 'Dead Again,' I'm proud of the person I'm still becoming and I'm proud that I actually like who I am. And sometimes, on a foggy day and I squint, I even love myself.

Not enough to buy a dreamcatcher, but still...


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