On December 5, 2016, I lost the only person far enough away from me in distance but close enough to my heart who could speak the truth to me when I felt lost. She truly, deeply, singularly, and without exception, made me feel loved and cherished. Although I love my actual mother very much, my Gran was a mother figure of sorts. Losing her was its own rock bottom for me—like the one I had from drinking and using. Just this time, it was an emotional one.
It got to a point where I had to leave town and take a journey with my soul as the guide. There were a few people here and there that served as company, but I mostly read and wrote essentially in solitude and secret until things felt better. The day before I left, I sat next to Gran’s grave and watched the sunrise over the valley. Her valley. It is a protected land where the animals are free to roam, as is any human heart wishing to be wrapped in unconditional love and healed. I sobbed and combed my fingers through the fresh dirt, desperate to find something that would make me feel her presence again. I heard myself make a noise from what sounded like a far off place as I wondered if it were comfortable under all of that dirt; if the earth itself was deserving of absorbing the shell of such a beautiful soul.
As I was traveling, I took photos of anything that made my spirit move, for any reason at any time. I wanted to be able to look back and see exactly what made me feel “true.” Despite feeling confused, disoriented and broken, I was true to myself in those moments in the loneliest and most vulnerable of ways.
These photos represent the truth of the sober life I love to live. A sobriety that is unshakable through even the most seemingly unbearable and insurmountable of occasions. These photos represent staying sober even while I feel like I’m drowning, suffocating and dying of a broken heart. Lastly, these photos are familiar sights on the path to my soul self; the self that I want to learn to show more of.
Grief has a way of making you feel like all of your bones have been filled with deep sadness and longing. I feel so much older than I should or want to be now. The world lost a powerful vessel for the kind of agape love, light, compassion, and grace that is unparalleled by anyone I've ever personally encountered. Each day, I’ve been picking one of Gran’s traits and trying like hell to put it back into the world. Today, the trait is being forthcoming with truth, in a loving way.
I regularly seek strength, clarity, and direction. I hope as restless as my soul can be, it will always remember the way to peaceful life encounters, small moments with my version of a god, and moments with humans where we stare into the abyss of fearful unknowing and jump in together, hand-in-hand anyway. I don’t want to numb any of that.
The pain is inevitable, but sobriety for me doesn’t have room for the “easier, softer way(s).” From the way I used to drink and use, surrendering sobriety instead of surrendering to the path of life would have created deeper pain anyways. Plus, there’s no guarantee that I would have made it back to try again. Now, my sober life is full of genuine human connection and authenticity, a combination that requires me to tether myself to the hopeless as well as the inspired.
You see, the price I pay for the rich quality of my sober life is pushing through the pain and feeling it. I pay for the gifts that have been given to me sober by being kind anyway, loving people anyway, asking what I can do for them instead anyway, and “suiting up and showing up” anyway. I believe we are in this together. As much as people with less time use me as a guide, I need them equally. I need those who paved the way and came before me. I need to see straight through to their souls without the buffer of substances to remember that even if I think I have nothing else, a sober life gives me hope. I need them to see straight through to my own soul to allow them to lift me and carry me when I don’t think I can go through the motions another day.
Thankfully, I had come to learn the only true constant in life is change and when I stay sober myself, things always change for the better eventually. So, I stay sober. My date is the same and if I have nothing in my heart for a moment but sadness and longing for Gran or the other recently passed, I still have the moment that changed everything: September 24, 2010.