• David Sales

With an Open Heart I Rise

I have learned much in the last year and in doing so, I've been able to make some much needed changes. Being kinder to myself is one, but I have a long way to go.

I still can beat myself up, punish myself for minor mistakes, and say things to myself that I never would to anyone else. I don't engage in this self harm as often, but when I do, I am reminded of how skilled I am at it. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I hope that one day I'll stop doing it for good because it is just so damned mean and hurtful. It creates the inner turmoil that wreaks emotional havoc, disrupts my healing, and makes moving forward much more difficult. I have to be okay with not being perfect.

One of the best pieces of advice Jennifer shared with me was to always keep an open heart. This advice came early, just a few weeks into my sobriety, and at the time I was grinding out the days. I felt alone, lost, and incapable of accepting love. I didn't trust anyone, including myself.

I truly believed that having an open heart was the reason I felt so much hurt and emotional pain. As my life continued to slip away, I felt I was living in a constant state of heartbreak and I remember making a decision that I would be much better off to protect myself from anything that could hurt me further. While this would make it impossible to find any happiness or feel any human connection, it seemed a worthwhile protection from the emotional vulnerability that seemed to always end in disappointment.

From the day she asked me to keep an open heart, I have tried to do just that. I worked hard to find the courage to accept the love and kindness of the few people who had not yet given up on me. I tried not to question why, tried not to think about those who had, and tried not to give up on myself. Over time, it became easier, but even now, all these months later, there are days that I find it so difficult to do. As mentioned earlier, that lurking propensity to punish myself, can pounce on perceived mistakes and the resulting self-flagellation can last for days. It pushes me back into a place of unworthiness, a feeling of not being good enough, and a place of such deep loneliness.

This blog, this collection of stories and experiences, this open act of sharing, serves often to widen my world. The pieces I write and share are but snapshots in time, tiny moments replaced with new ones brought on by the constant change that recovery brings. Some are reflections of the hope I feel while others come from a place of disappointment and sadness. When I shared this open journal, it committed me to always be honest with where I am at, good or bad. Sobriety and recovery is a combination of both... and so much more.

The last few days have been extremely difficult. I have engaged in that hurtful act of beating upon myself. I have felt extremely disappointed in myself, and I have found it hard to accept myself for who I am at this moment. I have felt that I will never be enough, that I have nothing to offer anyone, and that perhaps there is just not enough time left to clear all the hurdles I see so vividly in front of me. I have questioned whether any of this work I've been doing is worth it, if sobriety is worth it, and if I am worth it. I've been here before and surviving this place, this uncomfortably lonely darkness, requires all my strength and faith.

There is no switch to flip, no secret potion to take, and no window to jump out of. I knew this going in.

I was aware, after years of setbacks, that this journey would test me daily. I knew that there would be times when I would have to fight harder than I've ever fought before, and I have. Through this willingness to dig in, keep punching, and never back down, I've learned that I can be an absolutely fearless Badass when I need to be. Through all the darkness and hopeless I have faced, I have developed an undeniable faith in my ability to keep going and to overcome. I wouldn't even be here if this were not true.

Today, as I face the day, I am not afraid. I know it this will pass and I know why I feel the way I do. I'm disappointed in myself only because I care, because I want to do better and be better. I want to always be willing to grow, to experience life, to look forward to things, and to accept the imperfections in myself and others. I can achieve none of this, without opening my heart every day and living with the vulnerability that human connection requires.

Being human is to make mistakes. It never feels good to mess up, feels bad to beat ourselves up for it, but there is always the opportunity to learn from it. That opportunity, sometimes, can only come from mistakes. I'm grateful to have gained this acceptance.

I took a good long look at the human being in the mirror today. I saw his sadness and disappointment, but that I knew him better than I did a few days ago. I didn't see someone who hopeless.

I saw a man, weathered and aged from struggle, but alive with quiet strength. A deeply caring man who is walking a hard path back into a life of feeling, of meaning, and of purpose. A good man who has done bad things, but is striving to do better. Through his eyes I could see his heart, open and vulnerable. I saw me.