One thing that I have learned about life is that unless we're extremely lucky, nobody walks between the raindrops forever. Life isn't like that. We all, at sometime or another, will pick up a few scars along the way.
It is interesting, this journey I have been on, how certain things change, perspective shifts, and the mind slowly makes sense of long time mysteries. I have several scars on my well-used body and when I touch them or see them in the mirror; I remember where they came from. They serve as anchors to moments in life, healed on the skin, and fading with time.
When I experience the memories of each of them today, I am aware of the healing that has occurred. They are just there... closed over through the body's natural regenerative function, and while I can easily recall the events surrounding their origins, they are just moments of my past with no physical pain attached. It is easy to understand why. The original wounds are now closed.
My counselling session yesterday with Jennifer was more celebratory than work. It was an opportunity to engage in a long talk about our progress made in the past 7 months and even some structural ideas for the book. While we acknowledged with gratitude another milestone of sobriety, our most discussion explored the positive changes with me. Minor changes can sometimes go unnoticed, but in her wisdom, she could stitch them all together in a tapestry of accomplishment that is significant. We could pinpoint certain turning points for me. It was also enlightening to see that some of those points happened previous to the last 7 months, despite my previous failures with sustained sobriety.
I found this an important point. I think perhaps it can serve as a little spark of hope for others that are still using substances, suffering with mental health challenges, and those trying to provide support and love. I never stopped seeing Jennifer and while I was clearly in trouble and often dishonest about my drinking, in hindsight, that time provided her the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge about me and me to slowly, often painfully, develop a level of trust in her - both of which would become extremely important in those key days following my release from hospital in December. I will write in more detail about this later.
One of those early seeds of healing was a deeper understanding of wounds and scars. While my body may have several scars, the most deep and destructive injuries happened deep inside. Emotionally. I thought they were already scars, but I came to realize that they were still wounds, open, oozing, and some were festering, rampant with growing infection untreated for years. I understand now that until those wounds had turned to scars, I would never see them or feel them in the same way I do their visual counterparts on my body... without pain.
My constant recurring thoughts, flashbacks, and strange voices in my head elicited a very visceral re-experiencing of pain. It was something that I had become accustomed to, and my own treatment of self-medication would only numb the feelings for a short time. Much like sticking in a needle to inject some freezing around a physical injury, it would always wear off. The pain would return, the thoughts would continue, and unbeknownst to me, the effects of those injuries just sat in a petri dish of emotionally putrid bacteria and mind eating microorganisms.
The effect of trauma, be it big or small, often is the open wound. Likely we all have some. The destructive nature seems, through my experience, is when my mind, and subsequently my body, gets stuck and doesn't know that it's over. Understanding this has not only been a massive leap forward in my recovery and has allowed me to develop a level of awareness I never had - about myself and others in trauma.
When my mind was stuck in the trauma, the open wound part, it was still happening. Of course this happens deep inside and for me, the usual symptom is the flashback or reoccurring thought or rumination. A trauma, not yet turned from wound to scar, is still happening even though years have passed. In this mental state am living in a constant state of hypervigilance and extreme awareness of danger that is not only exhausting, but devastatingly destructive. It is like living in your worst experience 24/7 for most of your life. This psychological glitch appears to be the cornerstone of PTSD, at least for me.
Thankfully, finally having undergone the proper treatment for some of mine, which for me was EMDR with the guidance of Jennifer, I now have a few simple mental scars and, like the ones on my body, these too are just there with no pain and no reaction. Scars are beautiful as they are the tangible result of healing. When I think about them now, I know where they came from, but I am no longer living in them. This has allowed me to work on stitching up some smaller ones, perhaps not even classified as traumas, but open wounds just the same.
I am extremely fortunate to have Jennifer in my life, and I am also grateful for the tough experiences and difficult setbacks we have had. I now appreciate and accept that time when I was struggling, was roots of trust that slowing working their way into the hard soil of my troubled mind and uncomfortable life.
I have a long way to go, but I have someone to help do some of this stitching up of old wounds, and gratefully, she doesn't live at the bottom of a vodka bottle.
The journey continues and... more will be revealed.