• David Sales

Writing, Like Life

Emotionless time has passed with all the urgency of a sedated snail. No longer a few days of foggy sadness, a foundation built of disillusioned bricks has joined and set, creating a single room. A dim space without feeling, square and empty, bereft of sound or texture. A perfect place for tired hopes to gather and die.

When I am alone, immersed in my writing, I can playfully move words around in search of the right voice. It’s often futile, another draft deposited in the dustbin of muddy thought, but I try again. Writing, like life, rarely flows in the expected direction, and is often most difficult when my desire for control is the highest. The slow dance between my need to understand and patience with myself as I learn the steps can sometimes cause overall shutdown. Have I left something behind? Have I taken a wrong turn, and I am waiting restlessly for it to catch up, scared that it won’t? The longer I sit, the more sure I become I will never move again.

Stranded and desperate, but unable to care, I sit as the world passes. Not depressed, but disillusioned. Sobriety’s stability has not made the outside world more comfortable. I don’t understand it, nor does it appear to understand me, and interacting with it remains roleplay. I still feel like the new kid at school, watching the other children play a game I’ve never seen, my secret desire to join crushed by my fear of rejection and social awkwardness.

This has been my life. For months. Every day.

I have, while surviving this time of emotional immobilization, kept my world small. Relying on the tools gained through recovery and therapy, I keep the engine of change running, even if at an idle. I know unmet expectations can be a dangerous thing in long-term recovery, and I allowed them to take a swipe at my psyche. Without alcohol, disappointment lingers and hurts, experienced in its rawest form. Ready or not, challenges arrive on their own schedule, forcing me to learn my way through an obstacle course I’ve never seen before.

When I was very young, my late mother often spoke of my ability to keep myself entertained, often lost for hours in my imagination and play worlds of my own creation. Whether of necessity or desire, I was my happiest in the stories and landscapes I created, often amazed that others didn’t see what obviously there. I am still reminded of my invisible friend, Dodie, by my siblings, who can still remember my fantastical characters and creations.

This version of me, not yet indoctrinated into the societal and generational beliefs of the time, had the ability to experience joy. Unmeasured against an arbitrary standard, there was no sense of being less than. Joy came from the unbridled exploration of thought and fantasy. Earning joy through the adaptation to acceptable norms didn’t exist. Finding it in the uniqueness of ideas was quite natural. I lost that, and throughout the wreckage of my addiction, I find scattered pieces of broken joy seeking everywhere, and it saddens me. Hurting loved ones along the way, hurting myself, and wasting time in a joyless and unfulfilled life feels putrid now.

These months of stagnation, while frustrating, have reminded me I continue to force myself to be someone I am not. The wants and needs that I continue to desire are superficial and have never provided long-term satisfaction. I have had them met before, all of them in various forms, and the world remained an uncomfortable, joyless place for me. It seems odd that I would attempt to end my life, survive, only to spend the rest of it trying to prove that I could live in the same world, the same way. I can’t. I won’t. There are other worlds and other ways.

It is with this knowledge that I move again, slowly finding my own way that works for me, building a world that fits my way. I am taking more time to listen to the stories of that creative child that found such joy in his unburdened imagination. I am writing those stories again, textured with experience, but coloured with endless possibilities and abundant freedom.

Writing, like life, is always unfinished. Story telling, with its twists and turns, is a new world to explore each day, and through the eyes of the characters I often find a fit for odd, personal puzzle pieces that in their singularity mean nothing. However, finally mated with just the right piece, a clearer picture comes to life. It gives thoughts that used to terrify me a place to go, given away to a tortured fictional character to grapple with.

My writing, like my life, continues, blissfully unknowing to where.