The Architects of Who

It’s taken me some time to figure out how to write this.  Even now I’m on the precipice of what it is I want to say, what I’ve seen of late, what I’ve come to know.  There are a few of you who may have wondered where I’ve been for some time.  It’s time to come clean and share a part of my life that I kept to myself, and even dismissed… in the hopes some out there may benefit by my learning.

For the last few years, and part of why this site languished, after my divorce, I developed a drinking problem.  While it may have been as a “functional alcoholic”, nonetheless it was as an alcoholic.  During the week I remained dry, as my job anxiety still managed to outweigh my desire to just obliterate my awareness of life and float along in a drunken stupor.  As soon as I had a day off, however, I drank, heavily.  I would wake up and begin drinking, and no stop until I’d “sobered up” enough to even sleep without getting sick.  Typically this meant a liter of vodka or rum, chased with a 6 pack or more, each day off.

Why I did this, I can’t say for sure other than I welcomed the embrace of numbness.  I wanted the escape of the chemical void, and alcohol filled it capably without being illegal.  It exacerbated my health situation as well, being as I am a Type 2 diabetic.  The downward spiral had me tightly in it’s grasp, and while I was lucid enough to think about these things while sober, I kept my drinking as a “hands off” subject.  I reasoned that since I didn’t drink during the week, I parked my keys and didn’t drive while drinking, and I was at home and alone so nobody else was impeded, that it wasn’t a problem.

That changed, however, after a meeting with my doctors about my diabetes issues.  I was truthful in what I was drinking, and they told me how badly it was affecting my condition and my ability to deal with my diabetes.  I took their advice and listened to what they had to say, but I remember thinking “I need to find something else, something with no calories to replace this.”  It was then that I caught myself, and had my “moment of clarity”.  The fact that I immediately wanted a substitute to take me away from the rigors of daily existence that wouldn’t make my diabetes worse told me that I was not in control.  I was drinking for the wrong reason.  I was an alcoholic.

So I went into treatment.  I spend every day in outpatient group therapy, ostensibly learning about alcoholism.  Now, to be frank, it was stuff that for the most part, I already knew.  I had worked for years in a homeless shelter that hosted AA meetings frequently, as well as read on the subject myself in order to do my job there more effectively.  My parents were both alcoholics as well, as were their parents (that I knew of anyways).  It was not something foreign to me, and being the obsessive type that I am, I learned what I could about it.

What I did learn at treatment, came from those I was in it with.  See, back in the days when I worked in the shelter, I was in much the same atmosphere that I found myself in.  I was dealing with the same concepts and problems, however there were 2 crucial differences.  First was that I was the teacher then, the counselor, the person who listened and dealt with it in others from an external perspective.  In this case, I was the person with the problem, and now on the receiving end.

Second, I was a completely different person.  I am a lifelong, clinical depression/anxiety sufferer.  Not to say I get “the blues” now and then, or feel sad a little more often than most. No, as far back as I can remember, I was severely depressed and anxious.  Growing up in an abusive and dysfunctional environment did me no favors, and it went undiagnosed.  I had no idea I was even that way until I was 30 years old, when I was informed that no, normal people don’t think of killing themselves 3-4 times a day, every day.  Nobody had ever told me or asked into how I was feeling deep enough to find out I thought that way, and in that vacuum, I thought everyone else did as well.  I went through therapy after finding that out, and learned positive coping skills that turned my life completely around.

More of that some other time.  Suffice to say, I look back to the person I was when I worked in the shelter, and I barely recognize him.  So the second big change when I found myself in treatment, was that I was reconnecting these experiences of the past with who I am now.  This was the life changing point, the sea change within me that brought me away from writing for so long, and brings me back to you now.

In learning from the people I shared the treatment experience with, I found myself once again, the core of who I was and who God shaped me to be.  I learned that under providence, we are given the power to shape our lives into what we envision, according to the desires of our heart.  We are given freedom to be the architects of who we are, and can use that for good or evil as we see fit, hopefully for the good.

This is crucial.  This is vital.  This is the essence of all of us, in that we are given free will and desires and loves and passions within our lives.  We are drawn like moths to flame towards the things that move us deepest.  We are creatures of love, expressed in those things, those greatest things, that we each may find for ourselves out there.  For some, it is the stability of a good and happy family.  For others it is the virtuosity within art or music.  For still others, it is a collection of adventures and memories that they may regale the future with.  For a critical few, it is to see the smiles of those who they give succor to in times of distress.  Those are part of our nature, the foundations of the desires that move us… the love that brings us day after day into new avenues of expression within it.

We are the architects of who we become.  We shape our lives with the freedom and power given to us to do just that.  The shackles we bear are illusory, our choice always remains.

Matthew 17:20

And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for truly I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.

I could draw all the metaphorical comparisons you like between the size of a mustard seed and the size of a mustard plant, or the simplicity of faith, or the smallest core of belief… but those are well done and gone over again and again.  The basic point is this:  We are miraculous beings, given amazing power over our lives to shape it as we will.  We always have the ability to choose… to shape and create.  No matter what circumstance puts upon us, even if our environment is completely not of our control, we get to choose how we will respond, and thus, how we will live within such circumstance.

In the words of Viktor Frankl regarding his experiences in the concentration camps of WWII:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

There it is.  In the face of horrors few of us can imagine, that a man could come to this conclusion… to witness these few kindnesses of evidence of our inner freedom, our inner power and strength, is a blessing in itself. The ultimate blessing and responsibility given to our lives.  Our happiness, or dreams, or loves, or actions are our responsibility, as well as our gift to choose.  We may never be as rich as the Sultan of Brunei, but we can be happy whether we choose to be or not.  I learned I can live this life as I wish, boldly and face-forward, not try to obliterate it’s memory weekly with my own repetitive deluge.

We all can.  We are all loved, and blessed.  We have the choice to accept it.

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