I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I’ve consistently been stubborn and obstinate when it comes to learning lessons and taking advice; there is something innate in my personality that tends to balk at suggestion, a burning desire to experience things firsthand to make my own way, to unearth truths about myself. This headspace and ideology have gotten me into trouble more times than I can count, but I can say with the utmost certainty that the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have come from walking this path.

That’s not to say it’s how I recommend others lead their lives. The wise can look upon the mistakes of others and decide for themselves that the choices other people make and the consequences that ensue are enough for them. That’s one way to learn, and it’s decidedly easier than the description above.

I’d like to think that deep down though, I’m not so different from my fellows. I think God sparks within us a desire to enter these discovery phases of our lives – these journeys or quests inward that can invoke great fear and despair in their midst, as we traverse them – yet provide us with the solid foundation upon which we build our lives moving forward, all the better for having been through the depths of despair and back.

I never questioned my drug use in the beginning stages. I never stopped to acknowledge that what I was doing was a terrible idea, despite knowing deep down that it was. I never thought I’d wind up in the pitfalls I did, the cold hard concrete floor of a jail, a bed-rack in a flophouse, smoking cigarettes endlessly in courtyards, drinking bad coffee and playing cards. I never thought I’d get into cars with people who were intoxicated carrying firearms. I never thought I’d find myself sitting on a minivan bench, removed from the vehicle, in the front yard of a home in south Phoenix, while multiple individuals on methamphetamine disassembled electronics inside and conducted drug deals. I never thought I’d wake up with heroin and meth splayed out on my lap in a Mitsubishi Eclipse in a hotel parking lot with a police officer banging on the car window. I couldn’t foresee the future then and I can’t now. The experiences were what they were, as miserable as they were, but I can look back now and find meaning and purpose in even my bleakest of days.

The path I left in my wake was one of destruction. I’ve worked to right those wrongs the best I can with family, friends, society at large, and even worked to honor the lives of those we’ve lost to this brutal fight of addiction. I honor my family and my kids by maintaining sobriety so that they don’t ever have to know the person that I was back then. I learned all of this through community support, friendship, mentorship, therapy, and 12-step. I can’t change the past – it is what it is, but I can learn. I can take away the lessons God gave me and utilize them in the construction of something new and relate to others in a way that a “normal” person would never be able to. That in and of itself is a gift I wouldn’t give up for the world. That era of my life, and all the time that has come to pass since, continuously teach me things about myself and give me the power and strength to carry on even in the dark days that I walk through in the here and now.

Lately, it’s been hard to bring myself back to that place mentally. To remember all the things I’ve been through, all the obstacles I’ve overcome. I’ve always championed authenticity on this platform with you and I’ll continue to do so on principle – life has been disjointed lately. I’ve been hard on myself. I’ve had a lot of negative self-talk that permeates my headspace and gets unbearably loud.

Someone reminded me, though, that this dark season, this feeling “off” it’s just another journey that God has laid out on his perfect path for me. I have to believe that in the darkness we find light, however painful the process might feel while we endure it. I have to believe that things get better, that God is bigger than any human problem we can ever experience. I thought hard about this and reflected. There have been insurmountable odds stacked against me in addiction historically, I’ve been up against the ropes, truly, and God always prevailed. The wisdom, the insight, the knowledge, and the ability to empathize and be helpful to my fellow man were forged in the fires of hell more often than they weren’t.

And today, I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hard days. The pain. The levity of being in experiences as they pass and the insight I know I’ll gain someday. I’m grateful for hard times too. I’m grateful that God sees fit to put us through the things He does. This allows us to shine a light onto the lives of our fellow man – that we might be the beacon of hope for another individual through their own personal journey, as we too, have traversed the rain-soaked precipice of darkness. The goal is that we can grow to appreciate the simplicity, the calm, the serenity, as it comes.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be today – and so are you. We are all works in progress. Tomorrow could just as easily be the beginning of something new and beautiful – an era of peace, love, acceptance, and thanksgiving. We’ll appreciate it all the more in the end for the days that precede it. Better days are coming.

I was thinking to myself earlier that I wish I learned life lessons in an easier way, through observation, or empirical evidence gathering. I thought better of it though and embraced myself for who I am and am choosing to love myself today regardless. Maybe someday I’ll wisen up.

Sean, In Recovery