When I was 15 years old, I had grand aspirations for what my life would look like. I was obsessed with music and playing the guitar and my dream was to be a songwriter who wrote hits and toured the world.
I loved reading and writing. I’d get lost in swashbuckling adventure stories, science fiction, and mysteries (my favorite). I loved the idea of trying to discern what was happening underneath the seedy layers of the story and get into the mind of the writer trying to understand the machinations and ultimate outcome of the plot.
I played video games. I hung out with my friends from the youth group. We’d have LAN parties at my house where we’d connect four Microsoft XBOX’s together and have 12-16 players running team deathmatch on Halo. My parents would order us pizza and we’d laugh and taunt each other and have the time of our lives. I’d lose myself in those moments and be blessed with the gift of being fully committed right where I was at – sitting and laughing with my friends.
I did alright in school. I excelled in language arts but struggled with math. Numbers never made sense to me (they still don’t). I never thought of myself as an exceptional student and never aspired to be the best in my classes. I was more concerned with the social aspect. I didn’t think about my future from a realistic standpoint – I just cared about making friends and having people like me.
I never envisioned my life taking the turn it did. I never sat and thought to myself: I’d really like to empty everything into a black hole and destroy all my relationships and become destitute. I never knew there’d be a moment where taking a Percocet would determine the entire trajectory of my life for 10 years. I was a relatively happy, yet tremendously insecure, teenager with a burgeoning tendency toward anxiety and problematic behavior but I lived in the moment and never saw any of this coming.
But it did. And years of pain and hardship and destruction ensued, and every iota of that beautiful 15-year-old presence was obliterated.
Those days of carefree laughs and friendship disappeared. Every relationship transformed into a transaction. Every hope and dream that I harbored melted away on a spoon full of IV heroin. It became one crisis and tragedy after the other, and that was how I lived my life. Those moments of smiles and laughter, community and friendship were replaced with misery, sickness, blackness and regret.
Through it all a small spark of my spirit remained. I would have moments of clarity or realization of my situation and I’d think back on those teenage days and wonder why things happened the way they did; why I had become cursed with this crushing weight of pain and hardship, this lack of presence.
Even still I’d constantly regret things. I’d live in the past incessantly wishing things were different yet taking no action toward making a better tomorrow for myself. I’d sit and while away time and space thinking that somehow, spontaneously, this would all change and I’d go back to being that carefree teenager and nothing would hurt (at least not the way it did now).
As things always do in life, situations changed. Addiction isn’t something that’s typically sustainable long term. The pain became so distilled and intensified at a level that was no longer bearable. The bet wasn’t worth the hand I was drawing. I came to a realization of what needed to happen in my life for me to live free – to have true, tangible change; a psychic and spiritual revolution of the mind that would bring about a life worth living, a life filled with joy, laughter and presence. I knew that it wouldn’t be perfect. I knew there would still be struggle and mountains to climb, relationships to navigate and grow in but I knew that none of that would be as tremendously difficult as the way I lived at that point.
And it’s not. Sure, I have hard days. Days that feel like they are going to crush me. Stress that becomes unbearable. But the decimation of virtually everything I understood life to be for 13 straight years of misery was the steel that sharpened me. It was the trial by fire: the gateway to a better understanding of the mind and of life itself. And while I wish that life on no one (and my heart is with anyone that is currently living through those times), I want to impart that there is purpose in it. There is defined meaning and strength; growth with which can be experienced in no other way that I know or can understand.
Those times allowed me and afforded me the life I live today. The life with a beautiful family. The life with a career and aspirations. The space and time to cultivate relationships, projects, businesses and ideas. Art. The presence to appreciate things and grow things and understand how to be a true friend to people. How to love people. How to love people in ugly situations with behavior that is insane or that you don’t understand.
So, when I think of those days – those freewheeling teenage years with no anticipation of the monumental suffering that would ensue – I don’t regret them. I don’t wish that they were different. I don’t think of them as anything other than what they were and are. Even if the space time continuum collapsed into itself and time as we knew it became traversable, I still wouldn’t go back and change anything. I’d still pick the hard way. I’d still pick the pain. I’d still pick the transmutation of my life, the life a 15-year-old never thinks they’ll have, and I’d live it again.
Just to retain the life and love I experience now with all of you, in the here and now.
Sean – In Recovery