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I don’t usually like to get super-duper vulnerable on here, and I did a lot of my initial sobriety vulnerability in the OYNB group during the first 6-9 months of my adventure, from October 2019 to around summertime 2020, when I started working more as a sober coach and being more involved in smaller groups and on social media. Those ~20,000 of my closest friends are the ones to know and keep all my darkest secrets!
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There’s an island, over there. It’s got good, free healthcare, and good, free education, and interesting, useful, well-paid jobs, and lots of room for growing things, and lovely places to live, and libraries, and parks, and theatres, and music, and joyful, calm, peaceful habitants. They’re not perfect, because they’re human, but they try, and they’re kind, and they make an effort with themselves and with each other. There’s mediation and communication and growth and learning and peace and joy and laughter and quietness and you can find what you want in different parts of the island. The beaches look so inviting, the sea so clear and clean around them. Very few people who make the trip over ever genuinely want to come back here.
Here, it’s fine, most of the time. Some of the time. Sometimes. There are drugs and loud music and wine and loud tears and there’s laughter, but it’s hard to remember why. There’s fighting in the streets, dangerous things going on in the sheets; there’s a general feeling of stress and not being quite safe. It’s dirty, because “it’s not my job to clean up other people’s shit”, and no-one will admit to causing it, that shit. There’s also a beach, over here. You can see some people having cocktails in the afternoon, tanning in the sun. When you get closer, though, you see the cigarette butts (and more) all over the sand. You see the empty bottles half-buried in shame. See the red and yellow tinges on the burning skin, hear the bitterness and sadness in the words – the ones you can understand through the slurring, anyway. The closer you look at the sand, the more filthy you realise it all is, with shit everywhere. Filth, filth, filth. The waves surrounding this beach are slow and sluggish, carrying their own weight of plastic wrappers and silty mud and more and more shit.
When you look over there, to that island … seeing the people working, learning, growing, loving, laughing, living … it’s easy to hate them. They have it so easy. Everything handed to them on a taxpayer-subsidised platter. It must be so boring, without the drama, without the grit. And yet. There’s more than a touch of the green-eyed monster in the way you look over at them. How come *they* get to live the “good life”, and you don’t? So you do it.
You plan the trip. Sometimes you’ll have a big farewell party, and forget to leave it. Sometimes something will happen and you’ll be transported over there by someone else, and you’ll have to come to terms with waking up there, and deciding if it’s really what you want after all. Sometimes you plan it secretly, sometimes you do it with friends, sometimes you make big declarations but taking that first step proves more difficult than you’d imagined. Or the second. Or the third. Because here the beaches are full of shit, and empty bottles, and empty promises, and empty thoughts and lives and words. And those first steps you take into the sea, your feet squidge into something, and you don’t want to know what it was, but you do. It doesn’t feel clean and it doesn’t feel safe and dry land is Just Here and it’s the devil you know so maybe this is better? If the sea is so filthy, if it’s all so hard, why not just stay here?
My love. If you keep on standing on this beach, and taking two or three steps into the muddy, murky waves … of course it feels hard, and sad, and dangerous, and lonely. If you look over there, you’ll see the people from the island waving at you. They can’t come any closer to pick you up, but they’re waiting to grab your hand as soon as you get close enough. They’re sending postcards and phone-calls and pigeons and love and warmth and wishes, and they can’t do any more until you get there. They know that once you’re out of the mud and into the big wide sea, the water itself can feel scary, but it will also wash you clean. They know that by the time you reach the island, you might be exhausted, but you’ll also be strengthened by the butterfly-emerging-from-a-chrysalis effort you’ve just performed. They know. They all did it too. All of them. They all arrived on those beaches, sometimes battered, but never beaten. And they let themselves be taken care of. And then they learned to take care of themselves, in ways they’d never been taught before. And then they started to take care of others. The new arrivals. The old dogs.
The island will always grow to the size it needs to be to fit everyone who wants to be there.
The waves, once you get past the mud and the shit and the doubt and the reaching back to those familiar devils, will help to carry you to the island. It’s where your body and your soul want to be. The universe will help deliver you there, if you just stop hanging on to what isn’t good to or for you.
We can’t wait to see you. Jump in. Start paddling and don't stop until you don't feel the mud any more. Until you can’t see the dirt. Come. We're right here, waiting to catch you on the other side.