You Must Go It Alone
Updated: Oct 7, 2022
February 13, 2021
The self-imposed time out. Taking the time to heal and starve out old emotional addictions takes grit. When the friends want to hang out and the family misses you—but in your heart of hearts you know it is not yet time—and you have to make that difficult decision to not try to force things to be other than they are. You pray that your friends and family still know that you love them dearly, that your solitude is not out of hate and resentment, but courage and love. Faith is all that will do.
One of the hardest pills I have had to swallow throughout my journey, has been that if I want to heal—or make any significant change for that matter—I don't get to bring anyone along with me for the ride. If you are waiting for others to understand, figure it out, or join you—it ain't ever gonna happen. A good portion of my life I have spent attempting to drag others along with me—whether or not they actually want to come... I have tried and tried to save and fix people, which has basically served to create resentments, and also to prevent me from making any lasting progress of my own. At some point, I began to realize that if I wanted to make a change that was capable of enduring the ups and downs of life, I would have to do it on my own—whether or not anyone else understood or joined me. This holds true for any meaningful change we want to make, especially the ones that fall outside of what is socially acceptable. These changes include the ones that are primarily based within our own minds—the story we tell ourselves for instance—as well as the ones that markedly change the manner in which we function in this world. Whether it be changing your beliefs about chronic pain and illness; changing your relationship with alcohol and other drugs; adopting a more health and environmentally conscious way of being in the world; or deciding to take the road less traveled—effectively plotting a course that has not been previously ordained within the myth of normalcy that permeates every inch of our toxic culture—it is likely that you will be met with resistance and/or outright disapproval from those you come in contact with.
The truth is, it is hard for people to sympathize with the aspects of your journey that they do not understand. This is something we are best to accept. Don't go expecting a pat on the back or entertain some fairy tale notion that people are going to respond the way you might hope that they would; it will only set you up for disappointment, making your growth more painful than it already is. It is good to keep in mind that an earlier version of ourselves, would have had just as much trouble understanding our current selves, as anyone else. If I am being completely honest, my previous self wouldn't have given the new me the time of day. "My sports injuries and chronic pains are almost always rooted in repressed emotions?" "Ya ok..." "Sobriety is awesome!" "Fuck off." "My actions and behaviors have an impact on my health and well-being, as well as implications for the environment in which I live?" "Outrageous!" Back then, I was fine—or so I thought I was—with my world view and no one had the right to tell me any different. Well nowadays, I seem to be on the other side of the fence on many of these issues, and have to frequently remind myself of this when I start to become either arrogant or overly prideful.
I was on a hike one day when I came to the realization that when I try to get someone else to see something—unprompted—I actually make it more difficult, both for them, and myself. For them: because more often than not, when advice is given without it being asked for, it only elicits defensiveness and a "digging in of the heels", in regards to what that person already holds to be true. For myself: because when I am met with disbelief, lack of understanding, or blatant criticism, it has the effect of magnifying any doubts I am still harboring. It reminds me of a man in the documentary film about TMS called All the Rage, expressing to Dr. Sarno how hard it has been for him dealing with the criticism he receives from others, when he attempts to explain TMS (The Mindbody Syndrome). To this sentiment Dr. Sarno quips without a moments hesitation, "So don't talk to them about it! And if you have to, give them a cock and bull story!" I love that! Those might not have been his exact words, but pretty close, and it couldn't be any more true. If you yourself know something to be true, and benefit from the belief, who gives a shit what anyone else thinks about it—provided it is not harming anyone else or the environment. Emerson knew the score when he said, "people only see what they are prepared to see."
September 29, 2020
More and more I am coming to recognize how destructive it is to tell people what they should do. It's just lame. It could be the best advice in the world, but if someone is not ready to hear it, it actually does more harm than good. For instance, I have a distaste for being told what I should eat, when I should eat, etc.. My intuition works best for this. Same with meditation and exercise. Nobody wants to be told what to do. Nobody. But sometimes we do... haha, and that's when we actually ask! Have you ever noticed that the people who go around freely giving advice, are typically the last people you want to hear it from? And the people you would like advice from, are the last to give it?
A lot of the time, I don't even know what the hell to do with my damn self, let alone what anyone else should do. So, why do I so badly want to spoil the game for others by giving them all the answers? It doesn't work anyways! And what makes me think I have the answers to begin with? Why not allow them to come to truth on their own terms—through their own trials and tribulations? Why do I assume that life would be better if everyone thought and acted in the same way I do? Thinking this way robs me of my natural capacity for compassion and understanding, and when I withhold this love from others, I am really only withholding it from myself.
At times, I have noticed that my presence alone is disconcerting for some people to be around. So often, I have been that unwelcome reminder of some difficult truth many people would rather not acknowledge within their own lives. "Love of the truth puts you on the spot, we may have some romantic view of what that means, but when we are nailed with the truth, we suffer" says Buddhist practitioner Pema Chodron. Well, I have been fucking nailed. Every obstacle between me and the truth has to go, I have completely worn out my old ways. But, the reality is that not everyone else is at the same point as me, and this is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. It's just the way things are. These are the times when I have had to come to terms with just how alone it is actually possible to feel. Loneliness has little to do with whether or not we are in the physical presence of other people, loneliness is what we feel when we believe that no one understands us; that there is no one who can relate to the experience that we are having. "If a man knows more than others, he becomes lonely", wrote the mystic and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, when describing the lot of an individual who is pushing towards the outer limits of what is currently understood and accepted, within the culture and time they live. This is the inescapable reality for those of us who are dissatisfied with the status quo, and seek to expand our own horizons.
I had the feeling that I had pushed to the brink of the world; what was of burning interest to me was null and void for others, and even a cause for dread. -Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections
Around two years ago, I had a series of dreams that would profoundly alter the course of my life. In one of these dreams, my family and I were driving on a winding two-lane highway; pine tree lined and next to a roaring river, and in-between hills and mountains, much like the highway that runs north/south the length of the great state of Idaho. My Dad, being the driver, kept coming dangerously close to driving off the road and into the river, but at the last moment he would swerve back, up onto two wheels we would go, before slamming down and returning to the correct position within the lane. This dream, much like a dream in which we are being chased, was fraught anxiety and tension. I can picture myself now: on the edge of my seat in a full panic, at a loss for what I might do to remedy the situation. Towards the end of the dream we careened off the highway and plummeted down into the river, all being flung from the car into the rapidly flowing waters. I recall looking around to see where everyone was, and then, rather than attempting to help anyone, vigorously swam my way to the shore. Only upon getting my feet on dry ground did I think, "I have to save them!" And with this thought, I awoke. A therapist I related this dream to was quick to give me a pat on the back for my concern for my family and the thought to save them, but all I could think was, "ya, but I left them in the river to drown..." It's funny how this dream that I actually had, in vivid color, precisely depicts the now somewhat common adage that we have to "save ourselves first", if we are to be of help to anyone else. If we ourselves are drowning, there is little we can do to serve others.
The caveat to this dream is that my family loves to party. For many, many years, "party", explicitly meant drinking large quantities of alcohol. We are, and always have been, a fun having bunch, and our drinking rarely led to anything but uncontrollable laughter; music being played as loud as the speakers would allow; full photo albums worth of pictures—albeit quite embarrassing at times—and yes, excruciating hangovers. Sure, the disturbing truth of things would attempt to rear its ugly head at times, but nothing that couldn't be casually shrugged off the following weekend. Like the time at that reggae concert, when I tried to fight a guy for asking if my Mom was "available"; or that time we awoke to find that someone had mistaken the laundry hamper for a toilet—and the term "the shit has hit the hamper" was officially born; or the wee hours one morning in a campground, rising to find that a family member had gone missing in the dead of the night; or how about that morning throwing up in the parking garage of the Excalibur in Vegas, just before rushing to get on the road, so that my Sister and I wouldn't miss our first tattoo appointments in Scottsdale, Arizona. This occurred after the night we had snuck my little Sister into the Cayote Ugly Club with a fake ID, and were coined the "drunk family" by a couple that had willingly chosen to shadow us for the evening, so they could partake in the rowdiness. A great many memories were made, only some of which can actually be remembered.
Keeping this in mind and taking a second look at the above mentioned "dream drive", there is a high probability that there were "road beers" involved. However that may sound, let's not be so naïve as to pretend that this is anything close to uncommon. When I awoke from that dream, the message was loud and clear. Alcohol had caused the accident. Being someone with an ever-increasing appreciation for the meaning held within dreams—and who believes as Sigmund Freud once asserted, that "dreams are the royal road to the unconscious"—my experiment with abstinence from alcohol had officially begun. If you can imagine, my closest friends and family were completely taken off-guard by this "new development". To be sure, there was nobody signing up for sobriety along with me—I was on my own.
Pain is a defense against truth... As anyone who has ever healed knows, the worst thing you can do is to try to help someone else recover from their own suffering. -Steve Ozanich
These words from Steve-O were ones that troubled me a good deal in those early days; yet I clung to them, because I implicitly understood the truth they were getting at. I have witnessed this firsthand, both in my own journey to free myself from the grips of alcohol, and also, in my quest to radically alter my beliefs surrounding chronic pain and illness. In the beginning, the impulse to spread the word to others and "help them", is very strong, BUT, your own belief is equally as fragile. Every time you attempt to give this to others—without their asking—you essentially take it away from yourself. It takes a lot of time and experience to get to the point where you can be of service to others in such areas. You need time to gain the necessary conviction and experience to properly embody your newly established views.
If your change is truly a good one, it will be obvious to everyone around you. The people in your life who are ready, may elect to join you in the adventure of their own free will. I have come to see that this actually has very little to do with you or I, these people were ready to change, and if anything, your changing was the final push they needed. For every person that decides to make a change along with you, there will be a hundred who do not. It isn't easy accepting that some relationships may change along with old habits. If we want to grow, then we have to accept that sometimes this will mean growing away from various people and places. The greatest challenge in this, is the recognition that it is not personal, just because we spend less time with people, or in certain places, doesn't mean that the love is lost.
I have been blessed in that I didn't have to wait long before some of those closest to me opted to come along for this difficult and tumultuous journey. Just when I had come to grips with going this thing alone—facing the fact that I may be in it alone for the long haul—folks started climbing aboard. I have found that this doesn't necessarily make things suddenly smooth and easy, for whether or not we have people who agree with us, we still have to face ourselves. This facing of ourselves is a solo endeavor no matter how you look at it. But, for having people around who I can openly communicate with, and with whom I hold nothing back, I am immensely grateful.
During the early stages of writing this blog, the Universe decided to give me a little nudge—as it likes to do—reminding me that there are many ways to view each situation; there is always a paradox, that shows us that the opposite holds truth as well. This time it came in the form of an email awaiting me from the Strava fitness tracking app, with the subject line reading, "Dream bigger together, why go it alone when you can go all in together?" I momentarily took in the irony of the timing of this email, then allowed myself to consider that we are never truly alone. At any given time, there are countless others working through the same life struggles and difficulties that we are. There are people out there that are further along the path than us, ready and willing to support and lift us up. There are others that we can perform this function for as well. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to get outside of our comfort zone and venture into the unfamiliar. It is here that we will find that we aren't as alone as we thought we were after all.
"A definition of psychotic": abnormal thinking and perceptions.
But, you can't deny your inner truth just because it happens to be psychotic at a cultural moment in history; because what is psychotic at one moment, is sainthood at another. -Ram Dass
Love your struggle and remain free,