By Kristen Maciejowski
Screaming, slammed doors, broken glass, cut up arms and a pounding headache the next morning—these examples of destruction used to be extremely familiar; first through the lens of my childhood then as an adult, dysfunction in every sense has always felt normal to me.
It was the only way I was taught how to interact with the world around me. Engage whole-heartedly, angrily, passionately and then disengage via substances or depression. That way of living now feels foreign and sad to me. After grasping onto sobriety and working a twelve-step program with a sponsor, I was introduced to a calm and peace I hadn’t experienced before in my life.
Self-examination isn’t new to me. I began walking down this path very early of self-harm and later self-analysis, after being diagnosed with depression at 14. Most of my teen years and all throughout my 20s, were spent trying to piece my fragile life back together, only to watch the shards break into smaller fragments right in my hands.
Now, I feel stronger and more centered during this last stretch of sobriety.
At this stage of my life, it is time to take some action steps. I go to meetings and call my sponsor daily. I sit with my fears—of people, living and myself. I meditate every single day. I feel reborn a lot of the time (which can be overwhelming, however) and I wake each day with more gratitude than the morning before. Most of the time, when tough situations come up, I am able to stop myself and forge a new path before reacting.
I am usually not a slave to my old way of thinking and feeling.
Tonight though, I was.
Tonight, I felt my old pattern of anger and fear reemerge with a vengeance. It was the first time in so long and I responded mightily to its call, as a wolf does to its howling pack.
After months of sitting with my emotions as they arose—watching them and working on being nonreactive—I have to admit, it felt good to simply submit to them and unleash. I have to remind myself, that even though I am sober and living a better more aware life, I am still human.
I will make mistakes.
The difference is that hopefully I will learn a hell of a lot faster than I did when I was fast asleep.
For months now, I have been living in extremely close quarters with someone who is very sick. He and I share the same illnesses; most people know these as alcoholism and depression. This causes quite the conflict for me because I have a wealth of compassion for him most of the time, but a well of guilt when that empathy runs out.
He was reeling from a break up, and when S first moved in with me, my heart went out to him.
I was in a bad place as well and it was perfect. We grabbed each other’s hands and figuratively jumped ship. Shortly after though, something in me snapped or perhaps awoke and I realized how badly I needed to get help. My moral bankruptcy had to end. Thus began, what I hope is my last journey forth into sobriety (another story for another time).
S, who has now acted more as my teacher, (mirroring so much for me and for this I am truly grateful) has not done much since then except, continue his downward spiral. I have worked very hard to extend compassion towards to him and to stay in a place of non-judgement, no doubt failing miserably at times. There is a fine line though, that we walk in relationships such as these.
On one side, it becomes easy, especially when we have our own insecurities to work through; to act as doormats for the narcissistic behaviour that tends to be acted out by the ill. On the other, we can live authentically as open-hearted individuals who feel empathy for those still suffering, while still holding our own self worth in high regard.
I am most comfortable on the side where I enable bad behavior (from not paying bills on time, to not paying them at all, not doing chores in our apartment, partying loudly with guests until all hours of the morning and displaying poor roommate etiquette) because this tends to not cause waves.
Throughout our time living together, I have not said much because communication that can lead to confrontation is not one of my favorite pastimes.
Tonight, I did.
I stuck up for myself because in sobriety, as in real life, you tend to have to work to maintain your lifestyle. Using conscious communication, I asked for some quiet after a reasonable time to which I was given a rude response, which got my hackles up.
My angry hat flew right onto my head and every resentment I had been feeling towards him from, “When has he even bought toilet paper last?” to “He hasn’t paid internet in six months!” flew through my brain and I could feel my adrenaline pumping and my arms start to grow cold.
There’s a moment when you know that you’re either going to take a deep breath and disengage yourself from the tangled web of nonsense or shit is going to hit the fan.
Tonight, I gave in.
I told him I thought he was selfish and that he should grow up (while holding my hand on my hip, resembling a really haughty child) and I definitely instructed him to stop acting like such an
I failed tonight at emulating the calm and meditative person I want to be.
Even after all the years of therapy, eating well, meditating, yoga, learning to love myself, books on Buddhism and now sobriety, I still managed to succeed at sounding like a five year old stuck in a 29 year old woman’s body. I’m sure many people can relate to the fact that when you do not communicate in a healthy manner about issues, resentments will build up inside until one day you explode over say, the peanut butter jar lid not being screwed on properly.
I’m a peanut butter jar communicator and I’m working on it. I’ll get better at sticking up for myself earlier so I don’t have to explode to feel heard.
I’ll apologize for getting angry tonight because no matter how awful he was being, it doesn’t warrant anger.
I’ll forgive myself for responding the way I did and tomorrow I’ll do better, because that’s all I can do.
Kristen Maciejowski is a journalism student turned Art student turned academic nomad, she is currently adding Social Work to the list of programs that has piqued her interest. She tends to enjoy the company of her dog Celtic to most people, although there are a few certain humans she loves to snuggle up with, as well, usually whilst consuming a few pots of tea with, chatting about life, the Universe and other wondrous things. Yoga and Buddhist philosophy has changed Kristen’s life and helped her recover from herself.
Photo: unusual young/tumblr
Editor: Dana Gornall