I run a school for sobriety, and as part of the curriculum, I also send daily emails with words and mantras to repeat. This is one of those emails from this past week. I thought I'd share it here this week since the world seems to be splitting some of us at the seams.
Day: 16 | Mantra: I bless the thing that broke me open.
Today's mantra comes from a quote that I read in Rebecca Campbell's book, Rise Sister Rise (a must read).
Bless the thing that broke you down and cracked you open because the world needs you open.
I'm finding myself at a loss of words for what to say for this one. Because it's so prolific, and evident, and obvious - from where I stand today I do bless what brought me to my knees. But as you well know, the things that break us don't often feel like something we would add to our gratitude lists as they are happening.
There's a story that I've never written about, that I think of often, about a trip I took to Costa Rica. It was July 2012, and I was in the middle of a massive project at work, clocking 100 hour weeks, and also in the middle of redecorating my apartment. I was completely consumed by my life, as in all these things were firing at once and it was chaotic and going so fast, and I was so far behind and outside all of it, but I couldn't slow it down or make it stop, so I just ran faster, did more things, caused more chaos. I was moving so fast that the only time I wasn't DOING was about three glasses of wine and two joints in, when the words on the screen started to blur, when I would walk to get the fourth glass and I'd trip over my oven and fall on the ground and in some drunken stooper say You're drunk Holly out loud as I pulled myself up, poured another glass, finally closed the laptop.
My flight to Costa Rica left late in the afternoon on a weekday, and on this day I woke up and started drinking and smoking pot, because vacation. At 10am I met with my interior designer, handed her a credit card with $10,000 on it, my keys, and asked her to watch my cat. I headed to lunch at noon for more drinks with my friend Todd. I don't remember the conversation; I only remember bragging about a life that had the markers of success, that was imploding. I only remember hiding how drunk I was.
I don't remember the plane ride to Texas and then Costa Rica. There's a picture of me in the IAH United lounge, bright sneakers, Wall Street Journal, coffee - then the picture of someone who had it all, now a memory of someone so hungover the coffee made her puke.
It is hard to write this because honestly, it's thick and heavy and gross. It's like writing about how you pulled off a fraudulent act, how you got away with murder. I arrived in Costa Rica dead on arrival in terms of soul, wishing I was dead in terms of physical. I spent the trip drunk and high, making up fantasies of how I could stay, possibly marry a local. How simple it would be to just disappear instead of going back and cleaning up that mess, of living in that mess, of living that life I had created, my Frankenstein. I made friends with a local drug dealer, Levi, who promised me that life, took me to a plot of land, said it was ours. I didn't want him. I wanted to want him because I wanted his promise.
There's this moment, though, in this spiral. Moments, actually. I'd bought Wild at the airport on the way there. I was reading about Cheryl Strayed dying and coming back to life as I was dying and giving up on the idea of getting out of my hole. There were moments of knowing that maybe this is what has to happen, maybe the escape was in the complete and entire shattering of the false constructs I'd been so furiously building. And then there was this moment in particular, this one night drunk and high and smoking cigarettes at a bar with Levi, where this man that I was for all intents and purposes USING FOR DRUGS sat me down and told me to put my hand on my heart, told me to look within and find the thing that he saw, this beauty that was there pulsing below the surface of such brokenness.
Do you know you have light within?
And I shook my head no because I wasn't deserving of light within, I was a piece of shit. It was such an absurd question, a bad pick-up line. But it wasn't absurd, and it wasn't a pick-up line, it was God talking in the form of a Caribbean man. So I listened, and when he told me to shut my eyes I did, and when he told me that I didn't need to find anything to make it real, I only had to remember it was there to make it real, I didn't think he was bullshitting. I knew he was right.
And it made me so sad, because how do you get from here to there? There's a picture of this moment, and I can barely look at it because I'm smiling this smile pretending I believe him. I'm looking the part and to anyone else, I might look blissful. But all I see now are my eyes, and they tell me a different story. All I see is a girl who is lost.
I don't write about 2011 because I don't remember it.
I don't write about 2012 because it hurts. It hurts so bad to break, to free fall. To die while you're living.
This wasn't the thing that broke me open. A moment at a bar and a book and a trip aren't what split me wide. Addiction did.
Addiction was the thing that took me down and smacked me to the earth so that blood and snot and shit and skin and vomit and heart and bone broke into five thousand pieces all around me in a gross unrecognizable mess. This trip, this picture - this is the thing that reminds me how much I refused to break. This is the thing that reminds me how much we can duct-tape ourselves together to prevent the thing that is our destiny - to crack wide open.
A year later, some 3 months sober, I depart from my friends in Sicily to travel alone. I spend my first night before departing for the mainland in a shitty Catania hotel room, the full moon reflecting off the Mediterranean, a different life, a different woman, and for some reason this is where it all catches up to me. I didn't cry for about four years, not real tears, just these kind of hysterical tears. In this hotel room on this night, this is where I break.
This is where the tears that have no real reason to come start to pour, and the horror of it finally rises to the surface, and I scream so I can let even more of it out. This is the part where I can't stop crying, this is where I start vomiting tears of relief and remorse and anger and sadness and every feeling all at once. I call my mom and tell her I think it's penance.
On this trip and for months after it, I cannot stop crying. I am a woman without skin who can no longer hold on to any of it and has to feel all of it. In Rome I have to run behind trees and throw myself up agaist them, palm pressed flat against the bark, so I can bend over and hold my mouth open and tilt my head towards my chest so that an invisible thing can escape. I have to find pews in churches so I can drop to my knees and bury my face in my hands and sob; I imagine those around me think someone has just died, and I think good, someone has. Bathroom stalls become my best friend; I take kleenex to yoga. It is awful and beautiful and terrifying and reassuring and I think I'm going crazy and I think I might be the Second Coming.
I bless that time more than I do any other time in my life and I remember that time more than I do any other - clear as yesterday. Because it's where I crack. And I bless those gross and awful and humiliating terrifying moments where I was dying, where I was a dead woman walking, where I violated and degraded and spiraled because they brought me there.
And today from where I sit, now over four years on this path and facing even larger and more ominous threats, I find myself terrified and thanking my God for the chance to break even more.
Because, my loves, this world needs me open, just like it needs you open, now more than ever. So let us bless these things that threaten to bring the whole thing crashing down around us, and remember that our work = our REAL work - begins only when it does.