I felt myself change irreversibly as I lay dying on my bathroom floor. It was a sudden and complete inner change. And it came from a realisation that I knew I would ever feel safe again. Even if I didn’t die, (and not to spoil the ending, but I lived) then chronic fear and incessant awareness of my own mortality would be forever marked on my soul with indelible ink.
I was right. I never felt safe again. The feeling of vulnerability haunted every waking moment. It found me whilst I slept. I felt like a pane of glass instead of a person. The only thing I ever wanted in the world was to feel the illusion of safety again. I wanted it more than I wanted to be able to walk again. I wanted it more than I wanted to be able to feed myself or dress myself again. I missed it so much. I ached for it.
Luckily I didn’t get what I wanted. It never came back. And I’m so glad of that. I’m so lucky the feeling of safety never found me again.
I got my other wishes. Today I dressed myself. Fed myself. Left my flat and walked. I never take those things for granted. They will remain a privilege, rather then a right, for the rest of my life. Not because I believe they will go away. But because they are part of a long list of things I am overwhelmingly thankful for every day.
Being grateful wasn’t a skill I had before any of this happened. I was a cynical, glass-half-empty, doom and gloom type. They say a pessimist is never disappointed, but I was. I lived in a constant state of unhappiness and resentment.
I’m so lucky they everything was taken away from me at the same time. I’m so lucky that my body stopped working, because my job dissappeared, my flat, my friends, my independence. All the things that made up my identity. It gave me a chance to find out who I really was. Underneath all the sadness and bitterness and bad habits.
It turns out that when everything is stripped away? The one resource left at your disposal is Joy. And that is such a hard thing to describe. The huge amounts of Joy that’s buried underneath who I thought I was.
Joy was the only tool I had at my disposal. It neutralises fear so the need to feel safety is redundant. It’s hard to speak my heart and describe it, because to do that would make joy an adjective. And I don’t think it is. It’s a verb. It’s my default setting. It’s who I know I am. It’s who I know I will be if everything ever gets taken away again.
I don’t know that much about being recovered. I don’t know that much about being sober. They are just side effects of feeling constant Joy as far as I’m concerned. I know that I will stay recovered and stay sober, because I won’t ever stray from this place of Joy.
And I know I won’t ever let Joy escape because it finds me in the tiniest details of life. In conversations with strangers, in meeting new friends. In appreciating old ones. In walking down a f*cking street for goodness sake.
There’s not one aspect of my life. Not one detail that I can’t look at and see as anything else but a miracle. As anything else but something that was absolutely impossible for me to have done just a few years ago.
And people can spot it a mile off. You can’t fake genuine joy, but you can’t hide it either. People don’t need to know why it’s there. They don’t need to know what happened to make you like this. And it’s impossible to explain properly anyway. But it’s effortless to experience.
It’s hard to speak my heart about joy, without trying to justify or quantify it. So the nicest part about it is when people assume this joy comes from having had a very easy life.
And I love that. I love that folk think all this walking, dressing, feeding myself malarkey isn’t something I’ve struggled with. I love it when they think I’ve always loved people and led a wholesome, happy existence.
Because my heart knows how to speak that, now.
And it’s so much better than feeling safe.