Earlier this week I was talking to a new friend.
She is nine years sober and I told her that in a couple days, I will have four years.
I said, most days it’s just … HOW.
We laughed. She agreed. Every day is more or less that.
HOW WHAT WHO HOW.
How are we even here?
Because things were, in every way, pointing in a very different direction, toward pain and disaster. The universe was tilted one way, and now it isn’t. The struggle of making it a single hour, expanded into an entire evening, stacked day after day, ticked on into four years. So simple. So impossible. The slope is so slippery, as I’m especially reminded this month after the loss of two people.
So yes. HOW.
I know this, even when I forget.
Four years ago, I was just counting minutes. And that’s all the first year really was. Make it to the next day, and then the next—sometimes just one breath at a time, so acutely aware of myself—until the days stacked up and the fear of drinking or not drinking and of the future started to fall away and a new life began to fill in. Barely.
But this is what I want to talk about, guys.
I want to talk about the space between.
If you are lucky, and you find yourself still alive and on the other side of the last no—the no that is available to you any damn time—there will be a space.
There will be a space.
A space between what was and what will be. It will be huge, the size of oceans. In it you will find: loneliness, emptiness, doubt, fear, confusion, grief, disillusion. You will believe there is no end to the space. You will believe you are being punished, and you will also believe you deserve that.
You will want to fix everything right away.
You will be messy and hate that.
There will be chaos.
Your days will move very, very, very slow.
Most things will not make sense.
You will have all questions and no answers.
You will be shocked at your newness.
You will want people to give you the goddamn answers, and if you’re like me, you’ll probably try to disappear inside a few.
You will know nothing.
You will wish to be delivered from this empty space already.
And you will not.
Because this is the thing: The space has to exist.
You have to let it be there, and for longer than you want.
You have to do things you are afraid to do: make a call, speak your need, expose your wish, ask someone who has gone before you, HOW?
This is what I know: if you are to make it somewhere else, you just have to keep going. Even if the all you do in a day is breathe and not drink, that is enough. Let the days stack up.
Don’t add to the suffering of the world, starting with yourself.
The space is empty for a reason. Building inside the space is how you will come to value your new self, in your new skin, in your new life, in a way you have never, ever valued these things before. It will be a value deeper than the sea and it will change your baseline into something like: HOW? Which is good ground for gratitude and perspective, and those are the ingredients of a life worth living, as far as I know.
Nothing is going to be handed to you, except for the next moment of grace, and that may take a while, but it will come—it always comes. Just don’t get to believing there is something wrong with the space.
There is nothing wrong with the space.
Space is required for new things to enter.
You don’t have to want it yet, but it’s better if you do. At least remain curious about the possibility of what can grow there.
Earlier this week, my heart was breaking a little. I found myself crying, just like that. Life happens and I cry; what a strange, wonderful thing? I am paying attention now.
Things are not always or even very often the way I want them to be. I get all caught up in my own thoughts and my experience and I spin around and around myself, but eventually, I always remember, It could be so different. And so this? Whatever it is? I will take it. Gladly. I will take whatever it is.
I am here for all of it.
I am here.
If you are afraid of the space between where you are and where you want to be, good. I think we both know what is far more terrifying, no? To spend my only life spinning around a bottle? To have missed all of this? To never know what I am made of?
Let the space be there.
Trust that you will not be left out of the miracle.
Do whatever you need to do in that space in order to stay. Just don’t leave.
And to prove that while everything changes some things never will, this is an actual thing that happened this morning. Didn’t realize it until I was in public. Too late!