During incarceration, working through my abusive relationship with heroin, I discovered many unlikely teachers and resources. With the guidance of Spirit, I framed the experience as a monastery retreat. In perfect timing, I discovered myself beneath the mountain of ashes and debris that had once been my life.
I started going to 12 Step meetings and got a sponsor. Later, I sponsored others, all the while studying what I could. I wanted the time I spent to mean something. I wanted to change. I wanted to stop selling myself short, wanted to be better. I admired others who had disciplined routines and patience, so I practiced and learned.
I read books that still influence me today: Power vs Force by David R. Hawkins, Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing by Jed McKenna, and of course, The Holy Bible. I wanted to have a rich understanding of diverse topics. I wanted to see the whole picture and understand arguments from different perspectives.
I prayed, fasted, meditated, practiced and taught Yoga, worked a disciplined physical routine, learned guitar and music theory (which had long been a dream of mine), and joined a ministry. I was surrounded by synchronicities. The unlikely and impossible unfolded before me daily. Hearts and lives were changing all around me. I wrote the curriculum for and taught three recovery-related classes. Spirit was working through me, speaking through me, with poignancy and truth, all the while working on my battered soul.
When the day came for me to walk out of the prison gates to freedom, I had complete faith and trust that I was guided and protected by a power immeasurably greater than any other. I released to a sober living halfway house, bought a cheap bicycle, and rode it day in and day out to a telemarketing gig I had found a few blocks away. At work I was surrounded by addicts actively using. I saw and smelled the signs all around me, but I was unfazed. My bike got stolen multiple times and many other obstacles came before me, but the patience I had earned paid off.
After I got off paper, I went to the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) and studied Reiki energy healing, Chinese medicine, Myotherapy, Lomi Lomi, and much more. My mind was opened wide by a flood of new information. I felt called to be a healer and this was my path. I knew nothing put before me could stop the momentum I had built.
Or so I thought. Around that time, I met a girl.
Relationships. I wrote letters and made phone calls, but relationships were not something I could effectively discipline while I was locked away from the world. Boundaries, sure. But boundaries in a relationship are different from boundaries on the yard. Like many of us, I didn’t have effective examples of relationships growing up. The relationship I found resembled an addiction – that same obsession and compulsion, the same isolation, the same gradual decay of focus on all else.
After completing all my classes at SWIHA, I worked my clinical hours and graduated. Because of my new relationship, I was not my usual self. I was distracted and troubled. Worse, my father hit a stroke around that time. He went to the Light not long after. This all, together with the appearance of an old acquaintance, was the recipe for my relapse, which led me back to prison.
I relate this greatly abridged account of events to impress the importance of the mistakes I made and the sincere hope that others will take inspiration. See, my problem with relationships was not a simple thing. It was as complex as my addiction; a tangle of trauma, abuse, and bad teaching/learning. I was not taught emotional intelligence, I had no tools with which to cope. “Cry and I’ll give you something to cry about” was a common phrase heard growing up. I know many can relate.
If I could reach back ten years and tell my younger self something, it would be this: Remember who you are and stay in faith. Overfill your cup so that it may flow out to others, rather than emptying it in a misdirected act of martyrdom. There is no victory or nobility in pointless sacrifice. How are we to serve if we have nothing left to give? We are called to use wisdom and discernment. There is no love that robs the soul. I recognize now that what I experienced was not love at all. Supporting her made me feel useful, which aligned with my calling as a healer. Such is the nature of ego. Know your boundaries and enforce them. Write out a list of what you want from a relationship and accept nothing less. No matter how far you go, there is still work to be done. Life is about the journey, not the destination.