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[ Short Form & Affirmations ]

Gray (Finding Beauty in Pain)

“There are not a lot of concepts or deep spiritual thoughts that occur when you’re high. You don’t think about much really, sort of drifting away into an empty space. Free of feeling, free of knowledge, just an absolute numbness that washes over you like a protective bubble. Drugs are like a hurricane, consuming your soul with desperation and need. The winds and crashing waves can only be calmed by drugs, then more drugs. The cycle never ends and quickly, you become its slave.”

In rehab, all I have is time and all I do is think. Now, I use this journal to attempt to squelch the hurricane. In the depths of addiction, time is nothing more than a mere concept used by the outside world. As an addict, only two things in the space of time matter, high and finding drugs to get high. It is not until clarity stumbles through the window of recovery that I even notice time exists again.

Thinking and time are an addicts worst enemies, as getting high is a means to escape both for whatever the reasons may be. So, recovery feels worse than addiction since I am now faced with everything I threw to the winds of the hurricane. It resembles the feeling of drowning your open wounds in salt and rubbing alcohol. It is grotesque and it’s excruciating. It is in every breath I take and plagues every thought inside of my head. Inescapable. Unending.

I have grown tired of facing my truths, my dark realities, day after day and night after endless night. My friends have all died, drugs took them one by one and I was too high to ever understand that is was real. Yet, here I am, pardoned from the death sentence I place upon my own head. I don’t want to be alive either! My self-hatred and vile anger are swallowing me whole and all I can think about is how I am not worth saving. Dear death, YOU FORGOT ME!!!!

Death or drugs, drugs or death.

They are one in the same really. Drugs just happen to destroy your soul slowly before eventually ending your destructive life. Death isn’t to be feared, it’s freedom from the torture of life’s unnecessary pain. No one should live in despair, after all that’s not really living is it? As I drift away into something that resembles sleep, I ponder, if life is truly any better than death. I pray for death to take me tonight as sleep falls in.

The world falls quiet and black.

I am unable to breathe. Gasping, choking on the agony in the air. Thick and heavy it fills my lungs forcing its way into me, I can feel it sinking deeply into my heart. Sadness so real you could touch it. A heartbreak that is absolutely crippling. When my eyes focus, I realize I am sitting on a bench at the river in my hometown, not my bed in rehab where I had laid my head. I am confused and lost. How did I get here? How does one fall asleep in rehab and wake up on a bench 200 miles away? I must be high! NO, NO, NO! I swear I didn’t get high! I went to sleep….didn’t I?

Got to breathe. Take in the situation calmly.

I gaze upon the unusually quiet river front, the gray water bubbles softly over the rounded river rocks. The tree line of evergreens and grass lush and full yield no bright green and the lilacs have no scent or violet hue. The sky is absent of clouds, but the expected brilliant blue isn’t there and the glowing globe of the sun offers no light or warmth. Any sign of color has been washed away by a sea of gray. Everything is gray and lifeless! The damp chill that falls upon my skin gives me goosebumps, yet doesn’t make me cold- what is going on here? How does this familiar place have no familiarity at the same time? Where am I? Staring out at my surroundings, looking for anything to make sense.

Dead and gray.

Down the docks, I see shadowy figures moving about and can faintly hear the sound of their hushed voices. I think to myself, I swear there was not a soul to be found here moments ago. I hear it again, and strain my eyes to find the source of the sound. Shadowy figures are moving about. PEOPLE! Maybe I can find someone I know. (Wishful thinking.) As the figures approach I am looking hard at these people with hope of recognition. Then, I see it! These figures have no faces- NO FACES! That’s it! I must have finally lost my mind! Clearly, I am hallucinating! I close my eyes and take a deep breath.

That is when I smelled it, the distinct familiar smell that I yearned for, that I adored. Drakkar Noir, Mac’s cologne. It is a popular cologne, not exactly weird to smell it, but in this instance it felt like more than that- like home. All of the sudden, this place felt like everything I have ever known, more familiar to me than my own soul. Here I felt loved, entirely and unconditionally.

When I opened my eyes, there he was nose to nose with me. I jumped back screaming, this can’t be. He’s gone, he died in my arms and I watched him drift away to heaven. NO, NO, NO! What the hell is happening to me? He laid his hand upon my face (I can feel him) and I whispered “Mac? How can it be? Where am I?” I begin to cry.

He wipes my tears and stares into my eyes. Gazing into the eyes that always brought me joy and comfort all I could see was sadness and pain. With a somber tone and cracking voice, finally, he spoke. “This is a place between life and dream, what some would call heaven or hell. The place you have been praying to come. We are all here. These figures you see are the remains of those you once loved so much, those you want to rejoin. Here we are faceless and damned to live in our own torment. This is death, it is empty and colorless. Beauty is not to be found here. The freedom you seek, does not exist here. We are forgotten. This will not end your suffering it will only bring you to the beginning of it. Live the beauty and pain of life, love. That will set you free.”

Before I could respond he was faceless once more, melting into the faceless crowd surrounding me. I knew each of these figures better than I knew myself, I could feel everything in their souls. The death of each of these young men was the agony in the air that had me choking earlier. My dear friends were locked in, what appeared to be, an eternal stalemate with death. I couldn’t do anything to help them, but I could feel their crippling torture biting at my heart. Like them, I was stuck in my own desperate battle of my existence.

For this moment though, I had them back. I talked to the faceless group as if it were years ago, before the drugs, before I rewrote my destiny. I had my wish, I needed them so much, my life was dark and empty without them. In this moment it all felt normal again, it was everything. I embraced this moment with everything I had in me and projected all the love I had for them as hard as I could. They wouldn’t be forgotten, I would never let that happen.

As suddenly as their world appeared, the gray faded to white. They disappeared and the world went silent and black once again. I awoke in my bed in the rehab center crying uncontrollably. The colors returned but this side of the world was much colder, empty, compared to its gray counterpart. Regardless I had to find the beauty in the pain, live or die, I had to find it.

Remembering every moment of my experience in the afterlife, I reached for my journal.

Death is no better than life, just a permanent end. It offers no freedom or escape, enduring life is what makes it worth living. The memories are the keepsakes, without them, is when life is truly empty. When everything else is absolutely gone and the world disappears our beloved memories will remain.

“Even with my newfound knowledge, I return to that beautiful version of my town whenever it will let me. While colorless and gray, it is where my heart feels full and unjaded. It is where my memories come back to life. Maybe I can’t bring back the dead, but it is nice to visit once in a while.”