textiles · exploration · misadventure


Grace and the Abyss

San Francisco Mission mural

Sometimes moments of grace and clarity emerge. My brother David reminds me that alchemical transmutations happen only in closed vessels. He also sez that I have chosen an heroic journey by plowing deeper, over and over, and overturning and unearthing all of the smelly, slimy shit that I can stand to look at. Preparing the field for some future harvest. ~asher

Of Grace

Yes. Despite the pain: the moments of grace. Exquisite and profound, nyet?

I agree with David: you are slogging your way through a classic heroic journey. Call to adventure, supernatural aid, mentors, helpers, challenges and temptations, the abyss. Death and rebirth. Paradigm shift. Transformation and atonement. The gift of the return. It’s all there. It’s like Psilocybin. But way harder. And add labor pains.

I think those moments of clarity and grace are a large part of what kept me sober in the beginning. Sometimes I was a crying lump. Other times, I could sense what was happening, the transmutation, the hard, hard work of understanding how my addiction functioned, how it had affected me long-term, scrying out who I was, who I wanted to be, who I could be, without alcohol affecting everything I thought, felt, needed, and desired.

It was exciting, actually. Through all of the pain, to have moments where I just fell through peace was a totally new thing. At the same time, I was having insight after insight into my own internal workings (aka: why I was such a fuck-up). I was passionately invested in learning about myself so I could change myself. I found that the more I invested in reaching for moments of grace and clarity, the more they came, and in the end I find I have experienced a paradigm shift so profound that I am an entirely different person.

My sister Wendy recently suggested that I’d experienced a 180 degree paradigm shift, back to my original self, the person I would have been had there been no alcoholism and my natural gifts and abilities allowed to develop, instead of being lost in the abyss.

Of the Abyss

The vast majority here have opiates as their d.o.c.* When Xanax and oxy-c become too spendy, the obvious choice becomes heroin and ohhhh even the ones who are my son’s age have enough chilling tales to fill three lifetimes. It’s like they burn brightly at both ends—and in the middle—just to avenge the spirits of the good friends now dead….
And in this company, I am convinced that the problem is not drugs and alcohol. It is a hole in the soul so wide and deep that it must be filled with something—anything…. ~asher

That fucking abyss. My friend, I know that abyss. It terrified me, the first time I became conscious of it lurking there, just like a spider. I thought I’d fight it off to my dying day, because it was so hungry whatever I put into it just vanished in its infinity. I thought I’d never fill it.

But although it is deep, it is NOT infinite. I promise. Each sober day you fill it up with one more grain of something that isn’t drugs or alcohol. Each moment of grace and clarity fills it more, and as you go through life and learn and grow, the grains become pinches and pinches become teaspoons and teaspoons become handfuls.

Somewhere around two or three years sober, mine was noticeably smaller and less painful. By five or six years sober, I forgot about it most of the time. Around ten or eleven years, I suddenly noticed I’d grown a backhoe in my brain, and was tamping down the topsoil, planting flowers, growing fruit trees. Maybe someday I will build a home there.

And you do fill it with people, but you also fill it with experiences, and with your new-found sense of SELF. I remember once I was at a sober party. I always forced myself to go to those things, because “they were good for me” and I was supposed to “enjoy” them. I was three of four years sober. All of a sudden, I realized I WAS enjoying myself! I was having FUN! Real FUN! It was the first time in, oh, maybe 25 years that I’d had honest fun, without anxiety. THAT day got me a swimming-pool-sized payload straight to the abyss.

And that was just one day. Healthier thinking, positive experiences, insights, new skills: they compound. You’re a beginner right now—do you remember the first time you picked up a hammer? And look at the wonderful, amazing things you can do with your hands today. Sobriety and that abyss are no different.

I’ve read your letter, over and over. I’m so impressed with your strength. It takes serious GUTS to ask for help, and even more guts to take it when it comes. Just getting through those first few weeks, riding your bike to meetings two or three times a day and looking for stable housing would have been more than enough for some folks.

Your sister is a helluva force for good. She clearly loves you dearly (not hard), and in my head she wears angel wings.

And I know I mentioned him before, but your roommate sounds so awesome. If he can live through his heroic doses to travel the heroic path, he, like you, will be one hell of an asset to the sober community. The kinds of stories and experiences that come with that kind of use and subsequent sobriety are powerful motivators for and bridges to those that want to follow you. I SO wish I could be there for some of your conversations/recovery meetings of two.

In other news, I’m weaving a bath mat! I’ve been kind of lamo and taken no pictures, but hopefully it will come off the loom next Tuesday and I can snap some pics and send. I dyed all the yarn myself!

Tons of big fat hugs. Love you,

*Drug of choice

(For the rest of my Letters to Asher series, click here.)