My favorite quote for every new adventure comes from Martin Buber – ’Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware.’
Learning our secret destination is both worrying and promising. And since you can’t prepare for your secret destination, you just have to be open to the fact that at some point you will arrive in an unexpected place. The very nature of a secret destination is that it’s a puzzle piece you didn’t know was missing until it falls into place, and suddenly the nature of your picture is transformed because of it. Because it moves from unconsciousness into awareness, it’s always a surprise.
My secret destination has already found me this Dryuary, not many days into my journey. It came in the form of an argument I started with a dear friend – one of those petty, nonsense disputes that I sometimes wander into despite my best judgement. But even though I know I’m being mean and bull-headed, even though I can see it even as it’s happening… I still dig in. Nothing good comes from it. I hate these fights and the damage they do to my relationships. And this week I didn’t have the excuse of being hungover or drunk when I did it either. That’s the secret destination showing up as I turn this corner in my journey – that sobriety is partly about separating who I am as a human being, and who I am when I’m under the influence.
Everyone has bad days. I’ve definitely blamed many of my bad days on alcohol, whether it’s because I’m aching and bloated and my hangover headache is drowning out all other senses, or whether I’m not minding my words because I’ve tipsy and feeling contrary.
As it turns out, there are some bad days when I’m just plain stubborn and ill-tempered. This is partly who I am and I have to accept it. It’s certainly not all of who I am – I’m not shirking my responsibility for the argument, I’m not pretending it wasn’t my fault or anything like that. I’ve already apologized and hopefully repaired the damage done. But the incident brings into focus a few things for me.
1. One of the reasons I starting drinking too much was to deal with my depression.
2. I know my depression can make me irritable when it builds up and spills over onto other people.
3. I know there’s quite a bit of research that says that drinking, in the long run, makes depression more severe.
4. But I’ve been telling myself that’s it’s alcohol’s fault when I get cranky.
But it’s not; it’s my fault. I’m still struggling with the depression at my core. Still. And I can’t regulate my emotions very well when I’m depressed. It’s tiring. I know the depression itself drives my drinking, I know this is going to be a long haul to work my way through it, but what I didn’t allow myself to see was that it was continuing to affect my relationships and how I treat other people.
I’m not going to get into the various treatments and therapies for depression because that’s a whole other detailed topic, but I’m sharing this embarrassing revelation because I suspect some of you may be having similar unexpected discoveries. These things are not easy to accept, but they are important to know. If the problem is us, well… at least that means we’re in control of the problem. We can do something about it. And we have the responsibility to do so because we have the ability to respond. Greater understanding heightens our ability to become the people we want to be, and that’s a goal worth all our effort.
Secret destinations are not pitfalls in the road, they are the deeper meanings we uncovered by setting out on this course. It may seem like a setback, but it’s really the whole point of our journey. Our destination rises up to meet us, and we find ourselves transported back home where nothing is the same, or recognizing familiar sights in the strangest of places.
I’m pulling out my old cognitive behavioral skills workbook, I’m bracing myself for the freezing cold to go to the gym, I’m taking the time to be patient with myself and with other people in my life. I know how to deal with what Winston Churchill called his ‘black dog’ and know that I just need to keep applying the tools I have to get better. We all deserve so much more than a stiff drink to push the feelings away, only to have them return with twice their strength. Maybe I can’t be stronger, or better, with just willpower and alcohol to fuel me. I’m going to have to actually face my depression and work at it. In order to secure a life of moderation with my drinking, I’m going to have to make a life I want to be sober in. I welcome more twists in this road, more revelations in this journey.
Post Submitted by: Jonathan
Jonathan M. Langley is the author of Re-think Your Drinking: 5 practical tips to cut back on alcohol