This is the most personal post I have written. It may sound sappy to some. I hope not, because I am putting myself out there right now. I’m hoping somebody will connect.
Beautiful isn’t pretty.
I don’t usually share this part of my life with anyone, well, ever. It is about addiction. This time I will because it is the only way I know how to share what followed. It took a long time and it is only by chance (or was it?) that I was given a glimpse of such beautiful ugly. I hope it will be for someone out there.
It was a long road for me. Many years battling serious addiction. Cocaine, Pills, Heroin, anything really, but those were my drugs of choice. I am not sure why I am still alive, my present existence is an unlikely outcome. I have been homeless, I have ruined careers, lost possessions, and many other great possibilities were sacrificed for the lifestyle I became caught up in. It seemed like an impossible cycle. I was very low for a long time. I don’t remember a time when my reality was bearable enough to not desperately seek any sort of self medication I could find. The substances described above were those that I settled into after many years of trying anything to soften my waking life. I hear there is a correlation between bipolar and addiction. In case anyone is wondering, I was diagnosed Bipolar before my life of drugs. I’m sure the drugs worsened my condition, but they didn’t cause it. Needless to say my self-image was not in line with what those who loved me saw. Don’t get me wrong, I appeared to be functioning well. I achieved multiple degrees in university, awards, started careers, but I was a master at hiding it. The internal agony on the other hand was like being given a day pass from hell to carry out the image of a normal life, knowing that I didn’t live here and I was still always a citizen of hell.
When things were almost at their worst, I had spent everything on heroin and cocaine. While my fiancé worked away, I spent. When he came back and reality set in that there was no money, it was one of the worse days of my life. I thought, “We’ve been through hell and back together, but this is the limit, and I cruised past that line with the top down, leaving nothing but a trail of dust.” As he stood there, left with nothing but a tumbleweed bouncing in my tailwind, he found the strength, and had the vision and optimism to forgive me, once I admitted what I had done. He didn’t hold it against me and continued to discuss what we were going to do and how we would deal with it. I had a new appreciation and confidence in the depth of his love for me, which he always expressed, but I couldn’t truly absorb. This is another one of the situations that we survived as a couple, but it gets worse. There was a new bottom to come.
My world started crumbling down. Partly because of the drugs, the illness, and many months of extreme stress. Each making the other worse. At my worst I was using heavily every day, doing enough heroin and cocaine to kill a horse. I always mixed heroin, cocaine, benzos, not to mention all my psychotropic medication. My fiancé told me that he thought I wasn’t going to wake up. He could never sleep because he kept getting up to make sure I was still breathing. My breathing would get so shallow from the heroin especially with the benzos. I never knew he did this. He said that he thought he would have to leave so many times, even though it would devastate him. He calls me his heart. His life. And he means it.
Things had become almost 100% better, thanks to quality medical and psychological care, including drug counselling and addiction professionals. However, one thing that I still hadn’t learned was how to love myself. I still didn’t have the tools to put that into action. I understood the concept, but was missing an essential component. I wasn’t sure what that was until recently, and that is the reason for this lengthy sharing. It is almost easy to lose sight of the depth of meaning when describing the beauty and wonder of life. It isn’t that anybody doesn’t believe it, or mean it, it is just easy to forget the unfathomable wonder and beauty that is being described. I thought I got it, and I did on a certain level. I even agreed. What I didn’t realize, though, was that beauty does not mean pretty. In fact, I have come to see that the true beauty in life is not pretty. Let me explain.
Something happened recently that allowed me the honor of a glimpse of life’s elusive beauty. Perhaps it is not elusive, just really hard to see clearly through our personal shit storms.
Just to fill you in, my fiancé calls me his heart, baby bird, squirrely bird, his life, tons of sappy pet names. (Don’t gag – it’s just so you will get the significance of something coming.)
He and I were shopping a few days ago. Nothing special, just an average day, then a song came on. I had heard it before and liked it, but I didn’t personalize it. I had only heard it a couple of times. Then my partner walked up to me and said, “This is the song that I would always sing in my head when I thought of you when you were really bad.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. He answered…
“When I thought you were going to die, or that I was going to have to leave you to save you. I would never sleep, I checked your breathing every couple of hours I was so scared that you weren’t going to wake up. I really thought you were going to die. I would see you nodding off and losing consciousness while watching TV, or at the computer. I was getting ready to lose you. This is the song that played constantly in my head, and when I hear it now I remember that time and how lucky we are to still have each other. I would have died without my heart. You are my life, my heart, I love you more than you will ever know. How could I live without my Baby Bird? I felt so sad for you, a sadness I have never felt before.”
I almost cried in the store thinking about what he was going through during that time. I had no idea. I was seeing things through my eyes. Never truly knowing how to feel loved by myself or anybody else. I was so lonely.
I lived what he was talking about, I was there, but as myself. Even though it wasn’t his intention, he gave me the rare gift of really seeing myself through the eyes of someone who truly, selflessly, loves and adores me. I haven’t thought about myself the same way since. I felt sadness for myself in a way that you can only feel out of love for someone. It is no news to anyone that knows me that I have never held myself in high esteem. Trying to understand how to love myself was entirely lost on me. I didn’t know how. His telling me about what that song meant to him showed me beauty. Beauty exists in love, and pain, true and selfless pain, exists only in love. My eyes opened to one of life’s moments of true beauty, and it was too beautiful to be pretty.
Soon things started to change before my eyes.
My rare glimpse of beauty began to show me not only myself through the eyes of love, but I saw others through eyes of love in a way I never have. Could this be what it means to not be able to love others until you love yourself? I was shown the beauty that existed out of my ugly. Beauty that could have only come into existence because of my ugly. I consider this one of the defining moments in my life’s journey. Now, where I would have only ever seen ugly. The ugly of the person I only knew how to hate and blame. The ugly that I took personally, resented, hated, cursed, and worst of all, the ugly for which I had no ability to see with sympathy, empathy or love. Now I see. I first see the ugly, but now I am not fooled. The ugly, the illusion, is not the person, it is the manifestation of their pain. To see through the ugly, to the pain is where lies the window to the true person, to true beauty.
The rarest, most breathtaking beauty is that which is seen through the ugly. When you are loved at your worst. When you hate yourself. When someone loves unconditionally, never losing sight of your beauty. To experience that dimension and depth of love, and to be given a glimpse of yourself through the eyes of someone who sees only your beauty, when it is almost impossible to see anything but the ugly, is a gift. Those loving eyes cannot see the ugly as being a part of you, of who you are. Love sees through the ugly, understands it is the disguise of pain, and sees through to the true beauty behind. It is a special love to see that authentic, beautiful ugly. The long-suffering and devotion of one who loves another through those open eyes, comes from the inability to give up hope that the one they love will one day get a glimpse of themselves through open eyes. To see their beautiful self the way they have always looked to the one who loves them unconditionally.
I will never forget the first time I got a glimpse of myself through such loving eyes. I don’t think it is something you can give yourself, I think it has to be given. Stay aware lest the moment pass before your eyes, because if you are given a glimpse, life stops and you get lost in a beautiful moment of the infinite now.