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The vulnerable path to self love
“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees—these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace.”
There’s a personal story that I’ve been hesitant to share, but I’ve been motivated by the current state of the world to open up and be vulnerable. I felt that there was no time like the present to be as vulnerable as possible. It took a long time for me to understand that vulnerability and courage are one in the same.
Currently the world is on pause, and I’m watching people around me (virtually) struggle to be comfortable not only being isolated, but also struggling with remembering and enjoying who they are. I find myself fortunate, being that just 61 days ago I intentionally paused my own world to enter rehab. I had been fighting addiction for most of my adult life, and addiction is arguably one of the most isolating things in life.
On January 28, I lost my sister who was at a time in life, my best friend. However, the truth was it was the second time I had grieved the loss of my relationship with my sister. Our relationship ended a long time ago when I lost her to drugs and alcohol. Growing up together and being best friends, I knew that her and I were as comparable to twins as possible, without actually being twins. Knowing this about us, allowed for me to look at the hard truth, which was that I was already on a path not far behind her. I knew, it was time to change or I would also end up gone too soon.
My struggles had always been easy to hide because Gina was my older sister, and her struggles were more visible to our family and friends than mine. I was able to hide in the shadow of her struggles, and on paper I had the perfect life. In reality, I was fighting battles of my own. Battles with shame for being a gay man. I used alcohol to drown out that shame, until alcohol wasn’t strong enough anymore. I then turned to whatever drug could speed up my mind to ignore both my thoughts and who I truly was. It was only recently that I was able to face, understand and begin to fall in love with the most authentic version of myself.
Here I am though, 61 days completely clean and sober from all drugs and alcohol and I’ve only just recently started to rebuild again. Through one on one therapy, group therapy, reading and learning anything and everything I can, and building new relationships I’m beginning to remember my old, but familiar lust for life. I’ve been surrounded (physically and virtually) by people that truly, and unabashedly understand. People who are real, people who have shared heart ache. People that fight that same battles that my sister and I fight and fought.
My sister helped me overcome addiction once before in our lives when we were younger, and on January 28th, she did it again for me. From a painful death of someone gone entirely too young, I was able to find my footing again. My sister gave me ground to stand on, that woke me up to the life I wasn’t living.
The truth is, this life is absolutely worth living, when you live it with love and self compassion which was the piece I had been missing for far too long.
In this ongoing and incredibly challenging portion of my life, I’ve found a way to not only remember who I am, but I’m managing to fall in love with him again. In this process I’ve gotten myself clean, I’ve gotten myself re-enrolled in school to complete my bachelor’s degree, I’m studying to complete the personal trainer exam this year, and I’ve become a meeting facilitator through SMART recovery and other 12 Step programs. Every day I’m meeting new people that are vulnerable enough to be human and share their stores. In that, is where I found the inspiration and the courage to share my story.
These personal and intimate stories have restored my empathy and compassion that had been muted by drugs and alcohol. I know for sure that others in the LGBT community fight a similar battle, and my hope with this is to share and bring attention and or hope to those who still do.
I’ve ended friendships along the way, and I’ve lost loving partners that showed me unconditional love that I’ve never even dreamed I deserved. Through all of that I had forgotten to love myself first, which is truly our greatest love of all.
I share this not to seek validation, or gratification or even to be self-serving. I share it only to be vulnerable. Just as the quote above mentions, being vulnerable teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace. But mostly importantly, with love.