When I was twenty-two, I joined this massive religious organization. I’d essentially lost everything I owned. A certain family from the organization helped me out a lot, even letting me stay with them for free.
Now, the idea at that organization was you figure out where you’re meant to get involved by considering a few factors together—basically: your personality, your interests, your intuitions, and where you tend to get the best results.
I signed up to answer phones on Sunday mornings at 5am in this freezing little room somewhere deep in the belly of the organization’s headquarters.
Eventually, volunteering led to a fulltime job answering calls, letters, and emails, which I’d say fit my personality and interests well.
As for results, occasionally people would call or write back to let me know how certain advice, encouragement, or information I’d shared had been helpful.
I also felt like having a different perspective enabled me to cut waste and make the place run more efficiently in small, practical ways.
That job felt like a good fit for me overall.
My intuition, however, was that I was supposed get involved with the team that went out to bars and clubs on Saturday nights to strike up salesy conversations with strangers about the benefits of joining the organization.
It was just a niggling sense that never left, though the idea of persuading partiers by getting in their faces was about the polar opposite of my personality, my aspirations, and where I’d always gotten the best results.
I got so frustrated by my unrelenting intuition that I created a pseudonym and wrote letters to my own organization and others like it, asking for advice. One place was kind enough to mail me a free hardcover book within a week . . . something along the lines of: Find Your Calling in Ten Easy Steps.
On a handful of occasions, circumstances and my intuition somehow overwhelmed my apprehension, and I found myself out with the sales team. I quickly found I could no longer hide behind my computer to write by day from a safe distance to those already interested enough to have contacted the organization in the first place.
Out with the team, I had to pitch lines at some who got angry, some who didn’t care, some who felt sorry for me, and some who just enjoyed having someone to talk to (I mostly approached loners sitting by themselves).
I never understood my strange intuition to do something that felt so unnatural for me, though it never went away.
Even if we could know for sure our intuitions were valid, how certain could we ever be of our interpretations of them?
Fast-forward about ten years.
I can now honestly say I could spend most of my life sequestered in a room with a laptop tapping out stories. Going by that religious organization’s take, I’d say writing suits my personality and interests well. It also seems far easier for me to make headway in than other creative endeavors.
But what about my unlikely yet unyielding intuition to join the sales team?
As I’ve begun putting my addiction experience together to share, I think I’ve stumbled upon an answer to that question—an answer that might also make sense of why I’ve felt so strongly that going public has to be my first necessary step toward balance and control.
I wrote the following while high in 2013, at a time when I was just starting to think about sharing my story:
“Of course everything in me would much rather just go smoke and relax instead of doing this new uncomfortable thing.
“But I’d say going public is my prime intuition right now. It’s what I feel my goal should be.
“But how could this even work?
“It’s not like I expect friends to track me down if I don’t share about my progress for a week or something.
“I just feel like going public, itself, will help me.
“Going public serves the same need or purpose as joining that religious organization’s sales team.
“Going public makes me aware of who I am in an extroverted sense. It gives me specific, important reasons and motivation to take care of myself and develop—to stop avoiding being the person I see myself saying I want to be.”
Simply put, as I continue to live and prepare to share my addiction journey publically, I’m able to see myself and my own experience more from without—as seen by others.
Having a more extroverted perspective provides practical motivation for me to follow through on my own publically stated goals.
There’s a big difference between the artist that paints in her room without ever letting anyone see her work, and the one that stands by her early paintings at an art show. Yes, it’s difficult when the artist knows she hasn’t developed her art to its full potential yet; but if she doesn’t put herself out there while still developing, I don’t think she ever will.
Though going public is easier now than it’s ever been, the idea of sharing about real weaknesses and imperfections (such as addictions) is particularly uncomfortable, scary, and even countercultural.
Perfection seems to be the standard everywhere you look today.
All along those free avenues by which you could easily share and connect, you’re inundated by a relentless surge of reshuffled media—contrived, elaborate displays which third parties pay for you to have the chance to identify with (and hide behind) so you can project a more perfect life.
Your real experience feels crude and useless against an overwhelming sea of superficial shininess and hype that most seem proud to want to be a part of.
But do any of us really like perfection as much as we think we’re supposed to?
Perfection is the clichéd script that’s sculpted to get the biggest response from a focus group. It’s ironic how accurate a representation of society those focus groups really are, since they tend to respond (while being watched) the way they think they should . . . just like we’ve all gotten used to always doing.
So as you ponder how you might best be a person in this world, consider leaving produced displays of perfection back with the bigwigs seated around tables somewhere—those important decision makers who will probably always be scratching their heads, wondering why factors that limit risk no longer seem to predict value.
I love what’s real. I think people are more interesting than productions. I find our real, ugly, unsure, everyday human lives incredibly beautiful.
A few years ago, my wife was told by her doctor she was at risk of becoming diabetic if she didn’t make some major changes. Instead of locking herself up in a room with a “perfect” fad diet book or exercise program, she reluctantly signed up to walk a half marathon later that year with a running group from work.
Right away, she started connecting through social media with others who were on the same journey. She shared about her training, how she felt, her challenges, and her progress as she slowly added miles to her routes each week.
After completing her first half marathon, she continued to share about running, health, and related topics. This naturally led to many new friendships in time.
Today she regularly competes in events, her health is stellar, her attitude is bright and cheerful, and she’s always being told how her imperfect example really does encourage other real people who find themselves somewhere along her same path.
Question: Considering the momentum my wife has publically built up through the years, is she likely to suddenly quit anytime soon?
Now, before you dash off to haphazardly fling the depths of your afflicted soul out to be displayed on some website or social platform, I want to emphasize something important: Being ready to put yourself out there in an honest way is the result of a process that can’t be rushed.
It starts with recording (seeing) your real experience as it naturally plays out over time.
Capture your hopes, thoughts, and intuitions until you start to catch glimpses of the seemingly undeniable ways those driving forces all come together and connect to the everyday events of your life.
Seeing those connections gives you perspective, and that perspective is what you share when you’re ready.
Going public holds you accountable to your new perspective; but it’s the process of recording and seeing connections that changes your perspective in the first place.
I mentioned how I unknowingly isolated myself when I started using medical weed. Well, I first had to see why I was isolating myself and what that was keeping me from. Then I understood the importance of what I’d really been feeling all along—a strong desire to make friends and control my addiction.
Certain mindsets and patterns have to change before you can actually do what you already know you should. That “gap”—between knowing and doing—is really what this story is all about.
Maybe it’s in the gap that we learn to follow our niggling intuitions (whether we’ll ever truly understand them or not)…?
Tomorrow: how my addiction experience came full circle, and why that didn’t matter.