Learning to Love Myself in the Garden of Eden
I have destroyed my body, over and over. I have littered it with scars and pain and substances. At times, my body has never been more than a junkyard in this life. But, I have learned that even old trash can be fertiliser in my own Garden of Eden.
I do not imagine myself to be an expert in pain, addiction, or death. I know I have self-harmed. I know I have lost far too many good people in my life because of my drinking. I know I have tried to kill myself with pills and pain.
I know my addictive tendencies stem from a deep, seemingly incurable, psychological pain, rooted in the somewhat incomprehensible fact that I live in an illusion in which nothing I say or do or think really matters. I fundamentally believe the lie that my life, lost in the universe and hidden amongst the chaos, is meaningless. Every single cell that I consist of screams in agony every single second of every day—any addiction I feed myself with might as well be a constant stream of anaesthesia to my soul. Alcohol and pills always numbed. Physically hurting myself reminded me that I was in fact alive and not in my own virtuoso hell.
Even now, over 8 months sober, I constantly drift into endless, cyclical thoughts in which I recoil completely from the world. I ponder whether I really can have a lasting impact in a world where my base feeling is hopelessness. My instinctive answer is a resounding ‘No.’
Maybe the most concise example I can offer of my present self is my reluctance to ask girls out. I sum it up to, “I am not good enough for her.” I berate myself to the point of insanity with this psychological wound, to rationalise the fact that I am scared to let my innate pain and loneliness destroy her beautiful perception of life—that I will destroy all that is good about her. I feel I am the snake in the Garden of Eden. And so, I numb myself by tearing my mind and soul apart, like a physical substance would.
I do not have any answers for this. Ultimately, I believe that in recovery I am lucky to be alive and lucky to realise that despite my addictions telling me otherwise, there is a difference between pursuing happiness and relishing in pain.
I believe that there is a difference between being the snake and being the humans, Adam and Eve, who merely must live with choices, pain, and consequences that life brings, than constantly create it for others around them. The human element of that biblical story is not temptation or disobedience; it is pursuing happiness and thus, finding grace, after the pain.
In the journey of recovery, I have tried to stop addictively wandering the earth in lost purpose with the hope of finding another Garden of Eden, and instead worked to create and nurture a garden of my own that reflects the nourishment of love and happiness I need.
Regardless of the scars on my body or soul, to nurture such a garden and pursue a life within my own means, I must draw upon the fear and emptiness I have felt before, not ignore it or block it. I want to be extremely conscientious of the fact that I can never leave scars of any type behind—that they will always be a part of my story. That again and again, I must confront them, refute the temptation to dwell on the pain they unearth, and then have the courage to look past them at the passion and love they disconnect me from.
I try to rationalise the fact that wanting to feel nothing is really just a yearning to feel something. I try to recognise that I am lonely and afraid, so that I can appreciate the people around me rather than block them out more. I try to recognise my own self worth by focusing on nurturing the parts of me that carry the light and beauty I possess. Each day, I am trying.
Because of the immense pain and addictions I have experienced, I, personally, could not have immense, unique, passion for wanting to share my words with others. And, I think there is something incredibly courageous about the fact that I, like so many others, work to view happiness through another’s eyes, rather than my own.
I have a genuine fear that I will never feel happiness or true love for myself. There are times I am happy or am proud of things I do, but in the quiet moments, I struggle to be content. And, I think the cyclical and destructive thoughts I work to overcome make me believe that happiness and love will always be close, but unattainable.
I recently took a new job where my sole responsibility is to induce pride and accomplishment in the people around me, and to teach them to let those feelings permeate through the other aspects of their lives. I have found that as these feelings of self-respect and self-love permeate their lives, they unconsciously give me permission to smile in my quiet moments and think that maybe things are good.
Maybe there is a purpose for the pain—that by feeling and acknowledging fear and sadness I can create a healthier soil to nurture a better, stronger life for myself. My faith in my own life continues to be reassured in the smiles emanating from people accomplishing what they used to believe impossible. Much like a garden will produce the fruit to fuel its farmer as he or she works to keep it growing, the unconscious displays of self-love of the people I work with have begun to nurture my own feelings of self-worth.