Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ken Robert.
For almost two decades, whenever I felt uncomfortable, I’d reach for a cigarette. I was addicted to the nicotine, but I was just as hooked on the smoke’s ability to swiftly suffocate my stray, unwanted feelings.
Part of me simply didn’t want to deal.
What’s wrong, Ken? Feeling blue? Let me grab a pack.
She said WHAT? You must be angry. Here, let me light that for you.
Sorrow, fury, anxiety, fear? No problem. Take two drags and call me in the next half hour.
Repeatedly numbing yourself, however, eventually takes its toll.
Feelings, including the unwanted ones, arise for a reason. They’re messengers bearing information. If you can learn how to live with them, they can teach you how to live.
But I always feared and tried to kill them, so I seldom got the message. I lost touch with my dreams. My vision grew dim. I detached and slowly drifted away from the things that brought me joy. I was numb, dumb, and increasingly bummed.
I was so adept at suffocating my emotions that I really felt quite dead inside.
Reaching For Something Different
There must have been some small part of me that wanted to live, that wanted to feel, because one day I decided to reach for an ink pen instead of a cigarette.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was starting a fight that day, a battle between me and me.
Yes, writing and drawing woke up something new in me, but it also woke the old part, the one that wanted to sleep forever undisturbed, and that part was kind of pissed.
For every piece the new part created, the old one smoked another handful of mentholated cancer sticks as if to say, “Oh yeah? Take that!”
Some days the new part would go into hiding. On others it would forge its way through the smoke and make its way to the page.
The Battle For Change Is A Long One
The battle for change, I’ve since learned, takes longer than you may imagine. It’s been more than two years since I first picked up an ink pen and just six weeks since I last picked up a cigarette, but I know I’ll never do so again. That part of me, at last, surrendered. The new part finally won.
I still have to be careful. When one battle ends, another one begins. Now I have to face my feelings without a smoke screen, and sometimes it’s tempting to look for something else to go numb with.
So if you’re using one hand to pat yourself on the back for never having reached for a cigarette, I recommend keeping an eye on the other hand. There are lots of things you can reach for and dim your inner light with.
Maybe you never have this problem, but that would make you rare, so stay alert and watch for times when you’re tempted to fade to black.
Instead of reaching for something to go numb with (a chocolate bar? a remote control? an extra glass of wine?), try reaching for something you can use to express and process what’s going on inside you. Trust me, there’s gold in what you feel.
Photo Credit: discosour