By: Ben Rose
We’ll find a new way of living
We’ll find a way of forgiving…”
On 4/22/22, I turned 15. Not a chronological 15; I am far older than that. This date represents 15 years of clean time. In the month leading up to this occasion, and because of current writing activities, I have been thinking back to the first time I saw 15 – chronological 15 when I attended a summer camp that remains in my memories.
The camp was a place that claimed to help youth who had challenges both socially and emotionally. Most if not all the campers were on the autistic spectrum, had ADHD, or were non-verbal. How the camp “helped” deal with this was sadistic, abusive, and nothing short of torture. In my first year at 12, I was molested on a camping trip, where I saw, and experienced behavior perpetrated on others, that would immediately go viral on social media and lead to criminal proceedings and court cases today.
I have used over this and other events in my life, both before and after camp. To say that I had a dysfunctional youth is putting it mildly.
Using How It Works as a Guide
I was undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. I have High Functioning ASD, Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and although mild now, my Tourette’s was anything but mild in my youth.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous covers this situation in a line from the chapter, How It Works. “There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders. Many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” I have that capacity, and at 15, it is growing stronger. That is why I am writing this article.
Our Emotional Baggage
I look back at the events of my life, which are different from the events suffered by some other addicts. They are similar to events suffered by some other addicts. The differences don’t matter. The similarities barely matter. However, there is one similarity that matters a great deal.
Whatever emotional baggage we all carry, whatever psychic boo-boos remain exposed and festering, we used over these things. We drank over these things. We used, drank, and didn’t deal with root causes because we didn’t know how. An addict is an addict for this.
Unpacking My Emotional Baggage
Many in early recovery talk about the good they felt came from using at first. They talk about the camaraderie and sense of belonging they felt when they sat in a bar. There is nothing dishonest in this, I suppose. However, it is not the deepest layer of honesty, the type of honesty necessary to truly recover if one has the issues I have.
Coming to terms with why I drank and used has been critical. It required therapy as well as the programs of AA and NA. I have written articles that deal with the why of the situation but cautiously working around the edges. I even wrote two novels that deal with the dysfunction behind why one might use and drink.
However, as I am going through the 15-year growth spurt, I am seeing something as critical, or more so, than simply coming to terms with my past. I am experiencing something that I would never have imagined possible even six months ago.
Because I Choose Not to Use
I look back at those experiences from summer camp. With PTSD, I look at them multiple times a day some days. When I do, they are occurring now. In front of me. PTSD is like that.
Until a month ago, I would feel anger and depression and think about how I wanted to drink or use but no longer could. For whatever reason, a month ago, that changed.
Instead, I pray when these events force themselves into my mind uninvited. I offer my forgiveness to those who abused and tortured me, and I ask that my Higher Power do the same. It helps. It doesn’t make everything better, and it may never; however, it does help.
If for Me; Then for You
I realize that people who are well would never treat another person as I was treated. They would never torture children, as I saw happen so many times. The conclusion, then, is that these counselors and the camp’s owners were not well. They were sick. I also am sick in my own ways. I want understanding of my grave emotional and mental disorders. I can’t very well deny that same understanding to these people.
I look at those in a high elected position. How can I not look when these events are thrust upon me daily in the news? Instead of getting angry or bitter, I forgive these bad actors. Their actions and behavior indeed hold far more weight and gravitas than mine, but they try to hold on to their jobs.
I have had many situations where I was asked on a job to do something that I knew was not OK. Actions that I knew might cause issues for another person. I went along because my job would have been jeopardized if I had not. It isn’t apples to apples, but a politician wants to keep their job. I have to understand and forgive at that level.
Many examples of this are less emotionally charged. Daily, here in The Florida Gulf, I encounter drivers who are risking the lives of pedestrians. They insist on making that right-hand turn even if the cross signal indicates that I have the right of way. I have been in a hurry before; I know what that’s like. I forgive these drivers. I offer them understanding.
Understanding Commonality Leads to Forgiveness
The other day in the grocery store, I had two teenagers behind me tell me, “Move it, old man,” because I was pushing a heavy cart, and they wanted to pass by. While their behavior is rude and not acceptable, I have said similar things in the past. I have been in a hurry. I forgive them.
In these and other examples, allow me to make one thing clear. The behavior of these people is not acceptable. In some cases, it is reprehensible, and that word does not even convey the level of wrong. I don’t say that people must accept the behavior of others and not try to change it.
We are not human doormats, and we must call out wrong behavior where it exists. We must vote, change the laws, and stand up for marginalized people.
The forgiveness part is due to seeing similarities as well as differences. Although not as egregious at times, my behavior comes from a root cause in which commonality exists. Understanding this has been a shock. It has started a healing process.
The Man in the Mirror
The other day, while shaving, I pondered all of this. I was meditating on the healing that 15 years have brought me. A calm, still voice spoke to my mind, as my Higher Power tends to do. “You are forgiving others; what about that guy staring back at you?”
“I can’t. I don’t know how.”
“Why can’t you? Is he any less worthy of your forgiveness?”
“I don’t know how. It’s difficult.”
“Difficult? I’ll grant you that. It is possible. I’ll help you learn how.”
Forgiving Them Allows Me to Grow and Forgive Myself
“It always comes as a surprise when I feel my withered roots begin to grow.” Billy Joel
The process continues because forgiveness isn’t an easy task, nor is it a one-and-done situation. If it were, I’d walk across The Gulf waters and find the people who hurt me. I’d offer them absolution. I am not that man.
I am only one who tries to be half as forgiving as He was. Now, I understand that forgiving others brings me greater inner peace. It allows me to focus on other tasks that have necessity in the present.
As I re-read my two published novels and write more each day, I find that these truths of forgiveness are an underlying theme in my work.
I never meant for them to be, in fact, I never noticed.
I’m growing, I suppose. It feels good. It’s about time.
Bio: Ben Rose
Ben is an Oregon native who currently resides on The Florida Gulf. He has traveled extensively by bus, car, freight train, Amtrak, and foot to see America and find stories to write.
He was born at the end of the turbulent sixties, and much of that is reflected in his writing. In addition, his travels started in his formative years. Early in life, he developed a love of cheap motels, greasy spoons, and great comedians.
He speaks fluent hipster as well as English and a smattering of French. He is an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, a supporter of human rights, and a believer in racial and gender equality. As one with Asperger’s, GAD, and PTSD, he has seen his share of hard traveling, abuse, and bullying, also reflected in his literary works.
He currently resides with his beautiful, better half and their emotional support cat.
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Sharing Your Experience, Strength, and Hope
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