Turning 1 at 38

One year ago I was sitting on my hotel bed in Las Vegas, hopelessly exhausted.  It was an exhaustion the likes of which I had never experienced before, permeating every fiber of my being.  There was an obvious physical exhaustion, the result of the prior evening’s revelry which had inevitably deteriorated into debauchery once the clock struck 2am.  But beyond the physical there was a deep emotional and spiritual exhaustion as well.  The emotional exhaustion stemmed from the raw and honest phone conversation with my wife Tiffany, that had just concluded about the activities I had engaged in the previous evening (more accurately stated, much earlier that same morning), the conclusion of which was not a conclusion at all but rather an unknown outcome as it pertained to our relationship, our marriage… to ‘us’.  The spiritual exhaustion accompanied the glaring realization that life on my terms could only lead to self destruction, and that indeed it actually had finally done so.  With nothing else that could be done to rectify my actions, I succumb to the need for rest and lay down in an attempt to sleep before departing for home in the morning.  However, the driving bass from the speakers of a nearby outdoor nightclub made that endeavor an impossible one.  The music shook my brain and rattled my bones, and I slept not one single wink that night.  It was the longest, most miserable night of my life, exhausted with no hope for rest.  Ironically, years earlier I had partied at that very same club and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had in some way unknowingly played the role of accomplice in the denial of rest for someone just like myself who desperately needed it.  It seemed only fitting that the karma of it all should come full circle and deny me the rest I so desperately craved that evening.  I checked out of my hotel room sometime early the next morning, with 4 hours until my departing flight.  I couldn’t stand to be in that city one second longer, so I went to the airport and waited for my plane to ferry me back home to my painful reality.

It would be easy for this blog post to turn into my life story about how exactly I got there,  and perhaps someday that would make for an interesting book, or Lifetime bio-doc with a rad soundtrack and a really good (looking) actor portraying me.  But that is not my intention today.  Today is a day of reflection and a day of celebration.  I actually never planned to write and share this post, but as this day (the one year anniversary of my all time low) approached, it stirred feelings in me that I had not anticipated.  I had thought I might experience feelings of gratitude and perhaps even accomplishment for how much I have grown this past year, and those feelings are present.  But those feelings are buried beneath a layer of other, less expected feelings, feelings like guilt and shame which I had thought were feelings I had moved beyond… at least from this set of circumstances.  So this post is an attempt at processing those feelings, an attempt at being honest and open… and exposed.  With that having been said, I suppose some historical context is necessary, I’ll aim to keep it brief (not my strong suit).

For those of you who know me, and I’ll assume that most who have read this far most likely do, you know that I am not a bad person.  But good people are capable of doing bad things, as is the case with me.  Bad things can vary in degree quite substantially.  For example, killing people… bad.  My bad does not look like that.  The side of me that causes pain for others, is the same side of me that seeks to maximize my own pleasure.  Most often the pursuit of pleasure in my life has involved alcohol and other drugs, but primarily alcohol.  Over the years I built my identity around the fun, social, funny guy that everyone knows who could often be found with a craft beer in hand.  I even masked my consumption of alcohol behind the veneer of a self-proclaimed beer connesuer with an above-average passion for craft beer and a semi-professional knowledge level of the industry and the craft itself.  The reality was it was just one more log fueling the fire of my ego, and one more excuse to keep that identity alive and kicking.  I had known for sometime that the identity I had created for myself was not enough, and if anything that it was actually capable of causing great harm, especially to those that I cared for most, including myself.  It was in that spirit that I began attending church with my wife and our children two years ago, a full year prior to my fall.

Church is a tricky topic for most, based on individual experiences that have pushed many or have kept many away from them.  I was not immune to those same kinds of experiences and the result was that I had spent several decades away from the church.  Moreover, the church I grew up in was Catholic and the church I found myself returning to was not.  All that to say that I was able to suspend, for just long enough, the issues I had taken up against “the church” in order to give it a shot.  The result was fascinating.  By suspending judgement I was able to experience the Holy Spirit within me.  I could not explain it, it did not fit with the issues I had carried with me for so long about the church, and yet there it was, inside of me… I could feel it.  So I kept coming back and some strange things began to happen.  My relationship with Tiffany and our kids began to improve, as did my relationship with my parents.  Healthier patterns began to emerge in our home.  All seemed well, I was healing from within.  Except for one thing, I had done little to no work on the actual cause(s) for the behavior patterns that were so deeply engrained in the seasons of my life.  Instead I simply attempted to replace those behaviors with God.  The result was a personal catastrophe, an implosion of magnificent proportions.

Now by this point, if you are still with me, you may be wondering what really happened down there in Vegas?  Well if you know anything about Vegas, you know that what happens there… never actually stays there.  But with that being said, it really is pretty irrelevant to this post.  What I can tell you is that I found myself in a dark, dark place that night.  It was a personal low for me, and a place I aim to never return to again.  When I’ve shared the details of that place with some of my closest companions, some have remarked that it actually wasn’t even that dark of a place, that they’ve been there and will most likely go back.  That is why it is beside the point, because it is based on personal core values.  I violated my own core value system that night, and in doing so, self-destructed.  To someone else, it might not have looked that way and frankly that doesn’t matter.  Because for me, it was nothing short of a failure on the grandest scale.

What that event, the month’s of therapy after, and the craving I now have in my life to follow the example of Jesus Christ have taught me is this… we all have skeletons in our closet.  For some of us those skeletons look like substance abuse that leads to destructive patterns of behavior and for others it could look much different.  The point is that most of us hide them deep in the back, darkest corner of the closet where nobody will find them.  Most people would not deny that Jesus Christ was a very influential man who walked this Earth roughly 2000 years ago.  Some would argue that he was much more than merely an influential man.  No matter where you stand on that topic, what is known about Jesus is this… he came here to demonstrate another way to live as human beings, to live life to the full (hint:  it’s a way of life that does not require copious amounts of drugs or alcohol to achieve).  Many believe he was the living God, the son of God himself.  If you believe that then it was his Father who provided Moses with the 10 Commandments for living.  But when Jesus came he replaced that covenant with a new covenant, one that contains just 2 Commandments, “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)  This is the new covenant, and it requires that we believe in faith in a loving creator God.  But it also requires that we believe in love and that we extend that love to others, and not just those who look like us, or act like us, or talk like us, or live like us, or believe like us.  But most importantly, it requires that we love ourselves, because how can we love our neighbors as ourselves if we don’t first love ourselves to begin with?  That’s self-love friends and that’s where it has to begin.  We have to get right with our past, with our mistakes, with our regrets.  We have to realize that time is a construct and that today is the first day of the rest of our lives to get right by ourselves for the sake of others and for the good of God.

The picture below was taken (directly below the nightclub mentioned above) earlier this month back at that same hotel in Las Vegas.  Most of you probably know that I’ve been going there annually for work for over a decade.  My return to Vegas marked a year of tremendous self-improvement.  Things that seemed to matter so much to me before no longer matter at all.  My taste in things has shifted.  For example, I now listen almost exclusively to worship music.  Elevation Worship was in my headphones when I snapped this selfie and I had just finished publicly praising Jesus, something I couldn’t have imagined doing even a few short months ago.  My values are now more clearly defined, in part due to my unintentional violation of a few that were most sacred to me.  My purpose is more clear and my passion for life is accelerated.  I am grateful to have a community of dedicated souls who I can have deep, meaningful connection with, even if they are small in number.  I am grateful to have the example set forth by the greatest leader to ever walk this Earth in Jesus Christ, that I can aim to look to and follow the example of more closely every single day.  I am grateful for the word of God that has been left for us to seek when answers and direction seem difficult to find.  I am grateful for the Holy Spirit who resides inside me and inside each of us, who if we are willing will illuminate and shine a bright light into the deepest and darkest parts of our closets and help us to clean out those corners, softening the hardest parts of our hearts along the way.  Most importantly, I am grateful to my wife for being my best friend, and my partner in life.  The grace that she has extended to me for all of my shenanigans over the years is rivaled only by the grace that God himself has shown me.  That in and of itself is a miracle.  All glory to God.

So is that it, is my life squeaky clean and perfect?  Fuck no!  But I couldn’t have imagined that it could be this real and vibrant, and I can now clearly see the opportunity for continued growth that exists for me and my potty mouth… we’re all in process 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Turning 1 at 38

  1. We are all a work in process Clayton. We are designed to be that way from the start.
    After all isn’t the day of our death better than the day of our birth?
    We all hopefully have the chance to prove that we are worthy of the life we are given and to live a good life. Whatever it takes for you to stay on that path, keep it up. We are glad to share the ride with you.
    It took me a bit longer and on maybe a different path but hopefully we all figure out what works best for us.
    Beliefs are subject to interpretation but values, what we value, is much easier to recognize in our actions.
    It is not hard to tell what you value and I am for one glad you are defining your process to get where you want to be. It’s a great life!
    Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

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