I've been inside a crack house. Only once. And I'm so glad that I realized before it was too late that I did not want to go down that path.
I was on X. We were coming down from the high. Typically, this is when I would either:
A. Find more X,
B. Find cocaine, or
C. Begrudgingly go home to grind my jaw and pray for sleep.
At this point, I'd left my husband. I'd filed for divorce and was knee deep in an affair with the man who'd once been our mutual best friend. This man was the reason I was at the crack house. He wasn't above such things. I didn’t think I was either, but I'd never really even considered it. While I enjoyed my “extracurricular activities” (my pet name for illegal drug use), I had my limits. Crack had been on the not-in-this-lifetime category. I could see the evidence on the streets of Austin, in all of the begging homeless faces I encountered daily, of how quickly that could go awry.
Then again, I'd once sworn I would never touch cocaine. There had been a point when I was very against that drug. But at this stage in my life, that resistance had melted away.
So here I was, in the crack house. It was located next to my boyfriend’s home. He didn’t live in a bad area; it was just an "up-and-coming" one. There was a tall, handsome man named Jamaica who occupied the house. According to local legend, at one time he'd been an amazing musician, known for his guitar skills. My boyfriend was also a talented musician, known for his guitar skills. I was aware of the parallel.
I sat across the room, perched on the edge of an old LazyBoy. It was everything you’d expect a crack house to look like. Paint was peeling off the walls. It was dirty and dingy. I watched Will, my boyfriend, take a hit of crack off a dark glass pipe. I felt myself sobering up. Something inside me was crawling backwards saying, “No, no, no, no.”
Then Jamaica was in my face. He was so close I could feel his breath. He said, with a million-dollar, megawatt smile that was absolutely blinding, “You sure are pretty.”
That was it. I popped up. “I’m leaving,” I announced. And I ran out the door.
Will came stumbling after me. “Poor Rebecca,” he said. He wasn’t mocking me. He was being sincere. “Too much, huh?” he asked. “It’s OK,” he said. “We’ll go.” And he went back inside to grab his coat. We left.
To this day, I occasionally remember that moment. Why? I haven’t really been able to figure that out, actually, until recently. I saw Rich Roll give an incredible presentation about how you can’t take shortcuts (what he called a "hack") in life. He spoke of his own low point, and how he often thought about it. He said it helped him as a framework to look back and see how far he had come.
This was a moment of epiphany. It explained why the crack house memory would not dissipate. And I began to understand that I could utilize that moment as my friend, rather than allowing the shame associated with the experience to make me quiet.
Being sober in this world is a challenge. You can feel everything. Without the help of numbing properties, there's no shield to take the edge off the intensity. If you're doing work on yourself and striving to maintain an open heart, this can be disconcerting. What’s more, it can downright hurt.
But that’s OK. We aren’t meant to feel nothing. We’re not meant to numb every challenging situation. We’re not meant to drudge through daily existence without so much as a pause, tickle, chill bump or gasp. Living life, being truly passionately alive, means allowing yourself to feel.
How? It’s about breath. Practicing yoga on a regular basis will help you get into the physical aspects (then the intellectual, emotional and, of course, spiritual) aspects of who you truly are.
Who are you? I don’t mean your name or your qualifications or the stories that have led you to this point in your life, which I’m sure are amazing in their own right. I mean, who is underneath all of that?
What is your purpose? What fuels you and keeps you moving through the day? Please don’t say chocolate. OK, do say that, but consider that there might be more worth living for than chocolate, wine, caffeine, or any superficial, temporary substance that may help you through the difficult times in your life.
I mean this without judgment. I mean this with sincerity and with the hope that together, we can all wake up and approach daily existence with the wide-eyed fascination of learning like children do.
And we can befriend our low points to help us stay on track, to help us find compassion for others and to remind us of how perfectly imperfect this moment truly is.