I keep a picture of my six-year-old self in my wallet. I’ve gravitated towards tokens for a long time. I keep these things with me as reminders. A torn piece of a sentence that I picked up in the park (and continue to carry with me through each move), the top of a bottle my best friend tossed off my roof the night that we slept together and destroyed our relationship, a scrap from my dad’s car tire that I found later at the scene of his accident, bottle caps, rocks, hospital bracelets. They represent important moments in my life, many of which involved me trying to get sober or at least less unhappy. The chips from each sobriety milestone fall perfectly into this collection. The lovely thing is that, unlike my other tokens, they represent continued success in my effort to recover.
The picture in my wallet is one of the more important tokens that I have, It shows me a version of myself that I view with love, care, and pity. The mind of an addict or alcoholic seems to be characteristically littered with violently abusive conceptions of our broken selves. Regardless of how my disease manifests itself externally, I could (and sometimes still can) count on a steady stream of hateful words between my ears. My proverbial gun has always been pointed at the center of myself and I pose a tremendous threat to my survival–or at least I do when I am not treating my alcoholism, cross-addictions, trauma, and bi-polar depression.
I need to remind myself, with kindness, that I am working to become the kind of person that I needed. I am working to be able to love and nurture those around me. I am a token too. Scars, wrinkles, gin blossoms, a beat-to-shit soul that for some reason keeps clawing towards the light. I believe it when people say that these things, these times, are going to be what really help me help others. It’s much easier to reach into someone’s darkness and soothe them when you’ve walked through its streets. So I rub my coins raw, hold onto the mementos that now seem so brave in their multitude–We have to give ourselves credit for failing so many times and still holding on to hope with a stubborn desperation–and I hope like hell that this time it sticks, this time it grows, and soon I won’t look at that little girl with a single glimmer of pity in my heart. I will know, then, that she has a powerfully beautiful and complex life ahead of her and that she will earn every moment of joy by being finally well enough to give it back.
So I’m hanging in there, I hope you are too.