An Influenced Existence: The Evolution of Self-Examination
Every once in awhile I am aware of reaching a milestone as it occurs rather than in hindsight. And during these happenstances, I tend to heavily reflect on my life and my evolution.
I realize that most often I write in a vague manner, even when telling personal anecdotes. Today I'll be a bit more specific. Today I celebrate 8 years off heroin.
And that's really all I'll say about that. This was the milestone, and this was the catalyst of my reflecting. And although I'm grateful beyond words to no longer suffer at the hands of the great beast, I couldn't help but be objective about what the drug had done for me; how every drop of experience had twisted my outlook just a scoach...and come to realize, many times for the better.
Sometimes I think I'm a mere composite of my experiences, a "passenger" of circumstance of sorts. I wonder, "How much of who I am has been formed without any discerning input on my part? How 'in control' of my personality am I?" Understand this is never a morbid or woe-is-me thought, just simply an observation which I find most fascinating.
I look to my childhood, and my parents, and early schooling and dissect the lessons I was taught, purposefully or otherwise. In the moment, I was almost never aware that I was learning and absorbing, but in recent years, having practiced and practiced self-examination, I can easily tease out the influences from my early life: study habits, morals, religious and political views.
Even as I got older, I was still heavily influenced by my environment. I didn't do a lot of picking and choosing of beliefs-that-fit-best, I would try all of them on for size...and rarely return the wardrobe. This was mainly due to my ignorance that I was even being influenced, but also because everything interested me! I just loved being exposed to new things, and my naivete kept me from understanding that beliefs could be harmful...and ignorance could be fatal.
So, on I trudged down the romantic road of reckless ritual.
I guess you could say drug culture excited me, and I was too young yet to truly grasp my mortality...so on I went with the dangerous experiment. I drew no lines in sand, I never said never, and before I knew it I had swallowed bait and tackle being quickly reeled in by the almighty fisherman.
If I could describe to you a default mechanism that I have identified in my own character, it would look very much like a nearsighted horse with blinders. I never knew to look back, examine and learn from past mistakes, and I could not exercise even the slightest degree of foresight to avoid even the most obvious of consequences.
"But what of the good influence? Didn't you say it was't all bad? "
Yes, dear reader, I did indeed make mention. Here are two axioms that should help illustrate:
"We do not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it"
"Discard promptly and without regret"
These thoughts describe the process in which I, today, reflect and analyze. They are my new default mechanisms. I am still, as I believe most humans are, a product of my environment and heavily influenced by others. But, I do not adopt and blindly march forth as I did in my early life. I analyze my character, even when staring really objectionable aspects dead in the face. I do not shy from discovering uncomfortable things about myself, and if I decide the belief or outlook or habit doesn't serve me any longer, I "discard promptly and without regret".
This is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Most of the really glaring stuff are life-skills I've had for many years, and I still enjoy using them. Things like sleaze, greed, selfishness, lies, lust, etc. These skills have served me. I have enjoyed them quite a bit. But once the veil is lifted I cannot go on pretending. Hard as it may be, I purge them.
Pain brought me here. That is the good. "The great motivator" they say it is, and I wholeheartedly agree. This discomfort pushes me to reflect and remove, continually chipping away at the negative and making room for more goodness.
Eight years of this practice has brought me to heights of ease and comfort I never thought possible.
Here's to nine.