Living from Our Authenticity:
Lessons from Kenya
Senior Clinical Advisor, Crossroads Centre, Antigua
Several years ago, I was privileged to do some consultation in Kenya. While I was looking at the pictures I reflected on the beauty and grandeur of the animals and the great metaphors for life and recovery that they provide.
For example, witnessing the magnificent giraffe roam the countryside always conjures the importance of being willing to stick one’s neck and summon the courage to take a stand instead of lurking in the shadows.
This is particularly important in our close relationships! Crossroads family program teaches addicts and their families to have “courageous conversations”. We know this isn’t easy, but it’s the foundation of meaningful connection and genuine fulfillment in so many areas of our lives. If we want to be loved, we have to be known. Addiction sent us deep into hiding. As we were growing up, many of us learned to keep our thoughts and feelings to ourselves out of fear that we will be rejected if we reveal what’s going on inside of us. After a time, we begin to numb ourselves with drugs and alcohol and lose the essence of who we are. While this approach may have served us in certain situations, as we go deeper into our own emotional and spiritual recovery and as we strive for a reality that reflects our highest potential, it’s ultimately the truth that allows us to be known and indeed, sets us free.
The giraffe also reminds us of the importance of community. As we know, a giraffe can’t lie down so in order to rest they need to form a conical shape, stand with other giraffes and rest their heads against each other.
In our recovery we know that isolation will propel us back into the madness of our addiction. Recovery demands community! Without others to support us we will fail. And like the giraffe without a place to lie its head and rest, we will struggle without the safety of sponsors and others who are on this journey of recovery. Without this support we are apt to let our addictive thinking and grandiosity convince us that we don’t need anyone and we can manage our addiction on our own terms. There is an old adage that goes: I have to do this myself but I can’t do this alone” So apropos for addicts in recovery!
One of my favorite metaphors on this subject is the idea of the “elephant in the room” which represents the obvious truth that is not being addressed among a pair or group of individuals. Whether it’s obvious or not, there is no question that the unspoken truths that we carry around and bury deep down live in the space between us. There is a distinct energy that comes from repressed upsets and emotions, as well as unexpressed love and creativity that creates a wall between others and us. Living a life of secrets doesn’t allow love to flourish but, instead, suffocates it.
I’m not suggesting that we resolve to blurt out our truth like a blast of fire from the furnace. There’s a saying that, “honesty, without sensitivity is called brutality”. The way we express ourselves must be carefully thought out and executed with dignity, gentleness and respect. If there is anger and resentment behind our words then the odds that another will hear us is slim to none. Since all of us long to be heard or seen by the people closest to us, it’s important to “gentle down” before we decide to reveal what’s on our minds and hearts.
A life of recovery offers a unique experience to re-discover our authenticity, to embrace the honesty inside ourselves and to touch the essential core of our being and reveal who we long to be. In this upside-down world filled with chaos and disconnection it is our most important contribution in building a more robust, compassionate and loving world.