Vulnerability and Truth in Recovery

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Vulnerability and Truth in Recovery, by Shale Marks, LSW, CADC- Therapist at SCH


Several months ago I was looking at a journal entry written by a 17 year-old me and there were eight words that leapt from the page, which animated my spirit with a warmth and preciousness that made my heart swell. My 17-year-old self had written the words, “I think I’m finally starting to get it.” I look back at the boy I was then and hold him up to the light with compassion. I smile at the notion that he thought he was finally starting to get “it”. All these years later I realize that the greatest wisdom in the world is to know that I don’t know. This is the ungraspable truth that comes to many in recovery and what I as a clinician try to impart to our patients at SunCloud Health – that it’s okay to not know. It is okay to not be okay. In fact, the farther along we get in recovery, the more wonderful it feels to be able to say the three hardest words for us to say, “I don’t know.” As Brené Brown eloquently states – this is the power of vulnerability. It is from our weaknesses that we find our strength and sometimes what seems to be our final hour, often becomes our finest hour.


What was the “it” that I thought I was starting to get?


My first career was as an actor. I moved to New York City when I was 18 to pursue acting because performing ignited something in me that gave me access to a personality that I did not know that I owned. Often, people pursue a career in acting because it provides the space and opportunity to be somebody else for a few hours, to take an audience in and convince them that what is happening on the stage is actually occurring. But for me, it was just the opposite. When I was performing on stage or in front of the camera, it was when I felt most like myself. Acting gave me access to the present moment, a place I had rarely visited. Today I can access to power of the present moment anytime I like. This is the primary gift of grace in recovery.


My first Christmas in recovery was a dismal one. The day before Christmas, I was depressed because it was the day before Christmas. Christmas day, I was depressed because it was Christmas day and the day after Christmas I was depressed because it was the day after Christmas. I now realize two things about that Christmas. First, I am not a Christian. Second, it had nothing to do with the holiday and everything to do with an internal condition, which seemed utterly hopeless.  It was what we in recovery often refer to as the hole in the belly that the wind blows through, a divine dissatisfaction, an unsatisfied God-hunger or an unquenchable thirst.


Not too long after that Christmas, I began to see that recovery can only begin when a person realizes that the problem is not external, though external conditions can certainly contribute to dis-ease. Recovery is now and has always been an inside job. And what of the “it” for which I yearned – the itch that couldn’t be scratched? It is always available in the here and now. The present moment isn’t just something sandwiched between the past and the future. Contained within the present moment are hope, possibility, an internal revolution waiting to be quickened and a stirring of love, which we all have within us. We simply have to open our eyes to see it and if you can’t find it on your own resources in this holiday season, there is help available. Light and love. 


Shale Marks, LSW CADC