There and Back Again: On the Road to Change
March 14, 2021
Andrew Woods, Low Entropy Volunteer Writer
Please note that this article contains brief references to substance use.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett
From the day-in, day-out perspective, it’s difficult to discern where and when change occurs. Can there possibly be such a thing as change, as we maneuver through the minutiae of our daily lives?
Between grocery shopping, our studies, our household chores, our jobs, our family duties … between paying bills and scrolling through politically motivated Facebook memes … where does “change” fit in?
And yet, I look back 10 years (or more) and it becomes overwhelmingly obvious that so much has changed. It becomes almost alarming to observe the changes that I’ve undergone.
I was what the nurses called “a frequent flyer.” I wasn’t the only one who had earned that honour, though. Many of “us” had become accustomed to cycling in and out of those hospital wards. I spent Christmases and birthdays there, walking aimlessly up and down the halls, staring blankly out the locked windows overlooking the grounds, chain smoking cigarettes out front with the other patients.
After every hospital discharge, I’d keep to the straight and narrow for a couple months, but I’d always find myself back where I started – flushing my prescribed meds and looking to score my drugs of choice.
And then I’d end up right back on the ward.
That was my life, in a nutshell, for a good 10 years or so. And oddly enough, I was comfortable with it. After all, I had discovered an identity in that lifestyle. I had taken on various labels: bipolar, mentally ill, obsessive-compulsive, drug seeker, troubled youth … and I began to wear those labels with a sense of misaligned pride. I was caught in a landslide, grasping for anything that would yield some stability. And as a young adult, having a sense of identity offered a bit of steadiness, even when everything else was precariously unbalanced. Predictably, the more I attached to that sense of self, however distorted it was, the more complete I felt.
I was told, early on in my recovery, that change is the only constant in life. Everything else is impermanent and variable … our jobs, our homes, our friends, our family … it’s all either coming or going. But what can absolutely be guaranteed is our own personal evolution.
The unfortunate reality is, change is difficult. And often we put up a lot of resistance to it.
Some of us, like myself, have had to hit rock bottom before deciding to embrace change.
I had to do something … different.
I didn’t really see any other alternative … I didn’t want to risk uncovering what was beneath rock bottom.
I went all in. Change or no change.
Taking on the challenge of modifying my every conditioned thought and behaviour was no easy task. In fact, it was an impossible task. I didn’t realize that true change would need to come from within, that it was a slow, painful process, and that I was in it for the long haul. Maybe that’s why change is so very difficult for us – because the journey to lasting change follows a steep and rocky road, and everyone falls down along the way.
I certainly admit to falling down along this journey. Not just once … but many times I’ve fallen. And perhaps in falling down I learned life’s most valuable lesson – always get back up.
Nowadays, my sense of identity has expanded beyond what I could’ve previously imagined. Not in an egoic, full-of-myself kind of way. But in a way that is conducive to healing, and living a better, more fulfilling life. There have been many lessons learned over the past several years, and admittedly … I learned some of those the hard way.
I emphasize, however, that embracing self-growth, and the journey along our own self-evolution … it isn’t some kind of chore like doing the dishes or folding laundry.
No, witnessing the myriad of ways in which we, as individuals, flourish through all of life’s challenges is by far the most rewarding experience available to us.
In fact, that is why we’re here.
To evolve, to grow, to nurture and thrive.
And it isn’t about moving from point A to point B, as if life is a roadmap with a destination marked in red ink.
Instead, I think our journeys through life often lead us right back to where we started, to a world that is strangely familiar, and relatively unchanged.
And we realize that it was never about changing the world.
It was about changing ourselves.
At Low Entropy, we believe changing the world starts with changing ourselves.
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