George Davis once wrecked his life. And he shares what he has learned about the way to climb out of the wreckage.
I once wrecked my life. If you never have, you are, of all men, most lucky. You’ll never have to carry the baggage some of the rest of us have to carry. You can still walk around with your head up. Some of the rest of us deal with the radioactive fallout of some bad decision made years earlier that have affected the course of our lives, like someone dropping a dam in the middle of a river, forcing it to cut a path through bedrock it never intended to cut.
Probably the biggest challenge you’ll ever face if you’ve wrecked your life is dealing with regret. Regret is the stinging, paralyzing acid that sends its corrosive poisons all through you. Regret eats you from the inside out, until you’ve become over time little more than an empty shell of a person going through the motions of existence. Your soul is gone. Your light has been put out.
When you’ve wrecked everything you feel shattered. Like you’ve plunged from a great height against asphalt. You’re strewn around in broken shards, shattered, bleeding, mortally wounded. You bleed and bleed and bleed. This is regret. This is what it does to you. You lay awake at 3AM asking the darkness why you did what you did. If you believe in God, you ask Him, but heaven is brass. Maybe you give up on God because He failed you when you needed Him most.
There comes a time, sometimes much later, where the full impact of your wreckage is all around you and all you can do is sit down and grieve. Just grieve. You have to allow the self-protective blinders that keep you from seeing the reality of all the damage you caused fall away. You have to look at the horror full in the face. You have to accept total responsibility for what you did. You have to come to terms with the fact that yes, you are that kind of person that did that thing. That is exactly who you are. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t an accident. It was you, doing what you wanted to do in the moment you did it.
So you grieve the fact you are capable of such destruction, of authoring such misery and pain. You grieve the brokenness you caused. You grieve the suffering you initiated. You grieve the reality of the fact that you cannot undo what you did. That you cannot take back time for a second chance at not doing it. You grieve that you have such a dark part of your nature that you never asked for, but is there nonetheless, haunting you, stalking you.
But then you must forgive yourself. Grieve first, forgive next. You cannot allow yourself to just lay there shattered. You cannot stay stuck in your failure. There is nothing to forgive, though, if you first don’t come to terms with how you have wrecked things. Sorrow is your friend here, so let it work with you. Despising yourself is an ally, so feel the wounds she brings with patience. Once you have allowed yourself to grieve, to sorrow, to feel the pain of your actions and their consequences, you can then forgive yourself. Forgiveness means you’ll no longer hold what you did against yourself and punish yourself to the grave.
You can grieve your failure, forgive your behavior, but you must also seek forgiveness from those you betrayed with your actions. You must sit down with them, look them in the eyes and plead for mercy. You must do everything in your power to demonstrate genuine remorse and seek to make restitution. Yes, this is the hard part. They may be partly at fault, too, but you know that doesn’t matter. You only want forgiveness for the part you played in the wreckage. How they handle your request for forgiveness is none of your business. They may not be able to forgive you. You may go the rest of your life knowing they secretly hate you. So be it. Come to peace with that and move on with your life.
Then, perhaps, after this time of mourning, you can begin to rise from the wreckage. You will begin to feel tiny rays of hope again. You will begin to come to a dawning awareness you are not the same person you once were. That this suffering has wrought within you something new, something yet tender and precious. You will begin to awake at daybreak and for the first time in memory not hate yourself. You will stop flirting with thoughts of self-destruction. You will begin to feel you can still make a contribution.
And you awake full of humble gratitude if you don’t have to go it alone. If there is someone who loves you enough to believe in you. Enough to give you the gift of another chance. Another soul, perhaps broken, too, who sees what you cannot possibly see in yourself for all your sorrow, a human life worth saving. And you are.
Photo: frozenchipmunk / flickr