The Dirty Road
When I was 23 I lived in Calgary. One day I was driving down the highway as I was headed up to Edmonton for the weekend. I was picking up this horrible smell. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was but it smelled something like a sewer had blown up. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I certainly hoped it wasn’t me. About 10 minutes passed and I saw the cause of the stench. There was an accident and a huge manure truck had tipped over. All the shit spilled out over the highway. The police and firetrucks were there, as were a couple of hazmat trucks. It was a filthy mess and cars had to be navigated through the mess.
Once I had passed the truck I could still smell it. On the highway the tire marks left streaks of shit for a good kilometer. Driving further, I noticed the smell went away and no more track marks were on the road. Upon arriving in Edmonton there were still some chunks of shit embedded in the tires. I had a choice. I could hose the car down, removing the filth, or I could just leave it and hope for rain. Or at the very least, that the ever persistent fecal matter would fall off on it’s own.
That situation is the perfect analogy for dealing with addiction & trauma, and then the therapeutic experience. We go through the dirty stuff, come out, and the farther away we get from it, the more the awfulness fades. We come out on the other side and sometimes have to pick through the residuals. It’s not pleasant but it needs to be done.
To this day I remember that rancid smell, and while it was horrific at the time, I find it funny now. And very comparable to the work I’m doing in my recovery.
Thanks for this, Ryan. ‘Pick up the residuals’…ah yes. I have spent 7 years picking up the residuals. Today I was joking with a friend of mine that if I’d known then what I knew now about how hard the work of recovery was going to be, I’d never have gotten into it. But the truth is, no matter how painful, how terrifying, how dark and awkward and disorienting the work has been, I would not change it for the world. I have not rediscovered myself. I never really had a self to rediscover. But I am building myself. I am pulling out the bits and pieces of the Me I know is authentic and braiding them together like fine unicorn hair. And it’s turning into something beautiful, though there are uneven stitches in places. I really appreciate the simplicity and depth of this piece, and the reminder of all that I have to be grateful for.