Saturday, August 20, 2011

What's your drug of choice?

I shared about a week and a half ago with the local youth group about identity the other week and how the things in life that mean the most to you can become an addiction and a security blanket to cover up other issues.

My story regarding this was my journey with my music. I was always that awkward, gangly kid in primary school who never quite fit in anywhere and was just, well, awkward. There were all these little cliques - the surfies, the skaters, the sports fans, and I just didn't fit in with any of them.

Until I turned 16, and I learned how to play the guitar. As soon as that happened, my identity was forged immediately - I was Graham the guitarist, Graham the rockstar. I grew my hair long, wore Metallica t-shirts and torn jeans and would pepper nearly every conversation I had with anyone with talk about music, jamming, guitars or something somehow related to them.

When I was 21, God asked me to give up playing the guitar for a time. To me, this was like being told you had to cut your own arm off. It was devastating, but I knew I had to give it up, although I didn't realize why. I grudgingly put down the guitar and began to wonder what on earth I would fill my time with now and more importantly, who I was now that my identity had been stripped from me.

However, I eventually began to realize why I had to give it up. Music had consumed me. It had literally become like a drug. I realized that I was using it as medication for unresolved emotional issues in my life and that whenever I felt the familiar pangs of fear, anxiety or depression, my immediate response was to pick up a guitar if one was around or to start thinking about music, being in a band or writing songs if there wasn't one available. I needed to learn to function as a person without using music as a crutch before I could truly learn to appreciate it for what it was.

After this experience, I began to see the world with different eyes. I came to a realization that most people are using drugs on a daily basis. Not the kind you can find over the counter or pick up from a hooded stranger in the parking lot of Pak N Save - but all kinds of things. Television. Shopping. Work. Hobbies. Money. All of these things can basically be turned into heroin if we allow them to consume us and start expecting those things to resolve our internal issues so that we don't have to face them.

The problem with drugs - and addictions of any kind - is that they are never satisfied. You can have a problem with anxiety and choose to medicate it with playing guitar, such as I did. I could have learned every solo, leadbreak, riff and chord known to man - and ultimately, at the end of the day I would still have the same problem. Though I would no doubt have achieved a lot through this relentless running - my success would have been hollow as I would not have been able to truly enjoy it as I would know deep in my own heart that my issues I was running from were still not resolved.

I can certainly see the attraction in living a life based on nothing but surface living. That's why I wanted to be a rockstar. Just travel the world, never stay in one place too long, spend your evenings on stage wallowing in self glorification and come off stage to a few slugs of bourbon and mindless banter with fellow band mates before retreating to my hotel room to practice guitar for another 6 hours and no doubt annoying the occupants for the neighboring rooms before finally falling asleep and departing for pastures new the following day.

At the end of the day, although it sounds fun, that is a deeply hollow existence and using distractions to run from ourselves is only an exercise in exhaustion. It will catch up with us eventually. And you know when this lifestyle catches up with us the most? when we are forced to rest.

Those who do not examine their hearts and lives and do not seek to resolve their issues but medicate them with relationships, booze, guitar playing, shopping etc etc are often very restless people. I could not sit still and just quieten my mind when fully enveloped in this frame of operating. My thoughts would always run somewhere - usually to music - so that I wouldn't have to begin to face the ugly truth about who I really was. You can use all kinds of distractions to run from your own heart.

As I write this post, I am currently in a place of unemployment. God has put me here. I am being forced to rest. And it is hard. Resting is something I have struggled with my entire life because it is when I am resting that my issues begin to surface. I want to keep working on my book, but it hasn't come back from the editor yet. I know that this is because I am meant to rest and in that rest I am meant to face what is going on in the depths of my own heart and mind. Working on my book, although therapeutic in a sense, could easily just become another drug right now. I am being forced to go cold turkey.

But it's good for me. I am learning to rest and to learn to be ok with stillness. I believe that once I get through this period of stillness I will be more whole and complete as a person than ever before and not only will I not have the need for drugs to block things out, but I will be able to appreciate what I do have - and what is coming to me - in a way that I never could before.

Peace out and rest up!

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