“Embrace the dark side,” may have been something that Darth Vader said to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, but it is good advice for your recovery.
How well do you know your dark side? Your shadow is the one thing that is with you no matter how dark it may be outside… or inside. Sometimes your shadow reflects your actual size and other times it projects a much larger, or even distorted self.
I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need the darkness as much as I need the light. Barbara Brown Taylor
Your darkness has something to teach you about recovery. All that you need to begin is the courage to turn off the switch and let your eyes adjust to the dark.
You need your shadows because they are just another side of who you are
In Star Wars, the Force is a spiritual energy that is available to every living being, regardless of whether it is used for good or for evil. Recovery is similar to the Force. You set your own goals and you have your own reasons for working on your recovery. You may have noble goals or you may have purely selfish motivation for changing the direction of your life.
Recovery for me can be both light and dark… at times marked by hope and other times marked by gloom. Truth is, you need all of it. Sometimes my recovery can be very selfish. I steal time away from sleep and even from my family as I read, write and invest in myself. But other times, that selfishness is a leftover from my less mature days and becomes an excuse to avoid the hard work of relationships.
Recovery means embracing all of who you are- both your light and your dark. Your self and your selfishness.
Carrie Fisher died at 60 after suffering a heart attack. Her life was remarkable not because of her light, but because of her darkness. Specifically, she had courage to embrace her shadows. It was her courage to face her darkness that inspires each of us to face both our better and our more hidden selves.
In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication. Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking
Mental illness and addiction is not your darkness. It is not your shadow. It is not blackness or hopelessness. It is just another side of yourself.
Too often we divide our lives into dark/light, bad/good and reject the parts that feel less acceptable and frightening. Carrie Fisher reminds us that being in recovery takes a great deal of courage.
How to make friends with your dark side
Turn out the light switch and the darkness surrounds you. If you decide to leave the lights on, take a moment and you may realize that the darkness can still storm inside of you. Dark can be both inside of you and on the outside. Which kind of darkness is more frightening?
Sure, the dark can elicit our fear. Often we project into the darkness all of the things that most frighten us, about ourselves and about our world. But in most cases, the dark is less dangerous than the day. Most vehicles are on the roads during the day and the risk of injury or accident increases exponentially. And most crimes occur during the day, not at night.
If the night is so safe, why do we avoid it and try to turn on all of the lights that we can find?
Some cities are beginning to recognize that we actually have too much light at night. They call it light pollution. With too much light, we cannot see the moon and the stars become invisible. Our sources of light can be deceptive. We begin to think that light only comes from switches. Electric lights are not the only source of light. And sometimes the dark can reveal things in a way that the light could never do. When it is dark, our companions are the moon and the stars and for millennia, that was all that we needed.
Reducing your own light pollution is not easy. Where you need courage is just after you turn off the switch. It takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust. Once you regain your night vision, you can begin to ask yourself if the stories that you tell yourself about your darkness have any merit at all. Your darkness is not evil, it is simply another side of who you are.
Each part of your life is important. No matter how far along you are in your recovery. Not only the heights, the clean days, the hopeful and positive moods, but also the depths, the struggle and the dark moods. Wholeness comes when you can embrace all of who you are.
Carrie Fisher’s last words in Star Wars may have been “May the Force be with you,” but this is what she wants you to hear: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
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Keep it Real and May the Force be with you.
Photo by the Conmunity