We Took Separate Paths to the Same Place
November 27th, 2017
Lately when I go to my home state of Michigan, I stay with my oldest brother James and his wife Mara. I feel honored as a guest in their well-appointed guest room (think artsy, vintage furniture, blackout curtains, all- cotton bedding and crisp, ironed sheets).
Mara is an artist and an eBay entrepreneur who spends her days (and often evenings) scouring estate sales, garage sales, Goodwill stores, and auctions looking for what she calls “meaty hits”: items with historical interest of great enough value and in good enough condition to clean up and resell to collectors and people like myself, who simply love the hunt for a good bargain. Sometimes the markup on the “meatier hits” is considerable. Often she falls in love with the treasures that she finds, and she integrates them, at least temporarily, into the menagerie of beautiful objects that occupy their home.
Their home is a ‘canvas’ of sorts adorned with lovely oddities from baby bird skeletons that are, miraculously, fully intact to random vintage costume jewelry to original artwork produced by their children and personal friends. It is a shapeshifting masterpiece; a veritable cornucopia of lovely, interesting things. Absolutely every ‘thing’ has a history, a story of how it was discovered and from whom it was purchased, that Mara loves to tell, enhanced by her own keen and sometimes funny observations and speculation about the ‘life’ of that object before it was found. Mara tells a great story. She is also an avid gardener and exceptional floral designer, and her colorful, fragrant creations are a constant presence in their home.
James is a semi-retired financial advisor who works from home. He is also a talented musician who has recently reinvigorated himself as a performer and integrated himself into the local music scene, organizing and performing at open mic nights. He has become a purveyor of musical instruments and vintage stereo equipment that he sells in a local shop and on eBay. He collects and sells vintage vinyl records, the clear sounds of which provide the soundtrack of their lives … when he is not singing, picking and artfully strumming one of his guitars.
James recently shared with me that one of the greatest joys he has discovered in the local music scene is mentoring and being mentored by talented young musicians that he has met. He is also one of the most creative and skilled chefs I have ever known, and he loves to feed people fresh and delicious food, the smell of which daily perfumes the air. Every year he devotes hours on end to create a delicious celebratory meal for the members of their church. In their home, I find respite from the more mundane aspects of my own life and a feast for all of my senses. They are not wealthy people and are quite frugal. They simply know to appreciate beauty in all forms, including intimate conversation with family and friends. Visiting with them is a spiritual experience.
In my immediate family it is James and I who have burrowed deepest into self-reflection and personal growth, and it was watching him grow and change on a path separate and different from my own when I first recognized that there is more than one way to ‘recover’. As a result, my heart and mind became more open and my own process became richer. For me, residential treatment for substance misuse, A.A., and N.A. were the doorway to my path.
James found another entrance, no less legitimate, and has built a personal ‘program’ that feeds his mind, body and spirit. Each of us experienced multiple crises of varying magnitudes that have propelled us forward from the start, not the least of which is our similar but different experiences in our creative, weird, amazing, wounded and wonderful family. Gratefully, we have become companions in recovery who can talk openly, validate one another and help each other heal.
We have come to know each other more intimately, and hold each other’s stories sacred while lifting one another up. I have integrated the 12 steps into my life, but I don’t go to meetings like I did in the early days. James never found a home in 12-step programs, but his recovery is just as real as my own. I have embraced the idea that music, cooking, feeding people, writing, therapy, service work, exercise, hiking, laughter, fishing, continued introspection, dancing and my professional career are as much a part of the spiritual growth that is my recovery as are prayer and meditation … and talking with my brother James. That’s part of my recovery, too.
By Martha Burkett, LPC, CAADC, ACS, ADS / ARAD Director of Resident Treatment