08/01/2014 05:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I Am OK. Now what?


I don't do drugs anymore. I'm sober. I'm able to sleep through most nights, but waking up can still be a challenge. I'm in a stable job doing work that I love. I'm in the first year of what feels very much like a healthy marriage and I've become somewhat obsessed with taking, and posting, pictures of my cat. Sure, I don't climb enough, ski enough, or spend enough time in the mountains, but does one ever really, really spend enough time outside and under the sun and the stars?

In the last couple of weeks I've had a strange malaise that has been hard to shake and I've looked right past how good I've got it at the moment. I'm not even whipping my head around to look behind me, waiting for all of this to crumble. I've been walking forward instead.

Certainly it could all fail at any moment. Everything I've worked for could go up in smoke, and in some ways, I wonder in darker moments if that's what I would prefer. When a building is burning, you have the opportunity to be a hero, maybe save a few things that really matter and then you can get back to the heroic task of rebuilding.

My own life was on fire from the time I got my recall notice to the Army at the end of 2005 until sometime in the last couple of years, I couldn't tell you exactly when things seemed to be ok, but they are now. It has taken a long time to notice that most of the embers are out. My life, while still imperfect, has been rebuilt. Now what?

Making the shift from a life reacting to my own real and perceived challenges on a constant basis, to figuring out proactively where I want to go and how to get there, is the new challenge. How to move, where to go, and what to do, is not as clearly defined as it was when I was responding to crises in my life. Certainly, I still struggle with many of the same issues I did before, but now I know how to cope. What's more, I feel like I have healed up the larger open wounds in my mind. The scar tissue still tears from time to time but I shouldn't have to wait to feel only when I tear or bleed.

Our society loves the power found in redemptive narratives, but what we don't respond to well, just because it isn't that exciting I guess, is the continued day to day success and slow rise of hard working men and women. Outside of sports, we prefer to highlight the stories of people working against something or the comeback story over those who never publicly struggled, or who instead fight for something. It makes for good, inspiring stories, but I wonder if that's part of the problem.

If we're always working against something and that's how we've created our lifestyles, do we ever want the solution? It's a noble thing to say that I'd rather not have a job, doing X, helping Y, or preventing Z, but what happens if we're ultimately successful in preventing Z? Cynically, there is no money in the cure and even less in prevention. I don't mean we shouldn't fight against things that are hurting our world or tearing apart our communities, we should.

We should, however, also be fighting harder for something in our lives, not just against. That transition, as I'm learning, is a hard one.