As Austen persevered through total sobriety last year, he kept a journal of his development, his hopes, his dreams, his perceived self-growth. He had been through much in his short life, and as sobriety settled in, he was cautious, hopeful, honest and grateful for what he had, for his uniqueness, for his beautiful mind and “a bright future if I stay sober and keep growing.” He urged himself on even as he fought continuous cravings and depression. This excerpt is taken from his entry on June 8, 2014, three months sober:
“Controlled passion. Manage the fire. Let it spray when it’s appropriate. I’ve been down for too long. I’ve risen to the surface now I’m going to reach for the sky. Existence is going to be everything I thought it could be. No regrets, learn from your mistakes. Let the caged beast run free. Every day, every situation is another chance to grow and shine. Let your emotions out Austen. Let them run wild. Stop criticizing yourself. Don’t dwell on what you had and lost, think about everything you’ve gained and everything you stand to gain if you stay on this positive road. Life is a long journey. The sun will rise and fall for years to come. I don’t have to have it all figured out today or tomorrow or this year. I can take my time. I’m alive, things are happening, I’m sober, there is hope, I am strong and I know I can be an amazing person. Just be patient and trust the universe. Just know yourself.
White hot blade slides through my chest, cauterizing as it cuts, the design is at first unfamiliar but with patience a pattern emerges. The sign of the beast. The wounds heal instantly. This one will not go down easy the Gods chuckle. A spear through the heart should put him down but there’s ice in his core and the spear shatters as fast as it was thrown. The thunder and rain shake the ground as lightening strikes and puddles turn to rivers. Demons chase him up and down the blood drenched streets. So many wounded, so many dead, but he keeps running. As he hits his stride, a full on sprint, everything shifts. The clouds part, the rain stops, flowers bloom and trees turn every perceivable color. Reds, yellows, oranges, purples, pinks, yellows. The variety is jarring, but he’s smiling. Laughter erupts accompanied by a soft, warm glow that emanates from the center of his being. His wounds are gone as if they never existed at all. His run turns into a walk. The skies smile upon this soldier who fought for his freedom. The first test is complete, congratulations. This boy is a man. One day he will fly.”
Austen Berj Brooks, “Journey Through Sobriety,” June 8, 2014.
Photo of Austen that he posted on Facebook on September 15, 2014, taken by a friend in downtown Chicago.