I love this photo of Austen, his maturing face, his direct gaze, his calm and cool demeanor. He was sensitive, caring, loving, intelligent, thoughtful and reflective. He was also addicted to opiates – not by choice, not by will, not intentionally. In his second, focused attempt at sobriety, he attained a clarity and maturity I had not seen in him before – he was 22 years old, had graduated from Indiana University, and he wanted to get on with his life – he wanted a ‘normal’ life but knew he could never have the kind of normality he was seeking. It would have to be a new ‘normal’, one created to fit his circumstances and to allow him to thrive. ‘Happiness is right around the corner,’ he wrote in recovery. He never stopped appreciating the natural beauty and loveliness of the world. And that is where I feel closest to him – outdoors, whether standing on a balcony or taking a morning walk – he is there in the gentle wind, the fresh flowers, the majestic mountains, the vast blue sky, the stars on a clear night, the endless beach, the wandering trail – that is where I feel his warm, encouraging presence.
From his ‘Journey Through Sobriety,’ 3 months sober:
Everything is ok. No it’s better than that. Still, driving around on a summer day seeing all the young people going out with their friends, buying beer, having normal lives, I felt a little left out of it. Like I’m missing out and like I will have to miss out for the rest of my life. Like I need some drugs to truly feel the beauty of summer time. This is just not true. I just have to open my mind up to my surroundings and these new emotions. I don’t need any drugs to be me. I don’t need to change my consciousness into something different, I just have to expand what I already have.Tomorrow I want to walk by the beach, breathe in the ocean, smell the warm air, think about existence, smile and know that I’m right where I am supposed to be. . . . Drugs are an immediate dead end for me. I’m not interested in giving away all that I have. It’s kind of funny that I even need to continue having this discussion. . . . My addiction brought me to my knees, then it swept me deep underground, then it went after my soul. There is no going back for people like me. I’ll always find things that are not perfect about me. I don’t have to be perfect in any facet of my life. I know I’m good looking, good natured, smart, intuitive, mature, wise. I know I am a beautiful soul. I just need to go out and be me.
I can find love within my self and the world. I love the smell at night, I love that I struggled and came out stronger. I love the sun and the trees. Happiness is right around the corner.A little more swag. Some new clothes. Some new goals. A new outlook. More positive, more sure of myself. Getting their everyday. . . . My vision is no longer clouded. My Achilles heel is finally healing. I’ve always been destined to be exceptional.
It’s time to switch lanes and start really speeding. Passing these people and leaving them in the past. Austen Berj Brooks, June 7, 2014