I was on the train yesterday with a few former junkies. I say that without prejudice because honestly they seemed like good people.
They started by sitting down and talking about how the doctors have said their veins are recovering, followed by conversations about physical fights they had been in back in the day, and how hard it is to convince their aunt that they don’t rob people anymore.
In between these conversations they talked about how much their lives have improved, the things they are excited about, and the behaviors they are happy they no longer have.
And it got me thinking about the type of person that I trust. Is it the people who have limited self awareness and are yet to explode? or those who have missteps they have learned from and are more cognizant of their limits.
They reminded me of conversations I had a lot at the Mood Disorder Support Group in New York City. About 30 of us would cram in the meeting rooms of a hospital at 7pm on a weekday and talk about our situation. Most of us were there for a combination of Bipolar Disorder or Borderline Personality issues. People with uni-polar depression and anxiety did show up, but their attendance was infrequent.
We talked about how we were doing, what medication we were on, how we shared things with our doctors, the things we regretted that we had done and hoped to change going forward. I was hospitalized for suicidal behavior at another location for 10 days during the several years I attended this, one member was banned for pulling a knife on another member, and one person (that I know of) took their own life during this time. But considering the group membership was around 120 semi-regular attendees (annually), the numbers of serious problems were surprisingly low.
Everyone in this group had accepted a hard truth, that they were in need of repair. And just like my fellow train riders, the conversations were always transparent, honest, and in most cases, very positive.
I’ve known and worked with people who struggle to discuss their inner demons, and honestly if I could hide mine at times I probably would. But they are out in the open for me and I can’t put them back in a box. This is an advantage because compared to what I’ve been through, a lot of the challenges I now face in life provide opportunities I don’t have to avoid.
The thing is, when people harbor their bad habits, they will eventually explode. And it will be without warning and in a setting where it is unexpected. At the office, or at a home in the suburbs, at their child's football practice. And these explosions will damage real relationships and have real consequences.
The things I’ve accomplished and the person I am today, 12 years after my hospitalization, is in part due to the support and enthusiasm of this group of people who took a look at their broken lives, with the optimism, conviction, and clarity to embraced who they were to become the person they wanted to be.
So the question is, who do you trust? And given what you’ve conquered in yourself, when the heat gets turned up, do you trust yourself enough to face what’s in front of you.