Tag Archives: darkness

Sitting In Silence with the Grief

I didn’t think I was going to survive the last breakup. Sure I was experiencing a prolonged depression that was kinda scary, but this was darkness multiplied. I was certain I was going to collapse into a depression so deep that I would be unreachable.

I knew even before I moved out that I needed to beef up my support network. I started attending Alanon meetings almost daily. I got a sponsor and about 4 phone numbers of guys I could call just to check in. What a great resource. And what a great lesson the program teaches: you can’t focus on the alcoholic and their recovery, you can only focus on yourself. In fact, you are the only one you can worry about. You are the only one you can change.

Dear God grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

The serenity prayer from AA and Alanon got me through this dark period. But prayer and community were not enough. I was still left with hours, days, nights, of aloneness. And the darkness came and tried to swallow me. The hardest part is the loneliness. Sure the heartbreak is a bitch unlike any other bitch, but the loneliness is the killer. Loneliness keeps you up at night when you’re tired and hopeless. loneliness is the killer. And loneliness is only in your mind. Loneliness is a feeling. An idea. Loneliness is changeable. But getting beyond the loneliness takes time and effort. And for me that meant a lot of praying. Getting spiritually connected again was the gift that keeps on giving.

AA and Alanon are spiritual programs. No matter what you believe in, you come to believe in a “higher power” as you begin to visit the meetings and listen to everyone else’s stories. That higher power can be God, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, nature, or even the collective love and power of the group. You’re relationship to your higher power is up to you. And here’s the real eye-opener, your significant other has a higher power too. And they must surrender and find that relationship for themselves. There is no fixing the other person. And there is no waiting for them to change. Their path is between them and their own spiritual program.

In the darkness, and the days and nights of silence I began to pray again. Simple prayers like, “Help me God.” Not really asking for anything specific but guidance for God’s will for me. Which is really my will and hope for myself powered by prayer and belief that there is some larger force in the universe that I can put my trust in. And there is a force in the universe that I can release the drinker to. Their path involves this transition too. It may take a year, it may take a lifetime, but I believe we call come back to a god of our choosing.

The silence and loneliness and grief brought me back to a deeper connection to my own soul. A deeper connection with myself. And that ever elusive self-love.

May you find your own path back to a higher power. And may you learn how much you are loved and valued in the world. Even if it’s only the love of the group. Attend meetings. Talk to people. Get phone numbers of people you can call when you’re down. And then sit quietly and listen. Your soul and inner voice will begin to tell you stories. Maybe some lies too, that you can examine over time and release.

You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

image: sad child, creative commons usage

Hungry Tigers and High Heels on the Running Trail


The storms came on queue, Wednesday morning, as my plans for the new job unraveled. And tonight the running trail was covered in puddles and dark shadows of mud and steam. I would’ve rather stayed in bed and watched a movie it was the hungry tiger that compelled me out and into the falling dark.

I was not expecting to the see the tall thin woman in high heels navigating the trail on the arm of her date. How he convinced her it was a good idea to walk down here in those shiny flower print shoes, I’ll never know. But the fragility of it all, cut a bit close to how I was feeling. Things had not worked out. As they had a tendency to do, these things, they sent a cascade of sorry feelings my way. The cascade would not be complete until both potential dates had flamed out and my kids left for the weekend away.


Darkness. Rainy day. And wait… still… hope.

It’s the hope that pulls us upright again after a sickness or minor depression. It’s the imagining… The hope of a kiss, an eventual kiss, again.

So the trail forks in the dark, once again. And as a hungry tiger I find my way back onto the path of self-discovery. Alone as the weather begins heading towards a rainy Fall. Wishing for one or another of the women who come into view to make up their minds. Or perhaps, the lesson is in the loneliness again. I am pushing to hard, again. The striving again, without the easy job, the easy money.

Perfecting my roll again. Slowing it down to keep from frightening the tentative yeses. Getting an “Easy Tiger,” again. And heading back onto the trail alone. In the dark.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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image: the evening trail, john mcelhenney, cc 2014