Meaning, masochism, and madness (dancing with darkness in the name of art)

In 2007, I had gotten sober after a few years of excessive substance use.

I was in a band at the time, and we still had a few unreleased songs from those former years of destructive nimiety, with lyrics that reflected that struggle.

We were writing some new material with a more positive outlook, but we wanted to release the old stuff before moving on.

So, we planned to release it all on an EP. To optimize value, we decided to write a new track just for the EP.

This required me to do something very strange. To fit into the theme of the darker material, I wrote a song about being strung out and lost at the bottom of the barrel.

However, I was feeling quite on top of my world at the time. So, I dug into my memories of despair and hopelessness to fuel the song.

Within a few months of writing it, I was sucked back into the abyss. The message of that track switched from past to present tense. The song turned out to be quite the self-fulfilling prophecy.

And my band never did finish our material with the positive outlook. Because life fell apart, due to choices.

I wondered ever since, what if I had just moved rather than playing around with my own seductive shadows? Would the outcome have been different? Would I be on a completely different path today?

Now it’s ten years later, 2017.

Once again, I am in a precarious position with art. This time, a book. If I finish it this year as planned, it will be my first full-length novel.

It’s called Reversion, and it’s important to me.

But it requires me to go deep, and dance with my shadows. It requires me to clearly remember the most broken I’ve ever been and imagine the most broken I could ever be.

The concept for Reversion was conceived in 2013, after four years of abstinence from my former drugs of choice (I did, however, still consume alcohol and struggle with binge eating). I was studying human services, and planned for a career of treating substance misuse.

But I started to feel restless. I was frustrated by what I was seeing inside the system, and how the needs of people are often undermined by policy. I did not want to do social work to fulfill policy. I wanted to do it to help people. Working within the system requires so many compromises. Or at least that’s one of my thoughts that was causing restlessness.

I was also going through immense heartbreak at the end of a passionate relationship.

Reversion was my way of dealing with it all. It’s set in 2031, and I am the protagonist. In the world of Reversion, I stayed on the social work path and became a renowned counselor. I am 50. I founded a treatment facility, built an army of acronyms after my name, got married and started a family. Built quite a life for myself.

Then, the main antagonist comes into play. The antagonist being, my former tendencies.

The story is set in a fictional future, but based on my real history up to my early 30s (when I started writing it).

So in this world I am 50 years old, and have been sober for 22 years. Most of the characters have no idea of my self-destructive past. They just see me for the successful life I’ve built. They do not know about the inner demons that scratch at the walls deep in the cellar of my mind.

At 50 years old, I barely even know the demons are there anymore, because I’ve become an expert at ignoring them.

But they claw their way out… And henceforth, you have a story about how quickly someone can lose everything.

When I started writing it, I thought it was a great way to deal with my own insecurities about relapsing on drugs and losing everything I’d worked for in my life.

I figured, if it happened in some alternate future of my own creation, then it wouldn’t have to happen in real life. I could get it out of my system, so to speak.

I dropped out of school, feeling that Reversion was a cautionary tale to myself. It was like a letter from my future self, begging the present me to embrace authenticity. The theme seemed to be that I was subconsciously convinced that social work was not an authentic path for me, and that it would lead to my demise…

But, that’s not how it worked. My demise was coming either way.

It was like in 2007, with the song. It became another self-fulfilling prophecy.

Except instead of waiting until I was 50, I cut ahead in line and obliterated my life in my early/mid-30s.

I have not been working on Reversion lately. It’s about 1/3 complete, and I plan on finishing and releasing it this year. Very soon, it will be my primary focus.

Should I let it go? Should I cast it to the wind and move on?

Maybe. But I probably won’t. I am too stubborn. And I feel a need to write it.

I feel a need to stroll through the haunted house of my soul, and unmask the hideous creatures there. And to give meaning to my pain. To help others find meaning in theirs, if I’m lucky.

But when this is done…

Maybe time to use my powers for self-fulfilling prophecies of a more uplifting variety.