Rediscovering the mysticism within


Note: My print column, which comes out tomorrow, will offer some commentary on the ways we collectively process the human experience online. It begins with a reflection on the response of friends, strangers, and readers at large to my announcement that I am giving up the drink. This post is a follow-up of sorts to that announcement. Since this is likely a process that will indefinitely remain front and center, it will probably make its way into the blog here and there. I want to be clear, though, that it is not my intention to turn this blog into a recovery journal. I still have plenty to be funny and angry and cynical about… Like the Cutler camp’s whimsical internal data.

If there is one thing I want to be remembered or respected for, it for making an earnest attempt at being as honest and straightforward as possible. With regard to the drink, as had been the case with pills in the past, it was time for me to be real with myself (and then with a greater audience as it is—sometimes weirdly—part of my job to share such things). The exercise of writing is particularly important to me, as it is inherently therapeutic, and I was heartened to hear from dozens who have had similar struggles, or are presently engaged with sorting through similar phenomena.

Though many squander time on competitions of vanity and partisanship there, the Internet can be an amazing platform for sharing our truths and forming communities around that exchange. I am heartened to see that more people are doing exactly that. Just last week, people were taking to Twitter to share their stories, speak up, educate, and create communities of support around personal experiences with domestic violence. The black community has been vocal about their realities with police violence. We share more in common than we think, I believe, and if we are honest about our experiences—and hearing the experiences of others without filtering what we hear through our own hangups—we are more open to realize that. Those filters and hangups are the subject of a column I wrote, and it will appear online tomorrow and in print on Saturday.

I started drinking in earnest when I was 19 and I never really stopped. Before that, I was a mystical and spiritual person. I felt magic in everything. While I am not religious, nor am I a believer, I once pulled over to spend time and pray with a freshly killed dear on the side of the road. Sometimes the simple beauty of a landscape would call for me to pull over and sit and meditate within it. It is the existence of this mystical root, I think, that drew me toward working with young adults. I used to regularly work with youth leadership programs. The teenage is the last part of life where that mysticism comes naturally and doesn’t require constant nurturing.

I bring this up because it wasn’t until I stopped drinking last month that I realized that I had lost all of that as a result of falling into the compulsion to perpetually numb my brain and my heart. Glimmers of that wonder would return when I worked with kids (though even high school sophomores appear to be taking on an increasing volume of adult burdens), and I re-sparked a dull connection to it by seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes. My connection to that sense feels restored, and appears to be improving by the day. For that I am grateful, and to ensure that the flow continues, I need to continue to work on myself. Ironically, my biggest subconscious fear about quitting was the thought of seeing and experiencing the world through sober eyes, when in fact that itself is the biggest gift to come from all of this.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.