Kintsugi

"Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in"

- Leonard Cohen

Kintsugi - also known as Kintsukuroi - is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered or liquid gold mixed with lacquer. The beauty of Kintsugi is that by putting the broken pottery piece back together with molten gold the potter creates an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. Embracing flaws and imperfections gives greater value to something considered to be broken or lost.


When I first saw a Kintsugi bowl, I immediately thought of the fellowship of AA and how we arrive there. We scrape up the broken pieces of ourselves, of our lives, shattered by addiction and hopefully we find our way to the rooms. In my case, no one looking at me would have ever guessed I was so broken. Internally I was in a state of anguish that few but an addict could understand. I felt my sanity slipping away. My hourly mantra of "I will not drink today" "I will not drink today" "I will not drink today" screeching to a halt the minute I put the drink to my lips. "What just happened?" "How?" "HOW???""Who are you?" I would ask myself drunkenly in the mirror "What about our mantra you idiot?!?" "Am I schizophrenic?" My own voice was telling me to drink - drowning out my constant and fervent prayer of "PLEASE don't." A mental civil war was going on between my ears. I felt I could no longer live the way I was living. At the end I was unable to go one day without drinking. My body was alive but my soul was dying. And what is a body without a soul? Nothing but an empty shell. I was at the “jumping-off point” that is described in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous - Chapter 11 - page 152.


"He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end."


I was there, unable to imagine a life without alcohol or drugs. Suicide loomed as an option. But as a very last resort I decided I would give AA a try. And so I arrived in the rooms - shattered and completely unable to glue myself back together. But that, I discovered, is what happens in AA. We come in broken and get reassembled. We get a second chance at life as we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually, repaired.


At my first few meetings I was shaking so badly that I had to sit on my hands so that no one would notice. But I met people there who assured me that they too had been like that. That they had felt there was no way out - but the final way out. AA suggests the idea of a life without the liberal application of numbing agents. But how was I to live without the two things I thought I could trust and rely on, my solution to the occasional discomforts of life, my best friends - drugs and alcohol.


When I saw all these people that first day I was scared and a bit appalled. By the laughter (are they crazy?) by the joy (maybe they’re still high but pretending to be sober?) by the level of comfort they seemed to have with themselves and others (back to them being crazy). For reasons unknown to me I went back the next day and the next and the next. They had something that I wanted. They had learned to live life on life's terms - and to have serenity doing it.


I have come to know that we are all like a piece of Kintsugi pottery. We arrive in the rooms broken. Jagged shards ready for the garbage heap. The wreckage is often external and obvious. But, like mine, it can be internal. A dark secret to be hidden. Our own living hell.


I now know there is hope of repair. We can all be put back together. We can emerge even more beautiful than we were before. There is hope for all addicts as long as they’re not dead. In the same way that the Kinsugi is made more beautiful because of its cracks, so do we become more beautiful by embracing our brokenness. We admit we are powerless over drugs and alcohol and we surrender our old ideas about how to live life.


With the help of meetings, sober friendships, service and all the tools that we are freely given in 12 step programs we are slowly put back together with the gold that we find in the rooms. We are more beautiful for having been ruined and then repaired. I see my people everywhere. The dark and fleeting shadow behind the bright smile - and I love them all the more for their brokeness. For the courage they have shown in facing the darkness within themselves head on.


To see fellow addicts emerge into the sunlight with their golden battle scars shining is what the miracle of recovery is all about. Inspired by others we embrace our own flaws, sharing our imperfect beauty with those who follow. Like kintsugi we are all comeback kids - with the hope and chance of a brighter future.


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