• Dr Jodie Bradnam

Lessons are everywhere

Updated: Sep 8, 2018

When I first worked in a rehab at 21, fresh out of university, I thought I knew a bit about mental illness, about grief, anxiety, depression and the dark places that life can lead us. As it turned out, I knew very little, especially about addiction and what it looks and feels like from the inside. It took me the next 20 years to begin to understand.

These lessons were not delivered in conventional ways. They weren’t taught in a classroom and didn’t culminate in an end of semester exam. They were learned in experiential and infinitely more painful ways, through trying and failing, falling and despairing. Some were delivered painfully through misguided action, disappointment, rejection, loss or betrayal (most painfully the betrayal of myself). Other lessons were delivered in consequences, as impossible to escape as they were to bear.

Sometimes, in an effort to try to understand the pain my husband was in, I’d listen for the emotion beneath the stories he’d tell - the stories he seemed to hide behind. Other times, I’d try to connect with him through the songs he’d listen to. I’d scour their lyrics to see exactly what was speaking to him in the hope it would speak to me too. One of these songs was Hurt by Johnny Cash.

This week, in a powerful moment that overwhelmed me, I walked into the Amity Cafe at North Straddie to hear it playing. It took me back to a time, a place and struggle that I never thought we’d free ourselves from. The lyrics of this song speak so powerfully about addiction, about the pain, the loneliness, the disconnection and the shame. Years ago, I listened to this song on repeat searching for clues and it gave a new understanding of the darkness of addiction. What I was not expecting to find was a lyric that spoke directly to me. A line in the final verse. “If I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way.” It had me thinking about the Pema Chodron quote @anipemachodron. How do we sit in the dark with others without losing ourselves? Boundaries. We need boundaries to stay open, to remain compassionate, to keep ourselves. Among other lessons, Hurt taught me that. I'm still learning but fortunately, lessons are everywhere.