V/I: Update #1, Healing?

Preface: “V/I” is how I’m tracking posts about my two-part album, Vulnerable/Invincible. You can keep up with these posts by hovering/clicking on the “Music” tab of my website’s header and then clicking on “V/I Posts.” Okay, that is all.

This week sets the tone for 2018. Let me be the first to admit that I had a 3-day-long relapse right into the New Year. The only reason I got out of it was because the consequences of my decisions to drink and drug started piling up; I was reminded of the rapidly progressive nature of giving power to my addiction. I realized that if I didn’t stop what I was doing, I was going to lose all that I’ve worked for since moving to North Carolina and I didn’t want that.

What I do want to do is live a life of integrity.

So, as of right now, releasing new music from my Vulnerable/Invincible project is on hold, because that’s what I said I would do if I didn’t stay sober.

Let me clarify. My new keyboard workstation is literally being shipped to me as I type this, and I have every intention of recording music with it. Staying engaged with my music, singing, and songwriting are all vital to my recovery, because without them I have no way to express myself or keep my hands from being the devil’s playthings at 3am. The second single was scheduled for release on January 12th to celebrate 3 months of sobriety, but that’s definitely not happening. To release this music as scheduled would be dishonest to this project and more importantly, to my recovery. I need to focus on the kinks in my recovery first and foremost, because if I don’t, the reality is that my addiction and mental illness will kill me this year. This music is valuable to me, but not more valuable than my life.

I have so many cool things planned for Vulnerable/Invincible: live recording sessions where you’ll see how I bring my songs to life (and how I struggle as a singer/songwriter), release dates that coincide with my sobriety milestones, and blog posts where I’ll break down my lyrics and share some of their origins. But first, before I start up any of that, I need some time to steady myself and get settled back into a sober head-space.

Although I’ve been “in recovery” since November of 2016 (meaning, I sought treatment, accepted my addiction, implemented a recovery plan, etc.), I managed to spend more of 2017 fucked up than sober. The reality is that I am still a fetus when it comes to sobriety and there’s a bit of shame that comes with that truth. But after some therapy and self-reflection, I better understand why I’ve been struggling to stay sober.

Some of us think that “staying strong” in difficult circumstances means bottling up all of the shitty stuff, thousands of layers deep, because there, it can never get out; it can’t hurt us from way down there and just like that, BAM! We’ve proved ourselves strong and moved on. We won’t ever have to deal with whatever it is we’ve bottled up inside.

If only it were that simple.

Bottling up intense emotions and experiences doesn’t result in any healing or peace, even though it sometimes feels like we’re able to move forward with a new sort of lightness after squasher-downing our feelings. But trust me when I say that the lightness is just an illusion.

It has taken me until 2018 to realize that not only am I quite awful at feeling and expressing emotions, but that I have bottled up my issues for a majority of my life. No wonder I turned to alcohol and drugs to numb out of all the shit inside of me. Pain demands to be felt. It is something that we cannot escape or put on hold without consequences.

But oh, how I’ve tried. So, here I am, still struggling to stay sober.

Over the last 4 years, I haven’t stayed sober for longer than 2 months at a time. For that reason, I haven’t truly felt the full spectrum of my experiences. Writing music has definitely helped me glue some of my broken pieces back together, but it’s not a wholesome solution to pain. I mean, I wish a lifetime of trauma, mental illness, and heartbreak could be handled in a couple of months and some songwriting, but it can’t. Both being in therapy and putting together Part I of my album have helped me realize that I haven’t fully healed from past traumas. Not even close. I thought that I had. I thought that it was all behind me. I thought that I had written and sang it all out.

I thought that time was supposed to do the healing for me?

If I had dealt with the stuff inside of me, I wouldn’t keep feeling the need to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb out when it starts to overflow. Since I haven’t healed (and don’t think I know how to?), I have stuff from years ago weighing on my heart every day, which literally sounds like a relapse just waiting to happen. So aside from sobriety, learning how to heal will be the most important thing I do this year.

Now, how does this all relate to me working on Vulnerable/Invincible?

The first part of my album is supposed to be an honest reflection of what I’ve overcome, but lately my past has felt more like my present. A lot of the difficult emotions and insecurities I wrote about and share on Part I have started to surface again, which is further evidence that I need to take some time to learn how to heal before I share these songs with you all. I know that beginning that process means immersing myself in therapy, refusing to relapse, and allowing myself to feel for longer than 2 months at a time. The day that I finally make it to 3 months of sobriety will be a big deal for me. Further, I need to love myself a bit harder. I’ve been struggling to believe the truths about my worth that Part II of the album is all about.

When I release this music, I want to feel like I’m sharing a part of my life with you that I’ve embraced and overcome, rather than parts of my past that continue to fuck with my present. At the very least, when I release this music, I want to be actively pursuing healing instead of idly watching bottled up pain fuel my addiction.

If the songs from Part I could talk, I would want them to be able to tell me, “Donaven, listen to us and hear all that you are overcoming and all that you’ve survived. Sure, you still feel some of these things deeply, but you don’t drink or drug to escape any of it. Ever. Without a doubt, you are healing, and you are not that person anymore.” As I stand, the songs on Part I couldn’t say that (they’d probably just laugh in my face) and the songs from Part II wouldn’t even recognize me as the Donaven who wrote them.

My recovery goal this year is to kill the Donaven who bottles up emotions and reverts to numbing out, by healing him. There are parts of me that are still very much broken. This year is all about being insanely gentle with myself. I truly believe that a lot of the healing I’m in need of is going to occur organically as I consistently stay sober, one day at a time.

l deserve to be well and that’s what I’m fighting for. Everything that I am working for this year (e.g., getting out of credit card debt, moving into my own place, submitting graduate school applications, releasing this project about my recovery) rests on me staying sober. I’ll resume the releasing of Vulnerable/Invincible when I feel like I’ve started healing (whatever the hell that means). I promise that I’ll continue to be transparent, because I cannot do #recoverywithdonaven alone. Stay tuned.

With hope,

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls your life.” -Akshay Dubey

Things I love right now:

  1. This woman and her videos, especially this one. I relate to her recovery and advocacy so much
  2. My Spotify EDM playlist that I’ve been working on since Annie first showed me San Holo’s “Light,” in July (I’ve now fallen in love with and developed such an appreciation for future bass. I believe our ears were meant to hear these sounds)
  3. First dates
  4. How To Care For Your Cermet (throwback, but for some reason I’ve been saying “water your cermet to make it grow” a lot lately and nobody understands me)
  5. Ugh, this video of Demi Lovato slaying 2017
  6. Reading/watching best man speeches, because I get to be one of those this year and I need to make sure that my our (Michael’s having 2 best men and no groomsmen) speech changes lives

2 thoughts on “V/I: Update #1, Healing?

  1. Hello Donaven, I came across your post and wondered if I may share with you what I sensed as I read your blog? I am sure that many people will be able to relate to how you feel about yourself. Especially how you feel you might have set yourself back because you slipped back into old habits. I do not have drink or drug issues but I am learning about accepting myself, in my case, due to anxiety, depression, and PTSD. As a reader of your wonderful post, I wished to say that I don’t see you as failing at all. You slipped back into your learned behaviour. That is OK. You can get back on track. Everything is a learning curve including having strategies for next time and uncovering the triggers. These things take time to achieve. Becoming self aware takes time. My thoughts were – if you put out your music now, no one will judge you for this recent slip back; for not having achieved all your goals yet. Most people can relate more to other’s vulnerabilities and their slip backs, than to their successes. So I wondered if you have set yourself a huge goal – to reach what you would perceive as ‘success’ (staying sober) before you release your work, whereas others might be more in tune with you openly saying ‘this is where I was at that point’, regardless of where you might be now, or tomorrow. I wondered if you might be inadvertently holding yourself to this monumental task of being perfect before releasing your creative talents to the world? None of us are perfect nor will we ever be. Our true beauty lies in our vulnerabilities, our humanity, and when we triumph at accepting ourselves – warts and all. I see in you, a man who has courage, who is already succeeding, and whose authenticity is refreshing to read. You are also educating others about the inner battles that people go through, trying to stay off drink and drugs. Releasing your music now could create an opportunity to educate others more about the ups and downs of your personal journey. People will always relate to that. Of course, you must go with what is right for you, so this is just another perspective. I wish you all the very best. As you say, going gently. Taking small achievable steps rather than placing too much expectation on our shoulders is key, because we often set ourselves up for a fall and then feel like failures. I believe we all need to be more compassionate towards ourselves. It is something I am striving for presently. I feel we benefit most when we start loving the person we are in each moment, no matter what choices we are making.
    You are very articulate and clearly very talented. Thank you for sharing your story. Good luck with all your future plans and your healing journey. Warmest wishes🌻

    Liked by 1 person

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