On Ghosts and Hope

On Ghosts and Hope
Helen Rose
December 30, 2018


Today was a beautiful day, and I’m still reveling in it.


I got to give a sermon at my home church this morning.

Honestly, I would have been happy just to give it to an empty room, but not only were there people there – it was well received.

There are no words.

Knowing that I was able to do this, do it well, and have any sort of impact – no matter how fleeting – means everything. I am absolutely on the right path and basking in a sense of hope that is unfamiliar and empowering.


I picked Henry up from my aunt after church (because I could have handled wrangling him or public speaking, but definitely not both) and we went to the park. The weather was mild and the light was just right for photos.


I picked up this piece of glass by the lake. My eyes told me it was a beautiful color. The alcoholic that sits on my left shoulder told me it was a piece of a Heineken or Peroni bottle. The sober mystic on my right shoulder told me that all bottles end up broken eventually – and alcohol bottles can break people, too.


The park we went to is right by the neighborhood where I grew up. I don’t go that way often. It kind of hurts, to be honest. It hurts to think about the last time I was there. It hurts to think about the kids I grew up with – especially those who have passed away. It hurts to think about some parts of my journey.

I drive by the psychiatric facility I where was committed every time I take Henry to daycare. I drive by the hospital where he was born on occasion, though it is closed now.  My therapist’s office is right next to my first apartment, and I’ve trained myself to not look too closely. I’ve never driven by the middle school I attended in Roane County, and I hope I never have to. Some ghosts are best left undisturbed.

All of these places, all of these experiences, missteps, and painful lessons matter and are a part of me, no different from my brown eyes, blood type, or the fact that I’m gay. However, I’m coming to realize that if I revel in them too much, I can get lost in the past – and that’s not where I’m going.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is to let the past be the past.

I freely admit that I’ve done some shitty things and I’ve caused pain. I wish there was a way to make sweeping reparations. I wish there was a way to show the people I harmed that I have changed, to show them I am so sorry, and to show them kindness where I have not in the past.

The problem, however, is that a lot of the damage was done while I was drunk or high. I don’t know who all these people are, and I don’t know the nature of my wrongs – I only know that the wrongs have occurred by the holes in my life where dear friends once stood.

I recently ran into someone I used to work with before Henry was born. She asked how things were going and I told her I’m finishing my BSW then going to seminary. She was polite, but I could see her mentally trying to reconcile her memories of me at the peak of my alcoholism with the concept of me giving sermons or whatever she associates with ministry.

I would have liked to offer her an explanation, a short version of my story to show her the transformative power of love, but real life doesn’t always work out poetically, so I suppose my choices moving forward will have to be a living testament to my journey.

Of course, if the opportunity presents itself, I will do whatever I can to make peace where I can. I’ve been thinking that I should reach out to some people, or organize some sort of airing of grievances so that I might know the exact nature of my actions and atone for my sins. I’ve also been thinking about how I can show kindness and love at every opportunity, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it would not be kind to anyone to reopen old wounds in order to clear my own conscience.

So, if you need it, let this be my apology:

If I have wronged or harmed you in any way, I am sorry. You did not deserve to be treated unkindly. You have inherent worth and dignity and I had no right to treat you with anything less than kindness. The fact that I have changed does not negate the fact that you were harmed. I hope you can forgive me.

I am making a significant effort to enter 2019 without excess emotional baggage, and that includes the guilt I have been carrying for how I behaved before I was sober, as well as the guilt I have been carrying that is not rightfully mine to bear. This morning, I spoke about letting go of that which does not serve our highest good – I suppose it would be advisable to practice what I preach.

In 2017, I woke up and got my act together – I got sober and got help.

In 2018, I learned who I am with a clear mind and an incredible support system – I saw my best self.

In 2019, I intend to continue growing and I intend to thoroughly enjoy the process.

2019 is going to be amazing. I get to see Henry turn three and continue to grow on his journey. I get to take him to the Women’s March and Knoxville Pride. I get to keep learning as a student of Life and as a student of Social Work. I get to apply to seminary in the Autumn, and with any luck, I’ll be accepted by this time next year.

I get to keep living my truth and using my voice, and I get to do it all while being loved unconditionally by my circle of Love and by the Universe. What an enormous blessing.


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