Each of us finds the best way to process our feelings. I have discovered writing as one important outlet for me. Sometimes I write a jumble of feelings, a stream of consciousness. Sometimes it is a letter to myself or someone else. Sometimes a dialogue or an emotional travelogue. Often it is poetry. Poetry captures the words of my heart in ways other writing simply does not. This edition of Beyond Survival: Still We Rise features the poetry of a survivor, Ben.

I met Ben in 2019 at my first Weekend of Recovery (WOR).  It was his third WOR in the last 10 years. He is a creative, courageous man and a wonderful friend.  Like many of us his journey of healing has been long with unexpected twists and turns.  One practice in his recovery is the writing of poetry.  Below are two of his poems which inspired the design of a t-shirt created at a Weekend of Recovery. 

Do you have a poem or a picture which shares words of your heart? They could speak to someone on this healing journey. I’d love to read them and perhaps include them in a future blog post. Feel free to send them my way (mike@menhealing.org). 

 I Run!
 By Ben 
 May 10, 2019
 I run to expand my breath
 I run to expand my self
 I run because I can
 I run 
 My breath was taken from me
 Not in one fell swoop
 But slowly
 Pressed out of me through time and space
 Blackness overcame
 Darkness absorbed the laughter that lived in my eyes
 And I became flat
 To survive I flattened my soul into a corner 
 A whisper of fresh air spoke to me
 And I gasped
 But the pressure was too great
 My attempts to breathe only caused more pain
 And I remember the feeling of fresh air
 Cool and crisp
 Hovering outside my lips waiting to enter my body
 And I longed for relief
 And if I turned towards the darkness
 Flattened myself as much as I could
 I could hold on to that crisp refreshing air just long enough to bring a fresh sense of being alive
 And so
 On that day
 I became scared of the world around me
 Scared of my light
 Scared of the smile in my eyes and the laughter in my heart
 A terror awoke in me that has been my main frame since 1979
 And now it is 2019. 
 It seems so long I need to count the years on my fingers ’79…’89…99…09..19
 That makes 40 years.
 But wait…I just turned 48.  
 My breath was stolen from me when I was 8 years old.
 And now I run to breathe again
 I breathe so I can expand
 And in my breath I find surprises from the past that have cast forward to my present
 Smiling eyes
 A laughing heart
 Fresh crisp air
 a knowing of compassion
 a love for myself
 I have lived in a flattened reality for so long I fear sometimes that I have lost my multi-dimensional self
 And am always so surprised when I find him
 Ready to play in the world
 So I run
 So I dance
 So I listen to loud music
 So I look at old pictures
 So I hug my children
 So I hug my wife
 So I pet any dog I can
 So I swim
 So I bike
 And all of this brings back my breath
 So I can LIVE! 
 A feather
 By Ben 
 September 13, 2019
 A feather has fallen with the weight of a stone
 Who knew a feather could be so heavy 
 That it lands with a thud on a mountain top of memories
 And can trigger an earthquake?
 Who knew that when a feather fell and was found in the tall grass of a field
 It held the weight of memories 
 And once landed could not be picked up without great strength and resolve
 Who knew a feather…floating down innocently, quietly, and hardly noticeable
 Could trigger a hurricane with a wake of destruction coming behind it. 
 Unable to sleep, think, eat, spend time with my children or talk with my wife
 Without being tickled into a rage
 I am so ready to turn this page 
 And the tremors that lie below come
 They arrive like an aftershock
 Oh yes – this earthquake happened long ago
 Now I remember
 But the tremors, the aftershocks, the shakiness has been building
 The tension and force of not unforgotten, but unremembered memories rise
 And like a volcano spew hot molten rock over the landscape of my life
 But I no longer have the will to run from these memories
 I no longer have the strength to keep them down
 I no longer have the compartments to hold them
 So they come…
 Full of details my memories flood from the geyser of my mind.  
 Unstoppable like a force of nature. 
 Ha… Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Floods, Tsuanmi, and… My Memories.  They all fit into one category. 
 So I stand there while flaming rock spews from beneath
 And I don’t tremble.  
 Because now all of those flames that have been inside me are no longer there. 
 I watch them fall around me scorching the ground. 
 And I actually stand embracing this experience with relief. 
 Because all of that heat
 All of that hatred
 All of that self-loathing
 All of that fear
 All of that confusion
 All of that anger
 All of that shame
 All of that pain
 Is no longer held within
 And I can see and feel that I held all of that inside for so long.
 But without that who am i? and who will I become? 

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