We are travelers on
life’s journey moving toward our common destination—death—and what may lie
beyond. Most are free, for the most part, to choose the path we follow to this
destination. We all are born into specific circumstances that limit choice. For
instance, an Arab girl born into a male dominated culture and a boy born into
poverty have much different limitations compared to a white boy born into a
loving caring middle class American family. However, regardless of circumstances,
we share a common desire for freedom of choice and control over the path that
we follow on our journey. As a white American man, I have high class and
trivial impediments along my journey. Nonetheless, my path is not without bumps
and detours. So where am I today and how did I get here?   

I am a child of
the mid-twentieth century America,
born in 1956. My parents expected me and my sister to be successful and be
emotionally well adjusted. The smiling, materialistic Ozzie and Harriet mindset
of the late 1950s and early 1960s discouraged freedom and creative expression
outside tightly drawn lines. As young boy not always able to stay inside the
lines, I was subjected special treatment and education that was intended to keep
me in line.

The first bump on
my path came at the age of twelve when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. My
parents had me tested because I had reading problems that made it difficult for
me to stay between the tightly drawn lines of the public school system. This
condition was considered by my well intentioned parents and the doctors they
consulted as a sever limitation. At first, I did not feel different from my
friends or that this so-called condition was a limitation. However, I was soon
conditioned to believe that I had a defect that must be corrected if I wanted
any chance of a “normal life.” I continually heard from adults, whom I trusted,
that I was indeed different in a negative way. I was subjected to a variety of eye
exercise treatments and tutors that felt to me like torture. I was miserable; I
had no control over the direction in which I was being shoved. Then, as if to
add insult to injury, I was shoved into a private boarding school, which deepened
my frustration and unhappiness.

During this time,
between twelve and fifteen years old, I felt social pressure to participate in macho
sports like baseball, football, wrestling, and basketball. So, with an
overwhelming desire to be accepted and normal, I did my best to join in. I was
actually a good swimmer and enjoyed it; however, I believed that my friends and
schoolmates did not consider swimming a macho sport. Bending to expectations, I
was often miserable and unhappy with my choice of complicity. Again, I felt as
if I was being shoved in a direction that I really did not want to follow.

Creativity was not
part of my young vocabulary. The tutors and private school did not discouraging
creativity, but they absolutely encouraged, rewarded, and expected logical,
left brain activity. I learned through a fear of failure to again stay between
the lines of expectation. I now realize the result of this cultural pressure eventually
resulted in undeveloped and blocked creativity that further fed frustration and
unhappiness. This grew and festered years down the road into restlessness,
irritability and discontentment; the result of addiction.

As a freshman in
high school, I had a strong desire to follow a different path. It was this
desire and a series of sports injuries led me to drugs and alcohol. I often
write about this because it is such a pivotal part of my journey. I followed
this corked, self-absorbed path for almost thirty years. At first, it provided a
welcome escape from the frustration and unhappiness I felt. It ended at a dead
end and I was powerless to change direction.

At forty three, God
opened for me a door of change and freedom from ugly drug addiction and alcoholism
that had grown to control of my life and was essentially dragging me down dark,
foggy road. During the last eight years I have slowly grown to realize that God
holds the key to what I longed for—creative freedom and acceptance. My journey
is just beginning to make sense and I realize that creativity is a gift from
God that takes many forms in my life—writing, music, and the physical movement
of swimming and Yoga practice. Continuing to grow in a positive direction, God gives
me the privilege to serve others in many of ways, such as helping those who
suffer with addictions, as I did, through AA—the fellowship of recovery that
held open a door open for me. Active participation in AA reminds me that I do
not need to backtrack on my journey.

Copyright © 2007 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

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