True Self in Recovery



I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self.  Why was that so very difficult?   – Hermann Hesse


In recent years, I have taken to tracking down the phrases that stuck in my head since my youth – to see if I remember them correctly, and consider why those phrases, and not others are perpetually imprinted on my brain.  One example is the epigraph above from the novel Demian by Hermann Hesse.

I read Demian in 1968 and don’t recollect picking it up after. About  7 or 8 years ago while roaming around in a used bookstore on Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, I found a copy, and proved to myself that yes, I remembered the quote correctly.  So why has that line stuck in my head for 45 years?

Obviously, the epigram is similar to the line on the Alcoholics Anonymous anniversary coins I collect (and Hamlet) “To Thine Own Self Be True” and reflect that perpetual trying to figure it out.  What I also take and enjoy out of this idea is that recovery, life, and self-discovery are truly processes and not singular events.

To me, this understanding is one of the fantastic blessings of living in recovery.  Each day is a possibility of new growth.  That growth is not just limited to a self-improvement perspective, but rather includes a sense of the discovery of true self.  When advising college students, I usually ask them “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and preface the question by noting I continue to ask myself the same question.

These are thoughts that are far from my mind when actively living into my addictions.