Friday, February 05, 2016

Something is Rotten in Recovery

Last week we talked about the Dark Night of the Soul and the upside of spiritual darkness in our recovery journey. This week I want to say a little more about balancing darkness and goodness.
Granted, this is a conversation for women in long-term recovery. It would just be too darn hard to explain in a newcomer’s group. And, remembering my own early recovery, the proportions were off—there was too much that was dark and rotten.

My big insight this week comes not from The Big Book but rather from Vogue, my fashion
Bible.

I was reading an article about perfume, which included an interview with legendary perfumer Frederic Malle. He was explaining what goes into creating a truly great perfume.
He’s had his hand (and nose) in many of the world’s great enduring and seductive scents. Malle said, “You always have to have some darkness in a scent, even if it is way in the back.” That penetrating and usually very expensive darkness in perfume turns out to be something rotten. (Think sweat, sex, wet dog, dirt.)

Malle continued, “It’s like in your intimate relationships. I think everybody wants someone who is nice, but too nice becomes miserably boring. A little darkness and mystery make things so much more interesting.” In the language of the perfumer, the rotten element in a perfume is called “animalic” or “skatolic”. Yes, does that word make you think of skunk? Exactly. 

For a fragrance to seduce and endure it has to have a touch of something rotten at the core. And, maybe, this is true in our own lives—our recovery lives. “We are not saints,” the book and the tee shirt proclaim, and we should never seek to be saints. Again, boring, and worse: not attractive. And since ours is a program of “attraction rather than promotion” don’t we want those who may be attracted to see (maybe smell) our imperfection?

This embracing of our rottenness—in just the right proportion—makes us whole and desirable and enduring in recovery.

1 comment:

Sheryl Lynch said...

Have to embrace one's shadow or else be consumed by it.