It carries a near cryptic message when said, but it also holds a lot of truth when applied to the right situation. “Sometimes you just have to let the train wreck.”
My father had probably said this in high volumes to me in the past, and like most children, it was filed into the distant Rolodex of the mind. What would seem to be a shoulder shrug response to a circumstance I was going through ten years ago was actually what I needed to hear. I had to let the train wreck
Letting the train wreck happens in subtle ways or brandished in any form. The situation may be small or large, trivial or important, affecting or non-affecting; ultimately, there is a choice to let something go and rebuild after the dust settles. Otherwise, a person is left exhausted in every aspect and faculty; this is no way to live.
The analogy works for me in regards to toxic relationships, work-related stressors and I have found that it’s also applicable to addiction and sobriety. Given the circumstances we face, each of us may conjure up a different interpretation of this saying; but here is mine.
I picture a giant scramble to keep this dilapidated terror of a train on the tracks; it’s has an engine with a mind of its own and altogether has no business being on the tracks. It is unsightly and is without question unfit for any good purpose. The train has no destination or fixed course, it just wants to chug along in madness.
As it rolls along, the train is blowing rail ties, ballast and spikes out both sides and misaligning the entire railway. The train is misappropriating the original dream and use of the tracks in order to fulfill its own selfish desire. All the while I am left trying to fix and feverishly maintain its course; with a journey to a destination, I did not plan.
For my given situation the train’s engine was my addiction, the track was my life, the cars behind that engine were my relationships and interests. I was not leading my life with my own choices, my addiction was handling that for me, and it did so with a neglected precious cargo in tow. My train was hijacked.
There are other ways, within the same vein of thinking, to express such stressful times. We may have heard you’re “Spinning too many plates”, “burning the candle at both ends” “bitten off more than you can chew” “too many irons in the fire” or similar idioms and they exist to serve as a reminder for pacing. Sometimes the brakes don’t work with the pacing of the train’s speed, so there is only one option left.
When you let the train wreck, you are not supposed to walk away from responsibility. You begin a recovery effort and it is best to know that not everyone/everything is going to make it out alive or intact. So if the train wrecks by way of your own volition or by circumstances that occurred naturally, the intent is to show greater care going forward; but you have to get up and move forward.
After I let the train wreck, I bristled my proverbial broom and determined that If I approached maintaining sobriety with the same intrepidness as entertaining my active addiction then I would have a working program in my favor. For me, this analogy worked because it snapped my mind back into reality and let me know that I can start over.
For those that have had to start over, salvage or rebuild and restore you know how bad it can be. It’s painful and daunting, there are moments where every emotion seems to be in a state of instability and chaos. You’re being tested in those moments likely hope for some kind of Olympic size leap out of the pit you’re in. It is a painful process, but necessary for recovery. It is especially painful when you realize that there are people that will no longer be there when the dust settles.
I know that many people close to me tried to help when I started down the path of heavy use. At first, they are hurt, worried, scared and eventually they stop reaching out as much. You need to be OK with that, and that is not an easy thing to process when your mind is hijacked. Especially when their pain manifested itself as anger or frustration, and rightfully so. After the wreck, some loved ones will remain and others will flee; but is that enough to stop someone at the height of their addiction? I hate to tell you the answer; it is a resounding ‘no.’ An addict will always find a way, or source, to use if they want it bad enough. I did. Luckily, there are some who refused to give up on me.
“Why do we fall, sir?” is a quote taken from one of my favorite conversations in all of cinema. This question is asked by the Butler Alfred Pennyworth to a distraught Bruce Wayne/Batman towards the end of the film Batman Begins. This moment recaptures a previous conversation the two had earlier almost verbatim, however, circumstances had changed; the train had wrecked. After Bruce’s attention is summoned by the emotional recognition of what his butler said, Alfred answers his own question with “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Using that same method of question and answer, I would ask you, the reader “Why do we let the train wreck?” My answer being “So we can learn to carry on.”
When it all comes off the rails, we need to survey the wreckage and salvage what items we can; items that are within our power to obtain. Proper tools should be crafted and assembly should begin with the understanding that sufficient time is needed for successful completion. This new creation to set on the tracks should then be treated like our personal magnum opus; it should be our grand work in regards to our life struggles and our victory over them.
Rebuilding is not an easy process; it is humbling, scary and might even cause you to delay change. If you are hijacked by addiction and your control is lost, that does not mean that you are. It just means there is hard work ahead, more so than the hard work that was needed to maintain track previously. You will never truly know the exact outcome of persistent betterment and faithful sobriety until it is happening every day. When each day is built after this model, you have created a resume’ for greater things to come into your life.
What do you imagine when you hear the statement to let the train wreck? What’s your interpretation?