The Guy with the Dragon Tattoo

The Guy with the Dragon Tattoo

Let me paint you a not-so-pretty picture: I’m lying in bed with travelers’ diarrhea and the hostel I booked just ran out of water. My husband is also extremely sick, but we can’t flush the toilet, which is making for a less than romantic honeymoon in Thailand.

I’m being eaten alive by mosquitoes as I puke in 95-degree weather with 100% humidity. But on the bright side, since we have decent Wi-Fi, we decide to download the film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

The movie seemed most fitting because it was relatable. And at that point, I was really needing a little slice of comfort, which I found while watching a girl with mental health issues fight, punish and ruin anyone who hurt her for the full two hours and 34 minutes of the film.

She is the old me…only much better with technology and not scared of riding a motorcycle.

Seeking a Slice of Comfort

If our trip had a theme, it would be something related to sickness and wounds. My husband and I came to Thailand to relax by the beach and train Muay Thai, but found ourselves nursing numerous injuries which almost made training – or relaxing – obsolete.

As I laid there on the doctor’s table, I thought to myself, “How ironic; I am still so dependent on drugs.-Jo HarveyThe first issue was my middle knuckle, which was so swollen and bruised from hitting pads that it looked like a different (but unrecognizable) body part. I decided I wanted to continue training, so I had a doctor inject cortisol directly into the wound, which allowed for a few more days of training. As I laid there on the doctor’s table, I thought to myself, “How ironic; I am still so dependent on drugs.

The swelling and discomfort temporarily subsided after the injection, but it returned with a vengeance, as numbed-pain usually does. That’s the problem with using drugs to alleviate our physical or emotional pain, nothing really gets a proper burial, and wounds that are ignored tend to resurface in such a way that no one could ever pretend they don’t exist. Every trauma has a life of its own, and just like people, they all want to be significant.

Only my knuckle had received adequate medical care, leaving the open cuts on either side to get infected. The wounds had not been cleaned properly – they’d just been looked over with little consideration paid to purifying them at the cellular level. Just like a trauma that had been discussed but not digested, I had to go back, reopen the wound, and finally give it the proper attention it deserved.

Working Through Old Wounds

Reopening wounds, both physical and psychological, is a daunting task. Sometimes it may be better to leave them alone, and hope time allows the body and mind to adjustment accordingly so they may stay safely hidden deep beneath the surface.

The only thing scarier than examining a wound is re-examining it, with nothing more than a glimmer of hope that this time it will heal. Once I finally surrendered to the fact I needed to stop training Muay Thai, the fear set in; what am I going to do if I can’t escape with martial arts? It had become my new addiction, and I found myself battling the same old feelings of fear I had experienced just prior to ending my drinking career.

My entire hope once rested on the illusion that the next drink would make “it” better. The problem being I didn’t know what “it” was, and I sure as hell didn’t know how to get rid of “it.”-Jo Harvey

My entire hope once rested on the illusion that the next drink would make “it” better. The problem being I didn’t know what “it” was, and I sure as hell didn’t know how to get rid of “it.” I knew I had nowhere to look for comfort but deep within myself, yet I was in a constant state of anxiety over how I would ever manage to comfort, love and nurture myself back to sanity.

As I sat in the hostel, sober, I knew this time was different, because I was different. My journey of recovery has been a rebirth, complete with the stages of awkwardness and rebellion, identity confusion and self-doubt. And yet, working through those issues has only brought me deeper into an understanding of who and what I am.

Choosing a Different Path

Shame is what gets me stuck, so I knew I must have been feeling it in some capacity. The truth is that I hate my need to escape, whether it’s through healthy activities like exercise or unhealthy habits like alcohol. I hate it because it makes me afraid I will lose myself in it again, but the next time I won’t resurface.

Rather than stay stuck in fear, I decided to get up and move, in the physical, emotional and spiritual sense. It was then I met the guru with the dragon tattoo.-Jo HarveyRather than stay stuck in fear, I decided to get up and move, in the physical, emotional and spiritual sense. It was then I met the guru with the dragon tattoo.

He was originally from Brooklyn – complete with the accent and attitude. At first glance, he looked like an ex-military vet or member of a motorcycle club, but the Om Shanti Om tattoo down his arm suggested there was more to his story. He had a grey afro, one leg and the most amazing smile I have ever seen.

He preferred the hostel in Thailand to the traditional “old folks home in the States where he would be force fed medications and spend his days drooling in his cheerios.”

He fought in the Korean War, came back and worked as a pastor in a Christian church, started teaching a world religion class at a university and decided to move to India to explore Taoism, Buddhism and the I Ching. He later returned to the USA and opened the first vegan restaurant in the states, only to later sell it and resume his passion of traveling the world and learning about God.

He gave me the recipe for the original garden burger and shared his life story. While the content was incredible, it was the process of him telling his story that still gives me chills. He was so beautifully authentic and unapologetic. He discussed his failures with the same enthusiasm as his successes, as if they all made the same positive contribution to his life. I listened with all the excitement and comfort of a child hearing a bedtime story for the hundredth time. I felt connected to something and someone; that was the medicine I needed to heal.

As we ended our conversation and I started to leave, he said to me, “Never worry. The teacher always finds you.”
And he was right.

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