Coincidence

Coincidences have been a powerful force in my recovery.

It’s why I’ve grown to hate the phrase, “There are no coincidences.” I understand that it’s said with the good intention of pointing out that coincidences aren’t random but purposeful. I get it. But without their randomness, where’s the miracle?

Often people who refuse to call them coincidences prefer to call them synchronicities, the Jungian phrase meaning a meaningful connection between two things. And that’s cool. I love me some Karl Jung. In fact, Jung’s notion of individuation—becoming wholly one’s own genuine personality—is what makes Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha one of my personal favorites. A book that has truly changed my life. What I don’t understand believing  in the power of coincidence so much that you say they don’t exist.

If you say, “There are no coincidences,” I don’t mean to offend. You’re not wrong. I’m not writing this to prove I’m right. I’m writing this to explain what makes me happy.

I’m a stickler about these things. You’ll never hear me say, “Everything happens for a reason,” either. Not that I don’t believe there are reasons behind everything, but the phrase is so watered down that it has no sticking power. It’s been hijacked by the optimistic of the world to find a silver lining in everything. As if every act of evil is part of a larger, gentler plan. Call me jaded, but I’ve come to know the modern world more as a discordant struggle than a harmonious melody. Maybe it’s just that, as I’ve accepted myself fully for who I am, I’ve found many inner-workings of our reasonable world unacceptable and unnatural.

Don’t get me started on the whole, “No worries,” band wagon. Not like I haven’t said it before, but, upon thinking about the phrase, it becomes one of the most presumptuous things you could say to someone. It blindly ignores the clear evidence that there are many worries, some of them crippling and urgent affecting someone somewhere each second of existence. Too much?

I digress with purpose, I hope. I think about words and phrasings all the time. I mean, I’m a writer. I don’t watch commercials or wait in line; I’m in my head, debating whether it is best to say, “I’m well,” or “I’m good.” Grammar matters with this one. “Well” being an adverb and “good” being an adjective. Saying, “I’m well,” is often reserved for people trying to sound intelligent—the same way you catch someone saying “between you and I” because saying “you and I” sounds smart even though “between” is a preposition and requires the object “me” as in, “between you and me.”

Saying “I am well,” comes across, in all accuracy, like you are presently doing all right. The “well” modifying your state of being, “am.” Saying, “I’m good,” would mean that you, the person speaking, are in a constant state of goodness, “good” modifying the subject of the sentence: you.

Do I think too much about all this? Probably. But take solace in the fact that you chose to follow a blogger who weighs his words so carefully. You may also, at this point, be closing browsers, or swiping up to avoid the sort of obsessive thinking that we who suffer from addiction are constant victims of. And that’s fine too.

 

Back to coincidences. They happen.

And I’m better off if I pay them reverence as they do, rather than assume that it’s a random fact of mundane existence. I believe coincidences are reality’s charting of divine intervention. Or, as I hear around recovery circles, “Coincidences are God’s way of staying anonymous.” I’ve found this to be true.

Take this example:

 

Last Friday, I celebrated ten years sober. I posted a blog last week about the experience and I want to thank everyone for lifting that post up the way you did. I was honored and thrilled that you did. I’m proud of my sobriety.

That has not always been the case.

Take, for example, when I got my job teaching with one year sober. At that time, recovery was the blip on my resume that I wanted to hide in job interviews. It was my private truth, and I was working on it.

I got the job I still hold today without the topic coming up, aside from me explaining my virtual falling off the face of the earth for a year as a, “Search for myself,” to pay tribute to Mr. Jung. It wasn’t a lie. Recovery is a search for oneself. I just chose to avoid the more grisly details of my bottom and the fact that I suffer from the mental illness of insatiable cravings for mood-altering substances.

My recovery, aside from my conversations with a handful of colleagues over the course of the nine subsequent years, was kept to myself in my workplace. Then I started a blog. I alerted my principal of what I was doing and explained to him who I am to safeguard my employment. I began a Twitter account, and, reluctantly, a Facebook account. I only friended the folks I knew from the digital recovery movement. I figured work colleagues would find my blog eventually. Or they wouldn’t. Either way, I will treat it the way I treat my recovery in real life: not broadcasting it, but not shying away from it either.

Then my recovery profile hit Drug Rehab dot Org. The post found traction with the few colleagues I’m friends with on Facebook and the algorithm did the rest. I had folks who would never know about my history one day, learning—in the skinny of a profile questionnaire—the full facts of my past the next. What makes the coincidence is that the day they learned about my past happened to be the day I had 10 years sober.

I filled the profile out six months ago. I had forgotten about it when it posted. Then it just happens to blow up on my anniversary. That’s how coincidences work:

They are instances out of your control that inform you the one who is in control has good intentions for your life.

That profile dropped at the right time. It told the good people I’ve worked alongside, people whose trust I’ve built for the past nine years of my career, that I am a man in long-term recovery—that I suffer from drug addiction and alcoholism, that I show up to work as I show up to life: one day at a time.

That’s some everyday magic, some miracle of the mundane stuff at work. It’s also proof that as much as we demonize the workings of the internet, God is at work through it for the simple fact that people power the screens and God empowers people.

I shook a lot of hands that Friday. People came to me and said, “I have no idea.” They told me, “Congratulations,” without even knowing I was celebrating ten years sober the very day they discovered I was in recovery to begin with. I didn’t make a big deal of the ten year thing when I spoke with them. I believe that coincidence belonged to God. It served to remind me that I am on the right path not to stroke my ego.


Coincidences are important. And if I didn’t make my point, I’m commencing a coincidence series. In the subsequent weeks, I hope to relay stories of the coincidences that have rocked my world and charted my recovery.

You can expect them each Monday in hope to make it a little more miraculous.

 

16 Responses to “Coincidence

  • It’s no coincidence that you and I obsess over words. Or maybe it is. I hate when people say there’s no such thing as coincidences also, but as a mutual friend pointed out to me at one point or another, coincidences can (and often do) have meaning.

    • We are bound to be blogging brothers.

      They do. And I think every now and then, tremendous meaning. Going to try and write a few of those moments out. The ones where even my credulous ass had to sit up and take notice. We still need to watch that PSU and sometime.

  • Siddhartha is one of my favourite books too. Certainly my favourite by Hesse. Great piece Mark. Could be coincidence- could be Magnetism. Have you read my piece ‘How to become a Magnet’?

    • I did before, I think. I revisited it when I saw your comment, and I have to say, I agree with your attraction based principle. I do think if we are open to these things they appear to exist more frequently. Here’s to open mindedness! Thanks Alan for the read and the comment.

  • If you call something coincidence, you are implying something is happening without a cause. “It just happened by itself!” Can’t be. I prefer to admit that calling something a coincidence simply means I don’t have enough information to determine how it happened. We’re just billiard balls bouncing around the table.

    • Thank you for the clarifying comment, Steve. What I’m always afraid will happen with blanket statements like the ones I mentioned, is that we become numb to the gray area in anything.

      I agree with the fact hat these coincidences don’t just happen. There’s more to them. But it’s never helped me to act like they don’t exist. I find some coincidences more helpful than others.

  • Ah. When I saw you work as a high school teacher, I had wondered what your students thought of your blog and writings.

    • I wonder that often too! It’s a mums the word thing with the students at this point. I’ve just only begun to connect with students post graduation on Facebook and such. Haven’t asked them if they’ve read anything though. That’s out of my hands!

      Great to hear from you Nicola. Hope you’re doing well.

  • “They are instances out of your control that inform you the one who is in control has good intentions for your life.”

    I love this and am trusting it more and more after some particularly meaningful coincidences this year.

    • Awesome! It’s been a slow process to trust for me as well. But I’m finding it to be more and more true the more life I experience.

  • Great stuff, Mark. I am one of those annoying people who see something in all actions, but then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…ha ha.

    Amazing how that thing dropped the day you had your 10th birthday – so cool! I was hired at my current job 2 months sober…I can’t believe I lasted! It’s the longest I have gone in one place. Being sober certainly has something to do with it.

    Anyways, this is great as usual, Mark. Thank you for sharing this.

    Paul

    • Thanks for stopping by Paul!

      I respect your opinion on seeing something in all actions. In fact, my writer friend–accomplished writer friend–says that every word you use is a symbol. I believe her, and I believe you. I guess it’s just my opinion that if you don’t look for some symbols, or some coincidences, as more significant than others, you might listen to the wrong ones.

      This is such an exciting time for you, Paul! I’m so thrilled to watch you in the process of rolling out your book and the rest.

  • Wow! An amazing treatise of self-discovery! I admire your accomplishments and congratulate your successes for not all are as fortunate as you have been in discovering the path! My theory has always been that one must want to succeed with desire, dedication, and persistence and while love and understanding to an extent are available, total knowledge is never there regarding the pain that fills the body and mind of an addicted person.
    I, too, am a writer and am perhaps half into a memoir of my addicted brother. He is gone now, so this writing is primarily for me. Only one of the tragedy’s of this situation is that he was of genius IQ, and I’ve come to despise the idea because of the additional expectations that were expected of him.
    I especially like your analysis of coincidence as “reality’s charting of divine intervention.” I agree.

    • Thank you Marie for your thoughtful r flex room on your experience and the nature of Coincidence. That memoir project sounds fascinating! As a reader, off the bat, I know I’d love to see you play with the idea of memory in it. Because he had what sounds like pretty good recall, you can incorporate your struggles to recall many of the memories or something. Just a thought.

      I wish you the best of luck with the project. Thanks for stopping by.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Congrats on 10 years!
    From a fellow grammarian and Siddhartha fan who also celebrated a decade this year. (Pardon the fragment!)

    • Wait a tic. 10 years? Grammarian? Siddhartha enthusiast? They say in this road to recovery you will stumble upon someone who can tell your story. Could it be? Good to converse with you, RJ. And nice to see your coaching project is up and running. I wish you the best of luck with it!

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