“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” – Nelson Mandela
There have been so many times that I ran from life by falling head first into the throws of addiction. I would find that I could obliterate the fear and shame I had for my past, by obliterating my existence with drugs and alcohol.
Little did I know, that each time I would do this, I would be adding yet another layer of fear.
I would be adding yet another layer of shame. This manner of “running” is like walking a path that leads right into the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Again and Again.
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When you are running from your past, you come to the realization that there is nowhere that you can go to hide.
Each and every step you think that you are taking away from your past, you glimpse back only to be nose to nose, still right there, behind you. Nothing can be done to shake it. Nothing can be done to avoid it. I have done everything known to man in my life to run from the fear and the shame that sits deep within my soul.
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn Hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come… You Don’t Give Up.” – Anne Lamott
I came across this quote after exiting a Behavioral Unit, after trying to use my drug of choice to attempt suicide. I came pretty darn close, and in the midst of reading this quote, I found my pulse in life. I found my breath, like I was breathing for the first time.
I had lost everything that I had worked so very hard to attain, and was finding my way back into the vicious cycle of self-loathing and self-hatred.
I wanted so badly to find something, anything, that would help me out of this deep dark dungeon I had resided in for far too long.
That is when it dawned on me. I had run all these years, not because I was incapable of being a good person, rather, I did not have a positive way of dealing with life’s battles that felt good to me. No way that felt familiar to me.
Finding this reminded me of a dream I once had.
I stood as a boy in a room that was growing darker by the minute. The light seemed to be escaping right in front of my eyes. I stood paralyzed at the thought that I would never make it out of the dark. For some reason, I closed my eyes and stuck my hand out blindly. I waited with anticipation for someone, anyone, to reach in and yank me out of this ever darkening room.
For a moment, I lost hope, knowing that I would never make it out. I felt the weight of my arm getting heavier and heavier. I decided to give up. I start to lower my hand in total defeat. Just then, someone grabbed my hand. In the blink of an eye, I stood outside of the darkness, fully bathed in light.
Then, I woke up. I never understood that dream, before I met Hope.
We can each look back at moments in our life with a huge microscope of criticism and find all sorts of wrong doing. We can all look deep within ourselves and others and see so many things that we should change. We can all become the victims of our own barrage of validated critiques. And they all could very easily find merit.
But none of this will ever help if we don’t have a way out.
Hope for me is the one that has stuck its hand out and brought me into the light. Clear from the darkness.
I can give you some very practical ways that I find Hope daily:
- Look for the positive, even when I don’t want to
- Find one good thing about myself and celebrate it for that moment in time
- Realize that pain is not always a bad thing
- Open myself up to the idea that there is something else besides what I am going through at any given time
- Find inspiration in the stories of others
- Seek to help others
- Celebrate even the smallest of victories (this one is my favorite. The cornier the better. What I have learned is that if I can celebrate the small things, I can rock out in the major moments in life.)
- Move out of isolation and into community
- Journal like my life depends on it (I am old-fashioned in this respect. I love to put pen to paper and fill up journals as needed. Currently, I have 7 journals going, ranging from inspiration journals to journals that are filled with blather and word-vomit.)
10. Lastly, Hope allows me to look in the mirror and be OK. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just OK, and today, OK is like being a rock star.
I do have days in which I wish I could drink myself into oblivion. I do have my days where I wish I could just go and get high as a kite and forget about it all. But, today, I am thankful for each step away from addiction.
I am thankful that when I feel like life is unbearable, I can just reach my hand up, out of the darkness, and let hope pull me into the light. That is exactly where I deserve to be.
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