“The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as the grave.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
For a girl who is afraid of the dark, I sure did spend a lot of years there. I spent 18 years to be exact, struggling in my addiction. During most of my addicted years, I could go long periods of time sober with alternating periods of bingeing and abusing whatever drugs I could get prescribed. The last few years of my addiction were definitely the darkest as I spiraled out of control into daily drug use. Those days were the days when it felt like the light just could not break through to my soul. I tried to pray and felt like my prayers never made it past the ceiling. I laid in my bed and wished it would just swallow me up like a coffin being laid in a grave. I wasn’t really wishing for death. I had just lost the will to live. What I had really lost in the dark was HOPE.
Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?
Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?
If I go up into heaven, You are there.
If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there.
If I ride on the wings of morning,
if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean,
Even then You will be there to guide me;
Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there.
Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me,
the light around me will soon be turned to night,”
You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.
For You the night is just as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes. Psalm 139:7-12 (Voice)
Though I had lost hope, praise Jesus, hope was not lost. You see, the Lord was with me. In the words of Psalm 139, He is always there, even in the darkness. He was with me when I was a child living in the darkness of abuse. He was with me when I was a teenager living in the darkness of anger and rebellion. He was with me when I was a young wife and mother struggling to be the perfect version of someone I thought others expected me to be. He was with me when I chose to give in to the pain and numb myself at the expense of my kids and my husband. He was with me when I made the choice to begin a new journey…a journey to recovery.
My recovery journey has truly been a journey of recovering me. I don’t know a better way to describe how it feels than through a movie analogy. In the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and Toto are in the black and white world of Kansas. Through a strange turn of events, a tornado comes and moves the house along with Dorothy and Toto to the magical land of Oz. Who does not remember the moment Dorothy walks out of the farmhouse and into the technicolor land of Oz? You know, when Dorothy steps out in amazement and declares, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” It is one of the greatest cinematic moments of all time.
That, my friends, is what my recovery journey has been like. I walked around in a black and white world in my addiction and miraculously in my recovery, the world is now technicolor. Not just my soul was made new, everything old became new. I heard the birds sing and it was beautiful. Moments spent reading children’s books with my girls were soul-fulfilling. The sky looked more blue and the grass more green. Chocolate, well it was just good. I remember the first time in my recovery that I cried spontaneous tears of joy and it felt refreshing. Easter Sunday during that first year was the most meaningful Easter I have ever celebrated.
Don’t get me wrong, the darkness is still out there. During the years I have been celebrating my recovery, I have experienced pain and dark days due to financial struggles, family issues and deaths of loved ones. What has changed is me, my perspective, my heart. Now, I know and am assured of the fact that even if I go to the darkest of places, the Lord is walking with me. The darkness is still dark, but because of hope it feels more like a womb or a chance at a new beginning and much less like a grave.
Have you ever faced a major challenge in your life or set a goal for yourself that felt too overwhelming to accomplish? Maybe that challenge was to lose a significant amount of weight or to run a marathon, maybe it was to quit smoking or break some other addiction or bad habit. Has the thought of achieving one of these major goals left you feeling defeated before you ever started?
I spent many years dealing with the darkness of addiction. Those years were spent seeking comfort and peace from the internal suffering and struggling caused by childhood trauma. During those years, one of the biggest challenges I faced was attending large family gatherings. I never in my adult life got through one of those events sober. I was never the crazy drunk cousin who threw around insults like confetti. I came medicated well enough to be numbed to the craziness of those gatherings and to blend into the background.
Everything changed the year I turned 36 and I began my journey in recovery.
A popular phrase in AA is one day at a time. One day? That seemed impossible. Breath by breath. That’s how I got through it. I remember that day so clearly. I did not know how in the world I was going to survive that Thanksgiving day, my first major holiday in my recovery, without the pills I had always relied on to comfort me….numb me. We had already decided that we were going to stay home and avoid any big family gatherings. Yet, the old anxiety plagued me. I spent moments crying in pain, rocking back and forth on my bed like I had lost my mind and praying. I was fortunate to have the support of my husband to encourage me and talk me through it.
“You do that (allow suffering to transform you) simply by looking at what pains you squarely in the face and then moving on. You don’t have to move fast or far. You can go just an inch. You can mark your progress breath by breath.” ~ Cheryl Strayed, author
I did it. I made it through that day completely sober and even managed to enjoy Thanksgiving with my little family. The next morning, my husband was so encouraging. He said things like, “You did it and I’m proud of you. You made it through. You should be so proud of that.” And, after struggling with feeling shame because I had struggled, with some thought and perspective, I realized the truth. I did do it. I conquered a challenge that felt impossible to achieve.
I did it by facing the pain squarely in the face and I kept moving. I did it, not by looking at the end goal, but by focusing on getting through each moment, each breath.
No one achieves a goal by beginning at the finish line. If I want to run a marathon, then I need to be able to run 1 mile before I can make it 26 miles. If I want to lose 50 lbs, then maybe I should start by losing 5 lbs. If I want to achieve six years and beyond living a victorious sober life, I just need to focus on today.
During my recovery, I have regained and reclaimed my love of hiking. One of my favorite trails begins, and then ends, with a steep and long set of stone steps. I really wanted to get back to that trail. So, I walked and hiked until I thought I was up for the challenge. I still remember the day, New Year’s Day 2016, when along with my family, we hiked that trail together and those steps were no challenge. When I reached the top, I threw my fists in the air in victory.
Instead of looking at the entire staircase in front of us and becoming overwhelmed, let’s just focus on each individual step. Let’s make our way, inch by inch, breath by breath and relish the moments along the way. As we achieve the seemingly smaller goals that lead to those long term goals, let’s celebrate, even throw our fists in the air in victory. It is by living in the present, in the here and now, that we experience the victorious life. Because, who knows? Maybe the journey was always the destination.
This is the day the Eternal God has made; let us celebrate and be happy today.
~ Psalm 118:24 (Voice)
Kristi Hutchison, Author
I am a wife, mom of 3 girls and a big ole beast of a dog, ragamuffin, wannabe writer and blogger, who enjoys hiking, reading, baking, and wandering off the beaten path. I am a survivor of childhood trauma and have been celebrating recovery since 2011. I am one of the multitude of ragamuffins "who so wants to be faithful, who at times gets defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, who wears the bloody garments of life's tribulations, but through it all clings to the faith." ~Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel