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In the first ever edition of Friday Night Insight, a Surfside staff member travels deep into his mind to reflect on his active addiction, and how he finally found the light in the midst of never-ending darkness.

From the Darkness to the Light

As a young man in recovery, I have found the most rewarding gift that life has to offer. It hasn’t always been a cake-walk, and there are many days I am ready to give up, or write-off recovery all together. It can feel like an endless mountain, with no peak in sight, as I trudge on for eternity.  But nonetheless, for those of you that have heard the saying, “Do not leave before the miracle happens,” is it not true? “Keep coming back, it works if you work it,” doesn’t it actually work?  Do not these mantras that we hear tirelessly in recovery become true the longer you stay around? 

In my experience, I have done everything in my power to disprove the cliches of recovery.  To my core, the old adages disturbed everything I knew. My life turned upside down. Everything I thought I knew about life shattered. I did not want to hear, “Today, life is beyond my wildest dreams,” which rang throughout every church basement I stepped into.

This newfound life seemed impossible. For most of my life, I exhausted myself by changing the mask I wore each day, another character to play in which to please and attract those around me. Throughout that process, I completely lost myself. I did not know peace. I could not find happiness. Shaving my face became terrifying as I did not want to see that pitiful face in the mirror.  Life had become an impossible journey and one that I had no energy to live anymore. The worst part is: these feelings were of my own making.   

Darkness. A constant darkness engulfed every fiber of my being. I read a passage one day that perfectly summed up my life to that point. 

“I feel as if I am trapped in a dark box buried 6-feet under, with no way out and no light seeping in.”

As I sit here and write, I remember the feeling of laying in my own casket. Very much alive, but also dead on the inside. I had nothing left to give, and had no ability to receive anything from the world. I had completely shut off any emotion, any feeling, anything that makes a human feel as though he is living. As I continued to pour the drugs and alcohol into my system, I sucked more and more life out of my body. But, in all honesty, I really didn’t care. 

I had checked out. I became ready and willing for life to end. The clock was about to strike zero, and eventually stop ticking altogether. But this was my reality that I found myself in with no end in sight. 

I had become a zombie. A dead man walking. Unfortunately for zombies, their actions can still be seen by those around them. In my drunken and drug-induced stupors, consequences began to tally up. Days and weeks melted together as I could not recall any of my actions from the past. Did this stop me? Nope. I continued on my fatal walk away from problems and further into the darkness. 

I didn’t want to ask for help. I couldn’t ask for help. I had fallen so deep into the darkness of my own mind that no one, and I mean no one, could ever possibly understand what I had been through. What could they do for me anyway?

The road to recovery begins with a single step. And one day, I took the first step out of the darkness and into the light. I made a phone call.

Fast forward eighteen months later. I have seen the light.

As I sit here as a sober man, a year and a half with no drink or drug in my body, I remember the feeling of reintegrating into life. It reminded me of a war veteran, who returns home after a troubling deployment overseas. Life is different. You need to slowly reintroduce yourself to basic human practices that others take for granted or pay no attention to. Building relationships. Daily household chores. Going to work. Living.

It is not always easy. I can become frustrated in my quest to become normal again. But what does normal even mean, anyway? My identity for so long had been intertwined with my drinking and drug use, so was I ever really normal at all? Maybe, I am building something completely new. A life that I never had, never wanted, or never thought was possible. 

The journey from the darkness to the light is a constant battle. Some days, I take two steps forward, then the next day I take a step back. Then I take another step forward, then three days back. Notice a pattern here? I’m constantly moving. I cannot remain stagnant. As soon as I stop moving, the chains of my addiction can fasten around my ankles and wrists. It is OK to struggle, what is not OK is to stop trying. 

When the chains are released, I can feel things. I can feel emotion. I can feel love. I can feel the ocean breeze on my face. I can feel positive and negative energy. I can feel alive.

The one thing I can say with the utmost certainty: throughout this process, I have grown. Yes, I have failed at times. But I have changed the way I see the world and changed how the world sees me. 

Through my growth, I have found that many of those old recovery cliches, actually, have come true at times. I have found a life beyond my wildest dreams. I have seen the miracle happen. I have found the power in helping others, and that my purpose in life is to help the next struggling man find his way out of the darkness. 

Through my growth, I have discovered ways to break the chains around my ankles and wrists, and to feel alive again.  I have learned to be gentle with myself, and not take everything so personally, but as an opportunity to grow even more. 

Through my growth, I have learned the courage to step out of the darkness and into the light. I can ask for help and allow others into my life. I don’t have to walk this journey alone.

In my darkest days, it would have taken a miracle to save me. So, as I sit here, I want to leave you with some parting words: stay until the miracle happens, and you too can escape the darkness and live in the light.

We hope you enjoyed the first edition of Friday Night Insight. Be sure to check in every Friday evening for more from Surfside!

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out.