In 1997, I was just over a year sober and would enter one of the worst times in my sobriety. Due to an event that included exercise and me believing I had a heart attack, which I didn’t, I would go through a mild, but almost debilitating depression and have my first anxiety attack. However, as a result of this experience, along with many others I’ve had in life, it has helped me to help people. One of the ways I do this is through stories. Some are from my personal experiences and many are about the people I’ve met who I believe I was supposed to.
I’ll leave out what led up to what I call the worst time in my sobriety. This post isn’t about that experience. But I do have one memory that I’d like to share. One that inspired this post and will hopefully make sense as you continue reading.
My wife and I were lost in Pittsburg the day before the event I mentioned took place. I’ve always been the one to ask for directions when lost, so I did. My wife, however, who simply hates getting lost while driving, will not stop and ask for help until it’s desperately needed, so thankfully I was driving and pulled over quickly to ask someone.
I instantly had the good fortune of finding a person who lived in the city and knew where our destination was. Sometimes it can take asking one or even two people, at least in my experience, before finding someone who not only lives in the area you’re lost in but can actually help with the needed directions.
The man was friendly and chuckled when he heard of our dilemma, and said with a smile, “You can’t get there from here.” I wasn’t certain if he was joking at first, but his smile and friendliness gave me hope that he was going to get us to where we wanted to be. And his explanation as to why he said that fueled my hope.
He said, “I’m going to get you to another part of the city that’s closer to where you are going and you will need to ask for directions from there.” It became evident as he explained what streets to take and turns to make that his motive was to actually make our drive less complicated. And after my wife said, “Thank you, we got it.” Off we went to get the additional help needed to reach our destination, which we thankfully did.
Not only will I never forget my experience over that time, but I will always remember that man saying “you can’t get there from here” because it’s simply true when it comes to our recovery, and especially our growth. If not for all the stops I had to make along the way to ask for help, I never would have grown emotionally, personally, or spiritually and become the person I always wanted to be.
It seems to hold true for many people in recovery from addiction and mental illness that it’s much harder to reach a level of growth that can sustain us in times of trouble without help. And although I use the word “recovered” when speaking of my own personal journey, I still sometimes need assistance with making sense of a world that often seems to have gone mad.
Fortunately, as I look back over my life before I stopped drinking, I can see that I was the one who had gone mad. That I was the one who did not believe I needed direction in life. And that I was the one who was too afraid to ask for help, even when I finally realized I did.
As I said, it took a lot of stops along what I like to call, a path of growth and emotional wellness to figure out, that although this path is never-ending and has hills and turns along the way, we can find the things we’ve always been looking for in life. For me, those things were greater happiness, self-confidence, and self-love, which led to finally being happy with myself. But no matter what we’re looking for in life, we need to not only lose any fear we have of asking for help but also maintain hope along the way.
Hope, help, prayer, and people are the tools I used and still do. You can leave the prayer part out, but even though I’m not a religious person, I’ve found that prayer also helps when it comes to overcoming my fear of today and tomorrow. But that’s another story.