“Pfft! This is a bunch of bull crap. You look like a ballerina.”
Six people and twelve rolling eyes starred back at me. I couldn’t see my own face but I could feel my eyebrows crunching and my teeth clenching. I fought back hard against the tears that were about to burst through my eyelids.
I won that battle because the “white girl” who “didn’t know nothin’ about nothin’” would never give her audience the satisfaction of breaking her. Instead, with a humble and shaky voice, she wished her peers good luck in their effort to live a drug free life.
I vowed that day would be the first and the last time that I ever shared my story. I kept my vow for twenty plus years.
The Breadcrumb Trail is the first time I’ve shed any light on my adolescence and the substance abuse associated with it. Every other day or so I receive a message that starts off with something along the lines of “Hey! I just read your blog.” Still slightly scarred from my youth, I immediately cringe when I read these words and sometimes I even feel a little sick. So far, (knocking on wood) I’ve only received positive feedback.
I’ve received dozens upon dozens of messages and emails from people who have shared with me their own experiences and hardships, stories of drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse and mental illness. Often, I know these people personally, but had no idea about the stories they buried deep within themselves. I can’t begin to express how grateful I feel that they shared with me.
Shame is powerful emotion, but I’ve realized that relatability is even more powerful.
That’s what I was going for the first time I shared my story. I was confused, hurt, angry and embarrassed when I was pretty much booed off stage, because apparently, I didn’t look the part of someone who abused drugs. (I guess technically a compliment!)
I’ll never forget the freedom I felt when speaking that day. I kept my world a secret from everyone in it, but that day I was speaking to people who were in the same boat as me. We had an uncommon situation, in common.
That feeling of freedom quickly changed as I realized that neither myself nor my story was accepted. I figured if I wasn’t accepted by people in the same boat as me, surely no one else would accept me. I craved that freedom ever since, but buried it in fear of being rejected again.
My experience with substance abuse greatly shaped my character and is a strong contributing factor to the successes I’ve had in life.
I can’t think of a single positive attribute I possess that wasn’t somehow tied to those experiences. I shouldn’t be here today, but I am so thankful I am. Regardless of the situation I’m in, I’m generally happy to be alive and able to go through whatever hardship I may be experiencing.
Unfortunately, many of my childhood friends that I partied with and used with have passed away. Some from overdoses, some from accidents that may have been prevented in the absence of drugs or alcohol, and some from general health issues, likely influenced by their drug of choice.
Then there are those who are still with us today, but not truly living because they’ve been a prisoner to their addiction for decades. I’ve watched one particular person who I love deeply, spend decades in and out of various institutions, trying and failing and trying and failing, unable to figure out how to live independently without their fix. I refer to this loved one as the walking dead. Their spirit has died, and all that is left is an empty shell.
I was once a part of this group, the walking dead. The chapters of my youth in my book of life, were tucked away and buried deep within me for the majority of my life. Though those experiences were dead and buried, they were buried alive. I carried the memories of them in my head and the emotions of them in my heart. They were dead within me to the outside world, but they walked with me, secretly and quietly, every day.
I was thinking of this concept during a recent visit to Savannah, GA. (Which now happens to be my favorite city!) My husband and I (that happens to be another favorite of mine now, having a husband!) went on an evening walking tour through the city. The guide educated us on the history of the area and some of the spooky events that took place there.
We stood in the middle of one of the many cobblestone streets and observed a cemetery to our right, and a large, beautifully architected building to our left. That building had once served as a hospital during yellow fever. People were dying faster than the doctors could keep up with, and the bodies were simply brought across the street to be buried. What the doctors didn’t know at the time, was that the final stages of yellow fever included a patient going into a coma. This resulted in some people being pronounced dead, but being buried alive. Can you imagine??
Once this tragedy was discovered, a rope was installed in the burial site that had a large bell attached to it. This provided a life line of sorts for anyone that had mistakenly been buried alive. They would pull the rope, which would sound the bell, which would alert someone to come to their rescue. Ever heard the term, saved by the bell? This is where it originated!
I thought about all the people who have reached out to me and shared the stories that are buried alive within them. Every person has one thought in common, and that is their experience shaped them into the person they have grown to love and helped in their successes. Why then, do we bury these experiences? For me, it was because I thought those chapters would mean more to people than my success stories, and I would experience rejection and judgement.
I can’t help but wonder if everyone has a story that is buried alive within them. As I thought more about this, my mind turned to Jesus (as it often does) and how He is like that rope. When I found Him, I mean really found Him, I was pulled out of my grave. That freedom I longed for came to be.
- Freedom of shame.
- Freedom of guilt.
- Freedom of embarrassment.
Freedom of the fear of rejection, or at least most of it. I still have my moments, but they get better every time I get a message from someone who just read my blog!
I always considered my American freedom to be my most favorite, but these have grown in equality. I’m no longer a slave to my sin, I am free.
Jesus rose from the dead three days after He was put to death on the cross. Some Roman soldiers thought that maybe they hadn’t fully killed him, and that he was mistakenly buried alive. There is no evidence to support this theory. It was the Holy Spirit that raised Him from the dead and that same spirit lives within us, when we accept Jesus as our Savior.
Just as the Roman soldiers couldn’t believe Jesus’ victory in life over death, my peer group I was asked to speak to didn’t believe that I was victorious over addiction. Heck, they didn’t even believe I had a problem! The Roman soldiers didn’t believe Jesus was who He said He was, either.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe in something even though it is right in front of you. Though I wasn’t around to see Jesus walk out of His grave, I walked out of mine by following Him.