23 years ago, I couldn’t imagine still being alive, let alone in a place where I wanted to live. I felt helpless, hopeless and beyond redemption. I carried with me a suitcase full of issues that could fill a library. Struggling with ideas of heaven and hell, I was damned, lost, dubbed demon by all, and awaiting my final excursion into the lake of fire. My thoughts plagued my days, and haunted my nights. I felt utterly alone, and except for the unlucky few who had to endure this shitshow, I was.

Then I walked into a room full of people just like me. The difference being they were smiling, and that made no sense to me. They held my hand and walked me along the path of recovery, even though I fought it tooth and nail. Through all the tears, blood, broken hearts, hospitals, failure after failure, until I finally found some modicum of success. I never believed I could be like them, but they never gave up on me. They believed in me until I could believe in myself. They laughed at me until I could laugh at myself. They didn’t sugar coat it, and they didn’t buy my bullshit. They were the only honest and real thing I had known.

Over two decades later, and most of them are gone. Some continue on the path of progress, a few died peacefully after a happy and useful life, while the majority disappeared or died in horrendous ways. I always wondered if I would be next. Yet year after year I continued, and life got better, then it got worse, then it got weird, and then it got better still. Cycling over and over, as I continued to grow in this journey called life.

I recently learned of the passing of one of these close friends less than a week ago. She was an anchor and an integral part of my early recovery process. I nearly ended my life in her home. She lived a long and happy life, watching her son grow, and then have children of his own. He seems far removed from the ravages of this disease, and for that I’m grateful. She passed peacefully, sober, surrounded by friends and family, and that is more than most of us deserve. But I believe she earned it after her decades of service to others.

So I wandered through the woods today, having felt down and depressed this week. I was stressed about work, about life, about the million and one things I think I “have” or “want” to do. Then this wave of gratitude came over me as I understood that none of that really matters. The simple fact that I’m alive today, and the even greater fact that I want to be, are truly more than I ever deserved. My entire life is gravy, the cherry on top, full of problems of privilege. The tears came as I sat in that peaceful moment, surrounded by all of creation.

In that moment there was no heaven or hell, no punishment or redemption, no salvation or damnation, nothing but that moment, at one with all that is. I started this journey just looking for the pain to stop, and instead I found the peace I had been searching for all along. A cure for all ails. A power and connection that so few of us ever find, and one that grows like a fire so long as I tend to and feed it.

For those beginning or thinking of starting this journey, you are not alone, and it is possible. Just keep coming back until the miracle happens.

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