” I choose to FIGHT BACK! I choose to RISE, not fall! I choose to LIVE, not die! And I know, I know that what’s within me is also WITHIN YOU. “~Mayor John Pappas (City Hall, 1996)
About a year ago, I had a conversation with someone at work one night. At first, I found this conversation to be very unpleasant but shortly after the conversation ended, I felt energized, inspired, uplifted, and so hopeful.
This conversation is one of the things which has had the greatest, positive impact on me in my journey to recover my suicidal depression.
A person was talking to me about drug addiction and people who struggle and have struggled with addiction. She had a very negative view of people who have suffered substance addiction, even the ones who have overcome it and no longer consume illegal/recreational drugs.
She basically held the view that drug addicted people are lost causes who are bound to go nowhere in life. And even when they recover or heal, they will always be “druggies”. “Druggies” who even after recovering will never find redemption or worth.
I couldn’t have disagreed with this girl more. I see so much potential and hope and light in almost everyone I look at. People are remarkably strong and resilient and can overcome and move forward even when it’s hard. Even when it’s painful and all seems hopeless. Even when it seems impossible. Even when it’s all just so dark.
There can always be light. When I look at a person, even a troubled, difficult, broken person with great obstacles and challenges, I don’t see an addiction or an illness or a mere label or a “lost cause”. I see a person. A light. Possibility and hope. Hope for healing. Hope for change.
Everyone has something to contribute to this world and everyone around us whether or not they realize it and even when it feels impossible. You may feel so empty, so broken, so devoid of life, so hopeless but you are not beyond healing or hope or love.
A person who has struggled with addiction and has overcome or healed that addiction and no longer takes drugs/alcohol has acheived an incredible accomplishment. It takes great strength and courage and dedication to pick up the broken pieces, the shattered parts of self and put them together again and become whole. There may always be scars, cracks, breaks, pain..but it’s possible to move forward and find true happiness, true joy in existence.
Why judge someone negatively for previous mistakes or a health condition or a choice that got out of control?
I have never struggled with addiction of any sort and cannot possibly know what it’s like. All I can know is that it is painful, devastating, heartbreaking and difficult for the person who is addicted and everyone around that person and that it IS possible, with help & support of various kinds, to get better enough to live and be happy living. Whether or not the person is completely recovered with no more urges or still has urges that are difficult to resist. Even someone who relapses now and then.
It’s not always easy for an addicted person to know this or to ask for help or to not relapse. And people struggling with addiction deserve empathy, understanding, compassion, love, encouragement. They aren’t monsters. Many of them may steal and assault people and become unrecognizable to those who knew them before the tragedy of addiction but they are not all bad people . Underneath the devastation and the addiction is an amazing person who can find hope and healing.
After this girl I had the conversation with left me that night I started to think about our contrasting views. She viewed people who struggle with addiction as some of the lowest people on Earth, worthless, bad, taking up space in a world they don’t deserve.
And I view them as the people they are. Worthy of love, empathy, care, acceptance, compassion…
And I started to think about how we need more people in this world with my view. We need people with better understanding and compassion.
I thought of my own struggle with suicidal depression, which back then, a year ago, was not as healed as it is today, right now.
I thought of all the moments I wanted to kill myself in this life, feeling as if I had nothing to live for and never ever would , as if I was worthless, empty, nothing, as if the pain was just too much to bear, weighing too heavy on my life, to go on.
And I realized if I ever kill myself, I kill my compassion for others, my love, my empathy, my understanding, my acceptance, my open mindedness. If I kill myself, I kill all the chances I will ever have to help another, before those chances even begin. If I kill me, I kill the opportunity to tell someone s/he is not a lost cause, not an addiction, not a loser, not deserving of callousness and abusive insults and cruelty. I kill the chance to tell someone there is hope.
I’m not an expert on addiction. I don’t know exactly how to handle an addicted person, especially one who is acting out. They may need firmness every now and then and not all sap and gentleness, I don’t know. But that’s not my point anyway; my point is that we need more people with compassion and positive views of troubled people. We need people who will not destructively criticize and tell people there’s no hope for them.
This goes for any troubled person or anyone who has made mistakes with serious consequences, not just addicted people.
And that if you ever kill yourself, you kill every positive aspect of yourself, your opportunity to eventually be fulfilled and healed and find or create a sense of purpose, and your opportunity for growth and your opportunity to impact the world and maybe even just one life for the better.
You’re under no obligation to live for others, it’s yourself you should live for. But there are people who need you to live, you may not have met them yet and maybe won’t meet them for many years, maybe you never will but your life will somehow touch theirs. Someone, somewhere needs YOU to LIVE. And eventually you will find or create a sense of purpose for your own existence.
Live for yourself and your own empathy and care and love. And live for all of your good qualities and possibilities.
I vowed to myself that night after that conversation which at first I believed to be unpleasant, that I will never take my own life. We should all live for ourselves. But when I used to get suicidal, I did not want to live for me. I saw nothing in me worth living for. But that night I vowed to never, ever end my own life even if I feel like it because if nothing else, there’s one thing in me worth surviving for, my concern and care for others. My empathy, my ability to see beyond illnesses and difficulties and troubles and mistakes, my desire, my longing to help heal and console in any way I can. This fulfills me. I know those aren’t my only reasons for living, my reason is just to be, but when I’m contemplating suicide I usually see nothing to go on for. But this view is something I will always believe in. Helping others, also helps me. We are all connected.
I don’t live to be a “slave” and used by others, I allow myself to be fulfilled by helping and positively impacting anyone I can.
There are many, many people like me who feel this way about people, that they can heal and are deserving of compassion and love. And if I kill myself there will be one less of us.
(No one should kill themselves even if they aren’t compassionate or empathetic or caring.
Since that night, I haven’t seriously contemplated ending my own life. And if I ever do again, I have a sweet reminder of something worth living for.
And there’s also another lesson to be learned here, anyone can be our teacher even those who are unpleasant, even unpleasant encounters can be inspiring and teach us valuable lessons. This young woman who I debated with that night, this at first seemingly unpleasant encounter, provided me with the chance to think about things which have filled me with hope & inspiration.
And here I am today, still inspired, still hopeful, still going strong.
Xox Much love, blessings, & hope to you all.
“Don’t judge me by my past, I don’t live there anymore.”
“Possibilities are everywhere.”
“Always go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.”
“Your past is a gift to guide you, it doesn’t have to imprison you.”