When I started this blog, roughly one month ago, I made the conscious decision to tell my stories on my own terms. As a survivor, that is my right: whether or not I share my experience, how I do so, and with whom.
For a longtime, I kept my stories close to my heart. But then, last summer, I met a woman. My neighbor, as it was. I spent that summer watching a woman my own age self-destruct through the tragedy that is alcoholism. It would have been all too easy to distance myself from the drunk gal next door… But I felt called into friendship with her. So that’s exactly what happened.
Over the course of our short friendship, I learned she had been abused. Much like I had. I learned that her go-to coping strategy– alcohol–had cost her a marriage and custody of her two young daughters. She hated herself. She had made numerous suicide attempts, and believed that she just couldn’t die. That she wasn’t allowed to escape her torment.
It was on a Sunday morning in July, sitting in a church pew with my husband and kiddos, when I heard the sirens. I felt this sinking in the pit of my stomach when I did. Sure enough, on our way home from church, an ambulance was parked outside of her home. Lights off. Accompanied by a squad car. We saw her boyfriend signing paperwork outside with the Sheriff. I turned to my husband, a law enforcement officer himself, and read from his face that someone was dead.
My neighbor died from chronic alcohol abuse. At the age of 34.
I hope that our friendship brought some comfort to her during her last days. But, I’ll never know.
It struck me how similar our stories were, and yet, how very different we were. I could have become like her. ‘But for the grace of God go I.’
That’s when I decided I would no longer lock up my stories. If even one person could identify with the sharing of my experience, and find hope in the realization that they were not alone and that there was hope for escape –then share my stories I must.
I don’t know exactly why I was able to escape the kind of toxic shame my friend drowned in. I don’t know why some people find themselves encountering such deep hurt in this life. What I do know is this: our hurt and our shame do not have to define us. As long as we are living, there is hope for escaping our inner torments.
Sharing our stories can help pull others up and out of hopelessness. There in lies their true value. Locking them away can take its toll on us as human beings. We were made for community. To share our life together, learn from each other, and strengthen each other in hard times.
No matter what you may have encountered in this life, there is someone that has walked the same path you traverse. And there are many more that could learn much from hearing your stories– when, where, how, and with whomever you choose to share– they are meant to be told.