I found myself reflecting today about friendship. Connection has always been a struggle for me.  

I didn’t really get a wake up call until the wildfire.

I’ve spoken about the wildfire before in previous posts, and how it resulted in me trying trail running for the first time, but I didn’t really capture how it changed me psychologically.

I wouldn’t really define the old me as an addict. I didn’t have a specific substance that I focused on.  I was more so focused on escaping emotions.  This led me down a dark path for many years.

When I finally found my footing and raised my head above water, I found myself surrounded by insincere “friends”. The kind that would listen to you talk about turning your life around and in the next breath ask you if you wanted a rail.  I realized that these people would derail me in a heartbeat if it meant having someone to use with.

So I cut all ties.

I fell off the face of the planet.  I got a job and focused on work.  I deleted social media for a very long time and while this worked, I found myself turning away not just from those that threatened my sobriety, but from everyone.

I felt that if people knew me for who I really was, knew the things I’d done and all the ways I had failed myself and others then they wouldn’t accept me.  I got busy building a wall, and it took until the wildfire to smash it down.

There’s nothing like evacuating from a crisis situation to open your eyes.  I had drastically underestimated how badly we need human connection.  It broke me wide open.  Stranded on the side of a highway, I thought about who to call, and I came up blank.  I had family that was out of reach, and I had myself.  

I evacuated to a work camp.  Hundreds of people crowded around looking for available rooms.  In my mind, they were all together, and then there was me.  I leaned against the bumper of my car and cried.  

But then something happened.  

A stranger saw my tears and asked if I was ok.   

A worker gave up his room so that I could have a bed.

I re-opened my Facebook account, and co-workers were glad I was ok.

I started to see that blocking connection blocked all forms of it: both the bad and the good.  I saw the hypocrisy in taking the stance that one shouldn’t numb emotions, and at the same time using a self imposed barrier to numb my own feelings of fear and insecurity.  

The truth is that there are going to be people in this life that decide they don’t like you.  There are going to be people that judge you or your past.  But if you turn away you lose the chance to connect with the ones that would give up their room for someone in need.

The whole experience changed me.

Since then I have been breaking down my walls. Running has helped me with this in ways I can’t explain.  I’ve been building and nurturing friendships that started with a run and grew roots enough to stand on their own.  I’ve gained the courage to be vulnerable.  I’ve gained the courage to share.  I’ve even started hosting social runs on my own.

They say that how you define an experience in your mind is instrumental in determining if you will be resilient and bounce back, or crash and burn.  

How will you define your story?

1 Comment

  1. I agree completely.
    Those shows of compassion from strangers during the evacuation change me. They made me realize we are really all just looking for an opportunity to help, or be helped. That connection is everything.

    Great post.


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