Very long story short, in my senior year of high school, my entire life changed. Had you asked me then, I’d say it was changing for the worse. Today, four years later, I have learned that it actually changed for the better. As the life I had known and loved was crashing before me, my first thoughts were “why me?”, stuck in a circle, constantly questioning why this was all happening to me. I never saw it coming. Everything that had once made me happy made me sad. There was not a single day I did not wish I was dead instead.
Today, I look back at that same exact experience, being the worst and most difficult part of my life, and I am grateful for it. Not only am I grateful to have survived, but I am also grateful for and embrace all of my demons. I embrace the darkest places life has taken me, for without them, I would absolutely not have the strengths and values I do today. I would not be the same powerful force I am today.
You’ll hear people say that challenges are strengthening, hardships and failures contain the seeds for success and becoming empowered. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Believing that is a battle on its own. When we are in the midst of our struggles, the last thing on our minds is what they are teaching us. We wish them away because they seem to only be holding us back.
The way we look at our hardships changes everything.
I remember the day that I decided I’d had enough. I had to make commitments to myself and start believing that I could make changes. In my recovery process, I grew closer with the ones that meant the most to me. I realized why they meant so much to me and how they made my life richer. I learned how important it is to have strong, reciprocal relationships with others. I learned how to truly be grateful, and find appreciation for anything I had in any given moment. I learned what taking care of myself really meant. I recognized the strength I could tap into once I stopped feeling sorry for myself and complaining that everything was wrong. I found my ability to inspire and empower others with my past experience and all it has taught me. The more positivity I fostered in any area of my life, the smaller and more insignificant my poison became, the more I could tackle my demons directly. I look back on my recovery journey as the single most enlightening, shaping, and strengthening experience of my life. I am only 21 years old, but I am confident that the lessons I’ve learned will only aid me in my future struggles.
In times of pain, I invite you to find or create the seeds for growth, self-empowerment, and strength. For no matter what your circumstances, you can always foster gratitude, mindfulness, compassion, and your inner resources to grow. Those are the things that make you human. For as long as you are alive and breathing, you have those things and nothing can take them away. You will gain something powerful and helpful from anything that life throws at you. The most painful experiences will be the ones that equip you with the tools to flourish.