by JN Fenwick, author of Four Weeks: A Journey from Darkness
It doesn’t take courage to hit bottom. No, that’s an entirely different set of circumstances. But it does take courage to climb your way back up. To acknowledge and believe that strength exists within you. That’s what courage is after all. It’s digging deep. It’s pulling yourself up after the fall. It’s moving into the light when it would be so much easier to just give up and sink below the darkness.
Isolating ourselves in our grief, in our trauma, in our addictions is normal. No one feels the pain like we do. No one understands the overwhelmingness of it as we do. People just don’t know how to act when confronted with that kind of rawness. It’s not their fault. Truly. We all tend to hide from darkness. It’s easier to turn away than to risk saying or doing the wrong thing. And so, our isolation turns to loneliness and our loneliness to despair.
We become our grief. We become our trauma. We take on that identity. “Who am I without my pain?”
We seek escape. Often in destructive ways. We seek numbness. We seek diversion. We seek anything to fill the void within us. And we suffer. And suffer.
“For so long I searched for perfection. With my body, with my mind, with every part of me. I battered my already bruised self against the rocks of abandon, of heartless words, of fear. I pushed my body past endurance, past feeling, into numbness. The bottom of the bottle became my focus; its blessed blackness was my salvation.”JN Fenwick
We forget that we have a choice. Perhaps because the circumstances of our grief and trauma are so beyond our control that we cannot imagine relinquishing the burden of them. Maybe because we’ve identified so long with the pain that we cannot envision ourselves without it. Perhaps we’re simply terrified to place our hope in anything other than what we already know. And so, we suffer. And suffer.
Our story becomes our identity. We assume that identity mind and body. We relinquish our power and our role in the writing of it. And we forget.
“I believed peace was an illusion. A state of existence not meant for me. I carried my past around my neck like a yoke, allowing it to dictate my choices to determine my actions. I was lost. I was broken. I was afraid. Fear that without my past there would be nothing left of me was so much stronger than grace.”JN Fenwick
Turning the page means facing the unknown, and those blank pages become overwhelming. Picking up that pen seems unfathomable, because if my story ISN’T about my pain then there IS no story.
Those blank pages represent things we dare not hope for; healing, freedom, peace.
Because those things come at a cost; acceptance, forgiveness, love. And somehow those things are so much harder for us to believe in. So much harder for us to write.
“For so long I clung to my past. It served so many purposes. It justified my choices. It defined who I believed I was. It created an illusion I was only too willing to continue. After all, what was left of me without it? It was that fear of being nothing that kept me bound.”JN Fenwick
But the thing is until we turn that page. Until we become willing to pay that price. Until we stop allowing fear of the unknown to paralyze us. Until we recognize that we absolutely do have a choice and that no one, absolutely no one else can free us from our pain story but us, then we will continue to suffer. And suffer.
What do we have to lose by choosing to turn that page? By choosing to unshackle ourselves from the circumstances of our trauma. By choosing to acknowledge the truth that our story DOES NOT define us.
WE HAVE EVERYTHING TO LOSE, BUT IN THE SAME BREATH, WE ALSO HAVE EVERYTHING TO GAIN.
“Fear prevented me from moving. It paralyzed me. Kept me locked in a cycle of destruction my soul longed to be free of. It wasn’t until I took that first, shaky step that I finally began to understand how completely fear ruled my life. It wasn’t easy. No. It was more like dying a painful death over and over again. But it was living too. One moment, one shaky, transformative step. At. A. Time.”JN Fenwick
The path between suffering and peace is but a choice.
There IS immense power in surrender. In recognizing, that within us, we already possess everything we need, everything we’ll ever need, but only when we let go completely and give up control of everything we think we are.
How? Because it was placed there long before we took our first breath.
Most of us spend our entire lives covering that up. Seeking peace and joy outside ourselves. Focusing on our past and anticipating a future in which we’ll finally be happy. Therein lies our true weakness. It’s our seemingly innate need for control that ultimately destroys us. Although we’re more than willing to surrender in the overwhelming moments we’re faced with, we never truly relinquish control. We reach out and wrest it back the moment we’re able.
“Then came the moment I found myself at a crossroads. Arms laden with all I carried, I could carry no more. To move in either direction, I had to make a choice. I could continue as I had been, and the darkness would consume me. Or I could relinquish my hold and make room for something else. And so, I let go.”JN Fenwick
The moment of surrender is not an end. It’s the beginning.
Dying to ourselves does not mean surrendering who we are or allowing others to trample on us. No, dying to ourselves means relinquishing who we are NOT.
Relinquishing the hold the world has upon us, trusting in the spirit that dwells and moves within us, is not surrendering in the worldly sense of giving up and giving in. Rather, it’s recognizing and accepting who we are exactly as we are, at this moment, and knowing it’s enough.
Surrender means seeing things with clarity. The impenetrable fog that surrounds us lifts. As our vision becomes clearer, our resolve grows firmer. We shed layer after layer of the skin that covers us until we began to see the essence of who we are; who we’ve always been. In the shedding, we find indescribable beauty and strength. Indescribable because it comes from our souls and not from our skin.
John 8:32 tells us, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
And the truth is this. In that moment of surrender; of complete and utter submission, that still, quiet voice breaks through. In its softness lies immense strength. In its simplicity, immense freedom. It fills and surrounds us, leading us out of the fog we’ve been lost in. It beckons us forward gently, one step, one breath at a time. It remains rooted in presence, guiding us with gentleness and surety. It speaks from the very soul of us. It’s the voice that ultimately leads us out of the darkness. The voice that’s been there from the beginning. The quiet one. The one we should’ve been listening to all along. It’s the voice of truth.
And the moment you know it, you ARE free.
It’s been four years since that day. The most difficult yet rewarding journey of my life began the moment I surrendered. Each step I’ve taken since then has removed layer after layer of all that covered me until all that was left was NOT the nothing I’d feared. No. What I found, what was left, is me.”JN Fenwick
I pray for that peace for you. For freedom from the chains of suffering, addiction, depression, anxiety, doubt, and fear. For the strength to stand at that crossroad and let go. There IS something else. There IS something more. I pray you are granted the grace and the courage to recognize it.
Because it’s there. Inside you. It always has been.
“One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned in my recovery journey is that all along I’ve held truth in my own two hands. For the first time in my life, I am infinitely aware of who I’ve always been beneath the chains. Who I am and who I will always be. And because of that, I am free. I am at peace.”JN Fenwick
Walking the walk.
I’ve realized that these trials that force us to our knees are not punishment or God departing from us, as we often allow ourselves to believe. Instead, they are catalysts to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our Creator.
God doesn’t make bad things happen. This life was not meant to be free from pain and suffering. The enemy exists. The forces of evil in this world want nothing more than for us to turn our backs on God.
In times of hardship and struggle, God beckons us to seek Him. In times of abundance and joy, He longs for us to commune with Him. I know without any question or doubt that God hears our prayers, he knows our hearts, and He always answers, even, especially when we don’t immediately understand.
How you may ask? I know because I never would have been able to break the chains of addiction and an eating disorder without His power and grace. In surrender, I found forgiveness and peace. Within my soul, I found truth and freedom. And in prayer, I find Him.
“I think the most beautiful thing about recovery is knowing that I fell apart in the most destructive way imaginable but by the grace of God, I not only survived, but I’ve also thrived.”JN Fenwick
Recovery isn’t a linear process. It’s ups and downs. Curves and chaos. It’s wins and losses. Forgiving and growing. It’s not a one-time choice with a happily-ever-after ending. It’s a fight. A one-step-at-a-time commitment. It’s bravery and uncertainty all tangled together.
Every time you rise you get stronger. Every time you choose yourself you get braver. Every time you overcome you take yet another step into a life without excuses, without destruction, without addiction.
The path between suffering and peace is but a choice. And which road we choose has always been, will always be, entirely up to us.
“Recovery isn’t an end-game. It’s an every-day-by-the-grace-of-God-I-choose-me-I-choose-them-I’ve-come-this-far-I-will-not-go-back, fight for my soul that I will not lose.”JN Fenwick