Being human isn’t always easy but the rewards are worth the pains to me.
Almost two years ago I made the decision to do something I had needed to do for many years—attempt to accept responsibility for my life and turn it around.
I was three or so years into the hardest battle I had ever faced—heroin addiction—and my world had become so dark and so grim that existing in it most days seemed worse than the alternative. This gift of desperation caused me to break down and finally ask for help.
Telling your loved ones that you simply cannot stop putting needles in your arms on a daily basis is a situation filled with fear, sadness, pain and despair. I had always been part of a loving family despite the fights over grades, parties, horrible relationships and pure stupidity in my teenage years.
Every time trouble came my way, my parents would come to the rescue.
I didn’t think this would be the case this time and honestly knew this was a battle I would have to fight—or die.
I lost a best friend and several others along the way during the dark times.
Fortunately for me, they decided to make one last effort for getting me help and I was admitted to a state-run drug rehabilitation facility. With opiate abuse being an epidemic, like it is now, I was fortunate and blessed to receive a bed.
I had no direction upon entering—no future, no life.
The question was asked about a week or so into my 28 day stay: if I were to die today, what would be my legacy? At that point, the only answer I could give was being a junkie and a dope dealer. I wouldn’t be known as a good friend, a good son, a good brother or even a good person—just a flat out junkie.
This did not sit well with me, as it shouldn’t. So I knew I had to hang on and fight the withdrawal symptoms with every fiber in my being. If you’ve ever had the flu, multiply that by ten. Then know in your mind that dark solace is there for comfort—if you should decide to make that choice.
Something inside stayed strong and I made it through the program. I kept hearing how spiritual principles and a power greater than myself would get me through this. I was skeptical to say the least, but I was also sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Music and art had been a big part of my life prior to the darkness of addiction, so during treatment the only comfort I could find was in an am/fm radio. It allowed my head to shut up for brief moments.
I would later realise that music is in fact a power greater than myself—it changes my thoughts and, to me, that is powerful.
A song on the radio that brings back a memory is a power greater than myself. An advertisement that makes me crave a milkshake is a power greater than myself. I had never realized how powerless I often am, yet am more powerful than I could ever have imagined at the same time.
After completing the 28 day program and a 90 day halfway house program, I decided I was going to find a new way to live. I started volunteering at a local art center that has programs for people with special needs and became active in our recovering community.
I’ve never been a dancer, but volunteering for that dance class was one of the best decisions I ever made in life. It opened the door for what has now become my full time career of teaching visual arts to people with down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy, to name a few.
Getting out of myself and being of service to other human beings has brought more to life than words can ever explain.
Today, practicing yoga and meditation bring me even closer with the guide inside that was there all along. I always had fear that my art was never good enough, or I would never make it anywhere in life doing what I loved. And those fears played a role in turning to something that I could use to escape life—I did not want to feel feelings and be human.
Today, I embrace being human and let that light shine through in my interactions with others, my art and my life. We all have the same special needs of wanting acceptance, love, and friendship. My special needs just happen to be on the inside while others are on the outside.
Learning to live by spiritual principles like acceptance, humility, hope, faith and integrity has changed the course of my life forever. The littlest of things in life can make all the difference. I strive to simply say kind words and do kind deeds for people I interact with, as this builds confidence in humans.
Giving spare change to someone in need can brighten my day for a moment. Simply doing something nice for someone else—whether it’s holding a door for a stranger, paying for someone’s drink at a convenience store or telling a coworker they look nice today—can initialize a spark that grows into something great. I have my career today as a result of volunteering in my community.
Many organizations need all the help they can get, so seek out the opportunities around you to make a difference. I always wanted my life to be fulfilled and rich instead of dark and desperate. I wish I had known years ago this can be done by being a light in someone else’s day.
I am not perfect by any means and have to remind myself daily to do these little things. But my light shines more than it ever has. I have a lot of room to grow and this process of life is a journey, fortunately.
The light that shines inside each of us can always shine brighter. I need you—whoever is reading this—to shine yours, so we can grow together.
Author: Adam Gilliam
Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo via Flickr