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“The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be.” ~Shakti Gawain

I was born with it. I know I was. There was a light within me that showed in my smile, my dancing around the house, my love for life, for friends, for family, and my bright future.

I don’t remember the exact day it happened, I don’t remember the last event that did it, but my inner light went out. I was no longer the happy-go-lucky girl I once was; I became lost in an abyss of darkness and sadness. Happiness and joy were thing of the past.

Was it heartbreak over the guy I was supposed to marry who broke my heart? Was it the fact that my parents got divorced and I was suddenly in the middle of it? Was it because I never stuck up for myself or spoke my truth? Did I do anything so horrible that my “karma” was kicking in?

I couldn’t figure it out. I was suddenly paralyzed in fear and my world became a place where I no longer wanted to be; I wanted out.

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma at the age of 21. The doctor who performed the biopsy called the house to let me know the results and left a message. I deleted the message.

About an hour later my parents asked me if the doctor had called. I told them yes and that I had deleted the message. They immediately called the doctor’s office in the other room.

A few minutes later they came into my room crying and told me I had Stage 3 Melanoma and needed to have it removed immediately. I wasn’t scared. In fact, I was relieved in a sense that there may be something that removed me from this world of pain I now lived in. I was numb.

I no longer had the ability to form friendships; I lost that knack which used to come so easily to me. I didn’t allow anyone to get close to me. My walls came up so high and I swore no one would ever get in.

The shame, the guilt, the embarrassment of the girl I had become began to eat me up alive. Why was I even here anymore? What was the point?

From the tender age of 18 I suffered daily with pain and fear, and constantly had to tell myself out loud, “I can do this, I can do this,” whether it was showing up for work or any other area in my life.

In order to deal with all this emptiness and fear, I felt the only way out was to drink, do drugs, and self-destruct in any way I could.

I drank to the point where I would black out because that is where I found peace, a total escape from my reality. It didn’t matter to me if I was putting myself in harm’s way or ruining the relationships with those close to me, I had to do it. I didn’t care anymore.

The last straw was on New Year’s Eve 2001 when I went out and went into my usual blacked out state. I ended up telling my friend I wanted to kill myself. The next morning, my mom, who I had a strained relationship with because of her inability to watch me self-destruct, called me and was in tears.

She told me my friend called her and told her I said I wanted to take my life. My mom pleaded with me to get help as soon as possible.

I thought about it for a minute and pondered what she said. Live this miserable life of self-hatred and addiction, or get help. The decision I made was to get help because I had reached my bottom emotionally, physically, and spiritually and had a tiny grain of hope that I had a chance.

Attending my first rehab at the age of 27 was the beginning of my road to recovery and freedom. I wish I could say I got it my first time around, but that’s not my story. Two rehabs, countless relapses and lost relationships, and continuous fear and anxiety consumed me until the age of 38, when I finally surrendered and saw that I could not do this life thing on my own.

Fear ruled my life. It was the gripping anxiety I felt on a daily basis in my stomach and in my heart. I have heard the acronym for fear, which is “Future Events Already Ruined.” I expected the worst to happen in any situation of my life.

It wasn’t until I realized I wasn’t in charge and my self-will had taken me to these dark places that I felt a load off of my jaded soul.

I began to see spirituality as a solace to my pain. I had hope (“hang on, pain ends”) that there was a light beyond my darkness.

I heard you gain strength through trials and emotional bottoms. The fact that I saw others who had suffered and found a way out made me feel like I could do it too. I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t able tocope with life.

I started to see meditation as a way to find the answers to life’s challenges and struggles. This came as such a relief, because I used to think I had to come up with the answers in my head, which was a dangerous place to be since it had led me to this place where I no longer wanted to live.

I began attending 12-step meetings specific to my struggles, which helped me learn skills on how to live my life in a healthy way. I related to people and their pain, and was able to share mine.

Finally my pain was paying off. It allowed me to help others so that maybe they would not have to suffer as long as I did. I was no longer a victim of my life. I had appreciation and gratitude for my dark past.

I began to pray to a higher power. I learned for the first time in my life to let go. Let go of the outcomes, the fear, reactions or actions of other people, my career, my job, and my relationships—all of it.

Am I practicing letting go on a daily basis? No, but the key thing is that I have a willingness to try. Just knowing I have the option to try to let go gives me a peace of mind that I have not had for a very long time.

I had allowed people and situations that hurt me to burn out my inner light. No one turned off my light; I did. Knowing this gave me the freedom to find it again.

Everyone is born with an inner light. Some of us can hold on to it and others lose it and have to work extremely hard to get it back. My road back to my light has been painful, scary, exciting, and fulfilling. I would not change any of it. I am a stronger woman because of it and for that I am eternally grateful.

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