Happy Sunday, friends, family and followers!
In my latest post, When Tragedy Strikes in Recovery, I shared about the challenging times that left me in tough shape to end 2014. As is the case most of the time, darkness preceded an amazing dawn. As 2014 wound down, I was in as bad of shape as I had been in throughout my recovery. I had a major knee surgery that changed my world, and in the same season, lost one of my best friends in my cousin, Scott. Thankfully, the holiday season always lights me up, so the winter wasn't a complete disaster. Looking back, 2015 would become the year that my life, and all the beauty and awe that are possible with it, would explode and include experiences and beginnings to things I couldn't ever dream of.
One of the first things I knew I needed to do was make a trip to Colorado, where my cousin Scott lived his last days. He left a sister, brother and other family there, and I wanted to be with them. I made the trip in March of that year. I had a couple things in mind when making the trip: to support family that needed it, and to visit a couple meaningful locations - Scott's favorite hiking trails and the site of his death.
The trip to Colorado was one of my first out of state in quite some time, and I learned quickly that I needed to do that more often. I took the ride with a family friend, one of my cousin's best friends growing up. We took her minivan, with bikes packed in the back. Waking up on the East side of the Rocky Mountains, watching the sunrise each day, was an incredibly spiritual experience. Exploring the mountains was just as spiritual. I realized there was so much to see in the world, and I had mostly been confined to Southern Minnesota my entire life.
More important than that was the primary purpose of the trip - being with my cousin's siblings and other family. I knew how hard the death was on me, I couldn't imagine how that left his little brother and sister. We enjoyed several nights together, reminiscing about our experiences of and with Scott. There was something incredibly healing about being there that month. And I knew I would be back often.
Before heading out, we visited the site of his death - an intersection that had such a silence and stillness while we were there. It was heart wrenching to think about the final moments there. But again, incredibly healing.
That's the thing with recovery - true experiences of emotion and healing can take place. In addiction, drugs and alcohol are the first form of handling tragedy, and that doesn't leave a lot of room for true healing. I was very, very thankful to feel all those feelings, no matter how challenging. We left Colorado with a sign from above - an X in the clouds, symbolic of Scott's longtime softball team, X-Force, one I helped him build. How bittersweet.
As 2015 progressed, I prepped for a couple of the biggest events in my recovery, to that point. First, I wanted to know what I could do to get involved with a cause outside of recovery. Naturally, as a watcher of ESPN, I gravitated toward the Make A Wish stories, and wondered how I could get involved in something like that. As I began to research, I came across the For A Day Foundation, an organization built on the idea of bringing parties to hospitals for boys and girls battling cancer and other serious illnesses. There was an option to start a chapter of this organization, and I jumped on it.
At first, I thought certainly my checkered past would be a barrier. As I had gotten comfortable doing, I shared with the founder some of my troubled times. To my surprise, she thought even more highly of what I was trying to do in opening a chapter. We agreed to work together to get one going in Minnesota. By April of 2015, that dream would become reality. It would take hard work to build a team, connect with hospitals, and raise funds for events. I found a few close friends, diligently reached out to hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses, and even did 350 burpees to raise the first $350, enough to host our first event at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. It was a blast, and worth every minute, even the painful minutes of burpees it took to get there!
Charity was becoming such a huge part of life, and life was becoming so much more fulfilling. It truly was the year the beauty of life began to explode. I finally discovered just a bit of what I was missing in life, all by getting uncomfortable and doing things I hadn't done before. What a life out there in the world.
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