- Joshua Sherman Productions
- Benjamin Lerner
It had been over a month since I had moved up from the city, and I had finally started to adjust to the pace of rural life. I stepped outside, closed my car door and shivered, as I felt a frosty gust of wind hit the back of my neck. I walked toward my trunk, opened the hatch and began rummaging through it, determined to find a comfortable scarf, hat and gloves that would make my walk across the parking lot more pleasant.
After discovering a secret cache of winter accessories underneath a crumpled shopping bag, I tied my scarf around my neck and pulled the edges of a wool hat down around my ears. As I made my way toward the store, the happy faces of shoppers pushing their carts to their cars all seemed to greet me with welcoming smiles. Even though I was hundreds of miles from home, I felt like I was swaddled in an impenetrable blanket of self-sufficient emotional security.
Suddenly, I was roused from my positive reflections when I heard the sounds of raucous banter from across the parking lot. A group of young men was congregated around a large pickup truck. It was a cold and damp day, but they were all dressed in shorts and T-shirts. I looked down at my gloves and scarf with shame and embarrassment. As their laughter continued to reverberate at an increasing volume, I became increasingly self-conscious and insecure. In a matter of seconds, my feelings of comfort and emotional safety had been shattered into tiny pieces. I felt like an outsider who didn’t belong.
In the years before my active addiction, I had always struggled with social anxiety. Even though I was now several years sober, I found myself trapped in the same pattern of anxious thought. As I passed by the group of merry strangers, every one of their lighthearted jeers and exclamations seemed like a cruel and judgmental joke that was aimed directly at me. I closed my eyes and ground my teeth as I struggled to find the strength to keep walking. I wanted to untie my scarf, turn around and hide in a private hovel of self-hatred and shame. It was then that I realized the only person who was actually being judgmental and cruel in that moment was me.
In my overwhelmed and frantic state, I was being unfairly judgmental of the people in the parking lot who were simply enjoying a moment of carefree socialization. I was also being cruel to myself by allowing my senseless and unfounded fears to bubble and fester to an unmanageable and painful point. I knew that before I could learn to accept other people and face them without fear, I had to learn to accept myself as I was. I readjusted my scarf, took a deep breath and walked past the group of happy-go-lucky locals with a confident spring in my step. I knew that no matter what surprises the weather brought, I could always find warm refuge within myself. I just had to remember that true comfort didn’t come from the clothes I wore on my back. It came from the inner peace and serenity that I had earned by living life on life’s terms one day at a time.
Keep moving forward.
Run towards the truth.
Don’t quit before the miracle happens.