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Tipping into Relief

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by Jeff Zacharias

Lying on the concrete on that sunny May afternoon, bleeding with multiple broken bones after falling, high, from a balcony several stories up, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that I didn’t think was possible. What others might perceive as one of the worst things that could ever happen, I saw as an exit from the chaos I had been living for most of my life. Over the years I’ve described this scenario to others who looked at me with puzzled looks. They couldn’t wrap their heads around why relief was the word to describe how I felt. 

Up until this point, life for me had consisted of endless partying, empty relationships and just plain survival at whatever cost. This, combined with low self-esteem, shame and guilt over being gay as well as anger and resentment from past hurts, I was a disaster in the making. It all came crashing down literally and figuratively on that afternoon. I was homeless, penniless and bankrupt on every level–mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Relief, even in that moment of crisis, led to the beginning of a kind of clarity in my thinking that I had never known. I began to see that there was a way out of this destructive lifestyle and it began with a decision that day not to use drugs or alcohol as a way to cope. I began to see that it was possible to have meaningful relationships with friends and family; it was possible to have a fulfilling career not centered around materialistic gains. I could handle whatever life threw my way if I just didn’t use drugs or drink for that day and what’s more, there was a thing out there called life which was just waiting for me to seize it. I found that recovery was possible—even for me—if I just rode the roller coaster of whatever it threw my way. 

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