Addiction. It is an ugly word that we use to describe trashy, out of control individuals who we think ourselves so much better than. Sit, observe, and let your mind wander. What could that woman or man have been like before the hands of addiction choked the life out of their neck, and took over their soul? Do any of you put yourself in their shoes? Some say “get a job,” “go away.” I can’t help but think “there but by the grace of God go I.” In reality, I didn’t create myself or my path. I have the power to create the life that I want, but do any of you really know what the demon of addiction feels like? It could be so many things…food, drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, gambling. It doesn’t matter what it is. The pull is so real that escape seems like a fairly tale, unreal and futile. It is the one thing that feels real, tangible. When you are alone, it is there to console you, comfort you, sing to you. Addiction is viewed with such disgust and disdain that it is something most are too afraid to speak of, to share, so it is a cross that we carry silently, hopelessly. Do you ever wonder what the purpose of addiction is? Why did God allow it into our lives? What is the meaning? I do know that I have often heard “for with God, nothing shall be impossible.” But that promise seems elusive and not for the downtrodden, for you don’t feel worthy of such a promise, nor do you believe in its validity. The only thing that is real in your life is the object of your addiction. It can take the most talented and beautiful person and cut them at their knees, keeping them from walking, let alone dancing, never fulfilling the greatness that they were created for. They are caught in a dance, and addiction is their constant companion. It bothers me that the majority of people that I know are cold to those with great struggles such as these. However, I guess I cannot be angry at their ignorance. For how do we understand something that we do not know? My life has been a series of beautiful disasters, silent burdens and blessings. Often I have asked God why I have had to live all of these nightmares. My life is far better than most of the world, my sufferings have been more of the silent, mental and emotional nature. I am not perfect. I carry scars, and there are things about me no one knows. However, I am grateful for every second, for they have allowed me to live it and know it. I have so much love and respect for those who have suffered and come through the fire, and I understand the strength that they wear as a badge of honor. I empathize and suffer with those who are in the fight, and can’t find their way out. It is the most frightening place in the world. In this place, you usually find yourself alone and addiction becomes your companion, your escape, your savior. I have silently carried my struggles with a smile and a great deal of acting. I have a lot of pride, and cannot admit my imperfections, my frailties. I still won’t, but I mention them in hopes of awakening you to the fact that this world is in need of compassion and understanding. Your problems aren’t the only problems. I desire to remind you that there are so many out there who are suffering and struggling-whether from addiction or tribulations. Some are obvious, some you would never guess. I challenge us all to do two things before we act with selfishness or superficiality. Say to ourselves “there but by the grace of God go I,” and realize our fortune, and two remind ourselves that that individual may be carrying a cross or burden of which we have no idea. Not everyone wears their weaknesses on their sleeves. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Have compassion. See the best in each other, and mirror that to others when they have forgotten that about themselves. Bear each others burdens. Think beyond our own trivial concerns. Honor the spirit that resides within each other and is all connected, and treat everyone like we would treat our God because you never know where or who He may be. Peace. Love. Compassion. Grace. Understanding.