The Value of Lived Experience

“When we are forced to go without, we have no choice but to go within”
Life is like Gold. The further in time we get, the more it’s value increases. The wisdom imparted from the lived, is what brings greater intelligence to the young. The two sides of this golden coin of life bless us with endless possibilities to explore. To the coin of grief, the coin of trauma and the coin of addiction, there is the flip side. The richness of life experience brought to those who have been addicted, through their very experienced emptiness, brings a wealth of wisdom to those who need it for recovery. 
The flip side is the incredible street smarts gained through the insights of exposed living, that protects them and those that call upon them for help. Ask the naive, which lane way to find those who could potentially die tonight from an overdose, because they had to numb their body to the pain and cold…They would not know. That is that beauty of an outreach person, who makes it their duty to bring their lived experience to the community for protective services to feed, help, direct and clothe the poor. Ask one who never went without to understand the neglected child who just saved their mother’s life from an overdose (again)…or you could seek the compassion of someone who has been there, to help the child see that it’s possible to move past it all. 
You cannot be moved by such lived experience and carry on as though nothing happened. Those who witness and survive such tragic events cannot ignore their existence. They are transformed and stirred deep within to make a difference, touched by grief, with the gift of awakening. Facing death is what brings us to LIFE, what makes us appreciate it and make it WORTH something. THAT is the flip side of addiction – beneath the surface. Refrain from judging the man drunk in the park in the morning. He sleeps there in the cold and the alcohol is his blanket at night, protecting his body, keeping him alive. 
Treat people with kindness and compassion. Most times their addictions are a better option than the reality in which they have lived. If anything, offer them your insights as to what small things they may do to make a difference in their lives (where they can eat, and where they can sleep, for a start). People become dependent on substances because they have nothing else to depend on. Not one person I’ve met, loved, known or worked with, who suffered with addiction….didn’t have significant trauma (or stress) to overcome. Don’t add to their suffering by judging them. Know that they are in need and could do with support. The flip side of that coin, can be seen in the colourful characters they becomes, who can share insight with others around what life can really be like. To make you appreciate the life you have. 
Know that everyone has a story to tell and insights to learn from…especially those who have lived beneath the surface, and who know the unknown. Next time you come by someone who is dependent on substances, see them through the eyes of compassion…not judgement. Know that their path was likely a rough road. Know that they are keeping themselves alive by doing what they are doing, and have little at their disposal, in their own experience to find an alternative. Ask yourself, where has this person come from, what happened to them that they are running from. Treat them with compassion, and do not judge if you have never walked in their shoes. 
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