Growing up I vividly remember a serious kidnapping that occurred in my home state, whereby a fourteen yr. old girl was stolen from her bedroom in the dead of night and held captive for over nine months before being rescued. The details surrounding her disappearance were very unclear at the time and some questions remain unanswered to this day. Did she run away with this man, did she resist capture, how was the man able to sneak her away into the night with her whole family present?
In fact, the youngest sister had witnessed a man come in and take her but she hid in fear for hours before telling their parents, who in turn simply sent the little girl back to bed believing she had had a bad dream. It was later that night when they realized their own nightmare had come to life and in the morning her disappearance was announced on the news and a state-wide search began.
I took part in those first weeks of searching. My friends and I would get together and hike though the vast expanses of wilderness that surrounds the area. We had never met this young girl but we wanted to help somehow and being young and able we could cover a lot of ground in a day. We tired ourselves to the bone as we roamed the steep mountains and valleys, wading through large groves of dense trees, straining our eyes as we scanned the landscape for any clue, anything that might lead us to her, anything that might help her be found.
Whatever imaginations I had of saving her at that time totally evaporated after the first week. We had searched miles and miles of terrain and there were hundreds of miles left, we had gone far but couldn’t go far enough. The horizon continued to stretch far away at the end of each day, each day she was suffering greatly, and each day her salvation felt further out of reach.
It was nine months later, after police had identified the kidnapper and his accomplice, and after countless searches had been made, that the young girl was recognized in public. Walking with one of her captors and wearing a disguise she was recognized by a stranger, while hiding her identity. When approached by police she denied being the kidnapped girl and gave a false name. She had to be told several times her own name before she broke down and admitted that indeed, that is who she is, and could they please help her.
In the end the fugitives were caught and imprisoned, she was reunited with her family, and with their support and the support of professionals she began the hard work of healing. To this day she works as an advocate for the abducted and her story serves to raise awareness of the complexities and realities of abduction, she shows a way forward.
So….why the lengthy account of a young woman’s horrific ordeal committed by evil people? Because I believe, with due respect, we may use it as a real life allegory. This account may help reframe some of the suffering that far too many young people and parents undergo everyday, all the world over, in the fight with addiction.
Regardless of age, alcohol and drugs can walk into our lives when we are vulnerable. It can begin with a curiosity, desire, pressure, fear, or worse. Perhaps our loved ones hope everything will be alright and say nothing out of discomfort, or even ignore the issue in disbelief. It can happen overnight or it can occur over years but if we do not resist or fight early against this invader its power will win over us and we soon become both the victim and the perpetrator of our own capture.
What should then be a beautiful part of life, like finding an equal partner to love and give yourself to, or opening your mind and body to experience through some responsible intoxication, will become twisted and deformed to unhealthy proportions and cease to contain any trace of good; such is kidnap and such is drug addiction. We become helpless to the strength and persuasive nature of the drug and we are no longer able to release ourselves from its grip.
In fact, we lose our very sense of identity and soon surrender to the will of our own addiction, becoming altogether a thing we do not recognize. It is a miracle when someone is able to look beyond what we have become, beyond the disguise of a junkie or a drunk, and to see us as we are: a hurting individual in need of help despite our hiding and our denial. It is another miracle again to admit that the person you once were, before a life of addiction, can exist again and to embrace that help which eagerly awaits us.
As with our young woman, the work of recovering from the pain she endured and the pain her family endured from her absence may well take a lifetime and still not be complete. Her happiness depends on moving forward to become a new person. This growth is a choice, and a necessity, but it is ultimately liberating. And when you choose to become you once again, you are choosing life again.