By: Sharon Nelson

It was in my first year of recovery. That was over 30 years ago, but I still remember, oh too well. The moods and feelings I’d once medicated with alcohol, nicotine, and various distractions were there for me to contend with. Unfiltered. Raw. A true roller coaster ride of emotion with severe dips and fleeting peaks. Getting through depressive episodes required sustained effort, but it was loneliness that I really struggled with. The gnawing, aching hollow in my gut that left me feeling meaningless. Like I didn’t matter.

One night it hit me hard. There was nobody to call and nowhere for me to go for comfort. I knew I couldn’t just sit in my apartment thrashing about in the morass of my emotion because eventually, I might turn to help from one of my old crutches. Instead, I pulled on my sneakers and stepped out into the night air. The amber street lights cast a glow against the midnight blue sky. Moths circled and danced through the halo of light accompanied by the buzzing energy of the bulbs. A warm breeze brushed my cheek. It felt right to be out there, but a restless energy urged me to move on. I decided I’d walk down a familiar street on the edge of our small town that wound around a bluff and ended on a rough country road. I hurriedly made my way to the winding street, rushing as though there was a deadline for reaching my destination.

When I reached the bottom of the winding street, I looked up to my right at an easily climbable hill with a grassy crest. I’d noticed the hill before but never felt compelled to climb it. That night, the surge of positive energy I was experiencing propelled me up the hill where I nestled into the grass, lying back to allow the earth to cradle me. I inhaled deeply, enjoying the scents of soil and plant-life and then relaxed back and fixed my gaze on the boundless expanse above me.

The cloudless sky was sprinkled with diamonds, flickering and pulsing. I focused on one, then another, of the heavenly bodies in my view. Words cannot adequately represent the majesty of the cosmos and the feeling one has as they are immersed in it. The dazzling display captured my entire focus and lifted me right out of myself. Every ounce of my being opened up to the experience. I extended my arms as far as I could to my sides as if giving the earth permission to be near me, to be with me. And I knew, I just knew, that I’d connected with something bigger than myself. In that moment, I realized I was never alone.

I don’t know how long I lay captivated by the stars but I remember feeling peaceful as I walked home and then went to bed. It was but the one of many, many times that I would turn to nature for comfort – it’s never let me down!