Hey, I’m Kori. I usually have so much to say, but today the words “out of the darkness” resonates so unbelievably deeply with my soul that it’s really hard to elaborate. “out of the darkness” was never something I thought would happen to me, I thought that I was hard-wired for a life of depression, suicidal thinking, sadness, and anxiety.

I suppose the opposite of darkness is light, the flip side of substance abuse is sober, the other side of the coin of psychological disaster is inner peace – at least this is how it feels for me. Perhaps through the sea of debilitating loneliness, self-harm, rage + resentment + anger, and the storms of inner turmoil, somehow I found the light.

Sometimes I think it was a miracle; sometimes I am convinced it is because I was steadfast in my will to ‘do the work’; sometimes I wonder how my will to live actually conquered the insatiable need I had to no longer exist. Maybe it was a god or therapy. Maybe it was the anonymous coffee scented rooms. Maybe it was my marriage that imploded 111 days into sobriety that had me fall onto my knees in a place of surrender, unlike anything I had ever known before.

I’m not sure what it was, but today… I am out of the darkness.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think that darkness will never come again, nor am I riding that old familiar manic high that will inevitably morph in a bout of dark, self-loathing, sleepless depression. No, that ping-pong of emotional lability has been replaced with something a little more even keel, maybe even ‘boring’, but certainly I am learning to find the magic in the mundane. For so long I avoided ordinary like the plague, I wanted drama, I wanted starlit nights of fun, glamour, and excitement. I wanted to be different, to be special. I had a beauty to my looks that plagued me because the world could see it, but I failed to recognize it in any way, this led me to years and years of self-hatred, body image dysmorphia, and eating disorders.

I found myself addicted to anything I touched – pot when I was in my late teens, alcohol throughout my entire 20’s and 30’s, men who were horribly bad for me, including the man I dated for 3 years who would teach me what an abusive relationship would like. He would teach me what it was like to be called worthless, and I would learn what it was like to believe him. He would knock me down and somehow only his ‘magical’ touch could fill me back up again – abuse + codependency are such a mind fuck. Co-dependency was harder for me to give up than cocaine or booze. The drama of that relationship was like adrenaline in my veins – it was sick, but I was hooked on it; I still have no idea how I got out of that situation alive. (You can read more about this chapter of my life in Atlas of Darkness – available on Amazon)

I was haunted for years by anxiety so bad I could not breathe, nights on end of tossing and turning and scratching my arms until the bled (i still have scars all over my body from these days), I’m a recovering alcoholic, I’m divorced, I thought for years and years that the issue I has was schizophrenia or bipolar. My dad died when we were on summer holidays when I was 6 – my reaction to that tragedy was tragic all in itself – at 6 I shut down, I closed my heart, I began  a fierce journey into shutting everyone and everything away from me, and I can see clearly now that this painful loss – and my reaction to it – really set a lot of the trajectory of my life. I know what it’s like to feel constant inner rage, I know what depression feels like, I am familiar with what the feels of wanting to die are like. It was all so dark for so long.

But something happened to me on Dec 27, 2016 – I got sober. I fell to my knees night prior to that 1st sober day, in tears, naked, whaling on the floor, overcome with the undeniable understanding that I desperately needed help. Drinking was making me so sick, it was instilling a sweet and terrifying game of Russian Roulette in which I would never know what version of Kori was coming out to play – usually, especially in that last year, it was dark. And it wasn’t just the drinking that was dark, it was the psychological instability it was infused into my life. For years and years prior I had been working my ass off in therapy, and while things still remained relatively dark, the booze and hangover were beginning to turn seeds of darkness into the full-grown toxic garden of death. It was so bad. It was so, so scary.

I don’t know what took over me that fateful night, I don’t know why I embarked on the journey I did – but I did – and today I am here, alive, joyful, sober. I have found some serious elements of peace that I never knew to be possible. I have cultivated emotional flexibility, what used to leave me lifeless has now simply become a wave under a surfboard that I know how to ride.

I sleep now – that’s a damn miracle all in its self. I have learned to expand my capacity to sit in the darkness, I have befriended the cobby cobweb corners of every dark nook and cranny in my soul, I have faced my pain. I learned how to sit in the dark days and offer self-compassion rather than self-hatred. I practised self-love, the most unnatural skill to me – until it became a habit until self-love became my truth.  I have (and continue to) look as fearlessness and as deeply as I can at my resentments and what my role has been, and I have learned that an ‘I’m sorry’ to you is not a secret demand or hidden expectation to get an ‘I’m sorry’ back. Today I own my side of the street because it is the right thing for my own inner peace. I’m learning to make amends, I am learning to drop resentments, I am learning inner peace. It’s such a crazy journey.

If I knew how the days of my long ass dark-night-of-the soul would unfold, I think I would have hidden under a rock and never come out. There is no way in hell I would have ever imagined that I would have had the strength to summon the mountain that this life placed in front of me. However, I do wish that from this perspective – the one on top of the mountain where the sun finally shines – that I could tell my younger self one thing: your not fucked up, your life is not a mistake, you have not been forgotten, and you are so loved. I would tell my younger self to keep going, to live life one-day-at-a-time, I would tell her that she is exactly where she needs to be and I would promise her that one day the sun will shine so brightly she will need a sun-shirt + hat to get used to the light, the shine, the hope, and the joy.

I wasn’t bipolar after all.

I wasn’t a mistake.

I was not a wasted life.

I was not ever useless.

My marriage ending and the enormous of pain it caused was not, in fact, an act of betrayal, it was life’s way of fiercely lighting my whole life on fire and teaching me to fall to my knees in humility and grace. The pain of that chapter didn’t happen ‘to me’, it happened ‘ for me’; it set me free, it put me onto a path of faith, and love – both for another human being who is so unbelievably well suited for me and for self.

My resentments are fading, my edges are softening, my faith is strengthening, and I am becoming almost painfully aware of gratitude. I can feel gratitude – the same way I used to feel anxiety all of the time – today it’s a visceral feeling of gratitude, it’s so cool.

I was just a girl who got badly hurt somewhere along the line – likely when my father died when I was 6 – and I reacted in a way that set forth a momentum of distrust, shutting the world out, and losing connection to my version of a higher power. I was just hurt, that’s all. The pain grew into rage, righteous indignation, anxiety and depression. It led me down a dark alley, one that I thought was going to render me lifeless. But as it turned out all those dark days were simply that part in the night where the dark is the darkest, that part right before the sun peeks out.

Now I am sober. I am healthy. I am happy.

If you are ‘in it’, keep going. Don’t give up. Give yourself a chance, give yourself some compassion, reach out for help – I needed so much damn help, there is no shame in asking for help. From the light, I can promise you that if you keep on going if you keep on doing the work your dawn will come – the clouds will part, and you will be amazed at the journey of your human self, you be humbled at your strength.

I am sending you love.

Only Love,

Kori Leigh