Adversity introduces us to ourselves. We fall from all our ideals into a scary, unknown, and dark place. And that is when we find out who we really are. For Coma, he fell right out of a tree. Yes, literally, a tree.
It was in high school. He experienced the brutal heaviness of caring what everyone thought, along with the heaviness of growing up with a single mother who worked two jobs to provide, as well as a father who primarily only showed up when Coma was involved in sports.
One night, Coma made a drunken decision at a party with his football teammates to climb a tall, very skinny tree.
He ended up having a 5 fracture vertebrae. His spine shifted 7 millimeters. His ability to fit in, with his friends and with his father, had drastically changed after this. He was unable to play sports. His doctor told him he had to spend three months in an upper body cast. He was prescribed muscle relaxers, but he began to do any drugs he could get his hands on. And it was not just for the physical pain. It was for the mental pain. He quickly spiraled, at only 17 years old, heavily using drugs and alcohol.
He fell from that tree and right into addiction. He became one of the almost 21 million Americans who experience addiction, 90% of who started drug use before the age of 18.
After moving from Pennsylvania to Florida in attempt to escape his habits, Coma found that the struggle was truly within himself, and no matter where he went, it would be there. He ended up back in Pennsylvania. He battled back and forth using opioids and painkillers. He had a near death experience, losing consciousness and then losing all his motor skills for a short time.
He is one of the lucky ones that is still here. Sadly, drug overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990.
As Coma saw many of his friends lose their lives to addiction, he finally got clean. It was not without difficulty. It meant sleepless, sick nights fighting through the addiction. It meant focusing on a positive outlet for stress, like exercise. It meant being intentional, listening to motivational speeches and inspiring stories, and writing gratitude lists. It meant finding a job that he loved, helping people with disabilities. It meant finding out that helping others also helped himself.
Working through getting clean has been Coma’s greatest adversity. It has allowed him to see himself clearly, understanding he will likely always struggle with addiction, but he can make it one day at a time. He can live a good, successful, and meaningful life, as he navigates through his own weakness. He can balance his weakness with his greatest strength, which is resiliency.
He has had the opportunity to relive his love for sports as he has traveled around the country for softball. He has also worked his way up in his job, having five promotions. He can look optimistically at his future. He can help others now, and he can change the stigma about mental health and addiction. Most importantly, he can be a living example of hope for others. He can show people that when they fall out of their own tree of optimal reality, they can still find goodness, strength, and growth after their fall.