“What are you doing tomorrow night?” read my text on my little red beat up LG Envy. Well, I had nothing planned for an exciting Tuesday night, so I texted back, “Nothing. What’s going on?” “Would you be interested in going to the To Write Love on Her Arms event at Kennesaw State University?”, replied Lin. I had heard about the organization, but my initial thought was that they were an organization advocating for victims of abuse. Lin, from what I have gotten to know of her is that her heart and spirit is towards supporting social justice organizations and, since my interest in these type of things was similar to hers, well automatically I was interested in going.  However, whenever I read up more about the organization online, I was quite surprised. TWLOHA is an organization dedicated bringing hope and a purpose to those who have gone through depression, addiction, self-injury, or suicide. Even with my struggles and success in life I was very interested in going to see what TWOLHA was about and how they were bringing a message of hope and purpose to young adults and well anyone who are struggling to find a purpose and peace to the pain. How do you help the ones struggling with these tendencies? How do you support the loved ones left behind for those who have for the lack of better words, “succeeded” in their mission?

I went to sleep that not realizing how much of an impact their awareness event would have on my life.  Most of us whether we like to admit it or not struggle at times (or extensively) to find a purpose for our lives here on Earth. Some folks will never be able to give the world a chance to see how they could shine like stars.

 The next evening after work, I trekked to the other side of the world (i.e. the other side of metro Atlanta) to check out the event. Getting to TWOLHA did not come with out a bit of an adventure. Apparently KSU has grown a bit since I had been there last in the early…uh 90s :/. TWOLHA announced the main address, but not the actual building, great. I called Lin and she said she is “standing in a big parking lot” and that is all she knew at the moment. Well eventually she found the location, I found the “big parking lot”, and finally found the Social Science Building with some guidance of the whippersnappers who had just been released from their early evening classes.

Honestly, when I walked into the speaking engagement I did not totally know what to expect from the evening. The lecture hall held roughly one hundred people sitting in ascending rows in the back and in “wooden” desks toward the stage. The dimly lit lecture hall had  a coffee house feel while casting light shadows on the faces of the guest speaker Jamie Trorkowski and musical guest Matt Weirtz (I think I need to revisit the glasses issue). 

The evening was interspersed with music, the story behind TWOLHA, and story of hope and survival by a young man with dreds, named Denny. If people ever wonder why things happened in their lives and if there was ever a reason for them, well here is your prime example.  Jamie, dressed in his skinny jeans and green hoodie, launched into his story on how this organization came into being. Initially, thought doing sales for the surfing business in Florida was supposed to be his career, loved surfing and had a six figure income. It was a purpose for him at the time since it set the stage for the big picture of his life.

First, a good friend/colleague had to everyone’s surprise had committed suicide. His reaction after this happen was what could he do to hopefully prevent people from reaching this level?  In another random event he had met Joaquin Phoenix at a movie set and what stuck in his mind was that Joaquin had movie notes scribbled all over his arms. The strange concept never left him. Some time later in Jamie time, his friend David asked him to go to Florida to see his friend Renee. Renee was having problems with addiction, self mutilation, and depression. Jamie just about did not go (if you had not figured it out by now, Renee was the catalyst for the whole organization). Renee eventually strung out on drugs had started self mutilating. Her injuries were so bad and she was so strung out on drugs, even the hospital would not take her. The friends surrounded her and supported for five days until she was able to be checked into the hospital.

Even, though she was in a desperate situation, it is important to note, that if someone wants to be helped they have to recognize it for themselves. As a friend, people can guide, counsel, and support the ones hurting, but the wounded need to recognize for themselves that they need to be healed.  Renee needing to be in rehab to get clean did not have the financial means to pay for the costs. It is really amazing to see how what seemed like insignificant events turn out to be life changing events.  Jamie was thinking about how to raise money to help his new friend.  The story earlier touched on Joaquin Phoenix’s notes on his arms. Jamie thought he would sell T-shirts to raise money to help with Renee’s rehab (idea from a Coldplay concert). The concept would be to write love on her arms to cover up the scars from her self-destruction on her arms.

Human beings are designed for a purpose and to have significance in life. Please remember you are not alone. Seek help from friends who will walk the walk with you, non-profit agencies, like TWOLHA who can point you to the right support groups, or local churches. It is not an easy task to start walking down the road to recovery, but recognizing the fact that help is needed is the first and most important step. The evening continued with a story from Danny, a man in his late twenties in long blond dreds,  who found him self in the midst of depression and intense heroin addiction early in life. Just like Renee, he was in the midst of despair and hopelessness. Danny had several friends that he had made throughout the course of his addiction that wanted to see him get clean. After a binge at a seedy hotel, he had seen this familiar white vehicle riding around, Danny had the choice of hiding and not calling out to the familiar faces in the vehicle or holding up a “white flag”, figuratively speaking.  Danny choose to surrender and let his friends truly into his life. Danny has now been clean and sober for seven years and is happily married.

After life changing stories were shared on stage, it was time for Q&A from the audience. The need and the hurt and the audience was great. People go about their lives and most of the time don’t realize their fellow schoolmates or co-workers are in significant pain. A young lady in front of mostly strangers, asked for guidance from the guest speakers on how to support her boyfriend who was trying to get clean from a heroin addiction. Another young lady asked how to help a friend that she had known since six grade who was starting to go down a path of drug addiction.  People are designed to be dependant (not to be mistaken with co-dependant) on each other. If hurting, reach out, if not hurting, reach in.

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