Lost in the Woods

By Ken Wells - 08/25/2021


Series Two; Blog Fifty-Eight

Have you ever been lost in the woods? There have been a couple of times that I have been lost in the woods. Suddenly you recognize that you are not where you thought you were. It dawns on you that nothing looks familiar. You begin to panic. If you move in one direction it may lead you to being found or it may lead you deeper into the woods, even more lost! It can be a terrifying experience. People get lost in the woods every day in the U.S. The vast majority self-rescue. A few disappear and are never found.

The life of an addict can be likened to the metaphor of being barefoot and lost in the woods.  You are in a place where you never thought you would be. Panic sets in. You wonder if you will ever get out of the predicament you have created. Like being barefoot in the woods with your feet bruised, cut and tender, every step you take is painful. Addiction triggers feeling of being overwhelmed with no way out. Stunned, you wonder how you ever got in such a predicament! Like a Chinese finger trap, every move you make gets you more stuck. Addiction obliterates all the signs and trail markers that show you the way out.

In the metaphor, you stumble onto a well-worn path that gives you hope. The cold clay on the forest floor soothes your bruised and battered feet and fills your mind and body with hope. You are not sure which direction to go. Yet, you reason any direction you choose will surely lead you somewhere toward being found. So, you choose one way and begin to walk. Not too far and you begin to smell the wafting aroma of your favorite picnic foods and you are famished! Then you faintly hear familiar voices and your heart races. Finally, maybe you have found your way and will get out of this lost predicament after all! As you walk as fast as your bruised feet will allow you, eventually you see the path spilling out into a meadow several hundred feet or so down the path. A full-fledged picnic is in progress with your favorite foods. You see people eating and celebrating with each other. They are people you know well and you thought you would never see again! You long and yearn to be there more than anything in the world! Immediately, you begin to walk toward the meadow with high hopes for celebration. Yet, after taking a few steps you come to a halt. You notice that the path leading to the meadow is inlaid with red-hot coals for several hundred yards.  They are inset on the path all the way to the meadow. You are now facing a quandary. At first, you think, I will just need to cut a path through the woods. Yet that is the way you got lost in the first place! You are desperate and you see no other way to get to the meadow except walk through the red-hot coals. Suddenly, appearing at your side is the reality of your Higher Power which inspires you to take the first step. Your Higher Power gives assurance that you will not walk alone. Each step will be taken with your Higher Power by your side. You are told that when the pain becomes unbearable if you will reach out and take the hand of your Higher Power, you will be given the strength to take the next step. You will not be alone!

In truth, each step represents the painful experience that you have attempted to avoid that got you lost in the woods of addiction in the first place—abandonment, neglect, fear, shame, abuse, unresolved grief, etc. As you embrace each of these red-hot coal life experiences, you realize that your Higher Power gives you the strength to face the pain as you scream out for help and strength to take the next step in facing every red-hot coal experience of your life. In truth, as the metaphor unfolds, you never have to walk down the entire path of red-hot coals because as you embrace what you have tried to avoid in addiction, the picnic comes to you!

The picnic of sobriety and serenity only becomes real when you face the red-hot coals in life experience that you don’t want to embrace. It’s the only way to find your way out from addiction and being lost in the woods.

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