At this point in my life, I feel relatively safe in terms of the choices I make. I don’t drive over the speed limit. That much. I don’t break the rules. That much. And, I tend to keep focused on thoughts and activities that are about good business, good living and good actions. In fact, most days, I feel pretty safe in my own skin, as perhaps you do too. But every now and then – brought on by what has been described to me as a lingering garden-variety depression, I see a darker side of myself lurking in the recesses of my consciousness. It’s the kind of darkness that causes me to spend an hour on the floor crying about nothing, yet everything before I pick myself up, wipe my eyes and get on with my day. Or the kind that says stay in bed today and binge watch something mindless with a bottomless pot of chamomile tea on a tray within arms length. Or call in sick and take a mental health day to re-center and re-balance. But no matter how dark, sad, depressed, down-in-the-dumps or unsettled I am feeling from time to time, shooting up hard drugs is not a considered solution, as it was for one man I want to tell you about now.
I was in Woodstock, NY to hear Kevin Sessums speak on a panel about addiction and recovery. He felt safe and secure too, until one day, he wasn’t anymore. He stopped feeling comfortable in his own skin and started using drugs to feel better.
Kevin Sessums, at the time, was a big-deal editor at Vanity Fair magazine. He interviewed celebrities for cover stories and called people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Andy Cohen and Madonna his “friends.” He was well-known and well respected. Sessums had it all, until he didn’t. While in his 50’s and going strong in his career, he became a crystal meth intravenous drug user. “Wait. What?” I said when I heard him speak this. “He was in his 50’s and successful and shooting up?” His story, I could tell, was a cautionary tale. But his story of addiction is not the story I want to continue telling now. I want to tell you his story of recovery, which began with his friend named Michael. When Sessums was at his lowest – jobless, homeless, broke, desperate and addicted to drugs – he knocked on the door of his friend, asking for a place to stay for the night. Without hesitation, Michael let this unpredictable and dark version of his friend into his home. He gave Sessums a bed.
Along with the bed also came the gifts of hope, self-esteem, nurture, and care. It was this one act of kindness, said Sessums, that caused him to turn his life around. One small act of kindness, he emphasized, that gave him the motivation to get sober. This one kind act of grace and compassion is what helped Kevin Sessums overcome many obstacles, see the world as a hopeful place and find himself again.
You may never know how your acts of kindness impact people you interact with, but just knowing that they have the power to exponentially improve someone’s condition and replace despair with hope for the future is also a cautionary tale we should all be telling. Kindness has the power to heal and help any sad story find a happy ending.