I Survived the Dark to Live in the Light

Last week I felt compelled to hop on my bike and ride down M22 to visit my childhood home and spend some time in the neighborhood I grew up in. Telling people where I was raised is always a bit bittersweet to me; back in the 90’s, I didn’t think there was anything special about Greilickville. Sure, we had the bay across the street, and yes, I was able to take out kayaks and a paddle boat in my own backyard.

It’s hard to believe I didn’t realize how magical this was.

This idyllic childhood setting is something I’ve held on tightly to; the memories of swinging along the creek as I read a good book, hunting for treasure, and imagining all sorts of fantasyland in my own backyard. I remembered peeking over the Norris School playground fence to see my Grandpa Jerome working in the yard, or my mom sitting on the back porch on an afternoon she was off of work.

I felt fortunate to grow up next to my grandparents, my school, and surrounded by nature. As years went on, I began to let go of what I loved so much and began to try to find my way in a new world- a world that involved gossip, rumors, and materialism.

Norris Elementary is now Leelanau Studios, but my artwork of a fishbowl hung in the hallway up until the school closed. My mom has it in her house now.

The early memories of my childhood are the ones I want to remember; not the painful memories of loss, insecurities, or abandonment. I don’t want to recall sitting by myself at lunch, struggling to find connection, or discovering the girls I confided in weren’t really my friends at all.

It was always easy for me to pick up and start over; whether it was a new activity, new school, or a new city, it was never difficult for me to meet people. However, facing the people who hurt me- and facing myself- was much more difficult. Moving back to Traverse City has reminded me of the Kristin people may remember before I left for San Francisco, or even New York- a lost, confused girl with a free spirit. To mask my own discomfort with groups, I would drink excessively- even though my inner voice was always telling me to stay home. Today, thanks to twelve years of “re-inventing myself,” I realized I was exactly who I was the entire time:

A whimsical girl on a tree swing, reading a good book.


Old friends have tried to remind me of the Kristin I was- not the youthful, pure-hearted Kristin, and not the Kristin I am becoming today. No, some people who knew me over the years love to bring up the lost and confused person I was for a period in time- but I realized those people never got to know who I was in the first place.

Despite giving them the opportunity to get to know me now- years of writing on the table and all- they still try to bring me back to the low-vibe, insecure person I was before I found recovery, healing, and inner acceptance.

When asked what I did in Boston, it’s difficult to give an honest answer without unloading more information than the asking party wishes to receive. There is no simple answer for how I occupied my time during my three years in Boston:

I moved to Boston after rehab with no idea where else to go. In Massachusetts, it was a safe space to be myself, to learn to love who I am, and most importantly- to learn to ask for help. If it weren’t for the supportive friends who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t have been able to build such a solid foundation.

When I moved to Massachusetts, I began to think about others- not just myself. With Trump recently inaugurated, there was endless work to do to help others have a voice and basic rights- and I was able to use the skills I learned in rehab to cope with life’s difficult issues.

While in Massachusetts, I became a new version of myself– a clear-headed person with a vision for a healthier, more balanced world.

Sometimes you just have to say goodbye- not only to the people who hold you back, but to the identity that you once clung to. I have to remind myself of all I have endured- the detoxes, the programs, the relapses, and the lives I have lost. I’ve wondered why I survived so many dangerous situations, yet friends of mine have lost their battle to addiction.

Others don’t need to know everything I have faced, but if they did, they may understand why I bike around town with a smile on my face. When you’ve been through Hell and back, you stop letting the little things bother you- and you have an entirely new appreciation for life.

I may be a free spirit, and I may wear my heart on my sleeve. Nevertheless, my struggles were not in vain- and today, no one will take my joy.

For I survived the dark to live in the light.

Published by Kristin Fehrman

Life through oversized sunglasses.

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