Where I grew up, there were several sights around our neighborhood that had a mystical, sometimes even conspiratorial story behind them. In the small valley behind our home was the “lost pond.” The story behind it was that it got its perfectly round shape due to having been the site of a flying saucer landing. Looking back, I don’t think it was very round at all, but it made for a good story.
Another of these tales had to do with a place about a mile from our home known as “Wasson’s Grove.” It was an odd stand of trees in the middle of farmland. While everything around it had been cleared for planting, this small area known as Wasson’s Grove was left largely untouched.
During the daytime, we would sometimes ride our bicycles to Wasson’s Grove to explore. The foundations of old buildings, presumably a home and some out-buildings, were still visible back then. It was a fun hangout during the daytime, but no one dared go there at night. You see, Wasson’s Grove was haunted.
Legend had it that the entire Wasson family had died there. Died a horrible death. The plague had killed them all. Or was it a raiding band of marauders? Polio? Not important. All that mattered was that Wasson’s Grove was haunted, and therefore off limits to little boys at night.
One night, a group of us was “camping out” in the neighbor’s hay barn. We had started out in a tent, but a fierce storm had passed through, driving us from the leaky canvas tent into the dry warmth of the Olenkamp’s barn. A barn that was only a quarter mile or so from Wasson’s Grove.
I don’t know who’s bright idea it had been, so I’m going to blame it on my brother John. He’s a couple of years older than I, and growing up, he was always the more adventurous of the two of us. So, once the storm had passed, it was decided we should go find ghosts at Wasson’s Grove.
John and the other older boys did a great job of building up our adventure. As we approached the grove, we were all ready to see a ghost. We’ll show them who’s boss!
At the time, our two-year age difference might as well have been ten years. John was, for all practical purposes, a young man. While I, ever the late bloomer, was still a little boy, baby fat and all.
Fog had set in by the time we reached the grove. If anyone else was scared, they were not showing it. I, on the other hand, was petrified! I did NOT want to be there. Did NOT want to see any ghosts.
Before long after entering the grove, someone did it. Again I’ll blame John. Someone yelled “Ghost!”
It was game on! Our little band of rebels took off running back to the safety of the Olenkamp’s barn. The others, with their man-like bodies far outpaced me. It seemed like they were gone before my legs had even begun to move.
Fear could not drive my poor body any faster, and I began to cry a little. I was certain that those ghosts were going to get me. I knew that was going to be my last night on earth. Oh why? Why hadn’t I just stayed home in bed? Why me?
Well, the ghosts didn’t get me. I eventually made my way back to the barn. By the time I arrived, the others had composed themselves. They were even getting a hearty laugh over our little ghost hunting experience. I did my best to join in their laughter, but the fact was, I was still frightened.
Frightened, but too proud to admit it.
I never went back to Wasson’s Grove after dark. Never tempted fate. Never disturbed the spirits of whoever had once called it home. In fact, as I sit writing this story almost fifty years later, I can pretty much assure you that given the opportunity, I still wouldn’t visit Wasson’s Grove after dark.
It takes a degree of humility to admit that fear would keep me away from that stand of trees in Northwest Indiana after dark. Humility to admit that having learned my lesson, I have no desire to tempt fate again.
Am I curious about the place? Sure. Do I believe I could go back there at night and successfully dismiss whatever apparition appeared as a natural phenomenon? Absolutely.
Well then, Kent, why not go back. Why not show those ghosts who’s boss?
The simple answer is that I don’t like being afraid. I don’t invite fear into my life. In fact, I do everything I can to avoid that particular emotion, thank you very much. I’m quite fond of my bland life. A life free of flying saucers forming ponds, and ghosts that haunt the woods.
There is a similar element to my recovery. Yes, the foundation of my recovery is based on the steps and spiritual principles of Narcotics Anonymous. Yet there is still an element of fear that helps keep me clean. That fear humbles me at even the thought of using drugs.
I remember all too well the person I became while using. While at first they felt empowering, like our walk to Wasson’s Grove, soon they left me feeling vulnerable and afraid. They also made me feel lonely, like that long run back to The Olenkamp’s barn.
Drugs took me to a life in which I was basically a scared little boy. Scared, lonely, crying, and desperately running from ghosts and apparitions.
When I first found the rooms of NA, I ventured back to the Wasson’s Grove if drug abuse a handful of times. I somehow convinced myself that it hadn’t been that scary or lonely. I convinced myself that I could go back and use successfully.
Each time I went back, I discovered it had been as bad, if not worse, than I had remembered.
This approach to the principle of humility is a bit different. We don’t often speak in recovery of being frightened. After all, courage is also one of the principles we are called to practice. Yet how can there be courage without fear? So, at least in part, I’ll let fear motivate me to continue on this journey of recovery. I don’t need to disturb the ghosts of my addiction. Instead, I’ll avoid that place altogether. I’ll even have enough humility to admit that I’m afraid to go back.
Have a remarkable day!