No Tourists Allowed: Seeking Inner Peace and Sobriety in War-Torn Sudan (Excerpt) by Shannon E.
As I sit here soaking in lavender oil and the ease of Sunday morning, I reflect fondly on the irreverent way I left war-torn Sudan. I was, in every sense, a heartbroken girl fleeing in a panic, and due to my PTSD I was headed for the super-nova of downward spirals. According to Hollywood—and its promise of a cookie cutter ending—I had failed the quest.
It wasn’t until rewriting this story after I had nearly four years of consecutive recovery time under my belt that I saw the beauty in the true story, the one about struggle and darkness, the story that told of a real person on a real mission to find inner peace. This type of expedition is mainly foul and insufferable, but at least it gets your blood pumping and heart racing. Today I know that asking questions and not fitting in doesn’t make me rebellious or a bad person; it makes me a soul who was born to break the mold and to challenge what is. Sudan, with all its harrowing experiences, helped mold me into a talented and strategic writer, and now I utilize this skill to spread the message of hope to those seeking for recovery from addiction, too.
But I only obtained this clarity after immense suffering. When I first landed a contract for this book I was still a punk kid, a real royal egomaniac. The first draft of the story, as my agent, Carolyn, told me, was filled with anecdotes, but lacked depth of character. Carolyn was, in her roundabout way, saying that in my current state of active addiction, I lacked depth of character. Of course, as an alcoholic, I was sure she was wrong and I was right, and so I pressed on writing and drinking the night away. What happened afterward—the multiple DUIs, the loss of my dream job and book contract, the four years of court-ordered probation—led to experiences of incredible humiliation, rejection, and despair. At rock bottom, I nearly lost my life several nights while drunk driving (and could’ve harmed another). Fewer than five years ago, I was in a maroon jumpsuit in the Salt Lake County Jail with very little hope of ever making it this far.
At the time I couldn’t see it, but my fall from grace was a gift. Ultimately, the suffering led to the obliteration of my ego, that mask we all wear to appear tough and unbreakable but really serves to hide our insecurities and suffocate the budding potential within.
Suffering was the conduit that led to the inner peace I’d been searching for all my life.
I’m still Indy—intent on taking out the bad guy—but instead of focusing my efforts on the hoodlums of the external world, I focus on the only one I’m responsible for: my ego. The good news is that the hooligan within is less lethal, and knowing that my dark side is the catalyst to unleashing my great potential allows me to enjoy the experience of being an imperfect human in this rowdy, haphazard world. Hostility and peace-making—these are the contrasts inside all of us. The true battle of good versus evil does indeed lie within. As warriors on Earth we’re here only to conquer our own perceptions so that they are beacons of love and compassion for everyone. In our own way we are all ships battling the harsh and lonely waters of life, desperate for a space to rest our weary heads and experience peace. By transforming our perceptions from judgement to love we transcend ourselves and heal the planet. This is our great work.
And so, my friends, let us heed the call.
Editor’s note: Shannon E lives in Salt Lake City and is an author, international freelance journalist, and advocate for addiction recovery. Despite training as a writer on humanitarian issues for the United Nations, Shannon prefers sharing her personal stories of addiction and recovery to infuse hope in those still struggling.