The First Step.

By Raquel StewartJuly 12, 2013

A couple weeks ago, I had the honor of joining the TWLOHA team once again as they made their annual Vans Warped Tour stop in Ventura, CA. As a former intern, it is always good to know that, despite the time that has passed, TWLOHA still feels like family to me. My favorite part about working behind the scenes with TWLOHA is the conversations that happen and the stories people share with you. It is an honor to be able to listen.

One thing I have noticed is how easy it is for people to come up to us and openly talk about their struggles, yet admit to keeping them secret elsewhere. It’s not hard to realize why; we are an organization that understands. It is much easier to say, “Hey, those things your organization talks about, I know them, too” than it is to take a step outside of your comfort zone and walk into counseling. It is much easier to confide in a stranger who wears a TWLOHA shirt than to tell a friend who has never known depression, addiction, self-injury, or suicide firsthand.

Other times, people don’t say much, but we know there is a bigger story that connects us. We see young people come up to us with scars that tell stories of battles won and tattoos that serve as reminders of victories and hope during relapses. We hear people thank us for how TWLOHA’s message has helped them or a loved one, and we meet others who are still in pain because they lost a friend to suicide. We make new friends, and we see eyes water as people hear about TWLOHA for the first time.

There are moments when I feel helpless, because there is only so much I can do for the beautiful human being that is standing in front of me. There are times when my heart aches to the point that I wish I could personally drive this person to get help and be with them throughout the process. But sometimes, all we can do for a person with whom we have a brief interaction at Warped Tour is listen to their story and encourage them to get help.


“I’m scared,” one girl tells me. She has been struggling with addiction and self-harm for much of her life, and she has kept it silent. She’s scared of walking into counseling because she fears the judgment that will come from her peers and her family. She wears the mask of the happy-go-lucky girl, a safety mask that says “I’m fine” with a smile that fools the world.

Even though I stand on the other side of the booth, I’ve been that girl. I know how it feels to be trapped in the superficial happiness you’ve created for yourself, scared to tell others that deep down you’re hurting. I know how hard it is to open up—I still have trouble with that myself. But somebody has to know. We aren’t meant to go through so much pain alone. We need a friend, we need community, we need people who know our darkness and love us through it. We need to be reminded we are worthy and there is hope.


TWLOHA is here to tell you that you are not alone. The things you are struggling with—depression, loneliness, self-harm, eating disorders, hopelessness, addiction, despair—others know them, too. Most who support this organization have known similar battles. When you read through the Fears vs. Dreams submissions at every Warped Tour stop, you realize how much we can connect and relate to one another, even if, on the surface, that might be hard to believe.

If you are hurting, I encourage you to step out and seek help. The first step is terrifying, but as soon as you take it, you will begin to build a support network that will guide you along the way. When we get to the beginning of a dark tunnel, we often don’t even see the end, and we despair and wonder if there is any point in walking through it. But we just need to focus on the feet below us and the next step ahead of us. Little by little, focusing on the now, we will begin to see the light press through. Eventually, we will reach the end of that dark tunnel, and we will look back and wonder how we could have ever made it so far.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for being here. Thank you for believing there is hope for recovery—be it your own or somebody else’s. We are not meant to walk through darkness alone.

With hope,


Leave a Reply

Comments (12)

  1. Katy

    I agree with everything you said. TWLOHA offers people a priceless gift: to be real, to find healing, to not walk alone. Those are beautiful things.
    Thank you for being part of that, Raquel.

    Reply  |  
  2. sophie

    Great post, I love the last paragraph. Your words give me encouragement and make me feel less alone, thank you.

    Reply  |  
  3. Anonymous

    Best Post EVER! Thank you!

    Reply  |  
  4. JTLe

    I can’t believe how beautifully and amazingly true this was written. I know what it’s like to be the girl with the fake smile, to the one who asks for help and soon to the person helping. While I have made a lot of progress, I have a long way to go and twloha reminds me that it’s the journey and not the speed or stage etc.

    I couldn’t have said this better myself.

    Reply  |  
  5. Halie Ransom

    My friend committed suicide yesterday. I am having a difficult time with this, and your article helped. TWLOHA saved my life when I was going through a difficult time. Thanks TWLOHA and thanks Raquel for your article.

    Reply  |  
  6. Soli

    I appreciate that you put “help” in a generic context. I feel that we need to think carefully about who in our lives would and would not be helpful, before we open the door on our darkness. That said, I am almost always surprised about who helps, and who does not, and who has a cartload of shame all ready to dump on top of my pain. I always predict who all these people are at least partially wrong, despite thinking carefully about it. In general, there are strangers who are sometimes more helpful than friends; there are people without advanced degrees and fees who are sometimes more helpful than paid counselors; there is help that comes from God that exceeds any expectation we have of human beings. The source of real help can be surprising. And at the same time, it’s still usually a good idea to think carefully about how and to whom to disclose our pain, with a goal of at least avoiding the shame dumpers.

    Reply  |  
  7. caitlyn

    Thanks for the encrouaging words i really needed to hear this i have hiding my pain for a really long time and yesterday i cut myself really bad and today i was going to kill myself but your word gave me hope and encrouaged me to talk to someone and to get the help i need thanks twloha and thanks raquel for you word truly helped.

    Reply  |  
  8. Dana

    This is so powerful. THANK YOU RAQUEL for writing this. I am new to TWLOHA, thanks to my amazing sponsor who introduced me. This is the first blog I have read, and I am already in love. This is one of the most important messages to get out, to let people know that there are other options besides friends and family, or jumping into a detox center to take that first step. Connecting with other people with addictions really helped me get through my own, and into recovery. One week shy of 9 months clean <3

    Reply  |  
  9. Louise

    I really love this site I know I’m a bit old but It has lots of info. I just got out of the “hospital ” and I know how it feels lots of people don’t understand they never will. Thank you for this wonderful place I can come to and find help 🙂

    Reply  |  
  10. Laura

    Awesum blog. And I wish one day I will find people who stand with me who are able to tolerate me and and be able to stand me when I´m walking through darkness…Who are willing to give a lil of their believe in me and just stick with me… Unlike all the other people who were callin themselves ma friends…
    Thank u Raquel, thank u TWLOHA for keeping up ur work, ur hope ur believe and sending all these healing and hopeful words out into this world.

    Reply  |  
  11. Neici

    I loved this, i almost started crying in class because this post meant a lot to me

    Reply  |  
  12. Kathleen

    Raquel was my roommate for about 1 and a half years. I can say firsthand, how much of a blessing she has been in my life and it is a wonderful thing to see that she has touched so many others with her words and with her love. I can truly say that Raquel was an absolute blessing to me and saved me. She encouraged me to seek out help and let me know that I wasn’t alone. She showed me that it was okay to be vulnerable and share my struggles with her, and she carried them alongside me. Thank you Raquel, for your love and your inspiration.

    Reply  |  
Get Email Updates

Sign up for our newsletter to hear updates from our team and how you can help share the message of hope and help.

Join our list