Safe Among the Misfits

By Jamie TworkowskiMay 16, 2016

true love waits

i spent last week at a place called Onsite, about an hour outside of Nashville, in the green hills of Tennessee. i was not “Jamie from To Write Love on Her Arms.” i wasn’t even “Jamie Tworkowski.” i was simply “Jamie T,” one of 45 people there to face my pain, there looking for healing. We turned in our phones and agreed to trust the process.

i spent the majority of the week with nine strangers who became fast friends. We were young and old, wealthy and not, from east and west and middle states as well. Our stories involved buried pets and buried children, distant fathers, sexual abuse, affairs, divorce, drugs, alcohol, and sex addiction. The room was haunted pasts and uncertain futures. We were also wise and kind, compassionate and talented and hilarious. We were hoping for change and choosing to stay alive.

Our group was led by a 71 year-old therapist from Naples, Florida. A little old lady from the land of little old ladies, she turned out to be a giant. We also called her a ninja and a wizard and we literally trusted her with our lives. She told us that all pain comes down to two things:

  1. “Am I good enough?”
  2. Abandonment.

While i was away, Radiohead released their new album, A Moon Shaped Pool. The final track is a song called “True Love Waits,” which the band first performed at a concert in Brussels in 1995. This means it took 21 years for a proper recording of the song to make its way into the world. The song hinges on the same idea that sent me (and most of us) to therapy: “Just don’t leave. Don’t leave.”

i wish i could say that my week away was all the surgery i needed, but that would not be true. Perhaps my “aha” moment is to come. Perhaps there is no moment, just the slow and difficult journey through our stories, and those million dollar questions, “What do I do with my pain?” and “How do I let go?”

My week in Tennessee taught me this: You deserve to be honest. Royally, entirely, completely honest. And you deserve to be surrounded by acceptance and love and support, people who remind you what’s true and help you see what you forgot. Listen to the little old lady who asks what you believe about God and what you believe God believes about you. Notice that you feel safe among the misfits. Notice you feel at home on the front porch with the treatment center veterans. The truth is that we’re all broken people. We’re all stuck in moments. And we’re all more than that as well.

Here’s to Group 3 and Room 43 and horses standing still.

Peace to you.



To read more of Jamie’s writing, order his New York Times bestselling book, If You Feel Too Much. To learn more about Onsite, visit and check out Donald Miller’s book, Scary Close.

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Comments (8)

  1. Buskers

    That was something I really needed to read right now thank you jamie

    Reply  |  
  2. T

    I wish i could bear your pain Jamie. I wish I could show you how much you and your whole organisation helped me and so many others. I wist that that was a cure for the pain. But it isn’t.. I think you are amazingly strong for doing this, for sharing this and for still being here. I’m struggling with depression for way to many years now, but twloha is a thing that gives me hope. Thanks alot for that.
    Keep fighting, I’m praying for you and everyone else who struggles too.

    Reply  |  
  3. Leslie

    This was probably the best thing I could have read, coming out of 12 days of inpatient treatment, and getting ready to go into longer term inpatient therapy… Thank you, for keeping the hope alive.

    Reply  |  
  4. Tina

    When I first found a community in a 12 Step program was the first time I felt I belonged somewhere. At the age of 40. Where strangers understood me more than any friend or family member could. I called us The Island of Misfits. Thank you for TWLOHA. It means more to me than I can say.

    Reply  |  
  5. Nicci Velardi

    I’m so proud (because really, I don’t know if I have the strength/my insurance doesn’t cover it) of you being able to say, I need counseling camp. I don’t know if I could live without access to my mom for a week. Without Hanson. Without Harry Potter. But you… you are strong. You are hope . You give me hope. That one day, maybe, I’ll be able to overcome and go and face my demons. So… thank you, Jamie T. And I hope that you keep hoping. And that you stay. Because you are enough.

    Reply  |  
  6. Shanna

    I’m literally in tears now, as am I when I read most anything Jamie writes. Here’s to healing!! Jamie, you are loved, worthy, valuable — and the world is better with and because of you.

    Reply  |  
  7. Rhonda G

    Stay strong Jamie and keep being honest and telling your stories and others.

    Reply  |  
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