Living with or being in close contact with someone who struggles with an addiction or depression can be, well, difficult. But is there light at the end if the tunnel? Today I’m interviewing Graham Aitchison about his book, “No Way Out But Through”. Seeing as both Graham and I are storytellers of one form or another, I decided to write out this interview in story form.
So as per Aussie tradition, I’ll invite you to pull up a stump, have a cuppa, and get comfortable. Tim Tam’s, ginger nut biccy’s (cookies), and lamingtons are on the large plate on the table in front of us. Help yourself!
“G’day Graham.” I settled back into my overstuffed lounge chair, lamington in hand. “Tell us, is there light at the end of the tunnel?”
Graham selected a ginger nut and contemplates it. “There is. But you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time in the dark to be able to get there. There are times when you think the light is getting closer but it turns out to be a freight train coming straight at you.”
I wince. “I know that feeling. Not very pleasant.”
He drums his fingers on the table, a quick riff from one of Metallica’s albums and nods. “Which can really hurt, but you’ve just got to pick yourself up and keep going. Walking through the blackest part of the darkness and coming into the light will gain you everything. But it will cost you everything at the same time.”
“That reminds me of Pilgrims Progress…walking through the valley of the Shadow of Death. A few Bible verses spring to mind as well that support that. Psalm 23, Luke 9:25, Psalm 56:13 etc,” I said.
I hand around the plate of goodies, and refill the coffee cups.
“You are a man of words, right? In 29 words or less, can you describe yourself?”
“Hermit, grumpy, insightful, musical, philosophical, ummm…” Graham stares out the window, tapping the rim of his cup with his biscuit. “Old beyond my years, nuts about football, spiritual, open, honest, cantankerous, senile, sarcastic, warm, funny.”
I smile. “Twenty words. Well done!”
“So, why write a book such as No Way Out But Through? It’s a deeply personal book. What is the story behind the story?”
Graham drew in a deep breath. “I wrote it because there are others out there just like me who feel the same way that I do and have gone through similar things to what I have. A lot of these people are sad and hurting because nobody understands them. The purpose of my book is to share my deepest struggles to speak into the lives of those who need it. The stories that have impacted me the most in my life have been those told with brutal honesty about the darkness in people’s lives and their brave, sometimes desperate struggle to get better.”
“Agreed.” I brush crumbs from my fingers and nod. “Truth sticks out and stays in my mind long after the words fade. Thanks for being so brutally honest.”
“Mmm hmm. While other stories have washed over my head and been forgotten in minutes, the darkest and most personal stories are the ones that have remained ingrained into my thinking long after I have read them. I have shared my story in a similar manner in the hope of speaking into the lives of others in the same way that those with the courage and honesty to share their deepest struggles have spoken into my life.”
I frown, fingers interlaced beneath the table. “So did you find it uncomfortable exposing your struggles in such an open way to the world?”
“Yes and no.” Graham cocks his head to the side. “It’s definitely therapeutic, getting it all out there. But at the same time I look back on some of it now and feel quite embarrassed. However, as a good friend once told me, that’s a good thing as it shows how far I’ve come since then. It’s kind of weird sharing your whole life with the world as I am a very private person by nature. But I believe it’s what I was meant to do and I believe that the self sacrifice of my private struggles into this book has the power to change lives, which is what I want to be remembered for.”
“I do the same thing with my historical fiction. Turn my life lessons from pain into stories of hope for others.” I put my thumb tips together, index fingers pointing upward. “Picture this: You are stuck in an elevator and have three floors to give the central message of your book to a group of interested people…how would you describe it?”
“There are people like myself who struggle with emotional pain and suffering sometimes beyond belief. Society often writes these people off, and they often write themselves off. But there’s a way to get well. It involves hard work, feeling every inch of the pain within you and through close, honest and sometimes terrifying relationship with God where you must allow Him to take you through the darkest storms as they are the only ones that can help expose your wounds so that they can be cleaned. My journey to health and well being has taken me deeper than anyone I know and beyond the realms of conventional thinking into a spiritual universe I was operating out of, but didn’t really know existed.”
“Sounds good. Do you have a favourite line from your book?”
“More like a favorite few paragraphs.” He picks up a copy of No Way Out But Through from the table and thumbs through it. A smile lights his face as he runs a finger down a page. “This is probably my favorite section in the book – in the chapter Learning to Handle Trials and Tribulations.”
God gave me a vision of a man who had taken a bullet wound to the leg. However, instead of having the wound treated he had simply learned to live his life around the wound by only using one leg. God then put him in a place where he was forced to use his wounded leg, which of course brought incredible pain to the wounded man. Though having to put pressure on his wounded leg was extremely painful, it made him aware that there was a problem that needed to be resolved. Once he felt the pain he had three choices: to stop and honestly assess he wound, then take steps to heal it (keep walking on both legs, ignoring the pain screaming out at him- which would never bring him any peace and only make things worse), or start hopping around on one leg again and wait for the pain in the wounded leg to subside so that he could forget about it again. I realized that I had one of these choices to make whenever God brought up a painful emotional wound or spiritual tie in my life. I could honestly face and assess the wound in order to heal it, continue to charge forward with the pain screaming out at me and make things worse, or try to control the situation so that the pain would settle back down within me and not bother me again. Taking the third option seemed like the right choice, but in reality it was just causing me to stagnate, as I would just get stuck on the same issues over and over again. The second choice never worked for me and only ever made me feel worse. The first choice was the choice God wanted me to take—and the true path to peace and healing.
“A modern day parable. I like that. Great imagery.” I tap my copy of the book and glance up. “Life after book launch…is your life much different after you wrote ‘The End’ and the book landed in your hands? Was there a line in the sand that you crossed at some point and thought ‘wow. I’m a published author, my life will never be the same’?”
“It still hasn’t really sunk in – I guess because the worldwide launch with Creation House isn’t till next month. I’m not really thinking about it to be honest. It’s been a huge amount of work to get this far. I feel like I’ve run a marathon and though I’ve arrived at the end and claimed the grand prize, I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted. Don’t get me wrong – I am very proud and excited for the future. But for the time being I’m just focusing on getting a bit of normality back into life and recovering from achieving such a mammoth task.”
“Sounds like a great idea.” I smile. “So why the title: No Way Out But Through? What was the inspiration for that?”
“The title of the book is symbolic of the manner of the journey I had to go on in order to begin getting well. There was no way around, over or under the darkness in my life.” He twirls his fingers like drum sticks then points them straight ahead. “The only way to truly face it and heal it was to walk right through it.”
“What about Jesus…” I touch my cross necklace briefly. “What does Jesus mean to you, how does he fit into your life?”
“Jesus has been the central figure of spiritual guidance throughout this entire journey. He’s been orchestrating the whole thing, beginning from the end. Before some of the worst things happened to me He spent years training me mentally through counsel from wise people and insight from the Holy Spirit so that I would be equipped to face some of the horrendous trials I have faced in the last four years. Our relationship is strong but not always harmonious. I know that God has orchestrated some of the horrible experiences I’ve been through over the last four years simply because I had to go through them in order to face the darkness in myself and get through it. There has definitely been some tension in my relationship with God as a result. But as He’s said to me – “Would you rather none of this happened?” And the answer to that in all honesty is no, because if none of these awful experiences He has orchestrated had come to pass, I wouldn’t have been able to face myself and fully heal, and therefore wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“You’ve had quite a journey. Do you have a favourite Bible verse and why is it special?”
“Isaiah 43:19 – Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now that it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” He nods enthusiastically. “I especially like the second path as my life has definitely been a wasteland in many ways. Water symbolizes life and water must be constantly moving so that it doesn’t stagnate, so I appreciate the last part of that verse as it says that life is coming to me despite my wasteland experiences and I won’t be staying stagnant but always moving forward.”
“Forward movement is great. Even two-steps-foward-one-step-back is still progress. What does a day in you life look like now? I know I see you on facebook a bit, what do you do with yourself and where can readers typically find you hanging out?”
“I work as a part time cleaner at a local Christian Holiday Park. It’s active, physical work and I work with good people, so it’s good to be there. I also play guitar on the worship band at my church. I enjoy movies, playing and writing music (I play both guitar and drums), tinkering with computers, online gaming and military weaponry. I also enjoy bodysurfing in the summer months and being around nature.”
”Sounds good.” I pull out my android phone and activate the web browser. “So, links to find you on the web…can we have them?”
I close my phone. “What is one special talent you have, and (trick question) where would you never use it?”
“I have a talent for burping. I am literally amazing at it. A friend in primary school taught me how to open my throat and swallow air then burp it back out, and it’s all gone downhill since then. Places I’d never use it include wedding receptions, funerals, church services and other such places. It’s not the most useful of gifts and probably doesn’t serve me too well in the social scene, but I am proud of it nonetheless.”
“Ha! I learnt to burp on command–self taught–when I was 14, and taught my younger sister too as well, much to mum’s disgust. I like the squirrel in the children’s movie: Over the Hedge, his best line “I can burp my A B C’s!”
We smile. A grin borne of mutual discovery of the International Burp Society. Always good to find new members.
“Tell me, what is on your heart for others, do you have passion or a burden for something in particular?”
“Yip. I have a huge heart for unborn children. I care very deeply for them and it pains me greatly to see some of the things that happen to them. If you read my book, especially the last chapter of the second section, you’ll understand why.”
“I do understand.” I smile. “I’ll let the others read it first to find out for themselves. Rightio…. Seeing as self worth is something that I have a particular passion for, what is your view on self worth, and do you touch on this subject in your book at all?”
“Self worth in my life has been something that has been built up gradually as I have become stronger and more healed as the years have gone on. When I was in my darkest days, my sense of self worth was very low and I would allow people to get away with treating me as badly as they pleased because I was scared of what would happen to me if I didn’t. As I have become stronger emotionally due to getting well, my sense of self worth has drastically improved and I am now far more confident than ever before. Learning to believe in yourself and value yourself has been a slow journey for me. But I have seen amazing progress. I believe it is touched on in the book as I speak about how I began to be more assertive and confident once I had faced my fears and therefore banished them.”
“Glad to see you have found progress. Even better to have found it to be amazing.” I glance out the window to the dusty brown wheat paddocks and sigh. “You live in New Zealand, right? Tell us about your country…what are the 5 best things about it, and give us the 3 best places to visit there, and one thing to never do…”
“NZ is great! It’s green pretty much all year round (except for the time being as there’s been a drought due to a very long and hot summer), it’s not too populated, you’re never too far from a beach, the people are pretty decent (most of the time) and your accent makes you famous for Lord Of The Rings and Flight of the Conchords when you go overseas.”
“Yes, the famous accent…. We Aussies have a bit of that as well. But we don’t have LOTR to commend us.”
“Great places to visit – Taupo, Queenstown, most of the South Island in general. One thing never to do – jump off the 60 foot high bridge over McLaren Falls in Tauranga, not far from where I live. I didn’t have the guts to do it but a friend did and he reckoned he felt like he was falling for about 15 minutes. He says he had constant sinus pain due to water being shoved up his nose and apparently if you don’t clench, it can also go other unwelcome places. Not to mention people have died jumping off that bridge due to not hitting the water correctly. So yeah, don’t do that.”
I try to keep a straight face…and fail. Miserably. Hysterically. “I think I’ll give bridge jumping a miss then.”
I wipe tears and clear my throat. “So, to recap: we’ve been chatting with Graham Aitchison and his book, “No Way Out But Through”.”
No Way Out But Through is the written account of Graham Aitchison’s journey from mental illness to a true sense of clarity and peace. This book takes the reader through the darkest parts of Graham’s soul through the various tools and thinking methods he has used to help himself to heal and into a realm of insight that can only come through surviving the darkest parts of life itself.
“Yip. At the moment I’m only selling my 125 copies to folks in New Zealand as I haven’t yet been able to figure out PayPal, so for the time being you can either order the $2.99 self pub ebook version on Amazon or wait until May 7th when Amazon and several other sites launch the book worldwide.”
“Cool. Thank you for your time, and sharing your journey and insights into what is like to travel through depression, and most importantly, how there is light waiting for us on the other side.”
For a bit of fun, Graham has a video on his facebook page of himself playing guitar (rather well I must admit!). Link is here if you are interested. All the best, Graham, as you continue to speak truth and deal honestly with yourself. I read your book and quite enjoyed it. Yes, it’s very honest. But the best books always are.