Man in the Maze

Addiction and The Man In the Maze

The Man in the Maze
The Man in the Maze

“What’s that?” I asked Lehi Sanchez, pointing the large, silver ring on his index finger. Lehi is a talented artist and a Native American of Navajo descent.

“This?” he pulled off the ring and handed it to me. “It’s ‘the man in the maze,’ a Native American symbol commonly found in Southwest Arizona. It’s a symbol that reminds us that life is a maze and that we are wanderers just trying to find our way.”

I stared at the ring for a while, letting the symbol sink in. As soon as I came home, I started researching “The Man in the Maze.” The story behind the symbol is beautiful.

The Man in the Maze symbol originates from the Tohono O’odham natives. According to their oral history, “the labyrinth design depicts experiences and choices we make in our journey through life. In the middle of the “maze”, a person finds their dreams and goals. When we reach the center, we have one final opportunity (the last turn in the design) to look back upon our choices and path, before the Sun God greets us, blesses us, and passes us into the next world” (Source: I’itoi).

I’ve thought a lot about the Man in the Maze symbol since Lehi showed it to me. We are all on a journey through this maze of life. We are all searching for the center—the purpose or point of our unique journey.

Several years ago, my friend (who we’ll call ‘Nate’) found himself at a dead-end in his life. For years, he had made many poor choices, and had since become viciously and hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol.

"The Good Samaritan" - A modern interpretation by Liz Lemon Swindle. Used with permission.
“The Good Samaritan” – A modern interpretation by Liz Lemon Swindle. Used with permission.

After living on the streets for about a year, Nate was discovered by an old friend who instantly knew that Nate was at the end of his rope. The friend bought Nate some food and got him a room to stay for the night and get cleaned up. Nate said he walked into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. He realized that the man who looked back at him was not himself.

Right then and there, in the bathroom of an obscure hotel room, Nate poured his alcohol down the toilet and committed to moving forward.

Today, many years later (and after many mistakes followed by recommitments), Nate is happy to report not only his long-standing sobriety, but his dedication to helping others move forward.

Because our lives are filled with a labyrinth of choices, it is to be expected that we will make wrong turns and experience setbacks. In this, we must not despair or feel that we are trapped. The quickest way out is to readily admit our mistakes and embrace our experiences for what they can teach us. Doing so is the surest way to freedom and to gaining greater wisdom and strength in making future choices.

And undoubtedly, your decision to move forward will inspire countless others to do the same.

About the author

Seth Adam Smith

Seth Adam Smith is a best-selling, award-winning author and blogger whose writings have been translated into over thirty languages and featured on Huffington Post, Good Morning America, Fox News, CNN, the Today Show, and many other news outlets around the world.

A survivor of a suicide attempt in 2006, Seth is an advocate for resources and understanding concerning depression and suicide prevention and regularly writes about these topics in his books and on his blog. He recently finished "Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern," and is currently working on a series of historical novels set in Colonial America.

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  • We all have a journey to make and at times we will each need someone like Nate’s friend who will reach out, and keep reaching out to pull us up when we’re not strong enough to do so ourselves.

  • Thank you for sharing the Man in the Maze story. It speaks to all of us on life’s journey. I would like to use this symbol in my forthcoming book on midlife and loss. Did you receive permission from Native Americans to post the symbol on your blog? I would like to have permission to use the symbol.

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