Friday, March 21, 2008

The storm is almost gone

The storm is almost gone,
the storm is almost gone;
I can see the sun peeping through the clouds,
the storm is almost gone.

Dorothy Norwood sang these beautiful words of hope and today I felt them. The storm that has surrounded my life over these past few years as the forces that had been laying in my underneath emerged to mix with the person who was living on the surface has been turbulent. At times I have fought when it would have been easier to go with the current, and at times I have floated along when I could have been paddling. But by God's grace I have survived against all odds. And at last I can see the sun peeping through the clouds ... the storm is almost gone.

This morning I woke up and like my mother and her mother before her, I began to sing. I can't even remember what it was I sang ... but I sang to fill my heart with joy, and to fill my home with the sound of myself. My grandma used to sing the old southern hymns as she walked around her house and she taught me how to do the same. It's a way of soothing myself and remind myself of innocent days, and roots that run deep.

Over the past month, I've been amazed at what God has done in my life, and I have been humbled beyond words. I have felt happiness, longing and temptation for someone I genuinely care for, but I have been able to use reality and responsibility to reach a decision that did not involve me ruining my recovery, and the hard-earned blessings of my friend's life. There was pain and uncertainty, but I was willing to accept it as a small price to pay for the rewards of knowing that at last my life is being lead, not by my disease, but by a power greater than I could ever be. I was thankful to know beyond all doubt that God was taking care of me and those I loved. For so long, I have been hopeless and scared. I am no longer hopeless and I have learned through many experiences -- not the least of which this last one -- that faith and perserverance are the things that help me become willing to walk through the fire and reap the rewards of a genuine life.

Anyone who knows me can attest that I am not a religious person. But I have a deep sense of spirituality, one that has grown as a result of my participation in the 12-step programs. As I have seen the God of my understanding do for me what I could not do for myself ... the doubts of what can be accomplished in my life, and the expectations of what must happen have gradually lifted.

As I have peeled the layers of the onion off I have a whole new sense and understanding of the first three steps of recovery.

1. We admitted we were powerless over (sex, love, food, controlling others), that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

There's nothing there that says I'll never act out again, that I'll never develop feelings for someone who is not available, that I'll have a perfect marriage, that I won't buy a full-size bag of M&Ms and eat the whole thing. It simply says that in the course of life, I admitted to myself that I really was powerless over these "substances" that I have used to numb myself and that not showing up in the present has turned my life upside down and inside out. It says that in the course of that same life I came to believe that something bigger than me could help me get my life back on track and that I had reached a decision to stop fighting against what I could not conquer and hold up my hands and say, "I surrender." There is more to the steps than this, more work to be done, and continued maintenance. But, just for today, I am thankful to be at this point where surrender is mine for the giving.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I have decided to take a short hiatus from writing here. While in times past there have been times I have simply not posted anything, this is a conscious choice to take a break from writing. I need some quiet time and need to spend some time with my life.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The gift of our stories

Over the past couple of months, I have felt a lot of emotional shifts taking place in my life, as if some flood gates of awareness are opening up for me. I find that acceptance is becoming more and more a part of my life and my ability to see reality in new and different ways is helping tremendously. During this past week's therapy session I was able to recognize and accept that when my mother slept with my biological father during a brief encounter during their 10 year separation and I was conceived, she was using sex as a way to lure him back into her life to save her from the destitution of trying to raise three children, including two teenagers, on her own. I was also able to acknowledge that my biological father (who I have never had a relationship with and only first spoke to last year at my brother's funeral) was her only concept of what a family could be. They had been raised up in a very, very small mountain town, married when they were still in their teens, and gone on to start and raise a family. I have no doubt that my mother loved him dearly -- but he left the "smallness" of the world, joined the military, got a job driving a truck, and found someone else to love. He moved on, my mother stayed still. I can accept them both for their humanness. And while I had reached some of these conclusions about my biological father a few years ago ... it is only recently that I could begin to recognize that my mother wasn't a martyr who was left and abandoned and saved us all. She was a good woman, who suffered a lot of emotional pain, who knew that her daughter was being sexually abused and did not take the steps to stop it because she was afraid, but that my role in her life was only one part of her whole existence. Today, I can accept that she too had a life and a story and feelings and struggles and that each of my siblings have had their lives affected by our parents, their separation, their divorce and my mother remarrying my abusive stepfather.

A precious friend of mine recently shared some details of a very painful past with me. They were details that despite a year of close conversations, I never took the time to ask for, but that I was very moved by once I heard them. I could feel my heart break and tears flowed as I felt the pain of someone I cared for so dearly. I felt I knew him not as my friend, but as a human being, so much better. A few weeks ago a young woman who is still struggling to find her way into a recovery program shared her story with me. It too was heart-wrenching and filled with moments that made me want to reach out and take the hurt little child inside her and rock it gently to sleep, giving her a reprieve from the pain. I am honored and humbled to have two wonderful sponsees who share their stories with me and give me a broader vision of this disease and of this life. Their stories are sad and beautiful and uniquely theirs.

Each of us has our story that continues to develop one day at a time. I've been so wrapped up in my story and how it has affected me and shaped me, stuck in a world where everything about everything was all about me, all the while feeling like me wasn't worth the life it was wrapped in. I haven't honored my story as one of many, and I haven't honored the stories of others as being one of a kind, special and unique.

I'm thankful for this gift of a spiritual awakening, an opening of my eyes to the people and the world around me. And I'm thankful especially this week for my friend EC for being with me and opening me up in a way I have not been opened ever.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What to confess?

What is it I need to bring to this confessional today?

Is it that I am feeling growing feelings of love for someone who is not my husband? That I feel like I have to acknowledge these feelings, hold them up in the light, express them, make mistakes, have victories, be cared for, and feel every feeling that arises in order to come out on the other side of this journey I've been on for so long.

Is it that I feel scared that I'm fooling myself and that my addict has taken over and is trying to ruin an incredible friendship that has carried me through this past year, probably the roughest year yet in my self-discovery?

Is it that I feel utterly ashamed that I am 40 years old and I haven't a clue what healthy boundaries are within the confines of an adult relationship? Or is it that the shame that I'm really feeling is that I crossed those boundaries and feel like a dirty, filthy, nasty, bad person who has degraded herself because she doesn't know another way to express herself?

Maybe it is that I am grateful to be feeling all of these feelings -- elation, intimacy, shame, guilt, pain, fear, confusion -- all feelings I know I have to feel in order to survive and stop living in darkness. And I'm thankful to have someone in my life, for the first time ever, who is strong enough in himself to let me feel without taking those feelings away.

Maybe it is that I have the urge to act out with some semi-anonymous partner to make all the bad feelings, maybe even some of the good ones, go away, because I'm not sure what to do with them. Yet, still thankful that I have the presence of mind to know that acting out will only delay my opportunity to take those last steps out into the glaring light that is a true and authentic life. I know that acting out is not the answer ... and I know I have the choice to cut myself from all of these miraculous things that are going on in my life or to walk through the fire, no matter what the uncertainty.

Maybe it is that I'm feeling guilty that all of this is about me, when there's another person who is also struggling to understand his own feelings, also unsure of what to do with these feelings of closeness we have found in our friendship, insecure in his own ways, facing his own demons. Maybe even guilty that I'm not strong enough to let him feel his feelings without wanting to make everything OK. Maybe even deeper is a feeling that loving me is a dangerous and degrading way to live.

Maybe I just needed a place where I could be quiet for a while. My place. This place. A place to think with greater clarity, so that I could lift up my head and walk out into the light and face the world today knowing that I am OK.

Thanks for listening.