HEALING SPIRITUAL WOUNDS, RAISING ONES VOICE, & TEALESS TEA
Several months ago, over breakfast with a fellow adult child of an alcoholic, I recommended a book which helped me. I said something about it being a difficult read and that she might need a recovery counselor to help her through it. She said:
That’s just it. I’m the victim here. Why should I have to do all the work? She’s the one who hurt me, she’s the one who has the problem, she’s the one who needs to do the work. She’s the one who has to fix me.
The logic in her perspective makes me cry because it’s valid yet completely illogical.
Recovery is a process, we don’t have all the answers all at once. So, when she said this to me, I could only shrug. But if we had this conversation today, I would say:
Let me be blunt. Create whatever scenario you’d like, then imagine someone shot you. *bang*
There you are on the ground wounded and bleeding.
Got the visual? Good. Now zoom out and see the situation through the lens of reality. The person who shot you is NOT the one who’ll provide emergency medical care and save your life. Even if shooting you was an accident.
That’s the thing with children of alcoholics or other addictive personalities — no one sets out to raise their children in addiction, it’s always an accident. Addiction is that powerful.
But, thank the good Lord above, recovery is just as powerful. Recovery is the only thing that will conquer addiction. But the battle, man. The battle rages for years sometimes. Even when the thing you want most in life is to be normal, to be professional, to not mess up your friendships with your “issues.”
And then, long about year four, (Year four, dammit! *sigh*) words are shared, understanding dawns, and then someone prays for you on a mountain top and he speaks Truth, and he speaks for the group, and he speaks acceptance, love, and support. And you go back to your seat weeping with gratitude and suddenly your friend is next to you. And she hugs you. And you hug her and you pat her shoulders to say, thanks, I got it. But she won’t let go. And you giggle a little and hug tighter and then indicate again, thanks, I got it. But she won’t let go. And you realize she’s hugging you like a mama hugs her child. And so, you rest your head on her bosom and let yourself be hugged. And your shattered heart opens up to healing and the missing pieces begin to come home.
My friend told me later she had received a message from Above that she should hug me until the end of the song. No matter what. That was her assignment.
See, you can’t do recovery without friends. And you certainly can’t do recovery without Jesus Christ, a.k.a. your Higher Power.
At this point, especially if you are my regular dearworthy readers, you can pretty much tell that my assignment from God is to bare my soul for those who are in crisis but don’t know why or what to do about it.
A good first step is determining if you are an Adult Child of an Alcoholic or other addictive personality:
Adult Children of Alcoholics
Are you an adult child of an alcoholic? Following are fourteen questions you may find relevant to your life and personality.
1. Do I often feel isolated and afraid of people, especially authority figures?
2. Have I observed myself to be an approval seeker, losing my own identity in the process?
3. Do I feel overly frightened of angry people and personal criticism?
4. Do I often feel I’m a victim in personal and career relationships?
5. Do I sometimes feel I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, which makes it easier to be concerned with others rather than myself?
6. Do I find it hard to look at my own faults and my own responsibility to myself?
7. Do I get guilt feelings when I stand up for myself instead of giving in to others?
8. Do I feel addicted to excitement?
9. Do I confuse love with pity and tend to love people I can pity and rescue?
10. Do I find it hard to feel or express feelings, including feelings such as joy or happiness?
11. Do I find I judge myself harshly?
12. Do I have a low sense of self-esteem?
13. Do I often feel abandoned in the course of my relationships?
14. Do I tend to be a reactor, instead of an actor?
– CODEPENDENT NO MORE: HOW TO STOP CONTROLLING OTHERS AND START CARING FOR YOURSELF, by Melody Beattie
I’ve answered yes to about 10 of the above questions. My addiction is codependency. I don’t understand codependency enough to blog about it yet. But, I’m determined to make it so in the future. Codependency shows up in a variety of ways, it’s also so similar to normal behavior that it’s difficult to recognize. It’s basically normal behavior ratcheted up a bazillion. Or something. Still processing . . .
I’ve been working on recalibrating my reality and adjusting my habits and characteristics. It’s doable.
Also, I learned that my form of codependency has a lot to do with not understanding the difference between codependency and love. One of the symptoms of this misunderstanding is that I love too much. *sigh* I know, it’s weird. But, alas.
I have a recovery counselor and I’m taking my baby steps. Research and writing helps me, too. A great deal, by the way. A great deal.
Speaking of steps, here are the Twelve Steps that can be applied to all forms of addiction:
The Twelve Steps of A.A.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Mad a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having a spiritual awakening as the results of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
— Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book
Looking back, I see that my spiritual journey through the recovery process has me dealing with items on both lists somewhat randomly. Or perhaps it’s not random. Perhaps my Jesus gives me what I need when I need it so that I can do the next thing I need to do.
For example, in the month of December, without setting out to do so, I’ve conquered my fear of authority figures. I had an interaction with a police officer at the beach and several interactions with a bishop on the mountain top in which I understood deep in my core that I’m not beneath their contempt. I am, in fact, worthy of their “blessings,” because I am a blessing in the world.
Let me just say here that when you are an adult child of an alcoholic, you can know that things should be a certain way in life, but still not feel it at your core level because dysfunction was programmed into you during childhood. So, what happened between me and these authority figures looks like no big deal, as in, normal everyday behavior for them. But, zoom into “understood deep in my core,” because that’s where the miracle occurred.
Jesus is telling me, it’s time now. It’s time now to clear my throat and say what I need to say. Maybe someday I’ll have the strength and the opportunity to say these things out loud, perhaps in a roomful of people who need to hear it. Until then, this is me using my voice:
Dear Episcopal Church:
I get how much you understand that alcoholism is a disease and that your clergy who suffer need care, guidance, and acceptance, usually in the form of an all-expense-paid time at rehab and a return to their church positions. I get that this is a good thing.
However, what about the rest of us? When you send a parish’s alcoholic rector to rehab, or to put in another way, when you send our church family’s dysfunctional parent away, you can’t leave us alone. We are like children, and we hurt. Not all of us, obviously. But, certainly those of us who have had alcoholism in our past and worked closely with the rector either as an employee or volunteer for over a decade and didn’t recognize he was an alcoholic because he functioned for a long while and he generally acted just like our parent, so we couldn’t tell that his behavior wasn’t normal.
Ouch, man. I mean, OUCH.
For God’s sake, send us a recovery counselor for one Sunday school class. Just one in which we are told that if you are suffering from these __________ symptoms, you probably have had to deal with addiction in your past. Therefore, the rector’s addictive behavior has affected you more than most other people. Here’s some _____________ information and steps you can take to begin the healing process.
That’s it. That’s all it would have taken to have saved a bunch of people from a bunch of hurting. I pray you implement this policy ASAP.
With great esteem and respect,
Maria Virginia Ross
Speaking of helpful information, Carol Howard Merritt has written an excellent book called, HEALING SPIRITUAL WOUNDS: RECONNECTING WITH A LOVING GOD AFTER EXPERIENCING A HURTFUL CHURCH. It’s perfect for a Sunday school class to work through together — good stories, excellent advice, and helpful exercises to do and discuss at the end of each chapter. I highly recommend it!
The thing that fascinated me the most was how much of her advice I had already learned on my own journey and implemented as part of my process. Carol’s journey is different than mine, but there’s a similarity to all spiritual journeys because Someone is guiding our steps. I call Him “Jesus, Father, or Holy Spirit,” depending on the situation. You can call your Higher Power anything you want. Many people refer to God as “She.”
For me, however, the divine feminine is Blessed Mother Mary. She’s not a deity, nor do we worship her. She’s the mother of the Son, the daughter of the Father, and is infused with the Holy Spirit. Her soul entwined with God’s forever. Therefore, she will always be the Mama whose bosom we can lay our head on in time of need. And though her, God comforts us.
Here is the perfect recipe for an over-worked voice:
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
Stir it all up and slurp away.
Option: Add a teabag if you want. Whatever, man.