This is an absolutely beautiful poem written by a fellow blogger, Wendy Strohm, inspired by the 12 steps. Enjoy!
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
This is Holy Week. For many Christians, it is a time of reflection and solemness about the amazing sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins. I will make it personal, since I know all of my readers are not Christian…I am reflective this week about the amazing sacrifice that Jesus paid for my sins. I respect other religions, but I know in my own life, that because I am not perfect, filled with shame and guilt about so many things, I just need a Savior. That’s just me. I didn’t know that I could have a real relationship with Jesus, or that He even wanted to have a real relationship with me until about two years ago. I didn’t even know what that meant, and it’s still very hard to explain. But the more I get to know who Jesus was, specifically through His word (The Bible), the more I love Him…and I not only Love Him, I just simply like the guy. I really wish more people knew the real person of Jesus…or at least would be willing to try.
I spend a lot of time with many people in 12 step groups who have been religiously abused, confused about their Higher Power, or have been let down by Christianity and religion for one reason or another. It saddens me because many of these people may never open their hearts to Jesus. Many people have this judgmental, overbearing view of God and they want to be free of that. Any mention of Jesus or God is a joke for them. They want to know where in the world was this Jesus when they were going through their challenges? This is understandable. The God they know demands perfection and imposes severe punishment for being bad. But the Truth is that the heart of Jesus is compassionate, loving and pure. Sure, we all strive to do the best that we can, and make good decisions, but we all miss the mark. There are consequences for our actions, but not necessarily punishments. I have learned that God loves me no matter who I am or what I was, or who I will become. Perhaps it’s explained better by Henry Halley:
“Walking with God does not mean that we are without sin. We have sinned in the past, and we still have sin in our nature. It is not by virtue of our sinlessness that we have fellowship, a relationship, with God, but because of Christ’s death for our sin.”
I had this discussion with some fellow 12 steppers last summer at a 12 step conference I attended. Many of my fellow travelers believe in a Higher Power, but confessed their disgust with religion…specifically Christianity. Their personal journeys have put them in contact with Christians that have judged them and condemned them without mercy. I literally “laughed out loud” when one of my fellow travelers told me,
This one Christian was coming down on me so hard for some stuff I did that I finally told the person, “Look, don’t you know that Jesus hung out with hookers??!!”
Of course this person was referring to Jesus’ friendship with Mary Magdalene. Perhaps I wouldn’t have used that choice of words, but I could totally understand what my fellow traveler was saying. The real person of Jesus was compassionate and loving to those who society did not deem worthy of compassion and love.
And that’s just the kind of Christian I want to be.
Halley, Henry H. (2008-09-09). Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version (Kindle Locations 13839-13840). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
By the way, I almost titled this post, “Jesus Hung Out With Hookers,” but I’m too much of a wimp! <3
Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. -Miguel Angel Ruiz
I am just recovering from a bad cold and sinus infection. There were lots of things on my mind to write, but I couldn’t manage to make it to the computer to type it up. I really hate being sick. I know, I know, who likes being sick? But for a person that is already super hard on herself and extremely judgmental, when I’m sick, I’m even more hard on myself and judgmental. Lots of negative self-talk going on last week. Lots of emotional inebriation. However, I am grateful that however bad I thought things were last week, they were not as bad as they have been in the past.
I’m celebrating two years in emotional 12-step recovery this month, and its probably fitting that I had this experience of sickness and then reflection about my emotional and spiritual journey. It’s no secret as to the 12 step fellowships that I belong, Codependents Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics. I have no shame about this. These programs have changed my life in so many ways. They have opened my heart up to receive so much love and healing. They have given me so much better perspective for my past and hope for my future. Working these programs has been tricky though. When you are recovering from a substance, you stay away from that substance. But how in the world do you measure emotional recovery? I’m not saying one is easier than the other, but I think that in both cases, you just have to keep showing up…or in recovery language: keep coming back.
There is still so much I don’t understand about my life, but the great thing about being in 12 step recovery is that I know I have a life. That I’m not just some feather floating in the wind. That I belong here and have a purpose here. Whatever that purpose may be.
I may never understand everything fully. But I know there is a Higher Power who Loves me and understands it all.
12 Step recovery has also taught me that it’s okay to have days when you’re sick and can’t do everything. It’s okay to take care of myself. I still need practice on not judging myself and being hard on myself, but 12 step has also taught me “progress not perfection.”
Nothing is perfect, not even recovery. There are lots of rules and guidelines; however, how we heal is ultimately up to us. There are people and trusted counselors and friends that can give us advice along the way, but our emotional recovery is all about us and what we feel is right. We must trust ourselves in this process.
I have been reflective about the concept of Forgiveness…
Shortly after my father passed away, toward the end of 2003, I dated a guy that was verbally abusive. I dated this guy for about 6 months until I finally couldn’t take it anymore. As I looked back on the relationship, I’m not even sure why I was in a relationship with this guy. I wasn’t really attracted to him, he had a superior attitude, very critical, overbearing, and then of course there was the verbal abuse. At the time, it just seemed like the thing to do. Everyone else was getting hooked up or entering into new relationships, and I didn’t want to be the odd woman out. I wanted what everyone else looked like they were getting. And he was the only guy that was paying me any attention at the time. Also, after grieving the loss of my father, I really craved a connection with a man.
We argued a lot. He called me names, including the “b” word and called me stupid on more than one occasion. But I think the thing that stuck with me the most was a statement he made to me one night when he calmly said,
I am a saint to be with you. You are lucky to have me. No one else would want to put up with you. No other man would want to deal with you.
I eventually strummed up enough self love to realize I did not want to be in a relationship with him anymore and I broke things off after 6 months of abuse. Of course I got a verbal lashing for that, but inherently, I’m not sure if I knew that the awful things he said to me were lies. Consequently, severe psychological damage had been done.
The idea that no man would ever want to “deal with me” often rang into my head many years later.
Through my emotional work, I have begun to erase the negative messages this man spoke into my life. It’s not easy. And I never thought about forgiveness…until recently.
I often wondered what happened to the guy. He had reached out to me about 7 years ago by sending me an e-mail telling me that he was married and how great life was for him now, and what was I up to? I didn’t respond. The mention of his name still made me (and my family) cringe. I also couldn’t bear the thought that this jerk had found love and I still had not.
But recently there was a night I couldn’t sleep and I got this divine prompting to Google him. It was a test to my strength, I thought. I can handle whatever I found, if he was somewhere living the life with his wife and 3 kids, making lots of money, etc., I could handle it. That was his path. I have my own path. I can deal with whatever I find…
Turns out he wasn’t living the life at all. Turns out, he died nearly 5 years ago.
Now I don’t wish death on anyone, but there was something cleansing for me knowing that this man who had held so much power over my emotional life was no longer living. It was even more interesting how I had let someone have such power over me who was not even alive!
I’m sure you were probably wondering why I referred to my Google search as a “divine prompting.” I think it goes with a prayer I recently prayed to God to remove any “blockages” that will stand in my way of receiving the love I deserve. I needed to know that this person who had emotionally blocked me from receiving love…specifically receiving love from myself through his negative words was no longer a factor…literally and figuratively. And now that I knew this, I could forgive him…and let those lies he told me go.
God gave me a gentle nudge toward forgiveness, not to benefit the guy (because he’s dead). But the benefit is all mine.
“We’re even entitled to opinions! And yes, we do have some of those. We can think appropriately and rationally. We even have the power to evaluate ourselves and our thoughts, so we can correct our thinking when it becomes disastrous or irrational.” -Melody Beattie, Codependent No More
Everyone knows not to care about what other people think right? It’s common knowledge to go with our own heart without listening to the opinions of others. We all know to do this, don’t we?
Well, we may know to follow our own heart, but can we all truly say that we do it all the time and in all areas of our lives? Can we truly say that the opinions of others have no bearing on the things we do and the decisions we make?
I know I can’t. There is a small part of me (it’s getting smaller and smaller) that wants to people-please and that wants people to like me. I want people’s opinions to be favorable, I want people to understand and validate the decisions I make. With that being said, as I was petting my cat Samson a few days ago, as he used me as a pillow, constricting my air supply, I began to reflect on an opinion someone had of me several years ago…
Before I became a cat mama, I lived alone and I thought that perhaps getting a cat may be a good idea. I was lonely and longed for some kind of connection. I had never been an “animal person,” but I figured cats were pretty self sufficient. I told a then “friend” my intentions. She told me that she didn’t think it was a good idea.
Cats are self sufficient, but they still take a lot of work. You have to clean their litter boxes daily, feed them, clean up after them. I’ve seen how you keep house. You don’t do laundry on a regular basis. I just don’t think you’re ready for that kind of responsibility.
So basically, my “friend” was telling me that I couldn’t be a cat mama because I was not June Cleaver. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but my “friend” made a judgment about me based on what she saw externally. Not based upon what was going on in my heart.
This won’t be a long post. For those of you who know me, the rest is history. My Samson kitty kind of fell into my life and changed my life. Nearly 10 years later, he means the world to me. He has inspired my doctoral work. And I have taken good care of him, and he has taken good care of me. All of this despite my shortcomings in the housework arena.
The bottom line: Samson is still in my life. That “friend” is not.
Value people’s opinions that have earned the right to speak truth into your life, but always go with your own heart.
Conceptually, I understand the principal behind positive thinking, positive affirmations, or “re-framing” the negative thoughts or labels I make about myself. I understand this. It makes sense.
Putting it into practice is a different story.
Last weekend I attended a local 12 Step Conference where the topic was “healthy communication.” I’m thinking, this is cool. This will give me tools on how to communicate healthier with my mom, my friends, colleagues, and even people I don’t like. Maybe I will learn how to communicate with my future special guy. Hell, maybe this conference will even give me tools on better communication with the cat. But in the expectations of the things I would learn about communicating with others, there was one very important person I left out of the equation.
Healthy communication with myself has to be a priority. Now I’m not talking about sitting around talking to myself (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but I admit to calling myself names, I admit to being hard on myself, I admit to being negative to myself more often than I give myself praise and admiration.
This is something that needs work in my life. But specifically what I learned this weekend is that negative self-talk is a nasty cyclical process. I realized that the reason I usually speak negative words into my own life is because they are a defense mechanism. I’m going to call myself something negative before you get the chance to. If I do it, this will lessen the blow because I believe you believe that about me anyway. For example, if I believe I’ve done something stupid, I’m more prone to say I am so stupid before you get a chance to say to me, that was so stupid. This hurts less, right?
Wrong. Because as soon as I put that negative word or concept about myself out into the Universe, the more likely people are going to treat me that way. Then, I’m going to get mad at you for treating me that way even though I just claimed the negativity. And then the process starts itself all over again.
I love the awareness I have about this now. I’ve never been one to speak empty affirmations or lie to myself about the way I feel. Especially now that I know that feeling feelings are okay. But now that I see the practical effects of speaking positive thoughts into my life, I’m going to try and be more conscious of what comes out of my mouth…specifically about myself.
My challenge comes with quickly re-framing the thoughts. Yesterday, something negative came out of my mouth before I could even catch it. Luckily, I have friends that quickly correct me if I don’t do it first. The negative thoughts about myself are going to come up, but I have to learn how to catch the thoughts and transform them into TRUTH.
And here is a bonus. What is that TRUTH? It’s the way God sees me: wonderful, beautiful, and loved.
I came across this book called, Perfect Daughters: Adult Daughters of Alcoholics about a year and a half ago…towards the beginning of my recovery. It’s a book that has been around for awhile and is written by Dr. Robert J. Ackerman. I thought the subject as well as the title was fascinating. The author explores the Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACA) phenomenon from the female perspective…or the perspective of being an adult daughter. In my own experience, one of the aspects of being an “adult daughter” is this need to be perfect while simultaneously feeling inadequate. So the book’s title and subject matter was very appropriate for me in my life.
Although the book was obviously appropriate for my journey, I chose to purchase it and bury it deep down on my Kindle reading list. I wasn’t ready for it in the beginning of my 12 step recovery. I had a feeling that the level of connection that I would feel with the author’s research and conclusions would be too much for me to handle in the beginning of my recovery.
I would later find out that I was right…
I recently dusted off the electronic spider webs on the book, thinking that I was much stronger in my own emotional healing and recovery, and thinking that I could handle the book now. I figured I could handle the possible emotional unraveling from the possible spiritual breakthroughs I would have while reading this book now. So I began reading the book a couple of months ago.
It turns out that I could handle it, I just wasn’t expecting the level of emotional baggage I still had to work through. Some parts of this book had me in tears. Other parts brought up deeper discussions in my therapist’s office.
I wasn’t prepared for anything new. I mean, I know that I am an adult daughter. There are certain character traits that I have because of that experience. I mean, an adult child is an adult child. How different could the experience be from the perspective of being an adult daughter? I have exhausted all of the perspectives of that experience…right?
“No experience is ever finished or exhausted. New and fresh meanings are forever in the world and in us.” -Clark Moustakas (1995)
The book, Perfect Daughters is more than an “understanding of the reasons why I am the way I am” kind of book. This book goes beyond that in explaining the reasons why, showing us (adult daughters) the positive sides of our adult daughter characteristics, and giving us hope for the integration of those traits in recovery.
With that being said, there are several “gems” that I found in this book (from my own perspective):
- The fact that this book is written by a male author. For me, the fact that my father was the alcoholic and I received most of the affection growing up from my mom, knowing that many of the loving and affectionate messages in this book were written by a man was very soothing and healing for me. For example, in the chapter on relationships, Ackerman writes, “Your quest for a healthy relationship and being in a positive relationship must always come in addition to your health and not be a substitute for it…Take care of yourself and have a positive relationship with yourself. You deserve it.” ’You deserve it.’ There is something emotionally healing for me in knowing this statement…saying that I am deserving…was written by a man.
- The concept of Longing. Ackerman opened up my eyes to this concept of “Longing” from the adult daughter-alcoholic father perspective. He writes, “…alcoholic fathers usually created ‘longing’ in their daughters. Longing is a plea to be accepted and loved. Longing is a hunger, an emotional need that is not met. Above all though, longing is not love.” This concept resonated with me so profoundly. For me, “longing” is a familiar feeling. Until I read this, I’m not sure if I realized there was any other way…especially in relationships. I think I equated the longing with love, all the while thinking that the “longing” was really all there is.
Other positives of this book are:
- The chapter on relationships.
- The separation of the adult daughter phenomenon between adult daughters-alcoholic fathers and adult daughters-alcoholic mothers.
- The integration of the seemingly negative traits (or weaknesses) of being an adult child into strengths or positive traits.
- Ackerman’s use of the “mixed methods” approach to research gives a more holistic view of the phenomenon.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you are a woman and identify with the adult child experience. You can find this book on Amazon.com.
Ackerman also wrote a book called Silent Sons: A Book for and about Men that tackles similar subject matters from a male perspective.
Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent. -Sigmund Freud
If you want to know a way to make me really upset, simply respond to any challenge or problem that I’m having with one of these phrases (or something like it):
But everybody has that problem.
We all have that issue.
Everyone thinks that way.
Although this response usually comes from well-meaning friends and family, it triggers something within me. What I realized is that it triggers a “normalcy” wound. I will explain more about my “normalcy wound” in a bit.
When I first started my recovery from codependency and my recovery from being an adult child of an alcoholic, I read a book called The Complete ACOA Sourcebook: Adult Children of Alcoholics At Home, At Work, and In Love by Janet Woititz. The book is a research-based compilation of literature about the ACA phenomenon, and literally talks about the “source” of dysfunction for children of alcoholics and applies the understanding of that dysfunction to our adult lives today. For me, reading this book gave me a sense of “normalcy,” in understanding the possible foundation for the way I am today, instead of just labeling myself as “crazy.” As a result of her research, Dr. Woititz describes several characteristics of adult children of alcoholics that are most likely “carryovers” from childhood. The first characteristic struck me like a bolt of lightening:
“Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal is.”
Growing up, I had no idea of what “normal” was. And to some point, I struggle with knowing what it is now. This is why responding to me in a way that “normalizes” my challenge or issue means nothing to me. It triggers my “normalcy wound.” In some cases, it feels a bit dismissive and minimizes my pain.
Of course, for the most part, the intentions of people that respond to me this way are not hurtful. They are just trying to make me feel better in my pain. The assumption is that if you know you are not alone in your pain, things will be better. Or if you know that someone else has it worse than you, then you won’t feel so bad. And knowing this should make me feel better, right? But the truth is that I have compassion and empathy for other people’s pain, and for other people’s stories, but in the end, being aware of another person’s pain, does nothing to soothe my own pain. My pain is still there. And until I deal with it, it will be there.
But on some level, I may need this type of “trigger” in order to deal with what is going on in my mind and to feel my feelings about normalcy. But what exactly are those feelings?
I believe that we are all unique and all have “unique” paths on this earth. We are all special. If we are breathing, I believe that is proof of our Higher Power’s Love for us and that we have a purpose here. I didn’t always believe that. There have been times in my life where I thought I was an accident. The problem with the word “unique,” is that it can also have a negative connotation. It can mean separate, peculiar, different…alone. This negative connotation of the word unique is how I felt growing up because of the dysfunction that was going on in my home.
Go ahead and say it…But every home has some dysfunction.
Yes, conceptually, now I know this. But emotionally, I had no clue.
I met very few people who were open about the dysfunction in their own homes, so I assumed that the only one who had these issues was me. Magical thinking. As a child, how else was I supposed to make sense of the world I lived in? So I dissociated into a fantasy world using television, soap operas, and other things to define what “normal” was.
I know, I know, you wanna say it…but most children do this.
However, I would like to think that at some point, “most” children let this go. This understanding of “normal” stuck with me, probably until I entered recovery.
So this month, I decided I will explore the topic of “normalcy” or being “normal.” Dr. Woititz says that the adult child of an alcoholic must come to terms with the fact that,
“Normal is a myth, like Santa Claus and The Brady Bunch.”
I want to feel “unique” in a good way, without minimizing my own “unique” experience. Normal…not normal. How exactly do I get there??
**Don’t forget to follow Words of CCK on Facebook! I will see you there!
I am a mom to two kids. First, I am a mom to my Samson kitty. And second, I am a mom to my own inner child. This “child” lives within me. She is the little girl that I once denied, but now welcome and nurture with open arms. I am now a parent to her the way I would be to any child. She is the sweet little girl that I protect when the world wants to harm her.
Sometimes my inner child gets sad, and the world tells her to suck it up, grow up, and get over it. The world tells her that she is weak and too sensitive. The world tells her that her vulnerability is not okay. But it’s my job to tell her that it is okay. That her feelings, whatever they are…are okay. It is my job to assure her that she can be as sad as she wants and to take as much time as she needs to cry her tears of healing. When my inner child is hurting, it matters to me. I give her a hug and tell her she is strong. I tell her that she is beautiful. I tell her that I love her and that I will never leave her…
I read a lovely affirmation today that prompted the words above. I wanted to share it with you. May it give you the courage to embrace your own inner child, no matter what he/she is going through…
My inner child heals through grieving. Today I will accept my inner child’s sadness. Occasional bouts of melancholy are my inner child’s way of healing through grieving. I will not fear this feeling when it comes; I may cry, for tears often cleanse the soul of its residue of sadness. As an adult child, I may always feel a lingering depression. There may always be a “hole” inside me that nothing can quite fill. Maturity means coming to accept life on its own terms— even if that entails learning to live with a sense of loss—without concluding that there’s something “wrong” with me. The child within me was told that sadness was unacceptable. Today I will allow [her] the freedom to feel sad. As [she] grieves, I will love and comfort [her]. Despite the losses of yesterday, this day glistens before me with all the rich hues of hope and promise. -Rokelle Lerner
Quotation source: Lerner, Rokelle (2010-01-01). Affirmations for the Inner Child (p. 231). Health Communications. Kindle Edition.
***If you are unsure of what your “inner child” is, then this post may not be for you. Connecting with your inner child is truly life changing. If you want to know more about the child within, and about healing the child within, send me a message, or comment on this post and I can recommend some great books for you to read.
After calming down from the anger over my singleness, I want to take some kind of action. I want some control back! Well, wanting control back would make the assumption that I ever really had “control” over this single thing in the first place.
But actually, the bargaining stage of grief is where I want to fight against having no control over the external. In death losses, it is where most people bargain with God to have their loved one back. It is where the if only, shoulda, woulda, coulda statements begin to surface. Guilt is prevalent in this stage. In non-death losses, this is where we usually begin to obsess over the different choices we could have made to make the outcome more desirable.
But I have found that the bargaining stage in my grief over being single is where my inadequacy wounds rear their ugly little heads. (For those who read my last essay, it’s where Gazoo is the most loudest). I start to tell myself the following…
I am single because there is inherently something wrong with me…
I am single because there is something grossly unattractive about me…
So of course if statements like these are true, I need to somehow change myself to not be who I am. Because the reason that I am single is because who I am is not good enough.
If I were prettier, taller, thinner, more eccentric, had better credit, more accomplishments, richer, lived in a different neighborhood, had money, came from a different family, didn’t live with my mom, didn’t work a 12-step program or had less emotional issues, perhaps, maybe, possibly…I wouldn’t be single.
I am bargaining with God for me to be someone I’m not…for me to be someone else, and this in turn will bring me a mate.
The bargaining stage of grief is very active; however, it can be sneaky. Most of the time, I don’t even know I’m bargaining until I’m sitting around wishing that there was something about me that was different.
Or, I start comparing or downgrading my own value or belief that I am a good catch. As Melody Beattie puts it:
“The magic is in others, not us, we believe. The good feelings are in them, not us. The less good stuff we find in ourselves, the more we seek it in others. They have it all; we have nothing. Our existence is not important. We have been abandoned and neglected so often that we also abandon ourselves.” -Codependent No More
At this point of the grieving process, I start to believe that healthy, beautiful relationships are for others, and not for me. I start to believe that true romantic intimacy will forever avoid me.
I stop accepting myself as I am and start thinking that being someone else will bring me an acceptable mate.
But as I let myself feel this stuff, as I let all this junk come up and come out, my thinking begins to shift. And I say to myself,
Why should I ever have to sacrifice (bargain) my authenticity in return for any kind of human connection?
Why would I even want to?
I really do like who I Am. Who I Am is no longer for sale.