Just after dinner last night, my Beau, his very wise 12-year-old daughter, and I discussed how some people grow up and become quite a bit like their parents and others grow up and are intentionally opposite. Then there are those that are a bit of both, consciously and subconsciously, which is where I see myself.
In growing up around addiction and alcoholism, I saw a lot. I experienced many things that no child should. I vowed that not only would I be different as an adult, but that my children would never go through what I went through. I mostly succeeded at both, but as any parent knows, there's failure to some degree also, but that’s an entirely different blog.
I have often joked about growing up in an “above average dysfunctional family” and I have to say that after 15 years in a professional career of metaphysics and healing soul trauma, I think dysfunction in the home and/or family is more often the norm. Walking literally hundreds of individuals to positive change through healing work, I believe that everyone navigates their background and conditioning differently.
In my case, by age 12 I was drinking. By age 14 I was in full blown escapism, aka addiction. I used any means possible to avoid feeling, which meant drugs, alcohol, working, boys, cars, speed skating, shopping, music, food and anything else that would assist in my never ending practice of avoiding any of the deep feelings I had no idea how to handle.
Granted, I was a very young, very unsupervised teen that was trying to figure out just how to get through any given day. And while I truly believed I was doing well, and by the standards given, I was, I was also really headed in a downward spiral that there was no way I could have seen coming, much less navigated.
After 8 years of ups and downs with this never-ending search for escape/comfort in any form, I grew to realize that the choices I was making were really harming me. My soul hurt. I was ashamed, filled with fear, and overall, just felt like I was lost. I really needed some positive change.
Between 18 and 20 years old I had moved from Colorado to Utah to California. Along the way there were many aspects of these two moves that could be considered the beginning of my journey to not only positive change, but deep healing. I was making an effort to improve my life and the only thing I knew then was that I needed a change of scenery. And powerfully, I learned that no matter where I go, there I am. Which leads me to a very stark turning point on February 3rd of 1988, in Sacramento, CA.
There’s many gory details about the night of February 2nd, 1988 that I will just summarize by saying I wasn’t in my right mind. As with many that blackout when they drink too much, I have a few glimpse memories of my behavior, but nothing clear. However, that Tuesday morning after is forever burned in my memory. I was badly hungover and without remembering any specifics, I was deeply aware that I had hurt people that I love. I attempted to apologize, barely able to even lift my eyes to look at them in the eye, and they only looked at me with disappointment, anger and disdain. They had trusted me and I let them down. I don’t remember at all what the behavior was, just those dark glimpses of being volatile and out of control; an unfortunate and all too frequent experience over the last few years of my teens.
This very uncomfortable morning, feeling deep shame, deep failure at being exactly who I was before my new scenery, I remember stepping outside onto our second-floor apartment patio and looking at the treetops and the sky and saying my first sincere prayer. “God, if you are real, I need help.”
I had no idea what God was. I had grown up with a Methodist Grandmother, a Jewish Grandfather, a Baptist stepfather, and a Catholic aunt, none of whom had any real consistency with message, church, temple, or ritual. The only real conversation I ever had about religion or spirituality was at age 12 when I asked my Grandmother what religion we were.
She smiled with those sweet eyes that loved me more than anyone else in the world and said, “Well, I’m Methodist, but all that you need to know is that God loves you and will always forgive you.”
She didn’t pressure me to take that information in any way. Rather, she gave me an amazing gift. That single line gave me permission to have a broad understanding that there was something that I could go to when I needed it and that I didn’t have to define it or feel guilty in any way for not having deeper understanding of it. And on that Tuesday morning in 1988, when the shame and remorse was deep and unbearable, I was in grave need of forgiveness.
Now, I cannot ever speak to the timeline very well, as so many months and years leading up to this day are a bit of a fog. I will say that in the few weeks/months that I’d lived in Sacramento, I did what I had done for years to get around. I hitch hiked. By the grace of God, I’d never gotten in the wrong car. In fact, I often talk about the synchronicity of one of my rides as being "picked up hitch hiking by the right guy"… Again, I don't know really how long before this ugly blackout this was, but this ride was a member of the 12-step programs and we made friends. And after my prayer over the Sacramento treetops, it is no surprise that he was the one that came to mind, so I called him to ask about those "meetings".
Later that evening, he came and picked me up and took me to my first 12-step meeting. I was nervous and anxious and almost as uncomfortable as I had been that morning, but I was sober. I had this idea that there’s no way someone like me would ever “fit in” with “those” people.
I had this vision of people in jogging suits and business suits, and of a conference room table with pitchers of ice water and little dishes of granola. I was sure that this “place” we were going would be this pristine room with tile floors and conference room tables and many people that had never spoken a swear word in their life would be sitting up straight and have quite proper manners…
I had significant fear of walking into a place with such “upstanding citizens” as those that didn’t drink or use drugs having the degree of shame and self-hatred I was experiencing in that day…
I hope it’s needless to say that I went anyway, and it was not at all as I’d expected… It's humorous to me now when I think on it... Most were smoking, wearing jeans, leather jackets and had many tattoos. This particular meeting hall was where the bikers hung out, and bikers were the people I’d felt the safest around when I was in my darkest escapism, so while that put me at some ease, I was convinced that I was obviously the worst person in the room.
I watched as they smiled and hugged one another, and something that surprised me more than the lack of jogging suits, was the sincerity. I was extremely relieved the first time I realized this isn’t some pristine perfect way of life, this is real people facing real inner difficulty with their alcoholism and drug addiction. I saw the laughter and the light in their eyes. I was completely blown away when someone shared about their life before they’d stopped and how they’d blacked out and hurt people and made ridiculous choices that put them in harm’s way and regret. In fact, I was completely stunned at many of the admissions they made openly in these rooms of things they had done, similar to my own history, that I swore were going to the grave…
And here’s what I saw with a great amount of awe, meeting one, and in many of the meetings I attended in the weeks that followed...
They were willing to tell on themselves.
They were willing to listen to one another.
They were willing to look deep within, with great courage, and really ADMIT their faults, their wounds, their selfishness, their fears and many other inner aspects of why they needed and wanted to recover.
They were willing to do things that felt foreign…like sit still, like FEEL their emotions rather than impulsively and compulsively escape from them with any means possible.
They were willing to start cleaning up their lives, one day at a time, one relationship at a time, one bill at a time, and some, one legal matter at a time…
They were willing to keep walking this path of building a life that was healthier, more honest, more humble and with far fewer excuses and justifications.
Most of all, from my witness then, as well as now, they were willing to be brave and do the deep vulnerable dive into their own souls to heal…together.
I must share here that I was a master at excuses and justification. I almost didn’t stick around, regardless of how much “light” I had seen in those first few weeks. I was a master at finding a way to NOT fit in and the reasons this wasn’t right for me were easy to find. “I’m too young”, “I’m not like them”, “All they do is talk about drugs and alcohol and it makes me want more” … All of which was just a way to slink my way back to my dark shadow of an existence. NONE of which was actual truth.
I am grateful to say that I too became willing… I was willing to speak up about these thoughts. I spoke about my fears and my true behavior and history and so did THEY… We listened to one another. We supported one another and most of all we understood one another. I found an understanding with these people unlike any other circle I’d ever had, and I became WILLING to do what they had done to make this positive change within myself, like I had witnessed in so many of them.
That was over 34 years ago, and I am grateful to say that the scenery is quite beautiful, even on the grey days. While I’ve swayed a little off path a few times, I never abused drugs or alcohol again. I still have the same love for others on a journey to positive change and healing, no matter their path. And I still have the willingness that I believe it takes to heal, grow, evolve and ascend as a soul.
There are many aspects to this single word…
Willingness to be honest that your soul hurts. Willingness to seek solution. Willingness to tell the truth as you approach these solutions. Willingness to have an open mind as you explore the healing path(s) presented.
So, if you need positive change(s)… If your soul hurts… If you know that healing is needed, please find your willingness to do what it takes. And I’ll tell you a little secret. One of the most effective forms of healing is within community.
In fact, I’ll tell you four secrets to recovery, from any difficulty…
1/ A community of others that are like minded or facing similar difficulty
2/ A mentor or trusted soul that has been through the healing journey you are walking
3/ A daily inner quiet time with some form of Divinity such as prayer and/or meditation.
4/ Altruism/Helping others/Being of service and getting out of your own stuff…
If you can find the willingness to face any matter that needs change or healing, I fully believe you will not only find positive change and healing, but more so, transform your life. Some heal quickly, some heal slowly, but if you find the willingness and walk the path it leads you on, you will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much your life improves.
As I write these words, I think of the many people that I have been honored to walk behind and beside in my own healing. I cannot share how deeply grateful I am for my mentors, friends and those that have entrusted me with their truths as mentees, students, or clients.
There is great reward in the bravery it takes to face a healing journey. The rewards are a more peaceful conscience, fulfillment, greater security in many areas of your life, gratitude and one of the things I never felt I’d have, belonging.
If you have any questions about change, healing, or deep transformation, know that I’m here and will be honored to speak with you. This path I walk is shared. None of us need ever walk alone.