“If you want to get out you have to go in.” ~ Nancy Ryan
Have you ever decided to touch your pain, to embrace your past so you could live in the moment and look forward to your future? To visit what has been violated, who would do that? I had spent the first thirty-four years of my life having my body, soul and mind violated. This led me to live in survival mode daily. To numb the pain I would use and abuse whatever was in front of me at the time, substances, people and I became my drug of choice.
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.”
― J.K. Rowling
Then one day, half way into my thirty-fourth year as a human being, my life came crashing down all around me. The pain became greater then my passion to keep my past a secret. My habits, hurts and hang-ups caught up with me like cops chasing robbers, I hit a dead end, through my arms in the air and waved my invisible white flag. I gave up and turned myself in. Ten years of running, came to a screeching halt.
In those ten years, I had a few almost accidental overdoses behind me and a third one on its way when I found myself crying out to God. My heart was shattered in a millions pieces. I knew I had two choices, learn to live, or, let go and die. There in a dark room in the back of my house, staring at the ceiling, I cried out to God. “I don’t want to die but I don’t know how to live.” Up until that moment, I thought death was the answer and dying in my addiction was going to be the smoking gun.
Yet, there was a tiny bit of light shining through all my pain. The light was all it took to disengage the invisible gun of my addiction. Courage came through the light. It was the kind of courage that means to tell ones whole story in all of its entirety. It was the kind of courage that walks hand in hand with hope.
The courage to tell my story was the catalyst that helped me begin the process of going back in. It was time. It was finished. No longer did I feel the need not to exist. I was now hungry for the will to live. However, the direction for me to welcome that will, pointed to my past. It was following that map where I learned the term; you cannot heal a wound by pretending it is not there.
No more pretending, I went back in with my eyes wide open and my broken heart ready to be healed. I learned from the start that wounded hearts act out in ways that healthy whole ones do not. I realized I had lived in a world where we trained people to hide their hurt, habits and hang-ups and it was going to take time to find others who had gone before me, others who could shed light onto my darkest places. Those were the people who were going to help me find hope as I touched the places of my past that caused me so much pain.
Going back in so I could come out meant finding others who could hold my tears and space as I untangled my past. I had become proof that with out help, your past would catch up with you.
“We were not created to cry alone.”~ Nancy Ryan
My advice, be prepared, listen well as you look for those people who can do just that.
As I celebrate my tenth year of recovery, I have the privilege of looking back at the last decade. What do I see? I see a sea of people who have stepped up and stepped into my struggle. I see people who held my tears and space so that I could process my pain and my past as I worked my way out. It took having people around me cheering me on and reminding me I could do it.
Small steps, deliberate pressing into my past and visiting the pain was the only way for me to get out. I thought going back in was going to cause me to curl up and die. Touching my past and dancing with my pain was not an area I had been looking forward to embracing. Yet to get out I had to be willing to go in. Visiting my past was about finding healing and wholeness, connecting the dots, asking forgiveness and giving it as well.
As I completed my rehab program, before my release, I met with my counselor one more time. Sitting in her office waiting in anticipation for her to release me our eyes locked and I felt the tears starting to well up in my eyes. We had made a deep connection the moment we met. She walked me through anger, resentment and rejection but that was just the beginning. With sincerity in her eyes and compassion in her tone, she challenged me. She made it clear through that if I did not find the underlying cause of my why of what I did, I would end up back in the same place with worse habits, hurts and hang-ups. She made it clear that I needed to find the root cause of my abusing and using. She made it clear I was going to have to go back in to get out.
It has been ten years now since I first took her up on that challenge. Ten years of sweat and dirt under the fingernails of my soul, diving, digging and pulling back layers after layers of my past. Sometimes I would find myself so deep in my pain, stuck in the past that I needed help getting back out. In the process of healing, I also learned to look to my future with hope and anticipation. As my heart healed so did my body soul and mind. There is a fine line, a dance if you will that those in recovery learn. It is the dance that helps one not to travel to long in the past or the future, it is a dance to help one stay balanced in the moment. The greatest gift of recovery was learning to live moment by moment, one day at a time.
I am not sure how I arrived at this time and place so quickly, at least that is how it feels today. Though I do remember at the beginning of the process, having three days in the program and hearing someone say they had three weeks, I sat listing to her story and was not able to even conceive having three weeks, three months let alone three years. Thirty days felt like an eternity back then. Time has away of feeling as if it stops and stands still when pain is involved. I assure you, early recovery involves a lot of pain, cleaning out an open wound can not be done any other way then going in and removing the junk.
Yet today, looking back it does feel like it happened in a blink of an eye. What I did not understand back then is that life is about transitions and cycles. Something has to die so something can come to life. An area I had fought off for the last decade because it felt like it went against my recovery lessons. It felt like I was giving up and not fighting for something when in reality there is this cycle that is death, life, death. To get, we must give up. Something must die to come to life, it ebbs and flows it is the way our creator created us. I can look around me and if I pay attention, I could see that nothing last forever. Letting going is part of living life.
My past had to die; it took a decade to decapitate what use to be, and now I am not her anymore. Healed and set free, that is me. The gift of recovery came with the ability to now self-regulate my emotions, relationships and experiences. Today I am able to embrace my feelings first before acting on them, which allows for deeper richer relationships with those I love the most. Today I am attracted to those from the same tribe, those who look into the reflections of the water and see the same thing. The gift of recovery allowed me to see I was not alone. After ten years of searching, experiencing life and learning to love and let go, I also learned along the way what I did not want in a relationship and that was to be someone’s second best, I did not want to be treated as if I was important and valued only when I had something to offer. What I wanted was to be valued regardless of what I had to offer. I wanted relationships where I walked hand in hand, side by side not in the shadow of someone else’s life.
Why would I encourage anyone to go back in and visit what has been violated? Simple, that is where healing and wholeness happens. That is where you will find the strength and courage to live in the world outside of the pain of your past.
Today I live in the moment while trusting God with my future. To my people, I write specifically to you, to offer hope, healing and a piece of heaven for all your broken peaces. Going back in to get out takes courage, faith and tenacity to believe there is more to life then broken pieces. I write to you to cheer you on, to let you know you are not alone. Do not give up, do not give in, there is a plan and a purpose for your pain. God works out all things for the good.........