I occurs to me as I write this, I don’t know that I am or I am not presenting these subjects in the correct order. However, this “blogging” concept is new to me so I want to stop a moment and mention a few items: This is the first time I’ve attempted to write at this level. I’m writing about topics and concepts as they occur to me or as I’m inspired. I haven’t done any planning for this blog. I’m simply learning to write, and it’s a new process. However, I again feel it’s important to say it feels like it may be best if you read the topics in the sequence I’ve presented them; in numerical order.
It also occurs to me (again) that you are witnessing the writings of someone who was very sick, and it might be easy to “identify out” along the way, that is, say to yourself, “You know, this dude is writing about some stuff that is beyond where I’ve been. I’m not that sick. Sorry, but I don’t think I can get anything from this.” And you may be perfectly correct in assuming that. However, you may also be not correct. I was not correct a lot when I first started recovery. For me, it was the pure gift of grace that I was able to come to grips with the possibility that I was wrong; it was the crack in the wall that gave me a peek to other places I might want to visit. As it turns out, visiting those other places was where I found healing and true recovery.
As I mentioned previously, my early experiences in life taught me to be dependent on my thinking and to be dependent on being right. Some of my early conditioning taught me to be a survivor, and as a survivor, it was critically important to be right because I was the only person I could really count on; everyone else had conditions. I had to be right, perhaps in order to stay alive.
Recovery exposed me to different ways of thinking and to the process of conducting myself with a different mindset, and ultimately to a different purpose. I entered a program (which I will introduce shortly in a future blog) that would completely challenge my concepts of what was “right” and give me first-time exposure to a new set of principles on which I could live my life going forward. However, I found the program so disagreeable, I wanted to leave – more than once. I hated it. I could never do what they were asking, never. Perhaps as a gift though, I was so deeply desperate, I somehow found the strength to stay and listen. For the first time, I flirted with the idea of putting down my guard, and I began to try something new.
“No way! Forget it. I am absolutely not going there – period. You have no idea what it’s like to be me. You can’t expect me to do that.” I protested much like a nine-year old in the middle of a tantrum. I could be dramatic; it seemed to be second-nature for me.
I had come to this point where, amongst other things, I was supposed to make a list of my fears – a complete list. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. Sure, I’d write down the easy stuff, and even make it sound so dramatic as to give the impression that it was tough to do. But that secret stuff – no, sorry, ain’t gonna happen.
I knew, at least intellectually, the importance of this challenge; of making a “complete” list. I knew the exercise wouldn’t be effective unless I had the ability to bring it all forward – including all the “bad” stuff. I hated it and I balked – for months. And, as it turns out, I tended to not be able to stop drinking during that time and I remained an emotional train wreck. Finally, through no power of my own, an angel walked into my life and asked if I needed help getting through the list. She offered to help. This was a moment that, upon reflection, probably changed my life. It was a moment of grace.
I’m reluctant to say how important it has been for me to find someone I could trust. I’m reluctant to say because it was so strikingly critical for my recovery. And I’m reluctant because I’m not sure how many angels exist and if you are like me, you may struggle to find one. I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I hadn’t found her. But I did, and now I’m here. And now I provide the same opening to others. I’m paying it forward.
I have to pause now. Writing this is such a challenge. There are so many thoughts running through my mind. I’m at once on the “recovery side” of the issue, yet thinking back to the space I was in before. It’s almost impossible for me to express in words just how fucked-up and tormented I was. Just a few months previously, I had experienced a full month of twenty-four-hour-a-day panic attacks. I’d wake up several times every night and within 60 seconds, I’d go into a panic. It was excruciating. And now, a few months later, all a needed was a whiff of uncertainty, and I could go off. I carried around tablets of klonopin in my pocket as a safety net. I was jittery and highly anxious. Often, I just stared at my shoes.
I thought of Roy and his mom, and of my dad. They never had to go through this crap. They were stable and successful. Why in God’s name was I having to go through this? Why did I have to experience this humiliation? Why couldn’t I just be like them? I go to that place now and I can feel the bristling resentment welling up inside of me. Why was I a victim?
I remember vividly the room of my therapist several years ago. I remember the lighting, his quiet face, and the couch that I was sprawled across. I remember looking up at the walls and wondering just how sturdy they might be. I was about to tell him a secret, and I was sure it would be followed by a shaking of the earth and the emanate collapse of the ceiling. I hesitated for several minutes while he sat quietly and waited for it to come.
“Okay, look. There was some stuff, okay!? My mom, you know… she uhm… she did some stuff, you know? She did some things, some things that weren’t right maybe. I don’t know… she uhm, she did some sexual stuff that was just weird, you know? She exposed herself, and uhm, showed me fucked-up magazines and stuff, you know? I mean, she said some things and kind of, sort of encouraged some pretty fucked-up behavior.” As I spoke, the 11-year old boy inside of me was saying the words.
I went on to describe the details. I cried and I hurt. It hurt that I was having to re-live and admit for the first time that I was a person who had a mother who would do that shit to a child. It hurt that I felt so ashamed of myself and my mom. It hurt that I was somehow defective because my mother was such a sick person. And it hurt that I wasn’t gifted enough to have a mom like Roy.
I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be after telling him about this. Surprisingly however, in the moments that followed, the earth did not crack open and I was not sucked into the depths of hell. As far as I know, the walls of the room are still intact. The light in the room still shines on those walls, and there, inside that safe place, are probably other people who are working through the difficult issue of exposing their fears, and discovering it’s okay.
Even though I had managed to survive that exposure, and even though I had experienced the degree of healing that followed, I was still reluctant now to expose my other secret on the task at hand: my complete list.
I still like Superman. I like the Christopher Reeve version of Superman. The dude was good looking and he could pick up his favorite woman and fly her around the planet. Pretty fucking cool. And he had just the right combination of being a bad-ass when necessary, yet being a sensitive, romantic, woman’s man when he had to. I still wanna be like fucking Superman; immune to panic attacks, never having to spend time in a psych ward, and able to leap a tall bottle of alcohol in a single bound. Yeah, that’s me.
I’m not a particularly scientific-type guy, but I think there are two things necessary for life to exist on this planet; the ability to find sustenance before getting eaten or irreparably damaged, and the successful passing-on of DNA. That means, as it turns out, that sexuality is a core component of my being. I’m good with that. I think about sex a lot. I see a woman I’m attracted to, and before I even realize it, I’ve spent at least a few moments thinking about having sex with her, even if we are talking about why Christ died for my sins. That’s who I am and I don’t think I’m especially bothered by that. If it gets out of hand, that’s a different issue. It’s never gotten out of hand with me, either because I’m shy, or because I’ve always had some sense of honor about the whole deal – I’ve yet to decide which.
You would think if you were visiting this planet for the first time, humans would spend a whole lot of time discussing sexuality, especially since it’s such a core component of who we are. However, as it turns out with my family, we not only don’t talk about sexuality, we don’t talk about emotions at all. It’s like an alien language, and thus if you talk about emotions, you might be an alien. Additionally, as you might imagine, there’s a fairly narrow conception of what sexuality is and of course, what’s acceptable. But I don’t really know – because we don’t talk about it. Somehow, through osmosis perhaps, you’re supposed to grow into adulthood with a complete understanding of how to behave sexually (but please don’t use that word), and if you don’t pick up on all the cues from the modeled behavior going on around you, then you are subject to rejection – kind of like not holding your chest up properly. Some of the cues come from the content of jokes, like those poking fun of “queers”, “faggots”, or “niggers.” Obviously, if they are the brunt of jokes, then you don’t want to behave like them. Heaven is the home of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Lord God Almighty, and Heaven forbid you behave in any way not deemed severely heterosexual because then you might be an embarrassment to the family, or in my dad’s day, you might have to be institutionalized, which would be an even greater embarrassment to the family. You might as well be “afflicted.”
In my time in recovery, I have noticed a phenomenon which continues to surprise hell out of me: the vanquishing of fear. It’s what I might describe as what happens to an issue when I work through it or get on the other side of it. Quite often, when I get through it, I look back and say, “Damn. It’s almost like it wasn’t even there.” However, when I first start thinking about facing the fear, forgettaboughtit. I can make it into one big-ass sum’bitch.
Someone I trust, most often someone I trust deeply, has to help me get through it. I need that, and I’ve started to be okay with needing that, in part because it is how I’ve made great strides in recovery.
So, back to the list. After I found that person I could trust and she offered me a space where I could feel safe and without fear of rejection, I sat one day on the back deck of my house and went through the complete list. It included my thoughts about sexuality. And it included thoughts and actions I had taken that weren’t severely heterosexual. As I worked through those enormously difficult admissions, as I made that admission which I would never do in a hundred lifetimes, I watched and waited for her to get up and run from the table. She did not run, she did not budge. Instead, she looked at me and said, “Is that it?” It was almost like she was saying, “I thought you were going to tell me you murdered somebody, or you burnt down a church, or you had thoughts of shooting the pope, or something.” Instead, she just looked at me, politely smiled, and said, “Is that it?” Is was like she had heard all this before, like she almost expected it, and now, we could bask in a moment of healing. I had admitted something profoundly risky to another human being, and that human being let me know it was okay. I could now move on, discover what was there, and experience what it was like to let another human know my deepest secrets.
Obviously, it was a huge challenge for me tell another person I was sexually abused, and it was an even bigger challenge to tell someone my sexuality spanned beyond women. Even as I write this, I feel a sense of fear of rejection. I’m okay with that now, in part because it allows me to better understand how others might feel, and how others might be experiencing the same pain. It also has allowed me to reach a place honor with others who have sat and opened up about their fears. It is a true blessing. It is healing.
Additionally, once I admitted this private thought, I could begin to work on what it meant. Was it okay? Was it a result of my mom’s weird-ass sexual-dysfunction parade? Is it who I am? Is it okay to have feelings for women and men? Is that possible? How the hell would I ever know the answers to these questions if I wasn’t able to ask the questions? In my experience, the input from others, real-time, who are not emotionally attached to the issue, is extremely productive and remarkably healing.
As I said before, this phenomena of recovery – the “vanquishing” of fear – surprises the hell out of me. Maybe because I’ve never experienced what it’s like to stand on the other side of such huge fears. Or maybe because I had never experienced the freedom and healing power of breaking through them. And maybe because when I break through a fear, it starts to lose its hold over me, and each time, I look back and ask myself, “How could I let that hold me back for so long?” As far as my sexuality, I don’t think I’ve really noticed any difference in terms of my normal mode of operation; I’m still attracted to women and I’m good with that. I think as much as anything else, I just wanted to be okay with having whatever feelings I have, and knowing that it’s perfectly fine, as long as I am taking care to approach them in a thoughtful and perhaps spiritual way.
I should stop here and mention something incredibly important. This was an extremely private matter for me. It was done with a person with whom I had very high trust and utter, complete confidence. I’d like to take great pains to assure you that it is indeed possible, and absolutely okay to take the time needed to find the right person for you. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
It is also important to have a plan. In the days following my admissions, I experienced a wide range of emotions, both ups and downs. It was new ground and it was unfamiliar. That can be a little disorienting. Having someone close by to speak with about it made a real difference for me. Gradually, a clear sense of healing came through. But it took some time.
The “program” I mentioned has the plan. It also challenged me to work through other fears and resentments, and a whole host of difficulties, all of which have proved to be healing and life-changing. At some point soon, I want to talk about the program.
All for now.