Friday, May 7, 2010
A Story Woven Around The Trials and Tribulations Of Step One: The Hard Part In This Business Is Not Winning, And Sometimes You Can't Win Them All
Karen-B's story is one that evolved over several years for me. I have to tell it in the past tense, mainly, and the reason becomes apparent as you hear her story. Her story comes out of the depths of depression and fear. It clearly expresses just how scary this thing called recovery appears to be.
The key word here is "appears".
For each of us, there is a process of 'Need To's' we have to go through. They are the very nature of life's trials and tribulations. We seem to acquire these trials and tribulations 'Need To's' early on in our existence and experience here, then have the rest of our lives to sort through the various conundrums generated by our early experiences.
Just how we came to have the particular set of 'Need To's' we do is likely to be different for each of us. The truth of the matter is that it really does not matter how we got the list, but it is important to know that each has our own. Some of us can make a great hullabaloo about how we got our list and some of us turn our acquisition process in to damned good stories. But each of us has our own particular story and 'way about things' and that 'way about things' is the script that will lead us to our own personal spiritual awakening. It is a script or curriculum for the soul's growth by the way. Not for the personality or the betterment of our character or to enhance our ability for personal acquisition or gains, and it is definitely not about right or wrong it is just about an opportunity for growth through experience, for the soul; many of us confuse that one.
A single mom Karon B, had come to me, me as the therapist and she as a client, had attended several one-on-one-sessions. Just as we were about to get serious about the whole thing when she bolted and quit.
I got some history and that was about all. I knew that she was a member of the recovery movement, she attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA). I knew that she had struggled with being clean and sober. On again and off again. Like so many of us working a recovery program. She was drug addicted and she was attempting to work a program of recovery in "her-own way". "Her-own way" would prove to be the fatal flaw that was her undoing in the end.
She knew she had a problem and that her problem was manifested as drug addiction but it was the "manageability part" she had difficulty with. Step one, part two, sort of. After all, it was the drugs and the using of the drugs that gained the only relief for her from her pain. As I understood her story, she had been done-over many times with various boundary violations and she was not about to allow any of that to happen again, so regardless, she was "In Management".
She ran her own protection racket, because, as she had confided in me, a very deep part of her knew that her life depended upon it. And, pardon the pun, for the 'life of her' she could not let go of the process of protection and survival that the original hurt, hate, pain and fear set into motion and now life and its circumstances seemed to perpetuate. So there she was caught between the rock and a hard place, she could not step into her own recovery and actually get benefit from it for fear of letting the old 'ghosts' catch her unaware and hurting her again.
You see, it was the ghosts of that hurt, hate, pain and fear that kept her ever so vigilant and alive or so she thought. Now the delusion of the predicament was that the protection racket that was supposedly keeping her free from the ever-present harm that lurked behind every shadow, was the very thing which would bring about her very demise.
It's like hanging on to the side of the swimming pool, too afraid to let go and take a chance, but wet none the less. All of the consequences and none of the benefits!
You see she had been harmed as a very little girl. She had been assaulted, violated and abused.
She was actually 'infamous' for her rants and raving about those very things at the various recovery meetings she attended.
God Bless her, she was able to get herself clean and sober but, and this is the tragedy, never sane. It was cyclical. Clean and sober but never sane then use drugs for relief. Repeat-Repeat-Repeat. What became apparent for me was that for K-B the underlying issue was the need for healthy understanding of forgiveness, but not forgiving those who did her, not in the classic sense that most understand forgiveness to be . . . "I forgive you for hurting me!" Not that!
You see, what became clear for me early on was that she was working from an inadequate model and understanding of the word forgiveness, and that was her trap. It follows like this: if you think you have to say that it is ok that what happened to you, happened . . . but at the same time in your own mind what happened could never be ok . . . then paradox has step up and it has you in its grip. There is no imaginable way out. (Know this, that there are those things that are classed and judged properly As Never Being Ok To Have Happened To You, Or Anyone Else, But The Did).
So it follows then: how could she or you or anyone else for that matter, forgive and gain the release you seek when you could not see the way out?
Well you can't.
This young lady had no real way out of her hurt and pain that she could either see or sense on her own. Those are the important words, on her own. Her very understanding of what she thought she was trying to do was the very thing that generated more hurt, hate, pain and fear, the one thing she was trying so desperately to escape. And doing it on her own was the cap on the bottle that kept it contained and dangerous.
Here is the working definition of forgiveness:
To be able to release myself from the hurt, hate, pain and fear of my past, to release that energy that I have personally invested in keeping me safe from the ghosts of my own past. Thus from the bondage I created to my past by my own feelings. The ones that are stored up deep down inside me and the ones that keep me stuck to the very persons, places or things (surrogates) that originally set the hurt, hate, fear and pain into motion in the first place.
It has nothing to do with me saying that what happened was ok, or it is now ok that someone else did what he or she did to me or others.
I need to unhook from those deep feelings of hurt, hate, fear and pain and all they represent to me, so I can get on with my life. The one I was born into and more importantly the one God intended me to have.
But for most of us the hurt, hate, fear and pain cycle is like the moth and the flame... we are always circling it and always getting burnt by it, and always wondering why the flame hurts and we are always within its easy grasp. It is as if we are mesmerized by it. It seems to take such a monumental effort to move away from that very thing that brings hurt . . .
My own feelings had become my worst enemy because they had me I did not have them and they had me. They controlled how I reacted and thought, and all of my deeper functions were working as hard as they could to protect me from those feelings that connected me to those people, place, events and memories that I have come to fear most because of my original experience with them. And here is the hard part to grasp, it was all locked inside of me. It was no longer out there trying to get in. It was already inside doing its handy work.
Scaring me to death, slowly.
It is something like hanging on to the rattlesnake. Once you got him in your grasp at least you know where he is, but again what do you do with him and when do you rest and if you do set him down what will happen to you?
So she now had to live her life adjusting to shadows of her past as she thought she perceived them. A sick cycle of action and reaction that has no end unless the cycle is broken someplace, usually in recovery and often in therapy but always with someone else that you come to learn to trust.
The problem being is that we believe that this process of "using" will actually help because it really does . . . temporally. Key word here is "temporally". Which of course is a perfect neophyte's explanation of addiction and the various processes connected to it.
Many who first come into recovery reach this place, clean, sober and insane. There is a difference between surrender to the greater cause of your own good and recovery, and complying with the various levels of healing in hopes of getting help without making yourself too vulnerable.
Compliance will not gain sanity, only surrender will, but it is so scary for some to imagine surrendering that it is virtually impossible to even consider that it as possible. That does not say it is impossible to do, just impossible to imagine.
K-B was on of those, one of those who were so scared that she could not imagine that it was possible to surrender.
A good working definition of surrender in recovery is working the 12 Steps with a sponsor and following directions given by the sponsor and not making deals and creating short cuts or doing things your own way. In short, doing things your sponsor's way rather then your way.
It basically comes in two parts, first, work the steps and part two is, with a sponsor. An approximate equal measure of both is required before desired results can be expected to happen. Do it their way, not you're way . . . that is the key, and as I said earlier it is too scary for some even to contemplate doing that.
This is about the point where if each of us is paying attention our own personal spiritual 'Need To' agenda, we begin to notice doing something comes into play. "I need to do this", "this has to happen", "I have to make amends", "I need to learn to be responsible", but all this comes after I surrender and begin to work the steps with someone.
But if I can't get past Step One . . . then!
For K-B it was surrender, and it was surrender coupled with a proper understanding and experience with the spiritual meaning of forgiveness. This all this taken over time and processed so that the memories and the ghosts could take their proper place on the shelves of her mind and be let go of.
Know this: that memories in their proper place are not haunting, they are simply what happened and that is all, just what happened.
There were also deeper forces at work here and one was the deeper need to begin the journey of trust with someone else and go with that person a ways on their journey of healing. A shared experience! Sort of walking hand in hand spiritually. With a sponsor!
"With" is the Key word here.
"Sharing" and "trusting" are other key words that go to describe the process that is necessary and a natural spin off of the 12 Steps.
And yes it does seem to matter how we do the 12 steps, i.e., various sources on the 12 Steps point out that not until the steps are done and done in order and done thoroughly will results happen. Now isn't that a fascinating concept when you think about it: do them in order and do them thoroughly that leaves 'my way' out of the process entirely.
In my years in the business of recovery, both as a consumer and as an agent/facilitator, I have found that a deviation from the 'pattern" or road map, even in the interest of saving time, cost me dearly, both in time and emotional energy. And for some, it cost them their lives, literally. K-B is an example.
She came into a treatment pattern and then ducked out before anything real could begin to happen claiming that the dollar cost was too much. About a year and a half after that duck out she received a court settlement from an auto accident that permitted her the opportunity to 'afford' the counseling. She had lost a kneecap in a motorcycle mishap. She called on a Tuesday morning and asked for an appointment, we talked briefly and I had an opening on the upcoming Friday morning at 8:30am and she filled it.
K-B was dead sometime on the intervening Thursday afternoon or early evening. "Od-ed" on heroin. Went down, as they say, like a ton of bricks - was dead before she hit the floor - at home in the shower, with the rig in her arm, a new car, a red Mustang convertible, sitting in the lane. And a 5-year-old little boy, her son, now abandoned to the world, by both his mom and dad, both taken by drug over doses.
K-B had an inkling of the wrongs that had happened to her. She had a powerful sense that something had been laying in wait for her and these hidden demon had been running her life. These things were distant scary ghosts as far as she was concerned, but they formed the fear patterns that drove her life and her addictions.
I attended her funeral. At the funeral I got to see who would, in all probability, have been the focus of her rage. I watched him stand at her graveside and try and sell (I choose my words carefully here), sell the idea to everyone present - well over 100 people - that any one of us would be welcome in his home, if we choose to come, to visit, to see him, after all, we were all friends of the dearly departed and after all we all loved her, didn't we? That he really had nothing to do with her death. That he really had done nothing wrong. Really!
It was both a spontaneous and a pitiful performance. The answer to why he made that pitiful pitch in the midst of the mourners at the graveside lay hidden in the darker reaches of his own mind. Only he knows what motivated him that day. It seemed obvious that as of that moment in time, he had not come to terms with his own demons. The ghosts of his own hurt, hate, pain and fear.
No one said anything. And I am sure no one believed him. The silence was deafening. We simply left him to his own fate. The fate of having to be himself and facing what he needed to face someday, but not that-day, to get on with the process of being who is was supposed to be, as God intended.
To some that may sound cruel but it's not.
Why? Because this thing called recovery is here for him to do too. But only if he chooses it. First, as it is for all of us who choose recovery as a way of life, we have to be prepared to surrender to the greater processes. Then, let go of our ego's agenda and our false-selves, and get honest, really, really honest, not just safely honest, but really, really honest and tell the truth as it really is and not as we would like it to be.
He never asked that day, but if he does, then someone will step forward and offer . . . His choice!
As an aside, it is an interesting fact that may or may not be true but hearsay suggests that 92% of those people in NA were sexually abused as children. It is just one of those things that get bantered about as real. Whether or not, I'm not sure, but I have met many that were. Far too many who were.
K-B was in NA.
A-M, who by the time of the funeral and these occurrences had long since passed out of the formal therapeutic setting, and resided else-where, contacted me when she heard of K-B's death.
The grapevine is quick.
She and K-B had been friends early on in recovery. They came in about the same time. She asked me to read a poem she wrote about her own life and happenings if it were possible, and it was not, and if it were not then to in some fashion give it to K-B, which I did.
I deposited a copy of Are All The Animals In The Zoo in K-B's grave beside the urn that held her remains.