There’s something wrong with me today.
Or maybe I should say there is something very right. I woke up today feeling very positive, upbeat and outgoing. I keep throwing out the word “Fantastic!” everywhere as if I’m Christopher Eccleston. I’ve got that ridiculous Pharrell Williams song running through my head. I’m actually thinking about other people and celebrating the joys of their lives instead of feeling envious and resentful. Woah. It’s been a while since I could say that.
There’s this “letting go” exercise that some people in recovery will do to prepare them for sixth step. You ball both your hands up into really tight fists and squeeze them as hard as you can for a full minute or so. When you let go, you feel the blood rush into them. At first, it’s a little painful, but then they get all light and tingly. You become really aware of your hands. For a while afterwards you can still feel this sort of raw, exposed, energetic sensation in all your fingers and up your arms.
So often, we just don’t realize how much energy we are wasting in holding on to our character defects. We have balled up parts of our emotional and spiritual selves into tight little fists. And then we start closing up other parts of us to hide and protect these little fists. Before long, it is all we can do to get out of bed in the morning because we are just EXHAUSTED from trying to maintain the image that everything really is fine. And sometimes it isn’t until something shakes us loose that we even realize what we’ve been doing.
I certainly didn’t go into this winter saying, “You know, I’ve had enough of ‘happy, joyous and free’ for the time being. I think I’ll go to the character defect store and pick up a few resentments, a couple of fears, a good lot of projection and the accompanying expectations, of course. Oh, and I certainly can’t forget isolation! I’m going to need a whole truckload of that!” No, this came on slowly and gradually until I found myself nothing but a tense little ball of stress. I was like a bubble in a cactus field, ready to pop at even the slightest touch.
As I floated along, I began seeing cactus needles everywhere. Even the most innocuous or well-intentioned parts of life were beginning to threaten the fragile casing I was using to store all my angst. Without even realizing it, my focus had drifted back inward and my judgmental stare became the eye of Sauron hunting me out in all my hiding places, speaking damning prophesy into my weaknesses. You’re not good enough, smart enough, doing enough with your life. You’re a failure and a worthless waste of space. Hide it! Hide it! You can’t let anyone see this! Look at their lives. They’re all so perfect and you’re so not. Don’t get near them or you’ll infect them with your worthlessness. You don’t deserve to live like them!
Wow! Just in typing this out, my posture has changed to a position of guarded defensiveness. My muscles have all tensed up and there is an ache in my back. Our bodies will manifest physically what we are feeling emotionally. When it happens suddenly, we notice it. We see someone stub their toe and our leg reflexively tenses up as we empathize with their pain. When it happens gradually, though, we don’t notice it until we are in serious pain.
It is that way with the addiction itself. Whether you are an alcoholic, a drug addict, a codependent, a sexaholic, bulimic, whatever your drug of choice is, we never start off in full blown addiction. Sure, we’ve all heard stories where folks will say that they drank alcoholically from the very first time they picked up a drink – and I believe them – but it takes the pain of consequence after consequence before anyone is able to recognize the addiction for what it is.
And just like when first recovering from addiction, I had to change my focus. Instead of the condemning Eye of Sauron, I had to become Noah’s dove, searching for a safe place to land. Once I was able to acknowledge that my life had become unmanageable… again… I had to start looking outward for a solution. No longer could I trust my instincts because I had wandered too far from my relationship with God. My little bubble scanned the horizon and saw a lake in the distance. The more I fixed my mind on heading toward that safe place, the less I thought about the cacti below me.
I began pushing my little bubble self toward that lake and this morning I woke up to see that they weren’t actually cacti after all, but a whole bunch of other little bubble people, each trying to hide their own weaknesses behind a delicate facade. I had finally let go. I didn’t make a conscious decision to think differently. That works for some people, but never has for me. All I did was commit to “doing it anyway.” It didn’t matter if I failed or if I looked like a complete idiot, and especially when I didn’t FEEL like it. I just had to get out there and act my way into right thinking. Just like with releasing my clenched fists, it was painful at first, but today I feel light and tingly and full of this positive energy.
It feels weird. But in a really good kind of way. I missed this.