The idea of forgiveness was a completely ludicrous concept to me before I came into recovery. My reality at the time told me that I was a free spirit, I held absolutely no resentments, and that I loved everyone. Live and let live, I sang out, as I’d down a triple shot of tequila and snort up an 8-inch line of cocaine. I would float from one project (artist) to the next, one city to the next, one country, one relationship, one… there was always one more, something.
I truly believed at my depths that I was this eclectic free spirit and that I was happy to damn it!! As long as I had my survival tools with me drugs and alcohol all was well in my world. Till I hit a wall.
Then nothing seemed to work to take away my feelings. I could not seem to get numb enough. What I found in recovery was that I was a very angry woman. At first, the anger-fueled me, well let’s be real, all that RAGE, uncontrollable; inner rage fueled me to great heights, in fact, I used it just like drugs to propel me forward. The “I’ll show you” worked for a while. But like everything else I always ended up in the same place. And it was never a “pretty place”.
I was trained very young to “never tell”, or “never talk about my feelings” or “what happened”. So I’d just act like it never happened and if it made me uncomfortable I used to “forget about it”. I stuffed, and there was so much down “there”, it was literally choking me. When I entered recovery and I put down my survival tools (using) that had enabled me to maintain this mindset. Well; yes, all hell broke loose.
What did you say? Do I need to write about my past? A fourth step – what?
But I don’t have any issues, I exclaimed. And I’ve done just fine this way, “Let’s just forget about it” worked so far right? (Wrong) Why dig it all up, write about and then- TELL someone about it! Were they crazy?
Well, I had to admit that even with my absolute best efforts; there I was sitting at a 12-step meeting. And they, those people in those meetings, seemed happy and I, I felt miserable, totally miserable. Miss smarty-pants could not for the life of me figure out how to be happy. I was faux happy and if I got honest which they suggested, I’d have no idea how to be happy.
My addict, I call her Sybil, came into my life to protect me from pain and when she found drugs it was very simple, take something, don’t feel pain. Whala!! But you know how that works. Soon it just isn’t enough because I never did the work to heal from any emotional injury. You know the pain. Pain on top of more pain repeats, no healing, equals more drugs, equals well, death of the body or the soul. So no, I was not happy. I was a survivor, using whatever I could to survive, not live. I realized I wanted to live.
So I did what they suggested, I worked a round of steps 1-12 over a year.
And at a year clean, I was still miserable. I called my sponsor and I basically said, “I’m a fraud, I’m clean but I’m not really “in recovery.”
See, for me, I had scraped off the most prevalent muck in my first round of steps, then; the really dark stuff had floated to the top.
So I began again. At a year clean, put pen to paper again. I dug and dug and out came the rage. All the “stuff” I didn’t want to talk about, all the stuff I didn’t want to tell anyone.
The result of that round of steps was profound. What was revealed was all the deep pain I’d hidden all my life and that it was who I’d become because of it. Letting it go presented a lot of confusion.
Who would I be if I forgave myself and “them” and the past? I had created a whole life around that persona? In fact, I had created
a whole person – Sybil.
This new round of working the steps I learned that yes, I was an addict (I wasn’t sure till then. I was such a good faker), and that if I hung on to those old painful experiences that told me, I too could be cruel, and I was going to use.
The steps are an amazing tool, By working them I was able to understand and have empathy, (I had to look that word up) and humility (had to look that one up too) and by understanding my disease and where it manifested I found I needed to forgive myself and seek forgiveness because of it. That process helped me forgive others who were also sick. I found great freedom in this process. I use it on everyday blips today.
It is now a practice; I use this practice to eliminate anything that makes me feel like using. I mean ANYTHING. There is a solution in those 12 steps that work for me today. My 12-step recovery bag, I carry it everywhere. Today there is nothing that “one day at a time” those tools cannot fix. Living in recovery took me a while to understand, but it’s worth it. The more work I do the freer I am. Have a beautiful day!
Paige DePonte is the author of the soon-to-be-released, NOBODY’S GIRL
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