I began this two-part series explaining that I have longed for true joy in my life, and yet have been afraid of it for reasons I couldn’t comprehend. The patterns of abuse, the internal messages and perspectives, and even my own self-concept which were given to me as a child have lasted into my adulthood- coloring my view of the world and myself, and seriously effecting my relationships and choices. It’s like the abuse never stopped, because it’s been going on in my head. It’s what leads me to act in and out in my addiction. Even though I am completely out of contact with my perpetrators, they have lived on in my head, making each day- sometimes each moment– a struggle.
But why have I allowed that to go on for so long? What was I getting out of the constant misery? Why couldn’t I just “forgive and forget” or say “screw them!” and move on, embracing freedom and joy? Even in my recovery (which has been an amazing miracle in my life for which I am overwhelmingly thankful), their “hooks” seemed to still be in me. Why?
I finally have the answer. It came to me during a 12-step meeting I was chairing. We did a reading and started sharing, and BAM! There it was:
I have had a core belief that by staying miserable, I am somehow punishing those who hurt me. Like they should magically know how wounded I still am and live in a constant state of remorse. I have believed that if I moved on and shook off the chains of bondage, it would be like saying that what they did to me didn’t matter… like I’d be letting them off the hook.
Wow! Once those core beliefs were out in the open, I was able to examine them objectively and realize how mistaken they were! I am now able to see that…
* I am the one who’s been “on the hook” all these years, not them! I’m the one being punished, doing a life sentence in a prison of pain and shame.
* Even if they did become aware of my misery, I honestly think they’d feel empowered, not guilty! These are some pretty sick people we’re talking about here! If they could see my vulnerability, they may even take it as an invitation to start trying to hurt me again!
* Before I was in recovery, it was like I was in a locked jail cell. There was no way I had any power to escape on my own. But, by the grace of almighty God, I have been given the gift of sobriety! It’s like the prison door has been unlocked and opened. But by holding onto misery and cowering from the bright light of joy, I have stayed curled up in the corner, refusing to walk out into the sunshine.
What I needed to see was that the deadly things holding me back were pride, resentment and clinging to a victim role. Also, by trying to manipulate other people’s thoughts and feelings and by passing judgement on them, I was playing God. (My first sponsor told me once, “You need to stop playing God, because you suck at it!”)
Let me tell you, that is not the life story I want to look back on from my deathbed. And who knows how close to that I am? Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” I want that freedom today!
The great miracle is that once I realized all of these things, the snarls in my heart and mind seem to be loosening and straightening all on their own. I feel less and less burdened or bothered by both the past and my present day-to-day challenges. Joy is creeping into my life without any real effort from me, like the morning sun spilling through a window and sprawling across the floor.
I have been sick for days. My house is messy. I have responsibilities I’d rather not have. My kids aren’t perfect angels. It’s still kind of scary being fully present with my loving husband. But you know what? I see it all differently. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’m meeting each day with abundant gratitude. What a gift! What a miracle! I am taking my first baby steps into a joy-filled life. What an adventure it will be!