Recovering My True Self

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The journey to self discovery is fascinating to say the least. I embarked on mine a year ago, but I do believe I have spent a lifetime searching. What I have come to realise is that self examination is very painful from a place of judgement and shame. They have a saying in the rooms of 12 step and that is, “God only gives you what you can handle”. This is apparent, based on the trauma, which has only, just surfaced. Before connecting to it, I got to a place of complete self-acceptance and gentleness.

I had an experience with my best friend, which broke me. She is my greatest mirror! She came to me with a scenario, which I went straight into judgment over. My judgement was rooted in fear of what I didn’t know. Naturally I took her inventory for her and judged her the same way I would have judged myself if I had been in the same situation. Her reaction, though painful, is exactly what I needed to see. I hurt the person, who I love the most and it was as painful for me to see myself doing that as I think it was for her to be on the receiving end. It was from that moment, that I realised exactly how harmful I can be, to myself… She just allowed me to witness it. I felt regret and deeply feared abandonment.

She didn’t leave, she like me, stuck around and thank God for that! I made a mistake and I was forgiven and it is from that I started to believe I was forgivable. I let go of trying to be this perfect specimen, who will never slip or make a mistake and I connected with my humanness. I found self-forgiveness and in turn learnt self-acceptance. The shame has left me, because for the first time I can love me for who I am and that is enough. To know that nothing I do is wrong OR right. That I am like a little girl learning to run. I may fall and I may hurt myself, but that is ok, because there is nothing wrong with learning through doing. And if I am constantly fearing doing things, I will do nothing at all. I will merely escape into the fantasy of doing things, which lives in my head. Then I end up disappointed that I don’t do them.

When I am afraid, I ask God, “Please come in and hold my hand”. I was a frightened little girl with no freedom to express myself without punishment. This is no longer the case, but that little girl is not going to come out with harsh words and judgement. Love, open arms and encouragement on the other hand, are the antidote. “A spiritual awakening is the antidote for fear”, from one of the questions on step twelve – Yes it is. My spiritual awakening was unconditional love and acceptance of self. If I love myself no matter what. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

I went to Sydney last weekend. The trip was something special. I did a meeting for adult children of dysfunctional families and for the first time in my life I cried in front of people who weren’t my mother or my therapist – not to mention in front of an entire group! I hobbled out of the meeting and I realised I had literally forgotten everything people had said. Bessel Van Der Kolk explained it best, when he said that when people get scared, frightened or upset we loose our frontal lobe and the limbic system takes over (which is the primitive part of the brain that was created when you were a kid to help you survive) – so the question he poses is how do we build up our frontal lobe so that it can still operate when the limbic system takes over. – Anyway, he explains it much better than I do. I watched the video in February for the first time and on Sunday, I had my first lived awareness of this actually happening to me. People would say their names and no sooner had they said it, would I forget their name completely. It was really weird and confronting. We went for a ridiculously over priced massage afterwards and ate ice cream and then passed out early. My experience is that you can have all the stamina in the world, but it means nothing to keep you standing in the midst of this emotional work… It is there on my knees that I can comprehend humility.

Another thing that happened on the trip and the day before I left. I went into a clothing store to buy a pair of shorts. This was really difficult for me, because when the shop assistant asked me what I was looking for I had NO idea! She brought out the full range of women’s shorts, which were all high wasted and inappropriately short. These are the kind of shorts I have worn for the past 12 years and have sat in meetings completely uncomfortable. My codependency was starting to kick in and I started feeling really bad that I wasn’t going to buy anything – maybe this was a little bit of a blessing! What it inspired me to do was ask her about the boys shorts I had seen when I walked in. She was a bit shocked, but brought me a full range of guys shorts in different sizes and I was able to try them on and find the size that fit me. I had my first happy shopping experience EVER!!! It was great, because when we got to Sydney, I went into another clothing store and walked around with my friend feeling totally uneasy and overwhelmed. Disheartened, I sat and waited to give my friend the thumbs up while she tried on her outfits. I got up and shuffled over to the guys section. I started to get quite excited when I found 2 pairs of shorts I liked and knew the size I was looking for. 1 didn’t look great, but the other did and I was over the moon… this was a second INCREDIBLE shopping experience for me.

Months ago I would have had too much shame to come out of hiding to publicly start to try to look for who I am. I would have been too ashamed of the fact that I wanted to wear guys clothing and I most certainly would have done everyone’s thinking for them and done the worst judgement of me through your eyes – let alone actually asking for help! Seeing the joy and excitement being myself brought to me over the weekend, I am not sure I can ever go back to suppressing that part of me. I heard some famous Bollywood director once say, “It takes an awful lot of energy trying to be something you’re not and absolutely no energy at all just being who you are.”

Two Young!!!

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The last time I blogged, I wrote about putting my program down. Now I am a strong believer in if you put your program down, you will be in a heap load of pain. This is true for me in the sense that I relapsed (on the sex stuff). The interesting paradox, is that the lessons come after the pain and I guess it was a risk worth taking. I learnt so much in the last month! Whereas before I was too afraid to stop doing the work, because I thought I was going to die.

I learnt to sit with a feeling. I learnt that I am not going to die when life gets unmanageable and I learnt that when life gets really bad, all I need to do is pick up my program. I have my ex girlfriend to thank for that – or my qualifier as they call it in this 12 step fellowship. We came into recovery together. We broke up after a year and in a desperate attempt to not relapse on drugs I started working a program like my life depended on it. The result was entering into a group, which made top lines a priority (my top lines were going for walks on the beach, doing comedy classes, socialising, talking to people… the list goes on!). For any normy, this would sound like day to day activities. If you are an addict like me, writing out these things as a good behaviour goal, stops me from either compulsively over working or spending the entire day in bed without showering.

It’s interesting, because I started this blog post before I lapsed and now I am finishing it after and the shift is fascinating. I had so much hope and strength in my bones before and now I feel slightly defeated. I am only on day 1 (well tomorrow will technically be day 1) – When I first entered this program, I relapsed that many times, that I was well aware of how each day felt leading up to day 30. Day 1,2 & 3 are all ok, because the high of acting out hasn’t quite worn off yet. Day 4 & 5 whatever pain you were trying to mask with acting out hits like a ton of bricks, compounded with guilt, shame and remorse. In my opinion, if you survive day 4 & 5, you can survive anything. By day 10, some normality starts to enter your life again and you feel like life is actually possible. And by day 20, you start to feel really good. – Well this is my experience anyway. It is by day 20 that I start to feel so good that I forget the pain and 20-23 I forget the pain to such an extent that I become cocky with my recovery – I think I start to glow when I feel that good and all of a sudden people just start coming out of the woodworks (temptations!) – If somehow you can sustain abstinence through this period, the drive to get 30 days outweighs the temptation and, somehow I tend to be able to white knuckle it there. Once I hit day 45 I feel absolute relief. So that is my goal – 90 days, but I will begin by aiming for 45 and doing it one day at a time. I have done 9 months of sustained sobriety, so I am happy to do it again, plus I have therapy in 21 days… pointless doing therapy while acting out.

So why the relapse? One could say it’s from sober dating someone without a secure attachment style. I wish that was the reason, but that was the slip, not the relapse. Last Monday, I unlocked some major childhood trauma in a brain spotting session with my therapist. My dad used to punish me by locking me in the cupboard, until I stopped crying. This happened when I was only 5 years old and cripples me in every area of my life today! The fear of getting things wrong, being punished and abandoned, causes me so much anxiety in work, relationship and even food, I had to sit with this feeling this week. I slipped with this girl, by going too far into physical intimacy. After the slip, I simply recommitted to my program and it was a great solution. I did a meeting every night, started working through the “Facing the Shadows” workbook – Patrick Carnes and picked up my 10th and 11th step.

What got revealed was my pattern of preoccupation – ritualisation – sexual acting out – despair, then the cycle repeats itself. I thought I did a sterling job of arresting it in it’s first cycle, but I spoke to my mom on the phone last night and we spoke about the abuse. She brought up that my dad did it to me when I was going through my terrible two’s… My heart sank, it still sinks and I well up (and I’m still in the fogginess of acting out – so I don’t even want to imagine the pain that is on its way) – I can’t help but picture a two year old girl being thrown into the cupboard and left there. My heart hurts!

I don’t really have that much more to say about that, because it’s still really raw and painful. My life makes sense though, why I am so full of fear and have such high expectations of myself. Why I always want to hide and any expression needs suppression… I was 2 years old, how the hell was I supposed to know what was right and wrong!?!

I relapsed on masturbation and even after I tried to numb out, I am still in tears writing this. I know acting out is not the solution. I also know I am going to be in even more pain soon. I know I wont die though and I know I have the tools to get me through. God has got me, as always! Just needed to get honest. This is my road to recovery. It’s not always going to be strength and hope. I am still going regardless… not sure how, but I am still here.

Recovering My True Self

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Whoo hoo! I’m back!!! 🙂

I have been on quite a journey in the last month. It has been a real period of self discovery! I had been going flat out with recovery, since about April last year. I was in a desperate amount of pain after breaking up with my ex, the woman who I moved to Australia for. Since the break up, I did a step one on her and a step four on her in the drug program, but that really didn’t work. 6 months later, I fell into the love fellowship on my knees and desperate to fill the empty space that was so dark and lonely, it made death the more palatable option. I was scared. I didn’t want to die. It took every last bit of strength and God, to stop me from giving up entirely.

I started the steps in the love fellowship and in the process realised my codependent tendencies, so I started the first 14 days of questions in that too. I was acting out with workaholism and at the beginning my sex addiction was running rampage. I acquired a little self worth in the codependent program and managed to walk away from my job and a boss who was gas lighting me. I also managed to get more than 30 day abstinence with the sex and love stuff too. What I was left with, was the beginning of a life worth holding on to and that darn empty space!!! Somebody suggested therapy. I took the woman’s number, but with the ‘glamorous’ childhood I had, I really didn’t see how I could possibly need therapy (completely overlooking the fact that I had been to therapist after therapist since I was 14).

One day I was at home and I was completely overwhelmed with shame after receiving a message from my former boss. I was ready to throw in the towel and it was then and there that God gave me the strength to reach out to this woman. She called me and it was an instant connection. I had no idea how I was going to pay for these sessions, considering I had just walked away from my job, but I was desperate and I would have done anything at that point. What followed was a gruelling commitment to self recovery – Recovery from addiction, is in actual fact, recovery of my true authentic self (you know the one that was there before the dysfunctional family systems and societal jading).

Since February I have worked through books. Before then I didn’t even read. Books like: Claudia Black – Changing Course; Jerrold Mundis – Earn What You Deserve (Turns out I had a money addiction too); Julia Cameron & Mark Bryan – Money Drunk Money Sober. Charlotte Kasl – Women, Sex & Addiction; Brennan Manning – The Ragamuffin Gospel; Patrick Carnes – Facing the Shadows. I have finished the 12 steps in the love fellowship. I started in the money fellowship, got up to step 3, put it down and picked it up again. I did an improv comedy course. Have just started listening to a guide to stand up and writing jokes – this was all while working and studying. Every time I put my program down, I would get into a heap load of pain, so I was afraid to stop. I was even frantic around doing heavy therapy sessions fortnightly and writing this blog.

Now I don’t know if I had a spiritual awakening, but it sure feels like one (Many actually! Every time I turn my head one whacks me in the face – it’s like a profound realisation!). One month ago, I threw in the towel on therapy. I went into the session and just said I just cant do anymore. I wanted to live the life I had worked so hard to recover. My therapist supported me in a way so gentle, I have really just tried to carry it to everyone I deal with – it is a love and a gentleness that I had never experienced before.

After making that decision, which for me was the first step toward empowerment and independence, everything started to change. I booked a trip to Sydney. Reconnected with a love interest. Had a near fall out with my best friend, which pulled out my deepest abandonment wound and put me into the most vulnerable place I have ever been – I was naked and frail and so aware of my humanness AND I didn’t die! (I was able to self soothe and even though I had ‘lost’ my best friend, I was ok!) – It was there I let go of the self judgement and shame. I could see my defects and was able to make amends for the behaviour (taking people’s inventory). Seeing my humanness, helped me see it in other people and it is there I found true love for self.

I put my program down for that month, but I didn’t beat myself up about it. I have been able to start dating and start breaking the sober dating guidelines, but I go easy on myself. I am an addict, I am not always going to get it right! I got into pain around the money stuff, so I recommitted. As a result opportunities are falling out of the sky and God is actually giving me the courage to follow up on business and feel worthy of that business and feel good about the work I do. “Gentle judgement free approach to self” – I wrote that down as one of my top/bottom lines a year ago and I finally get to practice it.

Tomorrow I will do 5 rhythms, then go and ride a horse that somebody wants me to compete. I’ll go and watch a comedy shoe in the evening (Nadine Sparks) – an inspiration in my pursuit of my comedy career. And then ending off on a night out dancing in the LGBTIQ community. All four of these things are on my list of esteemable acts. I am blessed. I am working a program, but not like my life depends on it and I am living that life I have always dreamed of. This stuff works and the moments of stillness in my mind, make the work totally worth it!

Feeling love today and feeling SO grateful!