Before recovery I was totally outer-directed. I did what I thought would bring me approval and acceptance. I came by these traits quite honestly as they run in my family. Recovery from alcoholism was the beginning of a new journey after many years of dependence on alcohol to help me “cope” with life – which had become a downward spiral that led me to many desperate places, internally and externally. As long as I was drinking, I could not deal with any of the other problems in my life, many of which were caused by the altered perception that comes from using a substance to make life “more enjoyable”. Just as many were there before I ever picked up the first drink. Until I had stopped drinking for several years through AA I couldn’t tell the difference…
After a time in recovery, I realized that I still had problems with “people, places, and things”, mostly: people. I had a difficult time with boundaries – I didn’t have any. Nor did I understand that I not only have the right but also the responsibility to set them. It was difficult to even begin to sort that stuff out, as I seemed to “breathe in” the expectations of those around me and instinctively tried to live up to them. This tendency started in my childhood. The unwanted second child of a failed marriage who should not have been born - that was me… I’d heard it and internalized the rejection that came with it. I “knew” that I was unlovable and it never occurred to me to doubt that perception. Of course I didn’t doubt it – THEIR reactions to me spoke louder than words and loomed very large in my young mind. Without knowing I was doing it I made them bigger than they ought to be – I made them ‘god’.
Knowing I was a disgrace to my family, I left them behind; but I took with me the trait so common to codependents: the fear created by rejection and disapproval issues and the driving urge to overcome the consequences of living in fear. The ‘unfinished business’ from my childhood showed up in every relationship I ever got into – so for a long time I thought that staying out of relationships altogether was the answer. In truth, this was just another fear: the fear of commitment, as I would lose myself totally if I let them ‘in’ - plus the fear that they wouldn’t like me if I did, because I “knew” what I was... The ‘yo-yo effect’ was that I was ok on my own for a while, then got lonely, then felt trapped and overwhelmed and needed out, then was ok on my own – for a while… It was a cycle that went on and on for many years.
In early recovery I fell in love – which narrowed the participants in my cycle down to one and I ended up marrying him. Which I thought had stopped the cycle. It hadn’t. After several challenges to my recovery from alcoholism and lots of journaling and praying and meetings and step work I finally did the once unimaginable: I left him after 10 years of marriage. The first 14 months apart from him I spent getting over him. I had to – the wounds were still ‘bleeding’ and oozing the pus of bitterness and resentment over ‘what he had done to me’. A 4th Step inventory on the pain and disappointment of the failed marriage helped greatly in getting past the emotional bondage that had come out of the ‘bond’ I had thought it was supposed to be. I let go of him – and finally ‘remembered’ myself. After all, I had been a person in my own right before I met him… Which was true, to a point. In all actuality, it became a return to the original ‘tapes’ that had been recorded long before he ever showed up in my life.
Sober and in a growing relationship with God, I was now a ‘single’. Though this means ‘dating’ for some peers I didn’t mean that I could – or should. I needed to take time for myself, to do some healing. I did not trust my own judgement in relationships. The patterns of dys-functionality were all over my life… Through the pain and in the healing, my relationship with God grew to a new dimension. And so the Real Challenge began…
The sorting out of ideas that I had accepted as “true” turned out to be the most challenging and taxing process that ever took place for me. It lasted 18 months. In this process I became aware of how much I was suffering due to things I did not understand. Of the numerous ideas that I had always believed without ever really looking at them, many came in the form of “God wants you to …”. Someone had told me what THEY thought God wanted me to do or be, and I had never doubted them. I began to question at this point the various ideas that I had been taught.
Starting with the beliefs I had about me, I began to discover that at one point I must’ve been ok… when I was born, before I had any opportunity to do anything “wrong”. I began to ask questions regarding “right” and “wrong” as these were taught to me, and to look at the places from which they originated. Many things I absorbed were the beliefs and attitudes of people who were spiritually ill, just like me. I began to question if these ideas had something to do with what God had said – and what exactly He Himself had said about such matters. I studied with concordances and other help tools to seek the pertinent information. I made some interesting discoveries. I began to discover that human error had, many times, been the cause of quite erroneous conclusions.
“The traditions of men” vs “God’s doctrine” became the arena of my search. I began to discover that in the realm of the spirit many times the error is rooted in a spiritual lie – that many times the root cause of “error” is really a successful attempt to deceive those who can be deceived. That no human is ever exempt from this possibility – everyone of us is (and always has been) a “target” for the spiritual entity that seeks to deceive, in order to draw us to himself rather than to see us draw closer to God. Some attempts at deception would actually convince that there is no such thing as an entity that deceives… to better ensure that we ignore our own inborn senses! They become dulled as we calmly ‘accept’ that “we can never understand these things”… as this is what we are taught (by … people who may very well be deceived). As long as I believed that idea, I depended on someone else to “teach me”, on their understanding to help “lil ole me” as I just can’t figure out a thing… and I continued to make them “god” in my mind. Then I finally took my eyes off “people” and focused on God…
There is a dimension beyond my human understanding, and THEIRS - whoever I assume to be the ‘authority’ on such questions… They are human, too, and just as error-prone as I turned out to be. I no longer believe myself to be ‘fundamentally flawed’ as I once did – this was part of the “error net” I got caught up in before I could even think. The spiritual realm is a lot bigger than I realized… certainly a lot bigger than “just me”. There is more to the picture than the trouble I have and the things that are “wrong” with me - according to someone else’s opinion. To think of me in this way keeps me believing I’m “all that” – negatively. It keeps me stuck in a form of self-centeredness that is the root cause of my codependency and also my alcoholism. To trade in “my old ideas” merely for “THEIR old ideas” kept me stuck in the problem.
There is a struggle going on indeed – a spiritual struggle. I used to think that this struggle originated in ME. I found out that it doesn’t… that I have simply somehow become the “rope” in a spiritual tug-of-war that isn’t mine and never was. That this is the fate most humans have in this day and age: to sort out the lie from the truth, and to get free from the bondage of spiritual illness running rampant in this generation. I am not the cause of this – nor am I the cure for it. I have no control over these matters. Seeing the bigger picture and at least a little part of the bigger picture has set me free from the life-long struggle I’ve had with CONTROL based on fear.
I’ve dared to question every idea that was passed on to me. Many of them I have rejected… In the process, I was given the freedom to no longer have to believe anything that is self-based whether the basis is my ego or someone else’s. It has been my experience that God will not desert me when I attempt to seek His understanding of all matters that concern me – and that it is often very different from that which I was taught. I have willingly submitted myself to Him and no longer submit myself to “people, places or things” as they no longer rule me. The Freedom that has come out of this is incredible. I am grateful that I took on the Real challenge – to not let anyone define God for me, or explain “what God wants” but to truly let Him lead me through the troubled sea of human and spiritual confusion. It has become the Great adventure of Living, beyond anything I could ever imagine.