I have been walking on shaky ground lately.
When I start to feel that way, I remind myself that the ground is not shaky, so the shakiness must be from me.
I found the animal shelter last week. I’ve been returning each day to sit and pet the pups there. I don’t arrive from a kind, abundance of time and love place, but from a desperate place. From an I cannot sit inside my skin anywhere but here place. From a I need to be with those who are as vulnerable as I feel place.
I went to an acupuncturist a few months ago. A dozen of my friends referred me to her; they said she was wise and skilled. An MD with thirty years of experience. I sat down with her in a room filled with my friends. She picked up my hand, looked me in the eye and then looked down. Then she looked back up at me and said, “You are so filled with grief that I don’t know where to begin.”
I rolled my eyes. Obviously, I was the happiest girl in the room. Jerk. I let her poke me in a couple places. Afterward, I became violently ill. I came to the conclusion that acupuncture is nuts.
I’m reading a book by Ashley Judd called All That is Bitter and Sweet right now. Actually, I already finished it and then immediately started back at the beginning. I’ve never done that before. Her pain, her humility, her recovery process, and her hard earned perspective and peace have officially scared the living crap out of me.
She’s been through Recovery. She has worked and continues to work hard at it. She says that Recovery is a THING. A THING that she HAS. A TOOL and a PRACTICE to use when she gets shaky. I have a dog kennel and pills. She claims to be emotionally and mentally sober, not just physically sober. I am not sure what those things mean, but I’m fairly sure I’m just physically sober.
I believe in medication. I am sure I will always be medicated in one way or another, because I think I lack serotonin. But when I forget to take some of (my many) meds, I feel different immediately. What I feel is anger. Actually I should call it ANGER. And I just wonder what that is. Where does it come from? And what would happen if instead of shoving it down with pills for a little while, I let it come? What if I let it come?
Ashley says that depression is anger turned inward. Is that true? If it is, I want to help myself. Because I love myself so very, very much. I don’t want to turn on myself. I’d rather turn on the rest of the world, if that’s what I need to do for a while. If that’s what it takes to get healthy. To be recovered. I want to be recovered, not just sober. I want recovery.
Does a recovered person need sixty four pills a day? Does a recovered person refuse to do the twelve steps? What am I afraid of?
I’m afraid of going back there. I’m afraid of having to apologize on behalf of a ten year old girl and a twelve year old girl and a twenty year old woman. I’m afraid of rocking the boat. I’m afraid of hurting other people by asking them to go back there with me.
I would rather swallow, swallow, swallow. And hold my breath. And keep everyone happy.
But actually, I’m not sure I’d rather do that anymore.
As Ashley says- Either God is God, or nothing. And so if I seek the truth about my trouble, about my anger . . . it will have to set me free. Truth is good. Or it’s not. I’m going to find out. I am not afraid anymore. I don’t believe that there is anything inside of me that is too awful to look at directly. To uncover. One shot at life. I want it all. I want to know everything about myself.
Yesterday, I went to my first AA meeting in ten years.
I logged on to the magical interwebs and found a meeting. Then I called a friend to verify that this meeting actually existed and she told me yes, go. This is what going to a meeting looks like. You get in your car.
It might be raining. That’s okay.
You drive and cry a little ‘cause you’re scared.
Then you get very, very lost and freak out because you’re late. You’re late to Getting Better. Jesus, you can’t even get this right. You’ve screwed up already. So you call your friend and she stays on the phone with you until you get there. And she tells you- “It’s okay. You’re supposed to be late.” And that makes sense to you.
When you arrive, there is a sign over the little rickety door in the little teeny house that says “It’s okay. You’re home now.”
You walk inside and sit down at the big brown table with a dozen other people who are reading from a book. It’s not cold but you put on your hoodie because you can’t handle the idea of bare arms in this setting. You need a layer between you and the truth of it all, even if that layer is just cotton. Someone puts a book in front of you, but it keeps closing while you struggle to pull your hoodie on and zip it up to the tippy top. The man next to you (with whom you have made no eye contact) instinctively reaches out and holds your book in place till you get all zipped up. It takes a long time. He doesn’t seem impatient. Perhaps he understands the need for layers at first.
People read aloud from the Big Book that is the story of your life. You can read too, or pass. You read. You’re surprised you didn’t pass. You think maybe you just want to prove to everyone at the table that you are totally literate. You might have some problems, but you read beautifully. Hard words- no problem.
People talk about their lives. You can talk or not talk. You don’t talk yet. No one expects anything of you. You can hear yourself in some of them, though. You can hear your past self and future self and present self. You think eighty percent of it all is painfully cheesy. You also think that you look much different than the other people there. You’re much younger, much sweeter, much healthier, much hipper. Then you remind yourself that your inflated ego is part of the reason you’re in this room, so you tell yourself sweetly to shut the hell up and remain in, as Ashley calls it “receiving mode.”
Then you hold hands with a few strangers and end the meeting with some sort of chant or prayer or song. You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to. Many don’t. You can’t but not because you hate it, just because you’re a little choked up. Something about being with people who are willing to admit they’re a little broken, and they need help. It feels like: finally. It feels like Momastery.
Then the meeting is over and you smile and say hello to a few people, or you don’t. I stayed and smiled this time. I used to sneak out like a mouse hit by a beam of light and that’s okay, too.
Then you drive home thinking: well, that was something. It wasn’t everything. You’re not better. You can’t think of one life changing thing that anyone said. But that’s not important. You started. Progress is slow, but so is regression. The life changing thing is that you did something healthy and hard for yourself. For that, you’re proud. You’re proud of yourself.
This is what the sky looks like when you leave your meeting.
You’ll go back again. Today. You are younger today than you’ll ever be in your whole life and you really do have plenty of time to learn. You are not afraid of yourself. Not anymore.
Love and Peace and Adventure.
Author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller LOVE WARRIOR — ORDER HERE
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