The Desert of the Real


Photo by Stephan Geyer
Photo by Stephan Geyer

Here’s what the photographer has to say about this photo: [It was] taken on the way to Waffra in Kuwait during a heavy Sandstorm. This couch was abandoned just off the road, in the desert. As you can imagine, visibility was almost non-existant! As as small tidbit on this, colours were not modified, this is as shot on the day!

It wasn’t staged. It’s not photoshopped. There’s no masking filter. Remember the old days when a photo was a moment of Truth? I couldn’t have asked for a better iconic representation of all the metaphors I try to pull together in this post. 

MPJ blogs over at The Second Road. “What if this Person is Lying?” is her latest post. It’s profound. You should read it. 

She says, “I can intuit what’s likely. I can evaluate the evidence I do have. I can do my best to judge the possibilities and probabilities based on what I know. I can learn about things after the fact. But I can’t know The Truth about everything right now.”

This is a spiritual awakening of great import. At least, I think it is. After all, isn’t acknowledging this Truth that MPJ elucidates the very essence of recovery?

It makes me think of The Matrix, where Morpheus says, “You’ve been living in a dream-world, Neo. This is the world as it exists today.” But for me, and I imagine many other addicts and co-addicts, it’s more like this is the world that has existed all along even though you were pretending it was different.

I believed that my former therapist was helping me. I put myself into his care 100%, holding nothing back, and he was lying to me, right from the very start. You know, in many important ways, a therapist is like a doctor. You allow the doctor access to your private self and trust that he or she will be gentle, that any pain you might suffer is in the interest of your over all health. When I began getting worse, I tried harder. I started going more than once a week. I revealed more. I don’t think a person could have been more emotionally and mentally spread eagled than I was during that time. I trusted that God had led me to the person who would facilitate my healing. I’d been living in a dream world.

One thing I can say for being an atheist: there isn’t a whole lot of dreaminess. At least for me, it’s much more of a desert world. There’s compassion, love, fear, anger, confusion, and wonderment so overwhelming it gives me vertigo, but the dreaminess is gone. There’s no more God who’s magically guiding me along. I wish sometimes I could go back to pretending. I liked being a believer. But I can’t. Because it’s not true. There is no God. 

I’m not sure why I see an image of the desert when I visualize Truth. Maybe because it’s sparse? It’s not really an accurate image since there’s a lot of hidden life in the desert, although, come to think of it, that does work as a metaphor for truths that are hidden. I like that.

<cue tears> I don’t have too many face-to-face friends these days. I used to be very close with two women from Church, but we’ve drifted apart. The last time we had coffee together, over a year ago, they both pointed out (just like the Church did) that although Fr. M. (the former therapist) was clearly in the wrong, I do bear a large measure of responsibility. After all, I wasn’t a child. I am responsible for my actions.

But not everyone agrees. My current therapist doesn’t. My husband doesn’t. 

But I do. My sponsor does. I wasn’t well enough to come home right after treatment, so I went to another program. All the therapists there except one agreed that I was at fault.

I wish I knew the Truth. I wish I knew how much of the fault is mine. I find myself wanting to tell the whole story, leaving nothing out so that people can judge me. And then what? I’ll tally up the votes? I got an announcement a few days ago that there’s an alumni event planned for graduates of my treatment facility. I want to go and see if I can talk to those therapists at the second place, tell them the whole story (again) and see if they might see me differently. It’s not that I want to avoid taking responsibility for my actions, I swear. At least, I don’t think so. I just want to know how much of what happened is my fault.

I need to know the truth. 

But it hurts to tell this story. And honestly, if counting up tallies worked as a way to convince myself that something was true, I’d be able to go back to believing in God. There’s sure a lot more people who are going to throw their ballot in the “God Exists” box than the other one. Even my current therapist doesn’t agree with me on that one. But I need to know the truth.

<cue drying the tears> But hey. Like MPJ says, ” I can’t know The Truth about everything right now.”



  1. Throwing in my two cents for what it’s worth.

    What makes you think your experience has to do with “fault”? Fault and responsibility are two different things. I would ask the question, “What can I take responsibility for? What part do I own?” To me that means stepping back in time to the level of awareness you held during your time with this therapist. WHAT DID YOU KNOW AS “TRUTH” THEN?

    When were you totally unaware of what was being done to you? When were you existing in true trust that was abused? When did you know you were personally out of line? When did you willingly choose something you knew was unhealthy for you? What part of the experience lines up with a past experience? How does that play into the possibility that you went down a familiar road this time with the ability to eventually see clearly and get out of it.

    You may currently look back and see many things you were unable to see then. That’s the growth you have had since the experience but it is not the actual experience you had. Many times I can look back on something and see so clearly where my thinking and behavior was grossly skewed. But, if I truly was existing from my then, “current” awareness, there is nothing I could have done differently. Sometimes I can see that I really knew the truth but was pretending (knew I was in collusion). To me there is a world of difference between the two.

    Being an adult does not wipe out the fact that another adult can abuse you and take advantage of your openness, trust and longing to heal. Abuse happens in work relationships, marriages, friendships, fellowships, etc. Adults abuse other adults all the time.

    Anyone that works in the healing field knows that clients are very vulnerable. They are coming to you with trust and expecting to be honored. I am not currently working but do work in this field and know that therapists abuse their power all the time. The power balance is tipped. The person that holds the “authority”, in my opinion holds greater responsibility for the climate of the relationship. It is also very natural and quite common (even lacking sex addiction) for clients to develop crushes toward the person that helps them heal. It’s common knowledge to therapists that this happens and it is their responsibility to hold a container, so to speak, for the client to move past this stage in order to continue their healing process.

  2. I have a version of this that I do myself. I want ALL the tallies to add up in my favor. I want to explain and explain until I get universal acknowledgment that my truth is The Truth. It’s never going to come, but I keep looking anyway. Thanks so much for sharing.

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