I wanted to thank everyone for their comments on my last post where I was venting about feeling like the only atheist in recovery. It helped to hear from you. It’s easier to give up a delusion when (online) friends and kind people offer a reality check. Thank you.
Today, I’d like to post on the compelling nature of the pain killing effect of acting out. In a nutshell, it’s hard to resist, particularly when you don’t even know you’re in pain!
Usually I don’t take it personally when someone points out how many times the word “God” is written in the Big Book of AA. What really bothered me is that I feel I have to be careful not to offend with my atheism, which is nonsense. If they didn’t kick me out when I pounded the table, called the sober guys happy bastards, and said that the program sucked and didn’t work, they’re probably not going to kick me out. It’s my own feeling of not belonging that’s the problem.
I’m working on it.
The day went pretty much as I expected. I washed the tears off my face and spent the rest of the day on two levels. Part of me got ticked at every little thing and another part of me sat back and watched. I don’t know how it is for other recovering addicts, but in my case, that meant that I was able to recognize and contain my anger so I didn’t spoil the day for my family. We all enjoyed the game (GO PENS) in large part because I didn’t act like a hostile porcupine jabbing people right and left.
The next day was sad. Sad, sad, sad. Again I had the double perspective. Part of me was sad, and part of me observed that I felt sad. And again I was able to contain myself and not leak emotions all over the family.
Containment is different than bottling up your emotions. Both days I told my family how I felt. The first day, the kids knew I was angry. Often when this happens, they try hard to “be good” to make me feel better. But life is better when we’re all responsible for our own emotions. We’re empathetic, we’re kind, we try to help, but we’re not responsible for “fixing.” So I told the kids that I was cranky and overwhelmed with the house being such a pig sty. I asked one to help with the laundry and the other to clean the bathroom. They pitched in, I was glad for the help, and telling the truth about how I felt meant that I wasn’t a human pressure cooker. Nobody had to skulk around wondering when I was going to blow or trying to surreptitiously bleed off the pressure.
Which brings me to today. I’m still irritable, but you know what? Something clicked. The day BEFORE the tirade my daughter showed me a video that she loves but doesn’t really understand. Even writing about it now makes my stomach clench. The video is on youtube if you want to see it. Click here and a new window will open. So anyway, the worst part of everything that’s happened to me in the past 4 years is that my children now know that I was molested. They know that like many others, I had some trouble and when I went for help, the therapist that was recommended turned out to be very bad. We explained that it was like being sick and getting poison instead of medicine from the doctor. There’s no erasing that. There’s no pulling that burden back, no re-containment.
It’s a good song, a good video. It portrays a child who is molested and it was hard for me to watch. My emotions are much more raw now than they were years ago when I’d anesthetized myself to that particular pain. And my daughter was watching ME like a hawk. I wanted to bottle my emotions up and approach the interpretation of the video as a literary exercise but I couldn’t. For one thing, she’s too perceptive. I suspect that the whole reason she asked me to watch it was to gauge my reaction. So I just said that I agreed that the video was about the girl being abused, that it made me feel very sad, and that I didn’t really want to talk about it right now because I didn’t want to feel sad. “Besides,” I said, “the house is a wreck and I want to at least get the kitchen cleaned up.” She was happy with that, proud that she’d figured it out (the meaning of the video), and relaxed because I didn’t fall apart. She bounced off to clean her room and everything went back to normal. I thought then that I went back to normal too. But now, looking back I wonder.
That’s a long story but I wanted to illustrate the weird path that feelings and emotions sometimes take and why acting out is so compelling. I may be wrong, but I think that underground hurt (both my specific molestation and the general hurt I feel for others’) and the underground fear (that I’ve hurt my children) is what led to feeling upset about the “god stuff,” which led to the next thing and then the next. You get the idea. At any point on that road, I could have taken a detour and gotten some instant relief from a pain I wasn’t even fully aware I was feeling, which is that I’m so sad that she knows. I’m frightened that she’s been scarred. And I wish none of this had happened.
When I say those fears out loud, they sound a lot smaller than they feel when they’re moving around in the underground. And although I’m no expert, I’m pretty sure this is a human thing, not an addict thing.