Today my boss and I had a brief conversation about dispositions. He said something about someone's sweet disposition, and someone else's being more like his - prone to anger. Since he is a psychiatrist, and I do like him so very much, I just asked him - why is it that some people just stay nice all the time and others, like me, get angry, get ruffled feathers, get hurt feelings... etc. He, being a dear heart, said, some of it is genetic, but some of it is conditioning - in his case, as a result of having an angry father who he felt he was always in danger of being killed by for the slightest provocation - real or imagined. I said "Oh! My mother was like that!" Without missing a beat, he added "AND you were Catholic." And without missing a beat, I added "Oh, that is the only thing that got me through my childhood."
It took me a good many years of sobriety to realize that. I spent my early years of sobriety doing what we do. Mocking my faith. Acting like it was a negative thing. Pretending that those bad priests and nuns had instilled guilt in me. Later I realized they instilled a keen sense of right and wrong - and I had a finely honed ability for choosing wrong - and felt bad about it. No sense in putting the blame where it belonged - with me. Easier to blame them. Those bad people! Making me feel bad for being a total selfish creep!
But during my childhood, when I was sure that no one wanted me around, they told me that God loved me and that he had made me specially and had a special purpose for me. Oh! that was good news! They told me that I had special gifts and abilities that no one else had because God had given those gifts to me. They told me that I could always turn to God and he would Always Listen To Me. He would never tell me to be quiet. They took me to church and taught me to pray.
And do you know that I wanted to be a nun until the moment that alcohol first touched my lips? And when I tasted alcohol, I forgot everything else. I never even thought about it. But that nagging guilt would come creeping in during the night and assault me in the wee hours of the morning. When you are drinking like a fish, and behaving like a drunken woman, who should you blame for the paralyzing guilt? Myself? Nah, I think I shall blame those priests who taught me right from wrong.
It takes years to straighten out this twisted thinking... years....
Lately I have been hearing about people who have been abused. They want to work the steps and they want to forgive. They say they want to be free of it. I suffered like that for my first ten years of sobriety. I wrote inventory after inventory after inventory. I had a world class resentment against my mother. I wrote about it. I wrote her letters - even though she was deceased. I prayed. I prayed some more. It would not leave me - for ten years.
At ten years, God put a wonderful woman in my life to hear my fifth step. I didn't know what my role could possibly have been in this situation. I was a child. She was my mother. What is my role in that? But this woman made it current.
She asked me "how do you participate in this today? how do you carry this on? do you talk about it? do you talk about your mother negatively?" It hit me like a thunderbolt. And she asked me to just stop it.
When I stopped my participation, I was free. I do not need to carry this around. Oh, yes, I have scars. But I don't have to participate in resenting someone I can love instead. I don't need to define myself any longer as a person who was abused.
If I want to be free of something, I really do need to let go of it.
What a wonderful thing.