Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scars, Abuse, Forgiveness, Anger

And pizza. I grilled up the last of my pizza dough tonight - and put these pizzas into a bag in the fridge. I will have food for days. I didn't want to waste the good dough I made on Monday night - and it was at the end of how long it could be stored - so it was cook it or toss it.

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.


Kelly said...

I've never been embarrassed of my Catholicism, just because I like the structure that it gave know, how I know God and how I know mass and so forth. Yet, just recently, I had to reevaluate and realize that God wasn't someone that I had to pray 'Now I lay me down to sleep' to, I could talk to him...he wanted me to. That was earth shattering, because in my little world, God was big and in charge and praying was how I got in touch.

Impersonal, standard issue prayers.

I'm really glad that it was positive for you.

I'm glad you were able to get to the point where you were able to let go of that resentment, too.

I asked God, more like demanded, not too long back that he take away some resentment I had towards a certain person. And he did, after I tried and tried for so long. I'm glad he did it.

Now I wonder if the same works for not trusting people....because I no longer resent the man, but I can't trust him worth a dang!


dAAve said...

Yeah. I really like the concept of not needing to carry that stuff though the rest of life. We can let it go if we want or just have a different attitude.
It's up to us.

Have a lovely weekend.

Mary LA said...

Great post Mary Christine. I have a sunny disposition with some obdurate and black patches. And I agree that healing is helped by the decsion to stop doing whatever perpetuates the old obsessions.

Wish I was meeting you for coffee in San Antonio -- I'd know the sandals and sunglasses anywhere!

Pam said...

My sweet Mary, I wish I could go back in time and share my precious Mother with you.
The nuns were right about you...God did make you so special!
I think that people like to create a God that can be their friend (I know I did when I first came into our beautiful program) someone to chit chat with and such. What I've since learned (for me) is that God is God and either I align myself with what his "program" is or I suffer the awful aloneness feeling without him.
It hurts my heart that you did not have a sweet Mama.

Hope said...

What a wise sponsor. Wow.
Somewhere along the way I lost the need for my mother to be my scapegoat, too. When I accepted that I was defined by more than the screwups and horrible things I had done in my life then I looked at her and extended the same grace.

AnyEdge said...

What a beautiful inversion and analysis of the old parody of 'Catholic guilt'. I absolutely love it. God Bless You. NExt time someone talks about the catholic guilt I can say: "You mean you felt guilty for being exposed as a wrongdoer?"

I won't of course. But it is a really valuable way to think about it.

~~BRB Queen~~ said...

I was fortunate enough to have two wonderful women given to me at the beginning of my sobriety. My therapist at treatment and my sponsor.

Through them I was able to see my part in something I didn't think I should have a part in -- past abuse. This is the situation I "drank at" the last 6 months of my drinking. My part was simply that I did not seek help once I became an adult and knew the situation was causing me problems.

In regards to my mom, my sponsor told me the same thing -- stop participating! My mom is still alive and very much a part of my life. She will never change, but my attitude and actions towards her change our relationship.

Today I get to see her as a woman who is the result of a not so pretty past. My prayer for her is that one day she will see that she could benefit from the steps, just as I can.

I get to help her in that direction by being an example of what happens when enough is enough and we take action.

Syd said...

It is a wonderful thing to let go of anger. I have to say that I am much more able to let go of things now than ever before when I would nurse a hurt for a long time. I don't have to do that today. But I also realize that there are times when I don't have to completely trust someone who has hurt me. That means that I am taking care of myself--I think.

Linda Myers said...

I admit I'm sometimes still annoyed with my mother, though she passed away nearly two years ago. She was so difficult. My annoyance is that she didn't ever do her work, and her discontent leaked all over her children.

I made my amends to my mother on her deathbed - I hadn't even known what I owed her, but I asked as I was getting on the plane, and it worked itself out. One of the great spiritual experiences of my life.

This difficult woman left me an inheritance, enough that I was able to retire yesterday, three years before retirement age. As I thought about it, I realized that could have been an amends of sort. Or maybe not. I do know that what I do with my life now, I'll do for both of us. Because I'm doing my work.

Guess I'm the lucky one after all. I'm not done yet with my annoyance, but it's coming along.

Recovering said...

Thanks for such a lovely blog, not just this entry but many other too.

I also have been writing about my early experiences in recovery, and how I have been struggling. One thing I have been wrestling with is my feelings towards religion, and my previous experiences of, and a higher power as presented by AA.

I havent quite figured it out yet, but I am getting nearer to reconciling faith and my previous experience.

Many thanks!

Kathy Lynne said...

I love this post and I am very grateful I met a woman like that early on, though I still have to remind myself. We have a meeting that meets in the nursery of a church and there are signs all around the wall You are Special, God Loves You, Jesus Loves you, etc. How wonderful for a child to hear that when you may not be hearing it anywhere else. I'm glad you were able to carry that with you. I never had that but I understand it now. I'm just starting to get used to feeling it. Have a wonderful trip!