Growing up, processing feelings was not modeled, talked about nor encouraged. I learned that the ‘negative feelings’ should be hidden, as evidenced by being told to go to our room, to stop crying, or even being punished for a negative mood or outburst. Chocolate was my first drug of choice.
I found alcohol at the tender age of 14 when I got drunk on two cans of beer on Halloween night. Fast forward to age 20: I’m a postulant in the convent adjusting to convent life. I’m only there about 3 months when my family informs me that my Grandpa has cancer and has about 6 months to live. I was able to see him and say goodbye, but while I was there I got drunk a few times to numb out the pain. It was incredibly painful to see him in a coma, knowing he was slipping away. He passed away two weeks after I had already returned to the convent.
It took 6 months for all those feelings to surface again, and when they did I cried uncontrollably. I could not stop. I had so much sadness. With the help of the sisters at the convent, I began to realize how I had used alcohol to numb my pain. Alcohol was my coping mechanism. It worked, until it didn’t anymore. It was time to find new coping skills.
Through 12-Step recovery and therapy, I found tools to help me process my emotions. It felt impossible to feel and express what I was feeling. At times I was afraid I’d fail at this ‘recovery – healthy’ stuff. Being an overachiever, this was a frightening possibility. My counselor was patient and kind, and reassured me that just a little willingness to be open and to trust the process was all that was required. I took one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Crying is messy. Life is messy. Even babies are born messy, and yet they are beautiful. I learned that such is life, and if I wanted to live it I needed to accept that life is messy.
I am eternally grateful to my Grandpa. He gave me a precious gift of being able to see what happens when you don’t take responsibility for your recovery. I was given the opportunity to break the cycle of addiction, and it was my responsibility to take it. I learned that my emotions are neither good nor bad; that they are gifts; that they are messengers giving me information. What I choose to do with that information is up to me.
Thawing out - being able to feel my emotions, all of them, and not have to medicate them with alcohol or chocolate or loud music or buying things or….you name it - has been quite a journey. Now I know I have emotions, and that I am not my emotions. I am steady – I am Love – I am Loved by the Creator of Love, Who is Love – and when I am in a place of Peace and Joy I am One with my Creator.
As the Course (A Course in Miracles) says on page 494, Ch. 23: Pg. 22, vs. 6:
‘How can you know whether you chose the stairs to Heaven or the way to hell? Quite easily. How do you feel? Is peace in your awareness? Are you certain which way you go? And are you sure the goal of Heaven can be reached? If not, you walk alone. Ask, then, your Friend to join with you, and give you certainty of where you go.’
And who is Your Friend? Your Source, Your Higher Power. You may call it God, Allah, Holy Spirit, Jesus, or ‘J’, as I call Him, or you may call it something else. No matter. We may choose to walk alone, but our Friend is always with us, ready to assist at our request.
I am looking forward to your Share on this topic of working through grief:
- Where are you in your awareness of the power available to you by working through grief?
- What tools have supported you on your grief journey?
- What gifts have you received by working through grief?
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Until next time, Shine Your Light!