Jasper and I just arrived home from the dog park. It has been my one place of refuge during all the dark winters back home here since my last relationship broke up. The one place I can connect to others through our mutual love of dogs. I have made some lovely friends there and on any day I meet new people or connect more with those I have met before. This has really saved me as I can tell you some winter afternoons I have not made it there until after 3pm and I have been feeling deeply suicidal, particularly in the time just following my older sister’s death just over 2 years ago.
It is spring here now, though and the spring has been a long time arriving. I am not sure how much of my improved mood is due to sunshine days (of which we have had only a few in a straight row over months) but I do feel lighter today. But I know it was not only going to the park, today I felt immediately better after I sat down to write a blog about how I was feeling. When I got a lovely comment from someone who read it, I just started to cry, but they were healing, grateful tears, tears that made me aware my heart had opened due to being connected to someone and that from that place of connection feeling could flow out.
I read a meme on someone’s Facebook page the other day that said “The opposite of addiction is connection.” I would expound on that to say that I believe my own alcohol addiction grew in the absence of feeling connected to empathy, love, support and understanding and out of an even deeper lack of connection to my own inner self particularly as I began to deny the truth of what I was feeling and cover it over or pretend. I was not aware that this was what I was doing or had done for quiet some years into my addiction recovery, it was largely an unconscious way of coping. And as trauma and tragedy began to occur there was a pain deep inside I kept internalising, in the growing absence of lack of places to express what I was struggling with inside.
I am even sure that my accident that nearly killed me at age 17 came out of lack of connection. I was at that age the only one at home with Mum and Dad, my second sister left home to get married when I was 14 and I cried throughout the entire ceremony (I was bridesmaid) and got in trouble for crying!!!. Weekends were lonely as we had moved from the neighbourhood where my closest friends were and Mum worked 5 and a half days a week. She didn’t need to, but she wanted to. She didn’t want to spend any time with her youngest daughter. And I could not connect to my Dad and so I began to look to cigarettes and alcohol and books and all kinds of inanimate things. On the weekend I had the accident a friend invited me to her house on Friday night, but I had to get up early for work and crashed the car on the way to work. It may be all unrelated but I know the battle I was going through at that stage to connect with the first of two relationships which held a lot of potential and the unconscious fears I was, by then, carrying into relationship.
In a way reading and writing has saved me (though all the writing I did at that time had no outlet, like now) but books are not animate and they cannot listen to you, though they might provide a way of connecting to similar experiences and so make you feel less alien, strange or alone, they are not really a substitute for friendship or one on one connection.
These days I am more and more aware that the responses I made to my childhood and later tragedy trauma took me AWAY from others, not towards them. And these days I need most importantly to connect on any day. I developed an aversion to connection and a fear of it which has dogged me. It has obliterated relationships in the past and kept me alone and sad and believing that was the way it always had to be, that others could not be trusted. And it has hurt others who wished for me to engage, I can see that now, at the same time that I can see that the darkness and pain I carried was not easy for others to hear, but never the less needed to be expressed. When I could begin to accept it within myself and see it as a sign of health not badness I could then find others I could connect with truly from a place of authenticity.
I am grateful to WordPress for providing me with an avenue to express and it was a gift that came to me when most needed, my blog started at the urging of another blogger and just six months before I lost my eldest sister who had been the closest thing to a mothering presence in my life that I had ever known and very damaged herself and together with one on one therapy it has given me a place to pour out all my feelings while I am feeling them and even my desperate suicidal thoughts on the really dark days
I do feel that the lack of connection that has dogged me most of my life is now healing. I had to face the wound inside together with the fears, I had to find out where it came from and why I would fear and respond as I did. I had to learn to connect with me and stop putting myself in situations where I tried to connect with people around me and in my family who are emotionally barricaded or defended against their own feelings. Through pain and flawed attempts at trying to express myself in these relationships and most especially through being able to express what was occurring with a skilled therapist I have come to see where and why my defences existed. Where and why I was made wrong.
And I also needed a place to express the anger about this. As my fear was always that if I expressed any anger I would be turned away. That had happened to me as a small child. It had occurred in later relationships where I acted out anger with people who lacked the necessary empathy and insight to understand why. In the past few years with my lovely therapist my anger and legitimate protest has found a place to be held, contained and expressed. What a gift. That anger is now leaving me. It existed inside me as anxiety, as a tightened up, tied up feeling as a result of being in wounded and dysfunctional relationships with others with unresolved anger wounds they had not yet addressed with no way out, shamed for expressing anger and legitimate protest.
For any of you who struggle with this issue yourselves I would love to recommend a wonderful book by therapist Robert Karan, called The Forgiving Self : The Road from Resentment to Connection. It is a wonderful exploration of how important it is that our anger and protests find a place in relationship and how we can be damaged in being raised by parents who will not allow the expression of healthy anger and protest in their kids. I do believe as a person in recovery that resentments and blocked anger expression does lead in many cases to alcohol and drug addiction. Until we understand in recovery why we are resentful, what it was inside us we could not express, what need or instinct was wounded, thwarted, repressed or damaged it is difficult to recover our own sense of power and agency. We may tend then to disconnect from our own anger and instincts and/or attract relationships in which this happens.
As long as anger was not an option…or only an option that (we can) exercise in a dissociated way, through a cold withdrawal or occasional bouts of temper, (we cannot) not stay connected. For (us) to protest….(is a way) to stay connected, stay vulnerable, demonstrate a determination to get something better for (ourselves) and for the relationship. If (we) are ever to put an end to (the) tendency toward vacant, dissociated, grudge and embrace … this act of standing up for (ourselves), of being there for (ourselves), of self actualisation would be an essential prerequisite.
In order to connect we most vitally and importantly need a relationship and connection with our own lively life energy. We need strong boundaries and a sense of what it is that lights us up and dims us down. We need a sense of power that comes from a centred and peaceful relationship with our own insides. Without this we founder and we break our connection with others. A connection we most need in order to live and love with grace on this planet as fully embodied human beings in touch with the healing, cleansing power of our emotions and the messages they have for us.