Can you see the real me? – Pete Townshend
As a person who has struggled with addictions and depression throughout my life, I took the news of Robin Williams’ passing in 2014 hard. Like the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier that year, it hit very close to home. It reminded me that long term sobriety is no guarantee of freedom of relapse. It’s still one day at a time, depending on my spiritual condition.
I staggered into my first twelve step meeting in 1985 with depression and constant suicidal thoughts running through my mind. The cumulative effects of a dysfunctional childhood, years of binge drinking and PTSD were proving too much for me carry by myself anymore. I wanted out. Twelve Step meetings were my last ditch attempt to help myself.
At first I wasn’t so sure I even wanted to stop drinking. But I wanted the pain to go away so I listened to what was being said. I put down the drink and went to meetings. At some point during that first year I understood that I had been given a gift and from then on I pursued recovery as hard as I had pursued the high.
It took something like a year to learn to feel comfortable in my skin. I will always remember with gratitude the unconditional love and support I received from the motley crew at the Brooklyn meetings I got sober in. Because of them, I started to learn to believe in a Power that was greater than myself. For a while GOD = Group Of Drunks worked for me. Further in my spiritual journey my understanding of that Power came to be God the Father and his son was Jesus Christ. In Twelve Step Speak we said “first we came, then we came to, and then we came to believe.”
I’ve been blessed with four children in recovery. We decided to start homeschooling in 1996. With no healthy frame of reference to draw from, I bought many of the recommended parenting books at homeschooling conventions and tried to follow it all. It all seemed good.
There was only one problem with this…I was slowly trading the unconditional love and grace I got sober with for a lot of rules and “shoulds.” Amidst the constant drone of biblical womanhood, godly families and purity talks, I stopped talking about my past and present struggles. I just pushed it to the background. No one needed to know. Like the frog slowly simmering in the pot, I didn’t see the danger I was putting myself in. I never felt like I really fit in. Never felt good enough.
You see, “in the rooms” they told me that I could only keep what I had by giving it away. But I had hidden it all away for fear of gossip and judgment. I didn’t talk about the bad memories that I was struggling with or the depression that was engulfing me at times. Three of my four children have special needs of some kind. Without any supportive extended family, I was completely overwhelmed.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder similar to Parkinson’s called dystonia. The symptoms came on fast and furious. I was crippled and unable to do much of anything for myself. Searching online for answers, I found a few stories about people who started drinking upon their diagnosis as well as lots of talk about oral medication. I didn’t even have the luxury to do that without a lot of careful thought. I was in terrible pain and the depression and anxiety went through the roof. I was horrified and wondered where God was in all this. But I set my face to the path ahead of me and was determined to push through this thing.
Since my diagnosis my spiritual journey shifted. I wanted to find the authenticity and grace I knew before. I felt God speaking to my heart that it was okay to be just myself; that I wasn’t going to be able to help anyone else if I was not going to be transparent and real.
The real me still struggles with bad attitudes, depression, anxiety and fear. But I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to talk about it. I’m not a failure as a Christian, a wife or a mom. I know that the grace of God is magnified in my struggles and weakness. Frequently confined at home and in bed, I began to find grace-filled women bloggers who ministered His love to me through their words.
Robin Williams’ death has hit me especially hard because he has always been a part of my life and because I understand some of what he was struggling with. I’m also thinking about friends from long ago who were also unable to escape their turmoil. Many of us tried hard to reach out to them but we could see them just slipping away.
Thanks to years of holistic self care, I’m doing physically better now and lead somewhat more of a normal life. I’m always mindful that there is no cure for depression or the disease of addiction. It’s the monkey on my back now and it’s managed one day at a time. I’ve learned to live with everything in a way that works for me; that way may not be the right way for someone else.
After all, we’re all on our own journey.