For the first 5 or so years I was in recovery, I hated having to go to those damn meetings. I was a binge drinker, you see. I didn’t drink every day. A couple of times a month… once a week … I couldn’t control my drinking. But I hadn’t been able to quit altogether, and it was too scary when I did drink. I had to do something. And, once I got around the meeting crowd, I wanted what they had. I wanted the laughter, the closeness, the instant community that I saw. So, I kept coming back.
Jessica and I were talking yesterday about experiencing people REALLY listening to you. The beauty of support groups is that you don’t get advice. Some of them are geared for that, but most are just places where you can speak about whatever you want, and people just hold space. When you are done, the next person speaks their mind. No one judges. No one tries to fix your problem. Nobody quotes inspirational sayings to motivate you to get back on your feet. There is just beautiful profound silence. It is as beautiful a gift to give as it is to receive.
There is a shortage of listening in this world. I can’t tell you how many people tell me that I’m the only person they know that will let them cry. It’s such an honor to hear people tell their story AND ask them to tell me more. I had to learn how to do it, and I also had to learn how valuable it was. I used to believe, too, that we need to just overcome this stuff, think positive and let God worry about it. But I found that to overcome it, you have to let it out. And God made us to do that. That’s why the scriptures say to confess your sins to others and why He wired us for connection. Yes, we need to talk to Him but we have to talk to others, too. It helps us heal, and it helps us to feel true joy.
Our bodies are containers. They hold emotions. Yoga is powerful because it helps us stretch out and open those places where we hold old emotions. It’s not unusual to see a new yoga student burst into tears as they hold their first intense Camel pose or to get irritable and angry as they start to move repressed anger around during practice. We are told to stuff it. We don’t intentionally hurt people with our advice; it’s just our cultural bent. That’s why I feel like it’s a sacred offering to hold space for someone to process long held hurts, fears and pain.
When we repress anger, fear and hurt, we fill up the container. Little by little unmet needs, slights, rejection, abandonment and unprocessed grief start to fill up our container. The problem is that when we are half full of all this heavy stuff, we can’t really feel the lightness of joy. We can feel happy, but we can’t truly experience joy. After working my spiritual program for awhile, my depression started to lift, and I started to feel moments of true serenity. First it came in hours… then days …. then it filled up the majority of time. I had no idea I could feel that way. And, it finally came around because I had cleaned out – with another person AND God – all that negative crap I’d been carrying around since I was a child. No one gets a free pass on this planet. We all have stuff buried down there. Some have more than others. That’s why I never want to tell somebody to buck up and get over it. I actually don’t know how much stuff they have buried in there. They may not even be able to see over the top of it.
I would hear people say they were grateful to be in recovery. Well, I hated it for a long time. I just wanted to drink normally and have fun like other people or be able to not drink and have a good life. I couldn’t do either, so I had to do this. Eventually I realized that recovery is not about the drinking at all. It’s about keeping the container clean. If the container’s clean and something painful happens, it can be processed quickly. When there is no pain…. there is no hunger for numbing. Holding space for others is also my job. Somewhere along the line, I realized that God gave me this job because this was my place in His world. And, even later, I realized that I loved it. I am a healer. All I need to offer is silence. And, now, when I hold space for someone else in pain, I know that I’m in the right place. That is true joy.