It is amazing to hear people are sometimes interested to read what is often so painful for me to write. This past week especially, after my last post* received the attention it did, has reinforced this idea.
My illusion is that I’m alone, but when I put pieces up and readers echo and identify with what I’ve written, I’m reminded I’m one of many sharing an experience that has been shared by many others for many years.
What I think is my unique journey, has already been traveled. Man has been walking through his troubles since the history of man began.
Over time, I’m becoming convinced I’m not alone. I’m not terminally and tragically unique; and not so deformed-ly different after all. The embrace of my peers, and by peers I simply mean people, is hugely healing in overcoming and walking through the torment of feeling isolated and alone. Simply because I’ve had experiences that all people have had, that is…hurt. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t hurt and yet, at the same time, I know so few who are willing to talk about it. Instead, they keep their hurt to themselves, neatly and nicely tucked away; and I know this because it’s the same thing I’ve done and sometimes still do.
When asked how I was, my response was always the same, “I’m Fine.” My head tells me, “Take that to your grave!” “Don’t tell anyone!” “Go it alone!” I’ve discovered that is what leads to and likely creates my illusion of isolation. The miracle of the release is the revelation that the more transparent I become the more embraced I actually am.
I’m reminded of a brief but frantic phone call I received a few years ago. Penny was on her way to do her 4th and 5th Steps with her sponsor. If you don’t know, the 4th Step is “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” and the 5th is sharing it. Imagine writing down all the things you never wanted anyone to know and sharing them with someone. That’s a 5th Step. Penny was on her way to do hers.
“Peter, I can’t do this! I’m not ready! I don’t know if I’ll ever be” she started.
“You can’t do what, Penny?” I asked.
“I can’t go and tell my sponsor everything! I just can’t!”
She paused and then almost as if she were asking my permission, she continued in a reluctant tone: “Tell me something, do I have to?”
“Of course not.” I comforted her. “You don’t have to tell anyone anything you don’t want…”
“Oh, thank gawd!” she let out in relief.
“…unless you want to stay sober.” I continued. “If you do, then you have to.”
That was met with a gasp. She sounded defeated.
“Penny” I said softy so as to assure her “can I ask you something?”
“What?” she resisted.
“Without telling me what it is you’ve done, can you tell me does the thing you’ve done have a name?”
“What do you mean?”
“For instance, sex with someone other than your spouse is called ‘adultery’. Sex with someone in your family is called ‘incest’ and sex with animals is called ‘bestiality’. Does whatever you’ve done have a name?”
“Well, of course!” Penny gasped “just none of those names!”
“Do you know why those actions have names, Penny?”
She thought for a moment and then said, “No. Why?”
“Because people have been doing them for thousands of years” I explained.
Her relief was immediate. I could hear her voice soften.
“Penny, does that help?” I consoled.
“Yes. Yes it does” she said.
“Do you think you can tell your sponsor the thing you didn’t want to tell her?”
“Actually, Peter, yes. I think I can…Thank you.”
How sweet that “thank you” sounded. I had earned it with my words and what it taught me was that just as Penny realized she was no longer alone, I wasn’t either.
*refers to Drawing “I ♥ U” on your back