During the past three months, regular followers of my blog have been witness to my journey of spiritual and emotional growth as I profess the beauty of my attempting to lean in to my discomfort. When embarking on this public sharing of my journey, I promised myself and those of you who are following along that I would be brutally honest with what is actually going on in my life.
Well folks, I’m struggling at the moment. The cumulative stress and required energy to keep humming along in my recovery has finally taken its toll. Having battled drug/alcohol addiction during my 16 years of sobriety, I’m no neophyte when it comes to setbacks. Over the years, I learned that when I get complacent and ride that “pink cloud” that tells me everything is going great, I’m usually ripe for a rendering of humility.
In April of this year, I fostered the courage to disclose to family and friends that I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Although I would never wish to go back to harbouring this secret that manifest in shame, since opening the door to this trauma, my life has descended into utter turmoil, and I’m working tirelessly to get balance back in my family life, work life, and spiritual life. Many of you joined this journey in September when my mental health was improving and optimism began to fill my horizon.
If you talk to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, they will tell you how liberating it is to finally disclose this secret that has been haunting them for most of their life. It’s also common to hear survivors share about how much energy it took to bury that secret and in a sense, live a fractured life; one that the outside world could see, and the real one trapped inside. Today, I no longer need to waste that useless energy concealing my past, but I can’t even begin to describe how draining it is to work through everything that is bubbling to the surface. It’s a feeling of constantly having to keep hundreds of balls in the air, as I discover how to reconnect with a part of my psyche that I had segregated for 35 years. It has a huge impact on my physical, sexual, and emotional identity.
Ironically, it was not until after I had disclosed the abuse in April that I began to have nightmares about the events in my childhood. During the past two months, I’ve been suffering from debilitating night terrors that wrench me from my sleep in a cold sweat. I’m thankful that my wife has been supportive and is very adept at gently waking me from these nightmares. My psyche is so fragile at the moment that the littlest thing can trigger these night terrors like a scene of confinement in a movie, reading about something happening to a child, or even something innocent that a person may say to me during the day. I know that this is just my mind finally feeling able to process the abuse from my childhood, but that still doesn't make it any easier to live through.
As an addict, my default reaction is to dull these feelings with drugs or alcohol, but I’ve worked far too hard and for too long to hold that out as a viable option. That being said, it does not prevent my mind from wandering into that psychological battleground. It feels as though I’m really at another precipice and learning to sit with this discomfort is really the only path available to me. I’m a planner at heart, so here’s what I have proposed for myself: (1) Acknowledge what is happening is real, and that feeling discomfort is not a sign of weakness. (2) Eliminate blame and shame because no solution lies there. (3) Give myself time to process everything, and that means avoid rash decisions. (4) Access my spirituality, which for me means seeking comfort in running, meditation, and yoga.
I can think of no better way to end this post than with this fitting quotation from Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning: “The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity-even under the most difficult circumstances-to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for selfpreservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not."