It feels as if I have been absent from my blog for far too long. And in true Tia fashion I am back with a very long, and very necessary post.
"I don't wanna live to waste another day underneath the shadow of mistakes I've made..." Shinedown, "Breaking Inside"November 3, 2014
Usually I don’t ask myself, how much sharing is too much? How much vulnerability is too much? How much transparency is too much? But I came to a point within the last couple of months in which I began to wonder about sharing a particular piece of my story.
Robin Roberts said, “Make your mess your message.” And I agree with that statement. There’s treasure buried within our stories, our challenges, our heartache, our pain, our love, our joy. It is through the digging deep within all of those parts of us, and gathering the treasure that lies in wait for us there, and then sharing that, that we can live in service to ourselves and others. I believe deeply in the importance of that.
Yet, there is a tiny piece of my story I have not shared. And a seed was planted, seemingly out of nowhere, (but I know it was in fact a message from my Soul), which asked the question, do I share that particular piece? Would there be a benefit to others and myself? What would the implications be, if any? I had to sit with that and gain clarity, and watch the signs that appeared.
Four weeks ago I had to make a trip to the dentist. At first I didn’t get the connection but it became all too clear as I sat in that dentist chair. It started with a pain in my tooth. I knew the signs and recognized that the third abscess of this particular tooth was beginning. I took some ibuprofen for the discomfort , garlic for the infection, and worked through the affirmations for an abscess in You Can Heal Your Life, but every day I woke up with the infection spreading and more of my face swelling. Despite my best natural efforts I knew it was time to visit the dentist.
I am not a person who is uncomfortable with, or afraid of the dentist. But as I sat in the chair I became very uncomfortable. While I have had no issue writing about the addiction that is part of my past and about being in recovery, what I do not write about is the damage that my teeth suffered during that time. I am not sure if it was that, the medication I was on the first time I got clean to help me stay that way, or the bulimia I struggled with in the past. Regardless, my teeth are in bad shape, and that is an understatement.
When people make jokes about others lacking teeth, I don’t laugh because it makes me uncomfortable as I understand the shame of it. While I was gifted by someone in AA with an upper front partial, I am still very careful when I talk to make sure I don’t open my mouth too much, and to smile with my mouth closed. So, imagine my anxiety at having to open my mouth and have my teeth examined by people I don’t know.
What is interesting is that I thought I had worked through all of the shame of my past addiction as I have spent the past 5 years and 5 months digging into myself and bringing a light to all of my dark spaces so that I can continue to heal. In 2013 a sudden and painful breakup brought all the tiny bits of shame that had been hiding out up to the surface. While I acknowledged it to a point, I obviously didn’t dive as deeply into it as I needed to and on some level I knew that.
So, as I sat in that dentist chair and opened my mouth, all of those fragmented slivers of shame came rushing up and gathered together to form the shape of tears in my eyes. The whole time they were examining my mouth I had to fight them back. There I was, fully exposed in all my past and it felt horrible and embarrassing and I wanted to crawl in a hole.
As I said, while I openly write about being in recovery (some here and here) I do not announce it to everyone that I meet. And I suppose it’s easier to write about it here where I don't really know the people who read it and I probably won't come face to face with any of them. Most of those that I do personally know already know my story. Having a stranger that I am face to face with know, just by looking at some part of me, left me feeling very exposed.
I was worried about being judged as, unfortunately, there is a lot of judgment around addiction. Some people have a difficult time understanding the nature of it and why it can be so difficult for an addict to just stop. But what I was literally brought face to face with is that it was not outside judgment I was afraid of, it was my own. If I had truly healed all of the shame of my past addiction then I would not be concerned with what other people thought. My fear of the judgment of others was simply a mirror of my own judgment of myself.
During that entire examination neither the dentist nor his assistant looked shocked or horrified which, to be perfectly honest, I had expected them to. While the dentist knew that I was in recovery, he did not judge me or make any rude comments at all. He asked if I had done meth because he sees a lot of my type of teeth issues with that particular drug and I said no. My past drug of choice was on the tip of my tongue but even though they were being so kind, I could not speak it. The dentist even apologized later for asking that as he was concerned it had offended me which, I assured him, it had not. They were nothing but kind and compassionate and gentle, there was nothing in anything they did that offended me.
Yet, when I stood up to leave my legs would not move. The shame that had pooled up in my eyes started rolling down my cheeks. I buried my face in my sweatshirt and cried. The dental assistant came over to me, put her hand on my shoulder and apologized. “It’s okay,” I told her, “I have been clean and sober for over five years and I thought I worked through the shame but apparently not because I feel really embarrassed.” She kindly proceeded to tell me a story about her own father who is also in recovery and let me know that, on some level, she understood.
While I do give myself credit for talking about how I was feeling, especially to a stranger, as I would not have done that in the past, I still left the office and cried, wanting nothing more than to go home and hide.
And that is exactly what I did, I skipped dropping off my much needed antibiotic prescription and I went home. The thing about being body deep in a moment of shame like that is that it feels like you are completely transparent, as if someone can merely look at you and know your story, know all of your darkest parts. After a short period of hiding out I went back out to get my antibiotics but I did not feel any better.
I am not content to just be in a place like that, feeling so low, without looking for the gift, the meaning, and what needs to be acknowledged so that I can begin my climb out. My mind started spinning, twirling, and dancing it all around. It’s still a practice for me but I have found that the key is to feel how I feel and to be where I am at without wallowing in it. Practice. I knew that I had to be there and feel the shame and I also knew that bringing the light to it, and sharing it, was the key out. The only way out is through the door marked ‘in.’
I am a healer and one of the avenues I use to help people heal is through my gift of writing and, in a sense, truth telling, telling my truth that is. There are other avenues I have gifts in as well yet I hold back because I speak truth from my mouth and the state of its insides is nothing I am proud of. So, I think to myself, how can anyone value what I say when it comes from that place. And yes, I do know better but this is where I was at.
I have left out a piece of my story, as mentioned at the beginning, and I realized that holding that piece of truth in, as well as the shame and judgment I have had about it, had manifested itself into an infection that left my mouth, and my face, swollen, my face being the part of me that I show the world (You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay).
The truth is that, statistically speaking, I should be dead, in prison, or living on the streets. The truth is that I was a heroin and pill addict. The truth is that even among drug dealers there is a huge cloud of judgment, a giant mister yuck sticker type cloud hovering over that particular drug, and the average person has no lack of judgment with that as well. The truth is that the only way for me to heal the shame of that, even as I write this I can feel the heavy energy of it in my body as it stirs and awaits its way out, is to share it, to bring light to it. I have been clean and sober for 5 years, 5 months and some odd days and the only way for me to help others and give hope to those who may be where I have been, is to share it.
My journey into heroin addiction and out into sobriety started me on a path of healing and spirituality that I am beyond grateful for. It, along with other challenges in my life, has blessed me with the gift of being a “wounded healer.” One of many gifts it has blessed me with actually. If I am ashamed of part of that journey then it makes it difficult for me to value the gifts it has blessed me with. I can't make my “mess my message” if I hide part of the mess. I can’t inspire others to open to that part of themselves, to tell their truth and own and honor their stories if I hide part of mine. The energy of that will radiate out and who will trust me with their stories if I sit in judgment of my own?
I wouldn't change it. Granted, there are some things in the story of my life that a small part of me would like to change but I still wouldn’t even if I could. I wouldn't change it because coming out the other side, healing, transforming, continuing to heal and transform, being able to help others, opening to my gifts, learning to love myself (still navigating through that one) and be gentle with myself, along with the wisdom and treasure I have uncovered along the way have been worth it all.
If I feel ashamed of it I dishonor my journey, I dishonor myself and I dishonor my gifts. How can I grow forward from that space? I cannot. As I have said, for me to own my gifts, to value them, to stand fully and beautifully in my power, light must be brought to the gloomy dark damp spaces of shame.
Will people judge me? I’m sure that some people will but I don’t have to be one of those people. My journey is about me, the evolution of my Soul and how I can use my journey to help others through theirs. It’s not about them.
The thing is, there is such beauty and treasure and wisdom in the perceived messes of our lives. They are imperfectly perfect and if we bless and embrace them and stay open to the treasures within them, the treasures will reveal themselves. I feel that it is so important to share our stories, to bring light to our dark and shamed and seemingly broken places because that is how healing takes place.
During one of my feeble attempts at sobriety, many years ago, I remember reading in one of Wayne Dyer’s books that he had left addictions behind. And I remember thinking that if he had addictions and is now this amazing author and spiritual teacher, then maybe just maybe there was hope for me. When we tell our stories, when we out our shame and refuse to let it fester any longer, we give hope to those who are going through similar situations and we let people know they are not alone.
Does that mean I am not scared? Of course I am scared, I am actually a little terrified and part of me is screaming, “Tia, what the hell are you about to do?! But I refuse to be held hostage by the darkness and the shame. I refuse to hold back my gifts any longer because I judge my story or am afraid someone else will. So here’s to being brave!