On BEING ENOUGH
I’m broken. There’s something in me that sends the message that I never have enough. It’s like having a bank account where I put money in every day but no matter how much I put in and how well I think I’m managing, somehow the statement always reads that I’m overdrawn. In addition to always registering overdrawn, this account won’t allow outside contributions. I must do everything myself. It’s a beast. Feed it and it always wants more, but care for it and it cowers in fear. This beast is certain that outsiders are untrustworthy. It’s as sure of that as it is that it hates itself and is doomed to starve.
What I’m describing is called Shame. For some people, like me, shame is a killer. Picture a gauge that reads “Contentment” on one side, “Ashamed” in the middle and “Pain” on the other. Well my gauge is busted in the middle. Somehow wrong or pain are the right way to feel. Now a body can only feel so much pain and shame before it starts getting physically ill or tries to deaden the pain with something. For years I was deadening the pain by acting out with an addiction. Today, thanks to God and the Twelve Steps, I see that gauge for the broken thing it is.
The message I’m trying to embody now is one of Rationality and Surrender. Neither of these form in a vacuum. I must ask for help. Now it’s pretty hard to ask for help when everything inside of you screams out “Let me Alone! No outsiders! They’ll only screw me up worse. I trusted people once before!” Getting help has taken a lot of practice over the years. And it’s not like riding a bicycle. That meter stays broken and isolation is still my first inclination. Here is where the beauty of community comes in. When I begin to tell people that I have this problem and talk about it, they open up too. Over time I start getting calls from fellow strugglers identifying at their point of need and together we form a new identity: people with God at the center of our lives.
Last night I arrived home after driving on and off for eight hours from where we were in Missouri. Within an hour my wife had to rush herself to the ER for a bladder infection, leaving me alone with the kids. I managed the best I could but forgot to give my daughter her medication (she has ADHD). This morning, after the long journey in and bringing my wife home from the hospital after 11pm I was emotionally exhausted. My daughter had a really rough morning without her meds and I had a bit of a blowout with one of her teachers over whether she was able to attend school. I came back up to the room and just collapsed in a chair and cried and cried. (I actually don’t burst into tears very often.)
I told Martha that I just couldn’t do it. “I just don’t have what it takes to carry this family, my lonely dad, and my own heartache today! And I certainly can’t see tomorrow!” She told me it was OK. That I didn’t have to. Immediately the realization of what I’d just said set in on me. So I went into the other room and made a call. “Help me. Something is broken in me and I can’t fix it.” It was then that a good friend helped me return to rationality. I was right. I can’t fix the situation. It sucks. I can’t carry my dad or be a good dad myself, or be nice, or take it without crying. I just can’t, and I’m not expected to. The gauge is broken. The beast will never be fed. God is here and He has what I need. I must trust outsiders. Only in that spiritual connection with others in which I reveal that I’m vulnerable can I return to rationality. What a load off!