The Lamplighter Movement
“Victims get what they request,
When they entice their fate,
And lessons learned are harsh and swift,
And wisdom comes too late”
The above lines are from a poem I penned before I began recovery. At that time I lacked the insight to see that I was creating my own problems and that being a perpetual victim was a role I’d become comfortable with. I’d have bludgeoned anyone who even dared suggest it. Still unable to comprehend that I was, as William Earnest Henley so brilliantly put it, “the master of my fate, the captain of my soul”, I made unhealthy choices, most of them digging my hole deeper and deeper. But what I did that was mostly responsible for me digging that hole was to surround myself with negative energy. On a regular basis I was sure, when asked, how are you doing, to launch into a long tirade about problems I was having with my husband (or boyfriend at the time). I’d go into dramatic detail about his drinking, how he was unfaithful, how I didn’t know how to handle him and so on. I now make a public apology to anyone who had to listen to this garbage. I didn’t do this every day and all of the time since large parts of my life were enjoyable. I loved my children, loved being with them, I had a number of friends who were like family to me, my weight was exactly where I wanted it, I had large amounts of energy and managed to keep up with all the demands of a single mother of four who worked sometimes three jobs to hold the family together. With no child support coming I needed to. Even there, I managed to find something to wail about.
Once I was in a supermarket and rolling my cart down an aisle when I ran into a friend from my son’s Pop Warner football team. I asked how she was doing and within minutes was sorry I had asked. She droned on and on about this problem and that problem and any of my attempts to cut her off and be on my way were met with still one more difficulty in her life. For weeks afterward, every time I went grocery shopping I ran into the same woman. I began hating grocery shopping. One day it dawned on me. Go to a different store. Once I began that my problem disappeared. Unfortunately so did my insight. The word is there are three of us: the way others see us, the way we see ourselves and the way we really are. I was not able to see the way I really was. Most people can’t.
Despite being basically an optimist, I was suicidal at times (it’s possible to be both), I chain smoked when angry or worried. I drank too much when at parties. I cried a lot. I had this little kid that lived inside of me that was weeping a lot harder than I was. She was weeping because I wouldn’t address the problem she carried in front of her on a minute to minute basis. Get into recovery, she almost screamed. Whenever I began to hear her I made sure I was a moving target.
As I began recovery, albeit it took a long time, I started to see those things I’d been so blind to. I was that lady in the supermarket. Oh how much I hated to admit that I was a bundle of negative energy. Even on days when I thought I was doing good and feeling cheerful, that blasted little kid was screaming for help. I didn’t find out till mid-recovery that not everyone has a screaming child inside of them.
Today I’m the happiest person I know. I deal on a daily basis with people who have serious and multiple problems. I receive emails and phone calls from people who are where I was and want out. I receive a daily newsletter on child abuse. Today’s headlines are: “Sex chats with teenage girls blamed on immaturity”, “Ex-Irvin High School teacher gets 50 years for child porn”, “Catholic monk faced child abuse investigation”, “3 trends in child abuse scandals”. Even Fergie was in the news today: “Fergie Faces 22 yrs in Turkish Prison for Filming Abused and Abandoned Children Documentary.” How are we going to resolve these problems? One day at a time; one problem at a time.
I’m able to be objective about all I hear and see. I place distance between myself and what I’m hearing and reading. Otherwise, doing what I do would be too difficult.
Do I have down days? You bet. Have I cried? Oh yes. When my grandson was killed in a motorcycle accident I thought I’d never stop crying. Do I smoke? Nope! Do I drink? Almost never. When I confront an obstacle I make sure I’m not in a victim stance. Once you’re a survivor you find you are your own best friend. Despite occasional hardships, I’m able to be my own therapist. I learned a lot in recovery and it’s all stayed with me. Sometimes I take a walk and talk to myself as I figure out the best way to handle my problem. Crying is a rare occasion and most of the time it is a family problem or one I handled incorrectly. I’m still learning. I hope I never stop.
Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.