Content Warning: Mentions of domestic violence, rape, and miscarriage. This is a series that follows my journey using art while going into recovery for alcoholism. So there will be mentions of alcohol-related thoughts and behaviors.
God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open. ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
It’s pretty amazing how the universal principle of truth really can set one free. Free from disillusions, free from ignorance, and free from insanity. That was where I found myself after the 5th step in the 12 Step Program. Even better, that part that I had buried so deep within myself, trapped by self-hate in my solar plexus was set free. The inner dialogue had the outcome of deep apologies and the need to make amends to my true self but, also for my true self to forgive me for being so self-destructive by living in a mindset of ignorance and lies.
In order to really tap into forgiveness that meant I had to move into the deepest space within my heart. I had to gain more understanding of addiction, of love, and of forgiveness. I also had to look into the properties of the heart chakra since my primary doctor and osteopathist strongly suggested I discover what kept the energies of my heart flowing downward; and also what prevented the energies in my solar plexus from moving upward.
From my recovery program, this meant proceeding on through the action steps of 6 thru 9. I discovered I had character defects and was powerless to remove them from myself. These are the character traits that the ego made and harmed so much of life: selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and frightened. I have to sincerely and truly ‘be entirely ready for God to remove these defects’(6) and in an act of humility ‘ask Him to remove these defects’ (7). Then I had to make a list of those that I had harmed and become willing to make amends’(8). Followed by actually making amend except when it would cause harm to myself or others (9). A majority of my amends were just behavioral changes, a few I had to repay funds, apologize for my half of problem relationships, and write a letter to my ex-husband. The latter I really balked at.
Over 20 years ago, I met my first love and he turned out to be an alcoholic. I didn’t understand what that meant, didn’t understand it was a spiritual-mental illness, and I reacted as such. I did a bunch of things I’m not proud of like trying to manipulate, threaten to harm myself to get him to stop drinking, negotiate to get him to drink less, and even punched him in a fit of anger. I had no idea that my crazy behavior was just as toxic as the addiction itself. I had such resentments that I eventually developed an addiction to sweets, within in a few years became morbidly obese, and ended up going to a 12 Step Program. Now, 20 years later, I’m an alcoholic and I finally have an understanding of this deadly malady. So I have no more wiggle room to avoid making amend to my ex. Yeppers, it sucks.
I had a totally selfish response in that I didn’t want to write him because I don’t want to hear back from him. So I began praying to God to help me forgive him through God’s forgiveness since I was incapable of doing so. To also guide my thinking and give me inspiration so I could understand the source of my resistance. Ironically, this means turning into my heart and looking within. It was time for another lesson on self-truth. So I read up on the Fourth Chakra: Heart.
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it. ~ Rabindranath Tagore
This is how powerless I was to forgive my ex-husband. I could not make amends to him as I knew I lacked sincerity. I couldn’t figure out how to do this when this man raped me whenever he got super drunk, verbally abused me often, and the stress of the marriage caused me to have a miscarriage. I couldn’t figure out why he denied getting me pregnant and accused me of having an affair. I just couldn’t write the damn letter. This was definitely something that I needed Divine Help on.
The great thing about the 12 step meetings is that you hear from others on how they faced the same dilemma’s on making amends to those that cause deep harm and trauma. It was suggested I pray for my ex’s happiness as if it was for my own happiness. Even if I didn’t mean it at first, just pray. After a week of doing this, I actually began to feel my heart melt, I could feel myself have compassion for him as he too is an alcoholic. I found myself gaining an understanding of the nature of blackouts. I had experienced a blackout so I had the understanding of why he couldn’t remember raping me. It doesn’t excuse it but it does help ease the part of me that hurt from his denials. This was where forgiveness for him really manifested.
So I researched love from both the emotion and the energy. I pulled out my copy of Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith, Ph.D. Opening to the section on the fourth chakra: love, I learned about breathing techniques, compassion meditations, and yoga poses to help open the chakra. There is a lot of surrender involved in order to open the heart up even more by transcending the ego. Interestingly enough, the author writes, “the fight of the third chakra is replaced by acceptance in the fourth.” I had to accept the truth that I had been living a life of ignorance and accepted the that truth of I am good enough. I realized that I can’t receive more love and forgiveness into my life if I don’t give it first (without expectation).
And yet, I still couldn’t fully forgive him. Why??? I was truly baffled. I wore green colors as green is the color associated with the heart chakra but pinks represent love. I wore clothes in these colors in hopes of shifting myself to be more balanced with my Higher Power. I ended up going to a women’s-only 12-Step meeting and asked how to forgive my ex-husband for raping me and contributing to my miscarriage so I could make amends. I heard a lot on understanding about the illness of alcoholism. But, after the meeting, I spoke with the chairperson and she bluntly said making amends isn’t about forgiving him, it’s about forgiving myself. For not leaving sooner, for not fighting back when he forced himself on me (I lost hope at a certain point + I thought it was my Christian duty to obey my husband even when I told him no), and for making choices based on ignorance of the addiction.
I went home to pray, meditate, and paint. I used only greens and pinks as I reflected on what that woman bluntly said to me. I reflected on how different my understanding is now as an addict versus when I wasn’t an addict during my marriage. I was also only 19 at the time with little life experience too. I felt God nudge me to pull out my program book and read the chapter for the spouses. I gained a deep understanding of all that I shouldn’t have done. I read how so many around the world made the same mistakes and recovered from those mistakes by changing. They did this through Al-Anon. It truly helped my past self really see that my ex-husband was truly a sick person and I really just made a series of mistakes. That didn’t mean I was a mistake. So I forgave myself.
I felt love flowing through me, my heart opened, and I was at peace. I finally was ready to write my amends letter. I will be going over it with my sponsor later in the week. I also finished my painting of the heart chakra and looking at it this morning I can actually feel the joy radiating from the painting and when I look at it from certain angles it looks like there is a smiling face deep at the center of the painting.
I then incorporated greens and pinks into the large piece that represents the inner part that had craved alcohol but has now released that need with God’s help. It encompasses more love, compassion, and forgiveness of myself and others.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails. ~1 Corinthians 13:4-8