Content Warning: This is a series that follows my journey using art while going into recovery from alcoholism. So there will be mentions of alcohol-related thoughts and behaviors.
14 days sobriety and 13 days abstinence from compulsive eating. Detox has been fun (not) but still feels better than any time I was drunk or ill from a binge on sugary foods. A month ago I felt so hopeless and now, I feel more at ease and have more faith in myself and my Higher Power whom I chose to call God… sometimes Dude.
I knew I needed to start looking at the heart chakra so went through my paintings as I vaguely remembered painting a green parakeet in the past. Only I found something much more sinister looking at first. I then remembered how, the person who had been teaching me to paint birds, had been emotionally abusive and I had to end things. In my deep pain, I painted over it and had intended to burn this painting. Kinda glad I didn’t.
In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Ariel makes a deal so she can end up with Prince Eric. The symbols and lyrics that Ursula sings in Poor Unfortunate Souls are pretty much what happens to an addict. You make a deal with life, in complete denial of consequences (warning signs galore), and in denial by thinking you’re in control. That once you take that first drink, that first compulsive act, you end up on a fast track to insanity. Metaphorically, you end up losing your voice; meaning, you stop being of sound mind. And for some, you lose your life. Like Ursula said, ‘it’s sad but true.
Looking at it, it really shows how much I had been suffering from dependency on others for approval, dependent on any substance to feel better physically (food, shopping, and eventual drinking), and how much toxic love I had absorbed into myself that left me feeling tainted, definitely feeling unworthy, and the outcome was a rather unfortunately common existence.
This understanding of how I became an addict was made very clear to me after I went back and truly finished my 4th step (made a searching fearless moral inventory). But once I completed that, it meant to take the next right step, which was Step 5: Admitted to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. It’s a crummy step from the selfish perspective and I use to feel that way in the past when I had done inventories. It’s totally different when you really live the program and really trust in your Higher Power. And I really needed God’s help. I was gripped in fear, couldn’t do much, and rolling with anxiety. I ended up crying and begging God to help me do this and I was truly powerless and didn’t even understand why I was so overcome with fear. These were the things that I would have rather gone to the grave (and yes I tried) but God wouldn’t let me. Somehow I was able to get it together, drive to my sponsor’s house, and over a few hours complete the 5th step. The kicker, a lot of what I was afraid to tell anyone wasn’t that bad. I had built these moments up to such Goliath-like destructive moments and turns out it was not that bad. In reality, a majority of what I learned of myself as I have been beating myself up for decades and kept rejecting the grace God bestowed upon me.
The sad truth was that I was taught a lie by the very people who were supposed to love me, that I wasn’t good enough and never would be. I thought I had somehow been tainted and that’s why I had such a fear of rejection. The moment I experience that fear was the birthplace of my addicted mind. Like Softcell’s song, Tainted Love, I wanted to run away from this desperate need for love but kept running towards it not recognizing the insanity.
If you look closely at the symbols in the parakeet painting, you can see black hearts, waves of filth in the background, and a deranged eye. But, there is some hope there, you can see it to the far left of the painting, the light tones, a wave of yellow-orange (hmmm a hint of chakras being blocked off???), and a very abstract guardian angel on the bird’s back trying to keep the toxic love at bay. No wonder I was always terrified to look at this painting after I did it. I didn’t want to face the truth nor take responsibility for my actions at that point in time.
Taking the 5th step was where I really began to change my thinking and was deeply humbled by this. I love nature and my sponsor knows this. They had to really come up with a way for me to see what I was doing to myself by not letting stuff go. I mentioned that I felt filthy and drowning in mud. That I wish I could just reach the Light. My sponsor said, “instead of filth, think of it as nutrients. The lotus blossom rises up from the mud and murky waters, I soaked up a lot of nutrients, and God does the work of raising the bud up through the darkness and helps it to bloom in His Divine Light. You’re like that lotus blossom. Sharra, what’s it going to take for you to accept that God has already forgiven you? Why do you keep rejecting His Love for you? Only you can answer that.” Damn, that is deep. And, no I really have no idea why I struggle with accepting His love for me.
So I went home, prayed, and meditated, waiting for that nudge to help me gain understanding. It brought to mind the movie Ferngully and how destructive humans were to the rainforest. Greed, selfishness, and total disregard for others created such suffering in the lives of others. That is how I saw myself at first, that I was addicted to that Toxic Love (sung by Tim Curry). And yet, being sober, I could feel that wasn’t who I truly am. I got that spiritual nudge and pulled out my New, New Testament to read from the Gospel of Truth. Truth 10: 4-5, ‘His love made a body for it and his trust has embraced it. In this way, the Word of the Father walks in creation, as the fruit of his heart and the face of his love.’ Well shit, that means, I was born from love, made from love, and given the face of love. I am His creation, therefore, I can’t reject God, it’s not possible. I am powerless to do so and I smiled.
They know as ones who having become drunk, have turned from drunkenness and returned to themselves, setting themselves right. ~ Gospel of Truth 8: 11