Next week we celebrate 4th of July, Independence Day. What does that mean to us, on a personal level? Merriam-Webster defines INDEPENDENCE as:
"not dependent: such as 'not subject to control by others' : self-governing (2) : not affiliated with a larger controlling unit".
Let's talk about that. I have a background with addiction. I discovered at age 25 that I was an alcoholic. My therapist was brave and insightful enough to tell me he KNEW I was an alcoholic. I was shocked but also relieved. I didn't even suspect that a young person could BE an alcoholic! In those days alcoholics were thought to be male, old, borderline homeless types! We've come a long way in our cultural understanding of addiction, but in those days, it didn't even occur to me!
I was one of the lucky ones! I went to AA, found I was too young (again, long time ago) to fit in, then went to PDAP, a program started by the members of the rock group ZZ Top. It was more geared to the needs of young people! I got sober there. Then relapsed. This happened twice but at age 27 I was able to quit drinking ONCE AND FOR ALL (God Willing!!)! Talk about INDEPENDENCE! Alcohol and the secrecy, shame and embarrassment that went with it, had ruled my life! I stepped into the long process of recovering......a lifelong process. But I gained a bit of independence, a reprieve from the shackles of drinking.
That was the good news, the 'bad news' was that I had to face the emotional reasons I had needed to drink. THIS WAS/IS A LONG AND HARD PROCESS. The data suggests that only about 20% of kids get their needs met in childhood. I was not in the 20%. My childhood was fraught with trauma, both emotional and situational, and I suffered greatly. Drinking was a great way to dull the pain and I happily accepted this solution. Once sober, I was flooded with all the feelings I'd not been feeling.........it was a rough period. By this time I was 'old enough' to feel comfortable with AA and the steps, folks, support helped me with healing. As did therapy. I worked with a series of different therapists, based on my needs as they evolved. I had GREAT therapists through the years and couldn't have done it without them!
I'm now 63, have been sober 37 years. I have been sober LONGER than I drank. But it has not been easy. When we are young, our brains AND HEARTS become wired in ways that are somewhat permanent. Yes, I no longer depend on alcohol to dull the pain but that doesn't mean that sobriety CURED me. I have had years of therapy, 12-Step work, depression, over-eating, isolating and rebuilding my heart to contend with. But here's the good news: it works! My sad childhood is always with me, it's part of the fabric of who I am, but I've now added strength, COMPASSION, resilience and hope to my 'quilt'! I am both independent AND interdependent. I've learned to 'let people in' including my husband of 31 years! My life is beautiful, not perfect, but full of joy and meaning.
That's why I LOVE being a therapist! My clients come to me feeling lost and hopeless and together we find the solutions that are needed. As I walk their path with them, uncover all the painful memories, unleash the repressed anger, allow the painful memories to return and heal, we make space for the new, INDEPENDENT life to appear. It's a long and painful process but it leads to such joy.
Enjoy your 4th of July, the fireworks, food, family/friends can be fun. But look inside and ask yourself: 'what do I need to rise above?'
I'm here if you want a partner for your journey!