I've heard it in so many recovery groups I've attended, whether twelve-step, non-traditional, or counseling sessions: "When you're asked to speak about recovery, it is because someone will be there to hear you -- so don't refuse to."
If you've been reading my posts since I started, you'll likely know how big a fan I am of speaking. And if your relatively new to my posts, let me make it very clear:
I hate it. It absolutely terrifies me.
Now now now, I know, "speaking is exactly the same thing as podcasting and blogging," except that I have to stand in front of hundreds of people, there is zero editing involved (no re-do's), and my knees knock together as my heart tries to jump out of my ears.
But... I'll be honest here.
This is exactly the reason I began this whole adventure -- because I was afraid of a flippin' prophecy by one of my early-on counselors...
I'd been in the recovery center for just about two weeks, or somewhere around that time frame. By that time, I was still sitting as far back in the dark corner as I could -- a practice that would continue for well over a year. I hated people. I hated seeing them, hearing them, and smelling their damn, pretty smelling perfumes.
The routine was regimented; up at seven, meds, coffee, reading, prayer, breakfast, make bed, class, lecture, lunch, "fun" (which meant mingling with these people I detested), homework, more classes, another lecture, dinner, clean up, last call for meds, bedtime... lights out. Cycle.
I was still in a fog. That simple routine was a disaster for me to follow most of the time, and believe me, I tried. Mostly because I had figured that I'd get brownie points that could earn me a trip out the door earlier so I could wrap my lips around another juicy bottle of vodka. Gag. Makes me want to puke thinking about that now. But I was in such a fog, nothing made much sense to me; reality hadn't yet taken its hold, and for nearly ten months I would walk around in a thick haze.
I really hated my life, but I also knew that nothing I had done before had worked... so I just did what I was asked.
During one of the lectures, the speaker overlooked the crowd of druggies and alkies and made a comment. As I recall, it was a pretty straight forward death sentence: "One day, you'll be up here talking to other people who are right where you're at."
Now, I'm not sure what was going through that ladies head when she spoke those words of doom, but not a single soul seemed affected by it. Me? Oh no no no -- I was soulless, I was sure of it. Yet -- it struck me. It struck me hard. And apparently, my inner voice was not only not inside, but was a little bit louder than my soulless-self had realized, and I blurted out a firm, defiant, "Oh no I won't."
Mid sentence, she stopped. Now, how I remember what happened next went kind of like this:
With a glare of fire and anger, I could see the steam billowing out of her nose as she screeched, "How dare you defy the prophecy that you will fulfill! You must return what you've wrongfully stolen!"
But today, I'm sober, and my memory has sort of stabilized. Sort of. Kind of. Maybe. Anyway, how I believe it actually went was something more like this:
She looked at me with her head cocked to the side and gently stated, "Well, you've got to find someway to give it back."
And that was the last thing she said directly to me. I was afraid that I knew she was right -- and this terrified me. The one thing that scared me more than anything was getting up in front of people and being laughed at and humiliated. So I began to fight it... for the next two years.
The Cursed Gift of Surrender
I had made a BIG mistake as a child. HUGE. They say that "no greater faith has anyone than that of a child" and "it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed" to "move mountains."
I prayed to a god I didn't understand as a child. Hell, I still don't understand. But I was young, naive, and full of faith -- just plum-packed-to-splitting-seems full. It was at that time in my life that I asked only one thing of God, daily, and I remember it like it was NOW.
"God," my little, 9 year old heart pleaded, "Please don't let me die until I am the best possible person I could ever be. To do your will. To help you out and help others out." And then I would get up from my knees and go to bed.
I gave God everything.
E. v. e. r. y. t. h. i. n. g.
The whole kit-and-caboodle.
I might have never asked had I known then what I know now: No gift comes without the lessons to use it.
The x-num Unwanted Gifts
Well, I didn't exactly ask for it. Not specifically, anyway, and maybe that's what my problem was -- too broad a terms set with the Creator. I mean, now I was getting lessons for stuff I didn't expect or want! Not only that, when I saw it coming, I ran from it. Can't fail if we don't try, right? I dodged and ducked and hid away all my life, but even more so when I sobered up! But it was happening anyway -- I didn't appear to have any choice in the matter. It's a good thing the gift was disguised, otherwise I may have bolted again.
I tried and tried to ignore what that speaker said that day. I spent many a day filling my mind with needless things to push out the terrifying thoughts. But as Luck would have it, my little packages came in many various forms in my new, sober life.
Gift 1: Dark corners. I was terrified of groups bigger than about one. But at least now I could hide in the darkest corner and "ignore" everybody. Let's be real here -- I was absorbing very little, but I was absorbing.
Gift 2: A home group that never let me not talk. They didn't push me nor did they insist, they simply asked me every time; I just had to either open my mouth and speak -- or say I didn't want to... kinda strange how that worked, the sneaky devils. But it was painless. Well, except for the self infliction, but that's another blog.
Gift 3: Two counselors who said to write to them every day. I didn't really like it at first, but I did it, because nothing else worked, and I was told I needed to "let others see in so I could see out." I began to learn to express and say what was on my mind and weighing down my heart and soul. I began to express, and the light began to seep in through my cracks.
Gift 4: An activities group with patiently-persistent members. Pulled gently away from the dark corners, I saw a new light, a new life -- a new beginning. I began to talk in groups of three, sometimes four.
Gift 5: I was asked to speak at a "small" speakers meeting. Two of them. I fumbled through the "speeches," felt sorry for myself and my failings -- and then was I was told that my message wasn't for me, it was for someone I was unknowingly helping. My ego's scrapped knees healed quickly.
Gift 6: My writing to my counselors helped so much, I was blessed with an opportunity to share it with the world, anonymously at first. And then I met more people, who became very close friends, and Opening-Up Project grew. But I still had a huge problem with actually speaking out lout and maintaining a useful conversation -- not because I couldn't, but because I was still terrified of looking the fool.
Gift 7: With my website up and going, thanks to various people helping me out, I had one more step to take -- but I knew what the gift was. I had known what many of the gifts were for a little while by now, and I knew this one was next. I had to learn to hear myself talk and hold a meaningful conversation with other people. On a personal level.
With my wonderful, dear friend, I began the next step: a podcast. Still hidden, but now heard. Thank God for her. She walked me through the first five podcasts, and then gently let go of my hand. I'm still stumbling on that path, and believe me, it has been a little bumpy lately. But it's okay, because I happen to know exactly why I've got Gift 7. It's part of my plan, you see. Part of a plan that I know my Higher Power designs for me on a daily basis, often only minutes ahead of me.
But this one? This one I is in my very near future. In just a few days, I will open up Gift 8; the unknown rewards of my recent training will become highly apparent. I am not quite sure what will come in the following Gift 9, but I do know I'll need trained for it... hence gifts 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. And none of those gifts would have been available to me if it hadn't been for my alcoholism. Or even if they had been, I doubt I would have appreciated them.
This Saturday, I receive Gift 8. I begin to learn how to fulfill the prophecy that speaker bestowed on me on behalf of my HP. And I'm nervous, because it won't be an anonymously-private room of 6, 20, or 60 people. Nope. It's going to be highly public, on the steps of the state capitol, and to potentially a hundred x people.
Am I terrified?
You're damn right I am. But I know I'll make it. My HP promised me I would at age 9.