I Am Learning To Love Myself: Mara’s Story, Part Five
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mara” is a pseudonym.
A week later he started taking narcotics again.
In the following months I lost both my grandmother and the great aunt that had lived next door to us. One the day after the other’s funeral. My mother’s swings were escalating. She had a hard time keeping down jobs and holding onto money. She blamed all her problems on my father.
Shortly after the deaths, she divorced my father and gained full custody. (They had been threatening this every other day for the last 14 years.). Two days after, she kicked out my sisters who were 20 and 18 at the time. The 20 year old had travelled a lot with work-stay and had just been home a quarter to finish college. The 18 year old was working and in school and gave a majority of her paycheck to my mother. They weren’t given any notice. My sister and I had gotten an apartment together after I had separated from my husband and we invited them to move in with us until they could get on their feet.
Shortly after, my husband started spiraling down with his drug use. The men in our community group talked with him – but they did it from where they had come from and with love. They told him that they were scared he was going to kill himself or others driving as high as he was. They told him that they would pick him up and drive him home. They knew that he wasn’t ready to change and didn’t ask him too. They just told him they were here when he was ready and that he wasn’t alone. I felt at complete peace to give him up, my pastor told me something that has stuck in mind. He said “Know this isn’t yours to carry alone.” They weren’t pitying me, they weren’t trying to help me, they weren’t taking over my problem. Instead they were standing beside me and loving me.
My husband recently told me he was going to start selling. I know the road this will take. I have decided for the sake of my unborn daughter and me, that divorce is going to be the best choice and a way to protect ourselves. He has already stolen money from me and I have accepted that he still has a long way to go before he decides he wants to change. I’ve stopped trying to control and manipulate him. It’s pointless.
I can only change myself and what I allow in my life and I have accepted that.
For many years, I never knew who I was… just who I was supposed to be, who everyone around me needed me to be. My boundaries had been so trampled growing up – I had no idea I was allowed boundaries and limitations. I had become – still am- bitter and resentful. I still can’t forgive everyone.
I was told that forgiveness is closely related to acceptance and for me to forgive I have to accept what was done to me. For me to fully accept that, I have to accept that I wasn’t as powerless as I wanted to be. I couldn’t separate love from pity and didn’t even know what love was. I was supposed to love my mother but all I could do was pity her.
I couldn’t love God because I didn’t know what to pity in him. I couldn’t imagine God loving me because I just felt He did everything for me out of pity or condemnation.
Now I truly am learning who I am.
I am learning my limitations and boundaries. I am learning how to love without pity. I am learning how to trust people that love me. I am learning how to love God and that He loves me – not who I want me to be – but plain old me. I am learning to love myself.
The sinner’s prayer has long confused me – how can saying those magical words make you a Christian – who decided those words were the one they were going to use? But I think I’m starting to understand true Christianity and some of that prayer. I think when it says confess your sins –
He doesn’t really want you to confess your sins, he wants you to stop hiding and simply confess yourself.
I wrote this poem recently. It’s my confession of self…
Confession of Self 4/29
When she stops using,
The bitter bite of withdrawal sinks in.
Blood dripping from the gaping wounds
Her habit has left on her.
She tries to smile politely and courteously
So that no one discovers the secret she holds inside.
Another day hidden behind the mask of a perfect little girl
The fear of survival looms in threat of stopping
How will she be able to make it through the day without her addiction?
Her drug of choice gives her a dose of denial
So that she doesn’t have to feel reality.
So that she can ignore the fears, anxiety and horrors that await her in reality.
So that she doesn’t have to face the eyes staring back in the mirror in reality.
She fears letting the world down again if she stops using.
She’s never had enough strength to stop before.
She used to be strong – so beautiful – so full of life
And, here she is now, just a shell drowning in tears.
Suffocating in sorrows she’s too scared to feel.
She uses her body to feed her habit.
Abuses her body to fuel her habit.
She’s scared of the person that remains if she stops – the person she’s become.
The only way to support this habit is to sell her body.
To give up every piece of her in hopes that it is worth it.
That the high last longer this time
That she never comes down this time.
She’s died so many times before – what’s one more?
I am an addict.
Addicted to deceit,
Refusing to own who I am in the place of who I want to be.
Selling my life in hopes of keeping my soul
Buying an image that doesn’t require a God.
I am addicted to hiding myself – to wearing a mask.
I am addicted to selling myself to prevent being myself.
To prevent owning my depression, my downfalls, my numbness.
— The fact that I am but human
I am addicted to pity in the place of love
I am addicted to the misconception that I don’t need more than myself.
That my independence is my castle – my everything.
I am an addict.
I need more – I am worth more
I am loved and I can accept love
Your love isn’t a favor to be repaid at the cost of my soul.
Your love is what will allow me to buy myself
What will give me a soul
What will allow the wild, crazy, passionate life within to be loved and lived.
Your love is what will save me
Your strength will shelter my weakness
This isn’t pity – this is the opposite.
I’ve gained a soul, a self, a life.
Yes, I am an addict
But I am not alone.
I am truly loved,
I have gained a soul in owning myself,
And I can finally love the girl staring back from the mirror.
End of series.
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Mara, what an important journey you are on! Thank you for sharing it with us. I think the fact that you wrote and shared these things shows how you are changing and relinquishing “the mask.” Your courage inspires me and your honesty challenges me.
As far as acceptance goes, I don’t think it necessarily always involves assigning responsibility to ourselves in our past. We are responsible for how we respond to our past now, but I’m not sure about back then. Especially when we were children, we may simply have not had the ability to resist destructive forces which surrounded and shaped us. In the same way that we wouldn’t expect a child to be able to lift something too heavy for him, I don’t think we can expect a young child’s brain to be able to disentangle himself from false messages presented by trusted authority figures. For myself, acceptance concerning childhood traumas often involves acknowledging what happened and being honest with myself and God about how it hurt (and still hurts), then receiving His comfort in those hurt places so that they no longer fester underneath my current life.
Words can be such trifling things, but I do want to affirm the direction you are going. The first step toward ending an unhealthy relationship is to make the decisions that you have to protect yourself and your daughter.
If you need help finding an attorney, many (all?) states have attorney referral services. If you are still in Georgia, here is their list of approved referral services: https://www.gabar.org/barrules/ethicsandprofessionalism/upload/bona_fide_lawyer_referral_services.pdf
Good luck. DSJ