May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dreams no longer,
But do at last what I came here for and waste my heart on fear no more
I have adopted this poem above to summarize my intentions and wishes for my recovery. I am not sure whom the author is but it fits where I am today...
My life started in humble beginnings in New York City. I was born to my father, an American citizen and my mother, a Hong Kong immigrant. I have one sibling, a brother, 14 months younger than me. There was a 16 year difference in age between my parents. There was also a cultural difference as well. From a young age, I remember our home life was sad and cold. There was a thick tension that you could cut with a knife. My father started drinking when I was young and he was a bartender by trade which is where he got access to alcohol. My mother started beating my brother and I at a young age and she was good at it. She used wire hangers as her weapon of choice. The kind of wire hanger that you can get at any dry cleaners’ store. Her verbal abuse was worse. She said things like “You are so dark (skinned)”, “You are stupid” “You won’t be anything special”. Her emotional abuse was extensive like nonverbal cues, her body language, posture, frowns, sighs of frustration, and overall sadness was enough to tell me that I was not good enough or not worthy no matter what I did. I believed it too. For the most part my father was kind and generous when he was sober. When he was drunk, he was passed out or not paying attention. My brother and I suffered all forms of abuse and neglect except for sexual abuse. We went to school hungry, wore dirty clothes and were not bathed on any regular basis. We were poor by socio-economic standards but our parents had access to clean water and had money to buy food. So the means were there but they did not physically care for us. I thought about suicide a lot as a kid.
When I was 6 years old, my mother abandoned us once day. She left the house and did not return for several years. I am not sure how many years it was, my guess is 3 years. After she returned, we had a break-in in our house in the middle of the night by the man that she was involved with while she was away from us. This man wanted to kill her and my father. He probably would have killed my brother and I too. He was unsuccessful and ran away. The police visited our house and my parents lied to them that it was a random break-in. They never caught him. A day later, my aunt came to our house, while my mother was away and took my brother and I to my grandmother’s house. Some time later, my mother came to that house and took my brother home and left me there. Therefore she abandoned me a second time. After that event, my uncle and aunt raised me until I went off to college. I did well in high school, got excellent grades and was popular. I had plenty of friends and went to my Prom. I graduated with high honors and was Senior Class President.
Going to college was my way of “running away from home”. By the time I was a teenager, I hated my family and my home city. I was depressed most of the time. My aunt and uncle were good parents to me and I felt safe and secure to a certain extent. Both were workaholics, hoarders and shopaholics and were never emotionally present but they were teachers and disciplinarians. I am grateful for them. During my second year in college, I was suffering depression and almost flunked out. By the grace of divine intervention, I graduated 6 years later. I was relieved. I knew there was something wrong with me but I had no clue what it was. I stayed away from alcohol and drugs though they were plenty available in college life.
Early on in my twenties, I developed an unhealthy relationship to food. I believe that stems from not being fed on an infrequent basis a child. I would either overeat or undereat. At one point, I was overweight. I also become a workaholic like my aunt and uncle. I also watched too many movies and TV. I had failed relationships, people took advantage of me and I was having promiscuous sex. I was a mess but if you talked to me, it appeared that I had my act together. I was judging people harshly, did not give forgiveness and was never kind to myself. I would regularly isolate, was full of fear and put myself in situations to be abandoned by others. It was comfortable and familiar to be treated poorly by others. Food, control and thinking were my “drugs of choice”.
My father died of a heart condition when I was 25 years old. I was living in Boston at the time with an abusive boyfriend. That was the beginning of my first bottom. Shortly after he died, I found out my boyfriend lied to me so I left one day. No notice, no fight, just left. I had become my mother which terrified me. Then I found out that I was pregnant, it was his. I never told him of the pregnancy. I had an abortion. Then I hit bottom. I wanted to kill myself. Every day was as horrible as the last day. I started to bargain with myself on the different ways to kill myself. Knife, Scissors, Pills, jump in front of a moving train, jump into the ocean, hang myself, buy a gun. You name it, I thought of it. I was great at going in my head and think and think and think and think some more plans to end it all. Controlling the outcome felt safe. That was my life, in my head with no connection to my heart. I was cold and distant to others. I would pull people in and push them out. Finally I could not take it anymore. I did two important things. I started going to a catholic church and started psychotherapy on a regular basis. They were the better alternatives to killing myself, though the fantasy of ending it all was sexy.
For the next decade or so, I managed to get my life back together in one piece. I had a nice list of accomplishments: great career, got a master’s degree, bought a condo, joined an asian american professional association, joined an outdoors club for fitness, made plenty of friends. I even got married for 2 years but then divorced and annulled the marriage later. We did not have children. From the outsider point of view, I was living well, managing my life okay and had plenty of activities to keep busy. Some activities were even healthy. But on the inside, I was a broke person. I had no strong foundation to stand on. I was dissociating like crazy with food, control and thinking. I could not feel any parts of my body, I was lost. My “drugs of choice” kept me from finding the fear that lied dormant underneath. The beginning of the next bottom was right around the corner.
In March of 2010, I was 39 years old, I lost my job for the first time in my life. At first, I was okay with it. I had some outside interests and pursued them. I went on a cross country trip from Boston to Utah, visited my aunt and uncle in NYC, did some challenging hikes in New England. Life was fine, so I thought. I will get a new job soon. That new job did not come. One year later, I hit a bottom. I was on my usual run, a route that I have ran a thousand time before, listening to my MP3 player. The song “Do you believe in Love?” by Huey Lewis and The News was playing. I stopped running and was sobbing. What the fuck was love anyways? I have no clue what that feels like. I just wanted to cry my eyes out. So I fucking did. And the suicide thoughts came over me like a mad bulldozer. I was living alone and the knives in the kitchen were calling my name. I could not make them go away. Please go away, I thought. Fuck you, I thought. Fuck my parents, I hate you, I screamed. Why should I live? What the FUCK was there to live for? I have no husband, no children, I am a murderer and I hate what THEY did to me. I have nothing, no one loves me. That is why I don’t deserve to live anymore, no one loves me. NO ONE LOVES ME. That is good enough reason, so I thought. I followed the fucking rules, I have two degrees, I own property, I can pay my own bills, I was working hard until I couldn’t, I have been going to a therapist and I am on antidepressants for over a decade. What the fuck? Fuck those pills. Where have they gotten me, no where. Fuck the science behind those pills. Yeah fuck that therapist too. Those next few days were defining times for me. As you would have guessed, I did not kill myself again. But it was a strong craving. One year later, I found myself sitting in an Al-non meeting.
As a 12 step program, Al-non gave my first introduction to recovery, what it means and who belongs there. I knew I belonged there since I did not belong anywhere else. They accepted me. Sure, I was not a substance abuser but I was abusing myself and others around me. Honestly, since I killed my unborn child, I am an abuser, it’s just legally tolerated and I won’t go to jail for it. I was already in a jail of my own. Al-non was teaching and leading me to “get outta jail”. I stayed, got a sponsor, worked the steps and it was the beginning of freedom. Sobriety meant that I would stop using food, control and thinking to escape from my fears.
A year later in 2012 I decided to move to California and see what recovery communities I could belong to. I started in CoDa and ACA. Working three 12step programs, looking for a job and finding new residences was challenging. I was gaining momentum in recovery. I started two step study groups and one non-step study group in both CoDa and ACA. I become a sponsor and gave service when I could. I was staying sober.
All the fears were raising up to the surface. I was humbled by them all. I surrendered. I experienced the feeling of fears. Slowly and in a steady manner, I let go of the fears one by one. My choices were let go or be dragged into emotional intoxication, my “drugs of choice”. I chose to let go, accept and forgive them all. The fear was less and less. Then the miracles started happening to me. My heart was mending. I did find love in unusual places. The most surprising place was inside of me, self-love.
A few years later, in 2016, I found Yoga of 12 Step Recovery and Refuge Recovery and started attending meetings. I learned a lot about Buddhism for the first time and established a regular meditation practice. I have a Sangha that supports me.
In 2018, I moved to Seattle for a permanent job and attend Refuge Recovery meetings on a frequent basis. Today I am the witness of my minds activities. My thoughts and emotions are not me, they are a small part of me. They do not dominate my existence. I stay present. When I have challenges, I sit on my cushion. I don’t expect the solutions and answers to come externally. But when I turn inward, the solutions and answers arise from my consciousness. It’s the space that I have created between my thoughts and my being. That’s my definition of consciousness. There is a oneness and stillness that can only be experienced by oneself. It’s not a mystery nor mysterious. It’s my wholeness. The journey inside is where I discovered my worthiness where I am always good enough. Its unconditional self-love. At the end of one of my favorite movies “The Wizard of Oz”, Gilda the good witch says to Dorothy “You always had the ability to go home”. I always had the ability to go home, to my being. I did get lost as Dorothy did. The journey of being lost (Unconsciousness) and returning home (Consciousness) is my story. The returning home has the peace and love that I long for. With various yoga and meditations practices, now I exercise that ability to go home, to the peace and love every day. Then I give and receive peace and love with all human beings every day. Isn’t Love what life is worth living for anyways?