A reader responding to my post on Releasing Resentment touched me deeply with this powerful story of healing and life change. It is my fervent hope that anyone locked in a bitter struggle to overcome child sexual abuse or addiction will find his words and, in doing so, will find the courage to stare down his or her demons.
[In the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,] I stalled on step 2 [came to believe that a Higher Power could restore me] because I did not want to do step 4 [searching and fearless moral inventory]. I had a feeling that something in step 4 had me stuck in a self destructive pattern, but I was not sure what it was. In denial, I thought I had resolved and closed the scars of child sexual abuse, but when you’re in denial that you are in denial it tends to cloud the picture.
During an AA general discussion meeting, I don’t recall the topic, but I do recall the comment that “I had to always look for my part in a situation. If I’m wrong, make an amend. If someone else is wrong, forgive them.” This comment along with “keeping my side of the street clean” was enough to have me leave the meeting in tears. In the parking lot after the meeting, I was so full of anger, bitterness, and resentment that I unloaded my rage on a trusted friend. I asked him just how the “heck” was I supposed to put all these nice ideas into practice when I was the victim of child sexual abuse. I told him that this might work for every other category of resentment but not for this sort of thing. Before he could answer me, I also told him not to insult me further by telling me that “it didn’t happen to me, that it just happened.”
As tears filled my eyes, I paused to hear my friends answer. My friend paused as well. It seemed like an eternity before he spoke. As I waited for his response, I could not believe that I had shared with him my secret. I also could not believe the level of denial I was in that caused all of those emotions to finally burst to the surface. Finally, when my friend began to speak, as he wiped a tear from his eye, he told me that I was not responsible for the abuse, but I was responsible for allowing it to destroy my life.
For me, this is when my true healing began. I needed time to revisit steps 1-3 that I summarize as “I can’t, God can, and I should let Him.” Once I admitted my part, I was able to move to accepting my part. Once I accepted my part, I was then able to clear the wreckage from the past based on the various ways I allowed child sexual abuse to keep me in bondage to a self-destructive pattern. In other words, this is how “keeping my side of the street clean” allowed me to move past the self-destructive cycle of resentment, worthlessness, self-condemnation, self-hatred, and many other manifestations of self rooted in child sexual abuse. Finally, I was able to understand the part of the serenity prayer of accepting the things I could not change, changing the things I could, and knowing the difference between the two.
My story would not be complete if I did not share with you how during an AA men’s meeting, a third of the group shared that they had also experienced child sexual abuse. That meeting was so powerful and so much healing took place. Several months later, a friend shared with me some dark secrets he carried related to his addiction to internet child pornography. Although he was now in recovery, he explained how it was still a struggle.
The most amazing thing about this situation is because healing and forgiveness had taken place in my life, I was able to look at my friend with compassion and encouragement to help him on his journey through recovery. I absolutely love the last paragraph in the appendix on the Spiritual Experience in the AA book. This paragraph states “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” – Herbert Spencer
Had I shown contempt for my friend, prior to investigation, I would not have been able to reap the benefits of additional healing by placing a face on my child sexual abuser. Additionally, the sharing of my experience with my friend was able to offer him additional healing by placing a face on his internet addiction.
Praise be to God for this courageous survivor, and may God make steady the footsteps of all who seek healing through him!
Join the conversation. Would you consider sharing your story of healing and allowing God to act through you to offer hope to someone in pain?
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