Photo credit: Breaking Free by Volture, http://volture.deviantart.com
I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about addiction. What if I told you I used to be a rageaholic? I’ve never used that term until today, but as I think about addiction, I realized that’s exactly what I was. You may be tempted to scoff, thinking it’s only addiction if it involves drugs or alcohol. In truth, we can be addicts of all kinds of stimulants- drugs, alcohol, sex, work, food, gambling, shopping, and even rage. Of course, the list of possible addictions goes on and on. If you know me, you may be tempted to not believe this. I’m a pretty upbeat/positive person, and even when I wasn’t, I usually kept my anger hidden quite well from everyone else. Matt can testify! I would argue that most of us have had something that has had a hold on us at some point in our lives that we have wanted to break free from and struggled to do so. And the things that hold us can be ever changing, and stopping is never a clean break. Setbacks are a part of healing, 2 steps forward- 1 back.
There was a time in life where I felt like I was in a bit of a black hole and couldn’t understand why the circumstances of my life had happened to me. Then, I went down the “I don’t care” path. Yup, I think I even wore PJ’s to school my entire Sophomore year of High School. Again, if you know me well- this is where I picked up the “like me or not, I don’t care, I’m just gonna be me” attitude that you love to hate (or is it hate to love?) about me. But it was in these years I found confidence in just being me and not worrying about everyone else. It wasn’t until I got married that I realized how it all still effected me, and then I got angry! I spent the first year of my marriage as a raging maniac, seriously! I don’t think you can even imagine it. But getting angry and raging out made me feel in control, if someone was going to do the pushing, it was going to be me. And I lived this way until I got pregnant. Then as I realized that I was hurting my pregnancy and my marriage. I wanted to change, but it was hard. This was now who I was. I will say this, I have an amazing husband who should have left, but didn’t. I love that man.
I have had more than my own personal experience with addiction. It doesn’t matter who or when, but I watched an addict unable to make that choice to change, and then one day life made the choice for them. I knew I had two choices- either stay the same until I lost everything/life changed for me, or figure out a way to grow and change on my own. But even then, even when I wanted it, I failed. I failed and failed again.
When my oldest was still a baby I went to a Bible study called Breaking Free by Beth Moore. To this day it is one of the most instrumental Bible Study’s I’ve ever done. I’m telling you, even if your a man and your struggling with breaking free of pain (weather it’s by your own creation or not) do this study. So I did the study, and somewhere in the study (I can’t tell you now if Beth Moore said it or some woman in my group did) someone said that they had healed from their own ‘addiction’ (I believe theirs was slipping into depression and self doubt) by writing themselves a letter. They wrote a letter of their new commitment, of why they were changing this aspect of life, and the consequences or sacrifice of staying the same. Then they dated, signed and sealed the letter. Every time this new commitment was broken the letter would be re-opened, re-signed, and re-sealed.
For my own personal letter I talked about getting angry and blowing up at those around me. I wrote about all the ways in which I would express anger and push my husband away. I realized in writing my letter that the reason for my rage was fear and the consequence was losing it all and becoming the person that had hurt me most. So I wrote all of this down, and I signed it and sealed it with a sticker. The first week I probably opened and resealed that letter a few times, then eventually I was opening it once every week or two, then once a month. Before I knew it, it had been 3 months since I opened the letter, then 6. I no longer have the letter after the fire, but I’ve shown it to my daughter. It was a piece of paper folded and over folded, thin in many places from wear, littered with stickers and dates. When I pulled it out to show to my daughter, I hadn’t opened it in years. Of course, I’ve still been a normal mom who has blown up and lost it with my kids in normal “I shouldn’t have done/said/yelled like that” sort of ways (yes, as early as this week). Not to downplay this, I still feel shame over handling things from a place of sinful, selfish, brokenness. But it’s no longer the same, I’m a happy person who can mess up and get angry, not an angry person who can work hard to get happy…
All of these words to say: We all have something to break free from. Healing is hard. It has to be intentional. And still, it takes patience and a lot of grace. What do you need to break free of?