Read the full article here of a how a trip to Ikea leads to freedom from an old, outdated belief system.
Read the full article here, the story of how becoming a parent led me to divorce and committing to a fully realized life.
The Remembering, read the full article at Elephant Journal.
This story does not define me or my life. This experience is integrated into the fabric of my being. I am more than a survivor. I am resilient. I thrive in my life.'
This is the story of how I lost my virginity against my will.
I was 12 years old, the summer before I turned 13. The boy (almost a man at 18) had been one of my babysitter's boyfriends.
I had recently moved in with my father, after years of conflict with my mother. It was early summer, nice enough to be outside but not oppressively hot. There was no camp or summer vacation for me that year. The summer was spent hanging out in the neighborhood, around the basketball court.
I was not particularly interested in making girlfriends in this new neighborhood. I was looking for thrills, excitement, cigarettes, attention, anything to keep me away from the pain of being me, of being alive. The intoxication of intrigue and sexual desire had already become a drug for me. I hadn't had sex yet (other than a few kisses and childhood sex play with peers), the euphoria that I felt from obsessing about boys, fantasizing about sex and being in love was satisfying my need to escape reality.
When this boy/man talked to me and showed interest in me, the sensations in my body felt good, I felt good about being alive in that moment. He had never really paid attention to me before. He was older and sexy with his beautiful skin, thin muscular body and big lips. He had no heart, he was cold as ice, this may have been the most attractive part of him. I wanted to be that, cool and hard, invulnerable. His attention gave me a little cred with the other kids at the basketball court because of his tough guy reputation and his criminal enterprise. This attention and cred was giving me everything I thought I needed in life, the euphoria of attention and a place to belong.
My father was new to parenting, but he knew enough to give me a curfew (maybe 9PM). As my curfew approached I knew I wanted more of this good feeling; the perfect weather, the cigarettes and pot, the feeling of belonging and being special. I decided to ask my dad if I could stay out later.
I went in to find my dad and his friends sitting around on the floor playing cards. I asked him if I could go back out and he said yes. One more hour.
I went back to the basketball court for more marlboros and more of the good feelings. Too soon my hour was up and it was time to go home again. This time Jimmy walked home with me, my house was just a few blocks from the basketball court. My front door was actually a gate to an alleyway that led to a back apartment. Jimmy kissed me at this gate. I woke up inside. I didn't really like how wet his kisses were but I liked being physically close to him and feeling his desire for me. I decided to ask for more time so I could get more of this. Jimmy waited at the gate for me while I went in to ask.
My dad and his friends were still sitting around on the floor playing cards. The apartment was filled with smoke. There were beer bottles, money, ashtrays and cards arranged neatly around the circle. My dad knew what I wanted. He was always seemed to know what was in my head. He said I could have one more hour.
As soon as I came back out Jimmy had his mouth on me, he was more forceful now, pushing me against the wall next to the gate. I felt the bricks pushing into my back. I started to feel more conflicted now, not liking the way he pushed into me or his wet kisses that now felt almost like he was drooling on me. I was still enjoying the feeling of being touched in a way and feeling his desire for me. I am not making euphemism for his erection. I mean I enjoyed the energetic feeling of his desire for me.
He whispered in my ear "Do you want to get Fucked?"
I liked the feeling of his hot breath in my ear, but I froze with fear, because I did not like the tone of his voice. I thought I liked sex (from my imagination, masturbation and the games I had played as a little girl with my peers), and looked forward to playing with someone that I loved. I was pretty sure that' s not what he meant when he asked if I wanted to get fucked. I was pretty sure he wasn't asking either. I couldn't speak.
He whispered "Have you ever been fucked? I think you want to get fucked"
Still I couldn't answer. I was frozen with fear inside.
I know now that when the nervous system detects a life threat, there are three possible reactions: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or some combination. At 12 years old, my nervous system had been habituated to freeze in the face of danger.
Jimmy was not really asking anyway, he didn't need an answer. He had decided that he was going to fuck me no matter what my response was.
He started to lead me across the street, heading for a patch of grass behind the I-95. Moving my body snapped my mind back and I knew I did not want to go with him. I turned to walk away from him, back to my apartment.
He grabbed my arm and yanked me back to him. He easily picked me up, holding my arms against my body and carrying me like a baby. I squirmed and kicked. Now my words came back.
"I don't want to"
"Yes you do" he said.
The fear and the guilt and confusion set in, the defeat. The certainty that I had made a mistake and now I was going to pay for it. I once again froze.
He carried me to the hill behind the I-95. The highway was across from our house on Front St. in Queen's Village. We were literally 4 lanes away from where my father was winning at poker on our living room floor.
I don't think I tried to run before he put me down the grass, I had surrender to the guilt and defeat and was now in freeze survival mode. He held me down with the weight of his body and his hands.
Then the panic returned and I struggled to get free, he was crushing me with his body. He pulled my underwear down enough to get access and so that they became a restraint, holding my legs together so that I couldn't kick him.
As he tried to push inside of me, it hurt and I felt as if I was suffocating from the inside out. I held him away with one hand I had free, but he was stronger than me, he just kept pushing into me.
I wasn't strong enough to hold him back.
This is the part that remained the clearest in my memory. I have seen this memory from many angles over the last 34 years; sometimes crystal clear, sometimes opaque. The memory of my hand on his hip pushing him away, the feeling that my greatest effort was useless, has always been crystal clear. I prevented him from crushing me and from fully entering me but not from penetrating me and totally overpowering me.
Eventually it was over. He came on my belly. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen in my life.
I made my way home, stunned, dazed, crushed. Full of guilt, remorse, shame. I walked into my house to find it empty.
This empty house was and has been a defining moment in my life. My father and I were close emotionally. I believe that if he had been home that he would have known something was wrong and he would have been my father. Jimmy would be dead or in jail. Probably dead.
As it was, I was left alone to integrate this experience in such a way that I could survive and go on. I took a shower and went to bed.
By the time I woke up, my guilt, shame and fear were buried. I convinced myself that I had not been raped, I had sex willingly and now thought of myself as an adult who was going to pursue sex at every opportunity.
I buried the parts where I was afraid and had resisted. I couldn't shake the feeling that I had made a mistake that I had to pay for. That feeling haunted me through addiction and sometimes still does. I survived by making sense of this experience in a way that allowed me to feel in control of my life and sexuality and move on.
The twists and turns back to the full experience of that night are another story.
Today, a little over 34 years later, I am thriving. I have embraced vulnerability, authenticity and life. I do not live or think of myself as a victim or even a survivor. I think of myself as a human being living my best life.
I am not responsible for my disease. I am responsible for my Recovery. I am responsible for my own happiness and freedom.
The line between taking responsibility for all the harm that I caused during my active addiction and blaming myself, my parents, society, or God is fine and often elusive. This line is illuminated through introspection, stepwork and meditation.
In order to make amends and live in such a way that aligns with my belief system I must acknowledge the harm that I cause without getting stuck in blame. Blame (whether assigned to myself or anyone else) strips me of the power to change and live as I was born to be. When I hold other people accountable for my feelings, for my experience in life, then I have no responsibility for myself. As long as I continued that process I was never going to be happy or even in my own life because I was giving my power and my life away by giving someone else responsibility for it.
I take responsibility for my life and my happiness, and my behavior. I learned this through changing my behavior first. Changing my behavior, so that I became familiar with how the process of taking responsibility looks and feels. Choosing to engage in a recovery process by taking my body to the places where other recovering people congregate, choosing to begin new habits. Choosing to tell the truth to best of my ability. Choosing to trust another person to guide me into a new way of living. These are the choices that demonstrated my responsibility. I gradually stopped waiting for someone to fix me, give me what I thought I needed or make right all the wrongs I thought I had been done to me.
Choosing new behaviors had an effect on my thinking in such a way that I became better and better at choosing actions that were aligned with my beliefs. Beliefs that were buried under lies and revealed through practicing spiritual principles like surrender and acceptance. These new behaviors and thoughts changed the way I felt about being alive and being a part of this world. I began to embrace this life and tentatively take the power of responsibility for my happiness and my destiny.
I am responsible for my perspective and my behavior. I am responsible for my own happiness. I am responsible for knowing that when someone makes me feel some type of way, that's because I feel some type of way. It's not about what the other person did. Even if the other person was clearly wrong or harmful, I have a choice about what I do with my behavior, thoughts and feelings. Learning to take responsibility in this way gave me the freedom to explore and discover my likes, dislikes, wants, needs, values, and beliefs. I can now choose to live in alignment with my truth, operating from an internal locus of control. Free from the burden trying to figure out what I'm "supposed" to do, free from the illusion that I need to be anyone other than myself.
These choices and the act of taking responsibility gave me Freedom from guilt and shame. I used to think that not being responsible for my addiction was a copout, something that addicts told each other to get out of being accountable. I have learned that having compassion for myself and knowing that I was not in my right mind gives me the freedom to acknowledge and accept the things I did. I have learned that Accountability and responsibility are not the same thing. I am accountable for the harm I caused in active addiction and in my entire life. Accountability is what drives my amends process. Responsibility holds me accountable in the present and pushes me into a future where I am fully aligned with my highest Self and my beliefs.
Early in recovery I discovered that I did not know the difference between rage and disappointment. It took a few times of me feeling rage and acting out on it (throwing things, breaking things, screaming, feeling out of control) and then being responsible for my own emotions by looking at why I was acting in this way and feeling out of control. I learned that rage was how I reacted to not getting what I wanted. Once I had this knowledge, I became accountable for my behavior. Over the years, as I integrated disappointing experiences from my life and learned how to manage expectations, I have learned how to accept disappointment, most of the time. If I find myself enraged, I ask myself "am I disappointed?".
There are plenty of things that make me angry, being responsible for my life and my happiness means that I look at myself before I go looking to make someone else accountable for my own feelings.
Today, I take responsibility for my happiness and my life by choosing to be honest with myself and others about what I like and don't like. I choose to get a better perspective on my life. I am the first one I look at when I'm unhappy with someone or some circumstance. What are the choices that brought me here? What motivated those choices? What choices do I have now regarding my behavior, my thoughts, my perspective? The more consciously I choose my actions, the greater power I have to manifest the four aims of my spirit: Purpose, Abundance, Love, Freedom
In Recovery we talk a lot about power, powerlessness, control, the need for control, the lack of control, the loss of control. We talk about the will and surrendering our will.
There's not enough talk about using our will appropriately.
Surrendering does not mean that I no longer have a will, I don't give my will away. I turn it over.
Step 3 - We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the god of our understanding.
This is not giving up my will, it's making a commitment to be in service to a higher power by using my will appropriately.
When I take an attitude of relinquishing my will, it easy to justify laziness and bad behavior with silly phrases like "it wasn't god's will" or "must have been god's will".
Yoga, being a system of Self realization, just as the 12 steps of Recovery are a path back to my true self, teaches me how to use my will appropriately.
Active addiction left me in a state of emotional disturbance, unable to appropriately use or even access my will. My mind was riddled with disease (a dysfunctional way of interacting with myself and my world that started way before I used drugs for the first time). Yoga gives me access to my gut instincts, the truth of my heart and the authentic intellect of my mind.
12 step recovery and talk therapy, while helpful, still relies on the same diseased field that created my addiction. It takes a long time to sift through distorted thinking and ways of being with the mind still disturbed as a result of active addiction. It is possible, however to gain almost immediate access to the true will simply by committing to connect to the breath moving in and out of the body each day.
The early days of my recovery were filled with out-patient therapy and meetings, these methods were cognitive based, relying on my dysfunctional thought patterns and belief systems. 12 Step recovery is a spiritually based cognitive exercise. My mind took a long time to shed the distorted way of experiencing and interacting with the world. However, the mind and the body are not separate, just as the emotions and the mind are not separate. In early recovery and today, almost 16 years later, I have immediate access to the wisdom of my body through my breath. My body was fully clean long before my mind came back to itself. Rather than trying to solve a problem with the same mind that created it, I got into the present moment through my body and worked my way into my mind. In this way I recover body to mind
Yoga taught me how to heal working body to mind by training my mind to follow my breath. When I use my will to coordinate my breath and my body, my mind follows along. Creating this unity of breath, body and mind, I harmonize my life to my instinct, truth, and authentic intellect.
The mind is a field (I often think of it as a body of water, like a lake ), the thoughts are within this field and are both affected by it and have an effect on it. The emotions are both affected by and have an effect on the thoughts. The breath has the ability to move through the field, effecting the field, thoughts and emotions.
Recovery shows me the path to Freedom, Yoga gives me the vehicle to actively move on the path. The process of change and awakening comes in three phases: Behavior, Thoughts, Emotions. I appropriately use my will by choosing to act like the person I want to be, living the life I want. This choice activates my greatest power (my free will), and when connected to a spiritual principle (willingness, love, surrender), puts me in position to connect to my highest power. Our free will is a gift and a curse, it is through my choices that I move towards my lowest nature or my highest potential.
When I practice using my will to train my mind to follow my breath by moving my body in an intentional way, I'm accessing the power that I was born with, the power that I gave to the disease. I'm relearning how to appropriately use my will. I needed to gain this access back to my will to utilize it and know it, before I could choose to surrender it, this time to serving love. Today I choose life, I choose to serve Truth which is Love.
Blackout is a term used for the early part of treatment, when phone and social interaction is limited. I have put myself on Blackout from sex with another person (including kissing) and dating.
I'm single for the first time in about 13 years, and decided I should get reacquainted with myself, as I occur without being attached to another person. The relationship I had with my husband was a good one, unsatisfying, but relatively healthy. Some people might say that dissatisfaction is not a reason to get divorced, and they might be right. However, I left my husband because I was unsatisfied and thought another man could give me what I what I needed.
I was wrong.
The relationship was long (it was a so called reunion of a previous engagement) and messy and dramatic and not healthy at all. In fact, I thank my higher power regularly for carrying me when I could not walk on my own to get through that experience clean.
I had to beg God to remove this man from my heart in order to have the strength to let him go. I asked not "with loving force" as I often do, when requesting removal of defects or shortcomings. I literally begged "Please remove him, I do not want this". The relationship was pretty much over after that, but we carried on for another few months anyway.
When I finally had a glimmer of relief from the obsession of this relationship and the compulsion to continue participating in it, I devoured Facing Codependency by Pia Mellody and started Talk Therapy.
I went on a few dating sites. Surprised at my interest in anyone other than this previous lover, I started messaging a fellow and entertaining the idea of yet another relationship.
He ghosted me.
I heard this message loud and clear from my Higher Power: Slow your Roll, sister.
This is a common message from my spirit guides, I tend to get ahead of myself.
This ghosting is what prompted my blackout. I committed to finishing out 2019 as a single, not dating woman.
Then came Elie.
We had been on a date or two as teenagers, but nothing came of it, probably because I was just getting ramped up in active addiction and he wasn't. Over the years, through intermittently living in the same neighborhood and social media we had occasionally intercepted.
Towards the end of my rocky, unhealthy relationship, Elie reached out to me with a desire to connect with other adults who didn't drink. We met for coffee and he was so warm and open and lovely that I wanted to set him up with my best friend Lynda. They feel the same to me, with their loving hearts and connected presence, I thought he would be good for her. Then he told me about his heartbreak (he was still recovering from a devastating breakup) and I saw that he was clearly not interested, or ready for a new love.
Elie and I started spending more time together, trading stories and lamenting our devotion that had fallen on closed hearts; as if we had been in the same battle and were left with the same wounds. We traded bodywork and energy work and I felt very comfortable and relieved to spend time with a person who felt gentle, strong, and safe.
Then, he brushed the hair from face and I swooned a little.
Maybe it was the blackout talking. I checked with my other male friends, even tried flirting with a cute guy at a school event. Nothing. No swooning, no zing, no buzz.
The last thing I need is an obsession, sexual, or otherwise. I write, I talk to my girlfriends, I talk to my sponsor. I ask my friends to pray for me when I know I'm going to see him. I rely on Elie's discipline and commitment to his own blackout. I believe that Elie and are connected through the heart and I feel that we can do many great things together in service to love. I'm confused by my attraction to him. I'm in no condition to venture into a sexual, romantic relationship, which would surely overtake these other potentials.
I consider not seeing him, for fear of falling into obsession. Fear of initiating something I'm not ready for. Fear of causing harm.
My sponsor, my dear, loving, clear, brilliant sponsor talks sense into me. She says "you don't want it to be a game" and I surrender. I see that I was getting off on playing with fire. Playing a game with myself by telling myself that I am committed to blackout, and seeing how close I could get breaking my commitment to myself. I was playing a game of chicken with my own values, self-worth and spirit.
My sponsor reminded me that I have a choice. I surrendered to win. I'm causing harm to Elie (using him for the thrill ) and me with this game of seeing how long I can resist desire. I do not need to resign to my self imposed blackout. I surrender to the reality of this day and become present to Elie as he is and I am. I let go of who I think I should be and who I hope that he is. What comes of this is a delightful, easy, fun, friendship of the heart.
I am committed to living my best life. Committed to fully inhabiting my life and expressing my aliveness. I believe this is how we save ourselves from ourselves, by following the light of our heart to our most authentic lives. What does that look like? It looks like being open to the possibility of doing something different in a familiar situation. Living Authentically means practicing humility and following the lessons and guides that life offers. The directions for the path to spiritual freedom are presented every day. Living my best life means using my gift of free will to choose from the heart.
This experience of committing to blackout mingling with an attraction and feelings that seem to challenge this commitment present an opportunity for me to be real with me. I can do what I have always done and get what I always get, or I can do something different. I choose to look at the fears that bubble up (fear of hurting someone, fear of getting hurt, fear of failing, fear of making a mistake and on and on). I choose to notice the habitual thought patterns that go along with a sexual attraction and decide to redirect my thoughts to the present moment through breath and body awareness. I choose to act as if my spiritual condition is my top priority in my life. My Blackout is not dogmatic asceticism. It is a desire to be anchored in truth, a desire to journey into the cave of my own heart, living in the love, freedom, and gratitude that reside there.
I enjoy being in love and I like sex. I will explore those relationships again, from a whole heart, not from seeking a thrill or distraction from the messiness of spiritual awakening. Just for today I am going into my own heart, creating landing points for love within myself and opening to the possibilities of love beyond my imagination. More will be revealed.
My best friend is Lynda, my son calls her "my Lynda".
We have been through some things together, a mutual friend recently remarked that we talk like an old married couple. This is what happens with best friends, we have inside jokes, encouragements and lots of love. Lynda is my emergency contact and the person in my life who always reminds me who I want to be.
So, of course I was the person who took Lynda to a minor medical procedure that required sedation. I brought my book and checked emails while waiting to be told that Lynda was ready to go home. An hour and a half goes by, the nurse comes out to tell my I can go back and hang out with Lynda while she finishes up. Lynda looks fine and of course she's made friends with the Nurse and knows her kids names and where they live. It turns out they are from the same area of North Jersey and have taken a little trip down memory lane. Lynda is snacking on pretzels and grape juice, and even though she seems a little loose from the sedation, she's alert and able to walk out.
I have no internal sense of direction, luckily Lynda knows which way to get home, another indication that she was fully recovered from her mild sedation. A few minutes into the drive home, Lynda starts getting uncomfortable. I give her some peppermint water and some essential oils to rub on her belly. We are chatting, but I can hear in her voice that she is uncomfortable.
Soon, Lynda is more than uncomfortable. She begins to writhe around in her seat, pushing at the door and the window as if she is trying to run away from the pain.
I feel my heart begin to race and my thoughts slow down. Now Lynda is saying
"Everything is white, Blakey, something's wrong"
I reach out to her, trying to stay focused on the road and pull back my instinct to reach for her, I cannot hold her and drive at the same time.
I look over at her as she says "Blakey, I'm scared" and again "something's wrong" I can see with my eyes that something is very wrong. Lynda's eyes are the wrong shape and they look green (her eyes are brown), she is a funny yellow color and covered in sweat.
Now my body has gone into emergent mode and I am trembling with the fear of what is happening and my inability to control it, holding onto the wheel and trying to focus on the road for a place to pull over or race into, to get help.
Lynda has a seizure (later we learn, not officially a seizure, but seizure like activity). Her eyes roll into the back of her head, her body curls into itself and trembles and sounds come out of her mouth as if she is still trying to tell me that something is wrong. Clearly something is not right. I teeter on the edge of panic as I think my best friend is going to die right next to me and there's nothing I can do about it.
Then it's over, almost. Lynda is conscious again. I'm still driving, we are a few blocks from my gynecologist and I briefly consider going there, thinking how nice they always are. Lynda reaches across and holds my shoulder "I'm sorry, honey". That's my Lynda, always so considerate and loving of others. I finally pull over and with trembling hands find the post procedure instructions and my phone.
I want the people who did this to Lynda to fix it, so I call them. I have a strong sense of fairness and justice. Illogical, as it is, I instinctually think that the medical facility that broke Lynda should fix her.
While I'm waiting for them to figure out who I am and what I'm talking about, Lynda looks like she's going to have another seizure, her eyes roll into her head as she starts to slump over. I consider running into the notary ( they have also been very nice to me and helped me out in a jam during my divorce), as if they will somehow make this stop happening. The nurse says I need to take Lynda to the Emergency room. I am unsatisfied with this answer, they did this to her, they should fix her. This is my irrational thinking that would be present whether I was in fight mode or not.
Lynda is feeling a little better by the time I get off the phone and does not want to go to the closest hospital (it' s not the good one, frankly) but now I'm thinking clear enough to know we need to get her somewhere in case she has another seizure. By the time we arrive at the hospital we are both pretty much fine, and able to laugh at "when was your last period?" this question like "enter your password". I could go on about the irony of women being asked this question at every turn and yet our society is so out of touch with the actual significance and relevance of the hormonal cycles of women - and men, but not here.
Lynda and I one time got stuck at a train station for 2 hours. No problem. We love each other and are good at making the best of situations. We meditate. The emergency room stay was the same. Lynda is the most gracious patient, I joke with the nurse and doctor and display some of my fun facts.
I go get us some sandwiches and we make our way to my house, to watch TV in the air conditioning. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for Lynda. My best friend who did not die in my car. My friend who loves me right where I'm at, my friend who is easy to love, my friend who takes me for a walk when I want to hide in my shell, who reminds of the person I want to be. I was powerless over what happened to her and had not much I could do for her, except to get her to the hospital. I do have the power to feel, express, and share my love. My life is better with Lynda in it.
Check out her beautiful work here lyndapilkington.com