Recovery Way Magazine Online
A Bag Of Groceries?
Nora R, Marlboro, MA
Who knows what we carry? Until one day, life and her Higher Power made this woman see what she couldn't see.
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Oh how I struggle to figure things out: to figure out what truth and reality are; to figure out what I should be, think and do. I berate and chastise myself. I give myself pep talks. I earnestly read and try to apply recovery literature.

No matter how much I struggle to grow and become, I discover once again that true growth is a gift of my Higher Power. The biggest breakthroughs are not a matter of willing to become, but rather of letting go.

It's as if I'm carrying a bag of groceries in my arm, except that I am totally unaware of it because I've been carrying the bag all my life. It's part of who I am.

Then one day, when I am ready for the lesson, the bag is no longer in my arm. At first, I'm not even aware that it's gone. Slowly, feeling starts to creep back into the arm and this rigid, unmoving part of my body starts to move and unbend.

I see the bag sitting on the table. It is full of things I thought were me, things I carried around . . . did and lived for years and years. I now see them for what they are. They prove I'm good enough. They seek approval and recognition. They're the things I added to me so the world would recognize my existence and give me validation and worth. They're things I initially started building and acquiring to prove to my parents that "Yes, I can too be a person. Just watch me."

I see the bag sitting on the table. I worked very hard to create the things in it. Many of them have absolutely nothing to do with who I really am.

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to realize I have an arm. My reality is shifting. "Why don't I . . .?; I could . . .; Gee, maybe I will . . ." percolate to the surface. Ways of doing, being and thinking that were only dim shadowed fantasies moving behind the screen on which I projected my life, now begin to take shape as actual possibilities. Beliefs, values and dreams emerge that somehow seem familiar. I recognize with awe that they are lost pieces of myself.

I look back at the bag on the table. There are some very impressive things in there, but they are no longer who I am. I feel relieved. I also feel strong. It took a strong and capable person to do and be all those things. The awareness of my strength, I will take with me. . . . It will be useful.

I feel off balance. My whole reality has shifted, along with it my notions of who I am and what my possibilities are. I don't know yet what they are or where they will lead, but I have found a lost treasure. I want to explore it, claim it, live it.

This is all so different. Everyone knows me with my bag of stuff. Now I don't have it anymore. I choose not to pick it up again. How can I explain that to anyone? How can I hold the world at bay while I undergo my metamorphosis? Unlike the butterfly, I am not wrapped in a safe cocoon with nature's clock protecting my transformation. How do I get the permission, the space?

Suddenly, I am filled with a deep searing anger.

I give myself permission!

Forty years! Forty years, I've spent putting everything I have and am into filling the bottomless bag of expectations, obligations and standards of acceptability that I didn't even set. I know it's because of my disease that I've lived this way, but now I know it on a profoundly deeper level.

Tears stream down my face as I realize that who I am was alright to begin with! All that painful, arduous effort, the dark slide into alcoholism and insanity, the struggle out the other side to be okay - to be normal, when what I had to begin with, long ago, was a complete and beautiful person.

Yes, I do give myself permission!

I embrace my rediscovered self and cherish her. I can learn to live as the woman I am. I can find out what that means, how it feels, how it works. I can forgive myself and others for the bag on the table and examine the contents. After all, I spent forty years filling it! I can take the things that will serve me on my journey, and leave the rest behind.

I can and will take the energy, commitment and total dedication I gave to so many people, places and things and use it instead in finding expression of my dreams and growth. And so I see, yet once again, my Higher Power is like a sculptor, removing the parts of me that no longer serve.

Postscript, 2002. ....and this is a lifelong task. I've found though that the most important piece is Letting Go and Letting God. . . . which leads to being less self-absorbed . . . which leads to being more open to gifts I didn't even know were there.

Nora R., Marlboro, MA 1992. Nora did her undergraduate and graduate work in the school of hard knocks. She is presently doing post-doctoral work in common sense and self-acceptance and hopes to add wisdom and humor soon.

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