When I first came to CoDA, I heard people speak these words and my heart would immediately close. I would hear that these things were things we needed to do.
It was explained that forgiveness was not for the person who had committed the offense.
Forgiveness was for the victim.
I’d think, “How is that possible? It makes no sense!”
Over time, I began to object to the way people used these terms interchangably.
Acceptance seemed like something I might be able to achieve. Letting go was still out of reach, but the idea that I could accept that my life was how it was and move forward from there was very different from forgiving those who I blamed for putting me on the course I'd been following. To me, it felt like forgiving was the same as saying what had happened to me was okay. It was like saying, “I’m not that important. It’s okay if you hurt me.”
I told my sponsor, last summer, that I would never forgive my father. A defiant child inside me screamed, “You can’t make me!”
In the garden of our lives, the wounds of the past are barren places. Many of us avoid looking into these dark deserts of despair. Fear of these bleak, infertile spaces haunts our thoughts, dreams, actions and aspirations. No one showed us how to care for our garden. We allow ourselves to be victimized and avoid the things we need most. As the sterile darkness spreads, we find ourselves in smaller and smaller cages of denial, but still we refuse to face that which is preventing us from becoming what we can be - what we are meant to be.
It feels hopeless.
In our hands, we hold the seeds to Acceptance, Letting Go, and Forgiveness, but until we take the time to step into the barren places, push the dirt aside, and place the seeds in the ground, there is no hope for them to grow.
For me, I believe I began to bury those seeds in March of last year.
If I had a bottom, that was it.
I recently heard this question asked at a CoDA meeting:
When does one hit bottom?
The answer: When one stops digging.
I looked at the holes I’d been burying myself in and decided, instead, to plant those seeds I’d been hanging onto. Continuing my Inner Child work in therapy has let sunlight in my garden. Working the steps in CoDA has been the much needed rain. In the last year, I believe the seeds have grown into something tangible, something I can almost taste, but still there is something missing.
In my garden, acceptance is a tangy, not quite ripe orange. It is hard to peal, but I have been working at it for some time. The sections I have free are not as sweet as I would like, but I can get them down without too much discomfort.
With the first sections of orange inside me, the green limes of letting go have become thin-skinned and ripe. I can open them up and breathe in the citrus smell, but the tartness puckers my mouth before I can swallow a mouthful.
Yellow lemons grow in my garden. They are forgiveness; beautiful to look at, but impossible to digest. Just opening them makes my eyes water.
I am writing out my eighth step, this weekend. This step is:
“Made a list of all persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”
The timing on this seems perfect. My “Acceptance Ceremony” is only ten days away. What better time to begin to take responsibility for my part in it all?
I have not been perfect. As Melody Beattie says in “Codependents’ Guide to the Twelve Steps”:
“It is hard to be nurturing, loving nonshaming and present to...if we have never been nurtured or if all we know is control and shame, and if we ourselves are doubled over in pain. Being without boundaries, not being able to set appropriate limits… is doing harm.”I could continue to play the victim and relieve myself of all responsibility because of what has happened to me in the past, but does that really serve me? Even if it did, wouldn’t this kind of attitude mean that I also have to relieve those who have harmed me of responsibility? Surely their behavior has stemmed from unmet needs and abuse in their own lives….
As suggested in the Beattie book, I am taking breaks to “find peace” when it feels overwhelming. I wrote the first part of this blog post during the first break, and now I am coming back to finish it.
I think I understand what was once missing in my garden.
I believe there is more to creating life than sunlight, water and earth. For my seeds to grow into something I can ingest, something nourishing and sweet, I need divine intervention.
As I said, I have not been perfect. How unbelievably lucky I am that there is a thing called “unconditional love”. If there is anyone who can love unconditionally, it would have to be God. Since I feel the presence of God in my life anytime I sincerely look for it, and since I believe in unconditional love, I know that God loves me unconditionally.
I am not meant to live in shame, anger and fear.
I am not alone.
I have been forgiven.
This kind of presence, forgiveness and unconditional love has a name.
It’s called Grace.
Grace is the final ingredient I need to make my garden flourish. Grace is like sugar, sprinkled generously on the tart and tangy fruit I am finally harvesting. Sweetened, watered and warmed by the sun, what was once impossible to swallow is becoming something too sweet to resist.