I LOVED the first book she wrote (Chosen by a Horse), and the second (Chosen Forever). This one was touching and beautiful, and harder to read.
She talks about her abusive relationship with her (now ex) husband. She talks about her alcoholism and trying to free herself from her addictions. She talks about wanting to die and feeling helpless and hopeless and not knowing why. I think my favorite part was her description of AA.
"I didn't know that becoming sober meant really changing. Not drinking was the least of it. It was the rest of me that was the problem, the part that wanted to stay numb. The men and women in that room (AA) didn't sound numb anymore. They were angry and scared and depressed. They were also hopeful and funny and grateful. They were all over the place. The word that came to mind was whole. After years of shutting down all or parts of themselves with alcohol, they were finally whole human beings.
I sat in a corner with my arms crossed and my mouth shut and listened to what whole human beings sounded like. Evidently being human was a messy business. Not a single person said Everything's fine - my stock response since I was a child to any question about my state of mind. It had never been true, but that didn't keep from repeating it for the next twenty years. I thought that's what you were supposed to say. I thought that's what you were supposed to feel. Anything else meant you were a complainer or worse - a bad person, a wrong person, and wrong was just a code word for crazy. I didn't want to be crazy, because I was already on shaky ground in the wantable department. So the sweet smiley girl became the sweet smiley woman who drank liquor to help keep the lid on anything that didn't reflect how fine she felt one hundred percent of the time. Never mind the on-and-off suicide fantasies going back to fourth grade. Doesn't everybody have those? I was fine."I think I could have written those two paragraphs myself, just substitute alcohol and liquor with eating disorder and eating disorder behaviors.
When I went to treatment the first time, I defined recovery as "eating my dinner".
I also think I defined it as being happy all the time: No matter what was happening around me, I was supposed to be happy... Do what I was supposed to do, no matter how I felt. It is no wonder I got depressed and tired and gave up trying to recover. I was doing the opposite of recovering... I was still trying to find a way to make the "bad" parts of myself go away. To-do lists, service, church callings, work, were all ways to 'shut down all or parts of myself', and it was exhausting and miserable.
When I went the second time eleven years later, I defined recovery as "loving myself more than I hate myself". It SOUNDED better but, I think there was still some belief that I would change myself so much that I would love myself.
In May 2010. BJ and I were walking and talking about the afterlife and being gay. (I don't remember why we were talking about it... We just were.) I realized that if I were gay, I wouldn't want that very important part of myself different in the eternities. How insulting! There's nothing wrong with them: They are perfect just the way they are. And then... I started to cry, and I said, "There's nothing wrong with ME. I am perfect just the way I am." And then he started to cry, and gave me a big hug, and my life stopped being so painful after that. I stopped trying to change me, and started to accept me.
My new definition of recovery (with the help of Susan Richards' book) is:
It's becoming whole. Accepting all the parts of myself. Loving myself just as I am.
"Unconditional love is not to love you despite the way you are.
Unconditional love is to love every aspect of you and to send love into every aspect of who you are."