Whatever the reason for being in recovery—be it from substance abuse, childhood trauma, violence, sexual abuse, or war—the feelings are similar: guilt and shame, as survivors of trauma and substance abusers both tend to blame themselves. Both often long deeply for a return to the bad situation—substance abusers for the fleeting pleasure indulgence provides, trauma victims because they often end up believing their abusers, especially if they are authority figures, victimized a second time by the so-called Stockholm syndrome. Often those in recovery have a panicked urge to take back a shameful action or statement—to delete the past. Their dreams and aspirations drown in a sea of “what ifs” and “if onlys.” Whatever the reason for being in recovery, overcoming feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy is often the hardest part of the process. Perhaps the similarities in feelings gives us a clue as to why so many survivors of childhood trauma become substance abusers and/or inflict trauma on others.
Several years back I tried to combine some of all of the feelings that people in recovery feel no matter what it is they suffered into a poem that was published in Vallum.
Buddha surely felt this thirst
for self-annihilation end of pain
end of twitching memories
shaking shaking shaking
shameful when I said those words
shameful when I wrecked the car
came late left early shrank in corners
missed it dropped it didn’t answer
stared at screen click and click
drag and paste delete delete
paced the porch bathed in street lamp
slapped child delete slapped child delete
those said and never said
those faller falling fallen
Did they do they will they
know care grieve forgive?
Christ must have seen a loathing glass
to hang and bleed deny the beast
and hate himself myself despise my empty
yearn to fill desire before hallucination
delete delete delete delete.
Published in Vallum, Vol. 9, #2 (2012)