Do you ever feel confused about whether recovery is a journey about forgetting or remembering?
In the months following my husband’s big disclosure, the theme of “Remembering” came up over and over. In fact, my husband wrote a list at this point of his goals for recovery. It looked like this:
- Attend weekly Recovery meetings.
- Do daily Step Work.
- Get a Sponsor.
- Help Beck to forget.
Even then, there was something I didn’t like about that “Help Beck to forget.” Not only did it seem a little self-serving, but isn’t that what he had been doing his entire life? Acting out, hitting rock bottom, confessing it, and then…trying to FORGET? It didn’t seem like this “FORGET” thing had worked out so well.
Forgive and Forget?
We often get the advice from well-meaning but ill-informed people that we need to “Forgive and Forget.” “Let it go.” “Move on with our lives.” This seems to imply that forgetting is a part of the healing process.
This has not been my experience.
The Blessing of Full Disclosure
In fact, not until two and a half years into my husband’s full sobriety (that includes progressive victory over lust, browsing the internet, scanning crowds…all of it), when we did Full Disclosure with a Qualified Therapist did the real healing for my husband really begin. This is also when I was able to grasp the peace and freedom of a deeper surrender.
For my husband, Full Disclosure was the first time he had ever shared his full story out loud from the four-year-old beginnings to the almost-forty-year-old rock bottom.
This was the first time even he himself had ever really looked at, and REMEMBERED, the whole story. And it turns out that this remembering was the first time sobriety went deeper than Band-Aids. For us, remembering is where the real healing started.
Remembering Through EMDR Therapy
Both my husband and I are now working EMDR therapy with a qualified therapist. Once again, this is all about remembering.
This Monday was my first full session. Midway through the session my brain flipped into the night my husband disclosed his affair. I felt a tidal wave of grief, fear, and pain completely consume me until I truly felt that I could not continue on. The tucked-away files of my brain were opening and literally forcing my body to relive this excruciating night.
I was almost desperate for the two days after the session, so afraid that I was stuck back in that familiar black hole. The physical symptoms of my trauma had returned, a locked-up neck, a constant headache, a fuzziness in my thinking, a pressure in the back of my skull, an almost constant weeping from my eyes.
What was I thinking actually PAYING someone to do this to me?
I was never going back. What was the POINT?!?
Then, a miracle happened. Somehow, magically or miraculously, depending on your point of view, I was able to come out of the black hole. How did I escape the darkness?
I remembered the crucial tool of CONNECTION, and reached out multiple times to my sponsor and others.
I remembered the importance of EDUCATION and sought the advice of another EMDR therapist who assured me that the pain I was feeling was a normal part of this process, and that my therapist was not actually a sadist. She also encouraged me to continue to process, because if the pain was so intense, it meant there were parts of this experience that were still unresolved for me.
I clung to my belief in the SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE of a Higher Power and surrendered and accepted the pain I was feeling, and asked Him to use it to teach me.
And through both my Higher Power and WORKING MY STEPS, I was able to use Steps 6 & Step 7 to turn this most painful memory into a beautiful, freeing experience.
Healing Through Remembering
As I allowed my brain to process and REMEMBER this painful memory, I realized that one of my defects that had surfaced in my Step 4 was connected to this deep pain.
I realized that the depth and intensity of the trauma associated with this specific memory was because my brain had interpreted and internalized these false beliefs that horrible night:
- You are not enough.
- Your value is completely dependent on being able to exceed others’ expectations of you.
- You are responsible for other people’s happiness.
- If you fall short, you are worthless and pathetic.
- Nobody who really knew you could ever love you.
- What just happened to you is concrete proof of all of this.
As I allowed myself to sit in this horrible pain and listen again to these horrible words that had circled my soul like vultures for those long months, even years, it began to dawn on me that “I do have choices concerning my own recovery.”
This wisdom that I had heard 2 years ago at UCAP sunk deep into my heart.
“You are not the voices inside your head. You are the soul inside who gets to choose which of the voices to listen to.”
Pain is the Pathway to Progress
As I continue to work towards healing, I am planning on going back to EMDR and trying to REMEMBER even more. I am expecting the pain. Hopefully this time it won’t completely bowl me over. But, if it does, I will accept where I am at and ask my Higher Power to meet me where I am.
Why would I choose to REMEMBER when it would be so much more comfortable to forget? Why would I pay someone to DO this to me?
Because underneath the pain is where I find the truth of where my deepest, darkest trauma is coming from. And it turns out, I can change that script. I can choose to listen to a different voice. I can ask my Higher Power to remove those false beliefs and character defects from me.
Pain HAS been the pathway to progress for me. And the amazing thing is this: after that kind of rain, the sun shines through warmer and brighter than you have ever known it before. And you should see how those flowers bloom.