Worms of Recovery

Thanks to SAL member Shiree for this beautiful blog post, and for her willingness to share her strength, hope, and experience with us all.

A Sunday School teacher explained to the little children how we can keep our bodies clean. He told them about an experiment with worms: four jars were filled with 1) drugs, 2) cigarettes, 3) chocolate, and 4) rich, brown soil. Then he placed a worm in each jar. And what happened? The worms in the first three jars died, and the worm in the last jar thrived. When the teacher asked the children what could be learned from this, one young boy answered, “If you put drugs, cigarette smoke, and chocolate into your body, you won’t get worms.”

I laughed at this story when I heard it, then a picture came to my mind: a pit full of huge brownish-black worms covered by a lid with a hinge. I perch myself on this lid, struggling to keep the lid closed and the worms from escaping. What are these worms in my life? The nasties of recovery.

Continuing my daydream: my husband comes to me and bids me to leave the worm pit alone and move on. These worms jostle me with their jarring.

“But I can’t!,” I reason with him. I can’t because 1) I’ve been a fearless keeper of his lust addiction secret (these worms are steeped in secrets). If not me, then who can keep this secret so tightly contained? And 2) I don’t want to face what the worms represent (all the dark parts of my husband’s addictions and actions, and my own codependence and effects of betrayal trauma).

So I keep them tightly squished in their confinement. To let the worms out means I have to devise means to avoid them–I may have to recapture them to relegate them again to the pit, or I have to simply face them head on.

In time, I can’t just sit still on that wiggly lid anymore no matter how enticing that option seems. So I simply stand up to see what happens (not even bothering to take my husband’s proffered hand), and indeed, they slinker out. And I can’t even buffer them with my shield as they advance—if I want to do this right. I must allow them to creep up my legs, hug around my core, and explore through my belligerent hair.

I cringe and keep my lips tightly sealed while they become content in my space.

This existence becomes a way of life as I continually learn to adapt to what these worms mean to me in my life.

They remind me I must be assertive in my efforts of recovery: When I loosen up my focus and forget daily self-care, they grip in a strangle-hold. When I judge others for the worms I see swaying from them, I remember to simply look down. Strangely, the worms let go a little when around other worm-victims, and their pinch lessens when we all combine our forces: strength in numbers works for us all. When I simply tell someone else I’ve got an especially bothersome worm, the worm takes the hint and backs off a bit. But not enough; I soon realize I NEED MORE HELP.

I find people out there who actually know how to deworm you! But it isn’t by a simple pill. It’s by patience, perseverance, and presence. It’s by undoing the kinks in you so the worms have no foothold. It’s by sourcing power through the greatest of all power sources: God. It’s using God’s power through charity to love what you hate; to need what you don’t presently want. To appreciate the darker side of you so you can exhibit the light. To have experienced “rock bottom” and triumphed. And to benefit from those people God sends for your care.

You recognize the parasitic quality of those worms: they are just feeding off their ideal host. And when you are no longer enticing to them, they become bored with you and no longer have a hold on you. When you have finally learned to endure them, they quietly slither away.

Like a dog who can sense your fear, you become fearless lest the worms smell your desirability. And this is what God could see in you all along: someone greater than their threats.

Would you ever want to go back to sitting on that blasted, bumbling lid? No; but you are certainly willing to go support those women unwilling to stand up and face what’s in the pit.

1 thought on “Worms of Recovery”

  1. I love this analogy. Worms are so icky and make you feel uncomfortable, but they do so much good and we can grow so much when we learn to work with them. Thank you for being brave enough to share this!

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