I have felt more connected to the people around me since I came out about my alcoholism online and shared my brokenness. The barrier of keeping up appearances has been lifted and I’m free to speak my mind, be myself and carry on as a blessed, intensely loved, child of God.
I emphasize the word “child” because, in a sense, I have regressed. I’m back to the joy of being a kid. You know, that time before you feel the stinging pain of judgement from your peers. Like that time in the second grade when someone who you thought was your friend explains that you can’t hang out with the same group anymore because you’re too fat (reasons the movie Mean Girls was so fervently embraced by people like me).
We’re built for human connection, but because we’re not perfect, we step on people, and they step on us. In the process of all that hurt, we build safe houses to protect our hearts, creating walls to keep others out. For me, I built my safe house and tried to make it as perfect as possible, much of which I significantly came to understand in the book When We Were on Fire. If you were a girl whose formative years were spent in the evangelical church in the 1990s, this book might be eerily accurate. It was for me.
But, back to the safe house, it’s not possible to have close, meaningful connections with people with walls in between. It’s like trying to enjoy your honeymoon while asking your groom to stay in the room next door because you don’t want him to see you naked. You’re removing the risk of judgement, but you’re also missing out on the joys of initmacy.
We all have stories of painful memories, the moments that caused us to lay down the brick and mortar to house our feelings, not realizing that as we were protecting ourselves, we were simultaneously cutting off our life lines. For particularly traumatic experiences, there might be three feet of concrete and rebar around the heart, airtight seals meant to keep anyone from hurting us again. Though it’s people who are the ones that harm us, they’re also absolutely necessary. I am not saying that if someone abused you or caused you significant harm you should try to reconcile with them. But, if they did a number on your ability to be vulnerable, there’s a good chance it’s hampering your ability to connect with other people who you can trust with your heart.
The root of my issues was not a singular traumatic incident. However, a bunch of punk-ass, hoity-toity, New Kids on the Block blaring school girls who didn’t want to include me in a game of four-square were a part of a string of events that had an impact on my ability to feel love. I can’t undo what happened, but I can see it for what it is now (yay therapy!). It was imperfect people stepping on another imperfect and defenseless person who was craving love, not fully understanding God’s unconditional love. My identity and my love-ability was tied up in other people, not in God’s love.
In an anti-three little pigs kind-of way, I needed my house blown down. Most of the blowing down happened in therapy and the hard work of recovery. But, the last of that safe house was leveled when I shared my story. It makes me vulnerable, but I’m safe because my love and self-acceptance is not defined by other people. God loves me and as Brene Brown puts it in here popular TED talk, “I am enough.” And now, with the house gone, the people who want to connect with me can, because I’m in the same room, letting it all hang out. No one needs to be on the defensive and I’m no longer hiding. I’m connected. It’s good to be connected.
We’re not perfect, but we are loveable.