Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

Keeping an Eye on Recovery and Healing

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uadjat

I know I’ve gotten very quiet again, and it’s with good reason. I’m still catching up on projects, but I also had life show up in a way where I had to put some things on the backburner. One of the wonderful things to happen is I caught a bug going around. During this time and when I needed rest another life event showed up. My partner decided to casually drop a huge bomb on me.

Without going into further detail about my partner’s history he had a few problems with drugs. He cleaned up, and I’ve known him during that process. I had full knowledge about his addiction and his recovery. I found that admirable compared to the other men I’ve dated who weren’t so honest with me nor themselves about their own addictions. In fact I supported him in his path of recovery and saw how much stronger he became and developed through it. It came as a surprise to me, then, when he casually admitted to a drug relapse.

I wasn’t completely blindsided by the relapse itself as I’d seen it coming down the road. I’ve found addiction isn’t whatever the fixation of the addiction is alone but the behaviors around it. As he headed down the road to relapse I saw the signs. He would fixate on trying drugs “one more time, just to be sure” (to which my answer was usually something to the effect of why stick beans up your nose twice. Plus it’s never “just one time”). He hung out more with people who regularly drank and used drugs (some people can handle their recovery and hang out with people who use drugs, but my partner is not one of them). The biggest sign, however, was how distant he grew with me. Even when we were together he was never fully present. At first I dismissed it as other behaviors, such as his ADD, but it grew distant in ways such as not being completely honest with me. We agreed from the beginning of our relationship that we’d try to open and honest with each other. I saw these signs and denied to myself there was a relapse. I was blindsided by his confession to relapsing as an aside rather than the topic of a conversation. I ran a gamut of emotions after his flippant confession. I felt betrayed, angry, gullible, lied to, hurt, self-blaming, but mostly angry. I knew these were natural emotions, especially for someone like me.

When I first entered a relationship with my partner I was willing to try a 12-step program. I felt given my dating history there was a common factor: I was picking these men. I felt if I entered a 12-step program for codependents I could support him and maybe learn more about myself. I also figured it would help in my recovery from bulimia and problems with self-mutilation. Even though I wasn’t purging at the time I relapsed in a previous relationship. I wanted to sort through the cause of my eating disorder so I wouldn’t relapse again and overcome my urge to self-mutilate. Neither of these behaviors were ones I wanted in my life and I didn’t want them to own me.

not selfish

I did find a support group at first thanks to the help of a friend. There were still some problems, namely how I felt like an outsider. I was always encouraged to try a different group in a different town and couldn’t really find a sponsor to guide me through the steps. Still I found it comfortable to be around namely supportive women with experience in the program and bearing on their life. When I attempted to dress my age they complimented me on my efforts. They comforted me when a family pet died. Some invited me to their going-away parties or to hang out after a meeting. I was encouraged to call some of them. They also focused on spirituality in its fullest as it was hosted at a Unitarian Universalist church, and most of the group attended or were members. Very rarely did someone actually identify a particular deity and left it at “Higher Power” or “The Universe”. When I was open about my faith I wasn’t judged, but encouraged to explore my connection to Het-Hert. I developed a very positive opinion of 12-step groups despite the drawbacks and even bought a book that examined Al-Anon literature each day. This changed after moving in with my partner.

After my partner and I moved in together we attended mostly NA and a few AA groups. There were some things I attribute now to culture shock since I moved from Kansas to Virginia. I expected some of that but I didn’t expect what is called in NA and AA “sick behavior”, which is best described as dysfunctional behavior. Though some of my issues with the heavy Christian focus were unrelated to the “spiritual but not religious” program of NA and AA it unnerved me regardless. There were times where the church hosting the group practically served as a church group, which is prohibited by NA and AA guidelines. The Lord’s Prayer was used pretty often, though the Serenity Prayer is a fairly Christian piece as well. One member actually said point blank that people who don’t worship Jesus will never recover and shouldn’t bother coming to meetings. While people verbally chided the man for stating this their actions agreed with his sentiment. As I opened up more about worshiping Het-Hert and wearing my Eye of Horus pendant to meetings people grew distant. I’m sure part of this behavior was because I felt standoffish about the strong Christian bias, but the response wasn’t helpful either at that time. The more I read the Al-Anon book the more it taught about the Christian submission that women were supposed to exhibit. It assumed that the co-dependent reading it was a woman. Other literature I encountered chided people for not being Christian and insinuated they wouldn’t get better without the Christian god. I couldn’t stomach the Christian bias and reduced how often I went. My partner continued attending as frequently as before, and I encouraged it as he still got something out of it. When I decreased my attendance at these groups the behavior got worse.

Some of the sickest behavior came when a couple of groups tried to break up my partner and I and hook him up with a group member, usually someone new. This led to emotional turmoil as I gained an incredible amount of weight and blamed his obliviousness on it. I thought if I lost the weight he’d listen to me more, maybe I could find the confidence and self-assurance I needed to know he wouldn’t leave. As my insecurities grew my resolve weakened. I fought self-mutilation; were it not for my partner arriving just in time I would have failed in that struggle a couple of times. Amongst other struggles it was growing too much for me and teetered on relapsing with bulimia again.

At this time I was a member of the Kemetic Orthodoxy, but I hadn’t felt drawn to practicing that way after my move. I still kept in contact with fellow members, many of whom were very supportive and loving during those times. While I had a community that I needed at the time I didn’t have a practice. I felt as if the more I tried to practice one of the member shrine practices, called senut, the more disconnected I felt from Het-Hert. I felt compelled to research the daily morning ritual as practiced in the temples initially out of curiosity. I found an outline and began to piece together how the rituals worked based on what information was available. I hadn’t completed my research at the time, but I started to practice with the little information I pieced together. Despite an incomplete ritual I found serenity in the few parts I could act out. I felt the presence of Het-Hert and Her love again in those moments. On the days where I could practice this makeshift ritual I didn’t have the urge to cut or harm myself.

meaningofpeace

In due time I had to move out of my partner’s apartment due to finances, but I found a comfortable stopping point with my research and continued my daily practice. Sometimes I didn’t perform all the stages because I needed to keep it at a bare minimum due to time, my emotional needs, lack of resources, or something else entirely. My shrine ritual didn’t always keep some urges at bay, but I found the serenity I couldn’t find in NA or AA. The literature of those groups were replaced by wisdom literature which I read so often the pages fell out and I had to rebind myself. I found the tools I felt I needed until I slipped into self-mutilation again.

I self-mutilated during—what I will call for now—a panic attack. My partner found out and encouraged me to seek help. Given this was around the time when I discovered my pulse was through the roof during a doctor’s visit I realized he was right. My anxiety was part of the problem and I didn’t have the tools to handle it. I sought mental help. I spoke with my therapist, worked on a few exercises with him, researched other methods to handle these issues, and added more tools. At one point, though, I couldn’t afford personal counseling. My therapist suggested a support group, but didn’t feel comfortable with that option due to my foray into the12-step program. I got the boot afterwards.

I’ve found prayers that work for me during my attacks and encouraged myself to visit my shrine during those times. I won’t into exactly which methods worked for the time being, because those methods can change. I also want to encourage people to seek professional help as I know with the little I got I was pointed in the right direction. A toolbox of methods that a therapist helped me devise and discuss my research helped my on my road of healing. I’ve made some peace with the idea I will never see myself as the person I want to look. It doesn’t negate my loveability. I learned new ideas and started falling in love with myself. Even though I sometimes need the encouragement of my partner he’s there.

As I worked on my healing my partner grew tired of NA and AA. He got tired of the improprieties, the strong Christian overtones, the general group drama, and read about the inefficacy of these programs. He decided after some time he would quit attending despite my protests. There was some backlash and the groups blamed me for his decision. Even though I was mildly annoyed at how much power they assumed I held over my partner, I dismissed it as ignorance. At first he looked into alternatives to 12-step programs, such as the SMART program. Looking into them was all that came of that endeavor. It was about that time he considered trying drugs and alcohol again. After our discussions, and the assurance he would discuss the issue further with me before any further action, he tried them behind my back.

His actions reminded me of what I experienced with the previous man I dated. He’d act in ways which were quite questionable about his fidelity during our relationship. The only reason I knew about it is because his family told me he did things behind my back. It wasn’t just that behavior alone. He’d drink every day, get into fights with me, use that as an excuse to break up, then date someone only to make up after it didn’t work out. I had an extremely poor self-esteem at the time and took him back only to re-experience the draining cycle. At one point I stopped trying to discuss with him and just screamed into the phone because he’d accuse me of something or put me down for every minute transgression. It was clear the guy wasn’t interested in changing. This is what it would always be. I would never pass snuff and he’d find some way to harm me even if he didn’t touch me. Alcohol was only fuel for his abuse. When I finally came to the realization I could do better he and I were going through another cycle. I felt nothing. No anger, no hurt, no emotion whatsoever. I knew then I was done and broke up with him. Many chide me for how frank I was about it, but it was the only way I could do it.

In some ways my breakup reminds me of a common question I’m asked. I’m often asked as a worshiper of Het-Hert how I reconcile the aspects of Her and Sekhmet. My answer has been very much based on Their epithets of the Eye of Heru. While one is not designated to certain associations with the Eye of Heru over the other I’ve found in my experience I associated Sekhmet more with not only protection but making a way, albeit a more violent and chaotic way, for Ma’at to prosper. While Het-Hert can also protect I found I associated Her more with protection in the sense of preserving Ma’at. It’s something I’ve felt I’ve never expressed well, but it seems to work and it’s something I understand enough. I know that when I need to remove things in my life which go against Ma’at it must be quick and oftentimes without mercy. Sometimes this serves me, but with people it’s been trickier. Sometimes it’s because it seems hurtful and is an emotional affair. In the case of my partner it led to my own personal turmoil.

Finding one’s own understanding of life is always a challenge, but it’s an even bigger challenge when it’s understanding life in the context of addiction and religion. There is no fable or myth which fully addresses this behavior (while sometimes it feels like someone is married to an addiction, conflating infidelity and addiction is fallacious), there’s no passage about it in any wisdom literature which focuses on it without conflating it with gluttony, nor is this addressed in the Negative Confessions. I had to trust myself to make the best decision. I consulted a friend about my issue who advised I wait until I’m healthier to decide. Even though this was sound advice I couldn’t put the issue out of my head long enough. I had been down this road far too many times before and knew it like the back of my hand, but I couldn’t emotionally figure out if my partner was willing to change. Part of me wanted to believe the relationship could be salvaged. Part of me didn’t want to bother.

I contemplated everything I experienced with addiction and living with others’ addiction. I turned myself into pretzels and committed other mental gymnastics. I wavered on one decision after another. As I distracted myself with no real avail by focusing on other tasks I found myself finally admitting I had no idea what to do. In that desperation an epiphany popped into my mind. What am I ready to do? Am I ready to walk away from someone who may prefer to live as an addict? Am I willing to hold firm on ending the relationship, no matter how much I loved him, for my health and possible safety? This rolled around in my head for some time. I admitted to myself while I wasn’t ready to walk away I was ready to do what was best for myself, and that meant I might have to end my relationship.

That night we spoke on the phone I told him my intentions to end the relationship. I got many of the canned responses of how he wouldn’t do it again, how he loved me and needed me, etc. He plead for me to stay. Not expecting an answer I asked him what his plan was to make sure he didn’t relapse anytime soon. I didn’t hear a plan outright, but I heard him fumbling about to piece together an answer. We argued. I couldn’t express myself rationally at one point and let all of my emotions take over. I broke down crying. He broke down crying because he didn’t know how to start over after years of recovery. We tried to find the words through the tears and came up with thoughts while unintelligible struck an emotional chord.  I had a few breakthroughs in that moment.

During all of that time when I was working on myself it never occurred to me that he needed support in his recovery as much as I needed support in mine. I assumed with at least the 12-step groups and the various sponsors he had someone was looking out for him. I assumed that encouraging him to go and to keep on his path to healing was all I needed to do. I also assumed I was fair to him by feeling I needed to walk away after his first relapse while in a relationship with me, whereas I’d messed up several times in my own. I remembered all those times how I felt I failed myself and how I wasn’t always certain how to regroup. He could have left during any of those times and he didn’t. My struggles with an eating disorder and self-mutilation took a toll on him as well despite never voicing it. He tried to be strong for my sake. He stuck by me while I tried again. What I chose to see at that time was only the healing that focused on me. I also realized because of this I was not ready to leave at all.

Do Not Take Folks for Granted

I’m staying for now. We decided we’ll take baby steps in moving past the relapse. We’ve agreed that since he’s had his “trial” with drugs and found he couldn’t manage they were completely prohibited. If I find out he’s tried them again I am gone. It’s true he may still relapse and try to hide it from me. I honestly have no guarantees about these things. He knows it will take time for me to rebuild my trust provided it’s not irreparable. I’ve asked him to be more vocal about his needs. I’ve also agreed to give him a guest spot to write about recovery from the perspective of an alternative faith because he knows there isn’t a lot of information about it from an alternative faith perspective. I’ve prayed a lot about guiding us through the best outcome and to write what needs to be said.

I know that recovering from addiction isn’t an easy road, and it’s one that is toiling at lightest sometimes. This is provided someone with an addiction is willing to get help. If they want to let addiction rule I encourage the person in the addict’s life to leave. It doesn’t get better in those instances. I know from experience a person with an addiction—be it to alcohol, drugs, or whatever—will drag everyone in their lives down with them. It will take lots of healing even in the hands of a therapist. It can be done, and it’s scary. It requires feeling around in the dark, but you will find a light source that will help you see.

As I’ve prayed to find the best way to write this blog post I keep focusing on Het-Hert.  One of Her epithets is the “Eye of Ra”, and it led to my contemplation of the Eye of Horus in a roundabout way. Some people associate the Eye of Horus with healing. It amuses me not only because I wore an Eye of Horus pendant to NA and AA but for other reasons. There are some theories how the Eye of Horus was also the model for fraction measurements for things like medicine and land. I’ve found my way of healing consists of many pieces and methods cobbled together.  The same could be said about my partner’s healing and recovery.  It’s been fractured and incomplete at times, but the different parts he managed to make work pieced together cohesively as a whole.  My medicine has consisted of many attributes and possibly fractured, but I managed to make my way whole.

steppingstone

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2 thoughts on “Keeping an Eye on Recovery and Healing

  1. the phrase bloody hell comes to mind.

    That said, may things work out for the two of you.

    Light’s Blessings upon you both.

    (yes, [i]my[/i] interpretation of that Power. I’m too much of a curmudgeon to replace it with some of the newfangled interpretations floating around)

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