I’m planning what I’m going to say as a speaker at an SAA meeting coming up in a couple of days. As I write down the history about my addiction, I revisit a memory I haven’t had in years.
My ex had found out that we were pregnant with our first child a little over 14 years ago. She tried hard not to tell me because she knew I was studying for my annual recurrent training. I used to get extremely uptight and stressed before oral and practical exams; not the best person to be around.
But she couldn’t keep this to herself.
We were playing Scrabble. I can’t remember the words she kept coming up with, but they were like: Dad, diaper, father, baby, crib. Something like that.
Each time she put down a word she had her mischievous smirk on her face. The one she has when she wants to tell you something, but would rather you figure it out instead.
I love that look.
Anyway, I stopped at one point and asked if she was trying to tell me something. Of course, all she did was smile.
I looked at the board. I looked back at her. I looked at the board. I asked if she was insinuating what I think she was insinuating?
“We’re going to have a baby,” she told me excitedly.
At that moment, my insides froze. I locked up. Other than going through divorce, I have never felt as much fear as I did then.
Negative Self Talk
My ex was so happy. She was so excited. And I wanted to join her with that joy. But reality hit me with such brutal force. Every negative voice I had about myself flooded in all at once.
I can tell the depth of that fear and pain, because right now I feel it as if it was yesterday.
I’ve been so grounded lately, but thinking what I thought back then has transported me back in time to the same emotional state I was after I found out.
I feigned happiness. It wasn’t because I didn’t want a baby. It wasn’t because I didn’t want her to have my baby. That’s all I ever wanted. That’s why I asked her to marry me. That’s why I have never, ever regretted the choice I made when I asked her to be my wife. I wanted her to be the mother of my children.
And I am grateful that SHE is the mother of my two beautiful girls.
But, I knew I couldn’t be their father. I knew that I was this horrible person. I knew she didn’t deserve me. I knew that my baby didn’t deserve me. Nobody deserved me. How could I be a father when I hated myself so much?
It hurts to realize the depth of hatred I had at who I was. It hurts to revisit the fear I had about being a good father. I had already hurt my child’s mother and my child wasn’t even born yet. What kind of father would hurt his child’s mother?
My Wife Shined
As the pregnancy progressed, my wife glowed. She was more beautiful than ever. She was happy. She was radiant. She was confident. She loved herself. She glided across the floor. She had an aura of health, splendor, and grandeur. I fell in love with her more every day.
At the same time, I fell out of love with me every day.
I didn’t know how to manage. I didn’t know how to cope. At times, I wanted out. Not because I didn’t want to be with her. Not because I didn’t want my baby. But because I didn’t believe I was worthy enough to be her future husband. I believed I wasn’t worthy enough to be this child’s father.
I couldn’t handle the torrent of negative beliefs I had.
So, I did what I knew how to do to care for myself. I medicated. I medicated first with pornography. It would take me away. I wouldn’t worry. I wouldn’t hate. I wouldn’t doubt. I wouldn’t fear.
I wouldn’t feel.
I’d go into a trance state, similar to someone playing video games or a teen stuck on her phone. No emotions. Time would stop and I’d stop feeling. No more self-inflicted beliefs and pain.
But afterwards, the guilt and the shame SLAMMED me to the ground. It was worse than before.
I kept proving to myself that I was unworthy.
My pain, both physically and emotionally, was overwhelming. I needed it to stop. So, the only way I knew how to stop the pain was to jump back in.
If I could distract. If I could avoid. If I could do anything, I wouldn’t have to feel the hatred I had towards myself.
Addiction does not stop pain. It prolongs it. It masks it. It hides it. Get rid of the addiction and the emotions are still there, but they come back ten-fold.
Addiction does not stop pain. It prolongs it. It masks it. It hides it. The pain is still there, buried underneath. Click To Tweet
The more beautiful my wife felt, the uglier I became to myself.
Trying to find some semblance of self-worth, I stepped outside our marriage sexually. While she was home, alone, with a bun in the oven, I was the asshole who met another.
I became what I believed.
I caused my thoughts to come true.
I created a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Interesting looking back compared to now. When one has self-love. When one believes in oneself. When one lives life with integrity. When one’s actions mirror who they want to be and how they want the world to perceive them.
When one has a strong sense of self-confidence and self-love, it allows us to become more of what we believe.
When we have self-confidence and self-love, it allows us to become more of what we believe. Click To Tweet
We create who we are through our beliefs.
We create who we are through our beliefs. Click To Tweet
Add doubt, fear, self-hate, and self-depreciating thoughts and we too become the asshole we see in the mirror.
When we have self-hate and self-depreciating thoughts we become the asshole we see in the mirror. Click To Tweet
A therapist once said, “The road to recovery is paved with integrity.” That has been one of my mantras. Without integrity, self-hate is lurking just around the corner.
Without integrity, self-hate is lurking just around the corner. Click To Tweet
My ex found out about my affair just before we mailed our wedding invitations. She knew, deep in her heart, it was a mistake to mail them. Deep down, if I did it once, I’d do it again. And yet she went against her better judgment.
She has regretted that day ever since.
That doubt we both had, me in myself and her in me, was but another drop of poison in our marriage.
We drank that poison.
I didn’t feel worthy of her love. She didn’t feel I was worthy to give love to. This was our toxic pattern that killed us.
I recreated my childhood trauma of feeling invisible, being a burden, and not enough.
She recreated her childhood trauma of being rejected, abandoned, and not enough.
We both trapped ourselves with someone who couldn’t give each other what we needed.
Back to Present Day
When I take out the relationship piece of constant triggering and pain and only look at me as a father, I question why was I so hard on myself so many years ago.
I’m not trying to be arrogant. But the question I ask my old self is, “What did you have to fear? What did you have to hate? Why did you believe you would be a terrible father?”
I have my flaws. I have made my mistakes. I have needed the growth these past six plus years to change certain behaviors that were unhealthy. But all in all, I am and have always been, a good father to my two girls.
It has been pointed out to me time and time again, that I may be gone for days because of my career, but the people I work with wish they had a dad that was as actively involved with their lives as I have been with my girls. They are quick to point out that their father lived with them.
It’s amazing at how much self-hatred and lack of confidence I had back then. Even recognizing the high emotional energy that’s still there when I think about it surprises me.
I was so mistaken about my abilities and who I was as a person.
Here’s the Take Away
No matter how much you loathe yourself. No matter how much you hate yourself. No matter how much you fear about your situation or who you are. You are valuable. You are loved. You are worthy. You are enough.
You need to dig past that negative self-talk and learn to love you.
You are who you believe you are.
If you have to, fake it till you make it. Do whatever it takes to love you!
And, if the reason for your self-hatred is due to addiction and the pain you have caused people around you, you have a choice. You can get help. You can change. Loving yourself means taking the long, hard road of recovery.
If you don’t learn to love YOU, you will hurt not only yourself, but the people you love most in your life.
And when you hurt others, you will only validate your own lies!
If I can learn how to make peace with my inner child. If I can learn how to nurture myself with love and respect. If I can grow and rise out of the ashes. You can too!!
Together We Can Heal!
It’s a painful, long, hard journey, but the rewards along the way (and I’m not done with my journey yet) are immeasurable.
Join me! Join all of us.
Together We Can Heal!
– Steven Curtis Chapman
PS: Dec 12, 2017
I had to revisit this piece this week because lately I’ve been struggling with my youngest daughter. When I see her react to life, I’m looking in a mirror.
I see a belief that she is not loved, is a burden, and is not important. I see her screaming to be heard, I mean, literally, SCREAMING to be heard.
And she’s not heard. Her anger triggers my deepest scars. I either shut her down or I engage with her.
When we both calm down and I try to talk with her, she’s quick to shut me out, “Is this another one of Dad’s life lessons?” She does to me what I had just done to her.
Around and around we go.
What has been hard for me is that during her outbursts, when Little Phoenix gets triggered, I can literally feel my mind disassociate and my adult child that came from a dysfunctional family reacting. It’s kind of a weird, out-of-body experience. I am aware that it’s happening, and yet, I feel powerless when the cognitive part of my brain seems to just shut down. Like a switch that has just been turned off.
Actually, it’s like a calm switch turned off and the reactive switch immediately became engaged.
I just read last night in Pam Grout’s book, E-Squared:
“We think we’re running our lives with our brilliant ideas and thoughts. We think we’re affirming our intentions and creating new possibilities, but in reality we’re simply recycling old tapes, knee-jerk conditioning, and automatic behaviors, most of which we picked up before we were five. We’re like Pavlov’s dogs, simply reacting to patterns we picked up before we had the intelligence to wisely choose. Most of the thoughts we assume are our own are really the invisible and largely unquestioned beliefs we downloaded from others. So we pit our positive thoughts against our old, disempowering programming. In other words, our consciousness, that force that always affects physical reality, has been hijacked.”
That’s what happens. My brain gets hijacked!
On a positive note, I can recognize when this happens and, it doesn’t take me as long to catch myself and detach from the situation. I can self soothe, come back to ground, and release the anger and tension within minutes. I used to hold onto that for days on end.
Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. I have not modeled who I want to be as a Dad and I struggle holding back the dysfunctional adult that wants to chide and scold Little Phoenix for not being able to control his emotions.
But what’s even harder is that the old belief keeps trying to sneak up and tell me, “You’re deluding yourself thinking you’re a good father. A good father should be able to control his emotions all the time.”
I took the advice from Rafiki the other day and instead of dwelling on what I did wrong, I watched a parenting video by Kim John Payne (I have included it below). And, after watching this video, I realized, once again, I am human. I will make mistakes. I am not perfect. And sometimes, I too will lose it with my children.
However, I’m willing to grow and learn from my failures. I’m willing to pick myself up and rise from the ashes. I’m willing to spend the time to understand what causes my reactions and find solutions so that I can be a better father.
We all struggle at times and it’s not the falling down that defines us, but how we get up and what we do to keep us from tripping again.
It's not the falling that defines us, but how we get up and what we do to keep us from tripping again. Click To Tweet
If you’re like me and at times fail as a parent, watch this video. Kim John Payne has a way of allowing us to accept our humanity, while at the same time guiding us towards becoming better role models for our children. I highly recommend every parent take an hour and a half and listen to what Kim John Payne has to say.
Once again, as always, thank you Rafiki for your unrelenting support and guidance.
“I’ve never ever met a kid who’s disobedient. I’ve only ever met a disoriented child.”
-Kim John Payne