Sunday, 20 August 2017

J Journey from Addiction

Intimacy

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I am struggling with this word. Intimacy. In one of our 12 step group meetings, we defined intimacy as having four parts: spiritual, emotional, physical - non sexual, and physical - sexual. The first three must be achieved by an addict with their spouse before experiencing the last one. I don’t like this word right now. God is breaking me to end my lack of intimacy.

See, I am finding that’s been the underlying part of my life until now. Intimacy avoidance. Early in my life I learned to deflect, to hide, to withdraw. I used silence, isolation, and lack of emotions to protect myself from intimacy and the exposure and hurt it can lead to in my life. I experienced it. Heavily. Early in my story. When I was alone, abandoned, bullied. I learned to hide, withdraw, protect. Only, I ended up in isolation…from God, my friends, family, and eventually my spouse. I tried to fill that emptiness in so many other destructive ways. Now I am learning to live in my emotions, to expose myself and my story to others. To trust God and know that He has a purpose for me and my story. It is often painful. Frightening.

My wife put me on the spot this morning. And I froze. So we were finishing up church. She walked out of the sanctuary before me. I had hung back chatting with a guy in Bible study with me. My phone starts buzzing. My wife….asking where am I. Evidently she is in the lobby talking to our oldest son’s Bible study teacher. It seems our teenage son was ducking out early a couple times and had not told us. My wife was upset about it and was talking to this guy who is his teacher. We had met a couple times before, he seems nice enough and focused well on high school kids. Well, she is in the midst of talking to him about our son and his trying to push away from us and be more independent. I walk up and she looks at me and says, “Well tell him why things are stressed at our house, explain why our son is the way he is.” And I locked up………..”uh, uhm, uh well we have just had some issues in our house recently.” Not the right response, evidently. My decision making sucks so what do I know? I did at least recognize she was steaming mad at my response. So, I gathered myself, took a deep breath, and plunged ahead. “Well, you see, I have been the issue. I have caused a lot of damage to our marriage and my son has been in the midst of it.”

I talked with him for a bit and said why don’t we get coffee and we can talk about it? He agreed and my heart kind of started back after the conversation was over. And I realized that I had just taken a big chance. My anxiety was at a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10. I had to go through with this. This was the first time I would be sharing my story with a stranger, someone not in recovery. I didn’t know if it was safe. I decided that I would do something I hadn’t really done very much in my life to this point. I would trust God with my truth. I would trust that He had given me this chance to practice intimacy. My friend in recovery defines intimacy as in-to-me-you-see. So here was my chance to try it out.

I would love to describe a smooth, easy transition to full openness and transparency about my story and that I now have complete faith in God in opening myself up to anyone. But that isn’t the truth. When we met later in the week, I stuttered, stumbled, felt very awkward, was terrified that this guy would look at me like a leper and move as far away as possible. And yet, I survived. I opened up to another person who I didn’t know and wasn’t sure if he was safe or not. Turns out he was safe. He asked questions for understanding, he wanted to know how he could support me and my family, how he could walk beside me. Wow. Not what I expected.

God is teaching me intimacy. It sucks. I don’t think I have a choice. Intimacy or isolation. I think I will learn intimacy. It feels unnatural to me but its what God desires for me. So intimacy it is. I wish I could just stop there. Slowly integrate. Stretch this new muscle I am building of intimacy. But that isn’t all there is to it. It’s about living it out. Daily. I have to lean into God for this. I think that is the point.

Columnist: Keith Baker

KL Baker is a Christ-follower, husband, father, writer, sponsor, and corporate flunky living with his wife and two boys in a suburb of Houston, TX. Writing is an important part of his recovery from addiction as is counseling, accountability, sponsoring, and working the 12 steps. He is working on a new blog and a new book tentatively titled "Lazarus People."

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