“Perhaps, in the age of pinging alerts, status updates, and other kinds of instant contact, we have been lured into thinking it is simple to say what we mean and be understood.” -Joe Moran in First You Write a Sentence.
I’ve been thinking about that sentence for a while, wondering if what I mean is being understood. That’s what we all want, right? To be understood? To understand ourselves and, in turn, others?
Maybe my stories the past few weeks have been misunderstood. Maybe not. I don’t really worry about what you do with my stories once they’re on the internet. I only write stories I’m ready for others to have, never giving away the ones I need to keep for myself or my family or for my friends.
These stories are for everyone.
At life group a few weeks ago, Kathy said, “There’s that laugh, I just love hearing Chris’ laugh.”
I laughed in response, agreeing. We all love Chris Graham’s laugh. If I had to describe life right now, in this moment, it would be we are living inside Chris Graham’s laugh.
You know when you hear something true and honest, something you just know is free?
That’s what my husband’s laugh sounds like. It feels light and unbound.
It’s comes up often, his laugh. People who knew him before he got clean and sober have mentioned it for a few years now. But Kathy’s comment stood out to me, because she wasn’t here for the other laugh. She didn’t know addicted-and-trapped Chris. She didn’t know what the fake, muted laugh was like.
So when someone new notices the laugh, I remember all over again what we’ve gained in the past few years.
I hesitate to tell you about the healing or health we have at home because if you’re not familiar with the whole story, it feels too simple. I’m not good at telling happy stories without throwing in the hard parts so you know it wasn’t easy, it’s still not easy.
But right now, I just want to coast on Chris Graham’s laugh.
We’ve been walking alongside enough people struggling with addiction to know a lot of people don’t get to this part. We feel lucky and thankful and committed, but also aware that it slips away quickly when you’re not paying attention to it.
We fight for healing and recovery every day.
So we keep going to therapy, both of us on our own. Chris still goes to AA meetings, still checks in on the people he’s encouraging in sobriety. We still don’t allow alcohol in the house and rarely go places where people are drinking. Chris has done a lot of hard work related to co-dependency and now leads others in a recovery study. He recently started a new therapy to help address some of the things he’s still not able to say out loud, some hurts that still feel too dangerous to look at. He’s still taking depression medicine and a drug that would make him seriously ill if he drank.
He only takes it because I haven’t asked him to stop yet. It’s probably time to discontinue it. I want to tell you I’m not scared about that, but that would be a lie.
Chris doesn’t have the desire to drink anymore. His brain doesn’t obsess about it; it does not consume his day like it used to. But the memory of him drinking in secret for years is still a little tender for me. I know it’s time to say enough with the medicine, but something in the medicine makes me feel safe. I could rationalize that away; I could tell you what that means for me in relationship to my own struggles and hurts, but I won’t. I’m not looking for your assurance or explanation. I’m just telling you the truth.
I know why I like the medicine.
I also know why I need to allow him to stop taking it.
Do you know what I mean? Do you understand what I’m saying?
It doesn’t matter. It is what it is.
Aundi Kolber in Try Softer says, “We can heal and that’s a miracle.”
We are living in a miracle, inside Chris Graham’s laughter and healing.
There’s this popular idea that we can heal ourselves, that everything we need to make ourselves whole and happy is inside of us.
That is a dangerous, dangerous lie.
The idea we can heal ourselves, that we were made to heal ourselves, infers that the things that broke us were meant to happen. It infers that we were made to withstand horrors and heartbreak and betrayal, like it is just part of the human experience. If we were made to heal trauma, then it also means we were meant to experience trauma.
And that is absolutely not true.
Listen to me: you were not supposed to be abused. You were not supposed to be cheated on, abandoned, lied to. Adults were not supposed to take advantage of your body when you were a child. You were not supposed to be hit, beat, or starved. You were not made to be controlled, left alone, or mentally abused. You weren’t supposed to be a pawn between parents or another thing to manipulate.
None of that was supposed to happen.
And because those things were not supposed to happen, our bodied and brains are not equipped to deal with them on our own. Your brain cannot think its way out of trauma by itself. Your brain wasn’t meant to do that. Because, in reality, trauma should not exist.
But it does. And because it does, we need counselors and therapists and doctors and good books and sometimes medicine to get well.
Anyone who leads you to believe your body can heal itself without outside help is dangerous. Yoga doesn’t heal trauma. Running doesn’t take care of childhood wounds. Controlling your food intact won’t make you feel safe. Drinking isn’t making your problems go away.
If your body can heal itself, it also would have prevented the hurting from happening in the first place. If it can heal you, it can also protect you from the hurt to begin with. It’s the same body. But since it did not, you need something outside yourself to find freedom.
We all have a wound or blind spot crippling our healing and awareness. We often need someone outside of ourselves to show us what it is and how to address it.
Do not believe the lie you can heal yourself. That’s what keeps addicts using, alcoholics drinking, abusers hurting others. It’s what makes people with mental illness stop taking their meds. We believe it’s just mind over matter and if we try hard enough, we’ll finally get it together.
And then we live our whole lives with fake laughs and heavy secrets.
We need each other for healing.
We need each other for guidance, correction, and encouragement.
We need people with gifts outside of our own to point the way when we can’t see it.
We were not made to do this alone. Isolation is a lazy, common trick of the devil to keep us trapped and hurting. It is freeing to realize everything is not resting on our own shoulders, that we do not have to carry on like this, with burdens slowly killing us.
We were not made to heal ourselves. If we were, there would be no need for God or others. What a lonely, lonely existence that would be. We were created for community, for connection, for needing others.
Do you know what I mean? Do you understand what I’m saying? I really hope you do.