The Path to Vulnerability

Hi, I’m Juliet. I’m a grateful believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and I’ve been hiding. I know it’s silly. After all this work, this writing, this wringing of my heart onto paper. But now that the paper is bound together and wrapped in a cover that I love, and even fought for…I hide. What is that?Same Dress Cover June 2015

I check the mail each day, heart pounding, hoping to see if the paperback proof has arrived. Dreading the truth that once I hold it in my hands, it is real. And a real book must have readers. And readers have opinions and thoughts and feedback and criticisms. And what if I’m not strong enough to stand beneath the weight of those things?

Weeks, no months now, have passed with me barely writing anything new, hardly communicating with the platform of readers I’ve been tenderly, carefully growing for the past two years. Yes, I’ve been busy. Yes, I went back to teaching full time in January. And yes, I’ve been editing and re-editing my manuscript and waffling about the cover design. But mostly, I’ve been hiding.

Brené Brown is one of my heroes. If you haven’t seen her Ted Talks on “Listening to Shame” and “The Power of Vulnerability,” please do yourself the favor and set aside 40 minutes to view them both. Even though I’ve seen them, AND read her book, Daring Greatly, I need a refresher course on vulnerability, because, for weeks I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” I need a Texas-style, Brené Brown kick-in-the-pants reminder, because somewhere along the way toward publishing this memoir, I’ve slipped in a puddle of shame, and fallen into the sinkhole called fear. I’ve been tempted to, as Brené would say, “stand outside the arena.”

You see, as she says in her Ted Talk on shame, “If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path.” I need to find my way back to you, the people I’m writing for. And I know vulnerability is the way. I just don’t know what I’m afraid of. Perhaps I’m afraid of my book not being perfect.Farm RoadMs. Brown says, It’s “seductive” to stand outside the arena, and think we’re going to wait until we are “bulletproof and perfect” before we do anything.

I’ve fallen for the seduction. I’ve been writing and re-writing. Editing and re-editing. Waffling between the “cutting edge” designs of my hired graphic artists and the book cover image I had in my head – the one that inspired the title of my memoir. But then I re-read this quote from Brené Brown’s shame talk: “And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in… and…to dare greatly.”

You really don’t want “perfect,” do you? You want real. Right?

My book is not perfect. I am not perfect. I am afraid to be this real, this raw, this transparent. I don’t want anyone to read my memoir -even though I’ve written as honestly and frankly as I could about the equally deadly addictions of codependency and cocaine. I feel like I’m opening my soul for the world to pick apart like a bunch of hungry vultures. (Forgive the analogy. I’m sure it’s more than a little harsh. But, that’s how I feel.) But, the “world” isn’t the audience I wrote for. I wrote for the people who will “get” me because they have suffered the singular pain of loving a person with a life-destroying addiction. Or, they love someone who loves someone caught in the claws of addiction, and they long to better understand what their loved one is going through.

I want those people to read my memoir. Why? Because I want you to know that if I can do this, you can, too. You can be real with God and believe that He hears your cries when you are alone in your bed after the worst of betrayals. You can survive heartbreak and heartache and the deep physical ache of brokenness in all its forms. And you too can tell your story in such a way that God will use it to bring hope and healing to someone else’s brokenness. I want you to be inspired with hope by my story – a story of God’s faithfulness to me despite my imperfections, my poor choices, my stubbornness and my own unfaithfulness.

So, I am choosing to dare greatly. I choose to enter the arena. I will continue, by God’s grace and mercy, to write and speak and share my story. I will make my book available to real flesh and blood readers. I will brace myself for any criticism and trust God to thicken my skin as I share my soul with you. I will continue to blog here. I will not hide any longer.

Thank you for letting me share.

Juliet

“Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket. Empathy is the antidote to shame.” Brené Brown

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame?language=en

Be Still And Know

Thank you, winter_can_wait, for another great image.

Thank you, winter_can_wait, for another great illustration. Love you, Sister.

“There’s no shortage of compelling memoirs by addicts, and the best of them offer revelations for anybody who loves one…And yet…with rare exceptions, we have not heard from those who love them. Anyone who has lived through it, or those who are now living through it, knows that caring about an addict is as complex and fraught and debilitating as addiction itself. At my worst, I even resented Nic because an addict, at least when high, has a momentary respite from his suffering. There is no similar relief for parents or children or husbands or wives or others who love them.” David Sheff in his painful memoir beautiful boy, a father’s journey through his son’s addiction.

It hurts to love those who are destroying themselves. It hurts to watch the slow disappearance of who they were and frightening to see the apparition of who they are becoming. One doesn’t want to believe the changes, cannot accept the reality that the one they love is no longer lovely or lovable. Yet love is a choice and as loved ones, we continue to choose to love the unlovable, even though they begin to do the unthinkable. It hurts. Bad. And we long to fix it.

In fact, we can destroy ourselves on our quest to fix the one we love. We can fall into such a frenzy of fixing, enabling, rescuing, and saving that we begin to co-dependently exist for the sole purpose of keeping another from ruining their life. I know. I lived in those trenches for years.

In my quest for authenticity as I write, I keep looking back at journals and scribbles from years past. One particular verse in Psalms keeps cropping up, over and over again through the years I wrote or highlighted or underlined. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The Hebrew word for God in that passage is Elohim. The name first used for God in Genesis 1; the Creator of the heavens and earth. It is He who invites us to be still and know Him, because only Elohim can create order from the chaos of our lives.

This past weekend I attended a women’s retreat. Guess what the Psalm the speaker, Dr. Vicki Coe, used? Yes. Psalm 46:10. “Be Still…” In the notes I took from her seminar I wrote, “Stillness is an action. Let go. Release. To let yourself become weak. To surrender. To abide.” Yes, Lord, I pray. It has been seven years since I said goodbye to living with a chemically dependent spouse. But here I am trying to write this memoir from a place of authenticity, and am scrambling to remember what it was like to live in utter chaos. I can only say, “Thank You, God!” That it is difficult to remember. That I am having to rely on my journal and the memories of family members to help me write the crazy that used to seem so normal to me.

In my quest for understanding, I am reading about the journeys of others. David Sheff’s memoir is a poignant, painful read. My sister tried to get me to swallow it when it first came out. I could not. It was too close to home for me then. But now, with some distance, I can go there to see what the loved one of an addict writes that is so compelling it becomes a #1 New York Times Bestseller. It has similar ingredients to my story and, if you also love an addict, to yours. We all live similar hells. Some of us are just better at putting ours down on paper than others. My goal is not to make some kind of a Bestsellers list. I don’t think that was David Sheff’s motive either.

Me handwriting Chapter 8 while on vacation in Croatia last October

Handwriting Chapter 8 while on vacation in Croatia last October

My goal, like his, is to tell my story in such a way that others can find a shred of hope to cling to in the midst of their chaos and heartache.

The biggest difference in our stories is that my hope has a name. Jesus. I long for Him to become the hope of my readers, too. That is why I share my own story of walking through the valley of the shadow of drug addiction. The shadow is not the addiction itself, but it can easily create coping addictions in those who love the individual with a debilitating primary addiction, like chemical dependency.  I pray that my experience will provide a sense of fellowship among Christians who are suffering with this ugly beast that used to only be in “the world” and not so much in the church.

Although my life today is completely removed from what it was seven years ago, Psalm 46:10 still applies to me. I’m busy. Too busy at times. No, I’m no longer trying to save an addict from himself, but I am trying to do a lot of “good things” for God. This women’s retreat weekend was good for me. I needed the reminder to “Be still. Let go. Release, Surrender. Abide.” Beth Moore puts it so nicely in her book, Why Godly People Do Ungodly Things p. 123, “Sometimes we have to walk away from the deafening demands of our chaotic lives to inhale His.”

Whatever valley you are walking through, let me encourage you today to “walk away.” Find a quiet place to inhale God. To abide. To find strength. To let yourself become weak and to release it all to Him. Be still and KNOW that He is God in your life today.

*If you or someone you know loves a meth addict, you may find Sheff’s memoir a tool for your survival toolbelt. Be prepared to overlook language not typically used by Christians. http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Boy-David-Sheff/dp/0547203888

*I think this song by The Fray pretty much sums up this post. http://youtu.be/5nUuBjz4Vhc