Today was my monthly Lamplighter meeting. No one showed up. I waited twenty minutes and then left, feeling once again, discouraged. I stopped on the way home and dropped some brochures off at the Alano Club in hopes that someone there needs the help and will show up at our next meeting. I’ve been doing this for five years. My husband says I’m an optimist. I say I hate being a quitter. Persistence has been one of my strong points.
After returning home I thought of where I had been so many years ago, married to my third abuser, suicidal, living part time in a women’s shelter. I remember the fear that swallowed me on a daily basis. I remember the addiction to my husband that was so bad that if I didn’t do what he demanded and he threatened to leave me I vomited, had dry heaves, shook with continual tremors and became obedient. I remembered all the earlier years: psychiatric wards, having sex with men whose names I didn’t even know, the deep and abiding shame, the terror that shook me awake whenever I had nightmares about something coming over the top of me, like a steamroller suffocating me, I thought of the beatings, putting my hands in front of my face so the bruising wouldn’t show. I would have given anything for a group to go to where I could identify with other women’s stories and tell my own, releasing some of my shame. So why wasn’t anyone coming to my meeting? I had been told that the area I lived in was the meth capital of the world, that domestic violence and child sexual abuse were rampant.
I thought of all the years that I didn’t seek help. Depression and fear were such a large part of my life that I had I wore it like a cloak that was too heavy. This was just the way it was. This was my life. I had no desire to change it. Better the devil I know than the devil I didn’t. What if I found the right help only to discover that what my nightmares were really about was something that happened to me when I was thirteen? What if the man I loved and worshiped, my father, would somehow not be the person I thought he was? What if, when he tried to tell me about our incest relationship I realized that he was, for the first time, telling the truth.
No, I couldn’t go to any support group. I didn’t dare. I felt a certain dark safety in where I was. My self-esteem was so low that I couldn’t imagine a life without pain, without feeling ugly and filled with shame. That was who I was. My family, who were tired of seeing me with abusive men, tired of thwarting my suicide attempts, didn’t understand. If only they knew how difficult it was to pull away from the shame. Didn’t they know that I thought abusive men were all I deserved? They didn’t know I lived on a daily basis in a chamber of shame, one that impacted a large number of my decisions, even decisions I knew were not healthy for me. What did I know about healthy anyway? When your childhood is ripped away from you; when all that’s left is a long narrow hallway you walk down waiting for something bad to happen even as you wait for someone to rescue you; when your life is a horror you wish only to rid yourself of, that’s when you don’t reach out for help. You don’t know how and you don’t have any faith that it will help anyway.
Now I understood why no one showed up for my meeting.
I think about my life now. It is wonderful. I sleep deeply every night. I have a healthy, stable and happy relationship with a man, who, never having had any children of his own, is now a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. I recently published my sixth book. I have many more I’m working on publishing. I live near Sedona, AZ, a long-time dream of mine. I make healthy choices. My life is full. I didn’t get this way by not going to a support group, by not getting into recovery. And neither will any of those people who didn’t come to my meeting today. So sad…..so very, very sad.