Early in recovery, my counselor did an exercise with me to expose me to the ingrained behavior I have of avoiding all emotions. I experienced some of the highest anxiety I have ever experienced when spending time in the source of my early shame. It was emotionally smothering. I didn’t want to stay in that. I couldn’t breathe and thought I was going to curl inward from the shame. After that experience, my counselor told me that this was my first experience with getting to the source of my behavior, to the “why.” So evidently, its time to revisit the why.
In my last session, these were the instructions from my counselor:
“I want you to spend the next week just journaling on something that is at the root of your behavior. I want you to focus on the issue of being left alone.”
Ok, so that is interesting. I am to spend time in this, in a place I have previously found to be uncomfortable at best. I am supposed to give my wife the bare outline of this but not any details. I don’t know the details myself so how can I give them to her? I can’t, so I need to let her know what I am doing and that I will come back to her with specifics. I wasn’t quite prepared for where this went.
I am a middle child. I have older siblings and a younger sibling. I didn’t really feel a connection with my father at a young age. I can remember only a couple of instances as a child where we actually spent any time alone together. They weren’t very memorable. Mostly, I felt like an afterthought. I was allowed to come along on hunting trips my brother and father took, even though I had zero interest in hunting. I mainly felt left behind. I started playing into that, overtly stating that I wanted to have time to myself to read and do other things alone, mainly so I would feel like it was my idea, rather than feeling abandoned. That was a hard realization I just had.
The other really hard realization was when my counselor asked me what life was like for me between the ages of 6 and 14 when I first had a sexual experience. I guess I really hadn’t focused on that time. I did now. I journaled about this time in my life. I realized this was a very painful time and a major source of abandonment for me. I spent a lot of time at my older aunt and uncle’s house. As I child, I thought it was because I was special, because they chose me from my siblings and wanted me around. I recently, just very recently, realized it was primarily because my parents were too busy to take care of me and that my older and younger siblings were taken care of in other ways. That was the worst realization.
I spent more days and nights than I can remember, on weekends and during summers, with my aunt and uncle. Well, not with them. At their house. They had a very large house, very formal, with a big library and huge basement with a pool table and ping pong table. Outside was a pool and trampoline. I spent so much time in those rooms alone. Alone with books, games, an empty pool, a solitary game of pool or ping pong. I didn’t realize the impact that time alone had on me. Until today.