I am not sure at exactly what point in my recovery that
it took place - but it was probably around 2 and a half years. It was
years later before I would understand its' huge significance in my life.
At the time it was just a blessed relief.
I went to a meeting at my home group in Studio City. I was
feeling a little crazy. Wound too tight and ready to explode.
It was a familiar feeling. It was a feeling that I had drowned in alcohol
or taken the edge off of with marijuana in the old days. But I couldn't
do that anymore so I went to a meeting.
My friends name was Steve. He hadn't been my friend for
very long although I had known him for years. He had been my agent
years earlier and I had disliked him intensely. I was in the process
of getting to know him, and like him, now that we were both in recovery.
He saw how up tight I was and asked me to go outside with him.
He asked me one simple question: "How old do you feel?" "Eight,"
I said, and then I exploded. I cried in a way I didn't remember ever
crying before - great heaving sobs wracked my body as I told him what happened
when I was eight.
I had grown up on a farm in the Midwest. The summer that
I turned eight I had my first 4-H calf. 4-H was to us rural kids
kind of like boy scouts was to city kids - a club where farm kids had projects
to learn things. I got a calf who weighed about 400 pounds and fed him
all spring and summer until he weighed over a thousand pounds. I tamed
him and taught him to allow me to lead him around on a halter so I could
show him at the county fair. After the county fair there was another
chance to show him at a town nearby and then sell him. Local business
people would buy the calves for more than they were worth to give us kids
incentive and teach us how to make money.
By the time I was eight, I was completely emotionally isolated
and alone. I grew up in a pretty typical American family. My
father had been trained to be John Wayne - anger was the only emotion he
ever expressed - and my mother had been trained to be a self-sacrificing
martyr. Since my mother could get no emotional support from my father
- she had very low self-esteem and no boundaries - she used her children
to validate and define her. She emotionally incested me by using me
emotionally - causing me to feel responsible for her emotions, and feel ashamed
that I couldn't protect her from my father's verbal and emotional abuse.
The shame and pain of my father's seeming inability to love me coupled with
my mother loving me too much at the same time that she allowed herself and
me to be abused by fathers anger and perfectionism - caused me to shut down
to my mothers love and close down emotionally.
And then into the life of this little boy who was in such pain,
and so isolated, came a shorthorn calf which he named Shorty. Shorty
was the closest thing to a personal pet that I have ever had. On the
farm, there were always dogs and cats and other animals - but they weren't
mine alone. I developed an emotionally intimate relationship with that
calf. I loved Shorty. He was so tame that I could sit on his
back or crawl under his belly. I spent uncounted hours with that calf.
I really loved him.
I took him to the county fair and got a Blue Ribbon. Then
a few weeks later it was time for the show and sale. I got another
Blue Ribbon. When it came time to sell him, I had to lead him into
the sale ring while the auctioneer sang his mysterious selling chant.
It was over in a moment and I led Shorty out of the ring to a pen where all
the sold calves were put. I took off his halter and let him go.
Somehow I knew that my father expected me not to cry, and that my mother expected
me to cry. By that time, I was very clear from the role-modeling of
my father that a man did not cry - ever. And I had so much suppressed
rage at my mother for not protecting me from my fathers raging that I was
passive - aggressively doing things the opposite of what I thought she wanted.
So, I slipped his halter off, patted him on the shoulder, and closed the
gate - consigning my best friend to the pen of calves that was going to the
packing house to be slaughtered. No tears for this eight year
old, no sirree, I knew how to be a man.
That poor little boy. It wasn't until almost 30 years later,
leaning up against the side of the meeting room, that I got the chance to
cry for that little boy. With great heaving sobs, tears pouring down
my cheeks, and snot running out my nose, I had my first experience with deep
grief work. I did not know anything about the process at the time -
I just knew that somehow that wounded little boy was still alive inside of
me. I also did not know at the time that part of my life's work was
going to be helping other people to reclaim the wounded little boys and girls
inside of them.
Now I know that emotions are energy which if not released in a
healthy grieving process gets stuck in the body. The only way for me
to start healing my wounds is to go back to that little boy and cry the tears
or own the rage that he had no permission to own back then.
I also know that there are layers of grief from the emotional
trauma I experienced. There is not only trauma about what happened
back then - there is also grief about the effect those experiences had on
me later in life. I get to cry once again for that little boy
as I write this. I have been sobbing for that little boy and the emotional
trauma he experienced - but I am also sobbing for the man that I became.
I learned in childhood, and carried into adulthood, the belief
that I am not lovable. It felt like I was not lovable to my mother
and father. It felt like the God I was taught about didn't love me
- because I was a sinful human. It felt like anyone who loved me would
eventually be disappointed, would learn the truth of my shameful being.
I spent most of my life alone because I felt less lonely alone. When
I was around people I would feel my need to connect with them - and feel my
incredible loneliness for human relationships - but I did not know how to
connect in a healthy way. I have had a great terror of the pain of
abandonment and betrayal - but even more than that, the feeling that I could
not be trusted because I am not good enough to love and be loved. At
the core of my being, at the foundation of my relationship with myself, I
feel unworthy and unlovable.
And now I know that the little boy, that I was, felt like he betrayed
and abandoned the calf that he loved. Proof of his unworthiness.
And not only did he betray his best friend - he did it for money. Another
piece of the puzzle of why money has been such a big issues in my life.
In recovery I had learned that because of the power my father and society
gave to money I had spent much of my life saying that money wasn't important
to me at the same time that I was always focused on it because I never had
enough. I have definitely had a dysfunctional relationship with money
in my life and 8 year old Robby gave me a glimpse at another facet of that
Robby has also helped me to understand another piece of my fear
of intimacy issues. I have been going through a transformation one
more time in my recovery. Each time that I need to grow some more -
need to surrender some more of who I thought I was in order to become who
I am - I get to peel another layer of the onion. Each time this happens
I get to reach a deeper level of honesty and see things clearer than I ever
have before. Each time, I also get to release some of the emotional
energy through crying and raging.
Through clearer eyes, and with deeper emotional honesty, I get
to look at all of my major issues again to heal them some more. I used
to think that I could deal with an issue and be done with it - but now I
know that is not the way the healing process works. So recently I have
gotten the opportunity to revisit my issues of abandonment and betrayal, of
deprivation and discounting. My issues with my mother and father, with
my gender and sexuality, with money and success. My issues with the
God I was taught about and the God-Force that I choose to believe in.
My patterns of self-abusive behavior that are driven by my emotional wounds
- and the attempts that I make to forgive myself for behavior that I have
been powerless over. And they all lead me back to the core issue.
I am not worthy. I am not good enough. Something is wrong with
At the core of my relationship is the little boy who feels unworthy
and unlovable. And my relationship with myself was built on that foundation.
The original wounding caused me to adapt attitudes and behavior patterns
which caused me to be further traumatized and wounded - which caused me to
adapt different attitudes and behavior patterns which caused me to be further
traumatized and wounded in different ways. Layer upon layer the wounds
were laid - multifaceted, incredibly complex and convoluted is the disease
of Codependence. Truly insidious, baffling and powerful.
Through revisiting the eight year old who I was I get to understand
on a new level why I have always been attracted to unavailable people - because
the pain of feeling abandoned and betrayed is the lesser of two evils.
The worst possible thing, to my shame-based inner children, is to have revealed
how unworthy and unlovable I am - so unworthy that I abandoned and betrayed
my best friend, Shorty the shorthorn calf that I loved and who seemed to
love me back. It is no wonder that at my core I am terrified of loving
someone who is capable of loving me back.
By owning and honoring the feelings of the child who I was, I
can do some more work on letting him know that it wasn't his fault and that
he deserves forgiveness. That he deserves to be Loved.
So today, I am grieving once more for the eight year old who was
trapped, and for the man he became. I am grieving because if I don't
own that child and his feelings - then the man will never get past his terror
of allowing himself to be loved. By owning and cherishing that child,
I am healing the broken heart of both the child and the man - and giving that
man the opportunity to one day trust himself enough to love someone as much
as he loved Shorty.