Writer/Therapist Comes Out of the Closet (Not that Closet)
Written By: Mark Smith
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I turn 49 years today. Somehow that sounds a lot older then 48 years old. It is getting dangerously close to the big five zero. It has given me pause to reflect upon my life thus far. For writing to have an edge, for it to have enough real life angst and energy to it to touch lives, it has to come from the very heart and soul of the writer. Today I am getting up from the safety of the detached therapist’s chair; I’m putting away the writer’s professional persona so that I can speak to you as the flawed struggling soul I am in hope that I might have a few things that might be helpful to you in your journey.
At age 45 my life was pretty close to being perfect, or so I thought. I had a thriving practice, a lovely devoted wife, three gorgeous kids, a beautiful home with a pool, and a brand new Harley Road King Anniversary Edition. The first night that I had my new bike I went to a party that one of my basketball friends was hosting. That night altered my life. It was the night that my mid-life crisis began. As I arrived, all dressed up in leather from head to toe, my buddies asked me where the rest of ‘The Village People’ were.
Something happened that night that had not happened to me since high school – women noticed me. There were lots of attractive, married, drunk women there, and they were flirting with ‘Harley Guy’ like crazy. Unfortunately it woke something up in me. Never before had a really felt attractive, and I found that I loved the new attention I was receiving. It didn’t scare me, it intrigued and confused me. I wasn’t supposed to have feelings like that – I was married.
That awakening at the party began a destructive process in me that has progressed through the past five years. I have come to realize that I have a serious relationship addiction problem. I have sought self-esteem and validation by being addictively needy. It was as if a famished little boy had emerged within me, and he demanded attention. My addiction changed me; I became selfish, oblivious, consumed, unable to see my loved ones, out of control, hurtful, and unsafe. And it cost me everything I held dear.
I am writing because this obsession and subsequent loss can happen to anyone: women, men, pastor, doctor, therapist, or even saint. Its root causes are buried deeply in unresolved childhood wounds.
I recently found a 15 year old letter from my deceased mother that read… “I want to tell you something about yourself and your earliest relationship with me. When you were born I was very, very ill. You were induced and not ready to be born. You came out angry and screaming. You literally screamed day and night. I should have picked you up and loved you and held you and rocked you until you felt safe and secure but I couldn’t do it honey. I had to let you lay and scream. By the time you were 3 months old you were sick due to being allergic to practically everything. Your younger brother was on the way, your older brother needed attention and I couldn’t stay up to take care of you. You were completely lost in the shuffle. We never bonded. I wish that I could go back in time and pick you up and hold you until you vented all of your hostile feelings out. I fight back tears when I think of you and how far apart you want to keep us now.”
The early relationship with a loving, nurturing mother is the foundation for emotional health. Unfortunately my foundation was built on abandonment, rejection, emptiness, withdrawal, and rage. Our parents do us all damage of some sort. But then we are left to clean up the mess. I wish I knew then what I know now. My addiction destroyed my marriage and it has hurt my children. Like any recovering addict I am focused now on how to effectively make amends.
Oddly enough, through my struggles, I am actually doing the best work that I have ever done in my career. I understand my clients because I am where or have been where they are, and I can relate to that pain.
My mother also wrote these very wise words in her letter to me, “You can’t rely on another person for your happiness”. I am learning to love myself, find fulfillment within myself and not look for external validation as a basis for my self–esteem. If you are lonely, divorced, single, separated, or married but isolated, the answers do not lie with filling yourself up with another person. You need to learn to fill yourself up with your own unique treasures and passions. Only then will you be ready for a truly healthy relationship. Only then can you effectively see the other person as they truly are and both give to them and receive. See you next week.
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