I have always been a gatherer of knowledge. I was a voracious reader as a child and throughout most of my adulthood. Admittedly, much of the reading was fiction and fantasy…anything to escape the emptiness, isolation, and pain of being in my life. I’ve always wanted to understand why I was different, unaccepted, on the outside looking in, never able to connect or fit in with others, regardless of how hard I tried or didn’t try.
It carried on into my adult life and my relationships with my oldest children, who are now adults, and to a lesser degree with youngest child now, a toddler. I had difficulty bonding and connecting with them and was always struggling with and seeking adult relationships – friendships and romantic – while avoiding developing relationships with them. I would try to pursue friendships with the parents of other children, in hopes that my children would get connected, but because I wasn’t able to sustain relationships in a consistent and continuous manner, not only were my kids not able to have consistently caring relationships with me, their childhood relationships and friendships were disrupted, inconsistent, and cut short.
Early on, I realized and recognized the dysfunction in myself and my relationships with my kids. I saw it in the acting out that they were doing and knew that I was not equipped to effectively and constructively cope with what was happening – with them or inside of me. So, I sought knowledge and understanding. After all, “Knowledge is Power!” So began the round of play therapy, Parents Anonymous, family counseling, individual counseling, college courses in human development, church attendance and bible studies, support groups, and counseling groups. I accumulated a lot of knowledge and theory and gained some insight and understanding into the dysfunction in our lives.
I learned the theory and the language of recovery, spiritual growth, and mental health. I was able to gain enough knowledge and insight to see how wounded, broken, and damaged I was and to see the damage I was inflicting on my children, but the knowledge alone didn’t have the power to help me heal or implement the changes we all needed. I stopped seeking friendships and relationships, engaged in superficial ones. While acting as though I had all the answers and knew what was wrong in the lives of EVERYONE around me. Even as I was in a continual cycle of frantic activity leading to apathetic exhaustion, ending in depression that kept me barely functioning.
This pattern has been repeated for over 20 years, almost 17 of which has included the father of my youngest child. Our combined dysfunction, neediness, avoidance, and stunted emotional development has served to isolate us from each other and my children, as well as other friends and family. The amount of built up disappointment, anger, resentment, bitterness, hurt, and sense of abandonment we each have built up to the point that the smallest look, gesture, slip of the tongue, can trigger an emotional bomb.
It is within the midst of this that I am seeking true recovery, not knowledge. Knowledge can lead to understanding, but all the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the past 20 years has not enabled me to heal and grow on the inside. I was in an online meeting last night and someone stated that 12 Step recovery is not a self help program. The first step makes that clear. The admission that I am powerless to stop thinking, acting, and speaking the thoughts, behaviors, and words that have created this life of mine that is beyond my capacity to manage, manipulate, or control. Step 2 takes that further and indicates that it isn’t a program reliant on other people as the agent of healing, change, and growth. Other people are no better able to heal and change themselves than I am able, therefore they are no more powerful or greater than I, regardless of their material, social, or spiritual circumstances. I have come to believe in a power greater than myself and believe that power, God, can restore me to sanity.
Now comes the hard part – surrendering. I am making the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. However, even in that, I need God’s help, because I continue to discover, I’m thinking and acting in my will, again. Thanks to these three steps, while the people, circumstances, and dysfunctions in my life aren’t changed, but I am changing and I have hope that healing is happening. So, no, knowledge isn’t power, faith is.