Abuse

The Power of Tears

"... I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee..."
2 Kings 20:5

There was once a product called "No More Tears" detangling spray I used frequently as a child. As a little girl, snarls were my reality; therefore, this product was mandatory. Mom pulled and sprayed my hair, while I'd stare at the bottle's portrait. Radiant mother was brushing radiant daughter's flowing tresses. There were no feelings of inadequacy, no complicated views of human emotions and no sore scalp. The bottle simply promised, "No More Tears."

If only life could be that easy.

But, indeed, my personal experience with tears has been un-easy. Crying - unpleasant emotion of any kind - was viewed and treated negatively, as something to be avoided, covered, silenced or punished. Tears were the uncomfortable evidence all is not well; there is disease, pain and trauma here.

However, in the last fifteen years, I have come to view tears through a healthier, more meaningful lens. As we deal with our addictions, disorders and traumas, addressing what our tears represent to us, we aren't far removed from the harmful beliefs which contribute to our struggles and thwart our recoveries.

I once stumbled across a photo which compared four types of human tears: tears of grief, tears of change, tears cried from onions and tears of laughter. I was struck by their imagery; each seemed to offer a specific signature concerning life experience.

Tears of Grief:

First, we see this microscopic picture of tears of loss. It resembles a sparse wasteland. To me, the prevalence of the tears' open space appears as a lonely island surround by an ocean. The impression I get from these magnified tears is one of disconnect.

And this was exactly where I was as I was confronted by my dad's death in 2003.

"The Easy Death:"

Even as I found connection within my faith as an adult, I still did not deal with the unresolved issues I had with him. By this point, I was married, living in another state, and pursuing my writing career. I had also been in therapy. Still, the dysfunctional relationship with my dad proved to be painful and powerful.

Nature vs. Nurture: An Unanswered Question?

Nature versus nurture: it's still an unanswered question. And that mystery applies to all things appearance.

Faces have always captured my attention. I am fascinated by the variety of features and expressions they contain.

A Couple of Kittens...

I first was obsessed with my mother's set of three cat figurines. There was one "mother cat" and her two smaller white kittens. I was especially preoccupied with the kittens.

And here, perhaps, is where I encountered one of my first harmful disordered ideas about image. I viewed one kitten as cuter, a/k/a, "better" than the other. Why? It was because this kitten- let's call her "Sally"- appeared to have a sweeter, more pleasing, "good kitty" facial expression. The other kitten, however, had more of a "Sophia- Loren- exotic- eyeliner-drawn- face" situation going on.

And, somehow, to me, that kitten face - let's call her "Sophia"- symbolized more mischief and displeasing, "bad kitty" behaviors than that of innocent-and-cute-looking Sally.

Indeed, in this kitten context, my toddler self was already learning inaccurate appearance associations all on my own.

But soon, other influences contributed to my preferences. Adults also instructed me about which emotions, often depicted in the human face, were acceptable - and which were not.

An Image Utensil?

Your New Identity in Christ

There I was, sitting in the green room of the Oprah Winfrey television show, waiting for my turn to share with the world how my new identity had transformed me from the inside out. I stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirror startled by my own image. The mirror reflected an image of a tall, slender black woman with shiny, wavy hair that sparkled like dew drops on a crisp autumn morning. The chestnut eyes beamed with vibrant life. The air was filled with deep love, passion, and hope. I didn't recognize "me."

As I crawled out of bed the next morning, just out of curiosity, I checked in the mirror. I now saw what I had seen hundreds of times before: an under-tall—5 feet, two inches and shrinking to be exact—Caucasian, over forty-nine and holding, work-in-progress lady.

Perhaps it was just a dream that seemed so real to me. Ten years later I still remember the precise details of my "Oprah adventure."

Confused and baffled by my identity, I wondered: Who am I anyway?

The Trigger of Grief

In the work of recovery, we address the danger of triggers. Its very word itself suggests the power to cause us harm:

"Something that precipitates a particular event or situation; To set off; initiate; To fire or explode."


On one August morning of 2003, I encounter such a trigger. The phone rang. My dad was dead.

My grief, for the next year and a half, was an alarming, unexpected reality. And each subsequent "anniversary" proves equally tricky also. Both defy what I thought I would - or should - be experiencing.

After all, coming from an abusive childhood, I didn't think the loss of this pain-inflicting parent would register as significantly as it did.

Let it All Go: Hurts, Anger, Resentment, Frustration

...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 10:9


Some days I am just tired. Some days I have a difficult time with letting go and giving my worries to God. Some days I have the full confidence I can let God be God and other days I want to wrestle control back into my grip. Do you ever feel this way?

The Past is Over: Do Not Let It Define You Today

The Past is Gone
Once I learned to trust God with my life and my wills, my trust for others began to increase. I no longer allowed my past to define me. I stopped allowing the people of my past to define the trustworthiness of those closest to me.

I understand now, trusting God to love me despite my past also means I trust Him with my future. It means to believe He is starting something new within me as I rise each morning. This is a process that began with surrender, but that is not the end of the journey for me. I must also turn away from the mistakes of my past and turn toward God’s will.

Learning to Trust

Trusting others has been difficult for me. People have hurt me over the years and trust did not come naturally for me as a result. My husband, Patrick, never gave me a reason not to trust him, but still I questioned him in my mind. After he stopped drinking over a year ago, I wasn’t sure I could trust he would continue to abstain.

This lack of trust carried over into my relationship with Jesus. Could I trust Him? Could I take His Word for truth? Could I believe He loved me despite the past I carried with me? I worked against God’s way for so many years, how could He possibly love me?

Know the Difference: Healthy or Unhealthy Support System?

"Know the difference between those who stay to feed the soil and those who come to grab the fruit."


This sobering statement recently came to my attention. I don't know who originally said it, but it resonates, all the same.

It has personally factored in heavily as I have learned, firsthand, who was a part of my healthy support system...and who was NOT.

Indeed, this concept plays a MAJOR role for each of us as we navigate our addiction/recovery journeys. It is usually not too long in life, before we encounter the all too common cliché dysfunction of co-dependency, narcissism and/or exploitation.

Uncomfortable Silence is a Teacher Too

Recovery-from much of anything - is often not done in the steady hum of encouragement. It's frequently done in intimidating quiet. Even with support groups, sponsors, treatment centers, churches and any number of "support structures," we are still left with our true selves. And, no matter what affirmations we have heard and learned, we alone are left to apply them. There is no uplifting outside cheerleader. There is just our decision.

I know this comes across as negative, especially concerning "the Higher Power" factor.

As a person of faith, I'm not dismissing the role The Most High plays. Rather, I see how the Divine shows up in disguised forms, one of those being the unanswered quiet.

Wisdom to Know the Difference

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.James 3:17


The Serenity Prayer is believed to have been written by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr sometime in the 1930’s. Although at the time it was written, it was not directly related to alcoholics, later it was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous as the prayer stated at each of their meetings. It would then become a regular prayer at many other recovery meetings, including that of adult children of alcoholics.

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