When she said it, that sweet senior sister missionary with the quiet voice and the deep facial expressions, it was like I'd caught a piece of string swinging in the wind and clutched it, wondering how far it would take me away from my spot on the ground.
"My drug of choice was anger."
All throughout the 12 Step meeting, as we read, discussed and shared, I thought about anger as a drug--an addictive form of feeling, something that could protect you and lull you into a shaky world of safety. I had been coming to 12 Step as a support to the addicts in my life, but suddenly I was there for me.
Like my friend uses meth, I use anger.
I use anger.
I've always used anger.
I use anger to wake me up in the morning and power me through the day. Not a loud anger or a demonstrative anger, but a passive, passionate, underlying anger that gives me a raison d'etre, a purpose, a mission. If I am happy it's because of anger, if I am sad it's the same.
After the meeting I went home and sat in my revelation for awhile, asking God to help me simply see it. It would be too much to ask Him to change it in that moment, so I asked for recognition.
"Help me to see what it looks like."
And He did.
I use anger constantly to feel validated and smart. If I'm lonely or bored or hungry I need a hit. It's mostly mental, the way it pools up in my head and I start to think about issues or people who anger me, and with that anger pumping in my veins, I can accomplish almost anything I need to accomplish. I don't yell or scream, I don't hit or punch, I just think.
And think . . .
. . . until I've come to a place of fire and indignation and the steam carries me through until the next time I need to use. Anger makes all my decisions (including, what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, how much to eat) and anger directs my parenthood. I fear exposing my children to places, people and outcomes that made me angry in the first place. Anger is addicting on its own, but fear and anger together are the perfect storm. There are hurricanes in my head.
On Sunday night I took a drive by myself around the foothills and down to the city center. I thought about how I've chosen to live and defend the city where I courted and fell in love with anger. Even driving by my high school elicits frustration from me and I drive by that school often. I live in my own history of anger.
And I can learn to forgive all of that because I believe the human soul--connected to a Powerful Being--is an exceptional, regenerative and procreative organism. I've learned this from 12 Step too.
But oh I don't want anger to leave me, I thought driving around, because it's what makes me powerful, relevant and strong. When I look all the events and moments in my life I most proud of--childbirths, graduations, my elopement--it's all been because I was angry at the establishment. I wanted to put an end to ideals and expectations. I didn't want to be told what my body, or my heart or my future was going to be. My anger let me decide--and I decided with passion and rage all boiled up, hot and ready to crystallize.
And I don't regret it, any of it. I've used to protect myself and my family. I've used to break through cutting cultural norms. I've used to help women. I've used to help my own hurt. But if anger were to leave me, how would I feel safe ever again?
This weekend God showed me my co-dependent relationship this arousing and enslaving emotion, and I realized how it was hurting me more than helping me. Gradually I had closed myself off to others and opportunities simply because I wanted to be alone with this relationship--to feed it, admire it and hold it close, alone and uninterrupted.
In my car I drove through town, breaking up with anger, the most important relationship I've ever known, until my phone beeped,
Before heading back at Retro House I heard the voice of the Spirit say to me, You can replace anger with the love of God. You can do powerful things with the love of God. You can do more powerful things with the love of God than you could do with anger. It's a thin, vanishing line--anger and love. Dedicate yourself to learning to see that line, and you will have peace and power to accomplish big things.
That's when I landed on the ground, let go of that string offered to me by the wind at 12 Step, looked around to see nothing had really changed. I still believe in almost everything I believed before--women's rights, childbirth, parenting, healthy body image--but now I believe it with bits of swelling hope. The anger is melting away, so, so, so, slowly.
I have much work to do.