I remember when I was a kid there was a pond that a couple of us guys would ride our bikes to. It was called Old Man Hendricks pond. He was a retired farmer who had this private pond that he wouldn’t let anybody into. It had a row of high bushes that surrounded the pond so you couldn’t see if except from the inside. He had a gate with a big padlock on it and a sign that said “No Trespassing”. The fence surrounding the pond was covered by the bushes. We had figured out that if you go two sections down from the gate, the fence was broken and you could climb thru the fence and the bushes in order to get to the pond.
There were so many times that I rode my bike out to the pond and would sneak in thru the fence. Hendricks never new I made his pond a safe place for me. I would bring a garbage sack with some Susie Q’s or Twinkies and a transistor radio. I would swim out to the dock which had been built twenty yards from shore. I remember laying on my back, looking up at the sky and watching the jets streak across the horizon leaving a vapor trail. The planes looked like little match sticks. I would wonder where they were going and dream about being able to go somewhere on a plane. If Old man Hendricks caught me trespassing, I am sure he would run me off.
Hendricks pond became a safe place for me to escape. During those days there was a lot to escape in my young life. There was physical, sexual abuse, family chaos and a lot of abandonment and neglect. Hendricks pond became a sanctuary for me. Later in life I have revisited the site of the pond which no longer exists. The bushes were cut down, the pond had been drained and made into farm land. However, I carry the memory of this pond and made it a safe place for me in my mind.
Throughout the years of addiction recovery, I have gone to this safe place in my heart and conducted many conversations about a host of issues with those I needed to address. There were many conversations with myself and my addictive rationale. I had some knockdown, drag out type conversations with my understanding of God. There was the long discourse with my dad and mom about why they insisted that we attend a cult church. There was the rage about the abuse and everything around it. There were times at the pond I shed a lot of tears about my dad’s, mom’s and brother’s death. It became a place in my heart that I have retreated throughout my adult life in order to settle my soul and create calm and poise and bring myself back to center.
This is what I know about recovery. Life will blitz you with concerns, pressures and chaotic moments. If you are not proactive, you can get caught up with reactivity about the smallest of things. A blue funk will descend, your partner will say something that triggers you, your kids will act immaturely, an old act out partner will reappear out of the blue without invite, and suddenly you get ramped up with worry, anxiety and susceptibility to addictive response. It happens almost at the snap of a finger.
Everyone needs to establish a safe place to sort out the events of everyday life that trigger and create life imbalance. Sustained life imbalance is a dangerous high risk for addicts. As an addict, you can’t just sit with anger toward an experienced injustice. You can’t just blow up at someone over nothing and forget it or expect them to just get over it. Toying around with “eye candy” on the internet is not something that can’t be minimized or normalized if sex addiction is your drug of choice. Flirting with high risk behavior no matter what the addiction is high risk. Clearly when you are engaging these behaviors, you need to retreat to a safe place and have honest conversations with yourself about what’s going on.
Safe place conversations are where sobriety and serenity is hammered out. This is the place that you forge clarity and certainty to do the next right thing. The challenge with safe place conversation is that they need to be conducted so daily, so honestly and with commitment to care for yourself. All of these are simple but really difficult whether you are an addict or not. Safe place is the experience I create to grow myself up by confronting mistaken belief, victim posturing and addictive rationale. As an addict, safe place is the place I can best nip in the bud build up behaviors toward destructive actions.
Some people struggle with the idea of going to a safe place to recreate centered living. This place can be a literal place or in your mind’s eye, like I do. The litmus test is if you talk to people, addict in recovery or otherwise, while they may not use the language of “safe place”, clearly you will find that these folk have learned to create a way of bringing themselves back to center that inspires living from a higher self. A safe place can take many forms, but, I don’t of any serene people who live without it. —KW
You can read more insights about the importance of embracing every day experiences in recovery from Ken’s newly released book “Dare to Be Average- Finding Brilliance in the Commonplace” – published by Daily House Publishing and currently on sale through Amazon.com
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