I have been in Montana for a little over 2 weeks now! Some days I can’t believe its been that long and other moments it feels like so much longer.
It is such a mix of all kinds of different things here and some all too familiar emotions if that makes any sense at all.
The women do a thing called Truth and Reality when they are doing outreaches. It is an awesome perspective of what we see our reality is and then God’s word shows them what truth is in their lives.
I have spent the last 6 years dealing with a lot of emotional things from my marriage and even lies I believed growing up. In my mind I was doing great at this healing process and have come leaps & bounds from where I used to be. However this change has helped me to see some major things in my life that I have viewed as reality but God is longing to shed his truth on certain areas of my life. This is a difficult process as I don’t know or really trust anyone here yet but have shared more with them than most of my closest friends.
I came here desiring transparency with the women however I didn’t know how hard that was going to be for me. In my mind if I was willing to share with them all the dirty trash from my past that was being transparent and good enough. Even to the extent of sharing with them my struggles with quitting smoking the day that I left to come out here. That is all good starts but I am seeing that God wants me to go deeper than that. I have never really gone deeper with to many people because I have such an issue with abandonment. I fear that if people know ALL of me that they won’t like what they see, they won’t want to help me through, and they will leave before I am able to blossom into the beautiful person I know God made me to be.
An example of my reality is that quitting smoking has always been such a fearful thing for me because people in my life haven’t been able to deal with the person that comes out during the quitting process. The anxious, short tempered, person whose senses are placed on high-alert taut with the stress of withdrawal while her brain screams in the background, JUST ONE MORE! Yet she knows that just one more is never enough. The person who has so strives to be in control of her emotions and feelings because they might make the people around her uncomfortable and ultimately leave her.
In 2005 I dated a guy that absolutely hated smoking! He would make comments and say that he wouldn’t kiss me until I quit smoking. So in an attempt I got the nicotine patches. It was horrible! I remember struggling from the first day with all kinds of emotions and feeling like I was on a roller coaster that was out of control and going towards a dead end track that was missing pieces! I voiced my frustrations and hurts with him about how hard this was for me. At first he would try being an encouragement and tell me that I could do it. The patch started hurting my arm and I was having horrible side effects. I called an “ask a nurse” hotline and they suggested that I put it on a larger part of my body like my upper leg or butt. I tried this for a day or so and it still was not helping at all. I remember my boyfriend yelling at me to rip the patch off and lets go.. I asked him where we are going and he said to get you a pack of cigarettes!! I questioned why and he said that I was a bitch and he couldn’t stand to be around me any more so he would learn to deal with the cigarettes but not deal with the me that was off of them.
About a week into being here I bought a pack of cigarettes for several reasons. One was that I had been told that I would not be getting paid for my time here until February, the second reason was out of rebellion and lastly it was out of fear of all the emotions that were rising up in me because of all of the above things. I remember the struggle and gut wrenching feels as I fought with myself about even buying the pack of cigarettes. I literally made myself sick with this fight however the sad thing was that I never cried out to God during this internal battle. I knew that He never lets go of me, that He loves me beyond what I could ever imagine and that if I just cried out to him in this battle that He would win the battle for me! I again was taking the reins of my battle and telling Him that I could do this on my own. And the other part of me didn’t want release from the smoking but to continue with the thing that was my comfort for far to long.
So for a week I smoked periodically whenever I could get away from the center or the watchful eyes and instinctive noses of the women. Each time that I would run away to smoke a cigarette a conviction of what I was doing was trying to check my spirit.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that you will go to hell if you smoke. God loves you just the same whether you smoke or not. However for this time in my life I submitted myself to an internship where the rule is no drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
I did make known to the director my struggle with smoking so they were aware of this before I arrived however I couldn’t use that as an excuse for why I was continuing to smoke. I noticed as I continued to rebel in this that I was starting to close myself off from others and God because I didn’t want to be found out. I didn’t want to admit my struggle and have it taken away from me.
God gently reminded me though that He was still where I had left Him and wanted to help me through this. This last Thursday was my day off and I knew I needed to get away from the center but my only thought was I will be able to smoke the last 3 cigarettes that I had hid in my purse. As I went to Barnes and Noble to get away I stood outside of the car, my first puff off of the cigarette tasted so sweet, as I inhaled it calmed my brain that was going a million miles an hour but as I continued I realized it was a heavy weighted fog that my brain was going in and it didn’t feel as good as it used to.
What was happening to me?
Why was this not as enjoyable as before?
As I finished my body felt so weighed down, my feet felt like they were tripping on every little pebble in my path as I walked into B&N. For the first time in my life I realized this wasn’t a fun feeling and though I had viewed it as a way to calm myself it now felt like a million chains around my neck, arms and body dragging me down. As the effects started to wear off, I got some caffeine in me and worked on somethings online. When I got ready to leave I could feel the longings start for another cigarette and figured maybe it was just that the first one was my first in a couple days and that was why it had affected me so. As I walked out to the car and stood beside it I contemplated lighting the cigarette. The smoke won and I lit up, enjoying that first inhale slowly, smoothly anticipating the calm that would rush over me. It did come but at the price of guilt in the pit of my stomach.
As I finished the cigarette and got in the car I knew I would have to cover the remnants of the smell with tons of perfume as I was stopping at the thrift store the girls were working at to get some things. As I entered the store the women greeted me with a warm welcome. As they gave me hugs they commented on how good I smelled. I didn’t want to think that they could possibly be talking about the remains of the cigarette lingering on me but instead told them it was this new perfume I had found at Wal-Mart. As my rebellious act was growing more and more tiresome with each omission of truth I was struggling with it all.
I knew God was sweetly and gently calling me to walk in the light and truth however I had one cigarette left and still a couple errands I wanted to run. I also knew I did not want to buy anymore cigarettes. If I did that my cycle would continue and it would make it easier each time to listen to the cravings instead of God’s spirit in me. As I smoked the last cigarette and thought of the women at the house who had given up so much to come here and make a life change. They had given up alcohol, weed, meth, coke and even heroine! Though I have heard that nicotine is just as hard to kick as heroine I didn’t want that to be an excuse for me to continue to smoke. I want be a help to each women and not a hindrance to their success.
When I got home, all the women were just finishing up with their devotion and worship time. I asked them if I could talk with them. As tears streamed down my face I confessed to smoking that last week and struggling with the heart issues of rebellion. I asked for their forgiveness and grace in understanding my weakness in this area but my desire to be open and honest with them in my struggles. They were so gracious and willing to show me love and acceptance. Each women gave me a hug and told me how proud they were that I was willing to be transparent with them in my struggle.
The next couple days has been even harder than the initial telling them about my struggle. As my body becomes more aware of its environment the feeling of it all intensifies and scares me more than anything I have felt my whole life! Just the sound of someone coming down the hall makes my teeth grit in frustration… It really is bad as there is no padding under the carpet and the women do not know how to walk quietly at all! It was even worse on Saturday and Sunday! I have learned already that there is no sleeping in or peace and quiet in this house. Which is very hard for me! As long as I can remember I have yearned for moments of calm and quiet reflection. My mom used to never understand when I would say I just need me time that this wasn’t a selfish desire but a much needed time that God has set up for us all. Some of us are just more aware of how much we really do need this time.
I think that is why I liked smoking so much. It started out as a social thing that my friends were doing but then it became a time and place where I could have a moment that was just mine. I quiet moment in the chaos of work or a moment of peace after a meal with family where I could slip away. It became a moment when I knew I could re-center myself and have a moment of peace.
So as my body reacted this weekend to all that was coming at it with 18 women living in one place my anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed intensified times a million! Also my fear of saying something that I would regret, responding to the withdrawal with anger and ultimately someone rejecting me and my issues kept me a prisoner in my room. I knew that if I attempted to quit before I came here it would be even harder because I would have taken those emotions, thoughts and feelings out on my mom because she has always been there for me. I didn’t want to hurt her with any more junk. My mom has always been there for me and loved me unconditionally though so I convinced myself it would be better if I quit cold turkey the day that I got here. I would put on the mask of happiness, acceptance and understanding here because I was dealing with people that didn’t know me. If they just saw my pretty mask that I portrayed then they wouldn’t abandon the person that was really struggling each moment with the desire to not step outside for a smoke. Yes each and every person here is dealing with different issues and habits but it almost becomes intolerable when I think that my struggle shouldn’t be something that they help me through. Or that they will think that I am weak for not being able to beat this habit that has been so much to me.
I grew up in a family where my aunts and grandmother would sit and talk about what the aunt that wasn’t present was doing to mess up her life. It was such a twist and turn of gossip! I knew from a young age that you can’t trust family because they will just sit and gossip about you when you weren’t present so how could I trust anyone else with my deepest trials and struggles. The devil has kept me paralyzed with this and I have only let certain people come just far enough in my life that was comfortable. These women know more of my past than some of my really good friends! Yet in that I only am letting them so far because I have seen that they talk amongst themselves and I am not ready for that. I am not ready to be hurt more than I already do.
I know this is a process but sometimes I wish I was 6 months in already! It is hard for me to remain in the moment and learn what I need to. However my fellow intern reminded me today that it is one day at a time on how we learn these important life lessons and if we skipped ahead we would miss out on the day to day lessons that are so important.
So despite the pain each day will most likely bring, I pray that I will not turn the pain off, or fear it. I pray that I will learn to walk in it, to feel it completely, learn what I need to from it and through it all give it all to God! I know that when I do that He will be faithful to take the pain and replace it with a joy and peace that is beyond anything I could ask or imagine!