Back when I was a kid, probably about 15, and one of the Big Alcoholic Events happened (there were many), my family was begrudgingly dragged through a “program”. I think deep down we all knew it wasn’t going to work, so maybe we had bad attitudes, but this was the closest any of us ever came to actually mentioning that maybe, Houston, we have an itty bitty problem.
I remember sitting in this darkened room with my addict, a bunch of other addicts, and the addicts’ other people. Some guy droned on in the front of the room about how children of alcoholics would grow up to be complete messes. I think that was the purpose of this specific class — to guilt the shamed parent into stopping if just for the sake of the children.
Looking back, I wonder if all my addict did was think about his own screwed up childhood, think about his own parents and what they did — or didn’t do — to him, for him?
Anyway, we sat in this depressing, dark room, and this guy who totally looked like he hated his job just kept talking about holes. He said children of addicts grow up with holes — big, gaping things in our souls that we will try to fill with sex, drugs, booze, over-spending, or some other horrible thing that will continue the cycle of sickness, addiction, and codependency. Evil stuff, that.
I remember being completely depressed as I walked out of that class. Beyond belief. I was fifteen years old, and my future was doomed, destined to consist of nothing but pain, dysfunction, and cyclical abuse of my own self. All because I was born into a family legacy of alcoholism, depression, mental illness and a strict code not to talk about any of it.
But even then, something in me rebelled. Looking back, I have always sensed God’s presence in my life, and that presence has given me a spirit of Irish tenacity that has often served me well. As much as I played “the good girl”, I often bucked authority and still prefer freedom and choice whenever I can. There was a big part of me that said, “F*&# you and your holes, idiot. That will NOT be my life.” God would have probably preferred I said it a little differently, but I still credit him with my ability to refuse to be pigeon holed into a life of doom.
I think I even said it out loud. Why can’t I fill my hole with something good? Like music or art, or helping people? Why do I have to fill my hole with all this horrible stuff? Is that really my destiny, or can I change it?
He was right, of course. I did spend a long time trying to stuff that hole. For the most part I abhorred the idea of drugs, thankfully, but there were definitely times when I was younger that I teetered on the edge of addiction to other things. I definitely fell into the hole of overspending, and remember times of stuffing food down my gullet in an attempt to self-soothe. I don’t even want to get into the boyfriends. I am a new creature now but that — ew. I can’t.
But always, I knew there was something else — something else that I could focus on to complete that missing part of me, that big, gaping wound in my soul that cried out to be healed. Something. Something good.
Today, my daily devotional* reads, “I designed you to need Me not only for daily bread but also for fulfillment of deep yearnings. I carefully crafted your longings and feelings of incompleteness to point you to Me. Therefore, do not try to bury or deny these feelings. Beware also of trying to pacify these longing with lesser gods: people, possessions, power….Rejoice in your neediness, which enables you to find intimate completion in Me.”
I immediately thought of me and my holes. At first, I was a little irked at God. “Why you gotta make me with holes?” I thought. “Why can’t I just be complete like Tom Cruise?”
But then I realized — and this is big — my parents didn’t make my holes. My ex-husband didn’t make my holes. My third grade math teacher who used to chuck erasers at my head — she didn’t even make my holes. My holes are caused by separation from God, but they are masterfully crafted to fit like a puzzle piece into the God story. He looked at me — His creation — and said, “History has made it so that you must have holes, but I fit the hole perfectly and have sanded and smoothed the edges so that when you finally look to me, the fit will be seemless, smooth, and the only way you’ll know there was an emptiness is by the joy of its completion.”
This little realization freed me in a way like no other — instantly, I sensed a forgiveness for my parents and their holes. And a real joy and thankfulness that I have come to know God — the joy of this completion — and a deep desire to help others find their own fit, to help them discover the way to fill their own holes — with a God who knows exactly what they need.