Yesterday, I met with a young woman about an event she is planning to raise awareness around the issue of abuse and women. During our conversation she told me the story of how her ex-boyfriend cannot leave her alone. He phones her constantly. At work. At home. Where ever he can find her. He turns up at her office, her home, her new boyfriend's home. Even though there's a restraining order against him forbidding contact of any sort, he ignores it and does it anyway.
She's resigned from her job, is looking for a new place to live and is fearful he will find her anyway.
"Why does he do it?" she asked. "What is going on in his head?"
"What do you do when he calls?" I asked.
"I tell him to quit calling. Yesterday I actually called the police on him. I had to. He came to where I work and wouldn't leave."
"How many times has he turned up or called when you didn't use your legal right to call the police?"
Sheepishly she looked into her latte. "Hundreds."
"Then that is why he's doing it. He believes you still care. He believes you won't call the cops. You won't turn him away. And he's right. If out of those hundreds of times he's turned up or called you've only called the police once or twice, he's batting pretty good averages."
"But shouldn't he care that he might go to jail?" she wailed.
"He doesn't have the capacity to see into the future. He only knows that right now, he's got a pretty good chance when he turns up at your work or home, you will talk to him."
"But I never call him. I never ask him to come over," she said.
"You don't have to," I replied. "Any contact, no matter who initiates it, is contact. You are feeding his need to use you."
Now, I don't agree that what this man is doing is right. In fact, it's dead wrong. But, until this young woman can turn up for herself and unequivocally state, I am worthy of having my life, my wishes, my desire to not be in relationship with this man, respected, she will continue to suffer the consequences of his belief that she needs him.
His belief is predicated on fact. She has moved out of their joint apartment but.... she still takes his calls. Sometimes, she hangs up without speaking to him. Sometimes, she tells him to quit calling. Sometimes, she asks him why he's calling, why can't he leave her alone, why does he keep hassling her. The inconsistency of her response leads him to believe, he still holds sway over her psyche.
And he's right. He does.
This young woman's situation illustrates what happens in our heads when we try to give up any addiction. Whether the voice is external, or internal, the voice believes it holds the power.
The only way to stop it is to have No Contact.
When I came out of that 4 year 9 month relationship from hell, I had to take back my mind. I had to put up No Contact signs throughout my psyche that stopped any thoughts of him from slithering into my thinking. I had to claim my right to be free of him.
There were thousands of times in those first heady months of freedom when I was so tired of turning up for me that I wanted to sit down and cry and say, I give up. I'm going to think about him. Like any addiction, thinking about him gave me immediate release from thinking about what was right and caring and loving of me. It gave me an instantaneous reason not to turn up for me, in all my pain, sorrow, woundedness and grief.
Didn't matter. My responsibility, my commitment, my right was to claim all that I am meant to be. And I couldn't do that by giving into my addiction to his lies.
Turning up for myself means turning up the volume by which I live my life.
When I was afraid, I'd speak up about my fear and let it drive me into courage.
When I was feeling sad, or weak, I'd step into my sadness and let it flow into that place within me where I knew what it felt like to be full and complete and whole. I'd remind myself of things I'd done in my life that reflected who I am, not who I became while in that relationship. I'd claim my right to take centre stage in my life, to be whole, to be complete, to be me.
And I'd remind myself, that was then. This is now.
In the now, I would look at what I was doing and measure it by what it meant to me -- did it bring me peace of mind or discord. If thinking about him brought me discord then why was I thinking about him.
I got tough with myself and lovingly held myself accountable for every thought, action, word, dream. I took myself seriously.
There have been many moments since that relationship ended where I've wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, I give in! I give up! I can't do it.
But, what's the alternative?
If I'm not turning up for me, who am I turning up for?
When I'm giving into impulses that destroy my peace of mind, who loses the most?
And when I lie to myself about what I'm doing, who am I really hurting? The world will continue on mostly oblivious while I continue on lying to myself about my very own truth.
I'm worth way more than that! I am worth fighting for, living for and ultimately dying for. I am worth me.
For the young woman I met yesterday, there are choices she can make that will change the direction of her life, right now.
Finding the courage, the strength, and the conviction that she can do it is her biggest stumbling block. Doing the right thing for herself has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with the space he takes up in her mind.
When I believe I can't just hang up on someone who is disturbing me, bothering me, treating me with disdain because he will not respect my wishes, I am giving him the power to control my life, to determine my destiny.
No one deserves that right.
It is my right, my obligation, my duty to turn up for me and take charge of my life.
It is my responsibility to hang-up on anyone who has the temerity to call and expect me to let go of my life so that I can buy into his.
I didn't feel that way when I was with the abuser. In fact, I didn't believe I had the right to claim my own life even before the abuser walked in and swept me away on his mighty white charger.
I didn't believe I was responsible for my life, that I had an obligation and a duty to turn up for me and take charge of my very own life.
I didn't believe in me.
Yesterday, when I suggested to this young woman that she break off all forms of contact, she said, "But it's so hard."
When our habit is to give into others, to give up on ourselves, it is hard to change the habit. Until we do, however, we will never be free.
Life isn't about taking the easy way out. It's about taking the journey equipped with the tools and craft necessary to navigate every kind of water, and to weather every kind of storm.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is living fearlessly in the face of adversity and living life with gusto.
If you have pockets of your life where like this young woman you are allowing the negative to overwhelm the positive, stop. look. and listen to the messages you are giving yourself about yourself.
For this young woman, every time she hears his voice and responds, she is telling herself -- this is what I deserve. In her case, she is still putting money into an account for him every month so that he can pay his rent and buy groceries.
"I never have contact with him," she said. "I just transfer the money into an account."
"Who set the account up?"
"I did," she replied, her eyes looking into her latte as if it held all the answers she would ever need to be free of this man.
"Every penny you put into him, confirms that he is what you are worth. Stop it. Go to the bank, cancel the account and do not say a single word again to this man who would have you believe it is acceptable to use force as a way of controlling you."
She looked up at me, her eyes filled with alarm. "I can't do that!"
"Yes you can. The choice is yours. In not doing it you are giving into him and giving up on you."
Every time I give into my weakness, I give up on my strength.
Every time I give into something that takes me away from living my life of beauty, I am giving up on my dreams, my goals, my purpose.
And every time I step away from being the magnificent human being I am destined to be, I give up on me.
I'm tired of giving up on me.
What about you? Are you tired of giving up on your dreams, your ambitions, your goals? Are you tired on giving up on you?
Stop it. Turn up the volume on your life and live it loud!