"What do you need?" she'd ask.
Inside I would think to myself....how the fuck do I know. You tell me.
Nothing was the word I wanted to reply but when you're in treatment for addictions it's a rather moot point to say you have no needs, you know? I could just hear her say "And you've paid $300 to share that with us Hope?" Once I knew the question was coming it was like willingly exposing my battered soul knowing I'd have to ask (strangers, no less)for what I needed to heal it.
That's the way it went nearly every day in treatment. My counselor would listen to my check in, where I had to explain why I chose whatever feeling word I had for the day, and then she'd ask me what I needed from the group. She started asking me this the second day of treatment, right after I'd been exposed as a caretaker of other people's feelings and numb to my own.
Oh, part of me wanted to cross my arms, send daggers her way and chant the mantra of survival I'd used all my childhood: "I don't need anything." In these sessions I worked hard not to sit cross armed and closed in on myself, although I was sometimes unsuccessful on the sending daggers part. Those close to me know exactly when I'm thinking fuck you and I think counselors get trained in decoding that as well.
Once Fr. Charlie asked me what I needed from my mom that I hadn't received. The first word that rose to the surface was nurturing. Aside from all the physical abuse I endured as a child, I had been born premature and spent my first 3 months in an incubator. In an era (hey, I belong to an era. Does that mean I'm old?) that lacked the knowledge of how much infants need physical touch. Heck, even without the incubator part, children need nurturing. Lots of it.
When he asked me how I could get that need met today, it was a new idea that I could search within and either meet my need myself or ask someone else to meet it for me.
I'm making progress. The other day I sat there with tears streaming down my face telling Fr. Charlie that I just needed to hear someone acknowledge how hard I was working at this recovery thing. In the course of our time together he did just that. Affirmed my journey. Affirmed the pain. Affirmed the hope. He was able to pick out from my sharing one spot of joy in my life. I told him that after my session at the treatment centre the other day I went and bought myself a $5 bouquet of flowers. Three beautiful, deep pink roses nestled in some baby's breath. I bought them as a testimony to my journey. I told dearest one I just might need to buy some every single week as a symbol of hope that the hard work is worth it. And that, dammit, I'm doing it.
Knowing what I need still doesn't come naturally. I have to work at it. But today I'm open to asking myself and either meeting the need myself, if possible, or asking for it from others. What does that look like? The other night it meant asking dearest one to hold me in his arms so I could feel safe. Another night it meant wrapping up in a blanket and rocking back and forth in my rocking chair. Every day it means showing myself compassion. Not too long ago it meant seeking someone out and making an amend. I realized afterwards that the amend came so effortlessly because I no longer define myself by my mistakes. That feels like huge progress.
What do you need today?
I need to know you read this.