Living in a toxic relationship requires living life upside down--in order to stay and survive, one must deny reality and accept that what seems upside down is really right-side up. The horizon of our life is skewed--up is really down and down is really up. But we grow accustomed to living an upside-down life; we accept it so it becomes normal.
Recovery begins when we realize that we have been living upside down and start the arduous process of righting ourselves. The sudden change in perspective may create waves of vertigo as we learn to live right-side up again. It is traumatic to make the change. It feels like a blizzard blowing through our lives with howling cold winds and blankets of snow. Our visibility is reduced and we feel lost.
Eventually, the storm settles down and we begin to gain perspective on our lives and wonder how we ever managed to live so long in an upside-down position. Everything looks different from this new perspective and we gain confidence in our ability to live as we were intended.
This past year has been one of being turned right-side up and learning to tolerate the vertigo and storms that this dramatic change of perspective has brought. I have had faithful companions on this journey to learn to live through trauma and change. I doubt that the shifts required by living right-side up would have been possible without these recovery pilgrims. One of my favorite quotes about domestic violence advocacy sums it up: Change for women in a battering relationship "Is often preceded by a transformative experience in which another person, one who stands outside the battering relationship reflects the woman's reality in a way that enables her to acknowledge and assess her risk more objectively." (Zaplin, "Female Offenders: Critical Perspectives and Effective Interventions," 2008. p. 384.)Transformative relationships--relationships that radically alter our life, that change our perspective, that enable us to begin the journey of recovery. Transformative relationships often do not occur accidentally but rather are sought out intentionally. I have found such relationships in my weekly S-Anon group as well as in a small group at my church. I am blessed by these relationships that have given me space to heal, to grieve and to grow. Some relationships may not survive the dramatic change of perspective that turning right-side up creates and that is probably best. But these intentional transformative relationships become key to recovery.
*I am indebted to one of these transformative individuals in my life for this illustration as well as for the lovely snow globe pictured here. You may not be able to see it but the banner under the globe has four numbers engraved on it. "2012." As this momentous year draws to a close, I remember the many changes--ones I didn't ask for and couldn't possibly anticipate--and I can be grateful that they occurred, though I might have chosen a different manner for them to come into my life. I am finding the joy of living life right-side up, though I still have moments of incredible vertigo. It is good. It is very good.