They say that home is where the heart is and yet, that is always the last place we look for it. My confusion around this concept has been the cause of much suffering in my life and the coming to understand it has been the source of immense healing. I know that many of us struggle with this, so I hope that sharing my experience can help you on your journey as well.
I remember a time in early recovery, sitting in my apartment in the city, skin crawling, wanting to claw my way out of myself. I would have this repetitive thought, go home. I have to go home. The word made me feel warm and safe. I took the train to Long Island, back to my parents’ house. I went up to my room, put my bag down and plopped on the bed. I stared at the ceiling, confronted with the pregnant silence of a house I grew up in my entire life. It held all the joy, heartbreak, loneliness and fragility that comes with family. Who needs walls to speak when you are weaved into each one of them.
From a very young age I had a recurring dream of a faceless man wearing my father’s work clothes. He was holding me, and I felt like I was home, warm and safe. I would wake up with a yearning to find him, to get back to that feeling.
There was confusion as a child about why there was not a steadiness to human love, which I defined through actions. A child cannot understand that behavior does not always dictate the love a mother or father has for her. There is a messiness to being human that overwhelms the mind of a child.
Why would she say that, if she loves me? Why would they act like that, if they love me? Why is he never around, if he loves me?
And then, maybe to make sense of it, the child decides that this erraticness is what love looks like, or that they don’t love me or that I’m too much to love. I bought into the third belief because it gave me agency. Yes, I make it too hard. So, I will make it easy. The more I tried, the more I failed. So much of my childhood was about collecting pieces of the people I loved and losing them just as quickly. A laugh. A smile. A kind word. A knowing look. Exasperation. An eye roll. A shrill voice. A closed door. Each one created my inner world. My quest became about how I could make the good ones stay.
Again, the skin crawling, the need to run out of my body coupled with the despair that this home was not a place that would take it away. This home was in fact the blueprint from which I needed to heal. I picked up my bag and took the next train back to the city.
The next couple of years were a desperate race away from myself with anything I could get my hands on. The only thing I knew for certain is that I could not go back to drugs; as lost and desperate as I was, I did not want to die.
I spent more than a decade running into men’s arms and leaving them with even less of myself intact. For a very long time, my love life played out like an opera of my initial childhood heartache. Each relationship mirrored the fear that I was unlovable, that I was worth-less, that I was alone.
Healing for me took on many different forms but all of them were first rooted in awareness. I had to become aware of my negative self-beliefs and how they were creating my reality. I was then tasked with replacing them with new ones. This takes practice, time and courage; it is not enough to think differently, thinking begs for a different behavior to follow.
Looking back, it is impossible to be linear about how I got to where I am now. It began with what at the time felt like grief. There was a lot of loss as I gave up the drugs, the disordered eating habits, the victim mentality, the toxic perfectionism, the perpetual fear of abandonment, the love addiction. It was so many steps forward and then back again. It still is. We talk about healing as a destination but that is not the human experience.
We live in a world of form which creates the powerful illusion that something we can see, touch, taste, hear or smell will guide us to warmth and safety; that form is our compass home. But, whenever I mistake something external for home, there will be a reckoning from which I have to heal.
My greatest experiences of healing are when I am grounded in the present moment. I am not fixated on the past or the future. It is in this place where my peace is found. For many years the thought of being alone with my thoughts and my body terrified me. It was not a place of safety rather, it was chaos and trauma. It took time and learning for me to trust my inner world, to believe that my thoughts were not facts, that my fears were made of paper and that just as trauma was stored in my body it could also be released through it.
It is in these hard won moments of full presence, that I am connected to something unmistakably warm and safe and it is in that presence that I feel the love I search endlessly for in form. These are the moments where I remember who I am and where I am going. These are the moments when I come home.