I escaped domestic violence and did the healing…many have called it a transmutation likening the process to a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. And I do agree with that, I am a woman who is now completely at peace exactly the opposite of how I was before when living in abuse. But it was not some bright and beautiful springtime process that included flapping my wings. In fact, at times it was really dark, scary and lonely with profound periods of sadness.
During those first dark months, I took an online class with Robin Rice on the Heroines Journey and the process of Alchemy. It had a profound impact on my healing journey as I rebuilt my life. Every time I realize something has stopped working or isn’t working at all, I use the metaphor of burning it down that alchemy provides. Turning a substance into something else with the price being, it can never go back.
During my healing journey after domestic violence I can say, with great assurance, that I have burned down the woman I was…she who was attracted to abusers time and time again…and I first found profound peace in being alone rather than with the wrong person. Then I became committed to finding the right partner. I wanted someone who would fit into my life and love my weirdness and all that comes with being with me. His stuff, values, beliefs, skills, interests…would ALL fit with mine. Our lives would mesh in an easy way that would form a foundation on which we could build a life.
But first…that old me had to burn. I clung to her like a snake strangling itself on a hacksaw.
So what is this process of alchemy?
- Starts with a fire, something is going to burn down. While the fire cleanses there is also fear and an overwhelming feeling that this is going to be hard. Someone starts this fire…in this case I did. I left and quickly went no contact and there was no going back. My people-pleasing ways and days were over. The idea that I needed to attach myself to a man to be successful – gone.. That deep wound that I wasn’t enough. At this stage I burned the boats on my previous life and self giving myself no way to return. I was going to take this new island by storm. It is at this time that I started believing in my future self. Yes, I was standing in a firey pit of hell…but I would not be for long. That future self…well “she” was waiting for me.
- You then move into the flood as your unconscious rises. During this stage I learned about abuse and uncovered that the cruelty I had experienced was domestic violence. You will be flooded with emotions, flashbacks of horror and memories that brought me to my knees. I came to the realization that the entire relationship and his love were all fake. He didn’t love me, he loved controlling me. That might have been the most painful lesson of all. I immediately accepted that there was something deep inside of me that drove me into his arms…and it was time to “lance that boil” so it doesn’t continue to fester. This isn’t all about his actions – the bigger question was actually why did I accept so much less than I was worth.
- Now comes separation where you sort out your essence from the “things” weighing you down. You let it all go – the emotional and the physical realizing your freedom from his abuse and your wound is far more important. Nothing is worth fighting for if it destroys or bankrupts you in the process. He was pulling me into a dark with his circus and I wasn’t having it. All of the things he was demanding I gave to him – even those to which he wasn’t entitled and I would have easily won in court. I wanted my freedom and I wanted it now…the Lexus I had paid for be damned. This is also the stage where you clear your limiting beliefs about yourself. I became determined to make it without a man…even though I had NO idea how that would happen.
- Recognize the spirit inside of you and all that you hold dear. Much of this had to be unearthed from deep sacred hiding places where I had tucked it all away…my integrity, self-esteem, and dreams. Here I looked at the depths of my soul and realized I was so much more than the abuse and the list of inadequacies he had hurled against me. The day that we escaped I vividly heard a whisper from my soul and felt the light deep inside of me flicker with excitement. Here is where I got to live on the edge of my wildest dreams that I could live life on my terms and yet still be in the confines of a loving committed relationship. That light you now see here – that spark of your spirit – the early stages of what is to come. I committed to protecting this light with everything that I had keeping it not just safe and secure but giving it space to believe it was safe to come out.
- Fermentation is where the purification starts. This part of the process sucks as you realize this is not going to be a linear journey. This is where stuff rots and smells. Nothing seemed right to me at all. I was living in a bitch black dark and saw no way to light a candle, match, or torch so I could find my path. To say I was thoroughly depressed is an understatement. All of your internal crap rises to the surface and at times you feel as if you are drowning in your own muck that you created. I was tested being asked out on dates when it was FAR too early for me to entertain that idea. It was here also that I clearly saw red flags in those invitations which was a very positive step for me. I was attaching to something unhealthy. I was also being tested with constant hoovering by my abuser. Sounds fun right? It is not.
You leave this step when you become annoyingly positive which I remember happening almost overnight. On my daily walks, I would wave to EVERYONE with a big “HELLO!” I was not only letting people merge into traffic I was giving up spots in parking lots to the driver behind me. Every clerk, server, hostess, and associate I encountered everywhere was subjected to my positivity. This is when I gained strength through the fact that I could do anything after escaping domestic violence and staying away.
- Distillation is when you light up all that fermentation. Here, your previous life literally becomes a dumpster fire. That compost heap of scraps you accepted, self-limiting beliefs, shame, old patterns – all gets burned to the ground. You let go of what you thought you needed. I had actually visited this stage early on after escaping and threw out every single scrap of paper, momento, scrap of paper, even the boxes with his handwriting on them. I did a digital distillation deleting all photos from my computer, laptop, phone and Shutterfly. There were no traces left of my former self, those lesser levels I had stooped to. Here is where you start to hold onto your greatness.
- Coagulation is where your true self starts to solidify. The wound starts to heal. Don’t control this step too much. This is where you hold the promise of the Philosopher’s Stone and have changed ordinary metal – your ordinary boring abusive life into gold. Your cup is overflowing with goodness, energy and a new level of maturity. You forget you old self and embrace the music inside of you that is your truest most authentic being. You work from a place of intuition and overflow with generosity and creativity.
- The Giving Back: Here is where you start to help others and may even give back. I speak often on the topic of domestic violence and have attended fundraising events on behalf of the agency where I received my services. I train volunteers, talk during events to women who are currently trying to survive. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month I wrote every single day about my journey and how others can help victims.
At many times since I started this journey I have gone back through the stages of alchemy. I see a little smidge of the old me surface. A flicker of self-doubt attempting to overshadow my bright flame. I think back through this process…knowing it will take me where I need to be – to rid my soul of self-sabotage and move forward. It isn’t easy as sometimes the simplest of flashbacks to the abuse can make me want to hide. I am so grateful to this webinar I listened to almost three years ago now. And grateful I was recently able to find the notes when I went looking!
Dear reader, if you or someone you love is suffering in domestic violence, please run to your local center and start gathering information.