"Recovery didn't open the gates of heaven and let me in. Recovery opened the gates of hell and let me out." —Unknown

The moment I saw this quote, it spoke right to my heart. Growing up, I was groomed in the use of my mind. That’s where trust and safety resided. Venturing into feelings and matters of the heart was spurned. Getting in trouble or “not doing it right” was met with heavy repercussions and big doses of shame. Thinking fast, staying one step ahead and “jumping higher” (leading to perfectionism, anxiety, and fear) became my allies. The box I had to stay in was firmly established, and outside were criticism and punishment. Yet, this provided a way to the love and protection I knew. When any of my methods failed, obviously, it was because some thing was inherently flawed in me.

“What did you do wrong, Cheri?“ was the discussion that followed any mistake.

The “fire and brimstone” church teachings I received served to solidify the need to stay in the confines of my box. I was petrified to leave the box as surely hell awaited outside. It took decades, but then it happened. An earthquake of devastating losses. The aftershocks created a deep shaking in every area of my life, thoroughly upending it. The shaking was unparalleled to anything I’ve ever known; a screaming conglomerate of personal, family, cultural, and religious dysfunction all rose to the top.

It shook my box apart. No amount of thinking mind or “jumping higher” could bring me out of the brokenness I was. I had tried so hard my whole life and only devastation laid at my feet – it felt absolutely final. At that point, recovery became more imminent to my survival than my box, but the box was all I had known.

Over time, the healing through recovery showed me that my box was, indeed, my real hell! The UNconditional love I was seeking, did not reside in the box. This box, that I thought always held me together, was actually chaining me. I came to see my life was unmanageable.

I had been so conditioned and held so many false beliefs. I had so much to UNlearn as part of this process so that the new could arise. It was daunting and, yet, this was right where UNconditional Love met me – in the disaster of all my hell. I received grace, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and much more through this UNconditional Love. My heart became expanded, so my mind could rest.

Recovery opened the gates so Love could, step-by-step, and moment by moment, walk me out of my hell.

Cheri Thomas

Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.