Monday, January 11, 2010

Peeling the Onion

Insights come when I least expect them. I have Mary Karr to thank for this one.

In her memoir “Lit,” about her battle with alcoholism, she describes working on her forth step, though she doesn’t call it that.

She described it as “listing stuff I feel most crappy about—every single grudge and humiliation. Her sponsor directs her to make three columns, with the “crappy thing” on the left, the way it hurt her in the middle, and her part on the right.

In the case of being sexually assaulted as a girl, she says: “My part has been burying or ignoring the awful event in a way that restabs the wound.”

I had something similar on my eighth step. Mine were repeated sexual assaults that took place over the course of a year or so. But I couldn’t see that I had a part.

I was 9, I said. My assailant was an authority figure whom I had been taught to obey. He was bigger than I. He was scary.

If my sponsor saw it differently, she kept it to herself. But then she’s always been wise enough to know that I would only understand things as I became ready.

I didn’t bury what happened to me. I wore it like a badge and used it as justification for bad behavior for many years. And I picked it raw.

That was my part.

That’s the wonder of this program. You’re never done. There are always new insights to be gained. It’s what my sponsor calls peeling the onion.

Every time you work the steps, with each meeting, each reading, you get closer to the core.

I’ve always thought that was an apt metaphor because the process sometimes makes your eyes water.


  1. Nice! And yet I hope it's more like a pearl, with something precious at the centre. Rather than just another layer of onion. Or perhaps I should learn to love onions. :)

  2. I want to welcome you to my blog. I am always delighted meeting a new blogger when they comment or become followers.

    I enjoyed your post here.


  3. Repeated sexual assaults over the course of a year by an authority figure seems like a worthy scab. I'm so glad you are finding a way to heal. People who mess with kids just make me sick - which is a good reason to go through the work of releasing them out of your head and life.