The Process

Excerpt P. 173 Surrogate Model of Treatment for Women – Linda Shaw 2019

Coming up the 12 steps to Charlford for the first time, desperate to get out of the hell she had created, the novice Peach struggles with her suitcases and big black garbage bags. There is always one or two bags filled with unwanted garbage and clutter she just can’t part with. They are filled with core beliefs, anger, self hate, mistrust and loneliness to name but a few. She’s been dragging them around for years, she knows they are pulling her down and she would do anything to get rid of them, but somehow they are comforting; the only normal she has ever known, at least they are consistent .

In the first few days she almost forgets they are there, still packed and sitting in the closet of her heart. The girls are so nice and helpful, and she’s learning so much, and she says in group one day, “I think I’ll just stay here forever!” and her new friends laughed looking at each other knowingly. Life on retreat is sublime; many would pay thousands for the 3 weeks of isolation from the world. “Maybe I don’t really need to be here”, she thinks, “Maybe I’m not as bad as the others”. She watches others in control mode, arguing, blaming, crying and she smiles a little Madonna smile….

But then…..

She hears someone gossiping and she thinks it is about her, and then her three weeks are up and she gets out of the bubble of retreat.  She feels awful finishing her Step 1 that provided a glimpse of the devastation she has caused her love ones, and herself.  Finally she gets to use the phone and life totally leaks in, suddenly she realizes she has just unpacked all of her pain. Nothing is different nothing’s changed, the harm was caused over a lifetime but she could never acknowledged it.  All she saw was her own pain and blame for everyone and everything around her for causing it. Here she had nothing to soothe her pain and it was stark and unforgiving. Everything she ran into Charlford to get away from is back with a vengeance. She wants nothing more than to pack her bags and run into the night to get caught in the lurking web of her dealer.

But wait…..

Somehow she ran into the office instead of out the door. She cried until her nose was running and cheeks were red. She hiccupped in her sobs, and slid down the wall to the floor. The two counselors turned in their chairs like judges on “The Voice” and listened until she was all cried out. She had a stray thought that she was glad she had her old long sleeved sweat shirt, she knew there would be no Kleenex to stop the deluge.

They allowed her the space to think things out, no hurry, no rush. The office felt safe and soft and warm. She asked if she could just sit here, and they said of course, this is your home, and then they went about their business with her as a welcome presence. The door opened and a resident came in, and then another, they sat down with her and began to talk about their first days here. Then there was the laughter that comes only when people share and relate to the same experiences.

One of her friends asked her if she could give her a hug, and when she did she suddenly understood these women were there for her. They gave her a glimpse of a new reality, a reality just out of ear shot, just around the corner. She actually “heard” the voice telling her that it wasn’t about her; it was about the ghosts in everyone’s past including her own.

She began her awareness process. She learned that she would experience awareness over and over again as the healing took place. It seemed to take forever to really embrace who she really was, and it was touch and go for a number of weeks and months. As she internalized this great gift of unconditional love she noticed her behavior was changing. One day she noticed that she was enjoying herself by helping another. How extraordinary!! Who knew?? Who would have thunk? Her housemates became Sisters and this truly was her family home.


Her world crashed around her. The one huge thing she was holding on to, praying on, dreaming on, fell through. Just toppled down like a house of cards. It was in her grasp and then it was gone, like it had never been there. And despair overtook her. She became quiet, her sisters thought they had done something wrong, she just wasn’t herself. But she didn’t like the feeling; it didn’t feel normal even though this was the worst thing that could have ever happened. Then she did something that was utterly unavailable to her before, she reached out and began seeing the music therapist. You could hear the songs she wrote drifting like a sweet summer breeze all through the house. They were songs of grief, songs of love and sadness, but songs from her soul none the less. She saw it worked and reached out again to her yoga class and then to art therapy. She found herself creating her own reality through positive thought…the strength, the wonder of it all, she was back!

She finally understood life would always be there to leak in, but she could trust herself, feel, cry and decide to change it into something valuable. Her group sessions became meaningful as she became more and more honest in her step work. She learned ups and downs wouldn’t kill her but make her stronger and she became a Warrior for other women struggling with their garbage bags coming up the 12 steps to Charlford House.

And the time finally came….

That she counted the 12 stairs on the way down as she left her Spiritual home to go out into the world and change it just by her presence in it. Her head was up, her shoulders back, a true Spiritual Warrior, a Peach among Peaches!

And now…..

 She comes back all the time, we are family, been through a lot together. We will always have each other’s backs no matter where we are in this new world. Charlford House will be her home forever and she knows it and does her best to bring others up those 12 steps, she even carries theirs bags for them.

She has found a way to change the world!!!

(Who do you think I might be talking about?)

Author: shawlj

I am on new ground now, finally free from many decades of ‘taking care of business’. The letters behind my name became an anchor that I have finally broken free from. You have a standing invitation to walk with me here, where the living is easy and uncluttered.

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