Have you ever agreed to something, and then later think, what was I thinking?
When I first began speaking on college campuses about addictions and dangerous behaviors, my topic was emotional eating and eating disorders. Later, my agents, Barbara and Peggy, asked if I could speak about alcohol and drugs.
It was all a part of my story. I had made a commitment to share my experience, strength and hope wherever I could.
I prayed every time before I went out on stage for the universe to guide me and to please help me reach at least one student. If I could save one student from half of the misery and suffering that I had been through, then it was all worth it.
Some audiences and I connected better than others, but no matter how big (3,000) or small (28) the audience, every single time, the students would run down to the stage to touch me, talk to me, hug me, cry with me, thank me. I listened and validated their experiences. I got their contact info from them so I could to stay in touch.
On several occasions, I followed up and alerted staff members about students who required extra attention.
I took one student to a 12-step meeting on my way out of town. I shared resources like free online meetings and free podcasts for many recovering topics. I felt like I was the bridge. I was safe and warm and fuzzy and many students said they could talk to me, but they did not feel as comfortable talking to the counselors/nurses at their human services departments. My response was, "Ok, thanks for telling us that. Now let's find someone you can speak with.".
As I travelled around the country, telling my story of alcohol, drugs, eating addictions and then recovery, I was moved by how many of us -- students, teachers, staff members, nurses, and parents -- had been affected by addiction. The more I spoke, the more people who seemed to have something in common with the pain and family patterns, and the stigmas.
Then, Barbara and Peggy, asked if I could speak about sexual assault. Without pausing, I said yes. That was part of my story too. Sure. It was all a part of my story. I had made a commitment to share my experience, strength and hope wherever I could.
I had done tons of work in "group" and "individual" therapy about being assaulted as a pre-teen and teen and as a freshman in college. I had forgiven and moved on. That doesn't mean that I condoned any of the behavior, but I had released the resentments and anger and made peace with my past.
Now, I have a tendency to jump in and then later, look back, so after a few days, I started to panic about committing to talk about being assaulted in a big auditorium in front of strangers.
If there is one thing I have learned from all of these years in recovery and personal development, it is to ask for help. I am so grateful that I grew up in therapy where I was trained at a very early age to "talk about my feelings" and "how does that make you feel?". I had two months to work on this new topic and I wanted to do it respectfully and tastefully yet still have a powerful impact.
Stay tuned for my next blog post to see what happened the very first time I spoke about my sexual assault in a public forum.
There was negative comment and a miracle.