I was looking for a focus to describe my experience at Walsingham House. I saw this quote above on the St. James Priory website, and knew instantly this was my focus.
I was struggling with maintaining some kind of flow with my first attempt at writing of ‘my time at Walsingham’. The reason? There was just so much packed into a 5-month period.
With something that saved my life it is very hard not to mention literally everything, because literally everything had a profound effect on me. And I find myself, yet again, rambling. It is so difficult not indulge myself with every small detail.
“A very special place” hit home the ‘spiritual’ feeling I left with. At graduation I was at pains to pass on this experience to the newcomers and anyone else. But I am so limited in communicating something that was this profound.
The church, the grounds that St James stands on is steeped in ‘spiritual’ history, and that was the sense I felt. I think I did have that feeling that “something” was helping me. There were a few occasions when things that happened went beyond coincidence. A picture fell down in the main residents area, when I was in desperate need of help. That same day the solution was granted. I was on the verge of leaving, but the ‘problem’ left instead. All without any input of mine. Some may say ‘coincidence’ that the picture fell down. I “knew” differently.
The church, where I spent many an hour contemplating my life (and death). Where I spent many an hour contemplating this concept of “ a power of my own understanding “, which, I might add, still baffles me today. More like a power of my ‘non-understanding.’
But here I am five and a half years later from my entry into Walsingham (21.11.99). A power did help me. From the moment I spent crying in Sue’s room in front of the picture of Jesus. I was rebellious to religion (not unusual for us alcohol/addicts). And I asked Sue if there was a god or whatever, how come there were murderers and rapists? She calmly replied, “forgive the person but not the behaviour”. It didn’t totally sink in at first and then as if by magic I heard another saying, “abused people abuse people”. With looking at my own behaviour and my own hurt I was able to link the three together and it gave me profound acceptance. Something I had never had all my life. It gave me forgiveness of others and a certain amount of self-forgiveness. This, of course, is most important to our healing from our addiction. My self hatred was always intimately linked to my suicidal thinking and thoughts of drinking or using. And my self hatred still baffles me today, so clever am I at my own self deception, and deceiving others too.
However I can’t fool other addicts/alcoholics. That saying “you cant kid a kidder” is so true. And this was the major part of being at Walsingham. Breaking down my denial, which was keeping me from looking at myself realistically. Easy to say but not easy to do. I had spent 25 years dodging looking at myself and still wondered why I lived in fear. Fear of myself.
Then the beautiful people in Walsingham provided experience and most importantly of all “unconditional love”. I started to accept that all my “failings” and feelings (!!) were Ok. That my life wreckage wasn’t my fault yet I was still accountable for it.
All this love and support started me on my journey of self acceptance and acceptance of others. And I am still on that journey now. It hasn’t been easy and it has been full of tears. But I have also had a lot of joy. The most joy I have had is through self acceptance and, even more so, through “awareness”.
The lovely part of the journey is belonging to a group with others who have struggled and still do struggle with life, but have the frame of the 12 steps to work with (take it or leave it). And Walsingham House was the first part of my journey. The foundation I had there has never left me.
There are so many things I can remember I wish I could write them all down.
I wish I could leave my phone number now for every resident to have, and to phone me anytime. I am not sure of the ethics of this though. You may not appreciate the love I feel for all of you right this minute. How can I feel this if I am here and haven’t met you? Easy. I am just like you.
I hope you will come to realise this love. I was very cynical of it. But that love is already there, right now, with you. In that “very special place”.
Tim Kelly clean and sober since 21.11.99
(Resident of Walsingham House 21.11.99 to 31.04.00)
Tim painted this picture following his stay at Walsingham House and it was used as our logo for 5 years.