Impatiently, I glanced at my watch and groaned. It was past 11:00 pm on a Tuesday night. The place was packed to capacity, the air almost too dense to inhale. Regardless, the energy was nothing short of electric; people were wailing, running, jumping, falling. I looked over and noticed the intense bass beat of the live band reverberating the window panes. Three vocalists stood center stage, belting out a repeated chorus that had gone on for at least forty-five minutes.
Making his way back to the stage, he stood towering above it all: a larger-than-life African American man with a microphone. He wiped the sweat from his face with a colorful hanker-chief that matched his necktie and took in a deep breath. His hand raised to the vocalists who instantly paused, leaving only a soft instrumental background. It was time to address the gathering.
This was revival at The First Pentecostal Holiness Church.
I was twenty years old on this particular night, having been married to my first wife for two years. Marriage for me, both times, was the quick-fix shield to hide my inner identity from the outside world. Every day for me was a tug of war between trying to live as the man the church perceived and enduring brutal self-loathing for the desires that invaded my head. I existed in a gruesome loop of asking for God’s forgiveness, entertaining unclean thoughts about men, feeling like I wanted to die, then asking for God’s forgiveness. It really was a living hell.
After years of this dreadful dance, I had become adept at pretending. No one at my church would ever guess that I was facing internal turmoil. But, the game changed when traveling Evangelists would come to town. I realize some people doubt the validity of Christian Evangelists, but I am here to tell you that they could walk into a crowd and ascertain–and announce–the innermost sins of random people. I had been on the receiving end of this one night, but thank God I was attending another church alone; no one I knew was present.
So, back to the late Tuesday night. I was crouching low in my seat hoping to blend into the crowd. The last thing I wanted was attention of any kind. The Evangelist had signaled to the vocalists and then he raised the microphone to his face. I stared squarely at the floor. Please let this be his dismissal. I was already giving the side-eye to my wife and nodding at our belongings. There would be no congregating tonight.
The voice from the microphone roared with authority. There’s one more here that needs a healing and I am not leaving this pulpit until he comes forward.
My stomach knotted up and I stopped breathing. Instinctively, my shoulders slumped and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t accidentally make eye contact with the Evangelist. I was beginning to shake violently. The Evangelist stepped off the stage and made his way through the crowd and I could feel him standing close to me. I opened my eyes and was staring at a set of long black leather tassel loafers. I will never forget those shoes.
My brother! Look up!
I raised my head to find that the entire crowd had turned in anticipation toward me. I was at the point of quivering now. The thought of him announcing to everyone that I was attracted to men made me want to run as fast I could. It was one of those “flight, fight, or freeze” moments. I glanced at the back door of the sanctuary, pondering an image of me plowing over my brothers and sisters in Christ to flee the scene. But, I was frozen. The Evangelist slowly bent down, placed his huge hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear: You’re safe.
I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but something in his voice allowed me to finally exhale. He then stepped back and held the microphone to his mouth again. God has something planned for this young man! Looking directly into me eyes, he exclaimed DEMON SLAYER!
With that, he waved to the vocalists, the music began to boom again and–for lack of better words–the crowd went wild. In the midst of the controlled chaos, my dear friend, an older lady who had taken my wife and I under her wing as her own, ran to me and we embraced. The kind of surrendered hold when nothing is said audibly but volumes are exchanged telepathically. I never talked to her about my secret, but in that moment I knew she knew. We were both sobbing, I buried my face into her shoulder and felt a release that had been built up over years.
This was one of many nights at church when I left feeling hopeful that my misery was over.
For the next twenty years, I fought relentlessly to slay my demons. There were several problems: 1) I was misguided in regards to the true source of my demons, 2) I believed myself too weak to fend for myself, and 3) all the energy I invested in resisting them only adding to my demons’ power. And if you’ve read any of this blog, you know that those demons morphed into a substance abuse addiction. A vicious monster that I unconsciously perpetuated because my approach was to wield a sword as the slayer prophesied by the Evangelist.
Along the way through recovery, I was able to unpack this concept of “perpetuating by resisting” and learned to surrender to the healing. But, there was a milestone moment for me along this journey that I would like to share here. My hope is that my experience will help others who find themselves feeling helpless and hopeless, ready to allow the demons to take over.
Through a synchronicity brought on by my desire to heal, I discovered the work of Tsultrim Allione, specifically her book called Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. This led me to her corresponding meditation on YouTube and through it I was able to have an experience that transcended decades of struggling and agonizing over the war inside me.
This meditation came to me at the exact moment in time because through self-discovery I had uncovered the true identity of the demons. For all those years, I had been slinging my sword at shadows. The demon wasn’t my sexual preference, Meth, sex, or the “disease of addiction.” Those elements in my life were manifestations, or shadows, of the real scary demon: codependency. And, more specifically abandonment trauma that activated as codependent behaviors. The transcending freedom came when I grasped the concept of Tsultrim’s teachings; instead of fighting your demons, feed them, and make them your ally.
Here’s my personal experience with the meditation. I encourage you to go to the YouTube link above and try the meditation along with Tsultrim. If you want to skip through the introduction (I suggest you watch the entire video), the meditation begins at about the 21:00 mark. An important note going into this meditation is to trust what arises. In other words, don’t second guess the images, words and feelings you experience. Go with the first thing that comes to you. You’ll inhibit the experience if you tell yourself, “It is only my imagination. This isn’t real.” This is real.
Step 1: Find the Demon
The first step was to decide which demon I wanted to work with, and of course I chose codependency. Then, to discover where in my physical body I felt the demon. I thought back to the last time I felt symptoms of codependency; needed validation from someone, fighting for positive attention, needing a reminder that I belong, etc. Once I recalled the last time I felt that way, the feeling returned; a pain in the pit of my stomach. I intensified the feeling, it was a combination of anxiety and extreme nervousness. Then, I imagined how this feeling would look in terms of color, texture, and temperature–the image of a black, gooey hot blob in the pit of my stomach appeared.
Step 2: Personify the Demon and Ask It What It Needs
I personified the feeling by giving it arms, legs and eyes. It became a star-fish shaped black blog with distant, blank eyes. When I took time to notice all of its features, it became a larger version of the star-fish shape, but now the skin was a thick red rubber-like substance, it didn’t have a gender, its eyes were still lifeless.
What do you want from me?
What do you need from me?
How will you feel when you get what you need from me?
I then stood up from my bed where I had been lying down for the meditation and faced myself. (Keeping my eyes closed as much as possible.)
Step 3: Becoming the Demon
I took some time to become the demon, to feel what it must be like in this gooey black substance covered by thick red skin. I looked at myself on the bed from the demon’s perspective. What I saw was a man who desperately desired freedom. And honestly, he looked a little weak.
I then answered the questions as the demon (note that I simply let the answers flow from me without any predetermination):
What I want from you is strength.
What I need from you is security.
When my need is met I will feel safe.
Step 4: Feed the Demon and Meet the Ally
Lying back on the bed, I imagined looking at the demon once again. I then imagined myself dissolving into nectar that had the quality of the feeling of the need being met (that may seem difficult to conceptualize, but at the time of this meditation it made perfect sense to me). When I imagined a nectar having the quality of safety, I became a thick golden substance similar to honey. I fed the demon this honey until it was completely satisfied. Once satisfied, I looked at the demon to see what remained. What I saw was the image of myself as a baby. I was crying and reaching up to me. The epiphany then came:
My inner child needed to feel safe. There must have been trauma to that baby early in my life that caused him to feel insecure. This was no demon after all. I then realized that each time I sought approval from a lover, teacher, friend, boss, or anything outside of me, I was attempting to soothe my inner child’s need for safety. There was security in being accepted, in being reminded that I was loved, in belonging to someone, being needed by someone. I wasn’t giving him the safety he needed–I didn’t have it–so we were together endlessly seeking it externally.
Time to meet my ally. I asked;
How will you help me?
How will you protect me?
How will I gain access to you?
I rose from the bed and now became my ally, the pre-verbal version of myself, and answered the questions;
I will help you find self-confidence.
I will protect you by providing the internal security you need.
You can gain access to me through your heart.
I returned to the bed and imagined my ally dissolving into me. We became one. I rested in this awareness for a long while considering what had just occurred. I discovered that at the core of my pain was a little baby who didn’t feel secure and that insecurity had permeated into every aspect of my life. I instantly felt a peace flow through my body, a comfort in knowing that I didn’t have to fight any longer. I had an ally now, and I knew exactly what he needed and what I could gain from him. I had mistaken the frightened cry of a baby for the ferocious roar of a monster.
There has been some work since then to acclimate and integrate this healing. The work is on-going. I would love to talk more about that process in future blogs. What I have found so far is an uncanny sense of self-confidence, self-trust, and a letting go of the need for external validation. I feel safe and secure and that has replaced my need to fill that gap with drugs, sex, love, or any other temporary substitute.
And now, twenty years later, it has dawned on me what the Evangelist meant when he whispered You’re safe. He wasn’t alleviating my fears of being exposed, he was trying to feed my demon.