So...here is what (and who) I am thankful for 365 days of the year.
My readers....you are the reason I wrote "Lunch with a Sociopath" and your messages and e-mails to me mean the world to me. It was incredibly difficult for me to share my story, but I did so in the hopes that someone who needed to know they weren't alone might read it. I wrote it because it's important for you to know that you are not stupid or foolish or defective. You were abused by a leader who took advantage of your earnest desire to follow God and twisted your goodness into something unrecognizable. I wrote it because people don't believe thought reform can occur in this day and age but it does. I wrote it because I wanted friends and family and society and general to understand how people can be taken advantage of and how they can help thier loved one recover just by being there with unconditional love. It is not an easy path for any of us whether we are the ones who were abused or whether we are the ones that love the survivor of the abuse. But you have helped me on my path much more than you can ever imagine.
My family and friends....even when you didn't understand all that happened, you loved me with a love that can only be described as heroic. You questioned little and listened a lot. Many of you prayed for me and my family. Early on I despised your prayers because I no longer really believed in God, but I've come to see that your strength in God has helped me regain my faith in Him. I'm especially grateful to my mother because she instilled a deep faith in me very early on. I think this faith, though it has waxed and waned to the point of (almost) nonexistence, is why I am still here among the living. This was the second greatest gift she has given me--the first being life. I am also grateful to the women of St. John's church who have remained friends and supporters even when I was distant, even when I was unappreciative, even in my darkest hour. One woman stands out in particular as a shining and heroic example of a prayer warrior and an inexhaustable fount of unconditional love. I am grateful to my children and husband who have suffered with me. It has been unfair to them and, for that, I am truly sorry. There are no words, no actions, nothing at all that can ever wipe the slate clean. For thier forgiveness, for thier patience, I am humbly grateful. And to so many others, sometimes nameless others, who showed kindess when I needed it even if they had no idea what was going on inside.
Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center....the starting place. In this little isolated place, I found hope amongst people who intimately understood all that had gone on and who didn't think I was crazy. This was the place that the healing began. Sometimes I long to go back just to remind myself that it will all be okay. I will be forever grateful to the staff and therapists who unclouded my eyes and showed me a better way.
Three Priests....I will always be grateful to the priest who took my phone call and helped get me away from "Will". Over the course of several months, he made sure that I was okay and had everything I needed---first to get away and ensure my physical safety and then to get therapuetic help. After I made the decision to leave Will, he was the first person I called. I made a very sound judgement in calling him as he was supportive from the first syllable uttered. He is the reason I didn't change my mind about leaving the first time. In the first weeks, his oft-asked question to me was "What do you need? What can I do for you to make this easier?" I think of him daily and remind myself that there are, indeed, good priests in the Episcopal Church.
Two other priests are helping me find my faith in God and to strengthen what little faith that still remains. Although they came in when the story and the book were finished, they have displayed amazing understanding and patience with me. They have picked up where "Lunch" ends and are leading me toward greater freedom in faith and away from the memories that enslave me. They have no reason to do this. I am not even a member of thier church. They do it because they care and because it is what God would have them do. For thier selflessness, I am ever grateful.
So there you have it. These people are why I am amongst the living. These people will forever have a piece of my grateful heart. Always....365 days of every year.