What My Body Tells Me
by Amber

Dread fills me as I'm walking down the street, and I see my mother's car parked up ahead at a gas station. She gets out of her car and stumbles towards me, hair in a tangle, eyes red and wild, hands wringing. A ghastly smile forces its way onto her face as she stops in front of me and asks me for money.

I know what she wants the money for. I don't want to give it to her because she'll use it to buy more meth. But I'm only 17. She's desperate, pleading with me, and she's my mother. How can I say no?

For years, I was haunted by the idea that life outside of my family trauma wasn't an option, that the pain of my parents' turmoil would always impact me. When I was a child, they gave me the impression that their lives were perfect. My mother sent me to a non-denominational church and set rules for me. “You will not drink.” “You will not have sex before marriage.” I didn't date anybody. My first kiss was the weekend after I graduated high school. When I was 13, my mom washed my mouth out with soap for saying the word “sex.”

I know she was trying to protect me. My father drank too much, and I knew that there was a family tendency toward alcoholism because I was told it was not a good idea for me to drink. But until I was 16, when my parents divorced, I had no idea my mother had been using and dealing drugs for years, as well as cheating on my father.

I thought I knew who they were, and then suddenly I didn't. In my anger, I decided their rules no longer applied. I started drinking and having sex, letting all the rules go. But I crashed really hard. At one point, I was suicidal and went to a mental hospital.

At the age of 20, I married a man eight months after meeting him. We didn't know how to communicate. When I sensed he was upset with me, and I confronted him, he would say, “No, I'm not angry.” Instead of realizing, “Oh, he's afraid of his anger,” I would decide I was crazy for thinking he was angry when he said that he wasn't. We had four years of this roller coaster.

When we split, I told myself I probably needed therapy for the divorce, but I was going to party first. I went on dating apps and drank and partied my brains out. But inside I was feeling a deep loneliness. 

Then I met a man who told me about his OM practice. It was so out of left field, but he was able to be present with me in a way I hadn't experienced before that I was curious. Most of my interactions with men had consisted of either pining after them or an alcohol inspired encounter. But this man was different. I felt really seen by him. 

I learned to OM in a class and the whole experience had me feel more alive. I grew up religious, so to be in this room talking about intimacy openly was very exciting. I felt a sense of community after having such an intimate and vulnerable experience. I wanted more of that. 

As I continued to practice, I found safety in the OM container, the set-up that allowed me to know what was going to happen. In that secure space, I learned to focus on what my body was feeling and just be with it. I learned a lot from the noticing step, when the stroker reports what he's seeing, and from the framing at the end, when we report to each other what happened. These communications kept me from taking the energy and romanticizing it, the way I had always done. I allowed the interaction to just be what it is.

During an OM, when my mind wandered, remembering that I wanted to share a frame at the end helped me develop that muscle to listen to my body. I was willing to look at my body and feel it and build a relationship with it. 

Once I was OMing, I decided to go into a 12-step program to deal with my drinking. For months, I continued to drink, but I remember the day when I decided to stop. It was because I could feel my body so acutely from OMing. The hangover was horrendous. That was the turning point.

I don't worry so much about exterior rules any more. It's all about what I feel inside. I'm there for myself, no matter what rules I decide to break. I have started to make a practice of learning to love myself exactly as I am right now.