Stepping out of the shadows
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Do you ever feel imprisoned by the shadows of your past? Our longtime coffee companion Annette Stanwick knows well what you’re going through. Speaker, coach, healing facilitator, and author of Forgiveness: the Mystery and Miracle, Annette joined me for coffee the other day, together with her husband, Clay, and shared with me her amazing wisdom about overcoming the prison of our past failings. (See my Dec. 22, 2022 column.)
Annette has been spending time for some months with a group of women in a nearby community who are recovering from addiction. It’s become very clear to her and Clay, she told me, that “most of those ladies are struggling with deep, dark shadows of their past; shadows that hold them back from moving forward to a new life free of the dark secrets, silhouettes, alley ways and potholes that plague and dog them day in and day out.”
Yes, moving forward can be a real struggle. “Recovering from addiction, incarceration and sexual exploitation is like a mountain climbing experience,” she said, “all while carrying a heavy burden of unhealed trauma, laced with anger, fear, pain, crime, violence, unhealthy choices, relationship issues, overdoses, regret, shame, and blame to name a few.
“It takes uncommon courage to ascend the steep, narrow road called recovery. Shadows of the past creep in at every turn to discourage and destroy the confidence needed to make it possible to rise above the twisted brokenness and cravings that propel them into a life they never signed up for.”
Annette explained how she and Clay carefully help these women identify their own “unique shadows of darkness, danger, despair, and dysfunction that had bound up their hearts and lives like tight heavy chains impeding their every movement and impacting their relationships.”
She shared with me one recent unshackling episode:
“One at a time, each woman boldly stood above a lifelike shadow that lay on the floor in front of them, while clutching the chains she held in her own hands. Sharing their list of shadows was painful, but acknowledging, confronting, and embracing them, and then realizing they each had the ability to release the chains that had held them captive to their shadows for so long. This was absolutely an essential ingredient in their healing. As each woman publicly declared her shadows and then made the choice to drop the chains, stepping away from the shadow, the entire group erupted with applause!”
Clay, retired semi truck driver and pastor (my Dec. 2, 2021 column), helped prepare the women for this unshackling process, Annette said.
“He had helped these women understand that God is truly the one that brings the light of His love, acceptance, and forgiveness that gives them the strength and courage to step away from the strangling chains and dark shadows of their stories that controlled them for so long.
“Taking one’s eyes off the shadows to focus on the true light of God’s love and forgiveness is the source of healing power that makes it possible to rise up on eagle’s wings to a life of freedom, high above the storms of brokenness and pain. It is truly the light of God’s love that causes the shadows to miraculously disappear,” Annette concluded.
Thank you, Annette, for sharing your wisdom on breaking free from the shadows of the past.
© 2023 Warren Harbeck