“With great power comes great responsibility.” Wise words wielded by the witty webbed wonder’s Uncle Ben. I have always had an affinity for Spidey. For years, I assumed my adoration of Spider-Man centered around the hopeless romantic within me, courtesy of the codependence that began coursing through my veins in the cradle. I fantasized of frolicking in Peter Parker’s world. The unconditional love. The selflessness. The sacrifice of denying himself his one true love in order to protect her from villains with a vendetta.
This had to be the only link between me and Stan Lee’s comic book character, right? Because I certainly didn’t struggle with how to use great power responsibly. After all, I had no power. Surrendering to that one truth (or so it seemed) ensured survival during my youth. I’m a quick study, and I do nothing halfway. So I learned at a tender age to submit, and I submitted wholeheartedly. I wasn’t certain I had no power, for to be certain of something one must first conceive of the possibility. Power was not something I so much as pondered the potential of possessing. Rather than relating to Spider-Man’s inner conflict, I rolled over and waited for him to save me.
I waited for 40 long years. Little did I know, after leaving home, I no longer needed my submissive survival skills. But I had been steeped in them, and I knew nothing of power other than how to be its prey.
Power in my possession felt like poison. When I didn’t have someone willing to plunder my power, which, let’s face it, required pick-pocketing prowess reminiscent of a Laurel and Hardy skit, I hurled my power at others as if it was a hot potato and I was sure to be scorched if I didn’t pass it to someone far better equipped to handle it. Someone. Anyone. Take my power. Please! My old friends Self-Pity and Shame won’t be able to stick around and play if you don’t take my power immediately. Oh, and for this to work, not only must you snatch it promptly, but also, you must find a way to use it against me.
So maybe Spidey and I had more in common than I thought. For I, too, needed to learn how to accept the power I had been given and use it responsibly. And my tale, too, albeit far from a story of star-crossed lovers, is much like Peter Parker plainly states of his—it is a story about a girl.
My story is not about a glamorous red-headed performer, and it certainly is not told from the point of view of a superhero enamored with her, much less a boy. My story is not the story of mysogynistic men with whom the abuse began. Nor is it the story of alcoholics or unfortunates befallen to other addictions—”isms” I allowed to steal my spirit and define me. Those stories are not mine to tell. My story is about a girl named Alicia, which, interestingly, means truth, and it’s narrated by yours truly. My story is about a tall, freckle-faced girl who, thanks to the guidance of some wise and wonderful people placed in her path, gets down on her knees every morning and prays for more faith, humility and compassion; for acceptance of and surrender to His will; for relief from her obsessions which, aside from a scandalous on-again, off-again love affair with food, amount largely to striving for perfection in herself and others. Oh, and speaking of others, I seem to have this silly little habit of focusing on what others should be doing and what I must do next to “help” them see the light and do that which they should be doing instead. I pray daily for God to relieve me of this silly little habit too.
As long as I can remember, I have battled addictions. Powerless as I was, I knew that some day I would stumble upon the one thing I needed to do right, the one thing that would make someone love me enough to quit drinking, make someone love me enough to accept me as I am, make someone love me as much as Spider-Man loves Mary Jane.
Truth is, Someone already does. Someone has all along. Someone has loved me and accepted me more than I could ever have imagined. In the shroud of addiction which wells up like a mighty gray funnel cloud and sucks everyone and everything into the whirlwind, the One who put the stars in the sky and freckles on my face was with me the whole time, watching over me like Spider-Man, waiting for me to feel His palm on my cheek, His presence in my soul, His power ready to empower me. And with that great power, by default, always comes responsibility so great it surpasses our limited human understanding.
I am learning to lean on that One.