The Book

The Holy Hammer is an event that turns a life upside down. Every life has at least one. It might come in the form of death, divorce, disease, downsizing, natural disaster, addiction, or dysfunction. But its purpose is always the same: to teach us to awaken to a personal relationship with truth, compassion, openness, accountability, and authenticity. And to show us that every act contains two of life’s most precious gifts—connections and consequences.

The Holy Hammer came to Marta Maranda through the addiction and rehabilitation of a family member. Despite not having the substance or behavioral addictions widely associated with rehab, she entered a five-week inpatient rehabilitation clinic to discover her part in the dysfunction in her life.

Her journey takes her inward on a quest of self-exploration and healing, out into a world of war, politics, history, sports, and spirituality, and finally home as she rebuilds her life piece by piece. And this is what it looks like.

The Introduction

It’s called the Holy Hammer. The Hammer part I got right away because it smashed into my life with such force there was barely the thinnest shred left to hold onto and say, “I can rebuild the life I had with this,” which I’d soon learn was the point all along. Holy I wouldn’t understand until much later. There were no glory-filled visions, no sounds of grace, no sweetness on my tongue, no smell of hope, and nothing sacred I could feel before me as I reached out my hands to keep from falling. It was hell. And hell looks, and sounds, and tastes, and smells, and feels like fear.

The Holy Hammer comes as a catastrophic event to remind us to live our lives in truth, and uses accountability to do it. You can block your ears, jam your eyes shut, or cover yourself in denial hoping not to be seen. But you’ll have only so much time to accept what is being asked of you before It breaks everything open, exposing all things ghastly and glorious over and over and over, until you do.

I wrote those words several months after leaving the one place I never thought I’d find myself. I don’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or have destructive sexual patterns. I am committed to exercise, eat healthfully, and have never had a cup of coffee in my life. But in November 2003, I checked into a five-week inpatient addiction treatment center one week after my former husband, in for substance abuse, checked out. What began with me attending his Family Week to vent my pain and frustration and to get answers to my questions ended with only more questions. Realizing I couldn’t answer them on my own, the clinic seemed the best place to begin looking for help. So I admitted myself into the full program without force or intervention, and I was sober. Because of these two occurrences, my observations and interpretations of the recovery process and my ability to grasp and absorb the clinic’s teachings may be very different from those who arrived under other circumstances. What I learned was that the tools and teachings of recovery are universal, not just for addicts. They are for those who want to understand why we do what we do and think what we think, why what we say looks vastly different from our behavior, and why we continue to live lives we don’t want to live. And for those who want to know what self-esteem and a healthy childhood really look like, who understand the necessity of telling one’s story, and who believe in the relentless and unconditional need for authentic truth from a healthy mind if we are to live our best lives.

Rebuilding and refining a life is as much a cycle as a process. We first heal our individual dysfunction, use our new inner health to view and act in the world differently, then bring what we have learned in the world back into our lives to support and continue individual healing. And after the clinic, I brought the changes within me into everything around me. Politically I went through elections, war, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Congo; spiritually through Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism; and personally into relationships I didn’t think possible even a few years before. But whether politically, spiritually, or personally, I could always unravel the consequences of the present by looking at the foundations we—as individuals, families, communities, and nations—had laid in the past, and through the eyes of truth, accountability, authenticity, and openness.

However, my journey since leaving the clinic has often been messy, unattractive, and difficult to understand. I was many times lonely and scared, and there were long stretches where it seemed I made nothing but mistakes. But this is what breaking dysfunctional patterns and healing a life look like.

Still, there is incredible beauty in this alchemical process where one moment, one choice, one life, then relationships, entire families, communities, and nations are honed ever closer to a harmonious brilliance. It is in this never-ending process where you keep yourself honest. Where you are reminded that love and fear cannot breathe the same air, so you choose love. Where a painful word or act from another will not leave you writhing for years, because you know who you are. And where your power, your joy, and your sense of self come from that highest place inside of you, rather than the low place others fall to after you’ve kicked them down.

I welcome you into my process of questions and confusion; the falling, climbing out, and falling back again; and the unmatchable joy of every clear step forward. Each of us is responsible for revealing our own secrets, mistakes, and triumphs. Some will do this timely and honestly. Some may never do it. But the Holy Hammer came into my life and left me no choice. And this is what it looks like.