Sunday, February 20, 2011
Surviving Valentine's Day...
I have survived another Valentine’s Day. I am definitely a hopeless romantic but I haven’t been successful at romantic relationships. That adds up to me having a love-hate relationship with the one day of the year that’s intended to generate love all around. Oh… I have love stories and they are all worth writing about. Some might even surprise you and some might generate a tear, smile or even a laugh. Love is such a complicated thing and can take so many different forms. When the object of that love is an addicted person – the complications increase hundred fold.
In a recent conversation, I mentioned that I seldom feel as though Alanon is a good fit for me. My experience has been that the newcomers to Alanon haven’t yet reached the point of realization that there is NOTHING they can do to stop the alcoholic from drinking. Most of them are still holding on to that dewy-eyed belief that if they love strong enough... complete enough... long enough... that their beloved will return to them as the lovingly whole person the alcoholic once was.
They also miss the concept of change for themselves. They hear that if they change they can have a better life. But they aren’t understanding that the better life is for them personally and not the alcoholic. In order to understand they must also understand that each of us is a separate entity from our alcoholic.
How can that be?? In love and in marriage we are united as one. As a couple we are bound together and our lives are one. We see it on TV, read it in books, swear to it on our wedding day in front of God, family and friends. As little girls (and even little boys) we grow up with the idea in our brains. Even when we go off on our own as adults – we are always on the look out for the one special person who can “complete” us. As we age into our senior years and find ourselves single once again – we still have in the back of our minds – hiding there deep in the space that holds romantic thoughts – there can still be another one and only. When we meet that special person he/she becomes “one” with you.
As a parent watching your child’s life disintegrate, you know your job is to protect. It is your responsibility to keep your child from danger. There is the parenthood gene that kicks in at birth, or before, that tells you – this is the most important person in my life. You will and do love this child as though he/she is “one” with you.
That kind of “love as one” cannot exist in the relationship between non-alcoholic and alcoholic. There is love, but the complexion of that love is different. In these relationships, I believe that our beloved dies in alcoholism long before the physical body is gone. The alcoholic becomes this other person whose actions we don’t like so much. It is unfortunate, sad, heart-breaking, unfair… and just downright crappy. We see this person in the flesh who represents all the things we hold dear in our life – and yet he/she is not really there.
In my opinion, this is one of the true and hard lessons of Alanon. Once the non-alcoholic can separate the beloved from the alcoholic, only then can they begin to understand the Alanon concepts. These are good concepts that I live each and every day even before Riley returned to my life. But, when I first started out in Alanon, the true meaning escaped me. I kept going to meetings and listening and sharing, but Riley just kept hurting me over and over again and drinking more and more. I didn’t understand how that could be. It had worked for others – why not me??
Sometimes I think the first steps in Alanon should resemble a grieving process for the wonderful promise of a life-long loving partner or the promise of a bright future for our child. It is painful. Nothing on this earth hurts more than the loss of a loved one. And it takes a long time to recover if that is ever truly possible.
The next step should be in finding out who you are as an individual without being half of a whole. Get to know your interests, likes, dislikes and set your boundaries. This will help you see clearly what you can and cannot accept into your life. How far will you go to do what is morally right for you and only you?
Now you can get to know the person living in the body of the person you’ve lost. You may be surprised to find that, even in the insanity of alcohol, there is a person there that has a place in your life. Just as any other friend, there will be things that you don’t like so much. But there may be things still worthy of your attention.
Riley and I will never again be that loving couple with the dream of living out our golden years basking in the memories of loving days gone by. Do I love him? Yes – as the father of my children and a person with whom I share my home. Am I “in love” with him? No – and that’s what helps me survive. I am within the purview my moral boundaries and living up to my responsibilities. I have detached from the drunken, insolent, creature that resides in the body of my beloved – because that creature is not him.
Detachment in my world equals survival. And because of detachment I can return to being the hopeless romantic who still holds out hope for finding the “one” or at least adding to my repertoire of love stories.
at 9:21 AM