I am becoming strong enough to fall apart. That is good news. That is bad news. I have been holding some stuff in for so long, I am afraid of it coming out; kind of like the situation where you are afraid to cry because you are afraid you might not stop. I have done my work, I have delved deep. I have worked the steps and then worked them again. I am a fully (and heart-full-ly) functioning member of society and my family. I am of a mind that there should be nothing left to uncover or discover. Nothing left to recover. Wrong.
Not bad wrong, just incorrect wrong. Once again I have had an opportunity to revisit old pains that I thought I had resolved. And for the most part I had. It was just the tender bits within the history that still required air and light. This is what happened.
Recovery changes your relationship with friends
There is a woman that I have known since junior high school. We were close friends for many years. I made her angry sometime in my 20’s and really have no understanding why. We didn’t speak for six months. We got back together (we were part of the same group, so seeing one another was a matter of course.) Nothing was said, we became close again until … I did something else. She has an amazingly sharp temper and her ability to cut people off is complete. I don’t like confrontation so I never asked what I had done. This cycle happened many times until the friendship faded. A decade later we tried to reconnect and we did, on a very superficial level. I, walking on eggshells, and she being fully herself. I loved her. I would do anything, overlook a lot, to be in her company. But now I was sober. I had learned to take care of myself. We saw each other on occasion but my heart was kept in reserve.
Confusing attention with love
In the course of the next decade or so (yes, this is a long amount of time; our relationship spans fifty years) she has said some hurtful things that I have not challenged her on (my cancer was my fault as the result of being promiscuous, my son’s medical problems were the result of my being an addict) so you might think, “Why are you even talking to her again?”
I don’t know. My relationship has been part of my youth – the painful bits where my mom’s drinking was at its worst, my father’s depression was its most frightening, our poverty at its most dangerous. My friendships at that point saved my life. So I had imbued this friendship with magical properties. And that is what I had to learn; that the magic I had enveloped her in had to do with the fear and trauma I experienced as a young teenager. I had someone. It was her. I was safe.
I am enough just as I am.
I connected with her recently and she was her regular abrupt painfully honest self. But this time I really truly am not alone. I have grown up, I have safety in my new life of recovery. I don’t need to keep going back to the poisonous well. The pain of her response to my question, though, was not just her criticism, it was back to the old feelings of me being a fraud, of not being good enough, of my trying to be someone I am not. These are very old tapes and ones that come up from time to time in an unexpected fashion. But now I am strong enough to fall apart, to see that that lack of safety, that lack of being able to be a kid, a teenager, because I was so busy running my family (at 11, 12, 15) I couldn’t work these feelings through in their correct era. I have come to a new layer in addressing the PTSD of my childhood and of having invited yet another person of abuse into my sphere. No More. I am done. I am enough, just as I am.
The tenderness of my newly opened eyes
So just like a newcomer, a newcomer to anything; first time to a program of recovery or new to an additional form of recovery, I am tender. It has taken me weeks to feel the pain of the comments, the heft of the comments due to the history and to the awareness that I still have bits of my family trauma to heal. Just like the Monty Python song “I’m Not Dead Yet,” I sing to myself “I’m Not Done Yet” and find grace in my newly-opened eyes. There is no shame in waking up some more.