December 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
talked to g last night over text, sitting in my car outside the al-anon meeting. he’s not a drinker–anymore–but my therapist said i should go because our problems are similar. me needing him to do certain things to stay healthy and him not doing those things. me trying to control the outcome, me accommodating to stay in the relationship.
i liked the meeting. i felt in good company. some of was a little hokey and…borderline cultish? the almost mechanical chanting of the slogans and something called Council Approved Al-Anon Literature. but the principles crystallized in those slogans are actually helpful and make me feel better. and the stories people shared were raw and authentic. it was good to realize so many people go through the same stuff, that it’s not the end of the world. it’s felt so hard moving through the world feeling like i’m having this experience that is absolutely incomprehensible to others. that feels absolutely impossible to articulate to others, at least others who seem to have their shit together.
but something i’ve been thinking about is how common it is for people not to have their shit together. how common and human to love too much, to accommodate, to get wrapped up in your own internal dramas, to struggle with addiction or trauma or self-injuring impulses. to rage and act out (or act in) because you’re not doing what you need to do to stay well. to create chaos in one’s own life or someone else’s. to deal with situations that are much harder than this one. the normality of crisis. how common, how inevitable, how human, to struggle with hardship and loss and grief. to have to make a way outta what feels like no way.
how otherwise could aimee mann have produced the masterpiece that is The Forgotten Arm?
this morning i was thinking about my two closest friends from grad school. we all ended up marrying (well, i am not married but it’s that kind of arrangement) white dudes with mental illness. i’m the only one of the three who also lives with significant mental illness. but friend 1 just married a recovered heroin addict (dios mio) and friend 2 an alcoholic who still drinks (dios mio!). he’s not supposed to but he does–she finds bottles buried in the trash from time to time–and when he gets really drunk he gets crazy. once broke his neck falling down some stairs. more than once tore up the house, once when she was 9 months pregnant.
the first time it happened i was like, A: you have to leave now. this is abuse. it was easy for me to say, easy for me to shake my head when she decided to stay and work through it. he quit drinking, mostly. they went to counseling. he went to AA. i didn’t understand then how hard you can love someone. but, more importantly, i didn’t understand how, while the other person’s illness is never a choice, a person does actually have a choice in how they manage it. and it can be okay to stay with a person who is taking responsibility for managing their illness.
at the al-anon meeting the first thing they said was that most people first come to meetings for the ill person. they hope that by coming to the meetings the person will get help. it’s another way of trying to control the person’s behaviours, control the outcome. but the meetings are for YOU, the facilitator said. it’s YOUR illness and YOUR program. it works if you work it. i liked the positivity. there is always something we can do, but we have to decide we want to do it.
the meeting was really small. three other women. i didn’t have any particular expectations of who would be there, but i was struck by how unlike san antonio’s overall demographics it was. i’m used to being in all or mostly brown spaces, but the facilitator sounded like she came from brooklyn or jersey and the other two women sounded eastern european and middle eastern. the venue for the meeting was interesting, too. it’s at a place called Club 12–for the 12 steps, i guess–and it had a kind of raucous atmosphere. even before i stepped inside, a guy sucking on a cigarette stopped me at the door with, You AA or Al-Anon? Al-Anon, i whispered, looking down. Yeah, cause if you was AA I was gonna ask if you wanted to sell some tickets for our holiday festival. But most of the Al-Anons, they don’t really want to be around no cork popping! he held the door as i passed through, bewildered, into a common space bouncing with AA guys yukking it up.
the al-anon meeting room was at the back of the building, behind a closed door. it was semi-dark and smelled like old cigarettes from decades past. the walls were covered with posters and murals bearing the Al-Anon principles: one day at a time. progress, not perfection. you didn’t CAUSE it, you can’t CURE it, and you can’t CONTROL it.
during the meeting i felt my phone vibrate in my pocket, but i ignored it, probably because i was telling my story and crying about how i should not have acted so hastily–the brooklyn lady distractedly shuffling the collection baskets around like so what’s new, sweetie?–and anyway you’re not supposed to be on your phones during the meetings. but it’s a good thing i didn’t check or even register the text, because when i got to my car it caught me completely off guard. and because i was in a completely different frame of mind after the meeting, so that i was able to respond with love without abandoning myself. how could you do this to me when i’m sick? his text cried. i hope you never find out what that feels like.
i want you to come home, i texted back. if we can do the things we need to do to help you/us.
December 21, 2013 Enter your password to view comments.