See that? That is just how much my man loves me. Yes, that is duct tape. The fridge came with the house, but it didn't have those things in the door to stop the stuff from falling out.. So Steve fixed it for me. I thought I was being all sorts of funny when I said, "Oh, and the sticky part of the tape is so handy for making sure you don't hear that annoying rattle when you open the door." He almost snottily replied, "I put tape on both sides so it isn't sticky." Some might say we are white trash, but me? I call it resourceful.
These are the kinds of things people do when they are trying really hard not to drink. They tinker; they keep their hands busy, they eat candy and fidget and try try try to keep occupied. Circumstances and events have contrived to leave Steve with little choice BUT to attempt sobriety again, and even though I hate hate hate to see the agony he is in right now, I am also glad. I can't say if this is his bottom; there have been a couple of other instances where I thought it was, and was wrong. But I will say that the things that have occurred as a result of his latest runner have left him in a place I don't think he has ever been before, and as awful as it is, it could very well be the best thing to have happened to him.
And for me, well, it has been really interesting to look at my reactions (or lack of them) in this context. Because I have been to this place before, both with my ex-husband and with Steve. When I was blogging about the issue a few weeks ago, I was reminded by some people who really love me (and thanks Mary!) that by expending so much energy on him, it was making ME crazy. And I know this; knew it then, know it now, but it requires vigilance to let people go live their own lives and make their own mistakes, and I was letting it slide a little. I love him; I want him to get sober, be part of my life and my kids' lives and hey, of his OWN life. However, as we all know, I can't make that happen.
So I sat back and watched it progress. I stopped the yelling, I stopped the anger and the hurt and the tears, because even though they were very real and valid feelings, it was a waste of time and energy because it couldn't and didn't change anything. And of course it got worse; that is what happens when an alcoholic drinks. I sat, and I watched, and I didn't confront or verbally beat him up with the fact of his drinking, it just became a non-issue for me once again. It sure didn't halt the downward spiral, but by God I felt a lot more sane.
I am grateful for the reminders because this situation brings up a lot of old issues for me, and I can so clearly see the ways in which I made it really, really easy for my ex-husband to continue the things he was doing. I turned a blind eye until it blew up in my face, then I would get all sorts of raging pissed off, and he would feel guilty for about 30 seconds and thing would get better (meaning he went back to trying to hide it again), and the whole cycle would start all over again. It hasn't been that way as much with Steve, but those old patterns are hard to break.
So when this last go-round came to an end, I had to tell Steve, "I just don't know what hope there is for you. I might have it in me to stick by you through this one, but I KNOW I don't have it in me to go through it again. So right now, I am telling you that if this happens again, I am walking. Not only am I walking, but I will take your son with me because there is no way in hell I am going to put him AND my other kids through this shit. You have one chance with me." And no, it isn't an ultimatum or a threat; it is a simple statement of fact. My friend Janet, who is hard core Al-Anon, coached me with it, and she said that the key is to lay your cards out on the table, and when it happens-whatever it is-the boundaries are adhered to with no discussion. Meaning, I have explained just what the consequences in terms of our relationship and the relationship with his son will be, and if it happens, I follow through and do not need to engage in a dialogue about it. Talk about a freeing feeling. Not that it wouldn't break my heart, not that I would be immune to the fear and worry, but to be so totally aware of my own feelings and needs and be able to follow through? THAT is powerful stuff.
Not long ago I told Steve, "I know that you lie to me because that is what drunks do. But I think you lie less to me than to anyone else in your family." He replied with something about how I am the only one who doesn't fall for his bullshit, at least not for long. He lies, and I know he lies, and he knows that I know he lies, so it makes it a lot harder TO lie. To me, that was a great compliment. And in these last few days, he has talked to me about recovery stuff and for the first time ever seems to be listening. Like, he asked, "Why don't I want to stay sober?" Because it is easier not to. "How am I supposed to deal with all of this stuff with my family?" Dude, you haven't even worked any steps and have to struggle still to not drink on an hourly basis; maybe you don't need to worry about the family stuff just yet." "How am I supposed to DO this?" he says, and all I can say is, "Go to meetings, find a sponsor, don't drink between meetings." Fuck, he says, and yeah, I get that. Because that is the simple, most true answer there is, yet there is nothing simple about it.
Anyway, I think this is a good place for him to be, though I don't know that for sure. I know that I am in a good place; this isn't mine to fix, and I get to be as loving and kind and helpful as I want to be, but on my terms. I don't have to sugar coat anything with him anymore, I don't have to worry that something I will say might possible piss him off, I get to talk to him and say "Hey what the fuck?" And THAT? Is freeing. Very few people appreciate true honesty, I have found, and often ask for opinions or advice or help but don't like it when I say what I think, not what they want to hear. And that's okay; that's their deal. This part is about me, not anyone else-that I am allowing myself to be who I am, to speak my truths and call it like I see it, and try to be as loving as I can when I do so. That is really important to me. I have friends-April, Jacquie, Janet, Shannon, Rob, Camille who do that for me-and I love it about them, even when I sometimes don't like what they have to say. Sometimes it drives people away, and that's okay, too; that, again, is their deal, not mine. So I think of that with Steve, and I love him enough to be honest with him-even knowing that it might drive him away, or might cause it so that I have to leave.
As we say in AA, more will be revealed. In Steve's life, sure, if he sticks with a program. In MY life, most definitely. I am learning how to handle things differently, not in the hope of changing the outcome for someone else, but in an effort to be happy, joyous and free. I look back at my first year sober and being incapable of dealing in ANY healthful way with an active addict as a husband; I look at myself at three years sober, finally able to do what I needed to do, but not without a lot of angst and struggles. Now, at 9-ish years sober, I am doing things I never thought possible, and you know what? It.Fucking.Rocks.