A good friend in program has recently had a major revelation. I love to watch these happen - to see someone halted mid-assumption, mid-step, mid-reiteration of long-held belief, and watch as the realisation slowly sweeps across their face, astonishment following closely behind.
I've said it as many times as I've heard it said: "How could I have been so blind to that? How could I have ever thought it was this way, when it wasn't?"
Denial keeps us safe when the truth would be emotionally devastating. We can't face the truth until we have something to hang onto, while that tidal wave sweeps over us.
For some of us, childhood wasn't the happy time it was for others - we lived in emotionally precarious situations, where the truth was just too hard to bear, so we re-invented and relabelled, until we could feel some comfort, where in truth there was none.
This works to get us out of childhood in relative emotional safety, but it then goes on to interfere with our ability to live our lives. We are encumbered by the coping mechanisms we developed as small children; without some form of therapy, we will still be using them to navigate our adult world, and therein the trouble lies.
Before I could grow, I had to let go of my detrimental beliefs about myself, other people, and the world. Before I could let go, I had to accept. Before I could accept, I had to admit. Before I could admit, I had to have that tidal wave of comprehension smashing through and washing away those structures which I had built when I was very small: so threatened, so unsafe.
I could not do it until I had a group of people who "loved me in a very special way."
Before program, I used to try to hurry other people out of their denial - this was an exercise in frustration and rising annoyance, because I was trying to force upon another, what I could not do myself.
In Al-Anon I learned that all I can do is offer my experience strength and hope. I can be available for phone calls, dogwalks, emails, coffees, whatever I can offer, I will do. The rest is up to the person's Higher Power. I cannot make them believe the title of this, and it isn't my place to try.
What I can do, is rejoice with them, when they begin to perceive how this enlightenment will enrich their lives, have they the strength and the courage, to follow where it leads.
I can also support and encourage when they can't face it, when they cannot bear to open their eyes long enough to get a real glimpse. I can answer the question a hundred thousand times, when they ask me, "Is it safe to open my eyes, really? When you opened yours, it was truly only a mouse? Honestly?"
I can laugh with delight when they call me, rushing to say that they did it! They opened their eyes, and it was a mouse, a mouse, can you believe it, just a mouse, and they've been running from this thing for years, thinking it was a devouring monster, and it was only a small furry frightened creature who couldn't hurt them if it tried, well, maybe a little bite, or if it carried a disease it could (some of us are so literal in our thinking) but it's so small, and all this time they've been so terrified...oh, man, why didn't they do this years ago?"
I think back to my first sponsor, who used to laugh with me when I would tell her about my revelations, and hug me tightly, and grin like crazy, and have to wipe her eyes. I knew that when I told her, she would be just as thrilled as I was.
That is a gift we give to each other, in Al-Anon.