Monday, February 21, 2011

But, Why?

"Why is my alcoholic sister so mean to me?"
"Why does my husband continue to drink when he knows it's going to be a disaster?"

When I was new to Al-Anon, I believed that if could only know why the alcoholic did what he did, I'd be able to accept it. Just give me a good reason, and I could find peace with it all. I think I most likely asked that "But, Why?" question several hundred times, and it's a tribute to the compassion and loving support of the group members, that no-one ever expressed exasperation with me, or told me to stop, already, with the why. Acceptance of what's happening within our own lives, not only allows us to live with more comfort and ease, but we also become much more tolerant of the foibles of others.

It was very difficult for me to accept that there were some aspects of life about which I might never get clarity, or a reason that satisfied. I might eventually be granted understanding, or a reason, but not a satisfying one - not one of those "Ooooooh, now I get it!" kind.

There'a a quote in one of the daily readers, I can't recall which one:

"If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are."

That was an excellent reminder for me, in early recovery, when I would be swept with the intense feelings of desperation to know, to understand, to find a good reason. (It irriated me tremendously, but still operated as a good reminder.)

My sponsor offered a variation of the above:

"It is what it is."

Oh, grrr! I would feel my teeth clenching, when she'd offer me that as a response to a question of mine about why did my husband drink when his little girls were visiting, and needed to see him, and he'd go off on a 3-day bender and only come home the morning they were going back to their mother's, so that I was left to try to make their visit enjoyable when he was absent.....

...or why did he always seem to find a way to destroy anything good that happened in his business; he'd win an excellent contract, and then proceed to royally screw up, so that by the end the business was limping along from week to week, barely making a miniscule profit, when it had the potential to....

...or why did he treat me in such a mean way when he professed to love me when he was drunk or sober, and we'd had good and bad talks about what that meant, and the effect upon our marriage, and me, and...

When I'd ask those sort of questions, and be met with the kindest of responses, all variations upon "It is what it is, and it's out of your control. You can't change other people, you can't force him to be a different father, business owner, husband," I'd feel that my questions were being sidestepped, and there must be a good answer out there, but for some reason, no-one wanted to share it with me.

There was a good answer, and it had been given to me each time I asked that question, it was I who had been unable, or unwilling, to hear or accept it:

"Because he is an alcoholic."

I've learned in Al-Anon, that when I do not accept "It is what it is" as an answer, I am dooming myself to hours/days/weeks of stubborn misery. When I turn my face away from the reality of it, I am practising denial. That's my choice. It's also my choice when I decide to work towards acceptance. It's one of those circular, ongoing processes for me. About some things, I've achieved a solid forgiveness; I no longer rage against my alcoholic first husband. I've let go of all the pain from those ten years, and can look back with detachment. I can remember the painful parts, but I don't feel them anymore.

When I can't find acceptance, is it because I am unwilling to let go of judging the other person? Doesn't the problem lie not with them, but with me, in my refusal to accept how it is at this moment? This moment is all we get - yesterday and tomorrow are past, and not yet here - I have only to deal with today.
Let us therefore, live one day at a time.


  1. Such a great post that rang true for me in many ways! Sometimes I hate "what it is" and get stuck in trying to figure out the "why" of it!

    That's when I know I have to detach and change my focus.


  2. I am not raging against anyone anymore. I like the Big Book which says we will cease fighting anyone or anything. That is how I feel.