Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's My Part?

That was the topic of the meeting I attended last night. It was fascinating to hear just how many of us in Al-Anon have tolerated behavior that would have sent your average non-co-dependent person down the road in short order.

I tolerated sustained verbal and emotional abuse from my first husband, and the reason for this could be ascribed to my childhood, to a stubborn desire to make it work, to any number of factors; it's irrelevent, really - I did, and it caused the both of us years of wretchedness.

This is diametrically opposed to the way I viewed that relationship before program - back then, it was all his fault, end of discussion. He drank - we suffered; I was an innocent bystander.

It was a long, hard haul uphill, to get my mind open far enough to even begin to consider that perhaps my own behavior left something to be desired. Blaming him for my torment might be satisfying in a nasty way, but didn't help either of us.

I was resistant to Step 5, with a mulish disregard for any suggestion that it could be an admission to a different way of life - a life which offered more than survival and my ever-present longing to be anywhere else but where I was.

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Admitting it to myself was the most exacting skirmish - my ego was a small quivering thing cowering behind impressive defenses. I had years of rationalisations and justifications to fight my way through - I'm reminded of the time my husband was out behind our house cutting down a blackberry thicket with a machete, hacking and clearing for hours, just to get down to bare earth. At that point,  I thought he was finished, but he laughed, and said he was just getting started, and the worst work lay ahead - digging up and discarding the foundations of the plant, those impressive roots which spread in every direction, and colonise all gardens they reach.

Just so did my character defects contaminate all areas of my life - resentment and self-pity, rigidity of thought, impatience; the list of my wrongs seems endless some days. I once had a shared laughing fit with my sponsor, when I called looking for some commiseration, and she asked, "Self-pity not doing it for you, then?" in her crisp English accent. (She had a very clear grasp of the difference between giving comfort, and helping me to wallow.)

Once I could admit my failings to myself, admitting them to God came easily, but it was another titanic struggle to admit them to "another human being."

I didn't want to admit to my faults, they were mine, and I was deeply ashamed of them. My sponsor asked, did I think I could list off some of her character defects? I wriggled and squirmed, but was finally pinned down to an embarassed "Perhaps."  She went on to ask if that were the case, did the opposite apply, could she perhaps list some of mine?

That simple question left me speechless. Of course she could, she knew me better than I knew myself, at that point. I wanted to know what the point of all this was, in that case; why was I having to tell her what she already knew?

Why? Because it forces me to be honest, and it keeps me humble. Step 5 permits me to see myself without shame, and without grandiosity - as a perfectly acceptable human being with all the usual attendant human frailties. It allows me to feel comfortable within my skin, Al-Anon, and the world at large. I'm no longer possessed of the sneaking feeling that I'm trying to hide some horrific personality trait, and could be discovered at any moment. I can laugh at myself, and that is a blessing of glorious proportions.


  1. What a fabulous description of how it works. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this post. It is a great humbling experience to finally admit that I need to come clean and tell everything to another. Yet, it is so inspired by God because He is right there with me.

  3. Humility, the kind that comes with plain old self honesty, is accepting me as I am, a loved and loving creation that is a work in progress. And yes, I can laugh at myself too these days. It was a long, hard, uphill path for me, too. I do NOT want to go backwards so Step 10 is my armor. GREAT share.