Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Step Four: Dealing With Loss
Well, I got a brief reprieve: I was supposed to meet with my sponsor today to start going through my step four work (the past ten years), but something came up for her so I let her off the hook and we rescheduled. (It really is no big deal, Ev.) Here I sit smelling like Ben-Gay and with my wrist in a brace anyway. Tendonitis flaring up ... too many games of Haven and Castle Age on Facebook along with grading essays. So ... alas, I must set aside the essays for today as my poor wrist heals. Heh.
But actually the extra time affords me the opportunity to start thinking about the next ten years of my life, where my job in the private sector played a big role in my drinking to cope and where the loss of my son (I've blogged about that here) also led to an earlier three-year drinking binge much like the one I just emerged from eight months ago. Already I'm looking at losing David in a different way than I did before. Before, I was just stuck in a "I'm a victim of my ex" mode, latching onto the opinion of several therapists, who all agreed that my ex's decision to cut me out of his life was motivated by her desire to punish me. I don't dispute that, but neither did I own my part in her motivation. Fact is, it was I who decided, quite impulsively, to leave that relationship. It was I who decided to ignore all the warning signs that my ex would make a move to strike him from my life. The truth is that she'd threatened that very thing before, which I (at the time) disregarded as a bluff on her part, a kind of emotional blackmail to force me to stay in a relationship I no longer wanted to be in.
So I played the part of the innocent victim who was being punished simply because she was getting even for me breaking up with her. It wasn't really quite that simple.
I chose to believe in a "pie in the sky" idea that I'd be allowed to talk weekly on the phone with my son; that a couple times a year, I'd be allowed to fly back to Ohio to visit him; and that when he was older, maybe he'd even be able to come out and spend summers with me here in San Francisco. In exchange for that, I agreed to sign over to her my half of the house we'd bought together, and I gave her all of my furniture and any furnishings we'd purchased together so that David's environment would change as little as possible. I thought that was awfully big of me. She never said this, but I expect (in retrospect) she thought I was just trying to buy the privilege of continuing to be David's mom while being uninvolved in his life and to assuage my own guilty conscience over abandoning him.
At the time, I had all these romantic ideals that I was choosing love (or giving love a chance) and doing what was right for me in leaving a relationship that had gone sour; I had talked myself into believing that to stay in a troubled relationship and model that to a child was not a reasonable action. But, honestly, who can know? We can't. It is entirely possible that, had I stayed, my ex and I could've worked things out somehow and rebuilt a healthy relationship. I didn't acknowledge at the time that I was an alcoholic, so I didn't see (then) my drinking to be a problem. I saw my ex's demands for abstinence as controlling; I saw her sexual refusals to be just so much of the "vaginal vise" some women subject their partners to in order to get what they want ("I won't have sex with you until you [fill in the blank]," and so on. To my own credit, I had tried a couple of therapists with my ex, and it is a fact that whenever the therapist suggested that she was just as much responsible for our difficulties as I was, she would lose her temper and declare the therapist a quack. At the end, my ex out-and-out insisted she had no problems at all; that everything was just me, so only I should see a therapist. So you get the idea. I did very much feel like I was beating my head against a wall, and the only "out" was just that: OUT. To go. To leave.
Which I did, and she's made me pay for it, no question.
I haven't seen nor spoken with David since he was three and a half. Probably neither one of us would recognize the other on the street nowadays if we passed. There have been days when that has been an awfully hard thing to swallow.
But, you know, I was still wrong in making the impulsive decision I did. I made it quickly; within a week, I was packing up my stuff, took a temporary leave of absence from work; and bought a plane ticket to California. I could just as easily have been less impulsive and more thoughtful in my choices. I could've stayed in Ohio and moved into an apartment. I could've kept my job and gotten legal paperwork drawn up to see to it I would still have visitation rights. I did none of those things. It didn't occur to me to do any of those things. I was too busy being a child, dashing off impulsively, in anger and full of alcoholic, self-righteous thinking, believing that I could live half a continent away in California and still remain a part of David's life.
No wonder my ex was frustrated with me. She just more or less put her foot down, once I'd signed over the papers to the house, and said, "Sorry. You made your bed; now go lie in it." And she has held onto that grudge ever since.
That used to make me angry. Now it just makes me sad, both for her and for David. There are days I worry for him, too.
So. Needless to say, nowadays I don't think very much of people who make impulsive and selfish decisions when a child is involved. It's because I did that. There. I've said it. And not saying that led to years and years of anguish and binge drinking, and for all I know, the Universe was actually just looking out for David by having my ex decide to keep me away from him.
Do I hate myself? No. I did the best I could do at the time, which wasn't much. It's not like I had the intentional purpose of hurting anyone. It's not like I'm some psychopathic or narcissistic mean person. I was a sick person with good intentions, but you know what they say about the road to hell. My ex and I both could have handled the situation so much better, in so many ways. The best thing I can do now is to not ever make impulsive decisions like that again (something I actually did eight months ago when I decided to go to rehab -- I went there instead of somewhere else. And I thank God I did. It would've been a replay of this situation all over again, just with some different details and no child involved). The best thing I can do now is to not brook others' impulsive decisions if I am asked for advice or help, or if that impulsive act impacts me or my loved ones in some way. If you make the decision to hop on my wife's bones because you think she's hot, you can bet your ass I'm going to step in your way and ask you what the hell you think you're doing.
Impulsive people cross boundaries all the time. Been there, did that too.
There's no moral to this story, either, I'm afraid. It's just the same stuff I've been saying for months now: learn from your mistakes. Own your part of things. Forgive others (and yourself) for your screw-ups. Wipe the slate clear and start doing things right from here on out. Keep your side of the street clean. Don't get involved in others' bullshit. Don't try to control that which you can't control. Wish others well, but if they're going to bring you down or trigger your drinking, walk away from them. At the end of the day, review your choices and make sure you haven't been kidding yourself about something. Be aware of your own personal agendas. The only person you can ever be 100% responsible for is YOU.