Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Fear of Abandonment

After meeting with my sponsor yesterday for some Fourth Step work, I mused on Facebook: "Why is it I want so much to be loved?" It's actually not all that hard to figure out now that I've slept on it.

All my life I have feared being left, being abandoned. Who wouldn't, if their mom committed suicide when they were six? Of COURSE I would fear that awful feeling...which I don't even remember. That year of my life is gone. Vanished. I have only a few random recollections of 1968-1969. I remember Mama's funeral because it was raining outside and I was sitting on my dad's lap and I had to pee. I remember Dad and Lois's wedding, but only because my memory was often jarred over the years since there are wedding photos. (In fact, at some point--and I don't recall doing this, but I did because it's there--I scribbled over Lois's face with a blue pen.) I remember one morning, soon after she'd moved in, that Lois tried to dress me by helping me on with my pants, and I remember being embarrassed, frustrated, and angry because I had always gotten to choose my own clothing and dress myself. I don't remember what ensued that day other than a rebuke and a "I'm your mother now, so you listen to me or I'll beat your ass." The last thing I remember from that year is walking to school with my brother on the first day of 2nd grade and thinking to myself: "Things are different now. My grades have to be perfect."

I can't say what made me hold myself to that impossible expectation, why I was already stressed so horribly. Of COURSE I have very few memories of that year. For God's sake. I was traumatized. We never spoke of my mother after she died. It was forbidden. The only time she was ever mentioned was years later, when Lois lost her temper about me talking to my oldest brother Harvey once, when he sneaked over to our house and called to me in the backyard. I hadn't seen him in nine years. Of COURSE I went to the fence. He was my brother.

But Wayne and I had been forbidden to see him, or our other brother, Steve. I think I finally mustered the courage to ask Lois, simply, "But why?"

She said, "Because he's crazy--like your mother!"

So, I fear abandonment. I have always attached love to conditions. If I'm not good enough, I will be left. If your own mother chooses death over you, you are not lovable. Period.

Nobody wants that burden, that feeling of being unlovable, of never quite measuring up, and consequently always being alone.

It is merely a very human fear, but fear is so, so powerful. My fear of experiencing a loss like that again has kept me from ever really letting anyone completely in. And in the way of self-fulfilling prophecies, I have lived my life with the expectation that all relationships eventually fail. They just end. Things go wrong. I'll be exposed as the unlovable fraud I am. Who wants to face that? So, I will never, ever let someone leave me.

Consequently, I leave them. My pattern has been to end one relationship by cheating (either emotionally or physically, or both); that is, by getting a back-up, a safety net, first. Once that person is in place, I begin the transition into my new life with a new person by doing everything I can to sabotage the present relationship. This is an oversimplification of how it all plays out--and the details are different each time--but it's the basic pattern. Usually there is a geographical "cure" involved because I don't want to be around to watch the fallout.

Thus ... Pennsylvania to Iowa to Chicago to Ohio to San Francisco. And almost to Louisville, until I stopped myself cold. No, I didn't stop myself cold. I will always believe my Angel, My Mother (who started this ball rolling to begin with), my Higher Power--something, anything but me--said "Enough. Wake up. You're destroying your life."

At that point, as far ahead as I could see was, "If I'm going to make any more life-changing decisions, I'm going to make them sober." Somehow, in a blackout, I made the decision to go to rehab.

Thank God I did. I don't know how to describe the simultaneous feeling of being very lucky and very blessed, having dodged a bullet (and so did she, and so did Chelle), and at the same time, feeling horrified by myself and the wreckage of the lives and people I have hurt because I was caught in a pattern of "shit thinking" and was too stupid to see it. And how forgiveness descends like light.

You can't NOT believe in a God when something like this happens.

I'll be 48 in a couple of weeks. I have the rest of my life to live well, to truly love, to give of myself, to help and serve others. At the basest level, that is truly all that matters.

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