Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Courageous or Cowardly

Almost every Friday when I attend my Al-anon meeting there is inevitably someone in there who's husband/wife/son/daughter has relapsed. And I will admit, usually the first thing that comes into my mind is thank GOD it wasn't Jake.

Followed quickly by what the hell would I do??

And the short answer is I have no clue.

Before I was with Jake and even when I was going through everything I thought that women stayed with abusive men because they were weak. Then Jake left and I was alone and suddenly I realized that I wasn't weak. I was a strong woman but I was also a scared woman. I had convinced myself that I couldn't keep my life the way it was without him. And you know what... I was right. I wouldn't be able to. But I also know now that it doesn't matter. In fact I can say to you without much hesitation that if I EVER find myself flying through the air or on the wrong end of a loaded shot gun again I will run. I will pack up my son and I will run to Canada or South America if I have to just to make sure that the two of us are safe.

However, a relapse is an entirely different story. A relapse is not necessarily a danger to myself or my son. A relapse can be a growing or a learning experience depending on the severity of the relapse. At the moment I am reading a phenomenal book called the Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage. I have learned more about myself and the life I find myself in right now in the first 30 pages of this book than I have learned in the entire rest of my 27 years.

In this book it talks about accepting that alcoholism is a disease. A compulsion to drink/use over which the addict has no control. If my husband had a disease and he thought he was better but then he relapsed (I'm not sure what the term is for got the disease back again) and had to go back for more treatments no one would condemn me for sticking by him. In fact I would be looked down upon if I left him because he had to go through treatments again.

This part of the journey has been the hardest for me. In my book it talks about never speaking your mind until you are sure that you know what you are saying is true. For this reason I have been hesitant to blow every little incident out of proportion. I don't want to have to answer to anyone until I know in my mind what I'm going to do. Two weeks ago I drug tested my husband. There was an incident with some money and then another incident where I caught him in a lie and I got scared. The test was negative, obviously, but I didn't really jump to point out to everyone that I had even made him take it in the first place.

The reason being, I didn't know how to answer the inevitable next question. What would you have done if it was positive? Every day on my way home I pass a sign at a local church. It always has catchy phrases on it and last weeks phrase was "Failure is not falling down, it is staying down."

That REALLY hit home with me. If Jake falls is he a failure and I must immediately leave him? For so long I had convinced myself that I was weak if I didn't but reading this book I'm starting to wonder if the people who run aren't really the weak ones.

How much strength it must take to stand by someone as they stumble along their recovery path. Never judging them for a disease that they can not control. All the while treating them with the love and respect that any human being deserves.

Last Friday as yet another woman was crying about her husband I found myself tearing up. What strength she was showing to know that he had fallen and to be brave enough to stand by him. To come to our group and admit this knowing that we would not judge her for a decision that we would never understand unless we were in her position.

After 6 months in Al-anon I'm starting to see the strength these people have and I'm not sure if I were in their position I would have the same strength. If Jake were to realpse I don't know if I would stand by him or if I would run away. Would I be a coward if I stayed or if I ran? I suppose only God knows the answer to that.

I think I'm finally beginning to understand that perhaps the most courageous people are found in the places we least expect to find them.


Heather said...

I'm going to close comments on this post for one day. On Friday morning bright and early I will open them up again.

Right now I really want people to take a day or two to think about what I have said here. I don't want your off the cuff reaction to what I'm sure will be a pretty controversial conversation.

I want you to mull it over. Think about it over your lunch hour, when you are in the car driving home, when you are in the shower. Really consider what I have to say before you leave a comment.

Thank you!!

Meghan said...

I know this probably seems like such a middle of the road comment, but I dont believe that there is any ONE answer to the couragous or cowardly question. I believe definitely that if you or your children are in physical danger, the ONLY decision is to leave; and that takes courage. After that I think it gets alot more confusing and is subject to an indiviual's tolerance and acceptance. I guess the key is knowing what you yourself are able to "deal with" and not renegotiating that limit everytime the boundary is crossed. I give you so much credit for the strength that you found while JAke was away and the strength that, I know from personal experience, it takes now that he is home. If Jake were to relapse, I have no doubt that you would be able to recognize the situation for what it is, and react accordingly. Part of the problem that I struggle with is seeing the addiction as a true disease. I believe that alcohol and drug addiction unlike say Cancer, is very much within the individual's ability to control. Easy? NO! Self- manageable?? YES!! You aren't going along in your life and get a call one day from the doctor saying... " I have terrible news... you are an addict." It doesn't come out of nowhere and blindside you like that. To me, that is a HUGE difference. If you are an addcit, you and pretty much EVERYONE that knows you, knows that, and it is your responsability to keep yourself in line. Period. Sorry for ranting so long- you know how much this hits home for me.

Jessica said...

Oh Meghan - that was said so wonderfully!!

Kbreints said...

yep-- I don't think that I could have added anything more to meghan's comment. She pretty much took the words out of my mouth-- and I was not able to verbalize it.

Really, it all comes down to you. No one can prepare you, tell you or help you past what you are wanting to do yourself. It does not really matter what anyone else thinks. It is you and your life. I don't think that you will know, until there what you are going to do. Hopefully you will not have to walk down that path.

Anonymous said...

Don't underestimate the power YOUR bottom line has on his thoughts of relapse. Perhaps knowing that you won't stand for it, never never never never, not for one single second...that thought just might be the thing he clings to, that is keeping him going when hard times come his way. Your strength (meaning, you're not willing to even allow the IDEA of relapse) may be HIS strength in the fight against all his demons. No, it may not keep him strong for the rest of his life, but maybe that's a lifeline for him in the here-and-now. Maybe just knowing that one slip will cause him to lose everything, maybe that is what is keeping him going. Kind of an inspiration to them, if you will.

Some person said that children crave discipline, even thrive in disciplined environments. Well, I think that is super-true, and maybe the thought of a harsh consequence (losing you and Zack) is a behavioral compass for Jake.

You might feel like just one little person in the great big world, but to somebody else you ARE the number one person in this great big world. I guess I mean that you can never underestimate your imipact on the life of someone else. You do have an impact, and it really could be just don't know how big or small, and you may never know. But I have to guess that your position on this topic has SOME impact on how Jake is living his life right now.

No, you can't make someone stay sober and safe - that's their choice to make. But you have rules and limits and consequences that you set down for YOUR life, and there are absolute bottom line deal-breakers that you set down. The bottom-line dealbreakers you live by are for *YOUR* health and safety, or your child's health and safety. But it may have an unexpected positive by-product of helping someone else navigate some hard choices, and it may be a guiding light when a tough moment comes up in their life. No, you're not doing anything active to keep them sober/safe, it's just that they are taking your position into account, and it just might be useful to that person.

Tough question.
I guess living in the day-to-day with someone in recovery would have a bearing on how someone felt about it. Sitting where I sit (not in your shoes, I realize) feeling the way I feel (which isn't how everyone feels, I realize), I would have to say that a relapse would be a dealbreaker for me-but again, I haven't lived through what you have. I might change my mind if I were in that position. You gave me something to really think about though. Thanks for posing the question!!! :)