Sunday, March 28, 2010

In My Mirror

Last night, D's sister (we'll call her...Anna) called late. She's been having a lot of trouble in her life recently and I think she just wanted to chat...she's currently going through a divorce, having trouble with her job, unhappy with where she's living and just in general in a really negative place. I feel for her, because I know what it is like to grieve a relationship (although in my case, it was obviously not a divorce but the process of working through addiction), and to feel stuck in a position you don't want to be in. I've never been extremely close with Anna, so I don't often feel that I am in a position to offer her advice, but she said something last night that I found myself extremely touched by.

As D and Anna chatted (with me close enough to the phone to hear), Anna shared that she was frustrated by the fact that she will probably have to take on a second job in order to pay off the rather extensive debt that she and her ex have built up. She was even more concerned because the ex apparently just got a DUI a few days ago, and is looking at several thousand dollars in fines, fees, etc. that will land a more significant chunk of the credit card bill on Anna's shoulders in the coming months. Of course, D said (and I thought to myself) that she should let the blame rest squarely on her ex's shoulders--he got himself into trouble, and she should not have to pay extra bills because of his mistake. "You don't understand," Anna said. "The bills have to get paid one way or the other, and I want the debt gone. Besides, this wouldn't have happened if we were still together--I would have been able to stop him or drive him home."

In those words--in Anna's attempts to take on her ex's problems as her own, to shoulder more than her fair share of the burden, in her ardent belief that had she been there, she could have controlled him and his actions and the situation to a more positive end--I felt more kin to her than I ever have. Here in her own life, I saw a mirror to my own past codependent mess. No! I wanted to shout through the phone line (or somehow teleport myself through it to shake her into sense). Nothing you do can control what he does. His behavior is his, his bad choices are his, and the consequences of those choices do not have to make your life worse if you don't let them. I wanted to tell her how this used to be me--how I honestly believed that if I were present all the time, constantly watching the phone bill and computer and D's social life, none of the horrible addicty problems would have ever arisen. But of course, I couldn't do that. Because I can't fix her either--and she will have to come to realize all this in her own time.

In the meantime, my heart goes out to her. And I am grateful for the fact that I, at least, can now realize that someone else's drunken mistake is not of my own doing, and not something I can fix, or need to feel guilty about, or take on the consequences for if I don't choose to do so.


Bernadine said...

Oh, eek. What a painful place to be. I can only imagine--hearing her take on that much imaginary responsibility for his choices must have been painful for you and your husband to hear.

A mirror, indeed!

Thanks for sharing this.

It also made me wonder if you've ever told her about you and your husband's struggles.
... just curious. I know it's probably a difficult topic, and I know it's easier for me to say, since I'm not 'with' my qualifier anymore. But I've experienced a tremendous amount of freedom by being able to share what's happened-- and how much it's helped my personal growth.
And it ripples... my sister and her husband have decided to go to couple's counseling to work on their issues.

B said...

We actually have not shared with any of our families about our whole addiction experience. Part of the reason is because D feels uncomfortable sharing with his mom in particular, because she has some past abuse experiences and he is unsure of how she would react in that light. Part of me would really like to be able to open up to some people who know us more personally, but I always leave the ultimate decision up to D, as it stands to be more damaging to him than me in the long run.

I definitely see what you mean though--it sounds awesome that you've gotten so much out of sharing with your sister and others. Hopefully someday we'll get to a point comfortable enough to do that too.

Superfluous Brunette said...

I loved the advice you 'didn't' give to your sister in law. I too am one that either takes on someone else's issues, or try to fix them and have a positive impact on them, or worse believe that their behaviours is a reflection of who I am, then I adopt that as my sense of self worth. I have learned all this about me after a break up with someone who had addictions problems in the past (years before we were together) but it seems these types are magnets for codependents.
Happy to hear things are going well for you!