Protecting from a loved one

They are not easy times when you must, I believe, protect yourself from someone you love. It can require disengaging them from your life.

There are any number of real reasons for this being the healthiest choice on the table, but none are, the person I need to protect myself from is a bad person, a bad human being. Unhealthy? Yes. Bad? No. Absolutely not. The range of problematic conditions has its fair share of members, alcohol, drugs, addiction, personality disorders, and so on. These elements know no bigotry.

That someone we may need to distance themselves from someone doesn’t make them a bad person and it doesn’t free them of their responsibility for wounding others, as well as themselves.

When someone fires off a few sentences of verbal cruelty, say, I believe the self-inflicted wound runs deeper and does more damage to the perpetrator. Someone tangled up in behavior patterns that wound the lives of others – lacking any empathy whatsoever in some cases – already has a low self-esteem, whether they realize it, admit it, or don’t.

A person in this kind of struggle has basically two choices.  They can recognize the unhealthy patterns they’re  in, and get the help and support they deserve, and get free of them. Or, they can surrender their lives to a method of life-management that guarantees conflict, pain, suffering, heartbreak, and guilt. Everyone of us deserves the chance to get well. Not everyone realizes it when getting well is necessary.

The reason the perpetrator takes the deeper wound is this. On some level, he or she knows what they are doing is wounding and abusive and looks to degrade the target. So each time the perpetrator strikes, he or she is reaffirming the message they got taught about themselves, when some where along the line, they may have been degraded, even on a daily basis, often by some adult who could not be escaped.

In fact, I know of some wonderful acronyms for the word, FEAR. It can mean, Face Everything And Recover, or, Fuck Everything And Run.

My instinct is wedded to the former.

Anti-Sobriety Myths

At this writing, I’ve been sober 16 years.

Getting sober  takes time.

I’ve seen a few myths derail more than one person’s chance at getting sober.

One myth says: “I am sober when I stop drinking.”

Wrong. Not, somewhat wrong, or a little wrong. Wrong. Dead wrong. You’re clean, as it were, when you stop drinking, not sober.

Here’s the reality (fact) that replaces the myth. You have to stop drinking in order to get sober. Getting sober takes time. Trust me.  If you’re fortunate enough to be in your early strides of the experience, you don’t yet realize how unwell you are.

Another myth says: “I can do it alone” and yet another is some family member or loved one thinking that they can save the alcoholic-addict.

Reality says: “Not only are you wrong, but don’t you think it’s nice to find out there is at least one massive life challenge you don’t have to face alone?”

I do.

There is another unflinching fact. Being an active alcoholic results in one of three endings: jails, institutions, or death. This is fact.

One other thing, another expression I learned. You’re not allowed to kill yourself in your first three years of sobriety because you’ll be killing the wrong person.



Goodbye My Sponsor

Note to reader: The following was first published on May 25, 2011.

Goodbye my sponsor I love you.

Only moments after finishing a speech today I learn you died. For a moment air leaves my world and then, standing outside minutes later in the sun, I hear you saying, “Remember, Peter, the moment you’re in is the only place you have to be.” And the air returns and I thank the sun for being there.

Goodbye my sponsor I love you.

In our first days together you over and over again say keep your head where your feet are, stay in the moment. Over our first coffee together you tell me you want me to stop biting my nails. I am perplexed. Why? Because you’ll have to stay in the moment you’re in.

Goodbye my sponsor I love you.

Once just before a meeting I tell you I didn’t feel like coming. You smiled and said, “There are only two times you should come to a meeting, when you want to and when you don’t.” Being a typical alcoholic I say, “What if I’m not sure,”  and you smile at me with so much love and say, “I stand corrected, there are three times.”

Goodbye my sponsor I love you.

Walking together to the parking lot after a meeting one evening you touch my arm and say, “Look up, Peter. Look over there.” And you are pointing at a white church steeple and the beautiful blue-black sky beyond sprinkled with stars. “Don’t miss it,” you say, and I didn’t.

Goodbye my sponsor I love you.

You teach me to look for my unhealthy patterns. You may not get free of them right away, but when you begin to notice them you’re breaking their grip. And remember, alcoholism is like a sleeping dragon, every once in awhile it will open it’s eyes to see if you’re paying attention to your sobriety.

Goodbye my sponsor I love you.

I am doing my best one day at a time and I am alive today so much because of you and yes I am present and accounted for in this moment, and you are here with me.

Goodbye my sponsor I love you.

for E. L.

Saving My Sister

I love my sister. Nothing that has happened and nothing that will happen will ever change that. If she keeps drinking, she will die; from the sounds of it she may not have long.

Our father died on August 16, 1969. I was 15 and my sister (how I love the words, my sister) was 10 when, 16 weeks after he died, my mother placed me in reform school on a PINS (Person in Need of Supervision) Petition and subsequently disowned me. In those days a PINS often meant a family saying to the court, I don’t want him, you take him. While I lost my father and  family in a 16-week span, my sister lost her father and brother, a brutal event for any 10-year-old.

We would run into each other from time to time over the years. When my mother and I began to reconcile in the late 1970s, it was because I’d begun to visit my sister who shared a split-level home her. We came together for a short time when our mother committed suicide in August 1992.

My sister has three children, one boy and two girls. The boy is the oldest and at age 35 is a remarkable young man. Recently he reached out to me to let me know my sister is in bad shape. She can’t (won’t) stop drinking. Her body is breaking down (she’s 52), she has a hard time opening her hands and refuses help of any kind, including medical help.

I am a recovering alcoholic and know damned well you can’t make another person get sober or make someone choose life. I also know I can’t make someone discover their value and worth even though it’s there.  At  the center of who my sister is, behind the horror and dysfunction and pain, is a gloriously wonderful person.

She used to enjoy telling the following story about us. I’d been out of the family for a couple of years. She was 12 or 13. I was staying not far from where she lived with my mother and grandparents. One day not far from her house she was  being harassed and threatened by three boys when, as she describes it, “My brother came flying out of car, challenged them all to a fight, and they ran.”

I’ll try to save you again my precious sister, but I can’t do it without you.