Tonight I’m in a bit of pain as I watch a young person’s life go down the tubes. I’m helpless to stop it. But I have the illusion I could. If I just said the right thing! If I just strategized the right way! If I just gave a little more! If I just withheld a little more!
And this latter, this futile attempt to control something more powerful than the human will, is where the suffering comes in.
If you read here much, you probably know: it means a great deal to me that I’m an alcoholic. It probably will mean something very dear to me, for as long as I draw breath.
And in recovery, I get to work with people. I can help people, which means more to me than I can express. I get the honor of watching people live heroically, with an incredibly powerful and destructive disease – I watch them live in a way that is uplifting and wonderful. Like my husband said tonight about the recovery community we call home: Those alcoholics live by principles that the whole world could take a lesson from.
But yeah, sometimes it goes the other way. I get to know a woman, I get to spend some time with her. We share our lives – we spend hours together in intimate conversation. Our bond grows fierce – deeper than your typical friendship, more poignant for the fragility we’ve come to know, the miracle of just another day sober and another day in gratitude. She knows me – she knows the hell I escaped – and I know her, I know a bit about where she’s been and how bad it was.
Then I watch her go back.
It just – hurts. In a way that is bottomless.
The decline doesn’t happen suddenly, either. It happens slowly. I see it happening. I speak up. I say something. It keeps happening. She asks for my advice again. I give it. She doesn’t take it. It keeps happening.
It keeps happening.
When I watched my father die of cancer I didn’t have the illusion I could stop it. I grieved, I mourned, at times I even felt sorry for myself or felt angry over his suffering. But I didn’t suffer under that illusion of power, of control.
Alcoholism and addiction – they are diseases. They resemble cancer a lot more than people think. But they also lend themselves to another disease: that of perception. We keep thinking we can control it. We can manage it. We can say the right thing. We can “make” someone stop – by kindness, by sternness, by yelling, by pleading, by the silent treatment. By taking something away. By giving something. By giving until we’re dry.
It’s all bullshit because nothing but divine intervention can stop it.
So tonight, yeah, I got a little less peace than I did a few days ago. I’ll feel better soon, but for now? Just: BALLS.