I’ve been attending Al-Anon now for nearly six months. Al-Anon is a twelve step program that utilizes the same twelve steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. Al-Anon acknowledges that alcoholism is a family disease. It does not differentiate between the alcoholics and their family members–we are all addicts in one way or another; we are all powerless over alcohol. It has been thirteen years since I’ve lived with an alcoholic and still, I remain powerless. It’s only recently, however, I’ve begun to understand how this disease continues to impact my life. It is ingrained into my every thought pattern; my approach to every problem; it underlies my every action. I, like so many others impacted by alcohol, try desperately to control. The need to control or the notion that we have the power to control is our addiction and slowly, but surely, it erodes not only our own inner selves, but the lives of those around us. And so we attend meetings and “work the steps.” Thus far, I’ve been hanging out on the first three steps, which are as follows:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
And, in my true yogi fashion, I am telling myself that it is okay that I am stalled out here on the front steps. It’s exactly where I am supposed to be and when it is time to move along, I’ll know that too.
So what got me through the door of Al-Anon (aside from a good dose of God’s grace and prodding) was the fact that I was living in a state of complete and total lack of forgiveness towards myself for a decision that can be read about elsewhere in this blog. And it became clear to me that this lack of forgiveness; this intense regret, if you will, was causing vast destruction to both myself and those around me. Why not just get a therapist you ask? I’ve had therapists. Sure, therapy feels good, but underneath it all, I am still little old me, with my destructive thought patterns and intense need to control every situation and the debilitating anxiety that comes when you think you probably should be able to control everything. I am the woman walking around trying to hold up the world saying, “Yes, I know–you tell me there is a God out there somewhere who is in control and it’s true, I believe in that God–but still, I can’t let go of this world–everything might fall apart on me and then what?” I am still, underneath all my past therapy, a child of an alcoholic. A small child thinking that she has to hold everything together; that is “her” job and if she doesn’t do it, her family is going to fall apart. I am that middle-aged school child, trying to be super perfect and successful–because then and only then, things might be okay. I am that high school student who will not tolerate a grade below an “A” because somehow, her “A’s” are keeping her family from crumbling under this sad disease that everyone in the family is powerless over.
When that child has a child (at age 22), likely because she thinks that this child might save her first alcoholic and her newly acquired alcoholic, she begins the slow road towards exhaustion, trying to control everything in that child’s world so that this child will never know sickness or pain and sorrow. But in trying to control this child’s (and the two to follow) every move, as well-meaning as she is, she begins to pass down the family disease. Still, she manages to raise the first two kids, at times without the help of the second alcoholic in her life. And then, miraculously, at age 39, she is given another go at it. She has a baby boy and she is certain that she will be a much more laid back parent this time around. But then, the day after that child is born, she learns that he has a disability; hearing loss. Something about this disability–the fact that she has no control, sets her on a path towards trying to control more than she’s ever tried in her life. The world she is trying to hold up becomes heavier and heavier until she begins to sag and sink under its weight. In time, however, she begins to see that things are still “okay.” The sun still rises and falls; her son feels not only sadness but joy. He is just a regular kid, with a disability–but he’s never known it any other way and so he accepts. Because of his acceptance, the woman child too moves to a place of (more or less) acceptance.
By the time the little boy had his hearing aids for a year, he was even making great progress with spoken language and she relaxed her grip a little. Then the little boy’s molars started to crumble and he required dental surgery, placing crowns on all of his molars. The little boy’s ENT suggested repairing her boy’s perforated right ear drum at the same time. She agrees but this is the first decision she now agonizes over. She didn’t know anything about Tympanoplasty at the time and thought it was a fairly simple procedure that you did once and it was fixed for all time. During the Tympanoplasty, the ENT came out and announced that he could see the cause of her boy’s hearing loss. He was born with malformed, small middle ear bones. The ENT said he could likely fix this (80% chance) by removing the first two bones and inserting a prosthetic device, called a PORP. He rattled off some risks but she didn’t really process the risks. She didn’t really know what to do. She hadn’t researched this at all, but it seemed like it was another example of saving her little boy a surgery somewhere down the road. Her little boy had the bones removed and the PORP placed. And it was good, for a while. The little boy regained hearing; the surgery deemed a success. At the same time, the woman learned more about the surgery after the fact, learned how often Tympanoplasty’s fail and PORPs are rejected by the body. She began to hold on tighter than ever–if nothing else, then to this gift she was given, this gift she perhaps improperly took. Was she greedy? This is where her health begins to fail and she wonders what will happen if she is not around to be the “controller” of everything in her small son’s life.
Back to first person point of view. I think I just needed to distance myself from that girl who became a woman, with bigger decisions, entering places where perhaps the illusion of control seemed more real than illusory.
Today, J’s hearing is declining in the surgery ear, which means something is not quite right in there. J’s last two audiological tests have shown notable drops in his hearing levels–enough that we know something is happening. He is now borderline in that ear. We see ENT next week and the dreaded CT scan will likely follow. Maybe another surgery. It is a possibility at this point (and we control freaks like to run through every possible worse case scenario in our heads–so we are prepared? cause we are negative people? because we never learned to trust the people in our life?). So, I have been working once again with regret over this decision. I’ve been waking in the morning with “why did you make that decision?” running through my head. I then get up and read my Courage to Change (Al-anon literature) and read the first three steps. I pray for J’s ear (along with my other prayers) and sometimes, I try to envision some best-case scenarios. I even try to be grateful for the time (almost 2 years) that J has had of hearing normally out of his right ear. In all truth, I’ll never really know the true benefit of those years as compared to a scenario in which we 1) waited until this year for the Tympanoplasty (our previous plan); or 2) Just did the Tympanoplasty without the ossicular replacement.
When I was reading the 12 steps yesterday morning, I stopped on step 3–reading and re-reading it until I cried. Why does it hurt so much to be asked to relinquish control, even to God. When I awoke this morning, I had the same old theme of “Why?” running through my head–the new variation on the theme this morning was to flog myself about the small window I had to research Tympanoplasty and potential surgical interventions in the middle ear after our ENT mentioned the possibility at our appointment less than a week before the surgery. Surely then we would have been set up to make the “right” decision. But then a voice inside my head began to say to me, “Are you God? Are you bigger than God? Do you think that God is smaller than this decision? Do you think he could not have acted or intervened in some way to prevent the Tympanoplasty or Ossicular replacement (PORP insertion)? Was it really all on you? All on your shoulders? Put down this big heavy world you have convinced yourself you are carrying. At long last, put it down now child. I am God. You are not God. I am. I am. I have my hands under this one. Let go. Turn it over to me. My will be done–not yours. You will be able to bear my Will. My will is always bearable. I work in All circumstances. All.”