I've decided to crack my heart wide open and share my broken. It's fitting to start this on Valentine's because I feel that true love is in spite, or sometimes even, because of faults. My greatest fault was a misunderstanding of love. Call it codependency, narcissism, or naivety, there was a great ambivalence toward love in my heart. When my marriage literally ended (even though it was doomed from the start), I heeded the advice of friends and an exasperated therapist and set out for an Al Anon meeting. This is the story of my recovery.
On February 17, I coaxed my toddlers into the babysitting room and crossed the hall to room 121. An acquaintance had invited me to her meeting and shared the caveat of babysitting so I had no reason not to attend. I sat next to her and she offered me the gift of silence. "Just listen for the first six weeks," she said. I listened expectantly to strangers speaking in a gentle language I didn't understand. They promised I would find hope, courage, and love, but I had no idea what that looked like. All I wanted to know was whether or not my marriage would work out and it seemed like no one would tell me.
The meeting passed and the majority of the group left, leaving behind only the leaders of the newcomers meeting. They let me cry my eyes out and share the news that my husband had just left me. They suggested a book to me, gave me some phone numbers and told me to keep coming back.
I went home and wrote:
Today is the beginning of my journey with Al Anon. It is also my husband's birthday. I have always believed that there is help for me and I think I have finally found the group. The space is familiar and has all the components for me to heal. Friendship, reading, sharing, encouraging, and empathy. The personalities in my group are very familiar, almost like I have known them for a long time.
Our speaker gave us a meditation on confusion. Perhaps, she said, confusion is a graceful way of giving us pause. My confusion over next steps may be here so that I stay put long enough to firm up my roots.
One day at a time.
If I had to now, I could recreate that meeting to a T. I remember her Tinkerbell sweatshirt, raspy voice, and the sincere hug she gave me. I was hooked. Even though I fought back tears by staring at the door, I absorbed enough to realize I was in the right place.
So I returned week after week and fell apart. I felt like every week I was hauling in all my baggage and just dropping it off without looking back. And slowly, with a lot of work, I began to realize that they were giving me a palette to begin recreating my life with an artistry of love.
How unfair is it to learn to love within the destruction of a relationship? I guess it's better than never knowing at all. Truly, falling out of love is a great teacher.
Armed with a journal, a stack of books, and a nightly mug of tea, I began my own undoing. Sometimes it was too much. I had to alternate my time with Melody Beattie and Thich Nhat Han so that she could break me apart and he could piece me back together. I had to find my own voice. So I turned to the steps.
Admitted we were powerless over alcohol*, that our lives had become unmanageable.