Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Courageous or Cowardly

Almost every Friday when I attend my Al-anon meeting there is inevitably someone in there who's husband/wife/son/daughter has relapsed. And I will admit, usually the first thing that comes into my mind is thank GOD it wasn't Jake.

Followed quickly by what the hell would I do??

And the short answer is I have no clue.

Before I was with Jake and even when I was going through everything I thought that women stayed with abusive men because they were weak. Then Jake left and I was alone and suddenly I realized that I wasn't weak. I was a strong woman but I was also a scared woman. I had convinced myself that I couldn't keep my life the way it was without him. And you know what... I was right. I wouldn't be able to. But I also know now that it doesn't matter. In fact I can say to you without much hesitation that if I EVER find myself flying through the air or on the wrong end of a loaded shot gun again I will run. I will pack up my son and I will run to Canada or South America if I have to just to make sure that the two of us are safe.

However, a relapse is an entirely different story. A relapse is not necessarily a danger to myself or my son. A relapse can be a growing or a learning experience depending on the severity of the relapse. At the moment I am reading a phenomenal book called the Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage. I have learned more about myself and the life I find myself in right now in the first 30 pages of this book than I have learned in the entire rest of my 27 years.

In this book it talks about accepting that alcoholism is a disease. A compulsion to drink/use over which the addict has no control. If my husband had a disease and he thought he was better but then he relapsed (I'm not sure what the term is for got the disease back again) and had to go back for more treatments no one would condemn me for sticking by him. In fact I would be looked down upon if I left him because he had to go through treatments again.

This part of the journey has been the hardest for me. In my book it talks about never speaking your mind until you are sure that you know what you are saying is true. For this reason I have been hesitant to blow every little incident out of proportion. I don't want to have to answer to anyone until I know in my mind what I'm going to do. Two weeks ago I drug tested my husband. There was an incident with some money and then another incident where I caught him in a lie and I got scared. The test was negative, obviously, but I didn't really jump to point out to everyone that I had even made him take it in the first place.

The reason being, I didn't know how to answer the inevitable next question. What would you have done if it was positive? Every day on my way home I pass a sign at a local church. It always has catchy phrases on it and last weeks phrase was "Failure is not falling down, it is staying down."

That REALLY hit home with me. If Jake falls is he a failure and I must immediately leave him? For so long I had convinced myself that I was weak if I didn't but reading this book I'm starting to wonder if the people who run aren't really the weak ones.

How much strength it must take to stand by someone as they stumble along their recovery path. Never judging them for a disease that they can not control. All the while treating them with the love and respect that any human being deserves.

Last Friday as yet another woman was crying about her husband I found myself tearing up. What strength she was showing to know that he had fallen and to be brave enough to stand by him. To come to our group and admit this knowing that we would not judge her for a decision that we would never understand unless we were in her position.

After 6 months in Al-anon I'm starting to see the strength these people have and I'm not sure if I were in their position I would have the same strength. If Jake were to realpse I don't know if I would stand by him or if I would run away. Would I be a coward if I stayed or if I ran? I suppose only God knows the answer to that.

I think I'm finally beginning to understand that perhaps the most courageous people are found in the places we least expect to find them.