Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why do you think they call it "heart-broken?"

Why do you think they call it "heart-broken?"
When I had about three years clean, my husband at the time began using. It was very painful to watch, but his drug of choice was not mine and he was careful to keep drugs out of our home. At the time, I was in college in California and while he continued to work and use, I continued my education and went to meetings. Because we'd relocated from Arizona, I had to find a new sponsor, and as the Fellowship often serendipitously provides, I found a perfect sponsor, Terri. Between Terri, Naranon and my best friend, Susan Lydon, the author we lost to cancer a decade ago, I managed to stay relatively sane. Most importantly, I stayed clean.

As word of his using began to spread, some people I knew casually in the rooms were willing to give me advice, most of it very painful and unrequested.  One gal approached me one day and asked me, "How do you stand it?," referring to watching my husband  loaded all the while. Another asked me after a meeting when I had shared some of the pain of the situation, "When you gonna let that man go?" then walked away as if she'd just solved my problem. None of that "advice" was loving or helpful. These women didn't give me the time of day outside of occasionally dropping advice from way up on high. Most of those people aren't around anymore, I might add.

My sponsor, on the other hand, gave me this advice: "Stay in the 11th Step, asking for the knowledge of God's will and the power to carry it out. You might not get them both at the same time." She was right.

Two years later when I was about ready to graduate from college, it became clear that I would have to make some changes, yet I didn't know when or how. I had applied for and been accepted for a teaching fellowship in New York at Fordham University. I told my husband about the offer and he immediately offered to go into treatment. I turned down the offer and went to work, putting him through treatment once again.

I had a job I loved, but I deeply regretted my decision not to accept the teaching fellowship. We were in marriage counseling and one Saturday morning as we drove to therapy, he said something to me and I noticed immediately that he slurred his words; he was loaded again. We arrived at the therapist's office and sat on her third-degree sofa, to borrow a phrase from the poet Gregory Corso. She immediately saw that he was loaded and that I holding back tears. She asked him if he had anything he wanted to say to me. "No," he said, then sat silently looking at the floor.

She asked me if I had anything I wanted to say to him. "Yes," I said, "I have one question. How long? Two months, two years, six years? How long until you get clean?" 

"I don't know," he answered, and I realized that was the most truthful thing he had probably said to me during our entire marriage. It struck me right then, sitting on that sofa, that he didn't want to get clean; I wanted him to get clean." I knew it was time to leave. God had given me both: the knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out.

I left him there and took the bus to the Saturday morning Berkeley NA meeting. I stood at the podium and sobbed. The marriage was over and I could begin the process of detaching for good.

Within a few months of our divorce, I took a job in Los Angeles at the WSO and began work as a special worker. I was surrounded by years of solid recovery and while I began to heal, I was still in terrible emotional pain. Some days it was all I could do to get out of bed, go to work, drag myself home and then sit in a hot bath.

One particularly tough day at work, I asked another trusted servant, "Vida, I hurt in my body. Why?" She turned to me and said, "Of course you do, honey, why do you think they call it heart-broken," twisting her hands as if to show the breaking of a stick. My heart was truly broken and I felt that pain not only in my spirit but in my body. It made sense then.

It's been over 25 years since my divorce and my ex-husband still uses. He phones me once a year or so to report something, his brother's death from liver disease or that he's homeless again. I'm remarried to a man who loves his life in the Fellowship and shows it by giving back daily. God had a plan for me that I couldn't see at the time. But I stayed clean long enough to see it unfold.

It is only through the strength of my sponsors and predecessors in the rooms that I've gotten through some of the darkest times of my recovery. I am eternally grateful and work to stay that way, because gratitude is not my normal spiritual condition.

 How about you? What are you grateful for today?


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