On Wreckage and Forgiveness

The ironic thing about forgiveness is that when we truly achieve it, we realize there’s nothing to forgive.  We experience a shift of perspective, a widening of the lens we’ve been looking through.  The person we needed to forgive goes from being a beetle mounted on a card and identified as faulty in various ways to a piece of our own soul – the part of us that also struggles and often fails.

Resentment works by keeping score.  But we can keep score only when we have rules, agendas, and an assumed point to the game – all of which tend to be the work of ego.  To bring about the outcome we would have preferred, the mounted beetle in question should have chosen to do X and Y.  They should have seen and realized how important X and Y were.  Why the hell didn’t they?  What the hell were they thinking?!  Now the outcome is all fucked up and it’s totally their fault!

40803_10150244489590608_8125380_nTwo weeks ago I brought home my boyfriend’s old iPhone and discovered that for two and a half years – ever since we got back together after a one-year break-up – he’s been leading a double life.  He’s had a second girlfriend whom he saw just as much or even more than me, a chunky girl half his age who clearly worships the ground he walks on and matches him drink for drink as they get bombed together.  I had trusted him completely.  I believed he was still the Good Man I fell in love with while he was sober.  Because of this, I gave him ample room to do his own thing (we lived 90 minutes apart) and never checked up on him – ignoring the fact that he was a relapsed alcoholic who merely didn’t drink in front of me – and that active alcoholics tend to lie.

My agenda was as follows: the relationship I thought I had with him was meant to flourish and endure. For this to happen, we both had to be committed and true to each other.  Those were the rules of the game as I saw it, and when I first discovered their porn-style sexting and rendezvous set up around my visits (she sometimes left the same day I arrived), I did very much know the rage of betrayal.  That rage has faded now, but what puzzles me is that it hasn’t morphed into resentment.  Somehow, I’ve jumped straight from rage to forgiveness.  Mind you, I don’t intend to see the man again – his future is god’s business and no longer mine.  But anger I do not feel.

I let go my agenda.  The whole thing.  Clearly this relationship was not supposed to be.  For a woman like me, 20 years sober, to be with a man who drinks in her absence was not a good set-up.  It could not have worked.  Yes – there was a lot of love over the nine years we shared, and the loss of that remains tragic to me.  I’m grieving it.  It hurts.  Further, what my boyfriend did is clearly heinous on a number of moral levels.  You don’t have to be the one cheated on to see that.

beerBut I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  Okay – I’ve never developed a sex addiction with someone young enough to be my child, but by the final stages of my drinking, I lacked moral sense to an equal degree.  In the fifteen years I was drunk, I cheated on three partners in a row – the first one physically and the second two emotionally.  I developed wild crushes on people while pretending to be in committed relationships and chased down the high of those infatuations regardless of their eventual impact on my partner.  I didn’t care.  In fact, it seemed to me at the time that I couldn’t care.  I needed the fix of the person I was addicted to just as much as I needed my next drink.

In every fifth step I’ve heard, sponsees have felt failed and betrayed by important figures in their lives – often a dysfunctional parent either alcoholic or affected by alcoholism.  Time and time again, the 4th column comes down to the question, “Do you think this person would not have done better if they were capable of it?”  Sponsees struggle with this.  Their minds wrestle with the dichotomy of who they wanted the parent or person to be, with all the power to choose wisely they believed that person possessed, versus the truth of what actually happened – the fact that the parent or person simply did not have the integrity, self-awareness, or the moral resources to show up any better than they did, let alone with honor.

Who wants to be a shitty parent?  Who wants to betray and abuse the partner they’ve loved?  Nobody.  In the case of alcoholics, prolonged alcohol abuse actually atrophies the emotional centers of the brain; we reach recklessly for whatever we think will bring relief.  Compassion shrinks.  We become selfish monsters.  We do shameful things.  It’s part of the disease.

Resentment at these facts can do nothing but harm me.  Nurtured anger traps us in our heads, our stories, our righteousness about what should have been, whereas the sunlight of the spirit is cast only on what is. And it’s only once we accept what is that we can feel gratitude for all reality offers us and try to lead useful, constructive lives, granting others the freedom to seek their own path.  24350_10150106518895608_1574989_nSo forgiveness, really, is just acceptance of a person exactly as they are.  In my case, I also have to accept the toll of addiction.  The Big Book even tells us, “More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life.” My guy was just a late stage alcoholic doing what drunks do best: dishonesty with self and others.  He’s consumed in tearing down his own emotional life and perhaps career, veering obliviously toward alcoholic decline.  None of this will end prettily for him.  My mistake was fighting reality, closing my mind to his addiction, trying to love him as though he were sober.  So much I wanted better things for him!  But when I let go that agenda, it’s all just life unfolding as it should.





Filed under AA, Al-Anon, Alcoholism, Codependence, Codependency, Recovery, Sobriety, Spirituality

17 responses to “On Wreckage and Forgiveness

  1. Go to Al Anon. Best wishes.


  2. I respect your honesty. It’s difficult things to deal with. To me only Jesus the Son of God can help us out of evil addictions. Thank you for writing this post


  3. Jim

    Very well written and insightful.

    I’d love to see a post dedicated to why you stayed. Why you ignored the signs. What was your part? How did it happen? Where is the character defect on your side?

    I say this not to “blame the victim” or to shame, but to explore the other, darker side of betrayal. What do we get out of ignoring our intuition? What is the payoff?

    I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I don’t want to be on either one of them again. I know why I betrayed, and I understand what it is like to process the forgiveness required to heal from betrayal. What I haven’t seen a lot of, and haven’t been able to get to, is…how do I encourage (either actively or passively) betrayal. Is there some dark corner of my soul that needs the pain?

    Thanks again for sharing your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Jim!

      I can betray others, but I learn increasingly to recognize how I betray myself – not so much in one big lapse of awareness as in many tiny ones, denials of my values, my truth, and my worth. As I continue to process what happened in this 9-year relationship, I see countless self-betrayals long before this alcoholic partner even took a drink. I looked the other way when he got friends to sign his court slips, spoke degradingly of past partners, and refused to connect with my son or visit his own disabled daughter – but since he was doing his best, it seemed, I accepted everything. I tried to “rescue” him from his childhood traumas and resultant “disabilities.”

      It’s a classic codependent move – to do this and call it love. The truth is, to make up for my chronic low self-worth, I chalk up “good person” points by overlooking so much. In essence, I was turning a deaf ear to what my partner’s actions said about who he really was so I could preserve my imagined source of love and security.

      If we cling to certain character defects even in the face of clear indications to let go – if we just won’t loosen our grip on illusion – sometimes god loves us enough to just drop a goddamn piano on us and say, “Wake up!” That’s what happened for me in this scenario. The violence of this break up may play a role in my ex’s future, too – though addiction can deflect even pianos, to an extent. I trust that it’s all instruction – all raw material we can learn from, all a part of god’s loving guidance. I’m not just saying that shit – I believe it!


      • Jim

        I’ve been going deep on betrayal recently. I’ll share the questions I have been exploring – they are all focused solely on me and my choices.

        1. How does my co-dependence harm the person who betrays me?
        2. What is my part in suffering that involves me in one way or another?
        3. How am I harming someone by looking the other way?

        This is how I need to think about things

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! So much more succinct than my reams of journaling! Thank you for these – truly.


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  8. llm

    Thank you. These are words that I needed to read this sleepless night.

    Liked by 1 person

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