So I had a rough week last week, after a really really tough 5 months that I managed to survive through the joy of the theater. Unless you’ve done it, it’s hard to understand the appeal of being in a show, particularly if you have no lines and are part of the chorus. For one, there’s the fun of going on stage and just being someone else. And if you have anything interesting to do, or sing, the audience gives you energy. Rehearsals aren’t the same as performances, even dress rehearsals. There’s something magic about the give and take in theater. In writing we have no idea who’s reading our books, and there’s no transfer of energy (at least not on a direct level). So it’s a wonderful feeling (except on the rare occasions when the show’s a disaster or you really screw up).
But the other thing that’s so wonderful is the tight family group the cast becomes. We hug, we laugh, we’re all working for the same thing. We spend so many hours together, all working toward a common goal in a magic world, and for a writer, who spends all her working time alone, it’s quite wonderful.
But the plays are over for the season. And I’ve had to stay home and face reality, and even as I’ve felt myself emerge slightly (like a gopher poking his head out) I’ve felt signs of hope, traces of light. And then I did something really really stupid on Wednesday, and I have no idea why, and I started sinking again. And someone, followed by a chorus of someones, said “go back to Al-Anon.”
My father was an alcoholic. A charming one — he loved me dearly and he only hit me a couple of times. He died from a broken neck when he was 58 (my sister and I used to joke that our mother pushed him down the stairs). My darling baby brother was an alcoholic from the time he was 14 — he died of alcohol poisoning when he was 40. My sister was an alcoholic and a druggie — she stopped the cocaine and the booze but the last thing she did before she died at age 64 was smoke weed.
And my son. Not technically an alcoholic, but he got all messed up on drugs when he was 13 and I haven’t seen my sweet little boy since, just the Tasmanian Devil who took his place.
I’d gone to Al-Anon in the past, but only found one meeting I really liked and it was 65 miles away. The local meeting was being controlled by a strong personality, and when I went to meetings that were 40 miles away I was always with a fairly toxic companion, so I couldn’t get out of myself.
But I found a meeting on Saturday morning and went, and it was wonderful. Everything I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. I went home and managed to download one Al-Anon book, and I read that through the weekend. And it’s finally clicking. I’ve heard all the wisdom from Al-Anon and ACOA before (ACOA= Adult Children of Alcoholics). Heard it, but never really brought it into my heart. Suddenly, this time, it all made sense, and life is not bleak and hopeless and nothing but bad times ahead. My co-depency and enabling was hard-wired into me from early childhood — my parents would have me lie to the other parent, I kept trying to save them as they went in and out of mental hospitals (my mother had rage issues, depression and an obsession with her pills). Couldn’t save my father, who was able to love much better than my mother ever could. Couldn’t save my baby brother. Couldn’t save my sister, even tough I tried everything I could. And God knows I cannot save my son.
You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. One of those many sayings which you can hear so many times before you actually absorb it. It’s not my fault.
People used to mock the scene in “Good Will Hunting” where the psychiatrist (played by Robin Williams) tells Will over and over again “it’s not your fault.” And it finally sinks in. Professionals say therapy isn’t that easy, but you know, sometimes it is. Sometimes you just have to have that breakthrough, that realization. I weep buckets at that scene. It isn’t my fault.
So anyway. I’ve got a list of all the meetings, and while that Saturday morning meeting is definitely going to feel like my home meeting, I’m going to get to one or two more this week. They’re all at least 20 miles away, but hey, I don’t mind. If I were in a city I’d probably do 60 and 60 (sixty meetings in sixty days).
And for the first time I realize this isn’t about trying to save the people I love who seem so determined to kill themselves. This is all about me.
And i’m going to be just fine.