When Ted was in his dark days I pulled down the shades of my life too. The phone would ring and I’d shout at it, “Leave me alone! I’m busy being sad. I just need to be by myself and be so, so sad.”
I’m guessing that stay-at-home/work-at-home moms are more prone to this kind of isolation but I made time for it in the evenings too. Let’s see, go on errands and accumulate a painful knot of tears in your throat or join up with friends to bore them with your latest freak-out? Bush and I had a thing we’d say when one of us retired early. “Are you going to bed ’cause you’re tired or because you need to escape?” Escaping happens and it most always happens alone.
Things are different today. Ted’s in recovery, yes, and I’m also recovering. “Well you can do that because Ted is sober now.” He is, but in my 12-Step meetings I sit next to plenty of moms and dads whose adult children are still trashing their lives while their parents work to lovingly detach and find God’s will for themselves apart from the choices their loved ones are making. They’re getting better together. We’re getting better together. I’m getting better for sitting next to them and hearing them talk about how they’re working a solution and not a problem.
Blah, blah, blah, who hasn’t heard that we’re supposed to “do life” together? Turns out, especially in the highs and lows, that works. I’m taking a class on “Grief and Trauma” taught by Dan Green PhD who cited a study that after 9/11 all kinds of counseling resources were in place for New Yorkers but oddly enough they didn’t use or even need them. Why? Because they went through the crisis together; in line at coffee shops, at their business meetings, clubs, parties, and picking up kids at school. They talked about it, processed their experiences and consoled each other. They knew exactly how it felt to be that other person and motored on through grief with shoulder-to-shoulder strength.
Ah, so the same foundational success of 12-step programs. Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable, etc. Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…Give us this day our daily bread, etc. I trust that Jesus knows something about the human condition when he suggested we pray. I discovered it’s good to humble oneself and grab the hand next to you.
In the movie “Burnt*,” Bradley Cooper plays a sober addict top-level chef, struggling solo to achieve a goal in spite of his past. His sous chef friend Helene tells him, “We cook together. We take care of each other. You can’t do it alone. No one can. You have to trust us. We’re your family.” A helping professional suggests joining a group, “You can’t do it alone. There is strength in needing others, not weakness.” Not just for addicts wisdom.
Isolating wasn’t helpful for me. My Father didn’t make me to do it alone — I mean, Our Father.