Friday, November 21, 2008

Voices from the past...the wonders of Facebook

I signed up on Facebook some time ago and have since been amazed at the number of people from my past, that I have managed to touch base with. In many ways, it has been a Godsend and has certainly shortened any search period that one might have gone through, in the years before it's coming into existence. Just about every week, someone finds me from my military past and brightens my life. Yet none of this could have prepared me for the 'Friend Request' I received, only yesterday.

Many years ago (say 1987), when I was still serving in the Navy and at the height of my professional drinking career, I met and subsequently married a woman who had certainly at least as many issues as I had. No surprises there, that's just the way it goes. Someone dysfunctional will never, ever be drawn to a healthy, normal human being. The very same as no normal, right-thinking person would ever hook up with someone with severe dysfunctions. It takes a special brand of insanity to do that. By the way, if you're wondering what the odds were, a survey conducted in the late 1970s suggested that at least 70% of the North American population suffered from one form of dysfunction or another. If anything, things are far worse these days. So basically, to be abnormal is 'normal'...

Be that as it may, during the brief period that we were together (some six years...), we had two children, a boy and a girl. When I began my program of recovery in 1990 (read: Alcoholics Anonymous), I began to grasp and practise a new and sane way of thinking. My folks were not bad people when I was growing up, but I came to recognize that their parenting skills were only those that they obtained from their parents, and so on. It's simply the way it was back then. In all fairness, is still the way it's done today. Parents are just as clueless these days, despite all the good material that is out there. But they are also far more permissive today than they were in my day. At the very least we were taught to mind our elders and respect our parents and others. Today it seems everyone wants to be their child's best friend, nobody wants to be the parent. It comes then as no surprise, that we have children killing people and generally believing that they are untouchable in the eyes of the law.

But I digress... Logic (and any decent program of recovery...) dictates that if a dysfunctional person wants to get better, they shouldn't hang with other dysfunctional people who aren't trying to do likewise. Just as if you want to stop drinking, you shouldn't hang around in bars... I had spent the first few years of my recovery, working on myself. It then occurred to me that I would have to work on my surroundings. It happened when I was living in a bucolic locale in Nova Scotia, by the name of Porter's Lake. In the program of A.A., there is something called The Serenity Prayer. I had been sitting out on the back deck, looking out over the lake and reciting this prayer to myself, as I attempted to deal with the mounting turmoil within me. Call it a prayer, call it a mantra... it is there to refocus us on the task at hand and remind us of what we do and do not have control over in our daily lives. It goes as follows:

God grant me the Serenity
to Accept the things that I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things that I can
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

One of the very first things you learn to accept and believe, is that as individuals, we hold no power whatsoever over people, places or things. None... So anyone who has ever gotten into a relationship thinking: "he/she is not a bad person, but I can change them...", you're only deluding yourself. You are no more capable of changing another human being, than you are capable of changing the tides. If we have no control over such variables in our life, what then do we have control over? The answer to that is simplicity itself.

Since we cannot change anything in our world, we have to accept that the only thing we can influence change over, is the way we choose to interact with it. Whether it be people, places or things. In other words, you can change nothing but yourself. My continued progress in my recovery would require that I remove myself from where I was, away from the remaining dysfunction which surrounded me. It was this very same sense of self-preservation which would lead me to leave the Navy entirely, in the fall of 1996. Not long before we decided to go ahead and get married, I pretty much agreed to her mother moving in with us. Her mother... the source of many of her own dysfunctional issues. So at the time I arrived at my decision, there was no lack of dysfunction surrounding me. And so I left, in 1994.

The divorce was bitter and financially crippling. Her lawyer did a fine job of portraying me as an individual who was soon to join the ranks of the local Hell's Angels chapter (based on my interest in motorcycling and despite a successful career in the military). The judge, a woman who had garnered a well-deserved reputation as an unabashed man-hater within the legal community of Halifax-Dartmouth, had no problems getting onboard with these fictitious tales and rendered a decision which was devoid of both justice and reason. My ex was awarded sole custody of our children and I was cut off from them, with the able assistance of the courts themselves. I was reduced to a meal ticket. A decision, I might add, which continues to impact my financial well-being to this very day. Over time, I lost contact with them altogether and they eventually moved to parts unknown. For my own survival, I left the province in 2000 and settled here in Ottawa, where my two eldest daughters reside.

Some fifteen years later, I am approached on Facebook by not only my ex-wife, but my daughter as well. No word yet from my son, but I intend on finding out news of him as well. I was floored by this unannounced visitation. I could feel some of the old bitterness rising inside me, but I decided to put it aside. My daughter has grown into a beautiful young woman, who now resides in Michigan. Neither she or my son had anything to do with any of this. It is my hope that we might yet rebuild some of what was torn apart, all those many years ago. As for my ex-wife, I feel no ill will towards her. I am hopeful that this contact might signal some sort of willingness to end this particular financial burden, as both children are at or past the age of majority. Was my decision back then the right one? It probably depends on whom you ask. As far as my recovery goes, I now have eighteen years of continuous sobriety under my belt (06 June). To me, that is answer enough. For without my sobriety, as a recovering alcoholic, I have nothing.

Nobody ever said life was easy...or simple.

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