So, the other night, I came home from a meeting and felt a little drained. No, to be completely honest, a bit more than drained. I felt downright frustrated. Some of the conversations I had with folks had left me feeling a bit weighed down.
The struggle that brought me to the party of recovery is codependency. Therefore, I work hard at not owning other people’s problems, drama and attitudes. But sometimes, even exposure to it can leave me a bit sunburned.
One such issue that keeps bubbling up time and again is the issue of amends and forgiveness. There are few intact, strong, growing relationships in recovery circles. Many of the attendees that show up are either single or without their significant other, either because the partner doesn’t think they have a problem, or the partner is a part of the problem. Another interesting phenomenon is the couple that manages to stay together and goes to meetings together, however they still circle each other with guilt and distrust for months, or sometimes years, even after completing their step work.
As someone who worked a program apart from their partner who also worked a program, I can confidently state a few things. If either one of us had not completed our recovery program, we would have surely divorced. Also, if either one of us had been unable to complete the forgiveness and amends steps, we would have divorced. The chasm of hurt and suffering would have been too great to live in the same house with, and out of respect for the friendship we once felt for each other, we couldn’t go on hurting each other in such a way. Yet today, I continue to see couples in recovery refuse to complete a full cycle of forgiveness and amends with their partner. I wonder to myself, why stay together in suspicion and guilt? Why continue to wonder when they’re going to screw you over again? This is not the partnership that brings joy to our hearts and shows a hurting world what the love of Christ is all about. This is a prison sentence.
But the steps offer us a parole, actually a complete pardon. The bible talks about the fact that God does not remember our sin, and in fact separates it as far as the east is from the west. Now, as humans living in a broken world, it isn’t quite that easy, but the tools of recovery give us a road map to get it done, if we are willing. Sucking down the poison of unforgiveness and waiting for our partner to feel the pain of the wrongs they did us will never profit us anything. So, let’s kick that idea to the curb in favor of something that will bring joy, peace and love back in to our hearts and pull our relationship back together.
If your partner is working their recovery, has made a full amends to you and you are struggling with it, then it is something for you to work on. Yes, take responsibility for your hurt feelings. What they did, how they acted, even the fact that they are owning it hurts, but if you are to stay and make a new start, then you must process through it and move past it at some point. If what is shared is a complete deal breaker for you, then be honest about it. Own it. Don’t play the victim. You always have walk-away power. However, remember that everyone messes up, including you, so before you throw in the towel, make sure you know what you’re doing and have consulted with trusted advisers and friends.
But for those of us that have stayed, in the face of people that told us what our deal breakers should be, I must share with you that no one can make those calls for us. I know intimately what my deal breakers are. In the meantime, I choose joy, love and forgiveness… total, complete and genuine. There is no other way to walk this out. If I tried some half-hearted “yeah, sure I forgive” but didn’t mean it, you could totally tell. I would take pot-shots and be snarky as hell to my partner…because you can only fake liking someone for so long if you haven’t really accepted their amends and extended forgiveness.
Nope, besides, bitterness and being resentful causes wrinkles. Choose joy.
Love you guys.