When I was first introduced to recovery and the 12 Steps, I was convinced they would not work for me. Then I finally asked a person who could lead me through the actions suggested by the Steps and found some willingness to proceed from her enthusiasm.
I could not imagine a day without fear. I was not sure that I could or would be able to stay in my relationship with Bill. We had been through so much. I met him in 1965 when I was 20 years old and almost immediately we began living together. Our great adventure had begun. We wanted to create a true artistic partnership but there were no blueprints for this type of relationship at the time. The closest thing we could find was the artist who married a good little woman and she helped him to achieve success at the cost of her own artistic ambitions. We knew that wouldn’t work for us but I was extremely dependent on him to fulfill my every need and desire, and to pull me into exciting and dangerous behavior. I loved it but it didn’t quite go along with the partnership we had envisioned. I remember the first time I actually thought, “I probably could go on living if he left me.” What a radical idea! I had always felt like a Victorian heroine who would just retire to bed and die of a broken heart. How romantic, how silly, how ridiculous!
We married in 1981, after fifteen years of living together. We had purchased our dream studio in the mountains. We were making a living as artists. During the next ten years, as our dependency on drugs and alcohol escalated, my dependency took a rather aggressive and domineering turn as I attempted to control everything to make my world safe.
After the intervention to address Bill’s alcoholism, I had to make a choice. He jumped into his recovery with such enthusiasm, it scared me and I resisted the idea that I could possibly change my own behavior and attitudes. It took me nearly three months to finally admit that I might have a behavior and addiction problem myself and I could seek help in the program by asking someone to guide me in performing the actions suggested in the 12 Steps.
As I began the self-searching required by the process of the Steps, I encountered some truly revolutionary ideas: That I had a part in the way my life was unfolding—that I had played the victim over and over, expecting others to do for me what I refused to do for myself—that I did not have to be right all the time—that I have the right to be wrong and to take responsibility for myself and my actions—that my experiences could be of help to others who did not know that there was a way out of the trap of addiction and low self-esteem—that if I wanted self-esteem, I should do something esteemable (if that be a word).
It seemed very difficult and I asked my mentor again and again, “Yeah but, will I still be in this relationship with Bill when I finish this work?” She would reply, “I don’t know, but I do know if you do the 12 Steps with honesty and willingness, you will be happy—no matter what happens.”
As I progressed through the Steps, I began to change; to take responsibility for myself. The simple actions suggested by the Steps led me to have an understanding of myself without self-pity that I had never experienced before, a true acceptance of who and what I really am, followed by a sincere attempt to become what I could be. I could not imagine telling the truth in a direct and honest manner. I could not imagine a day without fear. Yet it happened for me.
Today I have been able to stay in my relationship with Bill because of the practice of the spiritual principles contained in the 12 Steps for the past nineteen years. Instead of bringing out the worst in each other we are able to bring the will to enable our individual paths to spiritual growth. We have been able to face this cancer diagnoses together and “Be the gift” in the face of difficult, painful experiences.
Remember, this is the great adventure!
I love you all…..no exceptions