Monday, September 12, 2005

When faced with a decision

I woke up this morning faced with decision of whether to visit my stepfather or not. My choice was to visit him or go to India for two months and worry that he might die while I was gone and leave me feeling that I’d made the wrong choice by choosing to continue my silence.
The program teaches me to face each day the decisions that lie before me. This one was a little bigger one than whether to clean the house or goof off all day. I looked the decision in the face and wrote down a number of truths about the situation, then I prayed for clarity. I went to an Al-Anon meeting and the reading there was about the Three A’s – Awareness, Acceptance and Action. I spoke frankly with the group about my dilemma and several of them lauded me for my courage to face the issue of my abuse at all. But one gentleman, Charley, spoke directly to me. “I’m very familiar with the situation you are in. I did make the visit and he did die two days after I left. I’ll never regret that I did it.” I shared that I didn’t know what I was going to say, but that I had turned the whole issue over to my HP and felt compelled to make the trip, and had faith that whatever needed to be said and felt would be there. Charley said he also didn’t know what he wanted to say either … and in fact he didn’t have to say a word, his father brought it up. “I just gave him the dignity of listening.” That’s exactly what I needed to hear. By the time I left the Al-Anon meeting I had the clarity I needed and I expressed thanks to God for that. I came home and got ready and left.

So many people, including Charley, have said, “You don’t owe that bastard a thing.” And every one of them is right. But in my heart, the person I am, being bitter and resentful and spiteful feels contrary to my purpose. I have only recently realized that I can follow my own heart without condoning someone else's bad decisions. I will never accept what my father did to me as a child and then later as a young adult as right. It was horribly wrong. But for me to use it to hurt myself over and over again is no longer his wrong -- but my own. I realized that I needed to visit my dad, not for him, but for me. I needed to show love where there had been none and give him the dignity of saying whatever he had to say Above all I needed to tell him that despite it all … I love him. And that’s the truth. I needed to be honest with him and give him the opportunity to be honest with me, and then I needed to be done.

I felt at peace as I drove the hour and a half, and when I reached there, there was a bit of tension in the air, but within 10 minutes my HP presented the opportunity for me to talk to my dad alone. He was showing me an addition he had built onto the house and before we left that area, I asked him to sit down so we could talk. I asked him how he was doing and he expressed his true concerns for his health. He said he was dreading the prostate surgery and that his lungs were not working very well, but it was only through continuing to work on projects around the house that he could keep going. I didn’t feel pity for him or sadness. I just listened, as one caring adult to another. And then I said, “Daddy, I just came here today to tell you that I love you.” He said, “I know that. I never questioned it. I love you too.” I paused so that if he wanted to say anything else he could, and he didn’t. But, I wasn’t disappointed. I had said what I went to say, and I went without expectation of him, what he said was inconsequential. I didn’t need anything from him anymore. I had released, in my decision to go there and express my love, all the need that I have had of him for so long – all my need for approval, all my need for love, all my need for him to be a father, all my need to forgive him. Now I see him as a man, who has been sick with the very real and difficult disease of sexual addiction and obsession for a long time. I owe him nothing. He owes me nothing. I am me. He is him.

I am finished using what happened to me as a child as an excuse for what is happening to me as an adult. I am finished blaming the past on the decisions I make today. I knowingly went to see my father today, and from this day forward what I do, I will do with keen awareness. I will make mistakes and I am still an addict who has to be ever vigilant and committed to my program. But the decisions I make will be mine; there will be no buffer, no excuse. If I decide to screw up, it will be because I decided to screw up, not because I am the victim of childhood abuse. My addict will play its role in my life, but I have the tools, and the HP to keep that in check. If I choose not to use those things, that is my choice, not a result of being a victim.

I don’t intend to have a relationship with my father or really my sister (who I also saw today). I won’t ignore them if they call, but I won’t run from them or toward them either. If they disturb me, I will set boundaries. If I want to see them, or my niece and nephews, I will do that without hesitation. But I will feel no obligation toward them again. I released that today.

I have also decided that I will no longer lie about my abuse. I will not make a bold announcement, or an announcement period. I will protect my own privacy. But if someone asks me if I was abused, I will straightforwardly say yes. My past has helped to shape my present, but I will no longer let it dictate my future. I will not be ashamed, and if I am, I will demand honesty of myself.

I cannot express in words the peace I feel today. Serenity – which I have ask for – has come to me.

1 comment:

Gus Paul said...

This is harrowing stuff, Rae... Can't say more than that really.