Grief, whether caused by alcoholism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), or a bad breakup, has many lessons to teach. Here's what I've learned.
by Jane D.
The apartment is now silent and void of laughter. A weekend ago it was packed with catching up with my friend Jane II who has proven to be a gem. Maybe it is the number of years on her, or maybe it is the acute pain from losing her husband whom she thinks of everyday, but she's been there for me since the earth opened up and swallowed my love life, imparting what she knows of dealing with loss.
"In the end you need to do what is best for yourself, you can only help yourself," is the mantra she repeats.
In the continued search for how to stay afloat after my breakup with the Boyfriend, I take her advice -- to help myself -- and the suggestion of another friend -- an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) adult who regularly attends Alcoholics-Anonymous (AA) meetings to cope.
The friend said she found the 12-step program, the bread and butter of AA, can be applied to anyone with a mental health disorder or addictive tendencies. The basic premise of the 12-step process to overcoming alcohol addiction is acceptance of one's condition and having a willingness to tackle it and a willingness to surround oneself with people committed to making changes for the better.
Ever since she suggested it, I've been itching to attend, perhaps to find inspiration, hope, and affirmation that despite the facades people present, beneath flesh and blood and dress, we all have issues.
So two Sundays ago I slipped into the basement of a church where an AA meeting was being held. It was packed with people from all walks of life, ranging from their early 20s to their 70s or higher. I sat in the back of the room, trying hard, per the code of the group, to remain anonymous.
There was the woman in her early 30s who spoke of finding herself in rehab, not for the first time, three months after getting married. She ended up getting a divorce a year and a half later, and she said she continues to piece her life together by attending a meeting everyday and by sticking with her sponsor.
A fellow in his 60s talked candidly about the disease that ruined his marriage and the relationship with his grown son. The trick to overcoming disease is patience, he said. "It took a long time for you to get sick and it's going to take a long time for you to get better. You are here because you have a disease."
I don't know why I found myself holding back tears, why the stories hit a nerve. Perhaps it was simply knowing that I am not alone. One person's broken heart, is another person's untreated ADHD, is another person's trying to stay afloat in this jungle of a city where stability seems like a fantasy.
When you listen, truly listen, to people's stories, you hear their insecurities, anxiety, fears, the lessons they've learned, and the lessons they have to teach.
In the month plus since the Boyfriend walked out, it has become painfully clear as to the lessons I have learned. Here are a few:
· The value of patience.
· If a person cannot offer an answer I want to hear, no amount of pushing will help.
· I should never turn my life and schedule around for someone else, even if I am head-over-heels.
· I should practice self-control and give me and my partner the space we both deserve.
· I should have trusted myself more. Period. After all, I am a great catch.
· In deciding whether to mention the ADD/ADHD to a person I'm dating, I should either talk about it outright with greater confidence, or wait to reveal it at a later stage, after a partner has truly earned it. There is a time for everything.
· I know there is much work to be done to heal from this breakup - but I need to move on. There is always a better tomorrow.
After the AA meeting, I returned to the apartment, opened my e-mail inbox, and found the following advice from a close friend -- almost a three-step process to my personal recovery, which I will now leave with you:
1. Short-term pain is long-term gain.
2. Agony prolonged between two people who once dated is in vain, unless both parties see the need to seek help and take actions in doing so.
3. A wrecked car will be damaged until, and unless, repaired by experts; even at that, the car will not be as good as it once was.