So, a looming work trip to Seattle became an opportunity for me to change my scenery. At first, I was worried with Jeff in rehab, I shouldn't be leaving the house, burdening someone else with caring for my life, and felt guilty I was able to escape to freedom. I contemplated cancelling the trip, again allowing his illness to continue to have control over my life in a way that is inappropriate. Could I do anything differently at home? Would traveling interfere with taking his phone calls due to the work obligations and the time change from Chicago to Seattle? So what if it did? An unhealthy, co-dependency continues to exists, even as we both try to move into recovery. So, instead of giving up this trip as I would have in the past because I let Jeff's problems direct my life (which I have continually confused with "my problems"), I decided to look at this as a great chance to escape my “life” for the time being and to put things in perspective.
But more importantly, why did I care so much about the implications of the trip? Jeff is in a safe place, learning how to deal with his issues, illness, and alcoholism. Continuing to provide that gentle reassurance, proving that I will always be there to pick up the pieces, or the phone, shouldn't be my drive right now. My drive should be to allow him the space he needs to learn about himself, to learn to be alone, and to allow myself the same respect and dignity. The only reason I felt anxiety and guilt was that I feel like it is my duty to be there for him. In some ways, I feel light years ahead, but when I recognize the continuance of old patterns, I feel silly. I still have a long way to grow.
The hardest thing on this trip wasn’t NOT talking to Jeff; it was the times when I did manage to connect with him. Several days went by where we weren't able to talk, and it was in some ways, a relief for me. I could pretend to be someone else for awhile, I could enjoy my life without worry or consequence. I needed that break right now. I love Jeff , but being in the thick of this tangled underbrush with him can sometimes be a lot to handle and to process. I feel when I am on the phone with him that sometimes it is a parent checking up in a parent teacher conference. I can still feel him building up his wins and brushing aside his losses. I still see that eagerness to please, that childlike desire to make someone proud. Because if he does a good job, in his mind, that will make him worth something. This trip was the necessary perspective I needed to start identifying those patterns so I can do my part to break them.
I am in no way saying that I want out of the maze that is the life I lead. But I think without distance, separation, or time for individual reflection, I would have had a difficult time making this large and important connection to understand my life and needs. And if we have any chance of breaking this unhealthy bond we share, it's important we take the time to not use each other as crutches.