In my last post, I talked about estrangement that results from people unwilling to accept the changes in us once we begin recovery. However, estrangement often begins before we begin recovery. It can be the reason we enter recovery.
For example, a relationship might end—a romantic relationship, a friendship, even an employment relationship—because we acted codependent, controlling, manipulative, or our addictions resulted in the other person rejecting us. Sometimes we know it is our fault the relationship ended. At other times, we may not understand why the other person rejected us. We may feel guilt, confusion, low self-esteem, even suicidal because we feel the other person’s opinion of us and our need to be with that person are so important that we cannot handle the estrangement that follows.
At this time, we most need to enter recovery—either that or we are risked with facing years of a broken heart or becoming a stalker and making the situation worse. We may begin recovery believing we can “fix” whatever it is about ourselves that made the other person reject us. We may find the estrangement from that person to be painful, but we accept it for a short while as we work on ourselves. We might tell ourselves that in thirty days, six months, or at Christmas, we will contact that person, show him or her we have changed, and then the person will take us back. We may even misconstrue what it means to make amends to people. We may eventually contact the person because Step 9 of the Twelve-Step Anonymous programs tells us to make amends. Only, Step 9 also says that we make amends “except when to do so would injure them or others.” We must think long and hard about that condition before making amends. Otherwise, we may make matters worse. Yes, we can go overboard with making amends. We can become obsessed with our need for forgiveness.
We hope for a happy ending, but it is just as likely that the estrangement will continue. We send a letter, we make a phone call, we write an email. The other person does not pick up the phone, does not write or call back. We find forgiveness is not going to be forthcoming. We feel near unbearable pain over the loss, but eventually, we realize there is no point in continuing to try to reach that other person. We have apologized. We have left the door open. It is up to him or her to reenter our lives. We remember we cannot force them.
Slowly, we realize that while the other person may never say, “I forgive you,” our obsession with needing to make amends is based in our own shame. Slowly, we learn that we must forgive ourselves for our faults. We do this by continuing to work our recovery program, by continuing to make progress, by learning from our mistakes and not repeating them. We forgive ourselves. We can continue to hold that other person in our hearts with love, but most importantly, we learn to love ourselves.
We find that we do not need that other person in order to live a happy, fulfilling life. We stop blocking other positive relationships from our lives by focusing solely on the estranged person. We make new friends. We do better this time around. We attract healthy relationships with other people.
We find that at that low point when we became estranged from a loved one, that we actually were estranged from our own well-being. Now we are reconnected with our true and better self.
Irene Watson, MA, is author of The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the Difference, and co-editor of The Story that Must Be Told: True Tales of Transformation, and Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers. She is a workshop leader, managing editor of Reader Views, and president of a non-profit Higher Power Foundation. Irene lives next to Barton Creek in Austin, TX, with her husband Robert.