Lately I feel like I've been given a lot of opportunities to prove my growth. I think my immediate rejection of an addict when faced with the reality of what was happening was a big one. Another recent one was a visceral 'yuck face' when my dad apologized for an inebriated transgression and punctuated it with "I'm sure at some point you can help to fix me."
Once upon a time that might have made me feel respected, or like I had purpose or like I was important in some way. But really... it's a really inappropriate thing to say to your daughter for a number of reasons. It implies that anyone can be "fixed" by someone other than themselves (you gotta do the work, I can't do it for you, nor should I). It also implies an imbalance of power and responsibility in the wrong direction for a parent-child relationship. Its just generally unhealthy and it made me think about how long I must have been hearing things like that (I have some hazy memories of playing shrink to my dad at a much younger age than I should have been to hear of his internal struggles) and internalizing them as normal. No wonder I had a penchant for trying to fix people until I did the work and fixed myself instead. My knee-jerk disgust at the suggestion tells me I've come a long way.
I'm getting more comfortable with gray area too. A trait of Adult Children of Alcoholics is black and white thinking. I have often been a fan of certainty. But lingering in the gray area of life has a certain kind of freedom that I'm coming to appreciate. Certainty seems safe but nothing is actually certain, so any subscription to it is just a comforting illusion anyway. It is still uncomfortable at times but it is the truth. In the spectrum of life, only the extreme margins are black and white. Maybe there's a really enjoyable sliver of life I have resisted experiencing because it was in the gray. Or maybe it's just uncomfortable and that's all there is to it. At least it's real and I'm not clinging to a conceptual security blanket.
When I left my marriage, I told him "I no longer self identify as codependent." (Funny-not-funny: he turned it around and told me he didn't self identify as an alcoholic...ha.) I had done a lot of work.. enough to recognize the toxicity of and walk away from a relationship that was harmful to me. I have come to learn, though, that it is a continual effort. Habits of thought and behavior are tough to change and while it is a major achievement to overcome the big hurdles of leaving the things behind that no longer serve us, it isn't one and done. I had braces when I was 12-14, and I thought I only had to wear my retainer for a little while. Nobody told me I basically had to wear it forever. So my teeth shifted back a little bit. Not all the way, but they're not perfectly straight. I think it's kind of like that. You have to continuously be conscious of potentially unhealthy habits of thought and behavior and constantly adjusting when necessary. Relentless self awareness.
I'm not sure if this is all coming across as disjointed or as a few non sequiturs, but they all connect for me. They're all part of the same thing. Do the work, recognize and reject dysfunction, and establish new a normal. It is exhausting but it is better than repeating the same mistakes over and over. While I do feel like I've done a lot of repeating mistakes, I see progress. My life is much tidier and peaceful than it once was. I think my biggest challenge right now is fear of willingly putting it to the test. So far I've been passing the quizzes life's tossed at me but.. to actively step into a situation that might risk that tidiness and peace is somewhat daunting.
So until then I can just coast in the gray area.