“Let it begin with me. When anyone anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of Al-Anon and Al-Ateen to always be there, and for that I am responsible.” – – Al-Anon/Alateen declaration.
There is an old riddle that asks the question, “What kind of insurance does a co-dependent person buy, and the answer is “my fault insurance.” Translation: co-dependent types can sometimes take on more responsibility for situations than they really are responsible for. I was involved in a minor car accident last night, hopped out of my car and (at least internally) claimed full responsibility for it. Ironically, I was on the way to my Al-Anon meeting. After the meeting was over I chatted with a gentleman who suggested that I make sure to tell my insurance agent all details of the accident. After I basically told him “Why would I NOT do that?” he advised me that in his experience he has friends who have had car accidents who have taken on more responsibility than needed. “We’re wired that way,” he said. After I started re-playing the accident as I remembered it, I began to question if my original perception may have a chink or two in its dented armor.
I feel awful. I’m doing my best to combat shame spirals. I’ve taken the day off work to try to sort everything out. The young lady driving the van I collided with told me she just got her vehicle. Ouch. Not only that, it may be time for me to do a 4th step around driving. I just had an at-fault accident three years ago which just got dropped from my insurance policy. And I have had one in the not too distant past. I do believe I’ve set a pattern in motion. It has not yet been determined whether or not I’m entirely at fault. So I may be jumping the gun, but a 4th step may be a good idea regardless of the outcome of this accident.
12-Step groups provide an amazing (and free) program for self-scrutiny. But as stated earlier, co-dependents (I’m a member in good standing of that club) can often take on too much. I remember an author I really liked named Jess Lair, a former psychology professor at the University of Minnesota. I don’t remember a whole lot from his books other than the titles (“I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got,” “Ain’t I A Wonder, And Aint You A Wonder Too”) and a recurrent phrase in both books of his that I read: “If it’s wrong, I did it.” I don’t remember what context it was used in, but today it describes a pretty dysfunctional place I sometimes visit. Gratefully, a fellow Al-Anon member pulled me out of it last night.
I was the five minute speaker for my Al-Anon group last night. I was still a bit shaken as I talked on the 11th step, and probably gave out way more personal information than I needed to. Our stories disclose in a general way, y’know? I think what I’m feeling currently is embarrassment from what I said in addition to useless shame garbage that is flaring up.
The inner storm is gently subsiding. I had a calm conversation with the other driver this morning, and I just talked with my insurance agent who will file a claim. While the guilty party can’t be determined by him, he did provide some interesting insight. I told him I was trying to enter the right lane from where I was at last night, definitely had my blinker on, and then felt that sickening “crunch” of metal on metal. Right after I said that, my agent countered with “Yeah, people are really hard-pressed to let you into a lane these days.” That didn’t make me feel like a million bucks, but he got me closer to $50. Maybe $75. I’ve done my part other than talking to an adjuster so the result of our little fender-bender is out of my hands. And I am okay with any outcome. And I am eternally grateful to my friend last night who kind of reminded me of Robin Williams at the end of “Good Will Hunting,” when he tells the lead character “It’s not your fault.” So maybe it’s our fault. We shall see.
My attendance at Al-Anon meetings over the years has been sporadic, thus I don’t know a whole lot of people very well. A former sponsor challenged me on my unavailability. We soon parted ways (What did he expect me to do? Become healthy?) but for various reasons. When I was speaking last night I felt really vulnerable as I opened up. Without question, this is about as non-judgemental a group of people there ever was or will be. I still felt like I was under a microscope. And it didn’t help that several of my attempts at humor were greeted by crickets. Even so, I’ve long been an advocate of people taking a step or telling their story while in the midst of a storm. To me, that truly is testament to a person working their program. And their courage. So there’s that.
On the latter topic, I was at an Al-Anon event two Saturdays ago and was in the process of asking a gentleman to be a speaker at an upcoming Uptown Pin Night, when a friend of his walked by. She asked “How is your wife?” The gentleman casually answered “Oh, she passed.” I had no idea. I asked him when she passed and he said “Last night.” Good lord. He had tears in his eyes as he added the date to his calendar. He had no problem saying yes. His wife was well known in St.Paul recovery circles, and she was very loved as well as revered for her wisdom. So is he. I’m very much looking forward to hearing his story, as I have not up til now. And to comfort a peer, and tell him how much he has impacted my life. And to offer consolation. And for that I am responsible.