The past five days have been spent in a wonderful atmosphere of growth, love and support. It has been a retreat of sorts - not in the strict sense understood by Catholics. Rather, I have been connecting primarily with people who have the same overall goal as me; that being to grow in love and service.
Part of this time has been spent attending a Lenten Mission at my parish. The mission this year is being offered by a Dominican priest, Father Emmerich Vogt, O.P, who is a big proponent of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps of Al-Anon Family Groups. His website, 12-Step Review.org, is a wonderful resource for those who approach their recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction or the need to be right and a perpetual martyr with a Christian spirituality.
Father used a phrase he learned from his time in Al-Anon that I had not heard before: Learn to detach from unacceptable behavior, don't amputate.
What does that mean?
I went to the Hazeldon Betty Ford website and found this:
Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means being responsible for our own welfare and making decisions without ulterior motives-the desire to control others. (emphasis added).
Because I have found my recovery in a program that deals with my disease, I look for how these kinds of phrases and bits of wisdom can fit into my program. The emphasis for me has always been on using all that is available to me in my program - steps, traditions and concepts - and so I thought carefully over the last few days about the idea of detaching rather than amputation and how that fits into the overall grand scheme of things. I have considered the spiritual principles behind tradition 5 and tradition 4 and I have looked at how my first (hurt) instinct is always to amputate rather than simply detach. I also realized, when exploring this concept, that I usually do not chose to amputate and I wondered why.
I don't think it is because I am particularly mature or spiritually fit. So what's the deal?
Most of the people I know use amputation. I have often been tempted to do the same but with very few exceptions have chosen NOT to take that step. The few times I have had to outright move someone completely out of my life it is because of a threat to my family rather than any kind of threat to me. I do not live alone. I must consider the safety, peace and well being of those with whom I share a home and a life. If someone's behavior causes distress to, say, my mother or even to someone who doesn't share a home with me but is in my family then I will block them, unfriend them, or whatever them as a way to honor the love I have for my family. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had to take this action. It is almost always a last resort.
However, in complete honesty, the fact that I have not done this more often is no great testimony to my mental health. Nor is it any kind of shining example of how I practice Catholicism. I don't do it because (quite frankly) I don't have a lot of friends and I don't want to lose the ones I have. Therefore I put up with a LOT (in my opinion, of course) from the ones I have and usually I do so with the understanding that they are putting up with a LOT from me too. I figure, 'oh what the heck' and let a lot slide. When I don't let something slide and one of them gets their tail pulled because of a something I have done I fight it out and then let it go. Everyone is entitled to be an ass once in awhile - including me - so I don't see that as a reason to end relationships.
Perhaps it is because I have been such an ass so many times that I am willing to cut people a lot of slack. Maybe it is because I have the example of my mother and all the hell she put up with from my father, me and my brother and her consistent love. It could be the fantastic and steady message of love from sponsorship offered in my 12 step program that has given me the ability to grow into who I am now while acknowledging I have a lot of growing up to do.
Whatever the reason, I am glad I have usually chosen detachment over amputation. I pray that my reason for that choice become more mature and reasonable. Meanwhile, I am grateful for those who have and those who have not amputated me.
You have all taught me so much.