“Where belief is painful, we are slow to believe.” Ovid
Ever since my son died from a drug overdose, I’ve tried to get into the practice of telling the truth, getting honest with myself, and being forthcoming about how I am feeling. I didn’t do those things very well before he died, because I was in and out of denial of his addiction, and the dark path he was going down for a very long time. Denial protected me, until I had the emotional capability to cope with the reality that I had unrealistic expectations and inaccurate perceptions about my son’s disease.
Denial was both a blessing and a curse. It got me through traumatic situations, and at the same time it made me lose touch with myself and my feelings.
I thought maybe if I ignored the little voice inside my head that said this disease was far too big for me to fix, he could be magically cured with my help. I enabled his addiction without knowing I was hurting him, and tolerated things that were abnormal. It is this magical thinking which defines denial. The truth is what I denied or tolerated only delayed the inevitable. He might be okay (and so would I) while I paid his rent, found him a job, sent him to rehab, or bailed him out of jail, but only until his next relapse. Then, the rescuing cycle started all over again, and so did the insanity of it all.
I obsessively focused on my son’s pain to distract me from my own pain. Maybe if I danced fast enough, I wouldn’t remember what I’d lost. I’d lost so much; my marriage, my sense of normalcy, and the beautiful boy I used to have.
In time, I began the process of feeling what I had denied for so long. I had to stop making excuses, defending, and rationalizing his behavior. I had to “accept” the reality my son was a drug addict. It still pains me to say that to this day. I could love him, encourage him, stay close to him, but I couldn’t force him to recover. He had to do that by himself. I had my own journey of recovery to focus on, which was to disentangle myself from trying to control his life.
I feel embarrassed when I find myself again clouded by the fog of denial. After everything I’ve been through, I still have the propensity to hang onto denial, when I don’t want to face the truth.
Yes, the truth will set you free, but it will piss you off first.
It is unrealistic to think I am never going to experience another loss or any pain again, unless of course I am hiding out from my life. I want to live fully, and experience life in all its magnificence and its messiness. So, there are bound to be times when I fall back on denial in order to cope with discomfort. The difference is now I am aware of the danger signs of my magical thinking – confusion, feeling compulsive, not being honest with myself, dancing too fast, keeping secrets, and not confiding in friends and family.
We are all afraid of pain, but I believe it is exactly where we find the strength, wisdom and courage to become the people we need to be. It is in dealing with it honestly, we find out who we really are. It involves letting go of beliefs that hurt us in the end, and having the capacity to evolve. The experience is necessary, connected, and not at all a mistake, but a healing opportunity to be embraced.
The best thing I can do is to stay in the light, continue on my own spiritual journey of recovery, and reassure others there is a better place.
When I am not certain what my next step should be, I ask for guidance to help me let go of my fear, and then wait; giving myself the time I need. It may be a slow process emerging from denial, but it will free me of my unhealthy entanglements, and put me on the path to peace.
Mary Cucarola – March 4th, 2017