I’ve spent many years worrying — assuming, really — that various people hated me for some of the things I’ve done. This year, I’ve been realizing what a waste of worry it’s been.
By definition — my definition, anyway — OCD is worry out of control. You worry about all kinds of things beyond your control while failing to do something about the few things that you can control. Along the way, if you’re like me, you seek comfort from those concerns in whatever substances you happen to be addicted to.
I was reminded of all this during yesterday morning’s OA meeting. During the part where everyone can get up and share, me and two others focused on this peculiarity of our condition.
One woman shared about how she thought her brother had been badly hurt all these years over an incident where she smeared blueberries across his face when they were kids. She’s worried about it all these years, and recently told him she was sorry. He chuckled and reminded her that he smeared something on her first. She didn’t remember that.
Another woman shared that on the night of her senior prom, she was so full of insecurity that she took off without even saying goodbye to her date. Surely, she thought all these years, the incident must have devastated the poor guy. She recently contacted him to apologize, and he didn’t remember being hurt. All he remembered was that the senior prom was one of the best nights of his life.
As addicts, we have a very exaggerated perception of how people look at us. But, as this woman noted, “We’re just another bozo on the bus.”
I spent many years assuming that Sean Marley‘s widow hated me over something I did right after his death. A couple months ago we reconnected on Facebook and I sent her a note about how sorry I was. She sent a note back. I won’t share the contents, but let’s just say she hasn’t hated me all these years.
Last week I remembered something shitty I did to a co-worker a decade ago, and I’ve wondered in the past week if she has hated me for it. She has every right to. I guess I won’t know until I contact her to make amends.
All this comes back to three of the 12 Steps of Recovery that remain the thorns of my existence:
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 9 has been especially vexing. There are some folks I can’t make amends with yet, though Lord knows I’ve tried.
I feel especially pained about my inability to heal the rift with my mother and various people on that side of the family. But it’s complicated. Very complicated. I’ve forgiven her for many things, but our relationship is like a jigsaw puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. Those pieces have a lot to do with boundaries and OCD triggers. It’s as much my fault as it is hers. But right now this is how it must be.
I wish I could make amends with the Marley family, but I can’t until they’re willing to accept that from me. I stabbed them in the gut pretty hard, so I don’t blame them one bit.
Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with people deep in my past and, while the need to make amends doesn’t always apply and the relationships can never be what they were, all have helped me heal.
I recently got back in touch with two of my brother’s friends — John Edwards and Scott Epler. They were my friends as well, but they were always the older kids. Scott and I both lost a brother in 1984, and he had a hard road to travel like I did. But I found him alive and well, doing great things with his life.
Last time I saw Edwards was at Sean Marley’s funeral. I always assumed he was angry with me, too. He had good reason to be. When he went into the military and Sean and I were being anti-military (in my case because I was a chicken shit, afraid of service and the danger attached), I was a real asshole to him. He’s a minister now, and I’ve gotten a lot of wisdom from him already. I’m loving the reconnection.
Getting back in touch with Shannon Ross Lazzaro has been a gift as well. She’s one of those people who was always part of the Point of Pines circle I existed in. She was close to my brother and was still part of the family after he died. She’s now in Atlanta and has two precious kids of her own.
Mary Anastasio I met through Sean, and she never really went away. But in the past year we’ve had a lot more to talk about. She often reads this blog and tells me I’m too hard on myself, though I don’t try to be. I used to have a Thanksgiving Eve tradition where I’d go to her house and shoot the breeze with her mom. Her mom had a heavy Irish accent and all the word color you would expect with that. One of my favorite lines from her was that Mary “could use a good blow” — Irish-speak for a slap in the face. I can’t remember what Mary did to get that response, but we laughed hard, and I still do. Now Mary lives in Revere with a great husband and son. Her husband, Vinny, is a biker type, exactly the kind of guy I expected her to marry. I say that as a compliment.
Then there’s Sean’s widow. She’s remarried with kids and has done a remarkable job of pushing on with her life. She dropped out of my world for nearly 14 years — right after Sean’s death — until recently.
It’s funny how we spend years thinking about people from the past and how we may have impacted their lives for good or ill.
Sometimes, it turns out we did hurt someone and need to make amends.
Other times, it turns out we just have an overdeveloped sense of our own importance.
I’m working hard to understand the difference.