Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Don't Accept Guilt...

A recovery friend of mine was surprised at her reaction to her ex-spouse’s death from cancer when he was only 52. She plunged into a depression for a few days and said she’d felt a rush of feelings she hadn’t expected. To add to the confusion, her former in-laws attempted to blame her for his death because she’d divorced him.

In recovery, the emotion of loss has the potential to interfere with our sobriety. Maybe we won’t relapse, but we certainly might not enjoy the serenity and peace we’ve come to expect in our sobriety.

As she talked of her feelings about his death she said she had good memories from some of their years together. She wondered if I’d experienced similar feelings about a former mate – which I had.

I shared with her that when I was divorced seven years ago many people were much angrier at my ex-wife than I was. They berated her and told me that it was good that I was away from that “bitch.” But I side-stepped those bashing sessions because at one time I loved this person enough to marry her. The fact that we drifted apart - or lost our fascination for one another - didn’t make the former spouse a horrible person. People grow apart, develop different interests, lose motivation and go through other changes. It’s called life.

We’d be less than human if could simply erase all memories of the other person because we’d suffered the pain of divorce.

As to those who are angry over their loved one’s death their reaction is expected. People seem to often experience exaggerated emotion in the presence of illness or death.

I told my friend she shouldn’t accept the guilt they attempted to thrust on her for “causing” his cancer. If she had that kind of power then she might have the ability to cure the disease - an equally bizarre idea.