“We are on a very rich emotional and physical
journey on this planet”~Melody Beattie.
Mother Nature has one hell of a temper. There is something very primal about a thunderstorm. Those dark grey menacing clouds, the shocking flashes of lightning, the thunderous rumblings. When the trees limbs start to do the nae-nae (watch me whip!) you know you are in for it. Most of us know the signs and run for cover. If possible, we climb back into bed, covers up to our chins and listen to the drumming of the rain from the safety of our castle. Unless of course you are supposed to get to work on time despite weather and pestilence and rumors of war!
There are those who see the signs and try to get up close and personal. I remember many years ago during Hurricane Andrew, the ER I was working in had already closed down (even the police and fire rescue had been ordered to stay off the streets). I was astonished that one of the physicians decided to get in her (yes, she was a woman) SUV and go off and see what she could see. Despite our pleas and warnings, off she went. We should not have been surprised. She was a surgeon, had succeeded in a very competitive field, and as a Haitian-American female, she must have been used to going against the grain.
We are amused by weather reporters who seem to delight in getting drenched and battered by all manner of inclemencies, letting their dignity be torn to shreds on live TV. But it is the amateurs who fascinate me, those who risk life and limb for no reason other than feeling the rush of getting a close look at the magnificence of a twister, of feeling that unpredictable power. The ER itself can be an unpredictable storm, and I remember the adrenaline rush of trying to be everywhere at the same time. It was addictive.
What is it about addiction? There is both a physical and a psychological component to the process. Neurochemicals rush in anticipation of pleasure, and that rush is so sweet that it overwhelms the will to stop, even when the consequences threaten health, home and family. I have a friend who has likened the attraction of feeding the addiction to twister chasing. You are standing safely inside your home, watching the tornado, thinking you are safe, but what would it be like to get a little bit closer? Surely if you just open the door for a little peek, you’ll still be safe. And so you open the door. Surely if you just stand out on the porch, you’ll be safe, after all, the tornado is way over there. But it is so awesome, so exciting, so mesmerizing that you go a little closer, and a little closer, perhaps if I could just touch it…And next thing you know you are hanging upside down in a tree.
The disease of addiction doesn’t just harm the storm chaser. There is a name given to those who spend time with an addict, who enable them in their addictions: Co-dependents. For co-dependents, the addict is their tornado. And just like the addict, the co-dependent believes they can control the tornado. Surely if I love him enough, I can help him through this. Unfortunately what the co-dependent fails to realize is that they are in just as much trouble as the addict. The need to control, and fix, and save others is the hall-mark of the co-dependent. We (yes, I belong to this group, as do many nurses) dedicate our lives to taking care of others and neglect ourselves in the process. But it is one of the most important lessons in life, that unless you take care of number one, you cannot save anyone else. And the tornado? Until the tornado recognizes that they need help, all the love and support we give them will not make them change.
Some of us learn that lesson sooner than others. If you grow up in a household with an addict, you may have some deep seated habits that are hard to unlearn. Children learn coping skills, and many of them are unhealthy and detrimental, creating a lifetime of denial, avoidance and depression (which is often anger turned inwards). The saying ‘physician, heal thyself’ comes to mind. How many of us spend our time putting the needs of others ahead of our own, constantly playing the martyr, politely waiting our turn to go first. But if we don’t verbalize our needs, or go after them ourselves, how can we blame others for not even being aware?
It is possible that there are those who will read this message who cannot relate, and that is wonderful. But you probably know someone who needs the reminder. When we put our needs on hold, we risk becoming bitter in the process, aware that life is passing us by. We were each given one life, without instructions, learning as we go. And if we wait until the end of our life to look back and say, ‘oh, so that’s what I should have done’, it may be too late! We are here to learn, to find our purpose, and to live this life to the fullest.
My mother’s last surviving cousin, when told that she had died, responded: “Oh good, another one has safely crossed over!” I am convinced that at that moment of crossing over, we will be hit with a sudden flash of insight: “Oh, I get it now!” All of a sudden our life will make perfect sense.
But in the meantime, let us take a deep breath and think of ways to celebrate our adventure in this world. Let us make sure we are doing what we need to be complete, so that we can enter into relationships whole, not looking for someone or something to fill us up. Let us close the door on tornadoes, and relish the peace that comes from keeping our lives in balance: giving and taking, sharing and caring.
Have a wonderful weekend family!