I went to my second Al-Anon meeting last night. It was even more intense than the first. It is interesting for me to hear all these women’s stories and to recognise how much I have in common with them. On the surface, I never thought I did. Neither of my parents are alcoholics or addicts, which seems to be a common situation for many of these women, but man, I’ve realized that I really love to date those addicts — or maybe it’s that they really love to date me.
I’ve had relationships with four different addicts over the years. The substances may have been different, but the “chip,” or whatever it is, was the same. And at the end of the day, I’m not sure the substance matters all that much, anyway.
As I hear these women tell their stories, regardless of how different our external experiences are, I am consistently surprised by the similarity of our internal experiences. So many aspects resonate, but one girl said something last night that really hit me. Talking about her own fight with perfectionism, she said, “life is about greys and middles and doing your best.” This wasn’t something that she lived, but something that she struggled to remember, something she struggled to channel, as a way to remind herself when the perfectionism got too strong.
Maybe many of us have this perfectionist tendency, where if we can’t do something perfectly, we feel like we shouldn’t do it at all, but, oh man, that’s me.
For many of these women, it seems like it stems from having a life so out of control that you try to control what aspects of it you can. Many of them grew up with alcoholics or are married to alcoholics and so when life gets crazy, they take it upon themselves to compensate with perfection.
I don’t know where I get it from, but I’ve got it. As women, we internalise and we take blame and we try to fix and we micromanage and we hold ourselves to impossible standards of perfection.
With only three minutes for each woman to share, these meetings get real fast. I’ve only done one on one therapy before, so it is impossible to express adequately how profound it is to realise that all these people are going through the exact same thing you are.
You feel like you’re so crazy because you do x and y, and then you’re like, wait, we all do this when you hear your stories coming out of all these other mouths.
The sensation of knowing that you’re not alone with that is enough to knock you on your feet.
People are so good at making it seem like they are perfect on the outside (especially in LA) — and these women are beautiful and smart, they look like they have it all — but then you hear what comes out of their mouth, and you realize they have the same fears you do, the same struggles and concerns and insecurities. You are all fighting the same battles.
You’re all just trying to do your best, somewhere in the grey.
From the Al-Anon daily reader:
“Just for today, I will appreciate myself. I will not look to others for approval; I will provide it for myself. I’ll allow myself to recognize that I am doing the best I can. Today my best is good enough.”