The last day of February always takes me by surprise, 28 days clear/ and 29 in each Leap Year. Another month has passed, a hard month darkened by the very sad and unexpected news of the tragic death of a young person I had come to know. But I will write more on that at a later stage.
A momentous day — Pope Benedict XVI walks quietly off the stage of history into a secluded retirement. That too was unexpected. There hasn’t been an African Pope since Victor I in 186, Miltiades in 311, and Pope Saint Gelasius I in 492, who came from a Berber tribe in North Africa. Suppose the next Pope should come from Africa?
In less momentous news my small dogs went off to the new village doggie parlour to be shampooed, trimmed and groomed. They came back beribboned and talcumed, smelling of chemical violets and looking like fat shorn lambs, so I have put them on a diet.
Finally took the bit between the teeth ( a satisfying metaphor that one!) and voiced my ambivalent reservations about former best-selling self-help author Melody Beattie on one of my favourite forums. Nothing like a little controversy on a well-worn topic in recovery to spark discussion.
Sometimes in recovery we need to distance ourselves from people (family, friends, work colleagues, former drinking buddies) who represent a threat to our sobriety and peace of mind. Some of the people we need to get distance from are active alcoholics or drug addicts and that isn’t easy because over the years we’ve learned to rescue and caretake them, a pattern of relating sometimes called codependency.
In 1987 Melody Beattie wrote a book called Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself’ which became a self-help best-seller and regarded by some as the unofficial bible of Al-Anon, ACoC, CoDA, etc. She writes beautifully and her insights have helped many people. All the same, I personally think of her as the Teflon Goddess of Pop Psychology and disagree quite fiercely with how she over-simplified the psychoanalytic work of Object Relations, Kohut, Kernberg, Bion and especially Melanie Klein. I don’t think you can become addicted to a person in the same way as you can be addicted to a substance. I think Beattie’s definitions of ‘enabling’, ‘detaching with love’ and ‘enmeshment’ are superficial and naive. Relationships described as codependent are often so much more than a negative label or pathology. To cut off and distance defuses some of the anguish and intensity of loving a person who is seriously ill and unco-operative, but doesn’t resolve anything. Just my own thoughts –