Why was she always trying to fix him? It was a compulsion, like knowing there was a pint of ice cream in the fridge. Not healthy, but it’s there, so it must be eaten. It ALL must be eaten. The itch must be scratched. The drunk must be saved. Or not, apparently.
Lila walked her first friend from Al-Anon to the door. Maria was strong, grounded, but moved like a soldier with an old wound, careful that it shouldn’t reopen, crouching against a wind that might whip up at any time. Lila watched Maria get in the car with awe and pity. Maria had borne a lot, actual beatings at the hands of some drunken ingrate. Yet she loved this shithead and was herself addicted to trying to make him happy. “Codependent” was the word she used. Lila had heard the term, of course, but never quite got it. But, now she did. Basically, she had a stake in JJ’s drinking, too. She cast herself in the savior role. And, God help him if he managed to get well without her help.
Lila had shared at an Al-anon meeting called “Change”. As in, “The Change Group of Al-Anon. You are welcome to stay and change”. She shared, “And he just sabotages everything. He starts something beautiful and just fucks it all up.”
“Language, please,” the Chairwoman said.
“Sorry. But, he just messes everything up and doesn’t give a sh…doesn’t give a crap about what I put into it. He wins all this money and starts this farm project and I…”
“Is it the guy who won the lottery,” someone asked from the back.
“Please,” said the Chairwoman. “No cross-talk.”
Lila continued, “And then we’re almost together again. Happy. It was love again. He came to mom’s funeral, mostly sober. He was trying, in his way. Then he just retreats to that stupid farm.”
“JJ,” someone whispers clearly. “Lottery,” someone whispers. Then, “I can fix him. Give me a chance.” Tentative giggling all around.
“Please,” the Chairwoman said.
Before Lila could dart away after the meeting, Maria put an arm around her shoulders and drew her back in. “Not so fast,” she said. “We don’t bite.”
The next day, Maria came over and told her story to Lila. It was harrowing and violent, the guy now in jail for eighteen months. “But, when I think of him, I start planning how I’ll clean the house and what I’ll cook when he gets home.”
After Maria left, Lila’s phone rang. Caller Id: JJ. “Detach with love,” she said to herself. Loving detachment was the Al-anon way, the boiled down method to deal with a drunk who will take everything and leave your soul baffled, bankrupt, and battered. “Detach with love,” she repeated out loud, but answered anyway.
“Only you can save me from me,” he said. “I walked to the bank and back. My feet are so cold.”
“Where are you?”
“I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”