The Right Tools

Yesterday saw me being warmed the first time by the wood for the woodstove. For those of you unfamiliar with the old saying, when you heat your home with wood, that wood warms you twice. Once during the splitting and stacking, the second in the woodstove or hearth. Albeit, this is wood for next year’s heat but I worked up a sweat nonetheless. Primarily because these logs are too thick for the splitter and need to be cut down into more manageable pieces; the little hand saw I have is too small for the job. But I am stubborn woman. I was determined to get some wood cut. So I sawed away and, while the back and wrists screamed abuse at me, I also managed to create at least a small pile of wood that’s just the right size for the stove. When I look at that pile, I wonder how much more effective I would have been with the right tools, how much more progress I would have made.

Living with alcoholism–someone else’s, not my own–is much the same. I was a child growing up with a stepfather who drank heavily and remember my mother cajoling and threatening him to stop drinking. You’d think I had learned a valuable lesson watching all of this but, years later, I found myself in a relationship with an alcoholic and guess what? I cajoled and threatened him repeatedly to stop drinking. I even stayed in the relationship longer than necessary out of that sheer stubbornness–even when the relationship turned abusive. No, he never beat me; he threatened to. But it was enough…along with the verbal and mental abuse that leaves more permanent and painful scars than any physical abuse ever could. I used the wrong tools. And, though there were periods of sobriety and a glimpse at the beautiful person lost in this dis-ease, how much more effective would that campaign have been had I used the proper tools?

Proper tools? “Tools” such as faith; such as “Letting Go And Letting God”; such as detaching with love; such as minding my own business and taking care of myself, despite his drunken escapades. In short, working my Al-Anon program. Instead, every time he opened a can of beer or a bottle of something stronger, I waited and watched, making myself scarce until he nodded off from the effects. Then I did the chores I needed to finish before bed–a bedtime that came much too late for such an early rising time. Doing them while he was awake and alert might’ve incurred some harsh criticism from him; how I did my work was never good enough. And I was liable to take exception and give in to the jabs, to take hold of the bait for another argument. As I went through these nightly routines, I did so on tiptoes, afraid to awaken him. The same result would have happened; we would end up fighting. Sometimes I even went so far as to open a few cans while he slept and poured them down the drain. Did I really think that would stop him if he believed he’d drank 10 cans instead of 6 or 8? Did he really care about the number of cans or the amount of whiskey still left in the bottle? Was he fooled by my pitiful manipulations? Not in the least. He knew exactly how many beers/how much whiskey he’d consumed before he nodded off. We fought anyway. I tried to control him as he often controlled me. I tried to change him, to force my hand. The right “tool” would’ve been to change myself. I eventually did. The relationship ended. And he’s still drinking heavily, night after night.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons about having the right “tools”. While my cajoles and threats might have resulted in a few, brief periods of sobriety in this alcoholic–much like my stubborn insistence to cut wood with a saw too small for the size of the wood, resulted in a small pile of heat source–they did not effect the change that would’ve meant “success” for me. Instead, the alcoholic drank more and the fighting grew worse. This dis-ease is too great for mere stubbornness and manipulation to conquer, just like those enormous trunks of wood are too great to split and stack with a mere hand saw and an aging back. But, unlike the former situation, I can purchase a bigger saw, a better tool–the right tool–and get exactly the result I crave…and my back will thank me for it. Had I used the right tools with the alcoholic, and given the situation to the God of my consciousness, who knows what miracles might have taken place?

May God bless you & keep you!

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