In the Ditch! Where to Next?

photo by April Metzler 2014

“It was a mess of a day!” the words rolled off her lips with great irritation. It was the second day of a holiday-with-family trip, and, already, she had had enough! It didn’t seem right. The day itself was a beautiful one. Yes. The sky was blue, the breeze was light, the air was fresh, the temperature-gorgeous! It didn’t seem right at all. “Why now? Why this day? What a waste!” she said in frustration, still mumbling to herself. The boots on her feet hit the pavement with a profound loudness. There was an eerie silence on this road that surprised her. Not surprising enough to shake her from her disturbed state, of course, but surprising enough to make her pause. In her frustration, she had decided she wanted…no, desperately needed…to take a walk. “I need to get out of this place before I suffocate!” she had thought to herself. The door couldn’t have been walked out of quick enough, at that moment!

photo by April Metzler 2014

Yes, the day was gorgeous. So, what was the problem, then!? Any other time, it would have been a day fitting of a scene for a movie. Her eyes took in the scene of nature that surrounded her. It was a ‘great weather’ kind of a day: One for a block party…a carnival…a day at the zoo…or going to a park. It wasn’t the day’s fault, though. Nope, not at all! Things happen on beautiful days just as they do not-so-beautiful days. It was her circumstances that were the problem. As a result, her attitude was blue, her heart wasn’t light, her frustration was fresh, and her emotional temperature was…well, sweltering, this morning! She was in a state of confusion and frustration from the morning events. They had unfolded like the pages of a nightmare of a story. “What was his problem, anyway?! He had no right to say those things!” She indignantly stated, recounting it all. “I am the one going out of my way. I am the one making these sacrifices for him. I am the one going above and beyond when asked…and I don’t even ask anything to be done, in kind! Yet, somehow, I am the one that is in the wrong. It’s all my fault….give me a break!” her steps became quicker and a bit more like stomping, rather than walking. Her thoughts fumed about the words he had used and the unwarranted attacks he had given her, verbally and emotionally. She kicked a rock across the road and watched it flail around in its attempt to find a stopping point. She imagined, for a moment, the rock was him. The words had hurt….yes, they deeply hurt her.

photo by April Metzler 2014

Her relationship was new. She had only been dating him for about a year now. Many, many disagreements, and attempts to make sense of it all had transpired over that one year. “Not any more than most couples, right?” she questioned this. Not desiring to dwell on this for too long, her eyes had drifted over to the long, yellow median line that separated one side of the road from the other. She felt like there was a huge median line between the two of them. “Why wouldn’t there be?! He is all over the place and doesn’t even make any sense!” she said, bluntly, surprising herself. She had to admit, it was definitely a roller coaster with this one. One minute, he was good. The next minute, not so much. Normally, it was easy enough for her to deal with. She had a way of charming him and de-escalating his anger in a way that he had not really known before. “Yes, but you know, very well, that some days are far more work than others to achieve this goal.” she corrected herself. It wasn’t until just recently that she had begun to notice these unhealthy patterns in his behavior. Today was one of those days that just did not make sense! “I give and give and give….It’s wearing me out, and this emptiness is killing me!” she stopped at the thought of pleading that came from her drained heart. She was sad. Her eyes looked around her. There was nothing around but more road…more wheat fields…more fence line. “Well, I am definitely out in the country with nowhere to go!” she affirmed. “What am I doing here?!” she asked herself with a tinge of distress and concern upon her voice.

photo by April Metzler 2014

She turned her head back, and her gaze fell upon the house that she had walked out of. It had to be a mile away, by now. She really couldn’t see it that well through the trees and brush between it and her. “Distance is good, right now.” she said. Looking ahead, she noticed a nice, shady spot to rest. In the state of mind that she was in, it did not matter where she rested. She just knew she wanted to rest. The heaviness of the heated, one-sided conversation weighed her down and made her feel like she was carrying a 500 lb duffle bag full of crap! “Yes, that is exactly what it is! Crap!” she agreed, out loud. “The man needs help…serious counseling help. He knows that. His family knows that. His friends know that. But, he still refuses to find help in dealing with this stuff. I don’t get it!” she said.

Confiding to God in the openness of her newfound haven of shade was where she shifted her attention. She was alone in this if she tried to find answers and fix things on her own. She knew that. Attempting to control the outcome was a waste of time and childish, at best. “Controlling one’s circumstances is one of the greatest ruses ever pulled on a person! It’s not a real thing.” she said with a shake of her head. A breeze had shaken the limb to the side of her, and it caught the corner of her eye. She looked at it for a moment, and said, “Exactly! It’s like trying to catch the wind. Not gonna happen!” With God invited in, though, there was a hope that did not disappoint. After all, He was the One in control of all this stuff, anyway. Not her. “Yes, I know that, too. Doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with, though.” she replied to the understanding. Her boots had settled into the grass and weeds that called the ditch their home. It was a simple thing to look at the boots on one’s own feet, but it seemed to ease her frustration a bit. She began to wonder how long it had taken the boots to be made and if the leather stitching had been done by hand or machine. It helped her to stay focused on something besides the morning she had endured, if only for a moment.

photo by April Metzler 2014

Her heart was filled with sadness. She had invested quite a long time with this man. Her heart broke for him with great sadness any time she would dwell on the struggle of a walk he had to go through, on the daily. She prayed for him often. She didn’t want to be the reason he regressed even further into himself. He had found solace for his sorrows at the bottom of a bottle for too many years to count. There wasn’t much she could do about that, though. She had spent the last 6 months, encouraging him to continue his AA meetings. She tried to get him to visit a church and engage in social interactions with healthy friends, and not tempting him to have another glass. He had expressed to her a desire to quit. He said he did not want to use alcohol as his way to deal with things anymore…..But….that was all it was – a verbal expression. Unfortunately, she had found out a few days before leaving for this trip that he was not even going to meetings! “No! He wasn’t, and he was drinking all the time…lying about it, every step of the way!” she said, irritated a little, again.His checking account had told the truth for him. “Someone needed to tell the truth because he sure wasn’t! Sad it was delivered by a bank statement, though.” she said, disappointment seething through the words. She would have much rather he be honest with her about it all, instead of lying. “What kind of relationship is built on lies and deceit?” she rhetorically asked herself. “A horrible one. That’s not a relationship, at all!” she answered back quickly. “Yet, some crazy how – his drinking is my fault this morning!” she stated. There was a bewilderment and staggering sting that came with that summation.Of all the things to be attacked for…the many, many, many years before me that this addiction was his doing, his choosing… yet, it was, suddenly & magically, her fault he was choosing the addiction, again. “It doesn’t matter what the addiction is…you know that. The addicted person will always look at themselves last. They usually do that after they have burned & hurt everyone around them. It’s much easier to blame others than it is to look at yourself and say…Woah! I think I have a problem. I don’t want this anymore. I need help.” she said to herself in an attempt to get back to the truth of it. She had never really used the word “addiction” before when thinking about him. It was a difficult word to say, let alone think toward a man she had grown to care about. It was the truth, though. “He is an addict.” she agreed reluctantly. Just saying the words, it felt she was giving up.

photo by April Metzler 2014

A small, wilted-looking plant blew across her jeans. “It’s dead.” she thought to herself. The plant was fragile and small. The color had, long-since, faded from the blooms of whatever it was. She didn’t recognize the kind of plant, only that it was a sad thing to look at. That is all it took – a small little dead plant blowing on the breeze! Warm tears came to her eyes and began to roll down her cheeks. “What Now, Lord? Where do I go from here?” she cried and cried and cried. Her heartfelt constricted and tight as if it were being pulled in two. It hurt. She hurt – both, for herself and the choices she would soon be faced with, and for him and the decisions he had already made. There was nothing she could do about it. He had made up his mind this morning and made sure everyone in the house knew what his choice was! He was choosing the addiction over a relationship with her. And, even worse in her view – he was choosing the addiction over a relationship with God, too! It was his choice, and he was doing so at a high cost that made her heartbreak for me.

She had seen what addiction could do to loved ones. She had been the family member in the AA meeting there to support someone close to her. She knew what it looked like and felt like and was like to see someone break every heart around them and still not do anything about it! “Yes, it is his choice to make. Not mine,” she said, recounting with much sadness, a few other areas this choice would impact. He was choosing the addiction over his family and friends, over a healthy future for himself, over everything this life had to offer him…the list in her mind went on for a bit after that. “You know as well as the next person – He is not going to change until he wants to change. You also know that sometimes it takes someone losing everything before they make that choice…He has to want the change for himself and himself, alone. He can’t do it because another person wants him to. It has to be a change he does and chooses for himself.” She didn’t like to admit to any of that, right now, but she sternly told herself this, anyway.

With a resigning sigh, she looked up to the blue sky in front of her. She looked beyond the covering of the shade tree she had found on her road of escape. She interceded in prayer to God on behalf of this man that she had grown to know. She lifted her heart up to Him for herself, as well. She asked for Him to give her peace and rest amid this unwanted ending. She asked Him for strength and a joy to replace the sorrow that she now felt, and would later feel from the loss. She prayed for comfort of those close to him – the family and friends that would have a steep road ahead of them…the same road she had already traveled herself. She wept again, intensely….for quite some time…while she prayed to Her Heavenly Father. It was a time of vulnerability and intimacy that she could find and share only in His Presence. She didn’t have to worry about backlash or rejection. He loved her unconditionally. She knew it well and felt it deeply, in this moment. Just then, the sun broke through with a warmth that rested upon her cold, tear-stricken cheeks. It found its way through the leaves of the shade tree to get to her. At this moment, she felt His great love for her. She lifted her head, solemnly, and with all the strength she could muster from what He gave her, she said, “Ok, God. Where to Next?”

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