There's a story which is meant to teach kids about the power of hurtful words and actions. The story uses a paper doll, let's call her Rachel. Throughout the day, Rachel has one bad experience after another: her mother yells at her, calls her lazy. Her teacher criticizes her, her friends tease her and call her names. With each hurtful word or action, the storyteller rips a piece off the paper doll, until she is destroyed. Then Rachel begins to have good experiences. Her friends treat her nicely, and a piece that was ripped off is taped back on. Her teacher praises her art work, her mother apologizes for her temper and harsh words. In the end, Rachel is whole again, but the places she was torn apart are still visible. The storyteller then shares the moral: even when we apologize for hurtful behavior, we can never make things exactly the way they were before. We leave scars.
This story came to my mind this morning after receiving an email from a friend. I just came out to this friend about my alcoholism. She is being wonderfully supportive and I am so thankful for her kindness and care. In this email, she also brought up an incident in which I hurt her. The incident was actually my rock bottom, my impetus into AA. I was on a trip with her, her family and my family. I got really drunk and acted very badly in front of everyone. I was so filled with shame and remorse the next day that I finally admitted out loud, to my husband, that I am powerless over alcohol. A couple of weeks later I went to my first meeting and I've been sober ever since. But that's not the point of this post. The point is that I hurt my friend. I said something, I don't remember what, which caused her pain. Now in my sobriety I can apologize for that hurt and try to make amends, but I can never erase the scars. That makes me very sad, and for the first time in a while I became very angry that I am an alcoholic.
At a meeting this morning the table was talking about gratitude. I realized that instead of focusing on how bad I feel and the hurt I caused, I need to look at this situation from another angle. Yes, I hurt my friend, and no apology can change that. But I can be grateful that through my sobriety I have the chance to apologize. I can be grateful that I do not have to hide from the situation; I can deal with it, head on and work through it. I believe that I can, with work, get my friendship back. Will there be a scar? Probably. Will our friendship be exactly the way it was before I did drunken damage to it? Probably not. But we have a chance we never would have had were I still an active drunk, and for that, I'm grateful.