Saturday, June 12, 2004

Learning to Have Empathy

have this knack for faking intimacy, or maybe not faking it, but being unable to sustain it. I worry that I do not have “real feelings” for others but only shadows of emotions. This is going to be a difficult concept to explain and I am going to use real examples from my life.

There is no doubt in my mind that I truly feel for myself. When I discovered my then-girlfriend April was sleeping with my then best friend Brian over a dozen years ago, I was devastated and I felt the pain. At times of triumph, such as when I got my chip for one year of sobriety (credit for that belongs with the Goddess Brigit, not with Andy) I felt the elation and the joy. These feelings are real and they are so much a part of me that I am stunned by how integral to me they are. It is not only these extremes of emotions that can hold me that way. For example, if I see an attractive woman, I am liable to have a brief but truly intense desire to fuck her right then and there. That is actually a good example because it is so strong of a feeling that is produces a physiological response and I hope I am not wearing the lightweight kilt when it happens.

When it comes to others I am strangely void. When my wife’s grandfather died, she was losing the last of her grandparents and probably the closest source of unconditional love she had ever known. As my wife was devastated, I felt nothing. No pity, no identification (despite having lost all of my grandparents), almost nothing other than a detached, hollow “Hey, kid, sorry that happened to you sort of feeling.” I did not let her know this. I did my best to act the part of the concerned husband.

Okay, but that was back when I was drinking and I was anesthetizing those emotions rather than processing them completely through. What about now, after years of sobriety?

You know, it is better than it was. Jim, a covenmate of mine, was diagnosed with cancer and after chemo and radiation it returned. They told him they were going to remove his lung and so they did. I made it a point to make myself visit him and spend time with him (if Jim reads this, please do not interpret this as me seeing this as a chore, the effort came from wanting to learn to feel). I did feel uncomfortable. I did not know what to say. I did feel hollow, like the feelings of anxiety and grief for him were not real.

But they were real. I am learning to feel empathy—to feel what others feel and be comfortable with that. To be me and be comfortable in my own skin.

Funny, I started to write about how I wasn’t good enough, how I wasn’t capable of real emotions and as I wrote I realized that I was learning how to feel real emotions.

That brings me to a closing point, the emotion that I am feeling right now: gratitude.

Goddess Brigit, my name is Andy and I am an alcoholic. I have been kept sober since Imbolc 2001 by Your grace and Your grace alone. I’d like to take this moment to thank you, my Higher Power, for this my daily reprieve. Today is a good day to be sober!

Please, Goddess Brigit, be with me today all through the day and help me to stay sober all day long. Show me Your will for me and grant me the power to carry that out. Thy will, not mine, be done. Inspire me to act and create in Your name. Be welcome in me and to me, body, heart, mind and soul.

Adjuva Brigittia!

Thank you!

Blessed Be!