I had an interaction this week where I was in a car with a woman I had never met before, exchanging our “stories.” We were going to see if we were a fit to do a women's focused radio show on Mental Health & Addiction —a long standing dream of mine.
I was cautious about the partnership because 1, I have no time & energy to produce another show 2, I have had a negative experience “sharing” a platform with another woman. Her story (as I heard it) was that she had been with a narcissistic, verbally abusive man for decades that produced children and the entire family had no contact with him, for their protection. Her story, as I heard it, was that she and her children were victims of this man and that she was creating a platform to help women overcome narcissist relationships, one of those ways through encouraging women who are victims of a narcissist to also employ no contact as a means of protection.
I ask questions when I don’t want to make judgements and assumptions about another’s freedom to live their life as they choose. I asked how she was able to diagnose a person as a narcissist. She said she had done research on the internet. I shared my own experience of forgiveness (that I had even written a book on it) and my belief of the important role a father plays in their children’s lives for the healing and future of all. That said, it doesn't always look like the person being present in everyone's lives, but to move forward in a healthy direction, I do believe you give your power to someone, when you actively HATE them. I talked about the empowerment I have experienced from taking personal responsibility and seeing my part in situations. She said she played no part in her relationship and that is what she hated about 12 step programs, that they insist that everyone plays a part, even in cases of abuse. I shared that my part in my story was that I was attracted to a man that was not capable of intimacy, I didn’t know how to communicate how I felt to him, that I stayed in that relationship for longer than I should have because I was scared to parent alone and that I had undiagnosed mental health issues. That does NOT forgive or excuse his behaviour in our relationship, but seeing my part allows me to learn from it so I can go on to find the love in life that I desire, that I deserve and it empowers me towards personal growth, freedom and happiness.
I tried to be gentle as I could tell my beliefs and values were making her feel anxious and angry. I was beginning to regret my choice to naively trust a complete stranger enough to get into their vehicle. My main goal of meeting was to find out if we would work well together and I could see that we would not.
I carefully expressed my opinion that I did not know her whole story, that she had every right to live her life as she saw fit, but that I did not think we would work together well as collaborative partners on a project. She was very angry, swore at me. I didn’t react. I accepted her response and asked to be let out of the car, which she did, in the pouring rain, at the side of the road. That to me, is recovery. You may never understand how much personal work I have done to respond to a potentially reactive situation, with complete calm, but I do. I was proud of myself for staying true to my values.
I was thinking about it after and it wasn’t only that our beliefs and values were different, as I have many different friends and colleagues with different beliefs. It was our values that were different. I value spiritual principles and so do my friends and colleagues. Was I judgemental? Maybe a little. I judge what is right and wrong for me. If we’re honest, we all do. It’s how we make choices on how to lead our lives. Overall, it was a very enlightening conversation and I walked away from it, looking at my part in it, trying to learn from it. I wonder if she did the same.
Frances Stone, Ms. Recovery Writes
Author | Counsellor | Radio Host
Frances Stone is the Author of A Reflection of Love ~ A Different Kind of Love Story, a Recovery Counsellor and a Radio Co-Host of Talk Recovery Vancouver, a show about addiction and recovery issues, located in the DTES of Vancouver, BC. In her spare time, she does laundry and mothers three clever, curious and challenging little humans.