Delusion: A false belief or impression.
Denial: The refusal to accept something unpleasant.
Deception: Deceiving. A trick, or a ruse
Most of us alcoholics and addicts, at one time or another in our bourgeoning desire to appear ok, have practiced all three of these self-destructive, sleight of hand ruses. It’s how we coped with a life, out of control. Like a chameleon, at the drop of a hat we could change our personas by slipping in and out of a variety of roles, as well as beliefs, that we thought would make us acceptable. I, personally, had delusion down to a fine art.
Four years into recovery, I fell in love with a Viet Nam Vet who was plagued by combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and was hauling around plenty of other baggage. I had witnessed, time and time again, the manifestation of that P.T.S.D. The off the chart anger that could skyrocket from zero to ten in a heartbeat: The trigger could be anything from a loud noise to an inconsiderate driver, to a humid rainy day that catapulted him back to the Jungles of Viet Nam.
But it was the periodic, unannounced, dashes cross country that rattled me the most. They were erratic and unpredictable. The first time it happened, I received a call from one of the salesmen at the Buick dealership where he was the manager. It was 8:00am.
“No, Randall’s not here.” He cupped his hand over the receiver, but I distinctly heard the remark made to another employee. “What do you mean he’s on the run again?”
“Sorry, ma’am.” His tone was conciliatory. “I just meant this isn’t the first time Randall has left us in the lurch. When we came in this morning his keys were hanging on the rack but not a trace of him anywhere. The last time this happened he ended up in North Dakota.”
That was his response to overload. Pack up Old Blue, (the fifteen- year old station wagon) and disappear for weeks at a time, often to wherever his daughter and ex-wife resided. His nickname at the dealership was Ramblin Randall.
As the relationship deepened, I sought all of the information I could garner about P.T.S.D. I joined Vet support groups, spent hours on-line researching, and prayed for understanding. But the behaviors continued. Then one evening, fraught with confusion, as I wrestled with the decision of whether or not to jump in with both feet and tie the knot, I took the dilemma to an AA meeting, and shared what was ballooning into a gnawing fear, with the group. An older member, a preacher who I admired very much, and in fact, I was going to ask him to officiate, approached me after the meeting.
“Dallas, his voice was brimming with concern, “You’re not assuming that you can fix him, are you?”
I flinched at the mere suggestion. Surely, my friend realized that I had four years of sobriety and therapy under my belt. How could he suggest such a thing? Wasn’t I exhibiting the very essence of emotional maturity and recovery by sharing my concerns?
Years later, when I reflected back on what transpired that night, and my bizarre response to that question, I’m not trying to fix him, I’m just going to provide an atmosphere where he can feel safe, I came to understand the power of denial, delusion and deception.
In the first place, I minimized the situation by avoiding some of the major issues and inserting all of those tricky little words intended to downplay and excuse his behavior. Words like: if, only, but, and because drove my narrative that evening.
And yes, you guessed it. I married him anyhow, just as I had intended to do all along. Our marriage lasted a total of two and a half years. And the only person I managed to deceive, was me.