Twelve-Stepping the Election




It’s been a few days since the election, and I’ve had a little time to crawl into my cave and lick my wounds. I’ve read a few blogs about how we will survive, and a few about how bad it really is.

Personally, it is likely that my family and I will be largely okay. We are protected by the facts that we live in one of the bluest states (though not the bluest area), surrounded by diversity (so we have protective camouflage). My husband and I are both employed in jobs that will not disappear no matter what trade deals do or do not happen, and my children will get a decent education no matter what happens because our state has its own very stringent standards.

We have the privileges of money in the bank, home ownership, education, employment, good health, and geography. Many others don’t. The mother of one of my clients (for those of you who don’t know–I am a private nurse for medically fragile children) was gutted. Devastated. I worked that case the morning after and the first thing she said was, “I don’t know what will happen with our insurance.”

Because for all the people who thought the Affordable Care Act was bad, there are many who thought it was pretty good. Not perfect, but workable, fixable. See, if you don’t have a chronic illness, or loved one with an expensive medical situation, you might not realize how important it was that lifetime caps were lifted under the ACA. In the past, before “Obamacare”, an insurance company could cancel your policy after you’d spent a million dollars. Well, it’s pretty easy to reach a million in the first few years of life if you’re one of the children I take care of. So to all you people who want to repeal and replace, what’s your plan for these kids?

I also worry deeply about the environment. We were making such strides with the Paris Accord, stopping Keystone XL, and preserving wild spaces. Now, we have a climate change denier coming in who is likely appointing a climate change denier to the EPA. So we don’t despair, our family spent yesterday donating money to causes we care about. Another privilege of ours is that we can do this. We can decide to charge a donation to our not-maxed-out credit card. It’s a little balm to the burn. Unfortunately, it will likely be the most vulnerable of us that are affected by environmental insults. Many of those red staters  who voted the man in will be flooded, drought stricken, or sickened by weakening of EPA air quality standards.

It’s hard to watch people make choices that are not in their own self-interest. But I see that all the time as a nurse. When I worked in the hospitals, I constantly detoxed addicts and alcoholics. They could be yellow and swollen with failing livers, and we’d work to bring them back from death, send them off to rehab, only to get them back a month or two later and detox them again.

But as they say, you can’t deny someone “the dignity of their own bottom”. You have to let them hit it hard enough that the lesson is learned. Hopefully you can keep them alive long enough that they get to learn the lesson. Sometimes they don’t.

It feels like America is hitting some kind of ugly, hate-filled, fear-inspired bottom. If you ever have had a loved one  destroy their life with addiction, you might recognize this awful feeling. It’s sickening to stand by and let it happen, but some Americans may have to bottom out before they realize it’s time change. Meanwhile, I have to accept where I’m powerless.

I am powerless to change the choices of others. Whatever their reasons. Regardless of how I feel about it.

And even though I can clearly see the train wreck that’s about to happen, I can’t step in front of the train and stop it. I have to stand to the side, gathering supplies, readying myself to pick up the broken pieces. Save who and what I can, starting with myself, and then spreading outward to those who want my help.

Helping and changing what I can is the way I will recover from this sickening situation.

So I’ve had to twelve-step the election. I’m using the wisdom of the recovery movement to get through. Keep it in the day, one day at a time. Don’t quit before the miracle. Have the courage to change the things I can, while letting go of the things I cannot change. All the while praying for the wisdom to know the difference.



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