J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is one of the greatest American novels of all time. Holden, the teenage character at the heart of this story, is struggling with life, and change, and people, and growing up. In the book he describes this dream to his little sister, Phoebe.
I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.
If you have ever loved an addict you know what it feels like to be a catcher in the rye. You know what it feels like to have a bunch of people running around you; spouse, kids, extended family members, coworkers, friends – what feels like thousands of people playing near a big, crazy cliff. You know what it feels like to think your job is to catch anyone or anything that may fall over the edge.
You know what it’s like to believe that you are responsible for other people’s behavior.
And if you’ve ever loved an addict you also know that recovery is a very delicate, fragile thing. It’s a process with ups and downs and good days and bad days. And we’ve had some really bad days. The kind of days that make you reexamine priorities and decisions. The kind of days that can make you second guess yourself (and maybe even lose faith if you aren’t careful). I have watched my husband move to the edge of the cliff. And I have watched him make his way back.
For me, these are the days when I find myself standing in the rye once again.
I talk a lot about my recovery from codependency and the freedom that comes when you no longer feel the burden to catch someone going over a cliff. Standing in the rye puts that to the test. It is really, really hard to watch someone you love dance near the edge and have to resist the urge to do things that you think will guard him from it. It’s hard for me to watch my husband struggle with limits and boundaries, to see him lose his balance. It’s especially hard to watch someone you love fall. But, it’s been incredibly refreshing for me to know that I’m not responsible for what someone else does. I am only responsible for me.
It’s freeing to know that no matter how close to the edge my husband gets, I will be ok.