I thought I would share the emotional sobriety audio that we listened to on Friday night at my retreat. This is definitely worth downloading and listening to.
Step 2 was probably the most difficult for me to reconcile at first as an atheist and a control freak.
I like the atheist version, “Came to believe and to accept that a power within myself in tandem with supports and strengths beyond my own awareness and resources can restore me to a healthier, more balanced, and positive state of mind, body and soul.”
Perfectionism makes us this scared little kid who needs to fix things no matter what. Although we know we can’t be perfect, when other people show themselves to be imperfect, we make them pay for their imperfections.
Letting go in Step 2 means admitting “I am fucked up.” Then we can find a power outside of ourselves help us.
One difficult thing about Step 2 is admitting the insanity. We tend to see them as the problem, as the insane one. However, we have to recognize our part in things. Sanity is the peace that you can get through surrender.
Step 2 helps us to see our character flaws and how they interact with other’s flaws to create mayhem.
Using the term Higher Power instead of God can help us reconcile the hurts and disappointments and preconceived notions about “god” and what that really means. Our childhood notion of god is often very skewed.
For me as an atheist, it is about recognizing that life and the world is full of wisdom and experience and knowledge beyond myself. Part of my higher power is recognizing fate and the inherent mystery and wonder that life can offer if you let it come as it will.
This step goes hand in hand with the obstacles. Every part of this program compliments another part of it.
The definition of what a higher power looks like varies from person to person. The main aspect is that it is outside of yourself and your control. Its not about having the same HP as everyone else. There is no fear of being the “outcast” here. It’s about the process of getting from A to B.
This step is not about religion. It is about connecting to something outside of ourselves. It is also, paradoxically, about knowing that your higher power is accessible, is always right inside of you.
Often those of us with control issues will say, “By the time I explain to you how to do it, I could have just done it myself.” We also tend to carry that over into our higher power – thinking if we give up control then things won’t turn out the way they should. We feel the need to coordinate it all instead of letting go. The fear is that if we don’t coordinate it all things won’t turn out the way we want them to. The reality is that all of our coordinating won’t change anything.
Step 2 is about trust. It’s about trust that things will be what they need to be. Trust that since there can be no controlling life, we need to let go and enjoy the ride. It is also about realizing that there is no choice other than to do that.
This weekend I am at an intensive step work S-Anon retreat. We will be going through at least Step 4 today with reading and journaling time and panels.
As I sit in these meetings I will be jotting down my thoughts and feelings and the things that really resonate with me. I am going to publish these thoughts without any editing or order, as they come to me. Feel free to enter my swirling mind, take what works for you, and leave the rest.
Step 1 Notes from Our S-Anon Retreat
Sometimes we play games with ourselves – “if only” x or y or z would happen (or wouldn’t have happened) then everything would be fine. That magical thinking just keeps the plates in the air, spinning. It is juggling, it isn’t managing.
One thing that is a blessing and a curse about this program is that admitting unmanageability is a slow process. Step 1 seems like one step, but it is really 4 or 5 wrapped up all together.
One of the hardest parts is that we can’t understand it. Crazy is crazy. It can’t be explained with logic. We can’t control things, but we also can’t necessarily understand it because it isn’t ours to understand. We have to understand ourselves, not the addict.
Finding serenity can be very difficult in the midst of a crisis. Surrender. That is the challenge of Step 1. That’s what it takes to find peace.
Letting go brings clarity.
We are all waiting for the next lesson.
Step 1 is about “admitting” the truth. It is hard to make progress when you won’t even tell yourself that you are somewhere. It was easy to acknowledge inside that you are powerless, but saying it out loud puts action into the process and makes it real.
Powerlessness and unmanageability go back and forth like a seesaw. The more that we buy into the false thought that we can manage, the more we convince ourselves that we are powerful. There is a gratitude that comes with recognizing that life is unmanageable. We just create an illusion of manageability. The more unmanageable life seemed, the more power and energy that we try to expend attempting to control it.
Powerlessness does not mean helplessness. In fact, it means the ability to ask for help and gain true power and tools to get better. Control meant hanging on with a tight fist. Slowly when we are able to loosen the grip and just admit that we are powerless, we can trust something greater than ourselves to lead us where we need to be.
This is a wake up program for us to become who we are supposed to be, who we really are.
These things aren’t going to go away. Life is like an ocean with wave after wave after wave. You don’t sit there and hope the ocean stops having waves. You just learn how to deal with them, how to find peace in the midst of it all.
There is no magic cure. There is not one thing I can do or change that will make things better or perfect. I have gotten rid of my husband, but that doesn’t “solve” the problem. My life isn’t magically manageable because he is no longer here. It is much healthier and much more fulfilling and much happier, but there is always something to work on. Organizing things differently doesn’t change the problem.
Its okay to work on the same problem over and over. There is no failure in digging into things, and doing Step 1 many times with many different issues. This is not a “once through” kinda program. You don’t get a certificate and a passing grade and an “everything is cured” pat on the back. It is a constant process towards growth and change.
How many of us saw red flags at the beginning of our relationship with our addict and thought, “Oh, I can handle this”?
I like the idea that one member suggested of a “god box” where she puts slips of paper with all of the things she tries to control in order to let go of them.
“Step 1 was the hardest step I had ever done because I hadn’t done any other steps.”
One member re-words Step 1 to remove the “we” and focus entirely on herself in the here and now. “I admit that I am powerless and my life is unmanageable.”
In my quest to improve myself, I have come across another blogger, Peregrinerose, who is dealing with determining how her “psyche, experiences, history, etc. contributed to choosing a life as a sex addict codependent.” I had to use her words there because they are perfect. That is what I would really like to do as well.
She is working through some questions from a book by Mic Hunter, and was kind enough to email me a digital copy of the questions that he proposes the spouses of sex addicts ask themselves. There are 100 of them. I may or may not spare you my answers to them all. We’ll see how lucky you are. The first one is:
How would you describe your relationships with your parents and other family members as you were growing up? Generally speaking, were these relationships characterized by feelings of: Love? Fear? Warmth? Anger?
A hard one right off the bat, huh? Okay. Here goes…
Maybe this is a great place to start for me. One particular phrase from the S-Anon “Problem” has always stumped me. It reads, “Most of us grew up in families with secrets, and we were not taught to think about our own needs and take positive action to meet them.” I don’t really think that is true for me. At least in all my thinking I have never been able to identify with that.
My Mom taught me to think about my needs. She always talked through things with me. I felt loved and supported by her. My family also didn’t really have a lot of secrets, at least not that I know of. My grandma is an alcoholic, but I don’t remember that being a secret. We talked about it openly as a family, especially as she was struggling (a few falls while drunk, one of which put her in the hospital near death, a few car wrecks, etc.) and when she went into alcoholics anonymous to start her recovery. She is now 13 years sober.
Back to the actual question at hand… As I was growing up I would describe my relationships with my parents and other family members as close. Both of my parents were very involved. Most, if not all, of our extended family lived close by. I remember regular visits to both sets of grandparents, and having lots of family time with aunts, uncles, and cousins. I would spend weekends or even whole weeks with either my Nanny and Papa on my Dad’s side at the beach or with my Ma and Pa on my Mom’s side at their horse farm.
My Mom stayed home with us kids. We were all home-schooled, me for the longest. I remember my Mom working very hard on her lesson plans. I still remember the stick figure puppet things she used to teach me my numbers and sounds. We went to story-time at the library every week, sometimes more often. She would get all of the Newbery Metal winning books and read them to us, like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (an amazing book). One of my favorite memories to this day is her reading The Cay to my brother, sister, and I on the couch at home. She did all of the voices (one main character had an accent), and I can still picture the way the story came to life in my mind.
My Dad was the sole bread-winner. I know that he worked very hard to provide for us. We never had the best, newest, or most expensive thing but we had a lot. More than a lot, really. My Mom designed our house and they build it (not with their own hands, but my Dad did do some of the work) on a gorgeous 10-acre piece of land. It was “in the country” enough that our neighbors were spaced out, but close enough to “town” that I went to one of the best public high schools in the state. We were also only about 35-40 minutes or so outside of our state’s capital.
My Dad wasn’t one of those workaholic fathers, though. He worked regular hours (early mornings, but no late nights and no weekends). He attended every single one of my events. He was the loudest one cheering for me at softball. He was the president of the choral boosters club, calling bingo every week to raise funds. He played with us a lot – letting us ride him like a pony when we were really young, playing catch in the yard with us as we got older, and supporting the things that we loved. My parents gave me and my brother and sister everything they could and more.
I think back to those times growing up and wonder how they did it. One income. Three kids. A nice house, lots of land. We had 3 horses and a pony. Sure, three of them came from my grandparent’s farm, but they were not given away for free to us. My Mom and Dad both spent a lot of time with me looking for my first horse, too. We visited farms, talked to owners, test-rode several, and found the perfect one – Petey, an American Quarter Horse.
I took horseback riding lessons, gymnastics, played softball, sang in the chorus (and went on all of their trips, which weren’t cheap), and I wasn’t the only one. My brother played sports, too, and was in the high school band. He got a drum set one birthday or Christmas that was set up in the corner of our living room. My sister tried one thing after another – violin, softball, art. Not a lot of it stuck, but they never told her not to try something she was interested in. Her real passion was animals. She had a crazy cat, bunnies, a dog, and she adopted the pony that started off as mine, Blue, even though she wasn’t interested in riding him. When I started school (and when my brother started), we were in a private school. I don’t know how much it cost, but it couldn’t have been cheap.
Lest you think we were rich or something… Did I mention that my Dad isn’t a doctor or lawyer or physicist? He is a machinist. It’s not working at Wal-Mart, but it isn’t raking in the cash, either. We never had a new car. The ones we did have were reliable and safe, but never beautiful (Cheesy 80’s van? Check!). We shopped the clearance racks. My Mom sewed us some dresses, we didn’t buy a lot of new things, we did a lot of crafts and outside activities. My Dad taught us how to balance a checkbook, put money aside to save no matter what, always pay off any credit cards in full every month, and never buy something we couldn’t afford.
Overall, it was a great life. Certainly nothing glaring stands out in all of that. Generally speaking, I felt love and warmth in my family. I guess it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, though. When I really thought about things today, I have to admit there was an undercurrent of pressure to my childhood. I don’t remember it being something my parents overtly expressed or pushed on me. I just always had a deep desire to give something back for all of their sacrifices.
Maybe some of it stems from the home-schooling. My Mom taught me and my brother, then all 3 of us, at the same time. We were all in different stages and grades, obviously. We also had very different needs, education-wise. I was always pretty intuitive, and could sense that my brother and sister needed more guided attention than me. So I always did my best to do my best. I didn’t want to distract from them – my brother was hyperactive and my sister took longer to grasp things, and when she did she might forget them again a little while later. Neither of them were slow or stupid by any stretch of the imagination. They just really loved using their imaginations – with their heads in the clouds, constantly moving, always more concerned with something else.
Plus, I was the oldest… My brother is only a year and a half younger than me, but my sister is 5 years my junior. Given that, I was obviously more capable of sitting at a table and doing my work without distraction. Don’t mistake me for a completely benevolent child… I mostly wanted to get outside as fast as possible to ride the horses or climb trees. However, I do remember making a conscious effort to not ask questions unless I had to, to get everything as perfect as I could, and to not take away from other things my Mom had to do.
The other side of my Dad is that he had a short fuse. He would often yell or snap at the drop of a hat. It made me skittish in a way I didn’t like and tried to hide. He also lacked some compassion. I remember one time my Mom was away on a women’s retreat with church. It was just us kids and Dad. It was great fun. We were taking a walk/ bike ride/ scooter trip down our street and up to the mailbox (which was ages away) one beautiful night. I was speeding around on my little push scooter, loving life and showing off. I hit a corner too fast and wiped out in a patch of gravel on the pavement. I skinned my knees, elbows, and hands badly. I still have scars to this day.
Of course it felt awful. I don’t know how old I was… somewhere between 7 and 10, I think. I was bleeding, there was gravel in my knees and elbows and hands… My knees especially looked like hamburger meat. My Dad got me up, helped me home, and started working on my injuries. I know I was crying – ugly, sobbing cries – and saying I wanted Mom. He, of course, told me that she was away and wasn’t going to be able to come home tonight. He not so gently got the gravel out of my wounds, poured hydrogen peroxide and maybe alcohol on them, and put some Neosporin and gauze over them. I’m sure he told me more than once to stop crying and whining and wincing and carrying on. That wasn’t the only occasion where I learned that I should just suck it up…
The older I got, the more I realized that if my ideas and his didn’t mesh it wouldn’t be good for me. I was a smart-alec. I would get mouthy when I shouldn’t, and I lacked respect (or at least tact and forethought) in many instances. But I also questioned things. A lot. I was always intellectual and prone to deep thinking. When my questions turned towards the church, his faith, and the things that logically didn’t make sense the door was slammed shut in my face. God exists, he wrote the Bible, everything in there is gold, we go to church (all the time and as a family), and the list goes on… Think Brick on The Middle (if you have seen any of those Bible episodes). THAT didn’t go over very well…
So, the short answer (bet you wish I had started with that), is my family relationships were characterized by all of those things – love, warmth, anger, fear, pressure, support, misunderstanding, and the list goes on. I’m not sure where exactly I’m supposed to be looking right now when it comes to my family dynamics. There were a lot of them. Maybe the next 99 questions will give me some direction.
- Changes… (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Pink (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Be Still My Swirling Thoughts (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- What’s Next? What SHOULD We Be Doing? (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Breaking the Negative Codependent Cycle (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Do You Have an Addictive Personality? (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Announcing the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists, The First Organization to Specialize in Training and Certification of Partner Specialists (prweb.com)
I have never really done well with change. Now my life is full of them. It is a hard adjustment. Last night I had another in the long string of recent challenges that have been coming my way. I made mistakes, but I also made some improvements (however slight). I’ll tell you the story, and we’ll see if you pick out the same ones that I did…
The very first challenge that I have been dealing with is my health. Two weeks ago I had strep throat and an ear infection. About 3-5 days after the antibiotics for that were finished I contracted a killer cold that developed into an upper respiratory infection complete with whooping cough, fever, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and the inability to breathe (okay, maybe that last one is a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear that’s how it feels). I powered through most of the week until yesterday I just couldn’t take it any more. I dragged my sorry ass out of work around 3:30, went to the doctor for some meds, then wiped out the CVS cold and flu aisle before heading home.
I arrived to a mailbox full of stuff for Mr. Mess, which I added to the already-impressive stack on the table by my door. He had cancelled all 3 of the proposed “dates” he set up last week due to his own health issues (flu, maybe?). That meant there hadn’t been an exchange of things like mail in over a week. Here is where my first mistake appears in this tale (I’m not giving you any more freebies – from here on out, you have to identify the mistakes for yourself). I called him and told him that he had a lot of mail here whenever he wanted to come get it. He said he would head on over then, and I agreed.
I will pause in the re-telling of this story to recap something I learned in S-Anon that applies well in this situation. It is the acronym H.A.L.T. This wise slogan advises you not to act when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. I would add another letter at the end. S for sick. I did not need to contact my husband while I was sick. The mail could have stayed right there. Although I wasn’t especially hungry, angry, lonely or tired, the sick made all of those things much closer to the surface than they normally are. It also made me more emotional than I was aiming for.
Mr. Mess arrived at my door about an hour after our phone conversation ended… maybe 45 minutes. I had already caught myself complaining like a whiny child on the phone about how awful I felt, so I resolved not to do that. He walked in, and the first thing I noticed was the smell of his cologne. I love that damn stuff. It is probably the best smell in the entire world. At least I thought that last night. In retrospect, I’m surprised I could even smell it given the state of my sinuses. Mr. Mess walked up to me, reached out to rub my arms, and said that he is sorry I am feeling so bad. In that moment all I wanted was to curl up in his arms.
Instead, I said thank you and pointed out the stack of mail. He went through it, throwing things away as he went, and then started looking around. He asked if there is anything he could do for me. I told him it would be really nice if he could take the trash can to the curb so I didn’t have to go out there in the cold (trash pickup is on Wednesday night). He said that would be no problem at all. Then he commented that he hopes I have been eating. I said that I have, except for yesterday when all my cold seemed to want was chocolate. Everything else tasted gross. Although that was borderline whiny, it was true. For the most part, though, I have been cooking myself quite fine meals, and I told him so.
He then walked into the den. I asked what he was doing. He said that he wanted to say hi to the dogs (they were in the utility room, which is connected to the den). While he was in there I went to get the extra pair of nail clippers that he asked to borrow earlier in the week. I also handed him his key chain, which I had found buried in the pull-out sofa bed when my sister stayed the night last weekend. I resisted the urge to call him out on his lie surrounding those keys or ask him where he got the key he had been using since his was in the couch and the spare was where it always is. It doesn’t matter. Plus, I’m pretty sure he must have taken the spare and gotten a copy made in order to hide the fact that he lost his keys. What a pointless thing to hide. And also a pointless thing to be angry about. So I just let it go.
My Mom and I had literally just gotten off of the phone about 5 minutes before Mr. Mess arrived, and she asked me about Thanksgiving and Christmas – whether to expect him, whether she should be buying him a gift, etc. She is going on a long cruise very shortly and wanted to have all of the gifts purchased in the next week or so. I took the opportunity last night to ask. He got this strange look on his face and started stammering a bit – falling over his words, starting a sentence, then not finishing it, saying “you know” when I really did not…
Finally he said that he would feel like a black cloud hanging over everything. He said that he feels too bad about what he has done to me to be around my family, and he wants to wait. I asked what he wants to wait for. He didn’t really answer. By that point my short fuse and irritation with his beating around the bush was getting the best of me. It really seemed like he was saying that he can never be around my family again because what he did is not going to change. I proposed an answer to my own question – maybe he is waiting until he feels good about what he did? He said no, and started getting emotional. Instead of feeling compassion, a red hot anger welled up inside of me.
I don’t remember the exact words that came out of his mouth next. It doesn’t really matter. However, it was something about not being able to change what he did or how guilty he feels about it. Even though that is basically the same thing I was thinking just moments before, my rage monster wanted to let out a big growl. I told him that he COULD have changed quite a lot in the last year of false recovery. Instead of a year that was full of lies and deceit, he could have been honest and changed where we are now. It was up to HIM to put his all into it just like I had been. He said that I’m right, and that he wants to wait until he has made more progress in his recovery to be around my family so that it doesn’t feel like just another lie.
With those words and that simple revelation, my rage dissipated. That, in and of itself, is progress. His bottom lip trembled, his eyes started to overflow, and he walked away from me – like he always does when he is feeling real, human emotions. Or maybe because he couldn’t keep up the act much longer – it’s hard faking emotions as a sociopath. I thought he was walking to the door, which he was at first. Then he stopped and turned around. He asked if there was anything else I needed besides him to take the trash to the street. I said no. He turned as if to go, then said that there was one more thing he needed. Without another word of explanation, he took off down the hall toward the computer room and my bedroom.
The fleeting moment of tenderness I had felt towards him was quickly shoved aside by annoyance. I called after him, asking where he was going and what he needed. Without stopping, he strode into the computer room, turned on the light and called back that he was looking for his checkbook. My annoyance turned to indignation and territoriality. I had seen his checkbook while I was cleaning, and it was NOT in there. The bigger point, however, is that he doesn’t live here right now to go stomping off through my house opening doors, turning on lights, and rummaging through things without asking. I told him that his checkbook was not in there, then went and fetched it from the spot where I had seen it earlier in the week.
Still, he continued going through things in the computer room. I asked him to tell me what he is looking for instead of going through all of my stuff. First he got exacerbated and said nothing, never mind. I told him that I am happy to help, but I would like to know what he is looking for. He said he was trying to find his actual checks (which weren’t in the checkbook). I told him that I hadn’t seen them. I searched (pointlessly) for his checks, which were nowhere to be found. I asked if he was sure they were even in here. He said that he brought them with him when he moved in (over 4 years ago now). I said I haven’t ever seen them, and showed him my checks, which I always keep in one specific spot. I checked everywhere he suggested with no luck.
When he finally accepted that the checks were not here, he asked for the joint checking account number. I immediately bitched at him. He asked me over a week ago for that number while I was driving, and I suggested he call the bank (since THEY have the number much handier than I do). I caught myself in full bitch-out mode, complaining about how he should just pick up the phone and call himself instead of asking me to do things for him. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, though… I took a deep breath, pulled the checkbook out of my purse, and gave him the number. We exchanged a few more tensely polite words, and he left.
Fifteen minutes later I thought to check outside. Sure enough, the garbage can hadn’t been moved. Out into the cold with my cold I went. My body shivered and I raged in my head. I fought the uge to send him a snarky or bitchy text thanking him for doing the one thing I had asked him for. I fought the urge to call a friend and complain. Instead, I put my phone down. I hooked it up to the charger, and left the room.
I might have made many poor decisions yesterday, but I have learned enough in the last few months to know that my anger at that moment would not have been productive. It wouldn’t have accomplished anything other than to drive an even bigger wedge between us. It would have resulted in him feeling either defensive or more guilty. None of those options are what I’m looking for.
Somehow I was able to push aside my strong urge to punish him for his oversight, and take responsibility for myself. It is my trash, afterall. Sick or not, I needed to take it to the curb. Today this seems like it could be some very deep metaphor for what we are going through in general. Last night it was just irritating.
About an hour or so later, once I had calmed down, taken some medicine, and regained my perspective and compassion, I sent him a text. It simply said, “Sorry I upset you.” I am sorry. I pushed things. I lashed out a few times. I made him feel back about himself when I shouldn’t have because it doesn’t move us in the right direction. I have to work on that. I have to learn to control my temper a little better, or at least to not make decisions when I’m feeling on edge. I have to look inward when what I really want to do is point the finger. At least I didn’t send him that pissy text about the trash. Progress, not perfection, right?
After thinking on things a bit more, I realize that all of those bad reactions came from fear of change. I don’t like that I don’t have my husband to hold me when I’m feeling crappy. Instead of affirming myself for the positive steps I’m taking in enforcing my boundaries, I wallow in self-pity because my lying, cheating sex addict husband can’t get his shit together. I let anger and entitlement take over because it is easier than seeing the ways I contributed to being where I am today.
Yes, where I am is separated from a husband who lied to me repeatedly , cheated on me, and is a sex addict – but I put myself here just as much (or more) than he did. It was my poor decisions, my loose boundaries, my fear of abandonment, my low self-esteem, my repeated failure to trust my gut, and my codependent tendencies that put us here just as much as it was his sex addiction. I have to own my shit, too. And then I have to change it. But changing things sucks.
Sometimes I want my fantasyland back. I wax nostalgic about the “good old days” when I could curl up on the couch whenever I felt sick and have my husband make me dinner, bring me medicine, and rub my feet. I want that sense of security and love. Then I remember how false it was. I remember how that same loving, caring man would sneak off to call, sext, internet chat, or meet another woman. Or maybe he wouldn’t do that, but he would lie about something from his day or hide what he was feeling or thinking. I remember how I might sense something was off, but dismiss my own instincts. I also remember how late at night, when he was snoring beside me, I would lie awake knowing that there was something big missing in this relationship.
I say all of that to say this: Change is painful, but it is also necessary. I have a long way to go. However, I am going to keep pushing forward. I need to change for me. As much as I hate admitting my mistakes, acknowledging my flaws, and accepting change – those things are necessary for growth. And one thing I hate worse than change is being average. He’s to self-awareness and change. Those bitches. 🙂
To start with, I really appreciate the insight that several people gave me about what I thought was codependent/ co-addict behavior. There is a fine line between that and trusting myself. I believe in this case I was following my gut. I think calling it a “knowing” is very fitting. That’s what it feels like when I get that kind of intuitive premonition that something is off.
I really haven’t been checking on him otherwise – I swear I can’t even remember the last time I checked that computer history. There have been plenty of times he has been out of the house or even in it when I’ve had the chance – we agreed to full transparency with electronic devices, after all. He always gets home before me. He almost exclusively uses that desktop computer now that I have a work laptop and tablet. He is in there all the time when I get home from work. Still, I haven’t felt the need to look. Until that day.
It sounds weird, I’m sure. I don’t think I’m psychic or anything. I just know that we all pick up things that we don’t consciously process. Little perceptions, changes in speech or behavior or even the air in our environments. I can’t explain it, but sometimes I do just have a strong feelings that something isn’t right. I have come to rely on those “knowings” (I really like that term). I don’t really have to go looking for things, my instinct will tell me when something is wrong.
Similarly, I usually know when I’m feeling a need to control or an urge to “check up” on him in an unhealthy way. It is then that I can remind myself to focus on the things that I can change – that which is in my control. I think I have to do more to fine-tune my self-perception on this issue. I need to find a way to ask myself is this codependent behavior or simply listening to my gut?
So, on to the challenging questions in my next post…
- I Asked for a Separation: The Chicken and the Pig (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Do You Have a Codependent Personality? (everydayhealth.com)
- Paying Attention to My Gut (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Co-Dependency: Dealing with Addiction to an Addict (atlantablackstar.com)
This is something I read yesterday, and I wanted to share it here. It really connected with me, big time. This isn’t going to be an eloquent, well-planned post. It is just a small snapshot of what has been bouncing around in my mind for the last 12 hours or so. This excerpt came from a longer post on a forum. She is talking about breaking the negative cycle with an addict.
“Somebody has to break the cycle. There’s an analogy in an Al-Anon book that helped me get this. Imagine there’s a ladder, and the addict is in front. We’re behind them on the ladder, pushing and prodding them to go up. They keep falling, and each time they fall, we cushion the blow for them.
We keep doing this over and over until one day, we notice there’s a ladder next to this one–but this ladder has OUR name on it. So we begin to climb this ladder, and leave the addict to climb their own. When they fall, we can sympathize, but we concentrate on climbing our own ladder. This addiction has NOTHING to do with us. We have to learn to take care of ourselves and become healthy ourselves in or out of the relationship…
In learning to focus on my own needs and learning not to enable, I have gained a life where I know I’ll be okay no matter what happens. To me, you have to put the focus on yourself. Whether it’s therapy, S-Anon (which saved my life) or Al-Anon, get help. Get tools to use that will help you move up your own ladder. ”
I like this analogy. My husband and I are both traveling up ladders that will bring us to a healthier, happier place. We are each dealing with our own stuff that can cause us to fall. He is struggling against his addiction and his pattern of lying to avoid his feelings. I am struggling against my codependency, controlling personality, and perfectionism. On any given day, one of us may slip and fall. I am tired of letting one person’s fall cause us both to hit the ground, though. In order to keep moving upward, we need to focus on our own separate ladders. We have to learn how to sympathize with whoever is falling and help motivate them to keep climbing, while continuing to reach toward our next rung.
We are both moving in the same direction. We both have the ultimate goal of being healthier individuals with a stronger marriage. We are moving parallel with one another towards that goal, but we will face different challenges on our climb. In the past, I have been right there underneath him, waiting for him to fall and crush me. I have tried to hold him up, cushion his fall, and mitigate his losses as best as possible, with great personal consequences, especially to my sanity. Now I see that I have my own ladder. It has my name on it. It isn’t going to be an easy climb, but it’s going to be MINE.
But what if he falls? I still have that internal struggle that says I should try to catch him somehow. But I can’t. Not if I’m focused on my own climb, my own struggles. Does that mean I won’t care if he falls? Not at all. It might even make me falter a bit on my climb, while I check to make sure he isn’t fatally injured. On some occasions I may take a few steps backward. But I won’t be down there on the ground with him. It won’t take me to the depths of despair. And I will eventually keep climbing, whether he catches up or not.
What do you think of that analogy? Does it make sense to you the way it does to me?
Trust is such a difficult thing for me for a number of reasons. One is because of my personality. I’m a very type-A, get things done kinda girl. I’m usually firmly in the camp of “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” My husband’s sex addiction and affair don’t do anything to help my trust. His lying habit virtually demolished any vestiges that remained.
Despite all of that, I have come to realize that I can’t go through life without trust. I can’t be in this marriage without being vulnerable, without giving up some control. I have to trust him with some things, whether I really want to or not. Whether I feel 100% confident that he will follow through and do it in a way that I would have or not… Cue stomach knots.
I am now working on my codependence issues and learning to let go of things that aren’t in my control. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. How do you all do it? What keeps you trusting? What helps you reassure yourself that it won’t be the end of the world no matter what happens? How do you keep your hope? I really want to know.
Being in this community is so rewarding because I get to connect with so many people, hear their stories, get support, and gain understanding of myself and what we are all going through in one form or another. Reading blogs gives me a fresh perspective, challenges me, and makes me really ponder things. At the same time, I see and hear so much disappointment, pain, fear, and oh so many lies. It is disheartening. Sure, there are lots and lots of stories of hope and healing. Still, those painful ones really stick around in my gut.
Those thoughts ping around in my head and make this struggle to trust so much more difficult. Especially after nights like last night. Mr. Mess and I are fine – great even – so don’t worry about that. It’s just that disappointment crept in, slowly but surely. I was able to support a friend, but not in the way I had hoped. Our carefully laid plans (so we thought) were blown out of the water. I could feel how despondent she was, and there was really very little I could do about it. I didn’t have any control over the situation, the outcome, or her feelings.
I wanted to, because boy do I hate seeing someone I care about in pain. But I had to let go of that desire. I had to just be there. Just listen. Just be supportive by caring – not by controlling the situation in any way. I had to remind myself that I didn’t fail. That I wasn’t the cause of the disappointment, I couldn’t have changed anything, and just being there was enough. Even though I couldn’t have done anything to fix her situation, that was my utmost desire.
I wish I had a magic wand that could solve all of the problems in the world. That is such fantasy-land thinking, though. I have to let go of it. I have to just do what I can do and be content in the knowledge that even a glimmer of normalcy, fun, comfort, validation or care does make a difference. Small things can matter a lot. I know that has been true for me. Seeing that “Like” on my post, getting a response – positive or negative, just knowing that there are people out there that care enough to take time out of their day to read what I have to say, and then offer their thoughts… Those things are huge in a way that is hard to describe.
But trusting that things will work out? That is tough. Trusting that I really am enough – no matter what happens – seems nearly impossible. I have this internal battle going on inside. It is between what I know in my head and what I fear. Those fears, some irrational and some completely possible (maybe even probable), well up inside of me. The urge I have is to freeze, to let them paralyze me. I am fighting it with all that I have. Because the reality is that I will be fine. I am strong. I am capable. I am worthwhile. I have to trust my own decision to trust (twisty I know), because that is the only way to defeat my fears.
This post will probably be a mishmash of lots of things. First, I realize that even though I posted twice yesterday I never mentioned what I did for myself. The answer is that I dressed up for absolutely no reason. I wore a pretty floral dress, did my hair and make-up, and put on my pearls. I wore these adorable new high-heeled Crocs I have that are brown with pink insoles. I felt gorgeous all day. Now if only I could find my sparkly silver nail polish!
Today I’m not sure what I’m going to do for myself. I already downloaded the Thompson Square CD (actually MP3), and have been listening to it at my desk and in my car. I will be sharing my current obsession with you later in this post. I also officially put in for a vacation week today. I will be taking a full week to do nothing except relax, have fun, and take care of myself. I’m planning a haircut, possibly a new tattoo, plenty of sleeping-in, and maybe a shopping trip or day adventure somewhere. It’s Friday, though, so I’m going to do at least one more thing for myself today. 🙂
This week I have started realizing the real value in focusing on me. This past Saturday I went to my first ever S-Anon meeting. It was a really great experience. In our area SA and S-Anon meet at the same time in the same location. The Saturday morning meeting is one that my husband has decided to go to, and last week I made the leap and decided to go along. Since starting Codependent No More I have a completely different perspective on myself. It shined a light on the fact that I have plenty to work on, too.
So, back to last Saturday. The SA meeting seemed to be pretty packed judging by the number of men I saw coming into the building and slipping into the room where Mr. Mess went. They all seemed to be fairly early, too. Yet, here I was, the lone woman. We were pretty early ourselves, so I wandered down the hall to a table with information and brochures. It seems like this place has a group, 12-step meeting for everything. Everything, I tell you! They have SA, S-Anon, AA, Al-Anon, Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous (never seen that one before), Gambling Anonymous, and maybe even a few others that I can’t remember.
Anyway… The scheduled time of the meeting 9:30 am quickly approached, then passed with no other women appearing. I was fairly certain I had the right room, and I knew I had the right place and time since I was staring right at the schedule on one of the flyers. There was really only one entrance, so I was also pretty confident I didn’t miss anyone. Conveniently, the number for the group contact person was on said flyer. I gave her a call at that number, and the answering machine listed another number (her cell) as the best place to reach her. I called that, and a cheerful woman answered and quickly assured me that she was in the parking lot, and she just caught sight of a few other women walking in. Leave it to women to be fashionably late for their own support group!
Sure enough, within a few seconds two women walked in. We made our way to the designated room (the one I thought it was), and quickly turned on the A/C to try and combat the humid stickiness in the air. Not too long after a third woman appeared. It was the one I had talked to on the phone. We started chatting a bit as everyone got settled. Funny enough, I wasn’t the only newbie. There was one other first-timer in the room as well.
Since there were just as many newcomers as old-timers at this meeting, they decided to do a welcome meeting. They didn’t have any extra white books with them, but I had brought my own 12 steps and the women were very willing to share for readings. Another lady came in during the initial introduction and reading of the 12 steps and 12 traditions.
I won’t bore you with all of the minute details, but I will say that everything really resonated with me. Some of the readings had some hard truths that I will have to dig into more before I really know how I feel, but overall it was a comfortable, uplifting experience. Each of the women shared some of their story, what brought them there, how long they have been in recovery, where they are on their personal journey, and that sort of thing. Their stories all touched some part of my experience. The other newbie was in tears basically the entire time.
Another woman showed up about half-way through, and shared her story as well. Both of us first-timers also shared, although we didn’t have to. Everyone was extremely supportive. I could tell immediately that this was a group of women who wouldn’t let each other get caught up with the addict. Crying, anger, and other emotions are definitely welcomed, but wallowing, blaming, and focusing on the sexaholic instead of ourselves is a no-no. No one really had to say that, it was just the vibe in the room. We are here for us. We can’t change them. But we can strengthen ourselves, set boundaries, decode our codependent behavior, and change our own patterns. It was empowering.
I got a list of other women in the program with their email, phone numbers, and whether they text or not. I supplied them with all of my information. At the end there were hugs all around. I didn’t know these women, but already I felt connected. They can understand me. They are me, in some ways. All it took was one meeting, and I know this is where I belong. I am already encouraged that I will be going with another person to their first meeting on Monday.
I was resistant to the idea that there was anything I needed to do, since this is “his problem.” Now I know differently. I know that there are things I can do – for me. To get healthy. To have a better response. To feel complete, worthy, and lovable. To stop making the same bad choices, to get off the roller-coaster, to feel at peace. I can do it. I also read something yesterday that I understand in a way I couldn’t have at the beginning of this process:
“I know now that I can’t choose to love or not love DH [dear husband] but I can choose to have him in my life or not.”
It’s true. I don’t have control over what he does. I don’t have control over his commitment to me. I don’t have control over whether he cheats on me again. I don’t have control over whether he lies to me. I also don’t have control over the fact that I love him. It’s just a fact at this point. I do, however, have control over whether I accept his behavior and allow it in my life. Everything else is up to me – my happiness, my boundaries, my self-esteem, my mental and physical health. He can’t control those things, either.
So, today I am feeling encouraged and inspired. I am smiling, tapping my foot, and jamming to wonderful music right now. That is how I want to go through life. Speaking of fantastic music, I promised earlier that I would share the song I can’t stop singing along to all day. Here’s the video:
And here are the beautiful lyrics that are really speaking to me today:
Tryin’ to live and love
With a heart that can’t be broken
Is like tryin’ to see the light
With eyes that can’t be opened
I’ll let you look inside me
Through the stains and through the cracks
And in the darkness of this moment
You see the good in that
I have just as many issues and problems. They aren’t the same because we have taken different paths to get here. I have to be just as open about my stains and cracks, and work on mine.
We may shine, we may shatter
We may be pickin’ up the pieces here on after
We are fragile, we are human
We are shaped by the light we let through us
But we break fast ’cause we are glass
True and very profound. We are shaped by the light we let through us, so I’m going to let as much light through me as possible. I’m going to stay positive. I’m going to remind myself that I am human.
One of my absolute favorite bloggers – Eat My Scabs – did a post today about boundaries: Step 2: Set Your Boundaries. She gave a few questions and fill in the blank sentences and challenged us all to complete them. I loved the exercise and the questions really got me thinking. I decided to share my answers here on my blog as well as submitting them on her original post.
Introduce yourself, your current obsession and one word to describe your mood today.
I am just another person on this journey to marriage healing. I have recently realized that I’m codependent, and I’m working to free myself from the tangles of my husband’s sex addiction and focus on me. My current obsession is with self-expression, especially with my body. In the last few months I have gotten fuchsia streaks in my hair, a nose ring, and a new tattoo. I have another tattoo being drawn up right now. My mood today is a bit morose. The weather has been dreary, I could have stayed in bed all day, and my husband has taken my recent detachment as license to stop having real conversations with me.
The craziest reaction I got from setting boundaries was… my husband saying “I don’t know what this (gesturing toward me) is all about” and walking out of the house. He returned home several hours later, but he was not happy with my boundaries. He didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t going to accept his bad attitude or react by screaming and yelling back.
My favorite boundary and consequence is… I don’t know yet. My favorite boundary is honesty in this marriage because it is the one thing I absolutely need the most. It is also the one my husband seems to be struggling with the most. As for consequences, I haven’t figured it out all the way. Right now the consequence is that I won’t share my bed with someone who continues to lie to me. That consequence will stand until I feel safe again. When that will happen I have no clue.
My biggest boundary failure was when… I didn’t stick to my request for him to get individual counseling after I discovered his affair and again after I caught him breaking his word about something important. Both times I put an expectation out there that I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who was unfaithful or who was constantly lying to me. However, I didn’t set any real consequence (me getting mad at him, being hurt and upset obviously wasn’t enough). Of course he didn’t go, and I just let it go. I told myself he was doing other things. I told myself it was okay, that he was okay. I told myself everything except what I should have told myself – if he won’t get help then you need to get out. I paid the price for that after we were married because his lying, hiding ways had been reinforced for years by my lack of action and follow-through.
I got in the biggest trouble when I broke this boundary… don’t steal. I was caught shoplifting. It was an incredibly selfish, stupid decision that I made in a time when my life was out of control. I had the money to pay for the stuff, I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge on myself, and instead chose to stick it in my purse. I did pay the price. Literally – thousands of dollars for a lawyer, restitution and court fees. I stayed out of jail, but I have a misdemeanor record. Stupid me!
The most successful boundary/consequence I’ve worked on is… not doing for others what they should (and can) do for themselves. I am at peace with saying that I will not accept responsibility for something that is his to deal with. I am getting much better at not feeling guilty if/when he falls on his face. I would like to be able to echo what another poster responded with: “Being willing to say I will not accept blame, lying, anger, or victim behavior from my husband and seeking distance from him when that happens.” I am still working on this one. It takes real effort for me to disengage and “seek distance” rather than continuing to respond.
If I could break any social boundary it would be… the understanding that we should all keep up a façade. Wouldn’t it be nice if “fine” or “great” weren’t the only socially accepted and expected responses to “How are you doing today?” What if we could all just be honest all of the time? I bet we would all feel less pressure to be perfect if we had the understanding of how imperfect we all feel all of the time.
My favorite quality in a man is… honesty (I’m sensing a theme here) and wit. I love a man who can be unexpected and funny just by telling it like it is.
My favorite quality in a woman is… genuineness. I am drawn to women who are straight-forward and confident in themselves just as they are.
If I could go back one decade and change anything is would be… I missed this question when I was reading the original post. If I could go back one decade and change something about my 17-year-old self I would be more confident. I would tell my teenage self that being different is beautiful, it is just fine to be an introvert, you are NOT fat, and trust your instincts because they are good.
I’m terrified that enforcing boundaries will… result in my marriage failing.
I’m excited that that enforcing boundaries will… allow me to be my own person and be treated the way that I deserve.
My most elusive boundary questions is… what is an appropriate consequence f someone breaking one of my boundaries?
Being worth it … gives me the confidence to stand strong in my boundaries.
I hope you enjoyed this little exercise. Feel free to participate if you would like, either here or on her blog!