06 June 2012

What were you thinking?!

Last night at group meeting  a woman said "It feels so good to know I'm not the only one who feels that way."

I reassured her, that for practically every thought, emotion, behavior, there is someone else who has been there.  I realized recently that a common phrase amongst wives of addicts is

"What were you thinking!?"  And I don't mean it as an angry, rhetorical question.  We really want to know. 

"What exactly were you thinking in the moments leading up to your indiscretion? Or the moments immediately after?"  As April described it to me: "Were you thinking- 'I'm hungry, I want a sandwhich...' or 'I just did something awful...' or 'My life is in shambles...'" 


And the famous response- (raise your had if you've heard it)-

"I don't know." 

It has frustrated me time and time again.  Even now, after I pour my heart out and he is staring blankly back at me, I can't bear it when I plead for a response and all he can offer is

"I don't know." 

Pete reminded me of an episode of the Simpsons where the family is attending a wedding.  As they all sit quietly in their seats the camera goes from one character to another and their thoughts are given voice.  Each one has thoughts appropriate to the wedding and in accordance with their character/personality.  When it gets to Homer the camera zooms in on his brain and you hear this

"Da da da da, da da da da da, HEY, da da da da." 

You get the idea.  It is one of life's most profound moments and yet his brain is, for all intents and purposes, blank. Obviously, satirical t.v. is based on exaggeration, but you get the point.

I really believe that men's brains are different.  Unlike women, they are capable of allowing empty space, not forming any identifyable conscious thoughts.   I think this sometimes contributes to their vulnerability for addiction, the empty space allows vacancy for unvirtuous and vile thoughts.  But that's another issue...

I don't think it is a good excuse for not addressing things that need to be addressed.  I think that it is in the man's best interest to force himself to form some kind of conscious thought.  But I'm learning that as irritating as it is, he might actually be telling the truth when he says. 

"I don't know." 

Having said all that- coming soon Pete and I are going to do a co-post about having the hard conversations.  We had one this moring.  It was both excrucating and healing.  So, while it might be the truth when he says he isn't sure what he is/was thinking, it might also be a cover-up, because the truth is so painful, or embarrassing, or horrific to him that he can't possibly imagine sharing it.


  1. oh, I have heard it so many times. I think you are right, the issue isn't what were thinking? but why weren't you thinking?

  2. I have heard this many times before too :-)
    We are finding that those most painful conversations are the most healing too . . .

  3. Um, can I raise my hand a billion times? I am SO tired of hearing "I don't know" in response to practically every question I ask that requires any sort of thought. Ugh. I'm looking forward to your co-post.

  4. Yes I raised my hand. And I laughed while I did it, because you are right, WE'VE ALL BEEN THERE! I think I've given up on asking though because I realize that there is no logic. There will never be an answer that satisfies me or makes me think, oh, well that's justifiable then. Thanks for being "our" voice and making me see once again I am not alone.
    And I love that thinking about our commonalities brings on smiles -- I'm so glad we have a safe place to share. Addiction doesn't have to lurk in shadows. We win.

  5. "i dont know" is the most infuriating answer to questions that seem to have no real answer. I guess when I ask I'm just looking for some moment of conscience. The homer analogy is probably the truth. There is no thought process that leads them to their addiction. I like the way you said that. Genius Jane!

    Looking fwd to your co-post!

  6. YYEEESSS! That answer infuriated me faster than anything else in the world. I remember wanting to knock on his head, see if there was really anything in there. I suppose it's a male/female difference I need to work on getting more patient with, because I certainly have an answer for everything! So "I don't know" literally doesn't make sense to me.

  7. Hello Jane, seems that today is the day to relate to weird situations. I read this post and thought: Ugh!!!!!!!!

    OF COURSE!!! What was I thinking... I thought that maybe it was a birth defect on my husband, the stupid answer "I don´t know"... Or maybe... a country trademark of some kind (Im from Mexico) but now I see clearly, ITS NOT.

    I wish I could earn money for everytime i´ve heard it. But all i get is another crack in my heart.

    I´ll be reading you. This was helpful!!!