28 November 2012

Filling Our Emptiness


This time last year I was reeling emotionally even more than I am this year.  This time last year was the end of a year of turmoil and anguish, and the beginning of a year of healing.  I was filled with fear about spending time with my family during such a silently painful time.  I couldn't share anything, and I had to act as if everything was right.   I had just discovered A Blog About Love, and it was a fairly new blog so I reached out to Danny, asking for advice about how to cope.  He wrote some very wise things, I'll share in my later post. 

But last week I went searching for his emails, desperate for something to help me through.  In my search I came across an email from Michelle (Hope and Healing) that was an answer to a prayer.  She said this:

"I've thought a lot about this with the struggles I have with extended family relationships and expectations for what such relationships 'should' look like. As I read through recovery materials, it seems the message is that as soon as we have expectations for others or for life, we set ourselves up for pain. Resentments are a key force in keeping us stuck in unhealthy behaviors and mindsets.

I think it's hard to wrap our heads around, but I think that ultimately, 12 steps are about letting God fill our needs. Fully and completely. Once we don't have to rely on anyone else, then we don't give others power over our lives and our well-being, and we trust ourselves to the care of our God.

I'm reminded of a saying my mom used to say when I was dating:
"Love is sharing your fullness, not filling your emptiness." I'm also reminded of the scripture that says "All things must fail" -- except the love of Christ. I think once we realize that we simply will and do fail each other, we can stop expecting others to fill our needs and instead be grateful for whatever goodness comes in a relationship without being dependent on others for our well-being."

It was exactly what I needed.  I have already discovered, in doing a Step 4 inventory and after much reflection, that so much of my unhappiness comes from disappointed expectations about my relationships with my family members. 

We are all imperfect people, and by expecting my family to be in charge of my well-being, I set them up for failure.  How can they know of my expectation? And if they have their own emptiness, how can they be expected to fill mine?

This is not to say that we should surround ourselves with toxic people, people who offer nothing and suck everything out you.  Nor is it to say that our families don't offer us a great deal of love.  It is only to say that my peace and emotional stability need not be dependent on my idea of how my family should act and treat me. 

And because my family aren't toxic people, there is much I CAN be grateful for about my relationships with them.  I know that ultimately I can rely on God for filling my emptiness, but additionally he has given me other people to help fill my emptiness.  When I don't feel love and kindness exuding from my family members, I know I can fall back on the love and kindness I feel at group meeting, or from my online friends that I carry with me constantly.  It sustains me when I feel alone. 

I finally realized that I can best appreciate my family by releasing them from my unreasonable conjectures about how they should be, and just accept them as they are.  Which is the subject of my next post, not because I can do it, but because I've read some great things about it that I want to share.

27 November 2012

Verbal eruption


I had a really emotional week last week and I'm ready to write about it.  This post is not really "going anywhere", nor is it making any kind of point. It's more just a journal entry of some events and how I felt about them.

The day before Thanksgiving my two sisters arrived in town.  I love my sisters, I admire many things about them.  They know how to make me laugh, and we love going to Target without our kids and spending hours aimlessly perusing the aisles, grateful for each other's companionship to offer opinions and just chat.

But my sisters are critical, judgmental, and elitist. Setting aside the fact that they would probably condemn my husband if they knew our circumstances, they still frequently make me feel small and inferior. 

On Wednesday, less than 20 minutes after arriving at my mom's house and seeing my sister, she had already hurt my feelings.  I went into a bathroom and cried for a few minutes.  When I came out my mom offered some words of comfort and I regained composure.  I stuck it out for the evening but by the time I got home I was a mess.  I was irritated with Pete and took it out on him and the kids.  Finally I went to bed a heap of tears.  Then the crying got worse as my negative thoughts spiraled out of control.

"Why can't my family be kind? I've been so emotionally unstable the last couple weeks, I really need a safe place.  I need some kindness.  Shouldn't my family provide that for me? I don't want to spend Thanksgiving with those people!  Thanksgiving! Why am I laying here in a pathetic sadness when I have so much to be grateful for? Why can't I just be happy? Why do I feel so sad?!" 

After a good cry I forced myself to stop being judgmental of my feelings.  It's okay to be sad, I told myself.  And I fell asleep.

On Friday Pete and I had an argument about spending the right amount of time with each of our families.  (An epic struggle that never relents around the holidays.)  He said some things that hurt me and once again I felt overwhelmed by my emotions.

"Can't anyone just be kind to me?!? Why must there be conflict everywhere!?"

Even as I said it, I knew that conflict exists for me only when I choose to engage in it.  But I was feeling so emotionally fragile, so incapable resisting the bait.  I felt like I was on unstable ground, like I just couldn't find my emotional footing.  Everything was just on the surface and any slight provocation put me over the edge. 

I knew I wanted to enjoy this time with my family. I knew I didn't want to fight with Pete.  Despite these two incidents I was able to still have a good time with my siblings and appreciate the holiday and the memories.  But I didn't get through without applying some serious recovery principles.  I gained enough insight to make it out okay, and I want to write this week about the following three ideas.

1- Why do I expect my family to fulfill my need for support? Why don't they?
2- What does it mean to not judge my feelings?
3- How do I love my family in a way that won't bring out the worst in me?

22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I almost considered not posting this, for fear it would sound forced or obligatory, like some of the daily gratitude posts on Facebook. In fact, I loved this quote

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our Thanksgiving."

W.T. Purkiser

I am so grateful for the people I've met in the last year.  Even in the last six months, some remarkable people have entered my life, made me better, helped me cope, and loved me. 

I am so thankful for those people, and I hope you all feel sufficiently used by me for the aforementioned purposes. 

Happy Thanksgiving.  Thank you for your love!

16 November 2012

It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back- So shake him off

There is nothing like a good song to pull me out of a funk.  Sometimes I need something spiritual, sometimes I need something peppy.  Sometimes I turn to Broadway and sometimes I need something empowering.  And then sometimes... I just need Florence and her rad Machine. 

Despite her amazing hair in the actual music video, it was a little too maniacal for me. So I posted this one instead, besides, the lyrics are just so timely. 

Have a great weekend everyone.  I'll be shaking it out. 

15 November 2012

Beware: Seriously raw emotions

One facet of addiction that continues to cause me pain is the way that it robs some of life's most glorious moments of their glory. 

For months I trained for a race.  I ran and ran in preparation for that day, those miles, that finish line. 

Race day came, I ran my heart out, and at the finish line was my family.  But instead of the man I love, there was a shadow.  Hollow and empty.  In my excitement I soaked up the atmosphere and the praise of my sweet children.   But I longed for my husband, and instead was someone I could hardly make eye contact with, let alone embrace in joyous celebration. 

It makes me sad and angry. 

Like a black hole, shame and resentment suck the life and thrill out of meaningful experiences.

Pete is the person I long most to share everything wonderful with.  He believes in me.  He helps me execute all of my concocted plans.  He encourages me, he is there all along the way. 

And then, when it was all said and done, when I wanted most to thank him for all he'd done, he was gone.  In his place was the addict.  The self-absorbed, apathetic, justifying man who occupies the body of my husband. 

I've learned to deal with relapses, or I thought I had.  What I can't handle is the way, like a shadowy bandit, addiction sneaks in and steals away life's greatest treasures in life's most magical times.  Peace. Joy. Satisfaction. Contentment. Euphoria.  Snuffed out like a candle.  

Addiction is a package deal.  It's more than just relapses and sobriety.  It's an attitude of entitlement, it's pride and it mocks respect for others.  It justifies all selfish thoughts and behaviors.  It is cruel and cold. 

And today I hate it.  I hate it so much I cry tears of anguish.

07 November 2012

Let People In

Self-hatred has been lapping at my toes since I finished my step 4.  Fortunately steps 6 & 7 have kept it at bay, and given me hope for change.  I feel change, and it feels good.

But on bad days I feel overwhelmed by my inadequacies.  Or rather, my perceived inadequacies.  I finally acquired a copy of Courage to Change: One Day at a Time.  (You can get a very inexpensive used copy here.)

Here is the message for today, from Alateen:

"If no one knows us as we really are, we run the risk of becoming victims of our own self-hatred.  If we can be loved by somebody who sees us as we are, we can then begin to accept ourselves.  Others rarely think we're as bad as we do."

The people who know me as I really am, all that is wrong in my life, have been such a huge support for me when my confidence wavers and doubt and insecurities creep in. 

I hope you all have at least one person in your life who fulfills that role, and if possible a group of people.  And better yet, I hope that we are all doing our part to BE that person for someone else. 

I'm going on vacation with my family for a week to a place with palm trees. Love you all!