31 January 2013

the Tight Rope

Sometimes it feels like this whole recovery bit is an exhausting balancing act.  Scabs and I noticed that we are always saying to each other "It's a fine line..."  She suggested we write about it. Read her take here.

Each step forward finds me teetering between the "Dos" and "Don'ts" that are coming at me from all angles. 

"Do make him accountable to you, but don't check up on him."

"Do show compassion but don't enable him." 

Or how about,

"Don't ignore the problem, but do detach from it."

Things that could be a contradiction are at the least a fine line

What exactly do I mean?

Take self-care.  Super important right? But isn't there a point when you become too self-absorbed, when you've crossed that fine line and you are justifying watching all three seasons of Downton Abbey in one sitting all in the name of "self-care?"  Because isn't it actually service that brings happiness? Looking outside one's self, focusing on the needs of others?

Or how about the fine line between communicating and nagging.  It's so important to have transparency, right? It's necessary to have the hard discussions.  But whatever you do, DON'T nag the shamed addict! Don't check up on him all the time.  Don't guilt him into sharing with you and don't beg for honesty.  Make him accountable for his actions, but don't be codependent about it. 

One last example.  You need to protect his privacy, it's not your story to tell, etc.  But you need support.  Honesty and vulnerability foster meaningful and loving friendships.  It feels liberating to ditch the facade and just be REAL with someone.  "You're only as sick as your secrets" Al-Anon tells us. 

So yeah, I think it is a balancing act.  I think I am walking a tight rope.  And once in awhile I find myself leaning a bit too much to the right and I don't feel safe and I panic.  So I over-compensate and jerk myself to the left, now feeling just as afraid of falling as I did on the right. 

I feel like I need to have compassion for him.  I need to feel love and forgiveness.  But then I feel like I'm being a doormat, and I'm enabling him by trying to protect him from pain, because I love him.  So I come down harder, my heart gets colder, and then I feel hopeless about our relationship because I know I'm being a porcupine.  It's a fine line between doormat and porcupine.

One of my favorite sayings is "The answer is always in the middle." 

"DUH" says the girl on the tight rope.

I think ultimately it takes practice.  It takes a few falls flat on your face and an ever increasing sense of balance that prevents you from overcompensating, giving you just the right touch to adjust when the wind blows or when you falter.  Just like anything else it won't come easy, trial and error teach you to the way to be.  And experience of course.  And then, there you are...

...deliberate, confident, and peaceful.  And all those things create better balance than tension, fear and panic. Wouldn't you agree?

28 January 2013

Imperfect People Who Love Me

British Throne

The woman who I shared my 4th step inventory with is the facilitator in the 12-step meeting I attend.  She was one of the first women I met when I started attending group meetings.  I ought to be careful what I share about her, but she is experienced and loving, and I spent the most vulnerable few hours of my life opening my soul to her. 

It is inevitable that the people we love and admire most will let us down at some point.  Our family members who love us most can often hurt us the deepest.  This is a great disapointment to my sensitive heart, and when I place someone on a pedastal, it can be heartbreaking to see that pedastal come crashing down as their own character weaknesses are exposed.   No one is perfect, and yet I find it a rude awakening when I've been blessed for so long to see only the good in someone. 

Last night in our "meeting after the meeting" I expressed an opinion.  It was about sex.  All eyes were on me.  But no sooner had I finished my sentence than my bold and vocal facilitator squashed it.  She was standing and all eyes snapped to her visage as she waxed eloquent refuting my experessed opinion with (what felt to me) both mockery and reason. 

I felt ashamed.  I felt like a crushed bug.  All eyes were back on me and I searched each pair for some sign of validation or support. 

It must be said that on my way home this dear woman called and offered a sincere and humble apology for the way she had treated me.  But the damage was done.  And soon enough I will forgive, but in the meantime I'm bitterly disappointed.

I told this story to Pete, and lamented the way this woman had changed in my eyes.  He said to me

"Eventually we see that everyone is human, with faults and frailties.  I don't think we can really know anyone until we see that."

I guess the trick is finding a way to let those faults and frailties fill me with more love, rather than less.  I've been reading in the Book of Mormon, about Moroni and Pahoran.  Moroni, the equivalent of an army general was out fighting a war and wondering why Pahoran, the equivalent of a president or king wasn't sending any aid or assistance.  Moroni, who the Book of Mormon regales with praise, writes a scathing letter to Pahoran. 

How painful it must have been for Pahoran to get that letter.  Moroni was his friend, and he wrote words like "condemnation", "slothfulness", and "negligence." And how does Pahoran respond?  Just like I did, says the girl who drove home in a fury and refused to even listen to the voicemail apology until the next morning. 

Or not.  Rather Pahoran said:

"And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart."  Then he proceeded to give a very reasonable explanation for the alleged crimes Moroni had laid against him.

I know my facilitator friend is so much more than she was in that moment.  I know Pete is so much more than his addiction.  I know that I am so much more than the insecure and self-pitying person who can't tolerate being disagreed with. 

So even if I put people on a pedastal that eventually comes crashing down, it doesn't have to be the end of my relationship with them, better yet it can be the beginning of a REAL relationship, with a REAL and imperfect person. 

27 January 2013

I have enough

Julie is one of my favorite bloggers.  She has a gift for articulating her feelings through words, and when I read her words I am always inspired and enlightened.  Her latest post about gratitude started a thought process for me that has given me a new perspective.  Or maybe a re-newed perspective. 

I hope she doesn't mind me sharing here.

She talks about how a man tried to console her over the loss of her sweet little boy, by reminding her to be grateful that she was able to have a child when so many woman are not able.  His intentions were good, he only meant to help, but she felt there a was a flaw in his reasoning.  She says

"Gratitude is not born of comparison. Teddy Roosevelt said that "Comparison is the thief of joy." I believe that is true whether we are comparing ourselves to individuals we consider to be "above" us or those who seem to be "below" us. Comparison robs us of joy because it forces us to rank ourselves on some imaginary scale of happiness, when no such scale exists. Happiness is not linear, it's not a ladder to be climbed. It is more fluid like water. It moves around us and through us. Sometimes it fills us, and sometimes we thirst for it. "

How often I have thought how I ought to be grateful because my husband's addiction hasn't progressed as far as many other women.  But this reassurances has never felt very reassuring.  My pain has always been real despite the fact that it might be "less" than the pain of another. 

What I have is neither "more" or "less" than anyone else.  Gratitude is not found in focusing on the pain of someone else to belittle my own. 

Gratitude is feeling joy because in spite of everything, I still have enough.  

My pain is real, and comparing my pain to someone else's pain whether to make myself feel more self-pity because my trials are "worse", or to guilt myself into feeling gratitude because my trials are "better" is not productive.  Nor does it foster a healthy, compassionate empathy, but rather feelings of either jealousy or superiority. 

Coping with my pain is part of what brings me closer to God, teaches me, humbles me.  But ultimately living in my pain indefinitely can lead me to be ungrateful.  And by being ungrateful, I mean failing to recognize that what I have, regardless of what others have, is sufficient for my happiness. 

A few more wise words from Julie.
"I don't believe we can rank life's adversity... Watching your child die is hard. It is all hard, it is all pain, and finding respite in someone else's suffering is short lived and ultimately extremely unsatisfying. As I grow older and understand more fully the pain of others my heart aches more, not less. 

Since losing Jonah I have discovered that it is possible to feel gratitude in the midst of darkness. Gratitude brings with it a light and recognition that my life remains full of mercy and grace. "

I frequently fight the temptation to focus on what my life is lacking. It is easy for me to justify myself when I get cranky with my children, because I convince myself that what I have is not enough to make me happy.  But like Julie mentions in her post, I have traveled to an impoverished country myself, and seen joy the faces of people who have very little or experienced much pain.  This doesn't tell me that I SHOULD be happy because they are, it simply tells me that I CAN be happy with what I have. 

15 January 2013


Buy this print here

When I was 12 years old I went on a business trip with my dad to San Diego. I remember it well, we stayed in a nice hotel downtown called the Horton Grand. It was charming with white bird cages that had live, brightly colored chirping birds in them. One morning we set out on our way, the weather was beautiful and my dad had planned for us to go to the zoo. But he wouldn't tell me that, he teased and tortured me with suspense about our destination until I couldn't stand it anymore. With a little attitude, and fierce determination I turned around and stomped off down the street. Sure I wouldn't last a block, my dad kept walking, expecting me to rejoin him any minute. But I didn't, and with prepubescent irrational self-confidence, I found my way back to the hotel and patiently watched the birds in the lobby.

Meanwhile my dad flagged down a police officer, feeling horrible for losing his daughter in a large city. Eventually he returned to the hotel and found me there, shocked that I had found my way back so easily, but relieved that I was okay.

Aside from my fickle spite, my dad had only himself to blame. Not for his teasing, which was innocent enough, but for the way he raised me. He raised me to be confident and determined. He taught me I could do what I wanted when I set my mind to it. Throw in a touch of spontaneity and stubbornness and he had created an independent girl, albeit a little feisty.

To this day I still consider myself to be determined and strong-willed. It is only when someone else's feelings are a factor that I hesitate to accomplish whatever task I've set forth for myself. On Thursday when I decided to leave I became set on the idea. It wasn't until I was packing that I thought carefully of how hurt Pete would be to discover his family gone for the weekend. In spite of that, feeling committed to my decision I threw some food in a cooler and we got outta Dodge.

As with most of my goals, it wasn't without it's obstacles. I had to jump through some hoops that were out of my comfort zone in order to make it happen. I had to make some tough phone calls to cancel other plans, drive through a blizzard and put chains on my tires. But it was worth all my efforts and I found satisfaction in my ability to act of my own accord. In fact, once Pete found out we were leaving he did nothing to try to stop me, likely because he knew better.

One of Pete's redeeming qualities is that he has ambition. This was one of the things that drew me to him when we dated. He had a plan, and he worked hard to execute his plan. Like me, once he sets his mind to something he follows through. And more than once it has been his efforts that have helped me to accomplish my own goals.

So I guess this is why I stay. I know that once Pete sets his mind to recovery he will figure it out and conquer. And since he has loyally stood by and given me his best effort to see through my own wild ideas, I feel like I can muster the forgiveness and patience to stand by while he works his way through this, so long as he is willing to do so. With a little attitude and fierce determination I know he can do just that. He will have to jump through some hoops and overcome some obstacles that will likely be outside his comfort zone and test his commitment. But I have confidence he is capable.

So with that, I'll let go of my fears and dig deep for that prepubescent girl who took no thought for worst case scenarios or what-ifs. And that's the best I can do for hope today.   

11 January 2013

Packin' Up Headin' Out

Yesterday Pete and I were at odds and I had to get away. I packed up my kids and our snow gear and headed to the mountains in the middle of a blizzard. I bought snow tires on my way out of town but they were too small so a kind and friendly mountain man decked out in Carhartt towed us up the hill to the cabin.

I have no cell service and sporadic Internet so I probably won't be sending any emails. Sorry about that.

I am going to build snowmen, go sledding, do puzzles, read books, watch movies and play board games.

And try to cope with the hole in my heart and knot in my gut. Have a good weekend all.

PS The mountain man just stopped by and gave me some new chains to get me down the mountain. God bless that man.

09 January 2013

The Sad Day

I don't often wish that none of this had ever happened to me.  I know it's strange to say, but some of the things I've learned and more especially the friends I've made are really that important to me.  They mean enough that I couldn't wish them away even if it would erase all the porn my husband ever looked at. (To those who have been through worse than I have I don't expect you to reciprocate my sentiment. And I can completely understand anyone who wishes it all away.)

But yesterday I had a moment where the resentment was just too much to keep away.  I hunched over the washing machine as it filled with water and cried my own tears into it.


A thousand "whys?"

All the blame, fury, frustration at this stupid problem gushed out of me in sobs.  It's hard.  It hurts.  It is confusing and impossible to understand.  And it is so dang complicated.

That was my turning point.  When I let go of the anger and let the sadness in.  

So yesterday was the angry day and today is the sad day.  I'm too emotionally spent for tears today. Being sad seems so much harder.  Anger is energizing, driven, strong, powerful.  Sadness is weak, debilitating and humbling.  Neither is better as far as I can tell. Both are just guests in my life party, invited or not.  I don't want to go back to the anger nor do I want stay in this sadness for long either.

Thank you everyone for your support.  I didn't mean to draw out any man-hate, I'm learning to separate the man from the behavior.  But I appreciate you all.

08 January 2013


I have some fear and trepidation in writing today because first of all,  I know Pete will read this and I also know I have no control over how he reacts.

And secondly, I am angry.  And if you know me you know that I know better than to hang on to anger.  And I won't, I will let it go.  But today I'm giving myself a day to just feel it.  And write about it.

The holidays had their moments, but Pete went back to work and I had made some decisions and was feeling pretty good.  I was actually feeling close to Pete, and after I had set a new boundary (in my mind) I was feeling liberated and relaxed about everything. 

On Friday Pete acted out, but didn't tell me.  He usually tells me right away, or at least the first time we talk in person.  The entire weekend went by and he didn't mention it.  He did give one of our children a blessing on Sunday, but I'm not going to even venture into the realm of worthiness.  That's his business. 

On Sunday night, thinking everything was hunky-dory I decided to tell Pete about my new boundary.  I will write about that later, but he responded remarkably well.  We didn't talk long, but he had ample opportunity to share his indiscretion, and he didn't.  I felt so peaceful, so hopeful, so optimistic. 

Finally last night he confessed.  And now I'm mad.  I'm mad for three reasons.

1.  It sucks that he keeps acting out.  It sucks that my husband looks at porn.  It sucks.

2.  I hate that I didn't see it coming.  I hate that I missed the signs and I feel stupid for being deceived.

I can usually read Pete pretty well when he acts out.  He wears it on his sleeve.  Which means that when he isn't telling me that he has acted out, and when I'm not sensing it from him, on some level he is making deliberate efforts to hide it, changing his behavior to be deceptive.  And while he hasn't technically "lied" because I never asked if he was sober, he was being dishonest.  Allowing someone to believe something that isn't the truth is dishonest.  It doesn't foster trust, it encourages suspicion. 

It is awful to be deceived, but tolerable when you can see right through your spouse's efforts to mislead you.  What is worse, is being made the fool.  When you bite.  When you buy into all his false mannerisms and artificial contentment.  Then you find out that you were clueless.

I know this only lasted a few days, but I am still hurt and angry when I imagine myself sitting on our bed on Sunday, eating up his every word about how he wants a better relationship for us than this whole addict mess. 

3.  Pete never says the words anymore, but I can read it in his face when he's thinking

"You are over-reacting."
"This is not that big of a deal."

And that is what hurts worst of all.  It IS a big deal.  Period.  I shouldn't have to justify my reactions, and I'm learning not to.  They are mine to feel and manage, and I'm grateful for each of you for understanding.  Because I KNOW you do. 

04 January 2013

My Sugar Drug

Oh my gosh I'm DYING for these. 

Pete is calling my diet an "empathy diet", to help me see how hard it can be to give something up.  I hesitate to draw further analogies here, because

1. I don't mean to imply that giving up sugar can be considered the same difficulty as giving up a chemical or psychological addiction.  (Although I definitely think there are psychologic and physical components to this...)

and 2. I would argue that the stakes are much higher when dealing with a pornography or drug addiction.  We're talking destroyed relationships, eternal consequences, even death.

Having said all that, this sugar bit is giving me some insight.  I'm identifying all sorts of addict behaviors in myself.

~ The cravings are CRAZY.  I had no idea.
~ I have become irritable and grumpy when I think about what I can't eat.
~ I think about what I can't eat, constantly. I am really quite surprised about this one.  Starting after lunch, when I would usually indulge in a chocolate treat of some kind, my thoughts are over-taken by desire, then anger over my desire, then guilt over my anger, then frustration at all of the above.
~ I fantasize about what I will eat as soon as my 30 days are up.  I salivate over the treats my kids are eating.
~ I mistreat the people around me,(the ones I love most), because I am so annoyed with myself for the way giving up this silly little habit is effecting me.

Then of course I have my good moments, where my resolve is strong, I feel good about myself for having the self-discipline to do it at all.  I hope the parallels are obvious.

But I'm also seeing an important distinction.  It's not just that I want to reluctantly give up sugar.  I don't want to give it up only to be perpetually disappointed in doing so.  I don't want to woefully dismiss it, sad to see it go.  I want to find a meaningful [dietary] existence without sugar.  Not just biding time, but peacefully living without it.  ENJOYING life without it.

That's how I feel about Pete.  I don't want him to give this up reluctantly.  I don't want him to feel his life is lacking without it, to look back longingly at his indulgence.  I want him to find a meaningful [sexual] existence without porn.  ENJOYING life without it.  I know HE knows that such a life is possible.  But something is still just not clicking.

02 January 2013

The New Year

I am getting a sense that New Year's Resolutions are out of fashion, too cliche and ridiculed for lack of follow-through.  But I'm going to set them regardless, because if I don't I excuse myself from making any effort at all.  And as Victor Frankl says

"Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed my drives." 

So, without further ado my resolutions.

1- Give up sugar for one month, beginning today.
      - Having become somewhat familiar with addiction, I've seen all the signs in my own compulsive behaviors toward chocolate, baked goods and candy.  Signs such as but not limited to
          * Eating it with reckless abandon.
          * It's never too early in the morning for it.
          * Endless justifications
          * Eating sugar whenever I [watch tv, work on my computer, drive in the car]
          * Eating it to cope with emotions
The difference here being, that I don't intend to live a life of sugar sobriety, just a month, to help me break habits, gain a new perspective/appreciation for it in small quantities, and practice self-control all while finding better ways to cope with emotions.

2- Read two books each month.
      -  This is a stretch. I love to read but have given up my reading time to Pinterest, Facebook, and blogs.  I'm excited to get sucked back into a good book, something that will challenge my gradually diminishing attention span.

3- Finish my 12-step program.
     -  I've been on Step 7 for months.  This means reading the steps, studying and pondering them, writing about them, and trying to apply them into my life.

4- Not say critical things about my family. 
      - Except to Pete.  One step at a time.

5- Once a week spend meaningful one-on-one time with one of my children.  
Even though all the old sayings about the new year seem cliche, and even though I know that self-improvement should really be something I focus on all year, I really can't help but feel new hope at the beginning of each year.  Tennyson said it best

"Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering 'it will be happier...'