25 March 2013

I'll Try And Get Along With You


I was washing conditioner out of my hair the last time Pete and I had an argument.  He started to talk about his frustrations and I braced myself behind the shower curtain.  There was some blame, some minimizing, a general lack of empathy and the conversation ended with me dripping wet in my towel, tears streaming down my face as I begged him to leave me alone. 

“We’ll talk about it later” I sobbed.
“But we never will.” He said as he left.

After that last discussion there were those typical days of awkwardness and chilly silence.  I felt the impending doom of the next phase of Pete’s addictive cycle. 
“Maybe it’s time to totally let him go.” Scabs told me.  “Let him fall.” 

So I tried.  And he did.  A relapse, or slip or lost battle or whatever you want to call it.  He had one.  And then another and another, dutifully confessing them to me each time.

The first disclosure came on my way home from work.  I said nothing.  That night we sat at the kitchen table and he asked me if I wanted to talk about it. 
“No.” I said.

The first time was the hardest time.  As he got up and walked out of the room it was all I could do to keep my butt in the chair.  I wanted to chase after him, extend an olive branch, I wanted to reconcile.  I wanted to ease his pain.  I desperately wanted to feel close to him. 

He told me that he didn’t think he had ever hit rock bottom.  Part of me wonders if I have been the emotional safety net that has caught him above the depths of his stony pit.  Validating, encouraging, comforting, engaging, participating.
After each confession in the last two weeks I have tried to respond the same way.  “Okay.  Thanks for telling me.”  No more emotionally exhausting, late-night conversations analyzing the relapse.  No more questions about how it happened or how he handled it.  No more invasion of his addiction.  I’m on the sidelines this time.  I’m not in the game, and I’m not even the coach. 

Feeling a little nervous about this method of detachment I asked my counselor if it was healthy.  She pointed out that my previous methods had done nothing to help Pete’s cycle of addiction, but more importantly my previous methods were not getting me to the place I wanted to be.  After obsessively trying to detach the “RIGHT” way, she kindly pointed out that because all addicts and codependents are different, every method is going to be different.  What is effective for one, might not be effective for another.  When I told her about how I was letting it all go, almost completely, she smiled and said
“Try it.  See how it goes.”

The other night Pete asked me what I expected of him.  I told him I had no expectations.  For the first time I am not emotionally attached to any outcome.  I expect, that tomorrow morning I will wake up. And I will live my life.  I will do what makes me happy if I want to be happy.   If he is not healthy enough to be a part of that, then maybe he’ll pursue recovery.  Or maybe he won’t.  But I’m not going to mope around about it.  If I feel like being pleasant, I’m going to be pleasant. 
I’m not saying I don’t have my sad moments.  But when I have them, I own them.  They are not obligatory, and they are not a parallel of his.   They are not an inevitable, uncontrollable response to his addictive cycle. 

I don’t have to punish him by invoking the silent treatment.  I don’t feel compelled to be in a sour mood toward him as a demonstration of my hurt.  Nor do I feel responsible to make a soft place for him to land.  I am totally relinquishing any responsibility I felt for his happiness. 
The other night I watched an episode of Parenthood where Sarah says to her teenage daughter

“I’m done trying to control you.  It doesn’t work.  I just don’t want us to be like this.  I love you so much.  I think I’ll just try and get along with you.”

And that about sums it up for me.

18 March 2013

My Validation Fixation

"I am insatiable for validation." I wrote in my 4th step inventory. Then I doubled the font, put it in bold, and highlighted it in the word document. It could not be understated.

I don't like using the word addiction loosely. So I will say that my fixation with validation stops just short of an addiction. It is my compulsive behavior. I look for a validation fix everywhere I can. In each email I receive from a friend, I hope to be validated. In the comments on my blog I long for praise. All around me on the internet I search for opportunities to be validated by writing comments or submitting guest posts. During my sharing at group meeting I look for approval in the faces of those who listen to me. When I bear my testimony at church I anticipate complimentary responses. During an emotional crisis I reach for my phone to call a trusted friend, someone I can count on to either validate me or talk me out of my desperate need.

When these sources all fail me, I turn to social media. Instagram and Facebook are a warehouse for manufactured validation. I post a picture of myself or my kids and I find instant positive feedback. But it's never enough. There are never enough comments or "likes" to satisfy me. I am insatiable.

When validation can not be found, I default to distraction. I peruse Instagram and Facebook, or play Words With Friends. Pinterest. Amazon. Anything to distract me from the fact that I am not being acknowledged, appreciated or worshipped.

(I am not saying there is anyhing inherently wrong with these things. Just like there is nothing inherently wrong with the beach. The beach is only a place to be avoided if you're a cycling sex addict.)

*Side Note* I want to issue a formal apology here, to anyone who I emailed preachy or self-righteous advice to. There were times it was me acting out on a compulsive desire for validation, because I was insecure about my position. And I can't possibly express my gratitude sufficiently to those who have had the courage to disagree with me, to refuse to indulge my somewhat manipulative effort to be validated. Now that I'm feeling the meekness of having no answers, I am slightly embarrassed at how I behaved when I was sure I had figured it all out.

My insatiable need for validation is definitely a problem. It might be a managable problem for me but for two things. One- I look to Pete as the number one source of my validaton. Two- Pete is an addict. I loved Rhyll's words

"Even though his presence brought out a toxic reaction in me, I desperately wanted to be loved and validated by him."

Pete and I have the same blame-shifting conversation during each of his addictive cycles. The conversation where he tells me that I'm detaching too much, and I lose my confidence. I might be able to have this conversation if I wasn't so committed to pleasing him, but my need for his validation suffocates me and breaks my heart at the first sign of his disapproval. This last time, through my tears I begged him to leave the room because I could not handle the pain of his blame.

The only people who I don't look to for validation are my children. I am so thankful that they have been spared the pressure of filling my perpetual need. From them all I wish for is love. Love free of agenda or self-interest. Pure childlike love. Love that comes so naturally to them that I can be totally confident in its intentions. It is whole and it is the antidote to my disease. It is the water that quenches my insecure thirst.

08 March 2013

new perspective

There is something that feels so wrong to me about posting on my blog when I'm deliberately avoiding everyone else's blogs.  I think I needed to detach a bit, my own conundrum seems so overwhelming I can't find any strength to engage in anyone else's.

Call it self-pity, call it self-care.  Call it the tight rope of trying to get it right.

A few months ago I was driving in my car listenting to an interview with Clay Christensen on the radio.  The man is brilliant and incredibly talented.  The guy graduated with honors and a doctorate degree from Harvard, plus he played basketball at Oxford. 

The interview was mostly out of my leauge, all the economical mumbo-jumbo just sort of floated over my head.  But I kept listening because I was sure it was making me smarter.  Unfortunately the only phrase that my brain could actually process made me realize that I'm really not smart at all.

"There are a lot of people who have lots of answers and no questions."

At the next red light I thumbed the words quickly into my notepad app on my phone because I knew he was talking about me.  There they remained.  I continued to give answers to everyone who wanted them, and many who didn't.  This very blog served as a platform for me to just hemorrhage answers. 

And now I'm spent. 

I flipped through my notepad app, and found what I was looking for.  156 days ago, October 12th, 10:19am.  Dr. Christensen's wisdom.

Dear, dear God.  I have no more answers.  I only have questions.  So. many. questions. 

02 March 2013


There are 60 unread posts in my Google reader, and that's just my WoPA account. 

I've been in a self-imposed isolation.  We're addicts, and loved ones of addicts.  We know isolation.

My isolation is two parts self-pity and three parts self-reflection, which has actually been productive and yielded some discovery.  Truth be told, I'm having a bit of a crisis of faith, and I see-saw between a total committment to getting to the bottom of it and then a sort of ignorant, blissful apathy.  I take that back, it is actually more like a half-stoned numb pseudoexistance rather than anything blissful.

In other news, it's March.  March is a hard month for Pete.  He thrives on a challenging work environment, which exists for him January-February.  Then in March there is a huge let-down.  His work goes from being super-intense to not-intense and it's easy for him to let loose, get lazy.  I'm finding that some old suspicious and anxious codependent behaviors that I thought I had overcome are resurfacing.  And I just really don't want to go there. 

I can always tell when I'm struggling because I feel like every song lyric was written for me. 

When you're at the end of the road
And you lost all sense of control
And your thoughts have taken their toll
When your mind breaks the spirit of your soulYour faith walks on broken glass

I ran a race this morning.  It was six miles. Three uphill, then three back down.  I pushed myself hard, and got a personal best time.  It felt so good.  Brandon Flowers sang me through my last mile when my body wanted to call it quits. 

And when when the hardest part is over, we'll be here
And our dreams will break the boundaries of our fear
The boundaries of our fear
Emotionally speaking I'm running with a tire tied around my waist.  I want to go faster, I want to push harder but it's holding me back.  I breath heavier, I will myself to ignore the burning in my legs, and still I feel like I'm going in slow motion. 

I know the tire is fear. I know it. 

See ya when I see ya.