25 October 2013

A week in the life of Jane

It has been a tornado of emotions in the last couple weeks.  In addition to all the confusion and then clarity that surrounded last week, I had made a decision about doing something I felt right about that Pete vehemently disagreed with.  I did it this week.  And it hurt him. 

MONDAY: I shared my (and by obvious association, Pete's) story with someone close to Pete and me.  I had felt strong impressions to do this, and felt that I needed to be honest and real with this person.  It went well, I felt a loving response.  I also felt strongly that by doing what I felt was right, I could confidently trust that God will help me cope with the fallout.  I told Pete what I had done and left it at that, knowing he was going to need some space.

TUESDAY: Pete had a business dinner that night that I was supposed to attend with him.  But the idea of sitting through a celebratory dinner with his coworkers with him oozing hatred out his eyeballs toward me was not appealing.  So I told him as much.  What I said was "If you are angry with me that's fine, but please don't ask me to be your date."  What he heard was "If you don't hurry up at get over this I'm not going to your dinner with you."

We squabbled via text about this all day long on Tuesday.  And then I had a realization. 

Jane- every time you put up a wall, he is going to put up a wall.  (My therapist prefers to talk about doors instead of walls.  Doors can be opened and closed.)  Jane- You have closed your door.  And locked it.  And refusing to go to this dinner is a deadbolt. 

***BIG DISCLAIMER*** Vulnerability with an addict is not always safe.  I get to decide when it's safe. When I'm ready to take a risk and open my heart is my choice with my gut.  Same goes for all of us. 

And it felt like it was time. It felt like I could board up my door and close my heart forever, and get the same response back from him.  All of the sudden I was feeling a desire, a longing, and inkling to open that door.  So I called him. I said

"I want to go to this dinner with you.  But I don't want to sit next to an ice cube."

To which he vulnerably responded.

"I really want you to be there. I won't be an ice cube." 

WEDNESDAY: Pete came home from his meeting and we put the kids to bed. He asked me a few details about my conversation with said person and I answered them.  By now I was thirsty for anything from him.  I just wanted so badly to know what he was thinking and feeling. I could feel old desperations rising up, willing to give up anything to get something back.  But he said he wasn't ready to talk about it yet.  He went into our office to answer emails from work and I started cleaning the house.  I put on some empowering music and got to work.  But I started to feel hot.  It felt like my insides were a furnace burning intense feelings as fuel.  I went out to the porch and sat down.  It's cold at night my part of the world.  But that furnace felt warm inside me.  HOT inside me.  I looked up at the stars and listened to Adele.  (Music is this weird medium that is like a soundtrack to my soul.  It causes thoughts to rush out of me like a bursting dam.)  These were the thoughts.

Jane- (I guess I sort of talk to myself, or imagine God or sanity or some third party talking to me?)

Jane- you have something to offer.  It's time to stop taking taking taking, and start offering.  It's okay, it's okay what you've done to cope, how you've dealt with trauma, the mistakes you've made. It's. Okay.  But it's time to stop obsessing about this.  It's time to give Pete a chance.  It's time to quit feeling sorry for yourself.  It's time.  You're strong.  You're good.  You. Are. Good. 

It's hard to put into words the feelings and thoughts I had. But something clicked and I felt whole. 

THURSDAY: I spent the day doing volunteer work, which as cliché as it sounds, is really so healing.  There is a time and place for service, and it's not during the crisis.  But I am feeling drawn out of my crisis and it was so good for me.  I was still feeling strong and good.

That evening after the kids were in bed Pete asked me to listen as he read something he had prepared about the experience from earlier in the week.  The statement was half-hearted.  He wanted to be over it, he wanted to not be angry, the words said he wasn't but his demeanor felt otherwise.  He asked me that from now on, before I share his story with anyone we meet with a counselor to discuss it.  This bothered me.  I closed my door.  He locked his. I deadbolted mine.  It was a standoff.  We started to argue.  Then he said this

"I'm not the only one with problems in the marriage!"

And I lost it. I walked away. I went in my room and literally closed and locked the door.  Then I went into my bathroom and closed and locked that door.  I was PISSED and I was HURT and I was CONFUSED.  Why is he still saying that? Why is he always blaming me? Why does he insist I'm not recovering the "right" way?  I crumpled to the floor and sobbed.  I hit the wall with the palm of my hand so hard it made my skin sting.  I thought I was strong. I thought I was ready. I thought I couldn't be affected by him like this anymore. 

I heard him knocking on the door.  So I grabbed a bag and shoved some pajamas in it and opened the door.  But he stopped me.  He put his hands on my shoulders, softly, and gently pushed me back until I sat on the edge of our bed.  He knelt down in front me.  With tears in his eyes he said all the things I've been waiting years to hear.

"I'm so sorry.  I wish I could take back those words.  I don't care about being right. I don't care about my pride. I don't want you to leave. Now, or ever. I don't want to lose you.  I love you.  I want to fix this.  I've made mistakes, I'm going to make more mistakes.  I'm learning, but I am giving this my whole heart. I am really trying recovery.  I wanted to handle this the right way and I tried so hard, but old habits die hard.  Please forgive me.  Please. Please. Please."

He went on for about ten minutes before I would even look at his face.  And then he went on some more.  He talked about his pain. He talked about how much it hurt him what I had done.  It was humiliating.  He talked about the last six months and the anguish of watching me pull away from him.  He talked about fears and he talked about recovery.  He was so real.  He was so vulnerable. So humble.  So meek.  So honest. 

After awhile I asked him.  "What stopped you from realizing all these things before, and from sharing them with me?"  He talked about addiction and how it makes chaos in his brain. About how without some sobriety he couldn't see things as they really were.  He talked about how God has given him a sponsor that sees him when he can't see himself.  Like really sees him. 

I realized how healing and helpful it was for me to hear him be honest about his feelings.  But I also realized how he was incapable of doing that for so long.  Yesterday was 50 days of sobriety for him.  That's the longest he has gone in a couple years. 

I don't know what the future holds.  Last night we watched Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability and she talked about how relationships have no guarantees.  It's probably a little different with an addict, it takes longer to be willing to take the risk.  But Pete IS in recovery.  I know it.  So I'm taking a leap of faith, and starting the hard road to healing our relationship.  More therapy.  More hard conversations.  And I'm sure many more mistakes and disagreements. 

But I feel hope, and I feel love for this man.  For the work he has done to get where he is.  I caught a glimpse of how painful HIS road has been and I felt a wagonload of compassion. 

And now I'm going to Yoga- and I'm going to hit publish without finding a cool pic and without reading through this.  Love you all for reading-  Jane

23 October 2013


So it's no secret that I've been converted to Yoga.  When I say this to non-addict people they assume I love it for the exercise. It's physically challenging for sure, I underestimated it that way before I tried it.  But I love it because it is kind.  It's emotionally cleansing.  It really is healing. 

A friend of mine told me about this organization.  When I watched the video I thought "Yes! This is us!" We are women who know suffering, and we know the power of community. 

So if you are in the Salt Lake Valley take advantage of this opportunity.  She will be in Provo Friday evening and Saturday in Salt Lake.  You can find more information on the website.  yogaforcongowomen.org

20 October 2013

And THAT is Why


A week or two before the Togetherness Project I told Scabs that part of the reason I didn’t feel strongly about going was because I didn’t feel like it was what I needed right now.

Despite having a strong impression that not going was what I needed, I still found myself feeling like I was just being fickle and ridiculous about it. I felt all kinds of doubts and acknowledged my fears but didn’t know what to do with them.  Even now I feel foolish for how much I’ve analyzed this one solitary choice, to go or not to go.

Knowing that on Saturday I was going to be really feeling left out, I tried to think of my best option for what to do. For once I KNEW something for sure, and it was that I needed to go to a yoga class I occasionally attend on Saturday mornings.  On my way there I could tell I was already emotional and I pictured my cancer-surviving yoga instructor embracing me in a big, loving hug.  When I arrived at the class she wasn’t there.  Apparently she’s moved to another studio.  The young, but bearded male teacher caught me off guard.  I was disappointed and doubted that the morning would be what I had hoped for, but yoga never ceases to amaze me so I committed to be open minded and have a good practice. 

It was a good practice.  I nailed the tree pose and I felt strong. 

During Shavasana I cleared my head and listened to the words of the young bearded man.  His vocie was clear and reassuring and I started to weep.  I opened my eyes just to see if he was looking right at me because everything he said was meant exactly for me.  It felt like God was speaking to me.  It was as powerful as any priesthood blessing I can recall.

As I drove home in the glorious sunlight of a radiant autumn day, I felt profound clarity. What I needed this week was two fold.

First- I needed to see a part of myself as it was.  Fears and insecurities and all. I needed to meet a demon. 

But secondly, I needed to be in that yoga class with that yoga guy.  I needed the knowledge and strength he gave me, to face my demon. 

I hope this doesn’t make it look like I’m trying to justify my not being there or publicly redeem myself.  Nor do I want to belittle the event .  I am confident that for women at the event it was exactly what THEY needed, and God spoke to them through that experience.  I am grateful that God knows us and uses strangers to help us along our way.  
It has been a really long time since I believed that God deliberately intervened in my life.  It was the number one thing I questioned when my faith faltered.  Does God really actively influence MY personal life?  On Saturday I felt so sure that he had. 
It's my prayer that God will find His way to reach you, to speak to you, to give you what and who you need. 
**Thank you SO MUCH to all my friends who encouraged me to trust that inner voice and go with it in spite of the sacrifice.**

16 October 2013

Addo Recovery

I first learned about Addo last spring. But I was in my angry, cynical place and I didn't make time for it. But my friends did, and they loved it.

So I started the second round a couple weeks ago and already feel heard and validated. It's a really great program. It's all about you.

The program is free. It consists of online lessons, assessments, homework and journaling. Once a week the local group meets together in Utah and the rest of us can watch online. It's simple. It's gentle. It's anonymous.  It's at your own pace and accommodates your schedule.

  Register here.

But you don't have to take my word for it.  My brave and lovely friend Kami has graciously let me share her story with you.

Kami's Story (Full) from Addo Recovery on Vimeo.

15 October 2013

Nasty Insecurities

This Saturday is The Togetherness Project.  (If you still think you would like to attend I'm pretty sure Jacy won't turn you away.)

Over a year ago Jacy and I met in person.  Together with Scabs, Mac, Buffalo Gal and other amazing women we spent a weekend having an experience that I think changed all our lives.  I think it planted a seed for Jacy that has now grown into a full-blown event. 

As the weeks leading up to the event passed and I didn't register I couldn't put my finger on why.  I've spent two weekends away from my family at Camp Scabs (another beautiful idea that came from our original retreat) and another weekend running in a race.  There has been a persistent feeling that I should stay home this weekend.  I chalked it up to being here for my kids because Pete is actually attending an SA conference this weekend as well.  But I still hadn't quite been able to really wrap my head around why I am missing this opportunity to learn, but especially to see my amazing WoPA community. 

This morning as last minute emails are flying around, and weekend plans are being made, I had a meltdown.  It would be easy to say that I just felt sad about not being there, but it was more.  It is a fear, a really deep insecurity that I have.  While I washed a cookie sheet and tried to process all my feelings Ben Howard sang to me

"I've been worryin' that we all live our lives in the confines of fear."

I'm afraid that if I'm not there people WON'T miss me.  I'm afraid that if I don't go I'll miss out on the recognition I might get for being involved, for being part of that original group of women who dreamt big.  I fear that my friendships will suffer because other friendships are strengthened.  Fear about missing all the validation that my WoPA offer me.  Fear that my worth is proportional to the number and quality of these relationships I have. Fear that I'm missing out.  Fear that it will be amazing (which it will) and I will regret not being there.

And of course my biggest fear of all, my fear that by not being there, I am inherently inferior to all those who are there. 

I'm learning to lean into the pain so I sat on the couch and cried it out.  I turned to God, and he answered me. 

"This is why I didn't want you to go.  I want you to look these fears and insecurities in the eye and own them. And face them.  And then overcome them." 

I wish I could be there. I wish I could see you all. I wish I could soak up all the wisdom from the amazing speakers.  But for Heaven's sake! I'm not the loser I'm making myself out to be.  And the only way missing this event could possibly be worth it is if I can really really internalize that and get through the weekend without having another fear-based meltdown.

So I'll spend Saturday with my little people, and try to practice a little gratitude, live in the present and trust that when it's over my friends will still be my friends. 

10 October 2013

When Did I Get so Mean?


Last Sunday I watched Pete slip out of recovery.  I could see it happening before my very eyes.  The signs might be different for our addicts but we know them. After cycle and cycle and cycle.  Maybe it's stress, maybe it's angry outbursts.  General irritability with the kids.  I like to use the words "compulsive" and "indulgent" behavior. 

On Sunday he zoned out with Angry Birds on his cell phone.  He skipped his meeting and watched football.  These things filled my heart and thoughts with hurt, resentment, fear and flat out anger.  I banged around in the kitchen and invited Insanity to join me. Finally I couldn't take it.  I threw my own recovery out the window and went after him, guns a-blazin'! 

It didn't go well. He said some of his usual things, things I thought we were done with, and he said some new things.  Phrases like "you've taken this too far" and "what's the point of my recovery if you're going to blame every little thing I do on addiction?!" 

It got to me. I couldn't walk away. I'd taken the bait. I threw "separation" on the table like a winning poker hand and I wasn't bluffing. I played the "safe" card as trump.  I would be safer if we separated because then he couldn't blame me for anything.  (Which isn't true, addict brains can always find a way to blame.) The conversation was intense.

At one point he drew back the curtains to his soul and I saw real pain in his eyes.

It was both heart-breaking and infuriating. 

Finally when we were both emotionally defeated I dropped my weapons and I asked him to sleep in another room. 

Pete texted me the next day.  He owned it.  He apologized. 

A day after that, I had a chat with a new counselor.  (I'm therapist shopping because mine changed her schedule and it won't be able to accommodate me.  Big huge disappointment.)  He validated me.  He reassured me.  He helped me feel sane again. 

I'm asking for a bare minimum in our marriage.  I'm asking for a relationship free of porn.

But I'm also asking for him to show some superhuman strength to earn my trust back.  I tried to think back on a time when someone attacked me, guns blazing, and I responded with patience and meekness.  I nearly always get defensive.  I'm quick to put my guard up.  It sucks to be accused.  Regardless of the truth of the accusation.  I'm human.  He's human.

My therapist drew this diagram on the white board in his office.  (I am so sorry for the poor quality of my diagram. Graphics are NOT my strong suit.)

He explained to me that watching football or playing Angry Birds aren't inherently bad activities.  The pornography addict would say "Why are you so upset, I haven't even acted out?"

But if an activity makes me feel unsafe it has crossed a boundary.  (These terms aren't technical, just words my therapist used to make a point.)  In that first circle I am unsafe because I am that much closer to the second circle.  Pornography and mastur-B are the second circle.  They are boundary violations.

It was okay for me to tell Pete that I wasn't comfortable with his behavior, that it made me feel unsafe. 

But I've been telling people lately that I believe anger is okay as long as it isn't used to mistreat people.  I DO believe this.  But apparently I misunderstood my own advice.  I mistreated Pete.  I was cruel and aggressive. 

I am so glad I've learned to trust my gut. I'm so glad I've been able to relinquish any responsibility for Pete's addiction. But sometimes I worry that I've swung on the pendulum too far to the other extreme. I exempt myself from any misbehavior.  I get a free pass because I'm the victim. 

But the bottom line is, no one feels good when they are cruel or unkind.  Victim or not.  Justified or not.  And, in that sense, I'm a little concerned about the person I'm becoming. 

03 October 2013

Emotional Dependence

I still get heart palpitations when Pete and I go to bed at the same time and after I switch off the light I wonder if he is going to say something about that damn elephant.  Last night he did, but it was a good talk.  The kind of talk that I’ve been avoiding for the last few months.  It required me to dig deep, not get defensive, and hear and say difficult things.  

Flashback to the first five months of 2013 when I was being a yo-yo.

Relapse – Detach - Reconnect – Relapse – Detach

Over and over again.  Finally I’d had enough.  Relapses after I’d reconnected hurt worse because there was more on the line.  “I’ve given myself back to you, I’ve been loving and vulnerable and you STILL chose addiction.”  Detachment feels so much safer, the relapses are less painful when I’m not emotionally connected to him.  So after our trip to Hawaii I said “I’m detaching indefinitely.”   

This detachment left Pete feeling totally exposed.  Last night he acknowledged how he had used me to medicate, not just sexually, but emotionally.  In the past when he was lonely or hurting he knew he could come to me and I would validate, comfort and alleviate his feelings.  Essentially I protected him from identifying and working through difficult emotions by offering reassurance and probably even minimizing those feelings.  Ever since I emotionally withdrew, he has been left to feel his feelings more exquisitely, give them names, and work through them, finding healthy ways to cope rather than medicating.  And to be honest, he has done a lousy job of this.  He admitted last night that he feels the reason his relapses became more frequent in the months after I finally did the 180, is because having to really feel increased his need for his drug.  The jury is still out, but it seems like he is finally learning how to feel without self-medicating. 
[And of course part of his medicating in the past was using me as a sexual drug.  I felt for years that he was doing this, but I lacked the confidence and self-worth to be sure it wasn’t my fault our sexual relationship was so confusing.  It has been such a relief for me to hear him admit to that.] 

I think that’s why detaching is so terrifying.  Because when I let him fall on his face, he did.  And I think for awhile he even believed that it was my fault he fell on his face.  But the truth is, his addiction was going to get worse whether I detached or not, because he wasn’t really recovering.  I think it got worse faster, but at least that meant he hit bottom faster.  Unfortunately there are no guarantees that detachment will provide this result.  It could be that Pete fell on his face and liked it there, or at least felt that the pain of the problem wasn’t as bad as the pain of the solution.  The pain of the solution is the pain that comes with owning and facing some pretty deep resentments, memories, hurts and then of course the pain of withdrawal.

And now, it’s another terrifying future for me.  I’m terrified of reconnecting.  I told Pete that after I could see a healthy combination of recovery AND sobriety, that would be when I would feel safe reengaging in our relationship.  Last night we talked about seeing his therapist for help navigating that future and I realized that reconnecting emotionally has me totally freaked out. 
But at least I know that I've done terrifying things before.  And I also know that when the time is right, I'll feel it.  And I can trust myself.  And I can take all the time I need. 

01 October 2013

No Ordinary People

I've recently returned from another Camp Scabs.  These retreats blow my mind.

How is it that a woman can get on a plane and fly to a city to spend a weekend with perfect strangers, and yet in those 48 hours share the most intimate details of her life?

Because the brave souls open their hearts first.  And they are met with a response so full of love, compassion and acceptance that the room feels sacred, and possibly the most safe place on earth.

I can not come up with adequate words to express my gratitude for the opportunities I have to meet remarkable women.  But the truth is, I believe we are all remarkable, we are just too inhibited by fear, and misunderstood by false ideas to be noticed. 

I love you all. Share your story. Reach out. Own your truth.  Be brave.