Pete and I have had the same conversation, in various forms, every few days or weeks over the last few months and years. It always seems to start innocent enough, him sharing his feelings, or me sharing mine. (Back when I felt safe sharing my feelings.) Then, like a funnel, all the words eventually come out into one theme. It looks something like this. Pete saying to me
"You need help with this."
"You have a lot of baggage here."
"I'm not the only one with problems."
"You are causing permanent damage."
You get the idea. These statements sound terrible when taken out of context, I'm sure when Pete said them they seemed more reasonable. But to me, they always sounded terrible. I always heard them as isolated statements.
In the beginning he would say them in anger, he would be downright cruel. But I learned the signs and when he was angry it was easy for me to see that I was dealing with the addict. Then he had a little recovery and he started saying the same things, but he was calm. This was confusing, if he wasn't angry then maybe he was being reasonable and maybe he was right. I would doubt myself, and fall apart. But I have good support, and I was able to sort these things out. It wasn't his place to manage my recovery, and even if I was wrong, it wasn't his job to say so. With more recovery, he is even more subtle and reasonable. Making me even more confused. But old habits die hard, and Pete was still victimizing and blame-shifting at worst, managing my recovery at best.
There are a couple sayings in the recovery world. "Taking someone else's inventory" and "cleaning someone else's side of the street." Codependents do this, and addicts do it when they are being codependent. It's telling someone what they are or aren't doing right in their recovery. When Pete would do this to me it would trigger me badly. I had totally relinquished his recovery to him, why couldn't he do the same for me? It is one of my biggest areas of trauma. I couldn't stand him criticizing my recovery.
The last few times Pete and I have had these conversations they have ended very badly. Like me locking myself in the bathroom and sobbing uncontrollably. A couple weeks ago this happened. It was the experience I wrote about here. Last night Pete said something to me that was incredibly validating, and was the kind of compassion I've been waiting for.
"When I heard you in the bathroom, crying like that, I knew that wasn't a manufactured response. It was something that happened TO you. It was a trauma response. And instead of thinking what I would usually think in my addicted brain 'See! See what those WoPA have done to her! See how unreasonable she is!' I thought,
That is the wreckage of my addiction."
Wreckage is "the remains of something that has been badly damaged or destroyed." Pete had a moment of clarity when he saw that my total meltdown was part of his wreckage. My destroyed confidence, my damaged intuition, my obvious emotional instability.
Pete can't take any ownership of my recovery. It's up to me to sort through his wreckage in whatever ways I want to try. And I'm allowed to make mistakes. I feel the same way about his recovery. I've given him the space to try whatever ways he wants to try. And he is allowed to make mistakes. He will admit that he has. Even since that conversation, I have found myself on the bathroom floor again.
But he can take ownership of the wreckage of his addiction. And although I don't think my personal healing needed him to take ownership, I think it might be necessary for the healing of our marriage.