The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What higher power means to me

I don't consider myself religious in any traditional sense of the word. In fact, prayer and the word God in my S-Anon 12-step book was an obstacle to me as I began to read recovery literature.

"I might not belong in a group of people who start every meeting with a prayer to God," I thought immediately.

But I stuck it out anyway, figuring that something was better than nothing in terms of dealing with Husband's sex addiction.

I'm glad I stayed. Today I do have a useful relationship with a Higher Power. I don't tie that Higher Power to any specific religion, although for the sake of simplicity I sometimes refer to that Higher Power as God. (For me there really is no one word that accurately describes what I understand Higher Power to be, and that's find for me.)

This post from a Jesuit priest really captures the kind of relationship I work on cultivating with Higher Power.

I'm reading Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love right now. She writes, "I had never realized that depending on God meant depending on love," and quotes A Course in Miracles, "God is the love within us."

Williamson also writes, "...a miracle is just a shift in perception."

So I take the perspective that when I read just the right post from a Jesuit priest at just the time I needed to hear it, that's my Higher Power providing what I need.

Does A Higher Power really exist?

I have no idea.

Do I believe in God?

I can't say.

But what I do know is that when I...

....take the perspective that I am not in control of everything (how people will feel, how they will respond, what they will or will not think, do, say...need I go on?)...

...and that I am connected to other human beings in the way a wave is connected to the ocean (a wave is distinct from ocean yet is never separate from ocean)...

...and at the same time do what I can do and turn the rest over to Higher Power (or whatever I need to call it to feel comfortable)...

...I am able to relax enough to find peace and feel good in my skin again. And that creates an openness that seems to allow what I need to come to me more readily. (I've also seen that what I think I want and what I need can look and/or be very different from each other.)

It's an on going process - a practice, not a destination - so, as with exercise, I have to do it again and again to get the desired result.

I don't know why I'm writing about this now.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Expectation, Reality, and how do you re-establish trust?

A common question early in this journey, and one that continues to come up, is how do you re-establish trust?

That was the discussion topic in my S-Anon meeting this week.

The consensus in the room, expressed in many different ways, seemed to be that one's notion of trust is forever changed by betrayal this deep. "Those of us in this room no longer have that dream, that fantasy, of completely trusting."

The answers that did come...

"I'm learning how to trust myself."

"I trust the process."

"I trust my Higher Power."

Nobody said, "I trust my qualifier exactly as much as I did before."

The point being, for me, that the amount of trust I'd placed in Husband before was not appropriate.

It's not reality-based thinking to expect that humans will be perfect at anything. 

Humans are flawed by definition.

A healthy adult is prepared to maintain wholeness, and to take appropriate action for self-preservation, in any event. Betrayal by loved ones included. A healthy adult does not give away that power to another.

One can have expectations that "my [fill-in-the-blank] would never lie to me." But if one isn't prepared to maintain wholeness and take actions for self-preservation were that lie to happen, one might find oneself in a bad (painful, traumatic, apocalyptic, etc) position.

Being human, and therefore not perfect, we all find ourselves unprepared at times. That's an opportunity to grow.

Another point that came up is that it's appropriate, given past events, to expect that someone who has lied to you must re-gain your trust over time. They must earn your trust. That's appropriate. They don't have your trust because they've shown they don't deserve your trust.  That's appropriate.

Expecting you to trust them on their timetable instead of your own because it makes them feel bad to be considered untrustworthy...well, that' shall I say about this? That's a natural consequence of their actions and not for you to control. (I started to say "that's just TOO BAD!" but decided that was less helpful.)

Right now, the natural consequence of Husbands recent lies is that I've pulled away. "What do you expect?" I asked him. I recently realized that not responding according to his expectations doesn't necessarily mean I'm unreasonable or passive aggressive or unwilling to forgive. It just means that my response and his expectation were different. Period. Anything else is just meaning that he or I have added.

(Can we just redefine expectation to mean a fantasy about the future? That would be so helpful.)

What causes fear (for both of us I think) is when expectations aren't met, because that introduces the unknown.

As creatures programmed for survival, nothing is worse, nothing is less tolerable for human beings, than the unknown. I suspect that developing that capacity is the reason I'm here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Flash of insight, as sometimes happens

It dawned on me that I've been putting off my 4th step for a long time because I've been worried about getting it right. I've been looking for the perfect format - a symptom of my perfectionism I thought. I asked Husband and Mom to go down a list of possible flaws and pick out the ones they felt characterized me, so that I could see where they overlap. Therein must lie the answer to what is wrong with me, I felt.

But I've realized that a large part of looking for the right format, and also for input, is that I've not trusted that I can do it accurately by myself. I'm worried about blind spots, about an inability to be honest with myself about my flaws, about missing something important. And this comes from my inclination not to trust myself when it comes to me. I've always looked to others to define me - to tell me how I'm doing in the world - and this is another manifestation of that.

And as I look at how others have defined me, I'm starting to see that sometimes what they think they see is just their own issues. I've done the same.

I've decided that I'm going to define what my flaws and strengths are. I may not get it 100% right, but I'm going to trust that my Higher Power will give me the clarity to see what I need to see right now. And that will be good enough.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Some clarity in the fog of battle

Husband and I argued this morning (a good thing for two conflict avoiders) and he said two things that gave me surprising insight into his thinking.

He was finishing cooking breakfast and I was on my computer responding to some emails for work. He asked me to go upstairs and get Son out of bed for breakfast, which I said I'd do.

The inability to get off the computer when I say I will as a character flaw of mine. I didn't get off right away as I should have, and Husband called Son downstairs. I could tell by his abrupt actions, his stomping around, and his clipped speech that he was mad. But he wasn't saying anything about it. So when we were brushing our teeth I asked him if he was mad about me not doing what I said I would do.

"Yes!" he said. "Don't sabotage me just because you're mad about something! I have to get to work on time!"

I was taken aback by the accusation that I was deliberately trying to mak him late. Simply put, I'm more mature than that.

"If you're upset about something I wish you'd say something about it," I said.

"So do I," he said. "If you're mad about something I think you should talk about it, and you know what I'm talking about."

Now I was pissed!

"If you mean that I should be talking about my angry feelings about you lying to me about drinking, I already told you I don't feel like I can talk about that without professional help!"

(Son was there, brushing his teeth with us, hearing all of this. Which I think is starting to be ok. He's old enough to see that adults in relationships have problems, and that it doesn't always have to be perfect.)

Then Husband said something that really shocked me. "I just want you to know that that promise I made about not drinking wasn't to you."

Denial? Maybe so. Last straw? Definitely.

I yelled back, "I don't care who you made that promise to! You lied to ME! When I asked you if you'd been drinking, you looked into my eyes and said no. You lied to ME!"

Two points for me! That's what progress looks like! (Arguing with a super-smart addict is definitely a workout in mental gymnastics.)

Of course he called 20 minutes later to apologize for being mad (after he'd already apologized at home, and I'd told him he didn't have to apologize for having feelings.) I told him that I don't need him to apologize for his feelings, that he's just saying what he thinks I expect to hear (I don't think anyone can be authentically sorry for having feelings. It's like being sorry for having skin.) and it just leads to resentment. I said that if he wants to apologize, he can apologize for accusing me of sabotaging him, and for trying to justify lying to me by saying that the promise he'd made hadn't been made to me. (I think I get two more points here, don't I?!) We went back and forth, and I let out a lot of my anger and  held my ground. He did the things addicts do: apologies, feeling shame, saying he'd do anything to make it right, etc.

While I appreciate his desire to be contrite, and believe that he believes he's sorry, I don't value those words. Only his actions can guide me now. And that will take time. We'd built up a few years of fragile trust which he mangled with his lying about drinking 4 months ago. And, silly me, I felt we were recovering strongly from that. Now I don't know how long it will take before it feels right to trust him again. Too long to make it worth trying? I just don't know.

After all this, I still don't think it's totally hopeless. (Denial? Maybe so.) But it's going to require super-human effort on Husband's part for years to come and frankly I have my doubts. The Narcissist is strong in him, and he's terrified. I could see it in his eyes when we were arguing. Totally fight or flight. And for that, I have compassion. I really wish I could heal him. But I know I can't. He needs a power bonus to his Fortitude. 

As an aside, I started listening to some Al-Anon podcasts, and I'm wondering if Husbands issues are also related to Adult Child of Alcoholics issues. He's used the phrase "walking on eggshells" many times to talk about how he felt with his mom, and feels with me. His mom is extremely mercurial, which must have been terrifying as a child. So I'll bet his anon issues are as strong as mine. In fact, the way he gives me so much power, I'm sure of it. I mentioned to him yesterday about the eggshells comments on the podcasts, and that ACA might be something he should check out. We'll see. That ball is now in his court.

In the meantime, I need to find an Al-Anon meeting for myself. I can tell from these podcasts that I have a lot of work I can do. And I need to get better at doing what I say I will do. Cleaning up my side of the street, as the wisdom goes.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Daily practice is important for me

I've been a fog of depression and indecisiveness for the past week. I think I've been re-traumatized by re-experiencing betrayal. But it dawned on me today that this fog could probably have been avoided if I had not stopped going to Anon meetings. 

Come to think of it, if I'd been going to meetings, I probably wouldn't have accepted Husbands lies, or neglected to speak up when I thought something was off.

Things were feeling on such an even keel that I was trying to spend more time with Son, and to focus more on work, so I let meetings slide. Not because I felt finished or "cured" but because it just seemed like a good idea to do other important things, too.

But since I've not been maintaining any daily spiritual or recovery practices, I'm now ill-prepared for weathering this current situation. I'm lacking the clarity that daily practices provide. I don't know if it's because I didn't go up going to church, or because I grew up with parents who both have issues with authority, but for some reason I think I'm resisting the need for daily spiritual and recovery practices. But now that I see the folly in this, these things can become part of my self-care, like exercise and eating healthily, like spending time with family and friends, like flossing and brushing.

The thing that comes to mind is that I'm afraid I won't have enough time for work. My priorities are all messed up. Work is important, because I need to help support our family. But it can't be the focus of my life, especially because I'm not satisfied in my job and I'm only getting paid for a part-time schedule right now.

I'm glad to be back to writing because it's helping me sort our some important things.

Note to self: GO TO MEETINGS!