Friday, January 1, 2016

I Am The Only Person I Can Save

I am feeling vulnerable about my son tonight. In 24 hours I've gone from a peaceful acceptance of him and his choices to a tearful despair. I'm flip-flopping and struggling. I profess that I've accepted him and how he chooses to live, and for several months now I've felt calm about him. But tonight I'm bawling like a baby, and it's clear that I have more to grieve about this kid-man. I won't bore anyone with the details, but I love my son and I wish that he were healthy and happy. 

This Mary Oliver poem speaks to me about how I am only truly responsible for one person: me. It echoes the scripture that I must "work out my own salvation with fear and trembling," and that no one can do that for me. Just like no one can do it for my son. 

The Journey
 by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Public Places and Staying Peaceful

We recently took a family vacation to some big cities. We did some incredible things, and I am glad we went. If this were a normal blog, I would fill it with pictures of us posing in front of a bunch of famous places. But hey, unless you are on my Christmas card list, you will never see the likes of those.

This blog is about me sorting out what is going on in my head while I am living my life. I don't mind at all should you choose to move on to fluffy travel blogs and skip this laboriously introspective post.

On the trip we were confronted with so many scantily-clad women, inappropriate signs and billboards, etc that it was hard to believe that the world was not, in my grandma's words, going to hell in a ham basket. Talk about perpetual triggers.

I had expected this and I was determined to have fun and keep things light with my husband and kids.   I tried hard to keep up on my recovery work and to be honest with Mr. W about what was going on with me on a daily basis. I did an Ok job at first, but as the trip wore on I grew weary and resentful. It became more difficult to not notice if he was noticing and I allowed him to hijack my "center."

I know that what Mr W does or doesn't do when it comes to lust is his business. Progressively shutting lust out is what he is trying to do for his own soul. It is not about me or how lovable I am, or how veiny my legs are. But somehow this knowledge got lost in my tired brain and the invisible people that live in my head and tell me I'm not good enough woke up and nagged their message.

One night in bed, towards the end of the trip, I broke down and cried silently (we were in the same hotel room with kids). How was I going to deal with this crap for the rest of my life? Huh? Why couldn't I go back to the brain I had before? How could I continue to do the mental work it takes to be with him in public? WAA, WAA, WAA. sniff, sniff, sniff.

I'm back now in a healthier state of mind and a concept I am thinking about lately is the importance of keeping God, not Mr. W in my "center."

What does this mean?  I know my husband is in my center when I am thinking too much about what he's doing or thinking. I become a fierce husband scrutinizer. I had to bold that word because I love it so much :).

Is he resentful?
Did he really contact his sponsor after the lust slip?
He's getting too casual.
How could he be so clueless?
What will he do next?
I wonder what he'd do if this happened...

When Mr. W is in my center I am anxious, skeptical, and reactive. When God is in my center, I am more likely to do things for the right reason. I can (more easily) let go of what others may think and act according to what I believe His will to be. I feel more peace. When God is in my center, I like my husband so much more.

I am sick of hearing and saying that addiction recovery is a journey........Hey, I'm sorry friends, but that's what it is. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, says Lao-tzu. So while I wish I had done some things differently on the trip, I can say that I did OK.

Don't stop now, Wildflower.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Son and Wishing For a Different Reality

I went with my husband on a pioneer trek last week in the searing heat and blowing Wyoming wind, and we were a Ma and Pa to six teenagers we hadn't met a couple of months ago. It was the easiest parenting we had done in years.

Our troubled son has been causing a lot more trouble for himself in the sexual addiction arena. His addiction is no slow-moving canal: it is a rising, crashing river. It is affecting our entire family and many others, and I don't see any signs that he is ready to stop.

The remorse he showed a few years back has hardened into flippant indifference. I see occasional glimpses of his kind heart and fun personality, but only if I stick to a narrow range of topics: new songs, good bands and/or funny movies. I connect with him on those subjects and should I venture into life or feelings or pretty much anything else, he shuts down.

Right now my heart feels somewhat stony when it comes to him. He has told so many lies, broken so many rules and hidden so many things. I surrender his behavior over and over again on sticky notes and stuff them in my surrender bag. I pray that God will intervene in his life. I pray that I can love him no matter what. I pray that I can like him. I pray that my other kids will be protected from the darkness around him.

In our trek family we had a fourteen year old boy named Tyler, who lives with his dad and two younger siblings. I learned that his parents (who were 17 and 19 when they married) divorced four years ago, and that his dad had remarried and recently divorced his stepmom. His dad takes the kids to church and works nights to support them. One recent Sunday Tyler was at his mom's house and he wanted to go to church so badly that he had his grandma look up the ward boundaries and find the nearest church. Then he rode his bike there and walked in all by himself. He also told me that he had made a promise to himself when he was 8 or 9 that he would go on a mission and graduate from college and that nothing would stop him.

I am impressed by this kid. This quiet, brown-eyed boy has many cards stacked against him, but he has so much spiritual strength. I slam down the question that rises up in me, "Why can't I have a son like this?"

I know. It does no good to ask that. My job is to accept the son I have and to love him unconditionally, and I am struggling with both. I read Melodie Beattie's words over and over:

"It is time to let it go. It is time to let[him] go. That doesn't mean that we can't love that person anymore. It means that we will feel the immense relief that comes when we stop denying reality and begin accepting. We release that person to be who [he] actually is. We stop trying to make that person  someone [he] is not....We stop letting what we are not getting from that person control us. We take responsibility for our life. We go ahead with the process of loving and taking care of ourselves. We decide how we want to interact with that person, taking reality and our own best interests into account. We get angry, we feel hurt, but we land in a place of forgiveness. We set [him] free, and we become set free from bondage. This is the heart of detaching in love."

Just when I think I have really detached, I realize that I am holding on so tightly to what I want for him that I am physically clenching my jaw. As if I could will him to be the son I want him to be. As if.

I see that I have much yet to learn about parenting and accepting and loving.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Anxiety and Joy and Tight Shoulders

I'm feeling at loose ends tonight. My kids are out of school for the summer, and they're scattered in different directions, and I am left with a stomach of uncertainty and apprehension. There is nothing particularly wrong, but this end of school year/beginning of summer is a transition time, and I feel disoriented in the transition times of life.

This brings me to a realization that, even in non-transition times, I generally feel uneasy and I expect bad things to happen. I battle these feelings and thoughts, because I know there is much happiness and beauty to be had. However, the bad stuff seems to be the default and the last few years have rewired my brain to expect life to be one difficulty after another, with sunshine breaks in between, sometimes.

Roll with the punches, Wildflower. 

I do. I wake up and live my life every day, but I do it with a lot of tension in my shoulders, and I feel acutely vulnerable to frustration and despair. I'm not a natural when it comes to joy. I have to practice joy like a dedicated musician practices.

Now that I've confessed my internal struggle with finding joy and accepting life as it comes, I feel down on myself (shame). Is there something terribly amiss in me that I have to work so hard to diffuse the anxiety that life brings? Am I inferior to those laid-back women who read magazines and hardly glance up while their snot-nose babies sit in the dirt and get filthy at the playground?

Would I be like this if I had married a different man? Would I be like this if I had different children?
Did the addiction and lies contribute to this foreboding feeling and fear of joy?

I don't have the answers, and it doesn't matter anyway. I will wake up tomorrow and I will do the best I can for that day. I will do the same for the day after that.

I realize that I haven't allowed God to help me today. I haven't read His words of any kind, nor have I called any of the friends He has blessed me with. Instead, I escaped into a Lindt chocolate bar (dark chocolate with intense orange) and a fantastic novel. Both were effective, but unfortunately short-lived distractions.

I can practice life and joy tomorrow, and with God's help, I can do it. Good night, gentle readers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rubble of Relapse

I felt a tremor in the universe yesterday as I learned from a recovery friend what she had just learned. Her allegedly years-sober husband has been lying and acting out......again.  I have such empathy for the kind of searing emotional pain she is in, that I swear I can physically feel it. It feels something like I imagine phantom-limb pain may feel for amputees.

I know she has tools and knowledge and faith and friends and a sponsor and a level head, but first, she has to climb out from the devastation left by his disclosure, and this will take a good long while.

I caught a headline about the earthquake in Nepal a few days ago. After seven days of being trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building, a 101-yr old man was found alive. After eight days two women were found under a destroyed mud house and one man under a mudslide. Hope surged that others may still be found. I have never known this kind of destruction, and my heart goes out to these people.

It may take my friend more than a few days to surface, but she will. It may not be pretty. She may be tear-stained and caked with trauma and resentment and self-doubt, but she will come through. I know this, because I have seen other women emerge from the ruin of broken promises and demolished marriages and because I am one of them.

Day after day we wake up and we breathe in and out and we live that day. We stumble trying to take care of our kids and ourselves, and we do the work that it requires to combat the real fear of abandonment in our marriages. With the help of other women who have gone before us, we adjust to a new life where God, not the guy we married, is at the center.

This process of rebuilding goes far slower and takes far longer, than I ever imagined. I need breaks and timeouts along the way, so I take them. Sometimes I feel like the marriage I am building is more beautiful than anything I had before and sometimes I want to throw it in the trash and start over with someone new. The aftershocks of sexual addiction can continue for a long time, I've discovered.

Why does news of someone's relapse shake me so?
Can an addict sustain recovery long term?
Is "addiction recovery" just another lie?

Since yesterday I have been beating back a snake-like voice in my brain telling me that addicts, especially my husband and son, don't stand a long-term chance against addiction. That addiction is so powerful that no one in its grasp can truly be free--ever. The evidence seems heavily weighted to support these fears.

I hope this is a lie, but my hope is on shaky ground right now.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Slowing Down When Foggy Brain Rolls In

Confessions of a conscientious woman not acting so conscientiously:

* A few days ago my son pointed out that the fourteen thank you notes I had written and was about to post had the stamp on the left side and the return address on the right.   (Should you ever wonder, the USPS will send letters like that, as long as the addressee is legible and clear.  Who knew?)

*Later that day I called another carpool mom to work out a plan for the next day, only to remember mid-conversation that she had called me the day before and we had figured it out.

* I blew off my son's orthodontist appointment, even though I had answered the reminder call the day before.

 Mr. W disregarded a boundary of mine by going somewhere that put him in contact with persons of questionable influence from the past. He was jerky and proud about it. "I have to live. I can't live in fear of you. I'm fine. I knew you would freak out over this."

I felt the established trauma pathways taking over. My brain was foggy and my body felt shaky and tense and hopeless and hollow and teary. I felt like an observer looking at myself and noting my reaction as it happened.

I went to auto-pilot with an old pain relief strategy of mine.  When things were tough, I would put on my metaphorical hard had, find a huge job in the house or yard, dive in and stay busy.  This was my coping mechanism for so many years.

I tried to unpack from a weekend trip, catch up on laundry and bills and go running, which made everything worse.

Years ago I took a ferry around the San Juan Islands and we got into some thick fog. I was disappointed that I was in such a beautiful place and gray mist was all I could see out the window. The captain blew the fog horn every few minutes, and he slowed the boat way down. He didn't increase the speed so he could get through the fog as quickly as possible; he took his time. The trauma fog slows my brain down, too. And I need time.

I sat down and forced myself to do practically nothing.  I made myself a sandwich. I tried to take it easy and to give my thinking brain the rest of the day off.

But, there was a battle in my head, and I had to tell the invisible people to shut up a dozen times. They wouldn't let me be still. It's like I don't love me enough to give myself compassion and a little loving treatment.

I like this quote by Melodie Beattie:

"The idea of giving ourselves what we want and need can be confusing, especially if we have spent many years not knowing that it's okay to take care of ourselves.  Taking our energy and focus off others and their responsibilities and placing that energy on to ourselves and our responsibilities is a recovery behavior that can be acquired.  We learn it by daily practice."  - Melodie Beattie

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Another Chance to Learn What Feels Unlearnable

I woke up very early this morning, not because my alarm went off, but because the anxiety in my body thrust through the thin layer of sleep and howled. The fear hollowed out my stomach, accelerated my heart and tensed up my neck and shoulders. Hello, Saturday morning.

The past few months my husband has made drastic changes in his recovery situation:

  • clinical depression episode x 2 months, lots of sleeping and hopelessness
  • stagnant work project
  • work shame
  • relapsing SA group
  • passed 3 yr sobriety mark
  • felt he reached a point in recovery that he could relax boundaries
  • changed time and content of media boundaries to "use good judgment" and "no inappropriate content"
  • claimed he was doing many aspects of recovery "just for me"
  • can't tolerate the "imbalance" in our relationship that accountability and checking-in creates
  • won't call support people that have more recovery than he does
  • refuses to look for a different, hopefully stronger, support group
  • won't accept respected and trusted counselor's advice

All of this chaos has terrified me. I leaned heavily on his strict personal rules for himself, and I am unhinged by his casual, prideful attitude and new, relaxed boundaries. At the beginning of his recovery he insisted that he wouldn't get casual, and I feel betrayed again.

I have another chance to learn what feels permanently unlearnable: how to LET GO of the actions of another person that lives in the same house.

To this end I have worked my recovery like a desperate, dying person.

I have vacillated between healthy living and debilitating fear. I have surrendered to God. I have obsessed. I have felt answers from God. I have detached in love. I have detached in hate. I have held my boundary of sleeping apart when I feel victim and pride and hostility from him. I have gone to counseling. I have engaged in dozens of cyclical, frustrating conversations. I have called my sponsor repeatedly. I have practiced letting go, then not letting go, then letting go again.

Today I will work to stay emotionally healthy. I will do less. I will do self care before I jump into mindless tasks that distract me from the real issues. I will give my fear to God and have faith that He will give me peace.

Let not your heart be troubled.