Monday, December 1, 2014

Finally Telling Family Members and Feeling Genuine

My family spent Thanksgiving with my side of the family, and it was the best Thanksgiving I've had in years. Mostly because one by one, over the last six months, I have told the people I grew up with about my situation. Of course I held some of the ugliness back, but I cried to them and shared how tough things had been and sometimes still are. 

I was vulnerable and humble, which isn't part of the traditional role I have played in my family. If Brene Brown needed anyone to prove her right (which she doesn't), I could do it.  My vulnerability brought me closer to the people I love.

I've missed these people in my life. I've held them at arm's length for the past couple of years, because I wasn't ready to tell them my story. They couldn't ignore my tear-stained cheeks and the anxiety-ridden aura that I had post-disclosure, but I wasn't brave enough to tell them what was happening. It felt too complicated and overwhelming to me.

Initially it was easier not to tell them: I had recovery support from non-family members, women in my situation, who could really understand. As time went on, however, I hated the distance I felt, especially with my sisters. I had allowed this hideous addiction to keep me from some of my favorite people.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful that I could show up at dinner with my imperfect marriage and my wild children and my very odd-looking apple pie and feel genuine. 

 Here's my Thanksgiving math:

Vulnerability + Understanding = More LOVE Than Ever

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"We Cannot NOT Influence A Relationship Pattern"

It's all well and good that in theory I am responsible for my behavior and my [insert loved one here]  is responsible for his/her behavior. It sounds so cut and dried, so easy.

But what about the interconnectedness, the great "tapestry" of the human family?  What about my own little family? We breathe the same air and drink out of the same milk carton, but it's still not my job to be responsible for how they feel or behave.  

I like this quote, because it acknowledges that while I am not responsible for say, my husband's actions, I definitely influence our relationship patterns, in both positive and negative ways.  

For example, I know just what to say to really hurt him to the core, and sometimes I do this (shamefully) as a way to test that he is really changing his heart.  Can he react to me kindly even when I am a sharp-tongued meanie, I wonder?

"As we learn to identify relationship patterns, we are faced with a peculiar paradox.  On the one hand, our job is to learn to take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and  behavior and to recognize that other people are responsible for their own.  Yet, at the same time, how we react with others has a great deal to do with how they react with us.  We cannot not influence a relationship pattern.  Once a relationship is locked into a circular pattern, the whole cycle will change when one person takes the responsibility for changing her or his own part of the sequence." (Dance of Anger, Helen Lerner,p 133)

My husband is leading the way in changing his part of our circular relationship patterns.  He fails at times, but he is making a herculean effort to react to me in loving ways. AND IT FREAKS ME OUT SOMETIMES, because I have nothing to push against.  AND IT IS CHANGING ME.  In our pre-recovery life I was so used to feeling like his enemy in matters big and small.  But I am here to say that when he reacts to me in a humble, accountable, loving way, I want to change how I react. It's contagious.  Love breeds more love. Try it.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whining, Acceptance and Peace

At the beginning of this summer I was in a miserable mode of resistance to the reality of my marriage.  By that I mean I didn't want the life I had, not because that life was horrible (it wasn't), but because it required so much damn work and because a lifetime of sexual addiction recovery was not my Plan A.  I can hear the whining in my voice even as I type this.

I wanted something that didn't exist: a clean and easy life, without a past of lies and sexual addiction in my family. Had there been a time machine handy, I would've altered the past in an instant, erasing all the garbage in my marriage.

In the spirit of allowing myself to feel my feelings,  I stayed in this state of non-acceptance for months, until I became fed up with feeling like I had eaten a bowl of lemons for breakfast every day.

I felt stuck in negativity and fear, so I sought some more counseling for myself.  My counselor helped me see how black and white my vision was and how I might have less pain if I allowed myself to see more grays in my life.  

She encouraged me to think things like:
"For the most part, my kids are more emotionally stable than they used to be." 
"For the most part, I am feeling less anxiety when I wake up in the morning."  
"For the most part, my husband is a drastically different person from his active addict self of the past."

 "What would acceptance look like for you?"  she asked.

She helped me see that acceptance is not the pinnacle of the mountain I am climbing.  Acceptance is the peace that I gather along the way, like little pebbles.  Acceptance is increasing peace about my life: my actual life, the messy life in front of me, not the life I imagine/wish I had.

It seems like the more I credit God to know the best (not the most comfortable) path for my life, the more peace I feel.

Melody Beattie says, 

"So much of our anguish is created when we are in resistance.  So much relief, release, and change are possible when we accept, simply accept........Acceptance does not mean we're giving our approval.  It does not mean surrendering to the will and plans of another.  It does not mean commitment.  It is not forever.  It is for the present moment.  Acceptance does not make things harder; it makes things easier.  Acceptance does not mean we accept abuse or mistreatment; it does not mean we forego ourselves, our boundaries, hopes, dreams, desires or wants. It means we accept what is, so we know what to do to take care of ourselves and what boundaries we need to set.  It means we accept what is and who we are at the moment, so we are free to change and grow.  Acceptance and surrender move us forward on this journey."

Here's to a little more acceptance and peace today.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Resetting A Sobriety Date

I've been away from the blogosphere for a couple of months, and some tough things, as well as some good things, have been happening.

My son's addiction is careening out of control, and I don't think he is anywhere close to hitting rock bottom or desiring recovery.  More on that happy topic later.

Mr. W has spent the last few months working his recovery at an unprecedented lower and more passive level.  I've sensed that he hasn't been doing everything it takes to stay in recovery, but he hasn't been acting like a monster or anything.

He's had a low grade slide back to some old behaviors like being home but not present, like harboring resentments, like letting stress build up without telling anyone about it, like blaming me for not accepting him, like surfing the internet mindlessly while doing other things.

It had been a subtle regression, until last week, when he slid down to a new level.  He did something that would have appalled him a year ago, even though he didn't actually look at official porn or masturbate.  Then he lied about it for a day before disclosing it to me.  I was shocked and called it a relapse.  He called it a slip.

But what really scared me was not what it was, slip or relapse.  What really scared me was that he didn't think it was a big deal.  He "didn't want to skewer himself for something that wasn't that bad".  He didn't feel the need to recommit himself or step up his recovery efforts or call other addicts for support.  No, he was doing fine.

Fortunately we have an excellent counselor, who told him that couldn't see things clearly because he was in addict mode and in the mists of darkness that surround addicts not in recovery.

The counselor told him that he should (among other things) reset his sobriety date, and I watched him bristle at the idea, because he has a lot of pride wrapped up in his sobriety.  

Then she asked, "What is a sobriety date for, if it's not to be helpful?  If you give yourself a pass on behavior like that, in the future you will go again to that place, because you didn't give yourself a consequence. Sobriety dates only mean something if you are being rigorously honest with yourself."

The recovery journey continues.  I've stopped expecting it to be easy.  Recovery can be more difficult than denial in a lot of ways.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

To Know Or Not To Know.....And How Much?

Last fall my husband got a new sponsor, C, who has a lot of sobriety and experience.  They had regular contact, and Mr.W was newly motivated to dive back into the 12 Steps.  (I will add that we have been at recovery for almost 2 yrs).

I didn't know that C believes very strongly that, "Your wife doesn't need to know your crap.  You don't need to bother her with your lust triggers and slips and difficulties.  It's your addiction, not hers.  You call your sponsor and discuss things.  Leave your wife out of the muck."  In other words, "Let your wife go merrily about her business with no knowledge of how you are really doing with your addiction.  She will be happier that way."

Mr.W's brain rejoiced at that advice! What a huge relief! Rigorous honesty didn't seem necessary with me, because, he determined, "I didn't need it", and besides, daily accountability to me was too difficult.  He felt shame, and it seemed our marriage only focused on his weaknesses.

So without letting me know that he was changing the rules of our marriage, Mr.W. began to omit information about his addiction during our nightly check-in, which, mind you, was purposely set up to be an avenue for increasing transparency and hopefully trust through honest disclosure.

This went on for several months.  I had no idea.

Terrorism and boa constrictors scare me, but what I fear most is ignorance of my own life.  And here I was, going about my life---again, with my husband playing God and deciding what was or wasn't good for me to know.  I was ignorant of my own life.

I found out about this a few months in after a counseling appt, when my husband reported to me that he had discussed his new philosophy of nondisclosure with our counselor, and she had agreed with him.  SAY WHAT?  Your new philosophy??  What in the hell are you talking about?

Note:  He later admitted that he had only given our counselor part of the facts, because he wanted her validation to soothe his guilt.

I know there are various opinions on disclosure in a marriage with a sex addict, but I HAVE ONLY ONE OPINION ON THE TOPIC:

Rigorous honesty is crucial for establishing safety in my marriage.  

The ongoing truth about my husband's behavior is important for me to know, so I can make wise decisions for me and my kids. 

Yes, I will hear things that make me sad, angry or both, and it is my choice as to the level of detail I need to feel safe.  

But, how can love ever grow if there is no safety?  

How can there be safety if there is no transparency?  

Even ugly truth is better than lies.

Monday, December 16, 2013

We're All Out Of Our Minds

A dear friend of mine is trying to make sense of her son's mental illness.  A while back she accepted the reality that his darkness of mind was a sickness and that he needed help.  But it hasn't been simple: he is now trying a series of medications without much success.   He is stumbling darkly through the years that could be the most carefree of his life.

I have resented God for allowing my kids' brains to be sick.  Mental illness in my children has brought me to tears and to my knees.  It baffles me.  God has given us the wonderful gift of free agency, and at the same time, He has created our brains to be subject to conditions that handicap our ability to be truly free in our choices.  What kind of gift is that?  It's a confusing gift.

It's hard for me to understand that we are expected to choose well despite the earthly trappings of a mind that is sick, or a body with chronic pain, or a terminal disease such as cancer.  I think this expectation that I will learn to choose the good, no matter my struggles, is what keeps me humbling searching for help from God.

Even though I am sometimes resentful toward and baffled by God, I do believe that He knows me and is aware of the way my life is unfolding.  I believe I can never pretend to know the struggles of another, and that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the great equalizer. 

John 16:33 says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Don't each of us inhabit our own little world?  No other human can actually know what it feels like to be me.  Only God and Jesus Christ can judge me with their perfect empathy and compassion. 

I think the above scripture can mean that the Savior can help me overcome my world: with all it's sinkholes and typhoons and droughts.  His help can come as often as I choose to let it in.  I'm learning that it's possible to be of good cheer in the midst of tribulation, even when I don't have all the answers.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How A Dad and Mom In Recovery Are Being Better Parents Part 1

Over the past months, as my husband and I have simultaneously worked our recoveries from the effects of sexual addiction, some things in the Wildflower household have changed for the better.  Here are some ways recovery is helping our family:

1.  Mr.W has an unprecedented amount of energy.  What I thought was his natural energy level before recovery was only what he had left over after his addiction.  Since recovery, he has tackled home projects, some that have remained undone for years, and finished them.   He is downright proud of some of the things he's accomplished, and I am too, like tiling the bathroom floor.  I see my kids paying attention to his hard work.  

1. He is mentally present when he is home.  This means he is a part of the happenings.  Sounds obvious, but addicts withdraw from others and live in their own head.  My kids don't have to act poorly to get his attention, they still do sometimes, but they don't need to.  His head is in the game, if ya know what I mean?

2.  He holds the kids accountable with school work and jobs at home.  Every parent knows it is far easier to do a job yourself than to teach your kid to do it.  Pre-recovery I was often beaten down emotionally and exhausted physically. I was inconsistent when it came to my expectations for my kids' help around the house.  We can still do better, but my husband is now an actual partner with me when it comes to parenting.  

3.  He now values family time, so I don't feel like I am intruding on his "unwinding from work time" when I suggest something like family dinner.   And not only does he have the patience now to sit through dinner, he attempts to instigate meaningful conversation at the table.  

4.  We practice sharing feelings.  For several years, at the dinner table we've played a game called Good Thing/Bad Thing, in which we each tell a high and low point of our day.  Since recovery, in an attempt to practice sharing feelings, we now play Good Thing/Bad Thing/Vulnerable Thing.  In addition to a good and bad thing, we now relate a time during the day when we felt vulnerable.   It doesn't always go well.  Teenage boys aren't always able to be vulnerable, but it gives us as parents a chance to model expressing tough emotions.

5.  An addict in active addiction views the world around him as inherently hostile and the people in that world as enemies.  I don't feel like my husband's enemy anymore.  He often has to remind me, "Wildflower, remember I am on your side.  I'm not against you.  We're in this together."  I'm still not used to it, but I try to do my part and appreciate this new togetherness.

6.  There is more affection and love in our home.  

7.  Our family feels more stable and less stressed.  The definition of addiction is being out of control, and I feel more peace about finances and church responsibilities and bills and activities.  

8.  We have consciously simplified our lives by doing less in our community and focusing more on our marriage and family.  When things start feeling crazy, we think about what is really important and we try to do less.

Addiction recovery is changing our family for the better. Though there are still many negative repercussions of addiction present in our family, tonight I am celebrating the progress we've made!  

Happy holidays, dear friends.  Have hope.