Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Mary Bailey Was a Friend of Lois* (Or: Tips on How To Get Through A Holiday).

It's late here on Christmas Eve, and my lids are falling as I type this, stiff-thumbed, on my phone.  So I apologize beforehand for what will be a rushed post.  But I was watching "It's A Wonderful Life" tonight and I couldn't help but notice the striking resemblance between George Bailey and my husband.

In a couple scenes we see George with Mary and he is (somewhat understandably) distracted, agitated, confused, self-absorbed and at times looks a little crazy.  When he comes home after finding out the $8,000 is lost like, for sure, his face is drawn, his eyes are wild with worry, fear, and he clutches his child and cries desperately.  Mary sees him, and we watch as, slowly, the bewilderment and then acknowledgement of the situation registers on her face. And then...she does nothing.  She turns back to the tree and the kids and she goes about her business.  She goes about her business. THEN, even after George lashes out and wonders why they had all these kids anyway (a little unacceptable, methinks) she tries to guide him into the kitchen and away from the kids, and she doesn't even look angry. You can see the love on her (concerned) face. 

She speaks up for the kids after his outburst (because she's not a doormat) but doesn't argue with him, and when he leaves she doesn't follow him to ask him what the hell is wrong with him.  Sure, she does call around to the entire town and try to help George and figure out what's wrong (after all, she's an Al Anon) but she didn't nag, scold or complain, she didn't lose her temper.  She observed his behavior as his property. 

Today was a tough day for me.  My husband is in the mood where he just seems to completely hate me; his demeanor with me fluctuates from barely-concealed disdain to complete ambivalence.  He isn't saying anything mean or being abusive - he is just withdrawn in a silent rage.  It's been a while since I've attended a good meeting, and though I could blame my slips on that fact, I fear I am reaching the end of my rope.  In the past few days I've seen myself behave as the kind of person I never thought I would be (after recovery) - extremely passive-aggressive, sarcastic, short, on edge, and just rude. Here I am with my family at Christmas and I am letting this trip and this holiday be about my husband's alcoholism and my pain.  That's not fair to me, my family, or my husband.

My home-meeting's lead today was about expectations. As I've mentioned before, there's the saying that "expectations are resentments waiting to happen."  Last Christmas my husband behaved just the same way he has been the last few days.  It wasn't always like this, and sure it's hard to find the similarities in a once-a-year celebration.  I can't reasonably expect my husband to behave in whatever way I deem desirable "because it's Christmas."  I can't think to myself, wishfully, "Sure, he acts this way all the time - but it's Christmas."  Unfortunately addiction doesn't honor holidays, or birthdays, or anniversaries.  I can't expect him to be thoughtful, selfless, affectionate, interested in spending time with me and my family, curious about my day, the list goes on and on.  That's just how it is, and to wish or hope or expect otherwise borders on masochism. 

At this point, my only expectation should be that, as an alcoholic, my husband will continue to drink until he reaches his bottom, if that ever happens.  Even on Christmas. 

Some things that I will try to keep in mind tomorrow, that I hope can help some of you as well:

1) This is not about me.  I have done nothing to deserve the treatment I'm getting, so I can stop trying to figure out what I did, or why he is this way. 
2) Alcoholics drink because they're alcoholics.  Not because (fill in the blank). 
3) I didn't cause it, can't control it and can't cure it.
4) This day will not be about his disease or my pain because of it.  I am going to enjoy the day and be happy regardless of his drinking. 
5) I will "let it begin with me."  Other people's moods do not dictate my moods, do not control my behavior and do not make me the type of person who isn't kind on purpose, who reserves her affection for others and punishes her husband with a cold and silent shoulder out of retaliation.  Living this way is exhausting and just for today, I can't do it.
6)  I will keep my focus on the conversations I'm supposed to be paying full and complete attention to, really enjoy whatever movie we're watching, savor our meal and smile with an open and easy heart.

Time to go to sleep now, this elf is wiped.  And though I'm a little sad I'm not giving that emotion or my husband's alcoholism the power over my day.  My family and friends have blessed me with their love and friendship and support; I have so much for which to be grateful and this day is about so much more. 

To all a good night and may we all have peace, comfort and joy. 

*Al Anon was started by Lois Wilson, wife of Bill Wilson (the founder of AA). Those in Al Anon are sometimes called "a friend of Lois" as AA members are "a friend of Bill." 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Working On My White Space

I need to stop staring at the black dot.

A program friend of mine attended a newcomer's meeting recently, in which she heard a fantastic share: a woman recalled how her sponsor held up a blank sheet of paper, and then on the sheet of paper put one black dot.  When asked what she saw, the woman said "a black dot."  Her sponsor then wisely pointed out the overwhelming amount of blank space around the dot.  

"The blank space is waiting to be filled with our lives, our hopes and our dreams.  Our passions, hobbies and interests."

When I heard this I thought - "I. Am so. Tired."  

The other morning I woke up with a migraine.  Woke up, after a full night's sleep, with a migraine.  And all I could think was, "Hey, wait a second - isn't the wrong person hungover, here?"  

But just like my husband may become sick with withdrawal from alcohol, I make myself sick - with the constant obsession over what he's thinking, planning, drinking, and the subsequent withdrawals of ME.  

MY plans.
MY interests.
MY passions.
MY life.

Back in the day, I used to be a much more interesting person.  I used to you know, know stuff.  Stuff that I could talk about intelligently and passionately, like books.  Books that I was able to read cover to cover without stopping because it was before the time that it became too much work to read something so completely unrelated to anything having to do with alcoholism, recovery - basically anything that I was too busy worrying about to actually live my life.  And to boot, all this has left me feeling oh, a tad socially awkward.

I have lost myself.

A few months ago, a kind soul opened her home to me while I was traversing the country on a wee road trip.  A planned lunch stop was quickly rescheduled.  "I think you should stay the night :o)" she texted.  So it was a lovely two days of lounging, chatting, drinking tea, exploring, doing everyday things, drinking more tea, and being in the world again.

At one point my friend asked me The Question.  The Question which I had so much trouble answering that made me think, something is really wrong here.  Why is this so hard?  It went like this:

"So what kinds of movies do you typically watch?"
"Well what was the last movie you saw?"
"Hold on I'm thinking."

Finally I squeaked out "Yeah, um, dramas?"  I was in a panic.  The fact of the matter was I didn't even know what movies I like anymore.  I may as well have answered with something like "Movies good.  Popcorn.  Actors."  *Facepalm*

So as I'm thinking about all this I had a little epiphany.  Have you ever seen one of those optical illusions where you look at a picture for a length of time and then afterwards, the picture remains in your sight?  That's the problem with focusing on the black dot so intensely.  Even when you try to look away YOU SEE IT EVERYWHERE.  Dot.  Dot.  Dot!  DOT.  A hologram haunting every attempt at refocus elsewhere.  

Sure, the black dot is there.  There's nothing we can do about the black dot itself - it exists in our lives, I mean, it's there.  To pretend it's not there is denial, and I was there for a long time.  If we want the black dot to "go away", that would mean a few different things: after some serious thinking about whether to stay or go, either the removal of ourselves from our relationship...or?  That's it.  If we don't want the black dot in our lives, that's it.

For those of us who remain, or for those of us who may have a relationship with a high-functioning alcoholic and cannot break up or divorce that person (they are our parents, our children, or other family members) what we can do is work on our white space.  Fill up our own lives with who we are, what we're passionate about.  Maybe it's a favorite charity to which we haven't devoted much time, maybe it's taking more time to care for our own health and well-being - making that yoga class on Wednesday nights that we "never have time for" or asking a friend or neighbor to watch the kids so we can catch a movie.  Or relaxing and reading that book that's been gathering dust on our nightstand, getting back into an old hobby or interest, catching up with friends.  I guarantee you there are tons of things I can't even think of because I'm just not completely there yet myself to even fathom what they are.

What it means, ultimately, is to be more present in our own lives.  To honor our own spirits, our amazingly varied and special personalities, and to nourish the relationships we have with friends and family.  I can tell you this - sure, I am geographically handicapped and am miles and miles from those I love, but I sure miss my friends.  A few in particular, who had been such a bright, fun source of friendship and support, that surely I was not a proper friend to, as I was too busy dealing with "everything" to really be there for them.  And they spent so much time being there for me, lifting and filling me up.  They knew my circumstances and I felt safe with them, free from judgment.

My heart misses them, and as we're right in the middle of the holiday season it makes me want to drive all the way to their houses, skip wildly back and forth in front of their front lawns with signs and say "Thank you!  Thank you for seeing ME in the middle of everything, thank you for loving and caring for ME.  Now it's your turn!"  My friends and family are such a huge part of ME, and who I am, and fostering relationships with my wonderful "family of choice" is a tremendous blessing.  And I hope that I can get closer to being the real ME as I come out of this dark cloud, to be the real and great friend, daughter, sister and loved one that I know I am.

We are so fortunate to have those in our lives that do this for us, and it's completely and totally okay that sometimes we are that person that do those things for us, that we are enough.  A couple weeks ago I ordered a gorgeous flowery electric tea kettle, and a dainty cup and saucer set, just one of each.  And at night, after a lovely bath with essential oils, I truly relish sitting down to a great cup of Earl Grey, reading my new favorite book, surrounded by my snoozing animals.  It doesn't sound like much but it's a huge step for me, and I love it.  Maybe it's serenity that I'm experiencing, and it's a feeling that I didn't think I could have in my situation.  It makes me feel stronger and more able to take care of myself, and build my own life.  That I can and will be okay.  That I am enough.

There are certain things that make me feel like myself again.  The Real Me is in there, and when I do these things she opens her eyes, yawns and stretches at the day, looks around and says "Ah, here I am.  I am here."

What are those things for you?  What helps you feel like yourself again?

It's That Time of Year, and it can be challenging to focus on our white space right now.  But as always, my hope stretches out to you that you can find a small corner of your own white space, curl up in it or stretch out, throw some pottery, go hiking, sign up for that beginner's French class you always wanted to take, make your grandmother's ravioli, dance around and frolic or take a nap.  Whatever floats your boat.

As for me, time to go study up on Netflix.  If someone else asks me The Question anytime soon, I want to be prepared.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I cannot find all the words.

Hi.  I know, it's been a really long time.  So I won't apologize, but there's just been tons of feelings and life and darkness and laundry and business going on that I found it harder and harder to you know, write something someone would actually want to keep reading let alone anything that would help anyone.  But something happened that brought me out of everything because if I don't write about it I feel like I will scream or break something or curl up into a ball and shut the world away.  I'm good at doing two of those things (don't really break things but I could try?) but I don't want to do them, lest they converge and I turn into one of those frantic cartoon characters running around whilst hitting themselves over the head with a frying pan.  So I will tell you instead in the hopes that someone will read this and it will help them, because I cannot help my family in the way that I want to.  So this is me trying to help in the most nebulously vague, powerless, ineffective way possible.

A member of my extended family committed suicide yesterday.  And their parent, who is related to one of my parents, did not tell us.  They did not call my parent to tell them - in fact, another member of my family instead messaged me on social networking to tell me.  And then I called my parent to tell them the news.  And then I went into the bathroom at the doctor's office waiting room, clutched the sink and cried.  "I'm so, so sorry" I said out loud, to that person, to no one, to myself.  It felt like it all. 

The person that took their own life was an alcoholic and drug addict (from reading here or elsewhere you probably know by now that all alcoholics are addicts whether or not they also use other substances; that their drug of choice is alcohol, and that alcohol is also a drug) and had gotten multiple DWIs, had been incarcerated as a result of either the DWIs or something else related - we don't know the story because there have been so many secrets.  

"Secrets keep the family sick", I've learned in recovery.  It was always a secret, or partially a secret, how this person was doing, what they had done now, what was going on in that house at all.  And my parent has played intermediary in that family for decades now - their whole life probably - and their role as peacekeeper, communicator, message-person, translator and investigator is being tested to the extreme right now.  If there is a really shitty medal of honor or badge out there for this kind of work, they've earned their stripes.  They've tried to learn more about what happened, but we don't know a lot, because the lost one's parent can't or won't disclose much.  I tried to understand why we weren't informed thinking well, it just happened yesterday, perhaps they needed time.  I could not and cannot imagine the pain and guilt they are experiencing.  But I think what upset my parent was that other family knew and were instructed not to say anything on social media, and when my parent called the other parent, they wanted to know "who told you?"  It felt strange.  But I suppose there aren't procedures for these situations. 

So I preface all this with the apology that I don't have all the details, so I am feeling and thinking only by what I know to be true, along with my gut, my own feelings and thoughts and assumptions.  Maybe that's not fair, and I try to be objective, but it's what I got.

This person's parent is also an alcoholic.  I would say "recovering" because they are sober, and for a long time now, but they are not really working any program, though they had attended AA while getting sober and staying sober in the beginning.  I don't explain this to judge, but to illustrate the type of house that my family member grew up in.  There wasn't drinking, but the parent was a "dry drunk" (same/similar behavior, no alcohol) and there was abuse - verbal, physical, emotional, psychological.  And as the only child, they took all of it - there was no one else to absorb the blows. 

This person's parent says there will be no funeral, no wake, no nothing.  No obituary.  And it feels like an insult, a brush-off, a selfish, self-centered avoidance, and a forgetting.  This person existed, they loved and were loved.  So many of us want the chance to pay our respects, to grieve as a family, to honor this person's life.  And we must do that alone, or by telephone with each other across the miles, or by Hallmark card filled with words we don't know to write and just hope it gets across our love, our grief, and how so, so sorry we are.  "Where are all the words?" I keep wondering.  I can't find them.  There are words that make sense and yet I cannot seem to string anything together that would be of any sense or comfort.  Someone out there has all the words, I know they do.  They would know them and pick them out and put them together just right and help and make it better at least for a little bit.  

To put it all very simply - I am angry.  I am very, very angry.  And I am incredibly, hopelessly and just deeply sad for this person who was in so much excruciating agony and despair that they ended their life to escape it.  Also, though I can't say I really knew this person at all, I feel guilt.  Maybe I should have reached out.  Having been in Al Anon, I could have offered support from the place of recovery, or at the very least family friendship.  Of course I understand that this was no one's "fault", that we have our choices.  Things are just very cloudy right now, they're muddled; they don't feel cut & dry, black and white.  Everyone is saying things that feel true but also feel untrue and unfair.

"They don't want a funeral because they know it's 90% their fault that this happened" one family member told me.  

Ouch.  And yet, yeah, kinda.  Probably.  They probably do at least feel that way, completely consumed by their guilt though they say things like "We just have to get past this", that they contributed to the pain and suffering of that person with their abuse.  The withholding of love and parenting and healthy things and the replacement with wounds of all kinds and enabling and excuse-making and more wounds and lots of yelling.  (Sidenote: "We just have to get past this"?  Get past it?  It just happened!  Yesterday!  That's like trying to get past the eye of the hurricane that you woke up in one morning.  WE ARE IN IT.  How can we get past it?  And just 24 hours later?  This was me being very angry.  You aren't thinking or acting like I would so you are wrong, you're just wrong.  Also, yes, it's a very "in the disease" way of thinking to just try to get over your kid's suicide, already).

Addiction as a family disease seems to be the "gift that keeps on giving" and I see the effects of it have been at the core of All The Crazy Crap that we have heard about for years.  "Your family is insane!" some people say, when they hear some of the Crap.  Like certain people not talking to other certain people because they had promised to watch the Royal Wedding with them and didn't, because they didn't realize it was on at 3 o'clock in the bloomin' morning, as they'd say.  Apologies were for naught, and the silent treatment lasted a whole 2 years.  TWO. YEARS.  Kate and Wills had no idea.

This is just a small, small example.  I'm not trying to be funny - this happened.  Really.  

Today, after I had talked to my parent and the person's various family members, I called my husband to tell him.  He was at work, but I thought I should tell him before he got home for lunch.  My very distraught reasoning told me that this was better, cleaner, simpler than having to tell him in tears in person when he got home.  So I called him.  "Let's not be dramatic" I thought as the rings went by. *ring* I'll just calmly deliver the news and he can come home later and eat the sandwich that I'm ordering because I'm too tired to cook. *ring*  Maybe I'll order him a cookie, too.

And that's when I lost it.  When I talked to my parent, you see, I was angry.  I was angry at the lost person's parent for so many reasons, and I couldn't and wouldn't tell them, so the tone, only the tone of what I said to my parent was: "Who do they think they are?  WHAT are they DOING?  DO THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING?  DO THEY EVEN CARE?"  And I slammed the steering wheel with my hands.  

But when I told my husband, something shifted and welled up in me and came out of my eyes and my nose and my mouth.  I realized as I was speaking that I'm talking to someone who, had their parent stayed around, could have grown up in the same issues, and for some of their childhood did.  And that at some level there is the same feeling of abandonment and pain and a grief that no substance can disappear from one's life, even if that person's parent is "there", but in my husband's case especially when they are not.  So it felt like I was having two different but parallel conversations.

"I just feel so horrible for be in that much pain to do that..."
"That poor kid...just never had a chance..."
" never really have (that parent) feel so's just such a shame..."

He was so supportive, his immediate reaction and everything else he said was completely correct and appropriate and I loved him for that.  When he came home for lunch, he hugged me and held me and I cried harder, because why was I being comforted?  I am not the one who needs this.  The one who needs this is gone from this world and I was so angry that I couldn't somehow transport the comfort and love and support my husband was sending me through his embrace directly to my lost one and say, I'm so, so sorry.  I'm just so sorry.  I love you.  You were worth more than any of this.  If I had known, I would have tried to do anything.  We all would.  Though I completely know in my head that it was their horrible decision to do what they did, my heart keeps asking "Was it?  Was it their choice?  Did they completely and freely make that choice?"  Considering the circumstances of their life and experiences, of which I hardly know everything, I'm really not sure.  But it's the type of situation that I think those of us who understand think ah, I see.  It's the horribly sad picture that makes horribly sad sense.

Another reason I'm angry is that I'm angry at myself - I am not an innocent in this story.  Growing up, and before Al Anon, the stories I heard of this person's latest "incident" were ones I would repeat, incredulous and disgusted, though saying "Well, what do you expect with a parent like theirs?  They're just like them huh?"  It wasn't until learning about addiction and seeing it in my own family that it made complete horribly sad sense.  

The last time I saw this person, they were a kid just like me.  They were younger than me.  They ran and laughed and played and horsed around just like the rest of us.  They grew up with very different parents than mine and things did not turn out the same for us.  I remember one time when they visited us, their parent took them in a back bedroom and abused them, for something they seemingly did wrong.  We heard everything.  "What did they do?" I asked my parent, terrified.  They said nothing and just shook their head.  When it was over, they came out and the lost one was crying.  

"Crocodile tears, eh?" my parent said to their parent, in front of them.  
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"It means crying for no reason, pretending", my parent said.

And I thought Oh, good, they're ok.  There's no reason to cry.  What a funny thing to do, have actual tears come out that mean nothing.  

Tonight I tried to do my own avoiding through active talking.  It was too uncomfortable to sit with it all in silence or watch tv or eat more food that I wasn't hungry for, so I endlessly dialed people to talk to so I could get it out of my head.  Talking = less feeling.  The more I talk, the more it will be okay.  My parent wasn't answering and no one else was either, and so I filled up countless voicemails with the same "Hey...just calling to talk..." messages.  Which ended up being okay, because here I am with you fine folks.  

I called the parent earlier tonight and was filled with fear, afraid because I didn't know what to say and I didn't know what they would say.  It's one of those Adult Conversations you have to make eventually - passing on condolences to a loved one whose lost a loved one - and my inexperience (and the fact their loved one took themselves out of our lives on purpose) raced my heart and tied up my tongue.  I told them I was so, so sorry, that I was thinking of them all and my heart goes out to them.  Soon we were interrupted by another call on their end, and I admit I felt a little relieved that I didn't have to be afraid of ruining my best-intended thoughts through shitty transportation.

Not really sure how to end this post so I'll just say this: if anyone reading this has lost someone to suicide, or has a loved one who has attempted suicide, my heart is with you as it is with them.  Sending lots of love everyone's way.  Time to go to bed.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Codepency Blues


So it's been a while since I've posted.  A while being almost a month.  I'm sorry.

I say I'm sorry because you know, I do feel quite guilty when it's been so long, because I think of all of you out there who need recovery any place you can find it, and from the comments and e-mails I receive I am humbled to know that in some small way I am helping some of you.  So when I'm absent my guilt bubbles up that I am then in some small way abandoning you - and myself - but I have to remind myself it is actually a completely self-imposed "obligation".  Because believe me, this is so not coming from some deluded, grandiose place of "These people need ME and my experience or else...?!"  It's really an automatic instinct on my part to feel obligated and guilty when I don't show up.  But nonetheless, I can't help myself.

Which is a perfect segue into this post about codependency.

Codependency: I feel overly responsible for the decisions, choices and behaviors of others, and the consequences of their decisions, choices and behaviors.

This is completely me, and a lot of us involved with anyone suffering from addiction.  It's not just about their drinking or using.  I have tried to assert my will over my husband's a number of times on the smallest of things, because I think "No, this is better, if I just explain it he'll see that."  It's not that I think he is stupid, incapable of taking care of himself or make the right decisions, it's that my brain is wired to aggressively help and assist those around me without their request, and often (in the past) against their will.  I should point out that the codependency flares the most with those I'm closest to but since it's part of who I am, at my worst self I was this way with everyone.  Okay, am still sometimes occasionally every now and then this way - I'm working on it.  Progress not perfection!

Symptoms of codependency include the following:

1. Low self-esteem.
2. People-pleasing.
3. Poor boundaries.
4. Reactivity.
5. Caretaking.
6. Control.
7. Dysfunctional communication.
8. Obsessions.
9. Dependency.
10. Denial.
11. Problems with intimacy.
12. Painful emotions.

Check, check, check the rest.  Each of these could be their own post.  Reactivity and dysfunctional communication are huge ones for me.  One of the primary symptoms of my disease is that when my husband appears upset, I go into "fix it" mode, stopping at almost nothing to see what is wrong and how I can "help".  You see, crazy person that I am, when he's in a bad mood, my thinking goes like this:

Oh no.
*sick feeling*
What's wrong?
Wait a minute.
What did I do?
Ugh not again.
What just happened between then and now?
Maybe it's this...
...It could be that.
Did I say something...?
Oh no.

I absolutely, completely, totally cannot stand when my husband is in a bad mood - especially if it is anger directed at me for something I didn't do, that in no way is related to me or has anything to do with me.  I just can't take it.  If you're not happy, it's my fault.  That's my disease.

Growing up without direct, assertive communication with one of my parents, I learned how to play the guessing game of "What's Wrong?"  How you play is you have to ask just the right questions to crack the code and get the answer.  When that parent wasn't happy with me, they did play the silent game, and this parent didn't communicate their issues with my behavior so I was left in the dark to wonder and worry.  Sometimes they would lay there silent, watching television, while I stood there and asked question after question, until something sparked a slight nod, their eyes moving toward my direction, anything to sound off the bell.

*Ding ding* You win!

Fast forward to today.  If someone's quiet I think "Shit, what did I do?"  It must be me, and it's now my job to simultaneously fix it and find out what's wrong, in no particular order.  Now I make more of an effort to remember that we're all adults here, and if someone is possibly upset with me or for some other reason, they can choose to bring it up with me and communicate assertively - it's not my job to be hyper-vigilant and do their communicating for them.  This doesn't mean I ignore my own behavior or cut off my friends or loved ones, it just means I'm trying to move to a healthier state with them, which is to stop pestering them any time there's been a lag or a period of "silence." (Also - it's not always about me!  Something else I have to deprogram in myself).

Codependency is also a great way we stay in denial.  If I remain convinced that my behavior, thoughts, and actions drive someone else to behave, think or act in a certain way, then I remain in denial that my loved one has an addiction that has nothing to do with me.  It's the great illusion (sometimes shared between the codie and addict) that the only thing that can change their behavior is our behavior.  So in that way we prevent our loved ones from experiencing any consequences of their own actions, and as a result we enable their addiction.

A friend of mine was speaking with her therapist recently, and she expressed her concern that if she didn't speak up, certain things could happen. 

"He could (X)"
"Yes.  That's true", the therapist said.
"Well if he doesn't do X, then Y will happen."
"That could, yes," the therapist agreed.

The therapist was trying to point out that the consequences of her husband's behavior are the consequences of her husband's behavior.  

Case in point for me:  This past Mother's Day, my husband was traveling for work, so of course I did what any good codependent wife would do and made sure to buy his mom's gifts, have them wrapped, spent a thoughtful amount of time to pick out her card - all this after he said she may not get anything this year.  Of course, he could have planned ahead, but planning ahead is not one of his strong suits and knowing this, I insisted that I shop for her - without his asking me to - and then reported to him what I purchased and even took photos.  He could have not gotten her anything, and she - I can only assume - would have been hurt and confused, and inevitably I would be left thinking it was somehow my fault.

Now, this is after a good year in Al Anon.  And after I knew better.  And after I told myself, "I probably don't need to do this."  But I still did it.  Maybe the healthy difference is that afterwards it didn't feel like the "success" that it used to, even though he thanked me.

One of the results of all this codependency has been this: maybe, just maybe, I focus on how to fix it so much so that I won't see that damn, this is just bullshit.  It's not how I deserve to be treated, not how I want my marriage to be.  But if I keep focusing on the fixing it - on the details - then maybe I can put off dealing with The Big Picture a little longer.  Maybe I can avoid looking at me, what I could change to empower myself, how I really view myself, what makes me happy.  Because when I contemplate those questions, I tell ya.  Scares the hell out of me.  I'm getting a little panicky just writing about it.

So when there is unacceptable behavior, I question my own contribution to see where things went wrong.  I think, "Well maybe if I hadn't said this" or "Dammit, I shouldn't have said anything."  Still, after really truly knowing better, it isn't my first instinct to pull back and see someone else's choices as their choices.

As ever, something to work on in myself.  Hope you are all hanging in wherever you are, and I'm sending a crap ton of love and strength your way.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thank You

It has now been 7 months on this journey here at I'm Married To A Functioning Alcoholic.  Over that short time I have received so many thoughtful, kind comments and e-mails that have encouraged me not just in my efforts for this humble little blog, but in my efforts in working my program, working at my venture and just working at life.  So I want to express my gratitude, and say thank you.

Thank you for reading my words and my experience and for contributing yours; for coming together to form what is now a cozy enclave of support here.  It is a priceless comfort in finding that we are not alone, and that despite the differences of our daily lives, occupations, family structures, cities, countries, cultures, we have worn the same shoes and walked similar paths in our struggles.  Most of us have made the same mistakes, attempted the same solutions, hoped the same desperate hopes, and asked ourselves (and our alcoholic loved ones) the same questions.

Knowing that there are countless others just like us can embolden our recovery, break us out of our denial and encourage us to focus on ourselves, help us discover hope, and can show us our common issues and pitfalls and boost us up to better, healthier ground.  Myself, I've had many a program friend (and non-program friend) boost me and am forever grateful.

My hope stretches out to you that you can, in the words of a dear friend, find the calm amongst the storm around you or in your own thoughts and feelings, to quiet your mind and soul, and find peace.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Do: Learn The Facts About Alcoholism

As I listed in my post of the Do's and Don'ts, one of the Do's is "Learn the facts about alcoholism."  Though the goal of Al Anon is to offer support, hope and recovery to those affected by alcoholism, the program also encourages us to understand our alcoholics.  By learning about the disease, which is a family illness, we can have compassion for our loved ones who suffer from it, and we can start to truly accept the Three C's:

We didn't CAUSE it
Can't CONTROL it
Can't CURE it

There are many ways to educate ourselves about alcoholism - attending open AA meetings, family meetings at recovery/rehabilitation centers, researching online, or going to Al Anon.  Here I've compiled a little "Alcoholism 101", a nice little combo plate of information about addiction and recovery.  And it's calorie-free.

One definition of alcoholism is "a mental obsession that causes a physical compulsion to drink."  It's like having a song stuck in your head, maybe even a song you despise, that somehow got there and you didn't put it there.  But it keeps playing and playing.  It's there first thing in the morning, at lunch, after work, when they get home, maybe even when they wake in the middle of the night.  And the only way it stops playing is if the alcoholic drinks.  And as the disease progresses, the alcoholic needs to drink more and more to make it stop, which can eventually turn into passing out to make it stop.

This doesn't mean it's always conscious; in fact, the alcoholic may not "hear" that song or know it's there - all they know is that they have a physical compulsion to drink.

Something that's important to remember: it is not a choice to drink.  It it not a matter of "willpower"; alcoholics drink because they have a disease.  So many of us have begged, complained, nagged, asked, discussed, questioned our loved ones about their drinking to no avail.  Some may say "I make a choice every time to drink - it's a choice I'm making."  Indeed, an alcoholic family member who is decades into recovery told me "Back when I was drinking, I never had a drink when I didn't think it was the right decision at the time.  But that's part of the disease - I was deluding myself into thinking I could control it, I could figure it out.  Everyone else in AA had just failed - but I was going to figure out how to keep drinking without screwing myself over, without waking up hungover everyday, without it affecting me."

As for another definition, the American Psychiatric Association's DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnosis of alcoholism is:

"... maladaptive alcohol use with clinically significant impairment as manifested by at least three of the following within any one-year period: tolerance; withdrawal; taken in greater amounts or over longer time course than intended; desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control use; great deal of time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from use; social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced; continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological sequelae (pathological condition resulting from the disease; chronic complication of an acute disorder, example: fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis)."

So let's go down the list:

1) Tolerance - constant amount of alcohol over time produces a lesser effect; thus increased amount are necessary to produce the same effect.

2) Loss of control - of how much, or how long - drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.

3) Perpetual desire to control it - Smaller servings, switching types of drinks (liquor for wine, whiskey for vodka), drinking at different times of day, buying smaller bottles, attempting to stick to a set number of drinks - all in attempts to decrease amount consumed.

4) Withdrawal - A counselor explained it this way. "The first day I stop drinking, I'm pretty much okay, maybe a little irritated but ok.  The second day I'm shaky, feel flu-ish, irritated.  The third day I can't work until lunchtime when I have a scotch & soda."  Also, drinking, or using a closely related substance to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

5) Social/Occupational/Recreational activities - Activities given up or reduced because of drinking, isolating to continue drinking uninterrupted.  Life becomes an impediment to getting, buying, or using alcohol.

6) A great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking.

7) Continued use despite physical or psychological effects and other consequences.

In recovery circles it's said that alcoholics don't quit before their consequences, and as it says above even then don't quit, and some will continue drinking until they are dead.  As for the consequences each has their own - for some it is the loss of a job, illnesss, family concern, breakup, divorce.

But our disease as the often codependent other-half is that we assume we are, will or should be their consequence or bottom, that after all - if WE left or threatened to leave, surely they would realize what they are doing and stop.  And when they don't stop we feel rejected, hurt, abandoned, and suddenly afraid of what we will do without them.  Because I think for some of us, we see our self-worth reflected back to us through them.  When they love us we are happy.  When they are cruel we are lost.

Indeed, the family member I mentioned previously told me: "Oh, I lost my spouse, my three kids, and I didn't care.  I kept drinking.  But when I thought I might lose my job?  I thought, 'Whoa...I gotta stop this.'"

Our struggle is to accept that we may not be their consequence - and that it has nothing to do with us, our self-worth or who we are.  It doesn't even mean that our alcoholics do not love us.

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic, progressive and fatal disease.

"Primary" meaning that it is assumed that the alcoholic's psychological or mental issues cannot be resolved unless the alcohol is out of the picture completely.

"Chronic" meaning life-long - alcoholics cannot drink like non-alcoholics.

"Progressive" meaning the disease gets worse over time, and drinking will eventually become the center of the alcoholic's life - their schedule-maker, their main concern.  It will be why they travel to certain places, why they drive certain ways home from work, why they eat at certain restaurants, why they prefer to spend time with certain friends who also drink, why they forget to do things because they were thinking about their next drink, why they blame you for their need to drink, why they cannot stop drinking despite the pain it has caused you.

"Fatal" meaning it can and will kill some of those afflicted by the disease if they continue to drink.

Recovery, Rehabilitation Center or Hospital Family Support Meetings

It is important to remember that alcoholism is a disease of addiction.  Alcoholics are addicts, and their disease is no different than that of a heroin addict whose drug of choice is heroin, or a food addict whose drug of choice is food, etc.  Sure, the consequences of alcohol addiction may not come as fast or as hard as heroin or meth or crack, but that just means they get to keep staying addicted for longer, and some die a slow, very painful death.

One evening at a family support meeting at the local recovery center, the counselor who was teaching that evening fielded a question from a man in the audience, whose son is a heroin addict.

"Are you more ashamed because he's doing heroin and not say, alcohol?"

"...Yes. I suppose I am."

"Well let me tell you something.  Alcohol is a drug - we don't call it that, but it is.  And lemme tell you, there ain't nothin' like an alcoholic's death, phew.  You go down to the hospital in some of the wards and see alcoholics dying, you'll never forget it.  Now that's a way to die."

You see, we don't call alcohol a "drug" in this country because it's legal, and it's the most popular legal drug next to cigarettes.

The Roles in an Alcoholic Family

It was at the recovery center family support meetings that I learned that addiction is a "family disease" - each member comes to assume certain roles as their way to survive, to placate the alcoholic's reactions and stress, allow the addiction to progress, and to help the family "function" despite the disease.

It's important to understand that these roles are taken on completely unconsciously, and roles can sort of "bleed into" one another - for example, some of us may identify ourselves as both The Chief Enabler, and also The Hero and The Mascot from our family of origin.

The Alcoholic ("Victim")

The Alcoholic (or chemically dependent) family member can be charming, has rigid values, can be hostile, manipulative, aggressive, blaming and self-pitying.  Inside, The Alcoholic feels shame, fear, guilt, pain and hurt.

The Chief Enabler ("Caretaker")

The Chief Enabler is the closest emotionally to the victim (for most people reading this - probably you).  They are the protector of the family, and can seem super-responsible but also self-righteous, sarcastic, passive, and a "martyr."  They are often physically sick, experiencing somatic symptoms as the stress of living with the alcoholic manifests itself.

The Hero

Typically the oldest child, The Hero's job is to be the parent that the alcoholic parent is not.  To everyone else, they are the typical overachiever, follows the rules, is very responsible and seeks approval.  Inside, The Hero feels inadequacy, guilt and hurt.

The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is the "problem child", whose job is to "get in trouble" and take the heat off of the alcoholic parent.  They are hostile, defiant, and rule-breakers.  Inside, they feel rejection, hurt, guilt, jealousy and anger.

The Lost Child

The Lost Child is sometimes called "The Forgotten Child" - their job is to not be in the way, to not be a bother, to be mediocre (to avoid competition with The Hero).  On the outside they are shy and quiet.  They enjoy a fantasy life, are often in solitude (read: video games, reading, television, hobbies), and attach to things or animals (pets are very important!), not people.  Inside, The Lost Child feels anxiety, rejection and hurt.

The Mascot

The Mascot, or "Family Clown", distracts everyone from the alcoholic's behavior by acting as the family comedian.  To others, they may seem immature, fragile, and "cute"; also, they are hyperactive.  However inside, The Mascot feels insecurity, fear and anxiety.

When I first read about these roles, it was just like the old cliche of someone opening up a box and shining a spotlight.  "Ohhhhhhh" was the sensation that shot through me.  This makes sense.  Though I did not grow up in alcoholism, I have come to realize that chronic depression in one of my parents created a dysfunctional dynamic, and caused the same issues of emotional neglect that children of alcoholics can recall experiencing.  It was clear to me that I was a mixture of The Hero, The Mascot and The Lost Child.

Open AA Meetings

When I attended my first open AA meeting it was abundantly clear that I was not in Kansas anymore.  Nope, I was definitely in an AA meeting.  First of all, WAY more people than in most Al Anon meetings I've attended - which makes sense, as these alcoholics are attending AA meetings to survive, which means staying or getting sober (or because they're court-ordered to do so).  Most of them smell of cigarette smoke, and usually most are men.  Also, most have a beverage of some kind in their hands - coffee, sports drinks, soda, something.

I introduced myself as a visiting Al Anon who was encouraged to "see the other side of the street", and thanked them for sharing their story, and remembered feeling a little nervous and embarrassed to be there, feeling so just, well, obviously Al Anon.

But don't let that discourage you - a few people introduced themselves after my first meeting, and one man even told me that the was glad I came, because I had reminded him of why he was still sober; because in his recovery he is able to see the pain he caused his wife all those years.  That was humbling to say the least, but more than that it was that little break into my remaining denial, something that told me "This is for real." Others came to offer their viewpoints as a recovering alcoholic.  It's funny - a lot of them were very upfront about calling my husband on his "bullshit", and were way less tactful than say, anyone in Al Anon.  But maybe that's because they just know.

Mostly, those in AA will talk about how insane their thinking was when they were drinking, that they really thought they could get it under control and drink like other people.  One woman said "When I realized that normal people don't spend this much time trying to think of how to control their drinking, I realized I was an alcoholic."  A man shared that when he was drinking, he would ride his motorcycle on the freeway (drunk) at 90 mph, "Shaking my fist at god because I didn't have the balls to shoot myself."

Let me tell you - one of the most common threads that I hear in AA shares is how selfish they admit to having been, or still can be.  That part of the disease meant that they were only thinking of themselves, even when they weren't drunk, how much they blamed their wives for their drinking so they could keep on drinking.  There's something about grown men sobbing and choking up as they give the details of the ways in which they weren't there for their children that just guts you.  When I hear the pain that they went through, even when they were selfish, my anger at my husband shifts, and I feel more compassion than finger-pointing.  I may still be angry (and have every right to be) about his treatment of me, but my perspective has changed.  And how I deal with that anger changes.

Lastly, another man said this, and it's something I will always remember: "Alcoholism is the only disease where part of the disease is convincing yourself that you don't have the disease."

So there we have it, everyone.  No - this isn't everything.  I am constantly learning something new about the disease, and I certainly don't know it all.  But I felt compelled to share more in-depth information because I see so many of you struggling, as I did and still do.

When we first start to discuss our loved one's drinking, whether on this blog, to friends and family members, or in the rooms of Al Anon, we're usually in crisis.  And in that crisis, when we first venture into the world of alcoholism recovery, whether for ourselves (Al Anon) or for them (research, counseling about the disease) we are still in "Fix It" mode.  We're still trying to figure it out.  "Sure, I'll learn how to focus on me - but can you tell me how that will fix my husband's drinking problem?"  And even the "Do" of learning the facts about alcoholism is tricky, because some of us may still want to use that information to try to get our loved ones sober - whether by outright sharing it with them, or using it to somehow control or manipulate them.

I have made quite a bit of progress in the last year, to the point that maybe half the time I can recognize the disease talking to me, and separate my husband from it.   And a lot of that progress is credited to understanding the disease and the way it manifests itself in words and behaviors.  To those of you still reading this long post, I hope this is of some help to you also.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"...And The Lady Will have The Spinach Dip."

This past week and a half has been rough.

I mentioned in my previous post that my husband is once again stonewalling me - sleeping on the couch, getting ready in the other bathroom, not wearing his wedding ring.  Not wearing his wedding ring.  It always hurts, and always confuses.  Especially when there are small "nice" gestures thrown in each day for good measure (though he remains sleeping on the couch without his ring).  I try to tell myself, "This is part of the disease, this has nothing to do with you."  But it's hard to detach sometimes.

When I type it out it hits me how insane this all is, especially because I look back at what's transpired in terms of "arguments" and there isn't anything I did that could possibly justify this kind of behavior.  And that's the issue of mine that I still struggle with, even after a year and a half in Al Anon: every time there is unacceptable behavior I try to understand why, and how, and what did I do?  I still have not completely realized the fallacy of the "logic" - his or mine, in the dysfunctional dynamic we have been living in for so long - that the only thing that can change my husband's behavior is my behavior.

Last night, after coming home from work and making his own dinner, my husband left without saying to where or when he'd be back.  He returned shortly thereafter, having forgotten something, and he lingered at the door.  I gave in and asked him where he was going.

"Well out, right, but where?"
"Somewhere. I don't know."

He said he just wanted to be out, and it was very clear that he did not want to be here, with me, and our pets, and the weekend ahead of us ready to be filled with things to do together.  He looked sad, on the verge of angry tears.  When I offered that I'd be gone walking our dogs, that he could have the run of the house, I realized I was trying to get him to stay, and stopped. "Okay", I said, and walked away before he walked out.

This was huge for me - just last week he wanted to leave and I tried to talk him into staying, I just thought "This is ridiculous - I have to get through to him.  He can't just leave like this! I deserve to be listened to, I'm his wife!"  He ended up shoving me away from the door.

So last night, after he left, I continued to do the next right thing and take care of myself - I leisurely walked our dogs as planned and went for a swim.

In the pool, while floating around, I heard other couples in our complex giggling, laughing, talking on their way home from dinner.  It occurred to me it was Friday night - Friday night - and I am alone in our pool, and at this rate probably going to spend the evening alone and waiting for him to come back, potentially going to bed in a fit of resentment, anger and hurt.

Then the record scratched.

"No way", I thought.  "I'm going to meet my own needs."

So you know what I did?  I took myself out on a date.  I got dressed up, did my makeup, put on perfume, zipped myself up, told myself how nice I looked, and I took myself out on a date.  I let me pick the restaurant.  I even held the door open for me.  Who says chivalry is dead?

On the way to the restaurant, it was difficult to stay in the moment and not become anxious at the thought of my husband returning home and finding I had left.  "He's going to be upset" I kept thinking, but I put it out of my mind.  I wanted to give myself a nice night out, and the only way to do that would be to stay in the moment.

It was a late dinner, and when I returned home my husband was still gone, though I could tell he had been home.  A few things were missing, and it became clear to me that he had no intention of returning until the end of the weekend.

As of this post I still have not heard from my husband - no calls, no texts.  I awoke in the middle of the night last night in a panic, my heart racing, fearing something had happened to him or he'd been arrested or worse.  That this is somehow my fault, playing the guilt & regret tape on repeat in my mind, playing back things I could have done differently.  But I am not in control of my husband's behavior - there are no invisible marionette strings.  And any analysis of cause and effect means I'm slipping back into codependency and unhealthy habits.  His behavior is his property and my behavior is my property.  The more I remind myself of that, the better I can calm down, breathe, and get some sleep.

Why is it so hard to accept this?

When it comes down to it, it's this: when I accept that I am not the problem then I must accept that I am not the solution.  Anything I say, do or offer is of no lasting consequence to the health, behavior and sobriety of my husband.

It doesn't matter how much I love on him.
It doesn't matter how many times we have sex. 
It doesn't matter how often I tell him I love him.
It doesn't matter what or how often I cook for him.
It doesn't matter if I don't tell him "Good Morning" the morning after a fit.
It doesn't matter if he gets love notes or other tokens of affection.
It doesn't matter.

My husband will continue to drink until he experiences a consequence.  One could argue that all of the loving, kind things I've done for him - despite his unacceptable treatment of me - is enabling.  It's fuzzy to me, and though I'm not sure, I definitely do see how continuing to "go along to get along" has not helped him in the direction of a consequence.  And to boot, though I try to "let it begin with me", I too often fall into being a doormat.

I hope anyone reading this understands that it is not their fault.  That we all deserve to be treated with love and respect by our husbands and wives.  And that behavior and treatment of this nature is passive-aggressive manipulation, not communication of feelings, thoughts and needs.

So take yourselves to dinner.  Take your kids for a walk.  Go to the movies.  Sit for a quiet 30 minutes by yourself.  Cook the new recipe your friend e-mailed you.  Read the book that's getting dusty on your side table.  Sitting around worrying, waiting or wishing for your alcoholic to meet your needs is such a waste of the precious now that we are so fortunate to have.

Please all take care of yourselves, and try to do the next right thing.  I'll be doing the same.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Marriage or Relationship With a Functioning Alcoholic - To Stay or To Go?

There have been quite a few comments on my first post, I'm Married to A Functioning Alcoholic, to me and to others regarding the decision of whether to stay or go.  So though I have several other posts waiting to be edited and published, and as I consider this myself, I thought I should address the issue of staying vs. leaving.

Oh, the stories I have heard in Al Anon.  I have heard stories of heartache, triumph, abuse, recovery, catastrophes and miracles.

I have friends who left their actively-drinking husbands, I have friends whose actively-drinking husbands left them.  I have friends whose husbands got into recovery and their marriage was saved (though as marriages do, they still have their challenges), and friends whose husbands got into recovery and decided to walk away.  Husbands who stopped drinking but were never sober (abstinence is different than sobriety).  Husbands who were never unfaithful, some that were.  Husbands who were never physically abusive, but emotionally abusive.  Husbands who were never abusive but were controlling or distant.  Husbands who sleep in and have a mostly-functioning job but can't make it to work on time or husbands who are totally on it, make it to work and never skip a day like the Corporate Superhero they may think themselves to be.  The list of the trade-offs and comparisons goes on, and on, and on...

A dear program friend of mine, for example - her husband actually talks to her about his drinking.  He talks to her ABOUT his DRINKING!  He admits to her that he has a problem, though he's not at the point where he can do something about the drinking as the main issue.  And sometimes I think - why can't my husband talk to me about his drinking?  (Never thought I'd be jealous of something like that).  Why can't he at least recognize it's a problem to me?

What makes some spouses "get it"?  What makes some of them hit some kind of bottom, get sober, and get into recovery?  What's the "secret"?  I'm not sure there is one but I wish I knew - first of all I'd be, like, a bazillionaire (you all would get blog-follower discounts, just FYI) but also for my own marriage's sake.  But I don't know it.

I think it is truly amazing, and such a great surprise, that we have a growing community of support here on my humble little blog.  It is completely unexpected but great to know that we are out there, and we are not alone.  Though we all share the common experience of being in relationships or marriages to an alcoholic, circumstances can be different.  Also, you are not me.  I am not you.  I see how many people are struggling with whether to stay or leave, and subsequent comments with advice on whether to do so or not. I also see comments urging me to leave my husband, and others suggest I need to honor my sacred wedding vows and be here for better or worse, in sickness (hello) or in health.  But my goal here is to share my experience and also to provide insight, information and tools for you to understand alcoholism and assist you in making whatever decision you feel is right for you - whether that is to stay or leave.  And though many people may tell you what they think they should do, no one knows what you want to do, what you should do or how to do it better than you.

One of the main traits of people like some of us?  We know it all.  Phew, lemme tell ya, we sure know how to be right and how to tell you how you're wrong.  If you did things my way, you see, it would be easier, you would be happier.

And maybe sometimes we are right about some things.  Maybe even what you should do regarding your marriage.  But a lot of us ignore one simple contribution to our marriages and relationships - ourselves.  Us.  We think the alcoholic has the disease, they're the one who is wrong, they're the one who needs treatment.  They're the crazy ones, not us.

But we have a disease too.  I would venture to say that most of us if not close to all of us are codependent.  Whether we've stayed with our significant others or stayed a while and left eventually, there is a reason we were with them, a reason we "chose" them.  And until I fix that about myself, the cycle only continues.  How many people have I heard about who marry one alcoholic after another?  Both in recovery and out.  Sure, it's easy to say we're just victims of circumstance, but pretty soon it's clear what the common denominator is - me.

It is not our fault, but once we become aware of our own challenges and traits it is up to us to take care of ourselves, and stop worrying about fixing our alcoholic spouse.

"You need to get him some help", I've heard people say, to me and to others.

That is incorrect.  My husband is an adult, and his sobriety and recovery is his responsibility and his property.  My recovery is my responsibility.  For those of you who think it is your responsibility to to fix your husband or try to get him to see the light, smack some sense into him - that is the crux of the disease of codependency.  I understand that we love them, we want what's best for them.  But enmeshment (the engulfment of codependent relationships) can push us to put our alcoholic's needs above our own.  Because if we didn't take care of them and tell them what was healthy or unhealthy, right or wrong, they won't ever know, because they just don't get it, right?

Thinking this way, though, means that we still don't get it.  Everyone has the freedom to make their own decisions.  I'm not in control of my husbands drinking or disease or decision to become sober anymore than he's in control of how long I walk our dogs at night, or how much gelato I portion myself.

Some of us aren't in Al Anon, and that's totally fine.  Some of us are, and still tell people what they should do.  But all I can do here is provide you with my experience and say, "Here's how it was for me then, here's how it is for me now.  Here's how it could be if I stay, here's how it could be if I left."  I don't know you, and I certainly won't tell you what to do.  I can't judge you for making a decision I don't like (oh how judgmental I can be!).   Also, as much as I would like to be for my own sake, unfortunately I'm not psychic - I can't tell you exactly how it will be for you if you stay with your alcoholic spouse (whether they'll cheat on you or lose their job or you'll end up divorced) or if you leave your alcoholic spouse (whether they'll stay in active drinking or hit bottom).

Sure, there are specific commonalities to relationships with alcoholics, but they're not guarantees - if they were then some of the people I know need to get their money back.  It seems most of the almost-guarantees are the more general feelings of distance, trust issues, intimacy concerns, etc.  But I'm certainly not an expert.

For those of you just discovering that your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse is an alcoholic, and are wondering what you could be in for, I would urge you to learn more about the disease.  Whether it's research online, visiting a recovery or rehabilitation center and speaking to a counselor, or visiting Al Anon or open AA meetings, knowing how the disease works will help you no matter what decision you end up making.  I know for me, I was so baffled by why my husband behaved the way he did - it just didn't make any sense.  But thanks to open AA meetings I've learned that alcoholism is a "cunning, baffling and powerful" disease.

"Alcoholics aren't bad people, they're sick people" - that's what we learn from recovery centers and in Al Anon.

It has helped me to remember that my husband is a person, first and foremost, and a person whom I love who has a disease, and that I can separate him from it.  It has helped to relieve my guilt of feeling that I kept doing something wrong to upset him, to make him angry or sad or anxious, that this was somehow my fault.  It has made me more compassionate for him, even though his behavior is at times completely unacceptable.  It has helped me to be internally shielded from his attempts at blaming me for his drinking, for seeing through what the disease throws at me.  It has also helped me in almost every other aspect of my life, every other relationship.

Has it made me invincible, completely protected from anything he may say or do to me?  No.  After all, I'm human.  But I cannot tell you how much it has helped.  Even if I do decide to leave, all of these things will assist me in the end.  If I continue to stay, they will help me be near him without feeling his anger, and help me to continue my life without my focus completely on him.

The reason I started this blog was because there didn't seem to be a lot out there for people like me, who are married to an alcoholic who can hold down a successful job, doesn't miss work, hasn't been arrested and doesn't suffer the normal consequences alcoholism usually bestows upon the afflicted.  I thought it could help maybe just one person to recognize what was going on in their own marriage; that this indeed is a problem even though their spouse seems to "function".  I think most of us know it's a problem, we just didn't really know how to explain how it was a problem. It's a problem that we see because of proximity.  And when the disease is that close, sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.

Would I have married my husband had I known he was an alcoholic?  Most of the unacceptable behaviors were there at that point, just not as progressed or to the frequency they are now.  I personally am not sure it would have made a difference having a word for what was going on, but it's hard to say, as I still struggle with the feelings that "maybe things could change if..."  Maybe it would have depended on how much I was able to really understand what alcoholism is.

I do know that with the stonewalling that is going on right now (similar but not identical to earlier this year) that has again cropped up against me after an argument but without any rational reason, I am not happy.  And even when things are calm, without stonewalling and everything is "normal", there is not a lot of talking, reaching out, or affection for a lot of the time.  It is probably the isolation of the disease displaying itself even to me, but it is as if my husband keeps himself to himself, and I in turn sometimes keep myself to myself.  Yes, we go on nice trips and he does sweet things for me here and there, because deep down I have to think he is a good person who is kind, generous and thoughtful - but those times become farther and farther apart.

The progression of the disease is invisible, but the force remains all the same.  It feels as though my husband is on the ocean, slipping away from me, and I am on the shore watching, helpless, because though I could and want to call out to him he cannot hear me where he is; and in his struggle he cannot call out at all, and is unable to row himself back.  So we watch each other from the growing divide, over the bounding waves, silent.

I have my concerns of what I feel I may need to do.  But I'm not ready.  I don't know when I will be, and even despite the turmoil of the last week, the feeling that something hasn't happened yet that is supposed to, hasn't come.  My husband himself said a few days ago, during an argument, "If it's so bad then why don't you just leave?"  What I could have said, and what I've been thinking about since then is, "Is that my only option here?"

To say it isn't easy being married to an alcoholic - high-functioning or not - is an understatement.  Things were not always this way.  And left untreated, I only have evidence to suggest that things will continue to progressively get worse, and I could be looking back to now thinking "Oh, when he used to bring me roses and then become upset and ignore me.  But at least he brought me roses."  Here's your flowers, enjoy your weekend without me.

Please remember that even while you learn about alcoholism to take care of yourself.  If I spent half the time on my business that I do discussing my husband's latest behaviors with my program and non-program friends I could have a lot more work done.  It's up to me to take my hands, pick up my focus and direct it to where it belongs.  I don't mean put my head in the sand, but acknowledge what is going on around me, accept it, and act on my own behalf - not his.  The more we leave their disease to them, the more they are forced to look at themselves and we are forced to look at ourselves and OUR disease.  Our energies are free to be put toward our passions, our kids, the responsibilities of life.

I'll be posting soon on the "Do" of "Learn the facts about alcoholism", which makes a nice follow-up to this post.  Until then I hope you all keep your mind where your feet are, and do something special for yourself today, no matter how small or trivial it may seem.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Update: Project "Hope"

Hope is still alive!

About two months ago I rescued Hope, an injured bird, from a main street in our previous town and took her to a wildlife rescue.  Since then I have checked her status a few times to no avail, but this past week I finally got some answers. 

Hope has been transferred from her rehabilitation in the baby bird unit, where she healed from injuries to her shoulder.  There was blood in her eye and an old wound on her left leg from which she also recovered.  When I think back to the way she was sitting in the road, so vulnerable and afraid, her wounds make so much sense.  Now, she is in a flight cage where rehabilitators are helping her test her wings in confidence so she can fly again and be released back into the "wild" of my old town. 

It was such a comfort to know that Hope is still hanging in there - naturally, as I have been concerned about her after having heard nothing of her condition.  But also because the past month and a half has seen me attend zero Al Anon meetings, and it started to show weeks ago.  So I need a little hope for myself right now.

Because no meetings means that my focus is mostly (or completely) on my husband's drinking and behavior.  No meetings means that I completely forget and/or find it difficult to like myself in a situation that I do not like.  No meetings means I stop taking care of myself.  No meetings means enmeshment, codependency, unhealthy decisions, creeping back into old habits and just All Things Shitty.

As I've mentioned before, the meetings here aren't what I'm used to as they are run a bit differently: set topics/focus for each meeting instead of speaker-chosen topics from the literature seem to have a rigid effect, and does not afford the same random possibility of epiphany and recovery (at least for me - I'm sorry but there's only so many times a month I want to hear yet again about "Step (x)").  The schedule is also not as convenient.  In attempts at compensation, the literature sits on my bedside table and I read several readings a day.  But the energy of a meeting, the feeling in the air of those who are walking in your shoes or have been where you have been, the understanding nods and thoughtful conversation with new friends - that cannot be replaced.

So my hope for this week is to go forth, explore and meet my needs - one of which is counseling.  Al Anon has been an invaluable resource to saving me in small ways and big, but as the program rightly suggests sometimes the help of a professional is needed, and I will be the first to admit that I need professional help right now.  Because you can't see me, but for the past couple of weeks I've looked like this:

The hope for me, then, is that after some much-needed meetings and counseling, I'll enjoy a slight personal makeover and end up looking more like this:

Fingers crossed.  It's a more slimming angle if anything.

And now, off to some much needed self-focus and self-care.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Keep Your Mind Where Your Feet Are.

Sometimes when things are so frustrating with my husband, I have tunnel-vision and focus on his itchy, irksome behavior or anything else over which I have absolutely NO control - his secret drinking, his in-front-of-me drinking, the fact that he's an alcoholic, how he loads the dishwasher - and *POOF*!  There goes my hour.  Or my day.  Or my week!  Year...yikes.

We just got back from our trip for the 4th, where we had some amazing outdoors experiences.  Amazing experiences that almost passed me by because I was stuck in my head and living through my husband's experience of withdrawal, cravings, distance, and anger, and not my own.  True, it sometimes seemed as though he was on vacation and I just happened to be there, but it didn't mean that I had to stop enjoying myself with such pathetic resignation after becoming aware of what I was doing.  No way.  NO. WAY.

So as my mind swirled with fear and worry and resentment and anger and hurt and grief and damn, ANGER, I literally stopped in my tracks and let my husband get even farther ahead of me on our hike, looked down at my feet, and closed my eyes.  I pressed into the dirt.  I wiggled my toes.  I tried with every force I could muster to figuratively shoot my mind and thoughts down my spine, through my legs and into my shoes.

"THERE.  You are THERE on the ground, on this path.  We are here in this moment," I told my mind and my feet.  They stared back at me, dusty and without response.  Which was comforting really because at that point in my insanity I half-expected something in return.

I closed my eyes and breathed in the smell of the beautiful clear and crisp air, looked up at all surrounding me and felt myself become enveloped by the space.  Pushing out anything negative and harmful just for that moment.  It was so important that all the miles we had traveled to get there turn out something healing and peaceful for me if just for that moment.

Sometimes there is a fear of letting go of that focus, like taking our eyes off a boiling pot.  "If something happens and my guard isn't up, I'll be wounded" or "If I don't try to figure this out or prepare I will be left feeling helpless or stupid."  But it is impossible to be prepared for everything, and hyper-vigilance is hardly the answer.  Part of what was going on was simple, really - my husband's disease is progressing and, as my sponsor wisely pointed out, the withdrawal is progressing as well.  He couldn't have his drink when he wanted it (didn't want me to see that he had smuggled in liquor in his bag, perhaps) and so he was angry and on edge.  As for the rest of it - the specific How's and Why's - I can't figure it out, and shouldn't keep trying to.  It's futile and really just not my job, not my deal.  In fact, one of the sayings in both AA and Al Anon is "Figuring it out isn't one of the steps."  So I'm off the hook there.

The rest of the trip I was able to (mostly) enjoy myself, even the good, sweet moments with my husband, which was great.  I like to think it's because I was able to just stop obsessing about what's going on in his head and do the next right thing.  Which was look out the window on our drive, and watch the scenery go by, soaking it all in and living through my OWN experience and feelings.  Here's hoping I can keep on doing that.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gangster-Wad: The Sequel

A couple days ago I posted about how I discovered that my husband is secretly saving cash and hiding it from me in our home.  Well, Monday came and went and guess what?  The wad went too.  This...this did not please me.

Frantically I searched our home (and even checked the pocket twice more - yes I knew it was gone, but dammit it was just here!) all the while cursing as I knew that my husband had simply taken it to work with him.  Surely, the gangster-wad would be snuggled once more in his jacket pocket upon his return.  Or, he had taken it with him and done something with it - bought something I can't see, paid someone back for a gambling debt, deposited it into a secret account.  The other paranoid fears I had are too embarrassing to admit.

But nay, the wad was not returned yesterday when he got home from work.  Throughout the night I tried, with some success, to stave off fears and worrying and questions and the sick feeling in my stomach that I cannot trust the man laying next to me on the couch.  I tried not to think about how he was stashing away "our" money and not telling me, all the while acting as if we have no money.

Tonight, I thought well, what the hell - let's check the jacket pocket.  And guess what?  Yup, it was back.  This confirmed to me three things:

1. My husband takes it with him to work each day, because:
2.  He doesn't want me to find it by accident (whoops) because:
3.  He doesn't want me to know he's stashing cash.

We're going on a trip for the 4th, to a place we've both never been.  Despite the fact that I'm wary of my husband now, I'm still able to look forward to the trip and be excited for it.  Because in a way, finding that money gave me a strange sense of peace - it solidified and validated my gut feelings (suspicions) about my husband's "management" of our money.  Now I'm comforted by the truth, and the truth tells me that I was not crazy for fearing he was being dishonest.  The truth was not what I wanted to hear, but it's the truth nonetheless.  And now I know where I stand.

My hope is that it stays where it is and I'm able to track additional "deposits."  In the meantime, part of my self-care is to continue to exercise my mind, body and soul, and focus on my venture and all things that fulfill me, bring me light and hope, and bring me peace.

Don't: Argue With A Drunk Alcoholic. Just Don't.

Or a drinking but not yet drunk alcoholic.

It's almost the 4th of July, and those of us in the states know that means lots of alcohol-filled barbecues and fireworks displays.  After all it's the celebration of the birth of our great nation!  Let's all get wasted in the name of patriotism!  So as the day approaches, this post feels timely, and I hope it will help some of you out there avoid any heated (and potentially dangerous) incidents.

Like I said in my previous post, there's absolutely no utility in arguing with a drunk alcoholic.  There's a saying in AA & Al Anon that alcoholics have "a thinking problem, not a drinking problem."  My urge to convince my husband of my perspective (read: I'm right) and the fallacy of his logic (read: he's way wrong) is still my first instinct, and each time it wells up to my lips I still struggle to pause before I protest.

I know.  It's so easy to say "Just don't argue with them."  Oh.  That's all?  Okay.  I'll just turn my Rational Switch (along with my ears) off and turn my Insane Patience Unknown To Humankind on.  I KNOW the pure skin-crawling frustration of feeling that you have to accept what the alcoholic is saying as if it's fact, or giving up, exhausted, after trying to make them understand.  So many times I've thought, "If I can just get him to understand what I'm saying..."  Two hours later, no dice.

Then one day I finally got it - I heard the Blue Refrigerator story.

So you're on the phone with someone, and they start talking about your blue refrigerator.  "My fridge is white", you say.

"No, it's blue."
"No - it's white."
"It's blue!"
"I think I know what color my fridge is."
"Hmm, apparently not.  Because it's blue - it's blue!"

There you are trying to convince the person on the other end of the line that your refrigerator is white.  I mean, you know that it's white - they're not even there.  They don't know what color it is because they can't see it.  And you don't have the sense to realize "Wait a minute - they can't even see my fridge, so how would they know what color it is?  It doesn't matter what they say because I know the truth."

In the same way, the disease clouds the thinking of alcoholics; it can prevent them from being able to see things as they are, to see things as we see them or to appreciate our thoughts, feelings or perspective.

If you were talking to someone with dementia or Alzheimer's, and they thought it was 1950 and your name was Pearl, chances are you wouldn't sit there arguing with them that nope, Gladys, it's really 2013 and no one's named "Pearl" anymore.  And if they had schizophrenia and wore tin-foil hats because the CIA was spying on them from Mars, you probably wouldn't even attempt to go there.

So the next time your son or daughter or wife or husband tries to accuse you of something, calls you names, insults you, tries to manipulate you or can't see why what they did/said upset you - just remember that they just can't see it, they are not able to get it.

And if you feel like you're going to lose it, do what I do and say this under your breath:

"My refrigerator isn't blue, my refrigerator isn't blue."

In recovery it's said that "alcoholics act and we react." In general and in specific situations, over time a dynamic takes shape, and slowly our own power, proactive choices and assertive behaviors slip away; we start surrendering our own thought creation and soon responses are knee-jerk and off-base.

So remember:

Don't JADE


Prior to Al Anon, this was my completely instinctive method of communication.  Example:

Him:  "Oh we're out of lettuce, I guess that's too much to ask"
Me JADEing: "Uh no it's not to much to ask - do you know how hard it is to keep up with all of our grocery needs?  I'm at the store almost every day!  I'm doing the best I can here, geez."  (Progress not perfection - this exact exchange was actually 20 minutes ago).
Me Not JADEing:  "Well let's have (x) instead."

This is a pretty mild example.  But traditionally when confronted with an accusation, snarky comment or an invitation to an argument (and remember: we don't have to attend every argument we're invited to) we end up justifying our position, arguing back, going on the defense or explaining ourselves.  All very passive, reactive ways of communicating.

Why do we do this?  I imagine a lot of us (myself included) grew up in homes in which we felt our feelings weren't validated, we did not feel heard.  And this probably made us terrified to state our needs, wants or feelings.  Because what if that upsets them?  What if they don't accept our needs, wants or desires?  At some level, we just don't feel entitled to them.

After living with an alcoholic for so many years, so afraid of upsetting him, any question or statement of his that pings off that fear in me causes me to react, almost as if I am trying to calm him down before things go sour.  JADE is a defensive, knee-jerk reaction that we develop from feeling that at any moment we may be under attack.  It's the hyper-vigilance of the Al Anon world.

Personally I used to (and sometimes still do) repeat myself 1,000 different ways to try to get through to my husband.  And like I said earlier - totally never worked ever.  "Worked" meaning creating any kind of lasting change.  He may sit there and appear to be listening, and in the end placate me and say "okay."  But sure enough when the dust settled everything would be as it was before.  And as the disease has progressed, this kind of JADEing usually ends up pulling me into an argument that may not have been there had I just not engaged.

Something to also remember regarding JADE and not arguing with a drunk alcoholic - "No" is a complete sentence.

So everyone have fun, be safe, and enjoy the fireworks.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Control, Secrecy & Trust

This is a very complicated post, with twists and turns and back stories and off ramps to offshoots and turnarounds back to the point.  So much so that right after drafting this, I decided against posting it.  I was afraid.  I thought you would judge me.  I was embarrassed, full of pride and beating myself up.  But not posting would be dishonest, and misses the point of this whole blog.  So please bear with me.

Tonight, my friends, we are going to talk about a few commonalities in an alcoholic relationship:  control, secrecy, and trust.

Since the beginning, I came to know how oddly secretive my husband is.  "He's just shy", I'd think to myself and explain to others.  Shy became Introverted, which turned into Private, then crossed over to Secretive.  Something has always felt amiss, and with the fervor of any "lovestruck" young woman I brushed that Something aside.

As far back as our first few years of dating, secrets showed up in drawers, rang on phones, displayed on cellphone bills, and were pieced together by innocuous, passing comments of family and friends.  More often than not, though, secrets usually revealed themselves in the teeters and missteps of his gymnastic deception.  Lying is a craft that cannot succeed without a diligent memory, and I can only imagine that arrogance, laziness and just plain exhaustion from keeping it all straight creates the cracks for the light to shine on in.

And today there was some definite light shed.  And a light bulb for me.

Trust has not been a bedfellow of ours for many, many years, a result of consistently finding out that my husband had been dishonest about something.  And each and every time I have discovered his dishonesty, he would accuse me:

"You're a snoop!"
"I guess that's what happens when you look in my phone."
"Stop looking through my stuff!"

He was insulted.  How dare I discover his lying?  Because sheer suspicion has never been enough to coax the truth from him.  Not by a long shot.

"If you accuse someone, you'd better have proof!  You can't just accuse me without evidence!"  He likes to say.

As a "high functioning" alcoholic, my husband is successful and makes good money.  Without giving away numbers, let's discuss a clumsy third analogy and say that in the span of incomes there are peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts and macadamia nuts (Macadamia nuts meaning ridiculously, exponentially wealthy because I mean really, the only people buying macadamia nuts besides tourists at Hawaiian Walmarts are the same people who could just as easily slip them in their vintage, quilted Chanel.  I predict macadamia nuts will be the currency in some apocalyptic, dystopian future).

I make peanuts at my venture currently, while my husband makes pistachios.  We're not wealthy, we're comfortable.  We're not wanting for anything and theoretically there should be plenty left over.  My husband makes deposits into our joint account (opened just last year) each payday, and though he uses our account, he also uses his personal account.  It's never felt right - as if he was keeping money for himself, or away from me at least.  It was "our" money but I had no access to it.  When I confronted him about my concerns, he didn't budge.

"This is how I do things.  And if you don't like it, that's not my problem."  Control.

The deposits fluctuated and would eventually become smaller over time.  Hmm...if he's putting in this much, where is the rest going? I thought.  After crunching the numbers (or Pistachios, as it were) on fixed expenses while at his previous job, I thought, Hmm...there should be plenty of money left over.  I mean, he makes Pistachios.  

One day, frantic and convinced he was somehow spending money where I couldn't see it, I searched the credit card bills and the mail and the paperwork scattered throughout our home.  There had to be some kind of trail.  The bills added up, nothing seemed out of place.  Something still didn't seem right.

Hmm, maybe there's a savings account I don't know about?
Maybe he's investing in stock?

And then one day, after a particularly horrible week with two strokes of potentially costly bad luck, our account had been overdrawn and my husband addressed it by phone with me.  I tried to explain the expenses we had - his birthday amongst them - and that he had been four days late with his biweekly deposit.  Of course, I didn't also mention that he himself was also using the account, so why was I to blame?  He would hear none of it.  He told me there would be big changes in the management of our account.  Namely, he was severely limiting my spending money.  He told me that for every $1 I put in, he would deposit $3.  Nevermind that he's dissuaded me from having a job because in his words, my venture is my "full-time job."

The worst part was this exchange:

"You're going to starve me?  Is that your plan?"
"No - you'll have food.  You'll have shelter, and food.  But that's it."  His calm was bone chilling.

My husband was now my keeper.

"It's a pretty good deal if you ask me - $3 is a pretty good return for $1."

As a program friend put it - "Nothing personal, right?  It's just business."

Weeks later the payday arrives and a drastically reduced deposit is put into our account.  I somehow scrounge and make it last.  The next payday comes, and as I'm rushing to finish my husband's breakfast and lunch for the day, he quietly opens his wallet and places some cash on the counter nearby.

Furthering the nut analogy, let's say the amount was Peanuts.

Peanuts.  He put peanuts on the counter.  Peanuts is not enough to cover groceries for a week, or gas, or anything else we need for our home.  Peanuts will be gone in days.  Peanuts is not enough to help fund my venture.  Peanuts is all I will see for the next two weeks, and surely the account will be overdrawn because it's peanuts.  Peanuts is punishment.  The reason for the punishment is a post in and of itself, for another day.  But his history of violent behavior with me has caused me to, wouldn't you know, be a teensy bit apprehensive about having children with him.  At times this makes him insane with anger and resentment.  As a result, and partially in his own words, peanuts is my punishment; my consequence for being hurt by his abuse, consistently unstable moods and behavior.

This morning as I resumed unpacking, put off the last couple of weeks due to venture demands, I started to attempt to organize our closet.  Surrounded by outerwear and dress shirts, I pushed a section aside to make room and felt something in a leather jacket's sleeve.  I felt again.  Not there.  I went to move the section once more and that's when I felt it - a firm lump in the front pocket.  And that's when I found it.

A huge, mobster-movie wad of $100 bills.  Lots of them.  So many I knew it was thousands.  I was shaking.

I put the money back and stood there, staring at the jacket.  I paced out of the room, into the kitchen without purpose, back into the bedroom, into the closet.  My vision blurred as my mind raced, my thoughts scrambled.

I knew it. 
Why is he keeping this here?
He doesn't want me to know.
How long has he been hiding this from me?
Why isn't this in a savings account?
He's a liar.
How long did it take to save this?
We owe my parents money.
What else is he hiding?
I wouldn't even know even if he *did* had a savings account!
He's preparing to leave me.
Attorneys can't find cash in the closet.

Sure, maybe there is a completely rational, reasonable explanation for him hiding cash in a huge wad in one of his jackets in our closet without telling me he was saving "our" money.  Maybe there's a reason he chose not to open a secret bank account that I would never be able to find out about.  But in my gut it just made sense.  As with anything else I've ever found out, it was a confirmation of an intuition; you see what you've suspected all along right in front of your eyes, and as your stomach jumps and squirms it tells you "See?  You were right!"  And you have never been so completely pissed to be right.

So it made sense.  Of course, I thought.  This is where it's going.  This explains the peanuts.  I grabbed the wad, jumped into the bathroom and locked the door, running the water in the sink to hide the sound of me counting the cash.  My hands shook so hard I kept dropping the cash.  Started over.  Lost count.  Dropped it again.  Turned off the water, turned it back on.  Started counting again.

I need to make piles of $1000 to keep track, I had the sense to realize.

The bills kept tangling, piles were blurred.  I can't tell you how many times it took me to recount, but once I had the total I was flabbergasted.  More than a month's pay before taxes was sitting there on our cluttered counter, next to the empty tube of toothpaste.  Falling onto the floor next to his sneakers.

I have never seen so much cash in front of me in my entire life.

The shaking continued as my anger grew.  He gave a paltry 2.5% of this to last me two weeks.  To buy groceries to make HIS meals, to unknowingly help him save THESE thousands and thousands of dollars in complete secrecy in a leather jacket in our closet.  The designer leather jacket that I bought him years ago (eBay), coincidentally.  The leather jacket I remember unpacking a couple of weeks ago, empty pockets and all.

My heart sped up and my legs started moving.  I wanted to confront him immediately.  What would I say?  Surely our trip for the 4th of July would be off.  He's going to be pissed and punish me for finding his secret.

I took a small amount of it, intent on mailing it to my mom.  I searched my work desk, saying I was going to send her a note to cheer her up, and that I would be back soon, all the while feeling the cash scream out from my own pocket.

On the way to the post office, my mom told me to confront him.  That she didn't know what she would do.  That sending the money to her would be stooping to his level.  To talk to him.  My friend back home had different advice.

"There's more money.  That's just the hiding place you found accidentally.  Don't confront him until you've searched every nook and cranny.  And when you do tell him - be careful.  He's going to be pissed.  Just be safe."

I had already turned the car around, my fingers sweating on the wheel, intent to say nothing.  The money in the pocket was the ace up my sleeve.  "Just because we know something doesn't mean we need to do something about it right now," I've heard it said.  Before Al Anon I would have marched straight out of that closet with the gangster-wad leading the way, indignant and resentful, full of adrenaline,  demanding answers.

At lunch I choked down my entire meal, nauseated and without hunger.  I smiled.  I talked about normal things.  I attempted to look like my previously buoyant, bubbly self.  He said things I half-heard.

"...the tv we have now is 42" I think..."
You've been hiding money from me.  
"...Later this year the new Xbox is coming out. Will you continue the tradition of buying it for me? Haha."
Wow.  You're a liar.  
"...and then we can bring our bikes with us..."
Thousands - thousands!

Throughout the day I calmed down, still seeing the wad of thousands on his face, in-between the lines of his conversation.  I said nothing.

The trust is gone.

Hours later, a reminder rang my cellphone that afternoon.  It was the local shop, telling me how well I had done that month, that despite their poor performance I had done amazingly.  So the reminder is that I can take care of myself.  It may not be enough right now, but I can do it.  It was a small comfort in the engulfing panic of catastrophizing:

Attorneys can't find cash in the closet.  
This is his parachute.
There just doesn't seem to be another reason.

When we ended the phone call, my husband listened to me rattle off the recount of our conversation, visibly excited at my success.  I told him how hard I'd been on myself these last couple weeks, that I felt my venture couldn't possibly go anywhere.  That I was depressed and grieving my dream.

"I thought, 'What was I thinking?  I should get a job already - I mean what am I doing?' "
"No no - look how well you're doing!  You'll sit here and work on your venture all day, and you'll see - you'll get there!"

He came over and held me, and swayed me slowly side to side as he consoled me.
Is this a lie?  
If I hadn't found that money this would be true.

I'm not sure how much longer I can keep it to myself.  For 24 hours the small amount I "borrowed" was still in my possession, while I thought of where to put it, whether back into the gangster-wad or into a hollowed out book.  Under a lamp?  Somewhere in the car?  Bag of flour?  Paranoia colors every possible place as just so discoverable.  My sponsor had a different idea.

"If he's stashing that money away, he is certain just how much is there.  He probably counts it every single time he adds more.  I would put it back as soon as you can, and check after the next payday to see how much was added."

Damn.  She's right.  And if I didn't return it soon enough, there's also the chance my husband would notice the amount missing and simply move the location of the stash without saying a word to me.  And then what?

I have vacillated between anger and resignation, but I remain committed to my own sanity, which is to stop going in analytical circles of Why and When and How Long.  So for now, the only thing I can do is continue to do the next right thing, and take care of myself and focus on things that lift me up and clear my mind and soul.  And one day I will know what to say, and how to say it, and what to do.