Thursday, March 28, 2013

*Cricket Cricket*

Over the past few months I have adored seeing my international audience grow, so I thought it would be nice to say:


So, it has been quiet here on "marriedtoafa" the last few weeks.  Just lots going on with our upcoming move, my venture, and a teensy bit of grieving and lots of reflecting.  With quite a few posts swimming around nebulously in my mind, I hope to have something for you in the coming days.

Until then, for today I will say this:

It is okay to be still and think. To talk less and listen more, to write, to read, to work on your hobbies, to identify your feelings, think about your boundaries (or lack thereof?) and tell yourself that you're going to be okay.  You will.  You may not think so right now, but you will.  How it will look like we can't know.  But you'll be okay.  You have the program and your friends and your sponsor supporting you, and you will be okay.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Changing The Things I Can

It is coming up on one year that I have been in Al Anon, and there's nothing quite like an Al Anon Anniversary to put your past year in perspective.  Oh, the things that have happened, been said, been done. My sponsor recently pointed out to me just how far I've come - from having nothing to do except get up in the morning (whenever that was), cook, walk the dogs, go to meetings - to now, having so much on my plate from my venture that I am struggling to check off all of my to-do list most days.  In short, I am overwhelmed by Me and My World and they are great things to be overwhelmed by.

All of this good stuff happened when I had my first real breakthrough in focusing on me and changing the things I can.  There were so many times I felt as though I were emotionally crawling into a meeting, so desperate for some hope, so tired of constantly worrying about my husband's drinking, what problems it would soon cause and how I could work around them, having too many pre-scripted arguments in my own head stored away in a dark, sick catalog.  As I once shared in a lead, I was so hyper-vigilant I thought myself to be a Green Beret or a Navy Seal - every possible outcome mapped, every possible angle analyzed and strategized in my sad little alcoholic "Choose Your Own Adventure".  No thanks.

"Worrying and a rocking chair are the same in that they give you something to do but in the end you get nowhere", I heard once in a meeting.  So one of the first changes I made was to my own thinking - nope, can't worry.  "I can't control the first thought in my head, but I can control the ones after it" I've also heard.  So I put worrying on my list.

"When you point the finger at someone, you have three pointing back at you."  Yup.  Too often I am taking my husband's inventory (and others!) instead of my own.  Yes, there are times to judge the behavior of someone else and decide what is healthy for us to do in terms of setting boundaries, keeping ourselves emotionally or physically safe.  But there's a reason this is an Al Anon maxim - when I'm focused on the shortcomings of others I can't possibly begin to open up the delicate patchwork of my own repair and recovery.  And phew, is there some room for change and evolution within me.

Here's my current list of things I'd like to change (in no particular order):

Get more organized - treat my workspace like a temple, something to be primped and taken care of, because like most important things in life, it nurtures me when I nurture it.

Get healthy - truly, I fancy myself to be a health nut.  Which would be hard to understand if you saw me eating some of the yummy but bad for me things I pile on my plate come lunch time.  Eat less, move more.  It's already working, but I need to stick with it.

Re-learn the art of conversation - lately I've been stuck in my own head.  2013 has already thrown quite a bit my way (mom's surgery, new move on the horizon, venture happenings) and I find myself in a state of reaction, which is a comfortable place for us Al-Anons.  But the reaction isn't so much in my life, as I feel I am making proactive changes, but in my communication.  It has been difficult of late to keep what I think are coherent conversations on my part.  What is wrong with me?  I wonder.  So, I think I need to give myself a rest, relax and just go with the flow.

Learn how to love my husband where he is - I thought I had this down.  I thought I was good at this.  But lately there is such a gray area surrounding my detachment, it is foggy and I can do nothing but feel my way through it.  My caretaking skills have won out yet again, and so I am relearning how to be a wife to my husband and not a mother; a wife who is empathetic, kind, loving but honors him as a separate, different human being.  Right now this thought scares the hell out of me, but I'm working on it.  And it's okay to be happy when he's drinking.  Even when he has a glass of red wine downstairs and I catch him (completely by accident) drinking from a mini-bottle of white wine upstairs.  Would you believe it?  It still surprises me every time.  But he's not a bad person, he's a sick person, and you know, he still makes me laugh, he still does sweet things, and we still have that spark.  And that's okay to admit.

Asking for help - and accepting it when it is offered - Do you know how many times I wish my husband would do the dishes?  I stand at the sink and am repulsed and annoyed at the stinky, burgeoning pile of plates, mugs and silverware, and I just, I just seethe.  It's one of the few times that I actually seethe.

"Why can't he just do the dishes?" I ask myself as I sigh, turn on the hot water and get to work.

      *clank*  "He just doesn't THINK -"
      *clink clang*  "Ugh he just gets to come home, do his thing, let ME worry about all this -"
      *tink ting clank*  "Must be nice to not care!  Sigh, so selfish."

And then, maybe even the next day or a few days later -

       "Hey let me get that, I got it" he says, commandeering the mess.
        "No it's okay, I can do it."

The first word out of my mouth is "NO" - no! I need help.  Oh, ha, I just got that.

Not feeling guilty for being "selfish" - I just had myself a little epiphany.  This originally was going to say "Stop being so selfish."  Lately I've been spending a lot of time on myself, and it's rare.  I've hardly abandoned anyone but I am, say, more quiet.  I am trying to let my friends come to me, which is scary because well, sometimes they don't.  And being this far away from most of my friends, that hurts sometimes.  But I am taking care of myself, curling up in my little space and not dropping everything for everyone.  Okay, maybe sometimes, but really I'm getting better.  I swear.  It is so not attractive to not have a life, right?

Getting to meetings on time.  I can't remember the last time I heard a full lead, which inevitably means I won't share, because I am not fully understanding the meeting and feel my share won't make sense.  And as it is I'm having a hard time making sense during my shares.  So with this, I should probably go upstairs, take a shower and get ready already.

What are you all working on?  It is such a freeing thought that we can change ourselves, no matter where we are.  That "our situation may not get better, but we can."

Have a great day all!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Taking My Own Inventory - Check.

This last weekend, Saturday night specifically, I had an epiphany.

After an already tough couple of days (read: there was already an incident) my husband snapped at me during dinner, and I got up and left the room.  I was fuming with the kind of anger I feel after comparing the Before and After of my husband's attitude shifts, mourning the loss of something good, something lovely, something positive, that has been replaced with...this.  How could things be so different now than they were 10 minutes ago?  How does that happen?

But after I calmed down, I realized well, it just happens.  And I can't keep drowning myself in the why's and how's.  It just happens.  *Shrug*  So there I stood next to the dishes of our half-eaten dinner, reviewing the details of the weekend in general and as simply as possible.

I went to drop off our dogs at boarding for our weekend getaway.

My husband got a haircut.

I bought road trip snacks.

My husband got the oil changed.

I came home to pack.

My husband did some laundry.

Everything seemed to do well until he lamented that he was displeased with his haircut (again! ok sorry) and after telling him he looked fine, made the mistake of pressing him on where he got it done.  Long story short, after this I was told that I "never sympathize" with him, and things went pretty badly from there.

But you know what?  He was right.

I don't often sympathize with my husband.  In fact, when it comes to really big issues - him being unhappy at his job, him hating the city we live in, him being upset that we "had" to foreclose on our previous house, him being unhappy with a haircut - I don't often recall saying something, anything, resembling "I'm sorry."  "I'm so sorry you feel that way."  "Ugh, that must be hard, I'm sorry."

Instead, I typically do the following:

1) Try to solve the problem.  Maybe you could do "x" next time;  How about this?  What about that?

2) Point out how he was/is wrong.  Why didn't you do this?  Ah, you could have done that.  Well next time we know to go there instead.  You're feeling this way but it's because you didn't realize you did x.

And so on.

Well. That must be lovely to deal with.  My future dating profile could read "Woman available for relationship - excellent cook, loves art and outdoor activities.  Skills include invalidating feelings and placing blame."

Not only do I more or less tell him that he shouldn't feel the way he does about this or that, I also am so amazingly contrary with him about almost everything, and I'm not like that with most people.  Doesn't matter what he says, I typically respond with "Hmm no, because x."  Or questions, pointing out something false, irrational or illogical.  Just plain not agreeing with him.  Reviewing what we talked about this past weekend, most anything my husband brought up to talk about was met with me wondering if the opposite were true.  Even if it was just his opinion on say, a movie.

I'm aware that alcoholics and addicts have a "victim" perspective (my husband's favorite phrase of late is "No one's a victim but you.").  I'm aware that feeding this is potentially harmful, as it can further them down their shame/self-loathing/pity spiral and into even more dangerous territory.  It is easy for me to see how it could be the disease making him feel so miserable - not his job, not the city we live in, not any of that stuff.  And I am constantly on the lookout, perhaps subconsciously trying to convince him that nope, he's just an alcoholic.

But I also know that negating feelings is cruel, painful and at some point emotionally abusive, especially when done consistently and in an intimate relationship.  Not honoring or even plain acknowledging that someone feels a certain way says, "You don't feel this way.  You are wrong for feeling this way.  Your feelings and YOU are not safe with me.  Your feelings do not matter.   They do not exist.  You do not matter.  You do not exist."

A couple months ago, someone told me that my husband has the right to think, believe, and feel whatever and however he wants.  That I do not and cannot have the power to control it, no matter how much I fight.  That I need to accept what is and decide not to react to it.

Uh, WHAT?!

But -!



And almost a month later I realize, yup.  That's right.  How often have I felt a certain way after he has said something rude, and he has refused to apologize because he didn't do anything wrong?  How hurt have I felt for not being validated, and how often did I repeat myself like a broken record because I didn't feel heard?  I know all too well how this feels, and whether or not I think his feelings are justified, it's not fair for me to dismiss them.

So this is what I am working on right now - being more conscious of my own behaviors, my own thinking.  To stop taking his inventory and start working on my own.  The upside of this?  There are all kinds of wonderful things mixed in there with the not so great.

And when I go digging, maybe I'll find something helpful that can change me for the better - whether it's an asset, or a defect.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Sometimes, the pendulum can swing back faster than you can blink.

Sometimes, you have to stand in your kitchen and repeat to yourself, out loud, "It's not me."

"It's not me."

"This isn't because of me."

"It's not me."

"It's not me."

Sometimes you have to lay on the couch and flip channels indecisively. Sometimes you have to mute the tv so you can think, because maybe if the tv wasn't so damn LOUD, maybe you could think. Mute, unmute. Click, change. Change back. Click.

Sometimes you have to read Step 1 literature, over and over, in hopes it will become an earworm.

Sometimes you have to apologize for your part, promptly as possible admitting your wrongs, and sometimes you have to bite your tongue at what comes next.

Sometimes you have to leave the room.

Sometimes you have to repeat even parts of the serenity prayer to get through seconds of minutes of hours.

"...accept the things I CANNOT CHANGE."
"WISDOM to know the DIFFERENCE."
"Accept...cannot change."

Sometimes you have to try to forgive yourself.

Sometimes you have to take the dog out for a walk.

And sometimes you just need to go to bed.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Say a Little Prayer

Al Anon meetings vary city to city, state to state, country to country, and they each have their own procedure, their own way of doing things.  Slightly different openings may greet us, all 12 Traditions are read or maybe just a few.  I do like those that end with the Serenity Prayer, because it's such a fantastic reminder, and one I often miss because I'm usually late to the start of my meeting.  Whoops.

But at my particular meeting, my home meeting, we close by holding hands in a circle as we recite "The Lord's Prayer", or the "Our Father."

I was raised Catholic, and though I do not belong to the faith now nor any religion to speak of, I have my own way of connecting to the prayer that can change day to day.  Sometimes it makes me sad, sometimes it makes me chuckle.  Depends on what I'm going through, what I'm feeling.

For my Catholic or Christian readers please forgive me - I mean not to offend, but to explain how I steep myself spiritually in my own way, given that it's not mandatory for me to join in, but I admit I don't want to be "one of those people" who leaves before the prayer and gets talked about (joking, and of course I'd miss out on the meeting after the meeting).  Or one of those who doesn't recite the prayer at all (I sometimes wish I were Jewish).

Also it's to make some of you laugh, but please don't hold me to that.

As I say the words to a particular line, I hold an image of something in my mind that has personal meaning to me.  It's how I like to "start the day" from that point forward.

It's kind of like this:

Our Father (my dad - obvious maybe, but he's passed away and this works for me)
Who art in Heaven (the horse track - his heaven)
Hallowed be thy name (damn straight)
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done (my venture)
On earth (my real life) as it is in Heaven (Downton Abbey).
Give us this day our daily bread (venture's product)
And forgive us our trespasses (my latest screw up)
As we forgive those (husband) who trespass against us (ridiculous thing that he said/did recently)
And lead us not into temptation (scone)
But deliver us from evil (McDonald's fries)
For thine is the kingdom (universe),
the power (love),
the glory (new shoes) for ever and ever.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Okay, so I've been dragging my feet trying to finish this post for a few reasons.  First I was sick, then I had some personal stuff going on that bummed my writing flow.  Then I got stuck 'cuz it's a little outside my comfort zone.

So one of my "Alamoms" (and...coined) is from El Salvador; she was the one who volunteered to lead my newcomer meeting on my very first day in the program.  When I once confided in her that my husband was not affectionate, and that we were rarely intimate, she told me in her thick accent:

"Ah, reemember - 'eenteemahcy' meens 'een-too-mee-see'."

Intimacy = Into-me see.

At a rehabilitation center meeting shortly thereafter, the counselor, a recovering alcoholic himself, repeated these words of wisdom when I used the group to explain that my husband was stonewalling me at the moment, and that any physical contact was unthinkable.  I mean forget sex, but even hugging, kissing, anything.  I'd settle for an accidental boob graze.

"Yup a lot of us know about that, don't we?  'Intimacy' means 'into me see' - and he doesn't want to see what's going on with him right now.  And he doesn't want you to, either.  You see, when our integrity is out on you, being around you causes us pain, and then we resent you for the pain that you cause us.  Doesn't sound like it's makes sense does it?  But to alcoholics and addicts, it makes perfect sense."

Sometimes I wonder, what is it that he is so afraid for me to see?  For him to see?

The last couple of weeks with my husband have been pretty...good.  Knock on wood.  There have been some bumps, but for the most part it was as if I had come back from my trip on that teeny frighteningly small plane like it was Delorean, and was transported back in time to the husband I once dated.  He was easy and breezy, he laughed at my jokes (always a plus) and made jokes of his own.  He smiled.  He was attractive again.  It had been 2 1/2 months.

So one night we um, yanno.  Twice.  And the next day, too.

And that first time, he was like Tom Hanks' character from "Cast Away" at an all-you-can-eat steak buffet and I was a big, juicy rib eye.  No more spearing fish for you, Tom.  And here's some mashed potatoes and gravy.  And a hot fudge sundae to top that off.

It was the most connected of a time we've had together in...?  It wasn't mechanical, penciled-in, boring.  We told each other we missed each other.  We said other things too, but that's as close to dirty talk as you guys are getting.

Intimacy isn't just physical touch.  For me, for many of us, and I dare say in general, it's communication.  When we haven't had sex in a while, it feels like in some way (a really important way) we haven't spoken to each other.  We haven't been recognized, we haven't been heard.

As they say in the program, "This too shall pass."  I know the pendulum can (and usually does) swing the other way.  But for now, I'm going to let go of my resentments, my hurt, my fears of the future, my severe sciatica pain, and go up to give my husband a kiss.