Monday, January 13, 2014

Happy Bloggiversary

Wow. It's been a full year since I started this little recovery/online journal/dark comedy experiment, and 44 posts later I am not surprised by how much more there is to explore, discuss and share. I am as ever humbled by the community of readers and sharers here, and I look forward to fleshing out and publishing the 29 drafts that have been waiting in the wings.

A lot has happened over the last 12 months. You know, I remember exactly where I was that night, literally and figuratively, as I sat in our dining room and signed up with Blogger, then typed and emoted and edited away and clicked "publish" on my introductory post. I remember the fear, the frustration, the feeling of emotionally throwing my hands in the air and wondering "What else can I do?!" My husband's behavior was completely irrational and unacceptable, and my own obsession with his drinking and behavior was unacceptable. When I found bottles I was compelled to look for more. I spent hours analyzing what he said, what he looked like when he came hone, trying to smell his breath and seeing if I could "catch him in the act."

But more than anything else, I spent even more time forming the story in my head that, summarized, is "Husband bad, me good." I replayed every outburst, recalled every insult, and fantasized about smarter, wittier and at times just plain dramatic responses and reactions. Soon my imagined life was worthy of silent-era fainting, villain-hissing and damsel-rescuing. Sure, things could get pretty crazy. And there is a lot of real pain and legitimate damage. But.

It was just a bit much.

And if my mind wasn't wrapped up in a self-righteous, codependent revenge scenario, it was worrying about the future. What would he do next, how will I respond, should I leave him? But then what? Where will I go, what will I do? What would my friends and family think? Would some of them come back and respect me more? Would they judge and abandon me? How would my husband and I divide up our things, decide on the pets? Could I sneak the espresso machine without him noticing?

It is still my first impulse to cast myself as the heroine, the victim; to worry and panic and shake from fear, to mentally pack and unpack several times a day. Thankfully, after a little recovery and a ton of Al Anon meetings, the alarm sounds sooner now and I can rescue myself from myself - often my own worse enemy.

There is so much to catch up on. A resolution of mine this new year is to post more often to prevent these backlogs and to offer up more of everything, especially the honest and fearless analysis of my own shortcomings, to further my own recovery and possibly shed light on a path for any of you who are sitting where I was that night. Thank you so much to everyone who reads here. There really is hope.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Don't: Wallow in Self Pity. Stop it.

Stop it right now.  Oh, and Happy New Year.

In the continuing series of posts on the Do's and Don'ts (also - Do's and Don'ts Part 2) I wanted to start my year off with: Don't wallow in self-pity.

I hate to sound snappish, but really - when I let self-pity consume me, I distract myself to the point of disability, and when I'm at that spot getting myself out is extremely difficult.

The definitions of "wallow" and "self-pity" are (thanks to our friends at

verb (used without object)
1. to roll about or lie in water, snow, mud, dust, or the like, as for refreshment.
2.   to live self-indulgently; luxuriate, revel.
3.   to flounder about; move along or proceed clumsily or with difficulty.
4.   to surge up or billow forth, as smoke or heat.
5.   an act or instance of wallowing.
6.   a place in which animals wallow: hog wallow; an elephant wallow.
7.   the indentation produced by animals wallowing.

Hmm.  Well as for definition 1, I personally don't find self-pity very refreshing.  And "luxuriating" and "reveling" in self-pity seems so...wrong.

pity for oneself, especially a self-indulgent attitude concerning one's own difficulties, hardships, etc.

Hmm.  So...I could potentially be luxuriating (clumsily at that, sounds like me) in a self-indulgent attitude about my own hardships...and in the process I liken myself to a barnyard animal by creating a crappy little woe-as-me burrow?  Or an elephant at that?

No thanks.  It's bad enough to - almost - cause me to start shopping at Dress Barn. (Why name a store something that makes us feel like livestock shopping for the county fair?  Seriously).


It's definitely worth mentioning at this point that there is a difference between self-pity and constructive thought, between negative thinking and say, thoughtful reflection on my circumstances and/or feelings, perhaps with a goal in mind (decision-making or planning).  Yes, things can be bad, maybe even crazy at times - but ruminating over how bad things are, or why these things happen to me, or how horrible my husband can be when he's drinking or in the disease is without purpose and a waste of my present.  Especially when it becomes a consistent, chronic way of thinking and being.

Again, I must stress - we ALL deserve to feel our feelings.  Many of us grew up in families where we weren't allowed to have them or express them, and I'm certainly not encouraging avoidance or denial.  But there is feeling them, and being paralyzed by them; processing them and being utterly consumed and devoured by them.

Because it's so, SO easy to become overwhelmed in the day to day trials and tribulations of living with an alcoholic to the point that we find ourselves thinking things like "Why me?  Why me?"

Why does he have to be like this?
Why do I have to deal with this?
What did I do to deserve this?
Why can't my alcoholic just stop drinking?
Why can't I have a spouse who loves me enough to stop?
Why can't I have a marriage like (*insert seemingly-blissful-even-though-you-know-they-have-problems-too couple here*)?
Why can't I catch a break?
Why is this always my luck?
Why why why why WHY?

Self-pity is also part of the firm belief in my victimhood, that dammit, my husband owes me.  Though at times I have been a victim of my husband's abusive behaviors, to let those experiences define me only damages me, and reliving every attack or episode as some kind of tally to be kept is exhausting and has me running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to count the beans of what I deserve against what is being withheld from me.  That is a lot of effort and energy best spent elsewhere.

And though I am much better than I was, I'm human after all, and I am completely not immune to this phenomena.  This is just one example:

One night several months ago I had myself a little pity party in our pool.  As I sat there on the steps in the water looking across to the other end, I noticed a guy, maybe a few years older than I, swimming alone.  Twirling around in the water, somersaulting, going to and fro.  And this is how my thinking went:

"Huh.  Lookit him...
Having fun.  That's nice.
He's alone.
I wonder if he's married to an alcoholic and has to swim alone like me...
Because his girlfriend is inside drinking.
I wonder if he's lonely too.
I wonder if he'd hide money from someone he was married to...
I wonder if he'd take off on his girlfriend or wife, or worse...
I wonder if he'd sulk if there wasn't Gatorade in the fridge...
This is bullshit.
Things are so horrible, people just have NO idea how bad it really is.
If they only knew! Ha!
What did I do to deserve this? "  Blah blah blah blah.

Then I realized the train had left the station and was veering towards some sad little town I never want to return to, and I wanted to smack myself - am I wallowing in self-pity?  How long is a "wallow" anyway?  Longer than five minutes?  Fifteen?

So I put on the brakes, left my pity party and quickly redirected my thoughts elsewhere to something constructive.

Self-pity also likes to creep up in my head around the time I'm supposed to be getting out of bed.

"Good morning!"
"Ugh, it's you."
"Wake up!"
"Time to feel like shit!"
"Stop it, leave me alone!" I roll over.
"Oh come on, don't you want to ruin your day before it even starts?"
"Go away!"
"Look - it's even cloudy outside!  You LOVE clouds!" *runs to the window*

Or at 3am, when I wake up in a panic over my increasing age, or What Am I Going To Do About Everything, or when I look over at the space next to me in the bed and start taking my husband's inventory.  Which is when I have to say "Shut up, Me - you can't do anything about it right now.  Go back to sleep and take care of yourself.  You need more sleep."

Or while I'm making dinner.  Or when I'm supposed to be yanno, working.  Or when I'm in the bathroom.  At the store.  Walking my dog.  Getting in the car.  Having a conversation with someone.  Peeling a banana.  Folding laundry.  Watching Downton Abbey.  In an Al Anon get the point.

It's the beginning of a new year and with that comes the feeling of hope - for the possibility for personal change, professional success, and recovery progress.  I am hoping for bright and happy things for 2014, with NO invitations to self-pity parties.