Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sweet Miracle of Life

What makes one marriage work and another fail? For some time now, I have felt that a divorce is inevitable in my marriage, but concern for my children has kept me from making a final decision. I have a fantasy in my mind about how this process would go if I could craft it from start to finish. I would sit down, explain to my husband that I wanted a divorce and he would calmly and insightfully note that he too thought that after thinking for a while and trying every option, that he too thought it was best for all involved parties that we went our separate ways. We then resolve to sit down and figure out how we can best spend our time with our children, set up housing for all and acquire gainful employment for husband.

Remember, I said it was a fantasy. My husband is a man who struggles with making a decision about what to have for supper and is largely frozen in fear about how to handle the bigger issues in life. I have enabled him to not develop that process by making all those decisions for him. And by not taking any action, I keep teaching him how to treat me. Why I continue to expect different results from him just because I asked is really absurd. And intellectually I know this, but apparently the translator in my brain that tells me to take action has lost its decoder key. Or maybe I never had it to being with.

I am really pretty good with giving my children choices and following through on the consequences if they don't follow through. I keep forgetting that I am not dealing with an adult (in my husband) that understands that process. So what am I waiting for? Perhaps there are some alcoholics who grow into this process and learn, but I see very little change in him, and he has been abstaining for well over two years now. And now I realize that my decision to leave or stay has very little to do with him, what he is doing or not doing.

I think a marriage becomes its own entity in a way, and we certainly had our roles to play. I don't think that it is possible for it to continue to exist now that I no longer am willing to play my original role. We never developed mechanisms for communication. I anticipated everyones needs and I did the work and made the decisions to facilitate those actions. When that is the dynamic of a marriage, is it really possible to scrap it and start over? It certainly doesn't feel like it can from my vantage point. From where I'm standing I now realize that even if I am capable of taking care of everything it doesn't make a partnership when I dominate the decision making process. But I can't make my husband meet me halfway in this process, and he has not shown any interest or desire in stepping up to the plate.

So I wait. I don't like it. I fear that I am wasting the precious gift that is my life. And my children's life as well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Murder of One

There is a sorrow in me the last few days that I just can't shake. I feel so very detached from a real life, almost like an out of body experience. I go through the motions, too tired to participate. Tonight I spent some time cleaning out my inbox and found some old emails to and from my husband. They made me cry as I thought about how much things have changed. But have they? Or is it me that has changed and the way I see the world? I didn't cry as if I was mourning the loss of a husband or love or a marriage but rather for how lost and clearly confused and misguided I was (am?).

It was so strange to read the words we once wrote to each other, but they have a very different meaning now. I was so brazen in my codependancy, I had no idea what I was doing or saying. But there were a few moments of recognition on my part; here is an excerpt from one:

I do not want this to erode any trust between us. To my knowledge, before yesterday you had never lied to me about how much you had to drink. I know that I can't control what you do with constant scrutiny. I can't change your behaviour, but I can tell you how damaging it is to our family and marriage. I am angry because I have no recourse. I can't change you. What am I supposed to do with the anger that I experience in the course of all of this? I won't subject (daughter) to yelling, screaming retaliation, but I am hurting her just as badly if I keep it inside and just grow resentful. Even writing this is a weak and ineffective measure, but I am at a loss as to what other options I have. I know all too well that my hands are tied. I could scream and cry and beg or I can stay at a calm, measured distance and try to remain supportive and loving, as I have tried to do, but I know deep down that both approches have an equal chance of ending happily as it does ending very painfully.

I can now see that it was very childish of me to think that patience and love were a cure-all. I can see too, from a cold academic distance, that when you get drunk that it does not mean that I haven't loved you enough or been patient enough, but it doesn't feel that way. I thought I understood alcoholism, but I can see that I truly don't understand why you can't stop at one or two drinks. When you don't stop I feel like you're telling me, "Screw you and all the changes you've put me through", "I want to escape from the prison you've made for me", "I hate my life and you and (daughter)", "I don't want another child", "I hate that you're putting our family under all this financial pressure for your own selfish reasons", "I don't care that I am putting my safety and health at risk", and "Nothing matters more than drinking".

Wow. I sure knew the words to say but still couldn't find the strength to live it. That was written four years ago. I am exhausted from this ordeal and just want to run away. I felt like I was really getting the "program" but perhaps out of being overwhelmed I have let myself falter a bit. This is where I need a sponsor I think to help me gain perspective and support. I have scheduled Friday afternoon off from work and made arrangements to stay overnight away to regroup and rest. Now if I can just get out of my head long enough to enjoy the time and not feel guilty about leaving my kids.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Long And Winding Road

My perfectionism is rearing its ugly head today. I am almost manic with activity - I am the queen of multitasking; laundry, bills, taxes, dinner all being done at the same time. When I get tired of those tasks, I have a pile of 500 letters to sign for work, and two cars that I'm cleaning out trip by trip as I need to take a break and get some fresh air.

What is it about this place that we call codependancy? I am being absolutely brutal to myself, nearly every day. I'm either being too lazy or I'm going 90 mph, total slob or raging manical organizer. It seems to me the real challenge in all of this for me is balance. Why do I find it so difficult to have a routine, to do the same little tasks every day? Then I wouldn't find myself on days like these about to colapse from exhaustion.

Days like these I realize too how much I want and need a partner who is tuned into life and the things that need to be done. My husband is at a party watching basketball. I am really pissed off at him for being gone today, and yet, I love being in the house when he isn't here. It's when he's gone that I feel like I can move and live and do the things that do need to be done. What a strange dichotimous situation.

Some days I feel like I've made so much progress and then days like these hit and I realize just how far I have to go. I know I'm on the right road, and that helps so much. I just need to slow down and enjoy it. Hope you all have had a lovely weekend.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


For at least the past year, my husband and I have slept in different rooms. I am usually the one home the latest, I go out to take care of my dad and go by the office after I put the kids to bed. Husband is normally asleep by this time and I go and sleep wherever he isn't. But last night he was the one home late, and I was already in the bed we used to share. He came in there to sleep with me. I was watching a movie, and he curled up on his edge of the bed and went to sleep. Once my movie was done, I did the same thing. It was one of the worst nights sleep I've ever had. I was uncomfortable, sweaty, tossed and turned all night long. And for the first time in a very long time I dreamed.

In this dream, I was in a big house with a random group of people. It was in a fairly large city that is just about an hour away from where I live. We, this group and I, had already driven most of the way home, but turned around about five minutes from home and went back to this odd, half-abandoned house. In the drive back to the house with all of these people, I cried and cried and begged to go home, that I had to get to my children. These folks acted as if there was nothing they could do to help me.

When we arrived back at this house, I started packing. But I couldn't find my stuff. It was spread out everywhere, and where I needed about ten steamer trunks, I had a little train case to fit all this random junk. I ran around the house with a sense of urgency, knowing that I needed to hurry so that I didn't miss the next car heading home, but I couldn't get my shit together. What would I leave behind, what would come with me? There was a feeling of finality, that what I left I would never see again. The frustration level was palpable.

I woke up at this point and saw that my husband was gone. He left for a hike for the day with some friends. I tried and tried to go back to sleep, but my mind was atwitter with these thoughts of home. I realized at that point that I could wake up, make some coffee and have some time by myself before the kids woke up. My mind was connecting dots, taking this dream and some thoughts I had last night and integrating some old memories of when husband was drinking. I am feeling very prolific this morning, even thought it's early. That is unusual. I was trying to write some emails last night and I couldn't pull words out of my brain, and this morning I feel almost high, like I have so much to say.

I think it's the prospect of having a day with my kids by myself. This hasn't happened in a very long time. It makes me recognize my feelings about my husband, right, wrong, or indifferent. I feel like the life is sucked out of me when he's around. It takes a lot of energy for me to be with him and the kids. Now, I just need to make the most of this day. Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday.

P.S. This is the song I woke up singing. Boy, my brain is working overtime!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it

A rainy Saturday morning and I'm frozen with the feeling of being overwhelmed. My home and life feel like such an enormous mess that I don't even know where to begin. There are mountains of paperwork and projects that need to be completed around the house. My children need and deserve some of my time as well. And then there's the subject of husband & marriage. Ugh. I just seem to wander from room to room picking up out of place objects and returning them to the place where they belong. Things are such a mess around here that simply putting things away could take days, maybe even months. I seem to sabotage myself by holding myself to a standard that is impossible to reach, i.e., not only do I have to sort all of my daughters important medical records into piles, I must hole punch and have color coordinated binders for them as well. It's absurd.

And all of this is just a ruse to distract myself from what's really bothering me. I have painted myself into a corner in my marriage. I have completely checked out of it. I went to speak to an attorney right before Christmas to get a professional opinion about the situation. The long and short of this conversation was that it would take time to craft a situation that was best for the kids. I agreed and accepted that it would take the better part of a year to position our lives in such a way to minimize the changes a divorce would bring for the kids. And I set my mind to the task at hand. I not only accepted the idea , I felt like a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I had a plan and now, I just had to endure until I saw it through.

And now, every interaction I see between my children and their father pains me. I imagine their lives without him in it every day and I am so confused. Intellectually, I know that we are not teaching them to live in healthy, balanced ways. I know too that we are letting this legacy of codependancy and alcohol creep into one more generation. I am trying desparately to unravel my feelings of guilt and apply what I've learned. It seems that it would be easy for me to see that even though my father was under the same roof as me, it did not mean that he was a part of my life, or that he parented me. And I know too the damage it did to watch my parents lead separate lives under the same roof. Dear lord, it's painful for me to recognize that I have recreated, nearly lock, stock and barrel, my childhood. I want to break the cycle! But I don't want to just go to the other extreme, I want to do what is best for me and the kids. I know what that is for me, I just don't know what it is for them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Between The Devil & The Dow Jones Industrial Average

I guess when I really tuned into this process, I started seeing how I'd let everything control me. And I do mean everything. In my professional life, I am a stock and bond broker. As you might imagine the past 16 months have been a little rocky. I never thought of my profession as one that had care taking attributes, but a year and a half of clients sick with what has happened in the market has taught me better.

When the market decline started, I would wake at the crack of dawn to find out what the market futures were indicating. Then I would hold my breath until the market opened to see what was going to happen. All day long I was a prisoner to some mysterious number over which I had no control. The stress and anxiety were so heavy, I couldn't sleep, I didn't want to eat. And Sunday felt like a portal to hell...what kind of mass craziness was Monday going to bring?

My training and education taught me that my job was to be the calm in the storm. Put on a brave face as you face the day and distraught clients.

Mercifully, somewhere in the middle of all of this craziness I came to begin to know Al-Anon. The practice of identifying what I can control and what I can't, was easier to identify when I used the market as my "qualifier" as opposed to identifying my habits with family and most specifically with my husband. It's fairly obvious to the rest of the world, I'm sure, that I personally hold a miniscule amount of influence over the market. But in my darkest days of despair over Wall Street, I must have thought that if I worried enough about what was happening that it might be pennence enough for either the market to change, or for my clients to feel better about their losses. Because really, knowing that I fretted over their personal situation can really make up for their losses, right?

By really embracing the fact that I had no control over those external forces, I slowly began to thaw out from my place of sheer terror, to a place where I could begin to use logic and reason to start making some necessary moves. I am so grateful to have been able to step outside of my personal life to learn a tough lesson. Hopefully now I will be better positioned to apply this understanding to my family.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Own Orbit

I am a thinker. And an analyst. I like to roll ideas around in my head and see what comes out. I also like very much to write. I think I am a fair writer, but I might just also like the sound of my own words. Either way, I started this blog to get some of those ideas that roll around in my head out and down on paper (if you will, I guess this is electronic paper!). It makes me feel organized. Like there's one thing I can check off my endless to-do list in unraveling this crazy codependancy thing.

My posts thus far have served mostly as a venue to blow off some steam. It's my first tiny step toward surrender. I realize that I have to let go of some of these things, and for whatever reason this works. I have talked considerably about my qualifier, my husband, who is an alcoholic. What I haven't spent much time talking about is me. I guess that's a great example of my disease. Furthermore, after a lifetime of living in someone else's orbit, whether my father or my husband, I really don't know who I am. Well, maybe I do know. Maybe the issue is just that I don't know how to let the world know without fear of rejection.

This feels like a good place to begin to stretch out and begin to define the parameters of who I am. I like so very much the people I've met in this virtual Al-Anon world. It feels good to share with you all.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Congruency = Peace, Security & Happiness

While I've had the flu recently, I wake up at odd intervals and stumble out of bed and wander around the house looking for clues of what has transpired while I've been sleeping. The house is an absolute wreck. Now, granted, it usually is a mess, but it's one step closer to pandamonium now. I go to the refrigerator, open the freezer door, put a toaster waffle in the toaster and wait. When it's done, I butter it and gobble it down, go back to my room, take more meds and fall back into a coma-like sleep. This has been my routine for a few days now.

I wake up from time to time and read a few blogs. I read a post recently that really struck a chord, about needing time and space and just normality. I just want a little bit of peace, a tidy home, to not feel like I live in a powder keg. During my feverish sleep, I have been awakened by husband yelling at the kids, and then the kids running into my room to be comforted. My son ran in most recently to tell me that daddy had hurt his hand...indeed he had, it was red where he had grabbed his arm - and for what you might ask did this 3 year old do to deserve such treatment? He wouldn't answer his father when he asked where his milk cup was. Dad has a big booming voice and I doubt very much that my son even recalled where he had put said cup, but that didn't seem to be factored into husband's mind. I got out of bed and went to ask husband what had transpired, and it was clear that he felt justified in his actions. I asked him if he realized that he had hurt his son, and he actually said, "does he realize that he hurt me?"

Wow. I wanted to strangle him in the worst way right then. I wanted to tell him to get the f***out of the house, away from me and the kids. Forever. To quit poisoning them with his self-pity and immaturity. He's 47 years old for heaven's sake! What could a three year old possibly do to hurt him? He really, really doesn't get it. He is so busy stewing in his own pool of pity that he can't step up to the plate even for his own beautiful son. And to think that I had a hand in creating this awful situation for my children makes me weep. That in trying to fix within myself a need for love and acceptance born from my own father's neglect, I have put my children in very much the same situation.

I want peace, security & happiness. My husband says he wants these things but does not demonstrate behaviour congruent with that statement. He talks about it, as if he knows that those are the right things to say, but he does not live in a way that makes me believe him. He is still frozen in fear, just where I found him many years ago in his cave of an apartment when I met him. He may have stopped drinking, but he still refuses to get in the game of life. I have made it possible for him to stay on the sidelines. I don't want to do it anymore, but I have to dismantle this situation with care, it seems, for my children. There is no way to shield them from the hurt that will inevitably come, but I want them to have something real to look toward, and to fall back on...and the only way to do that is for to make my words congruent with my actions. That will create real security and peace and happiness.

Boy Am I Sick

Hard to believe it's been almost two months since I last posted. I have been in survival mode during that time. Today finds me sick as a dog in bed; my body and the universe are telling me that I have got to find another way. While I haven't been posting, I have been reading blogs of folks who seem to have become my closest friends in that there is an deep understanding of what my life looks and feels like.

Since my last post, my step mother passed away. This was not only difficult for the obvious reasons, but it also exposed some truths that I hadn't been able to face. Dad and P. (stepmother) were both alcoholics, with my father also playing the role of codie. Some things transpired during her last days and then her funeral that highlighted the sad role he had played his whole life. Dad hung on to P. with all his might; he seemed to think that if he spent enough money, that she would love him the way he hoped. And spend he did, in their 13 years together, he spent hundreds of thousands on trips, jewelry and home improvements for her house. When she passed, his name was not even mentioned in the obituary.

Now, I live in a small town and people notice this stuff. I had lots of questions from people as well as quiet whispers of "I'm sorry". I felt so awkward when folks would say this because I saw it as the manifestation of dad's illness, not his alzheimers, but rather his codependancy. How pitiful to stay with someone who didn't even want to mention you as part of their life for over a decade? Mercifully, because of Dad's state of health, he didn't seem to "get" this. For him, recovery is an impossibilty now.

I have lived a life devoid of anger. I never developed that emotion, and I really still don't even know how to identify properly when I should be angry. I am pathologically tolerant, letting my world revolve around an alcoholic, any alcoholic! So what a strangely wonderful surprise it was during this time that I recognized, maybe for the first time, how angry I was with my father for his neglect of me and my brother and sister during our lifetime. During his time with P., he neglected not only his children but also his grandchildren, developing no relationship with any of us. Now that he is in a nursing home and P. is gone, he is so utterly demanding of me and my siblings; he wants to be entertained all the time and becomes angry with us when we aren't at his beck and call! I will care for him as best I can now, but I don't have the least bit of guilt for not being up at his room all hours of the day and night.

I believe I am learning about detachment in a very real way through these situations. I love my father and I don't want him harmed, but I am so grateful that I am not trying to fix myself by spending all my time and energy on fixing him. I have already spent nearly all my life doing that. That part of my life is over and I'm glad.