Addiction is a fatal disease and this past week we lost a friend, Ian R., who seemingly had it all, to it. It is not just about staying clean and sober it is about living responsibly and honestly in the real world. For those of us who do not have this disease living responsibly and honestly in the real world is not always easy...for those who are afflicted with the disease of addiction it is that much more difficlut to learn how to live in reality and not run away.
There are tons of emotions that surface as the addict becomes sober, hence the program slogan "feelings are not facts". Confronting one's past honestly and discovering all the things one lost because of addiction can make someone very angry...Learning to manage this anger and communicate is not easy.
A marriage that has survived chronic addiction is very fragile. Starting a clean slate with trust is not easy. So many things bring up memories of the past----the lying, the stealing, the manipulation, the pain, the anger, the destruction, etc.....And the alcoholic (or addict) does not want to be reminded of these things....and in truth neither do we...Yet if a marriage is to survive in recovery from this awful disease a safe place to discuss our feelings and set boundaries is important.
What is natural for most people in this situation is to run away/leave, or shut down. Mark and I have been struggling with this over the past several months. We don't really talk about things very much and don't really see each other that much. And when there are important issues to deal with he gets very angry (similar behavior to when he was active). It is a very difficult enviroment to live in and in the past I would have gotten on my pity pot and behaved like "poor me". I know realize that I do have choices and I do have control over how I behave....It takes a tremendous amount of patience to act with understanding and compassion and walk away from behavior that is abusive....however this new behavior is leading us to a place of deeper understanding, love, and compassion for each other.
I have been searching the internet and other places for information on anger in the second year of sobriety..Have found nothing. So I thought I would write my experiences, share them, and maybe get some feedback from others. Mark has rageaholic tendencies...Fortunatly he is working his program or recovery, aware of this behavior, and working on getting better at it. I personally detest this behavior...my dad, and mom to a lesser extent, were both rageaholics....I cannot stand arguing over nothing importatn, analyzing feelings and behaviors to death, screaming and overreacting. Learning to talk to one another and reason things out is much more productive an dmuch less stressful...OK once again eliciting this kind of behavior has to come from me...SO how do I handle it? I use the tools of hte program finally...I ignore rageaholic words and behavior, I walk away or busy myself with something else, I let the situtaioncalm down, and then ask "what is really going on?" Usually it leads back to the same thing-Markisangry with himself and is learning to live life on life's terms...it is easy to blame me for whatever is wrong, as that is what he did for so many years when he was drinking...and before me it was his ex wife and his family...etc.....
HOw am I handling situation differently? Here is a good example. Recently I thought Mark was lying to me about something important...I got very angry and thought through how I would tell him this. I could accuse him, I could ask him for proof he was not lying..all of this would just make him more angry and feel cornered and would not achieve my desired result..I could accept that he may be telling the truth or he may be lying and recognizethat I am powerless over this situation. I am not powerless over my behavior and I could adjust my behavior. So I prayed for guidance and the wisdom that came to me was just as I need safe place to express my feelings to Mark, he too needs a safe place to express his and recover. So I found the words to tell him that the situation that occurred brought up for me bad memories of the drinking days and htat just as he does not want to be reminded of the past, neither do I and I explained that he needs to be a better communicator about things. He too found the words to explain to me how his past keeps coming up and the pain of what he lost... He still is very vague about his feelings and thoughts and shares a lot with his sponsor...But in a marriage we need to be able to talk about things and address them openly and honestly.
It is very hard for me to have blind trust in Mark given the history, but I am moving through this and turning it over to my higher power. It is scary....but it has always worked. And there are rewards to this behavior...Yesterday Mark called me and expressed his gratitude to me in a way I never heard before and acknowledged that it must be difficult to be married to someone like him...His humility opened a door for me to say yes it is hard but I love the man I married and I am gratful that he is finding his true self one day at a time hte more and more sobriety he has, and taht I appreciate his acknoledgemnt of me.
I keep telling Mark I am his friend and not his enemy and when we feel like giving up onour marriage I reason it out with him-this is not always easy as his anger gets in the way but once we get past that (often after several very patient attempts and many deep breaths to keep me from exploding in anger) we discover that we would bring our baggage to the next relationship and until we take responsiblity for our baggage we will not get better, and as two partners with a history together who love one another helping and loving each other enough to heal and grow together rather than apart can be a wonderful experience...Hard work but wonderful, and hard work that really cannot yet be addressed fully as recovery is still too new..
So this is a tall order for someone like me who is not an addict. Why do I have to put up with this. Don't I deserve better? I have choices and I like my choice. I love my alcoholic and I am grateful everyday for his sobriety. I am happy to support his commitment to AA and recovery, even though this means that nothing comes before his sobriety.
So, what about me? I do not go to many Alanon meetings anymore. When I do I share from a new perspective. The wisdom of 12 step programs extends to all areas of our lives. What does a family in recovery in year 2 of sobriety mean to and for me? It means that I no longer live crisis to crisis and no longer spend my life managing crisies. It measns that I am free to focus on me. I did not think that I would do this without my mom in my life. But it also means that I am freer to grieve her loss and learn to make her memory a blessing and a big part of my life. I have been in dead end jobs over the past few years as I too was a victim of this horrible family disease. As I am closer to 50 than 40 and have had more than a five year gap in my field and no graduate school degree, finding a job that pays good money is tough. Mark has started a new business and my dream has always been to be in business with my husband..I got stuck in this thought and desire for a while until I realized that he is too volatile and controlling for me to work with and htat I will be involved in his business anyway. More importanty I realized that this was not the right choice for me as I need to be independent and not dependent. I need to earn enought money to be self sufficient yet have time to be a good mother and inspiration to my son, and have enought time to go the gym and take care of me...a hybrid between suburbanhousewife and professional....I truly can have it all if I make hte right choices. And Mark can help support our family and work and enjoy his work. We can truly be separate and whole and in a healthy relationshiop.
So my big news: I am enrolling in a one year program to become a certified holistic practitioner and nutritionist. I will have the tools to build my own business..and I will be able make more money day 1 than I do now working part time for someone else....
I have osteoarthritis in my knee and have been forced to start an aggressive exercise program as not to be in chronic pain....alongside of this I am becoming a good cook and were are primarily vegetarian. I have not mastered the art of losing weight and staying disciplined yet but I do see small minor changes.
And what about our son? He is struggling in school academically and socially. He has huge anger issues we are dealing with. He too is in recovery and fortunatley has wonderful support at school and a dad who one day at a time is becoming a better father. His report card was not great all average grades (most kids are above average in his school) but it was the best for him.He was disappointed yet he is lucky to have a mom and dad like us. I looked at his report card and gave him a huge hug and told him I was very proud of him as his report card reflected a lot of hard work and a lot of improvement and progress. I told him that it is good not to get all outstandings the first half of the year as it gives him something to work toward. I am close to his teacher and we work together. AND finally I have a supportive and calm home environment and a husband who is my partner in parenting.
So-I do not write as frequently as in the past but will continue to update periodically and hopefuly Mark will too. Mark has not disappeared he has just chosen not to blog, or been too busy, working other tools of recovery, or tired He is still in recovery and working all the tools of his AA program. This means as many meetings as he feels he needs to stay sober (at least one a day and lately several more), staying very close to his sponsor, reading and praying, and calling and supporting others in recovery. Would love ot hear from our friends who read our blog.