I was in a no win situation

I held on to my hurts for a long time. I wanted the people who had hurt me to tell me they were sorry. I wanted them to undo what they had done. I had it in my mind that I needed all that for me to okay. In some instances I needed those things to happen just so that I would feel good about myself.  Unfortunately some of the people who had hurt me in the past couldn’t care less about what I thought or what I felt. They had no remorse. Some of them were even deceased. Some of them tried to apologize and make things right but they did not have the power to undo the damage they had done. In some instances things were made right and I still felt violated and still could not trust. I was in a no win situation with hurts from my past because I could not forgive. I wanted to but then something would remind me of an old wound and all of my anger and resentment and pain would flair up and poison my peace of mind.

My sponsor helped me to understand that forgiveness was for my benefit and not the person that had hurt me. She assured me that forgiveness did not mean that I had to become buddies with them unless it was beneficial to me and I wanted to be friends with them.
Most of the time I could not forgive without prayer and God’s help. Every time the pain surfaced I would immediately turn it over to God and ask Him to help me let go of the pain. Then one day I would just noticed that it was gone. I know now that the only way I could forgive was when I really wanted to forgive, when I was really ready to let it go and be free.

Through my recovery journey I have learned a lot about forgiveness.

– Forgiveness does not mean that what happened was okay.
– Forgiveness means that I am not going to give you power to hurt me anymore.
– Forgiveness means that I am not going to allow the past to rob me of peace of mind and happiness today or in my future.
– Forgiveness means that I have learned from that experience and I am moving on without excess baggage.
– Forgiveness means that I have freed myself from past hurts.

The reason I made myself do things differently is simple

There is no doubt in my mind that my past designed the lens through which I viewed my reality. My past absolutely shaped how I viewed the world. Every hurt, every slight, every disappointment, every put down left it’s mark on me. What this meant is that I looked at the glass as half empty. It meant that I looked at every good deed, every compliment, in fact anything good at all in my life, with suspicion. I simply did not know how to trust. But the real problem was that I could not see how distorted my own thinking was.

It was very difficult to rewrite my thinking process. My thoughts and reactions to life were an automatic response – but that did not make them legitimate; It did not make them facts. Even though they felt legitimate and real to me, it still did not make it true. As they say in our program, “feelings aren’t facts.”

Over and over again I have had to challenge my feelings. I have had to make myself trust even when I was fearful and afraid to trust. I have had to make myself step out of my comfort zone and accept a compliment at face value instead of looking for an anterior motive behind the compliment. I have had to force myself to let others do nice things for me even though it embarrassed me and felt uncomfortable to let them.

And the reason I made myself do things differently is simple. I was tired of thinking and feeling the way I did. I was tired of feeling isolated and alone because my fears had not allowed me to trust. I just wanted to be happy. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to feel normal – whatever the heck that is. I was sick and tired of being miserable. The negative circumstances in my life had trained me to look at my live in a negative way and now it was up to me to train myself not to be.

It was anything but easy because every insecurity I had fought against me. The only way I could do this was through the 12 Steps. The Steps helped me to see how I had been hurt in the past. They helped me to see how those hurts had changed me. They helped me to understand how I had lashed out in my pain and hurt others and how that behavior only reenforced my feelings of self loathing. They helped me to understand how forgiveness would free me form the past. They helped me see how important it was to forgive myself, how to love and respect myself and how to grow into the person I really wanted to be. Most important of all these Steps helped me find the strength and determination to do the right thing with God’s help.

I was not born to be a human sacrifice for him

Pride and fear created a lot of insanity in my life. I went to extraordinary lengths to hide my pain and sorrow and to protect the image that I had created to the outside world. I found a million excuses not to attend those meetings. I’m not like those people. Their lives are worse than mine. My situation is different. I really don’t have the time, etc…… So I got sicker and sicker until the pain of staying the way I was and living my daily life was worse than my pride and ego and my fears of going to those meetings to getting the help I needed.

I really struggled with some of the concepts of my recovery programs in the beginning. All this talk of powerlessness and detachment sounded more like abandonment to me. It sounded like I was giving up on my alcoholic and the dream of what I wanted our live to be. What I saw as helping or protecting my family they explained as enabling. Just the thought of going on and enjoying my life, even if he did not enjoy his, made me feel like I was giving up on him and it made me feel guilty.

It was unnerving for me to step out of my caretaker, fix everything, and save him from his own self destruction role. My sponsor helped me to understand that my purpose in life, the reason that I was born, was NOT so that I could be a human sacrifice for another person. I was not God in his life. Each of us were given a life to enjoy or destroy. It was okay for me to enjoy my life just like it was his right to choose to enjoy or destroy his life.

It was through my recovery programs that I learned to love and respect myself. When I began to respect myself, and my rights as a person, I began to see that true meaning of detaching with love. Detachment was not abandonment. It was simply not participating in the chaos he created in his live. I could loved the man and hated his drinking problems. It was stepping away from the need to defend myself to someone who was self-destructive. It was not getting sucked into the problems that he created and allowing him the right to solve his own problems.

Powerlessness was not failure. I would only fail if I allowed my life to be destroyed and sacrificed for someone who was hell bent and determine to destroy both of us. I was only a failure if I continued to stick my head in the sand and pretend that he did not have a problem. I was only a failure if I hid behind closed doors and refused to acknowledge the truth that he could not control alcohol… alcohol controlled him and their was not a darn thing I could do about it.

In the beginning I went to those recovery meeting to try to save him and in the end I leaned how to love and respect myself and I learned how to establish healthy boundaries in my life. The 12 Steps transformed my life and how I live it and they are still working their magic in my life to this very day.

We don’t get redos on our time

Some days in this blog I write about enabling and detachment. I have talked about the three C’s – Cause, Control and Cure. I don’t write about anything I haven’t lived through personally or lived through with someone else. After many sunsets in this program I can truthfully say that understanding and accepting our powerlessness over someone we love addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, gambling or whatever their “ism” is, does not mean that it does not hurt to watch it happen. There really are somethings in life that we simply have to hurt through.

That hurt made it really hard for me to make the choice to get better while I watched him suffer with his alcoholism. There was even some guilty, in there from time to time, when I had moments of peace and happiness and he was still spiraling down out of control. But what choice did I really have? Was I supposed to throw my life away sense he was bent and determine to throw his away? Of course not.

It took me a long while to understand that acceptance was not approval. Acceptance was knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I was powerless to change him or help him. It was knowing that there was hope for him but it did not come through me. I was not his savior or his keeper. His hope would come through his own choices. His life belonged to him to enjoy or destroy and my life belong to me to do the same.

Knowing and accepting that we are powerless to change another person does not mean we are surrendering our life to a degrading situation or that we have to be the victim of their destructive behavior. Admitting that we are powerless and that our life is unmanageable is not a conviction of failure. It is a celebration of a new beginning. It is letting go of our struggle of trying to force other people to change so that we can be happy. This admission frees us to make choices that are good for us and not because we are trying to manipulate or force someone else to change.

We can only live one day at a time. Every minute wasted with one foot in the past over the would have’s, should have’s and could have’s, rob us of precious minutes that we can never get back. Every minute wasted worrying about tomorrow does the same. Right now is what we have to work with – to enjoy and change and grow or not. We don’t get redoes on this precious wasted time. Enjoy each day – remember there are no redoes on our time.

Is It Necessary, True or Kind?

Businesswoman telling lies

When I first looked at the 12 Steps I truly believed that the 8th Step (“Made a list of persons I had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”) was going to be a very short list for me. Sure I had hurt some people along the way, but hey, the truth hurts sometimes. I thought that as long as I was telling the truth that it was not necessary for me to make an amend.   I was so caught up into what I thought was right and what I thought was wrong that I never stopped to see that through self-righteous indignation I was hurting others. Everything was black and white to me. The truth was the truth and that was that.

Even though the truth is still the truth, I have learned that are many shades of gray. Just because I know a truth, especially a truth that can hurt others, it does not necessarily mean that I  need to repeat it. I have alienated people by pushing the truth in their face and then when it was all over I could not understand why they did not like me.

After shooting myself in the foot over and over again I now have a better handle of when I need to mind my own business. First and foremost is it my story to tell? If it is not my own story to tell, then why am I sharing it without permission of the people involved? My sponsor gave me three little questions to ask myself before I repeat or say something about someone else. Is it necessary? Is it true? And Is it kind? It cannot be 1 out of three or two out of three. It has to be three out of three. If it is not necessary, true and kind then I don’t need to say it.

I know there are exceptions to every rule but ninety-nine percent of the time if I follow those guidelines it will not be necessary for me to make an amend later.

Fake it until you make it

“Fake it until you make it.” That was a little phrase that we tossed around all the time when I first started going to recovery meetings. I thought it was ridiculous. After all I had been living a lie for a long time and all this said to me was to continue to live the lie. It took a while for me to understand the wisdom behind the phrase. Now when I hear that phrase I don’t think it is telling me to lie. It is telling me to practice being the person I really want to be.

You see the scars and hurts in my life were so ingrained into my mind that negative, fearful and angry thoughts were always my first reaction to new events in my life. I did not trust anyone that said or did something good to or for me. I looked for the sucker punch that was hidden in every compliment and every act of kindness. What did they really want? What did they really mean? I simply could not accept acceptance from others.

My recovery program and my sponsor helped me to understand that before I could have healthy relationships I had to learn to like and accept myself. I did not know how. For me the transformation has been a long, and sometimes (not always) struggling and difficult journey. I trusted no one. My sponsor told me to “act as if” good things were true – in other words to fake it until I made it.

It meant that I was practicing being accepted and liked. It meant that I was practicing having a positive attitude by first talking back to the negative thoughts in my head and then by following through with the positive. It meant that when someone did something nice for me that I not only said thank you on the outside, I also told myself thank you on the inside.

I have heard that if you do something for 21 days it becomes a habit. Sometimes that works for me and sometimes it gets easier after 21 days and so I just have to keep practicing until it is a natural occurrence in my life. My first sponsor in my recovery program was the first person in my life that taught and gave me the gift of unconditional love. I hung onto her for dear life, but she would not allow me to be codependent with her. She would not make my decisions for me and she would not tell me what to do. What she did do was ask me questions to help me see my problem objectively so that I could make informed decisions.

She taught me to look inside myself and believe that I was worthy of good in my life. She taught me the wisdom of the Steps, Serenity Prayer, and the Slogans. She taught me not to be to prideful about asking for help by talking things out with someone else. Not just any someone, but someone that had the kind of peace and serenity I wanted in my own life. Every time I said, “yes but,” she reminded me that God gave me two ears and one mouth and that meant I should be quite and listen.

I am a blessed woman today thanks to my 12 Step programs and “those (wonderful) people.”

I did not realize how I was hurting myself by helping him avoid his consequences

For a long time my alcoholic was a high functioning alcoholic. In his mind, if he did not start drinking until after five he was not an alcoholic. Unless of course he had to take clients to lunch and everyone knew it was okay to drink with your clients at lunch. Yea right! Of course that rule did not apply on the weekends. But slowly over time that five clock deadline was slowly blurred.

According to him he did not have a care in the world as long as he was out drinking. He only had problems when he came home and I nagged him. That was his explanation as to why he avoided coming home and why he stayed out so late. He did what ever he darn well please and he did not seem to care whether I liked it or not.

Mean while I was the one left holding the bag. I was the one stressed out about finances, taking care of the kids and their needs, the house and the yard. I worried about feeding our kids, finding the money for winter coats, lunch money, etc. He did not worry about those things at all. At the same time it never cease to amaze me that he always had money for drinking.

I was the queen of worry. I worried about our problems on a daily basis and I worried about him and his problems on a daily basis. He seemed totally unconcerned about our problems.  In a way, he was right about one thing though; he really did not have problems because I handled his problems for him. He pretty much did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it and however he wanted to do it. Or he chose to do nothing at all. About the only problem he was ever concerned about was his next drink. I loved him and hated him.

During this time I polished my halo. I was Saint Sharon. I was a Saint all right … an angry bitter resentful Saint. I was so consumed with what I thought he needed to do to make me happy that I missed many opportunities to help myself. I could see how all of us suffered from the consequences of his actions, but it never occurred to me that my own actions had consequences too. Enabling him and his drinking created terrible consequences for me, but until I got in my recovery program I did not understand how I was hurting myself by helping him avoid his consequences.

The first step – admitting my powerlessness over alcohol and my alcoholic was a long time in coming. But, just doing that one little thing lifted a huge burden off of my heart. I was not responsible for his drinking and there was not a darn thing I could do about his drinking either. Just by releasing myself of the burden of his drinking also brought some order out of the chaos in my life. Don’t get me wrong, everything about his drinking usually involved chaos, but when I accepted my powerlessness, I also realize that I did not have to drive myself crazy trying to cover and control his actions. One little step at a time I began to only take on my own responsibilities and I allowed him to clean up his own messes.

Initially there was a lot of guilt when I finally decided to save myself whether he decided to save himself or not. As I learned about detaching with love it became easier and easier for me to let go of trying to control his destiny. There is no quick fix. I learned to live one day at a time. It was the little decisions, day in and day out, that prepared me to make bigger decisions over time.

My whole life was wrapped up in this one person

I sold myself a bill of goods for a long time because my reality was not what I wanted it to be. I told myself that he really did not mean it. That he was trying. That I all I needed to do was hang in there and be supportive and he would turn his life around. But the facts did not support that theory. How many times was it going to take for my alcoholic to repeat his unacceptable behavior, make irresponsible selfish decisions, make empty promises, lie and manipulate or use me before I accepted the truth? Obviously it took a lot more times than I ever imagined.

His behavior was not an accident. It was a habit. But I accepted his excuses because I did not want to face the truth. You see if I faced the truth then I felt I would have to make a decision I was not ready to make about our relationship. After all what sane person would continue in a relationship like mine unless they had a darn good excuse. I desperately needed to believe that things were going to change so that I could justify why I stayed.

He did change. He got worse. Our relationship deteriorated to one of anger and resentment, tears and recriminations. But I still hung on. Why? Why? Why? I ask myself over and over again Why? Part of the reason was fear. My whole life was wrapped up in this one person. We had three children together. For a long time I depended on him financially. I felt so worthless that I was sure that no one else would ever want me. It never occurred to me how much happier I would be to live without a man than it was to live in the misery that he put me through.

Another fear was that he was the way he was because of me. I was not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, ,,,,,,, something enough. If I were “enough” he would move heaven and earth to live happy ever after with me. So it must be my fault.

I did hear them say in recovery meetings that I did not cause it, I could not control it and I could not cure it. I did hear that I could not change him but I could change me. But one “spirited debate” with him telling me how terrible I was, or why it was all my fault and I would get sucked right back into the abyss of worthlessness. The thing that helped me to overcome this tug-of-war I had with him over my value was my commitment to my recovery program. When he was really awful, I would attend as many meetings as I could to help me through. I got to work on these steps with a sponsor. My sponsor was the voice of reason in the chaos of my life. She never told me what to do but she ask me questions that helped me see the truth.

To me these steps are nothing short of genius. When I am struggling with something I hold it up to these steps and I am amazed how transparent my problem becomes. Is it something I am powerless over? Am I struggling with self-will? Dissecting the problem in an inventory step helps me to look at the problem clinically. When I do that it is amazing how different it looks. Do I need to make an amended or let it go? Most important of all have I trusted God’s will? I promise you – it works if you work it.

It is up to me

Being a card carrying codependent, one of the most difficult things for me to do was to stick to my guns. I could stand up for myself for short periods of times but with a little resistance, a little emotional blackmail and guilt tripping from my alcoholic, it would not take long for me to back down and give in. Sometimes even when I was giving in, I knew what I was doing was not healthy for me and I could not stop myself in time.

I have come to realize that when I sacrifice myself to make someone else happy or to try and make someone else like me, the more of me I lose. The more of myself that I sacrifice the more I have to sacrifice until the real me doesn’t exist anymore. Even when they do what I want them to do I never trust the results because I know in my heart I have not been true to myself. Trust in my relationships starts with me being honest and true to myself.

My problem was that I did not know or like myself. Through these steps I started peeling back the layers of hurt and pain in my life. I was obsessed with wanting to understand why I was this way. Somehow, in my mind, I thought that if I understood why I felt this way my problems would fix themselves. This process did help me to understand how I got this way, but understanding did not change me. I was still scarred and wounded. I have come to realize that without a commitment on my part to do whatever I needed to do to help myself I would always be scarred and wounded.

Many times I have had to fight that internal dialog, in my own head, that told me I did not deserve any better. Many times I have had to force myself to be good to myself. I was so accustom to thinking with a victim mentality that it was like my thoughts were on automatic pilot. I could be way out in the weeds before I had time to stop and think about it. The only way I could get out of the weeds was to consciously walk myself out. Sure, it felt fake and unnatural to do this, but I only had two choices – continue to think negatively or force myself to think in a happy healthy way.

In the beginning I simply did not have the courage to stand up for myself. But I kept going back to meetings and reading the literature and started working the steps. And you know what? As I peeled the layers of pain back and I found that there was a pretty neat person buried in my heart; A person worth fighting for. Some times I took two steps forward and one step back. But I kept just inching a long. I know now that I can choose to grow from the hurts in my life or I can remain a cripple. It is up to me.

Many times forgiveness is just so blooming complicated to pull off

I’m not saying forgiveness is easy, because most of the time it is anything but easy. What I am saying is that it is a conscious choice. A choice to no longer be a victim. A choice to no longer allow ourselves to be hurt by the actions of someone else. It is consciously choosing to let go of anger, resentment grudges and thoughts of revenge.

Many times forgiveness is just so blooming complicated to pull off because the damage that was done cannot be undone and we are living with the consequences of someone else’s deliberate or accidental actions. When that happens it can be especially hard to forgive. When that happens, without forgiveness, we are going through the motions of living because our life is chained to that event or that moment in time. One way or the other that event will define us. We will either rise above it or we will allow it to keep us stuck in time.

Sometimes, in order for us to move on we have to forgive someone that takes no responsibility for the things they did to hurt us. Forgiveness does not mean what they did is okay. It does not mean that we need to minimize or justify the wrong. It means we are letting go of that wrongs power to continue to hurt us. Sometimes forgiveness comes without reconciliation in our relationship and sometimes it does. Which means that just because we forgive does not mean that we need or should be in a relationship with that person.

Forgiveness is not about restoring a relationship, it is about stopping the pain. It is taking back control of our life. You see without forgiveness they still have control over our thoughts and emotions. Without even being around they can ruin a good day or take the joy out of our life if we are not careful. Forgiveness does NOT mean we give someone repeated opportunities to hurt us, use us or take advantage of us. Forgiveness does not make us a doormat.

One thing forgiveness CAN do is help us to define healthy boundaries in our relationships. I have been blind in some of my relationships and it took the pain of their betrayal, sometimes more than one betrayal, for me to learn that they are not trustworthy. It took their betrayal for me to let go of that relationship and move on. It took their betrayal for me to finally decide that I was worth more than what they brought to our relationship. And it took forgiveness for me take control of my relationship with that person. It takes away their power over my life because I refuse to be their victim anymore.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time for me anyway, forgiveness is not like flipping a light switch in my head from hurt to forgiveness. For me it is refusing to allow the stinking thinking that comes with a hurt. It is 4th stepping the problem to help me view it objectively. It is doing the next right thing even though I don’t want to. It is calling someone and talking out my feelings instead of ignoring them or denying them. It is getting another perspective from someone I trust. It is asking for God’s help to do something I cannot do in my own power and to keep asking until the pain goes away. It is doing whatever I need to do because I am worth it.