Learning to trust

Being raised in a dysfunctional home I had very few, if any, positive experiences to support trust in any way in my life. At home emotional temperatures could turn on a dime, and things could go from being okay and fine to anxiety and fear. Promises were broken regularly and I was constantly reminded what a financial burden it was to raise me. Hurts were dismissed or minimized, accomplished were ignored and mistakes were magnified and followed with over the top punishment. That was the first 18 years. The next 18 years I was married to an alcoholic and that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

My husband, my alcoholic, was not a bad person but alcohol robbed him of the ability to be trustworthy in our marriage. If he said he would be home by 6 then he may make it home by 12. If he said that he would control his drinking at the bar-b-q that just meant that he would control it until he drank that one drink that put him over the edge. If he said that he would be there for one of the kids events that just meant that he might. If he told me he loved me more than anything in the world that just meant more than anything but alcohol. His intentions were good but alcohol robbed him of the ability to follow through and if robbed me of the ability to trust anything he said.

I really believed my knight in shinning armor was going to save me and fix all of the broken places in my heart. At 18 my knight took me away from all of the hurt in my childhood and he really did try to be Sir Galahad. In the beginning he really tried to be my defender and protector. The big problem was that alcoholism is a progressive disease. No matter how hard he tried he could not do what he promised and my last strings of trust were broken. I began to realize that “happy ever after” may not be in my future with him.

Even today trust does not come easy for me. As a kid I did not analyze what was happening and how it was affecting me; what I did was internalize everything. Being married to an alcoholic on buried those emotions deeper. All of those feelings that I had been stuffing, ignoring and denying resurfaced as mistrust, lack of confidence, cynicism, and wariness. I trusted absolutely no one. Learning to trust has been one of the most difficult things I have faced in recovery. My 4th and 5th Steps helped me to recognize who and where I had put my trust where that trust had failed. That helped me to recognize the types of people I should and could not trust. This process also helped me to understand that words and feelings aren’t facts. Surprisingly I had blamed myself for a lot of things that happened to me even when though I was the victim. Through the 12 Step process I leaned how to love and respect myself; A miracle in itself.

I still approach people with caution until I get the “wisdom to know the difference.” Do the words match the actions? Are they narcissistic and selfish or loving and kind? Do they have a sense of humor? Can they laugh at themselves? Do they say what they mean, and mean what they say, and do they say what they mean with kindness?

My inner circle is very selective today. Recovery has helped me to define and establish healthy boundary lines in my relationships. I have learned which relationships are worth cultivating, which ones are worth salvaging and which ones to let go. The important people in my life today make me a better person by being in my life. The words and actions of negative people have no credibility with me. Narcissistic and selfish people do not define my self-worth. I give no power whatsoever to people who are not on board with helping me grow. The reason that I can be so selective in my relationships is because I have learned that I am the only person on the planet who has the power to define my self-worth and I will not allow anyone without loving support for me to be apart of my inner circle.

Change is not easy

Sometimes I have been my own worse enemy. It is not like I had any reason to believe that all of my manipulations, stipulations and demands was making a difference, because nothing could be further from the truth. Absolutely nothing I tried worked. But that did not stop me from trying. Intellectually I knew that I was powerless over his alcohol and his drinking. But my emotions were rejecting what was staring me right in the face. I wanted happy ever after on my terms. Also there was the fear factor. I could only imagine how bad things could get if I simply stepped back and stopped trying to fix and control him and his drinking.

The problem was that no matter what I did or did not do the results were always the same. I might slow it down for a day, or week or even a month or two, but in reality, in the end alcohol always won. The tighter I held on, the more of myself and myself respect was lost. Sometimes I felt great sadness and depression; Other times I was exploding with anger and frustration. In the end I was depleted, hollow and empty.

I blamed him and I blamed myself. In my mind all of my problems would go away if he would only get his act together. It never occurred to me that I had my own problems to work through, problems that had nothing to do with. Don’t get me wrong I did have problems that involved his drinking, but his sobriety wasn’t going to make me feel confident, and it was not going to restore my ability to trust. For one thing I was not confident and I did not trust before I met him. His drinking on exacerbated and inflamed the insecurities that I already had.

For me to have real peace, joy and happiness in my life, I had to learn how to live and be comfortable in my own skin independently of him. After all he may never have sobriety. Was I willing to sacrifice the rest of my life waiting for him to get sober so that I could be happy? Being happy whether he was sober and happy or not did not mean that I had to stop caring and loving him, and it did not mean that I had to leave him either. It simply meant my life belonged to be to enjoy or destroy and the same applied to him. Now, before you say it I will say it for you – it is a lot easier to say all of this than it is to do it. But what is the alternative? Staying miserable?

I was no longer willing to continue to sacrifice my life on what if. I was the one that lowered the bar and I was the only one that could raise it.  I had spoiled him by always giving in.  There was no way he was going to “allow me” to raise the bar without resistance. Y’all –  it was so hard to stand up for myself. I found that sometimes the more resistance he put up to the changes I was trying to make, the more likely I was to fold. So in the beginning I had to start with little things and when I got stronger I could graduated to more difficult challenges.

Some times it was two steps forward and one step back.   The support of this program was paramount in my recovery journey.  Just knowing that I wasn’t the only one that handed over the keys to their life to someone else helped me to forgive myself.  No one in my program ever told me what to do. They knew they would not have to live with the consequences. They understood it had to be my decision.  They did not judge me or criticize me and they helped me to get back up when I fell down. I no longer felt isolated and alone.  Not any of this was easy but it was definitely worth it.

Evolution into Codependency

People who haven’t been their don’t and can’t understand why it is so difficult to walk away from the chaos and insanity of living with alcoholism and dysfunction. It is interesting to me how quick we are to judge. Before I had kids of my own I would see other people’s children act up. I would say to myself that when I had children of my own my child will never do this or that. I have looked at other people’s marriage issues and have said to myself, “I don’t why she puts up with that, I would never……” only to later have to eat my words.

I have been embarrassed and humbled. I know now that until you have been there, until you have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you have no idea what you will and will not do in a situation until you are faced with it yourself. It is not just lack of experience that makes us judge. It is the lack of understanding of the evolution of the making of a codependent. Many of us were raised in dysfunction. That is the only life we know. We don’t know any other way to survive and relate to other people. Many of us were lulled and seduced into our dysfunctional life. It is not like we were dropped into insanity and chaos gyrating at it’s highest level. No, we were romanced and serenaded into a false sense of security.

When you first meet someone they are on their best behavior. It is usually later when we are emotionally connected that you get introduced to the other side of Dr Jekylle and Mr Hyde. By that time we have taken on the “fix it” role. We are physically and emotionally invested. We can see how they have changed; we cannot see how we have changed in this evolution from moonlight and roses to daylight and pain. We are afraid it is our fault. We are afraid it means that they don’t love us enough. We are afraid of what will happen if “we” don’t fix it. You see, at that stage, we don’t understand that “we” cannot fix them and they cannot fix us.

It was the “love” angle that tripped me over and over again. If he loved me enough he wouldn’t do this. If I loved him enough I wouldn’t give up on him and walk away. How could I love him and take that first step? The first step is to admit that I am powerless over alcohol and my life was unmanageable. Did that mean I quite trying to help him? Did that mean I gave up on my marriage? No! That is not what it means at all. To me, that meant that I finally understood that I was completely powerless over alcoholism. He was an alcoholic.  Alcoholism is an illness and no matter what I do or don’t do I cannot change that.

Accepting that alcoholism is an illness is also realizing and accepting that it is not my fault. There is nothing that I can do to change that. I did not cause it. In other words, he would be an alcoholic whether I was in the picture or not. His drinking problem was not about me. In the past I have driven myself crazy trying to control him and his drinking. Taking that first step gave me permission to cease and desist all controlling behavior with out guilt or feelings of failure. His drinking was totally out of my control. My love for him was not the antidote to cure his drinking. And, his love for me was not the antidote to cure my insecurities.

I had a choice. I could take the first step and get off the insanity merry-go-round or I could coutinue to live in chaos and uncertainty. Accepting that alcoholism was an illness helped me to take that first step.

Are you Codependent and don’t know it?

This blog is about Codependency. But when pressed to define the word it is beyond difficult to do so sometimes, because Codependency manifest itself through many different difficult situations in life. The word, Codependency, first rose to the level of notoriety back in the late 70’s and early 80’s to describe the dysfunctional relationship between alcoholics/addicts and the people who love and care about them. Therefore WE get the label….And for the most part WE are the ones most likely to get the help we need because of our 12 Step Recovery programs.

But the real tragedy are the millions of the other walking wounded out there who are suffering from the same symptoms. They don’t understand why they do the things they do, and feel the things they feel, and have no idea where to get the help they need. And you want to know why they don’t? Because you see, they don’t have an alcoholic or addict in their life so it never occurs to them that they are Codependent. For the most part they are beating themselves up for be a messed up human being. They put on a good front around other people and then fall apart behind closed does. Even though I am not a trained professional, I would bet the farm (if I had a farm) that they are a 100% card caring Codependent. If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, acts like a duck there is a pretty good chance that it is a duck.

I do not believe that we are born codependent. I believe that we are trained to be codependent through one painful life experience at a time. That experience can be living with or having a family member or loved one that is an alcoholic or addict. It can also be through physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. It can be through abandonment or it can even be through having an over protective or controlling person in our life. It can be associated with trying to cope with mental or physical illness in a family member. It can be through a series of life changing events such as long term illness of a love one, death, divorce, lost of a job, a loss of a home, bulling or indifference. The list is never ending. Codependency behavior becomes our coping tool to survive, and to try and feel good about ourselves, and to feel safe. We cope either through submission or by an all consuming obsessive need to control the people and the events in our life. Or we build walls around our heart to keep from being hurt again.

That is why so many times I write about my feelings and emotions during that time in my life, instead writing about the effects alcoholism itself. I meet and see people every day struggling with Codependency who do not have an alcoholic or addict in their life.  My hair dresser reads my blog and she ask me one time if I was still hurting and in pain from my past experiences. I told her of course not. She said she didn’t think so either but when she read my blog it made her wonder how I could describe it so well.

I explain to her that I cannot rewrite my past. Even though I will never forget it, it does not hurt or haunt me today because I have forgiven those who hurt me and moved on. I have forgiven myself for my past failures and I am growing and changing everyday to be the best person I can be. Another reason I can write the way I do about the motions and feelings that I had at that time, is because I still go to meetings and meet with people in and out of recovery who are still hurting. I understand and feel their pain when I am with them and I pray for them to have peace in their life when I am not. When I write about my life it is almost like a story I have read about someone else. I see it on the page and for that very moment I feel it, but when I turn the page the pain begins to fade and I start to feel good again because I see the peace of today and the hope of tomorrow.

If you want to read more on Codependency click on the tap at the top of this page –  What is it? If you want to see a few of the types of Codependent symptoms click on the tap – Self-Diagnostic Test.  If you are looking for a recovery meeting click on Find A Meeting and there will be links to several recovery programs.  Not all of them by any means  – but ones that I am familiar with.

 

 

12 Step Blueprint for Healing

It is interesting to me how my dysfunctional childhood and my marriage to an alcoholic affected me and my life. For the first 18 years of my life I desperately tried to be invisible. I walked on egg shells trying to stay off the radar to avoid being hurt or punished for even the slightest mistake. I really didn’t have much of a choice. I was either submissive or pay the consequences. I had no voice on anything; not even how I wore my hair. In many ways my emotions shut down…. but they were not dead; Not dead at all, only numb and hibernating ….just waiting to be free.

I married my alcoholic when I was 18 and he was 21. He had a college degree and he was getting ready to go to law school ….. And he had two DUI’s (back in those days they called them DWI’s). But I never saw the red flags. I saw someone that really cared about me, someone who wanted to save and protect me, someone who thought I was special, and I saw fun especially when he drank.

We got married and moved to another city for him to go to law school. One of my first acts of freedom and rebellion was that I let my hair grow long and I bleached it platinum blond. My mother did not like long hair so I had to wear my hair short and there was no way she would ever have allowed me to bleach my hair so bleach it I did.

I had my first taste of freedom ever; football games, parties,dancing in the streets. Even though I was not a student I got to participate in the adventure just the same. To be honest with you my husband, Jon, was really kind of quite and reserved until he drank. For a long time I liked him when he drank…well I did until he drank to much then it wasn’t so fun anymore. I was having fun for the first time in my life and I really did not want him to stop drinking. I just wanted him to control his drinking and drink normal.

He graduated, got a job and we moved again and started our family. Life was looking good, except on those occasions when he teetered out of control with his drinking. He and I both walked on egg shells to keep his drinking from interfering with his job and for a long time we were able to pull it off.

In the beginning my understanding of alcoholism was light years from the truth. I did not understand that alcoholism was a disease – a progressive disease that got worse over time. No matter how much I tried to help or manage his problem I was not going to stop it from getting worse. In fact all of my “helping” only fed his disease. I also learned that my obsession with his drinking was progressive too. As his illness got worse my attempts to save him went to the extreme. The only thing that I accomplished was to show how sick both of us had become.

Not anything in my life experience prepared me to stand on my own two feet. I had been living vicariously through him. His world defined mine. I had no skills, no family to run to, and no self-esteem. Without him I was an uneducated nobody so I hung on for dear life.

It was these steps, this program and the people in it that saved me and my sanity. These people gave me unconditional love. They did not care whether I was educated or not. They did not care if I had money or I had none. They did not judge me and they did not let me get away with feeling sorry for myself or blaming Jon or my childhood for all of my problems either. They helped me to understand that I had no power to help and save him, but I did have power to help and save myself.

In a way I believe I was lucky to have had an alcoholic in my life. By the time I met my alcoholic I was a broken insecure mess. Without him I would not found the 12 step program that totally revolutionized my life. Even though his drinking was devastating it provided me with a 12 step blueprint that has helped me to heal and grow and enjoy life.

Life is now; Not yesterday and not tomorrow. Life is right now

Life is now; Not yesterday and not tomorrow. Life is right now. Every day we write another page in the book of our life story. We can’t change what happened in the previous chapters but we can make sure we don’t repeat it in this chapter or the next. We are the author of our autobiography and a changed attitude can change the direction of our life.

Our past is just that – our past. It has the power to have great influence in our day to day living. It can provide insight and wisdom to help us build a better life for today and all the days to come. Or, it can contaminate everything and every relationship in our lives. The thing is that we are the only one with the power to determine how we are going to let our past affect our life now.

We know our history. Now it is time to look at what our intentions are for our future. Do we want more of the same or do we want something better? The only way that we can prevent our future from being a repeat of our past is to make recovery our first priority and allow ourselves the opportunity to heal. The best gift we can give ourselves is to be a whole person.

Recovery took longer than it had to for me because I stubbornly held onto how I felt wronged in my life. I wanted to be vindicated, apologized too and I wanted other people to not only change but to fix me and make me feel better. But it wasn’t happening and I stayed miserable. Until I was willing to change and to be changed nothing got better. I had to want it for me and me alone. It was time for me to let go of past hurts. It was time for me to stop believing the lies from others in my past that said I was not good enough, smart enough, or any other kind of put down. Broken unhappy people were no longer allowed to have negative impact on how I felt about me or how I live my life. Their voice and their opinion was no longer the yard stick by which I measured my self-worth.

It was not easy taking control back and it was not easy reprograming my emotional DNA into something loving and positive. No, it definitely was not easy, but it was a whole lot easier than it was living in the pain of ghosts from my past. It was up to me. I was the only one that had the power to change how I felt about me.

He had no reason to change as long as I ran interference for him

My husband played offense and I played defense. He pushed the envelope of insanity in our lives and I struggle to out maneuver or counter act his destruction. So many times it was just easier for me to just do it myself than it was to depend on him to do it. As a consequence I took on more and more responsibility and that was fine by him. The more responsibilities that I took on, the more I complained about the unfairness of it all.

One day I was complaining to my sponsor and she ask me whose fault it was that I was doing things that he should be doing for himself. I told her that if I did not do them they would not get done. She said, so they won’t get done. I looked at her like she had two heads. She reminded me that just because something needed to be done, and just because I could do it that it did not mean that I should be the one to do it. She told me to ask myself if this problem or situation was my responsibility or was it someone else’s. If it was not my responsibility then I did not need to get involved unless it involved the safety of me and my children.

I could see how messed up he was and it was just easier for me to do things myself. I could not see how messed up I was for changing my schedule, rearranging my life to accommodate the chaos and insanity in his life. I could not see that I gave him no reason to even try because I rushed in and did everything for him. In my mind I was the competent and strong one and he was the incompetent lazy one. In the end my own behavior set me up to accept more and more unacceptable in my life and I become consumed with bitterness, anger and resentment.

I’m not going to lie to you. It was very difficult to let go of the reins of being responsible for him. Through this program I began to see that by doing every thing for him that it was just another attempt on my part to control. It was the first time that I connected the dots between admitting my powerless over his drinking and enabling. You see if I admit, surrender and accept that I am powerless over his drinking then I do not need to try and control his actions and consequences.

It took a while for me to see and change my attitude about the boundaries between his responsibilities and mine. When I did that, it became easier for me to step over, walk around, or jump over his problems and let him handle them.  I did not have to step in his business.  I believe one of the things that helped me to stop interfering, was the understanding that as long as I took care of his responsibilities for him he had no reason to change. Even then it was difficult. I had to call someone and talk it through, I prayed about it and turned it over to God. (and sometimes took it back and then turned it over to God again) Each time I let my alcoholic be responsible for his own “stuff” it got easier for me to do it the next time.

My motive was not to manipulate him into getting his act together. My motive was to allow each one of us the right to make our own decisions, and be responsible for those decisions. – My motive was to live and let live.

I felt genuine happiness because for once I was being proactive in my life.

Detachment with love is taking the lid off of the pressure cooker. It is letting go of unrealistic expectations we have placed on ourselves about fixing and taking care of someone else. There is so much anxiety, stress, disillusionment, anger and frustration involved just trying to keep them from self-destructing and trying to protect ourselves from the fall out of their bad behavior. The more you do the more you have to do. Just because my alcoholic chose to create havoc in his life did not mean I had to participate in it. AND it did not mean that I had to clean up the messes he made. Enough was Enough!

By detaching with love I allowed him the right to make his own decisions for and about his life. At the same time I gave myself permission to choose something better for me and my life. It did not mean I that I did not love my him any more when I chose to be happy whether he was drinking for not. i was not amputating him from my life or heart. It simply meant I loved myself equally as much as it was possible for me to love another person on this planet. It meant that I was a priority in my life. It meant that I was giving myself integrity and self respect.

I wasted a lot of time trying to save and control Jon and he out-foxed me at every turn. Even when he did what I thought he should do, I held my breath waiting for something to go wrong. I never thought about how miserable and unhappy I was living that way. After all I was going to be happy one day when… This program taught me that someday was today if I were willing to live and let live.

Detaching with loved allowed me to continue to love him but not his problem. Did it make me sad to see him that way? Of course it did. But at that point I knew that no matter what I did or did not do I could not save him from alcohol. He was the only person that could make that choice. I also learned that even though I could not save him I could help him to continue his self destruction by aiding and abetting him through enabling.

So I guess by now you are wondering just how I was able to be happy whether he was drinking or not. Well, for one thing, even though I was powerless over him, I was not powerless over me – so I made the choice to get myself healthy. I did that my surrendering to a 12 step recovery program for people with problems like mine. I got up each day and put my best foot forward by taking care of my appearance. It was a lot easier to help myself feel better when I looked better. I called my makeup my war paint. Whether I dressed casual or dressed up I called it putting on my glad rags by taking pride in my appearance. I took classes, joined a church and made new friends.

Instead of bemoaning all of the things I missed out on because of him, I made the decision to participated in many of those things without him. At first it felt a little awkward, but after a while I learned how to relax going solo to events. When someone ask me where Jon was I simply said he could not make it. You see I had learned that I did not owe anyone an explanation for my life. Sometimes it was lonely and sometimes it was sad. But the angst of being involved in his chaos was gone.

The kids and I did a lot of fun things together and I told them we were making memories. We went to movies. Out to dinner. Took clogging lessons which at first they were appalled to do and they definitely did not want their friends to know about. I insisted that they try and before it was all over I was driving a car full of their friends with us to lessons. We went to the beach, concerts and sporting events.  Some things I tried did not work and others where great fun. Such is life. I felt genuine happiness because for once I was being proactive in my life.

I didn’t see what I did not want to see – it is called denial

I didn’t see what I didn’t want to see. For the longest time I chose to ignore what my husband was trying to tell me with his actions. It is not that I really did not understand what was going on; on some level I did understand just not a conscious level. That awareness was buried deep in my heart because I was afraid that for some reason it was my fault.  Another reason it stayed buried was because that it was not what I wanted our life to be so ignored the truth and made excuses for my reality and dreamed about the someday life. It is called denial.

He denied that he had a drinking problem, that there was not anything wrong with the way he drank, that his drinking was not any different from the way his friends drank, (of course it wasn’t – birds of a feather flock together) that he could quite anytime he wanted too. And for a long time I denied that he had a drinking problem too. In fact, I had a long list of excuses for why he drank so much and why he drank the way that he did.

I went to extraordinary lengths trying to force the dream family life that I wanted to be real. I made the kids go to bed early so that they would not see to much. I tried to water down drinks, pour out drinks, force him to eat, took over some of his responsibilities trying to reduce the stress in his life, I cover for his mess ups. I even tried the, “if you can’t beat them join them” approach so that I could monitor how much he drank. The problem was that I could nurse one drink all night and the more he drank the more disgusted I got. I was so afraid that for some reason his drinking problem was my fault. So I desperately tried to be perfect. But I could never be perfect enough.

Resentment grew until it was boiling over. I morphed from little miss fixed it into a nagging, angry shrew. I didn’t care if I was perfect or not. I didn’t care what his family, my family or our friends thought. I was darn angry and I wanted him to be perfect for a change. I wanted him to do what he said and promised to do, and I wanted him to get his act together. Of course that angry attitude only convinced his family that he was drank the way he did because he was married to me.

I was at a breaking point. The pain was so acute that it was like every nerve ending in my body was crying. There were many days I got up got my kids off to school, and coasted through the day. I didn’t get dressed. I didn’t comb my hair. I just was like a ghost drifting through my house trying to get through the day. I just existed. I just allowed myself to enjoy a big pity party. The only thing that I did everyday, no matter what, was brush my teeth. My brother-in-law was a dentist. My husbands family was against our marriage and they were convinced that his drinking was my fault. Somewhere in my crazy thinking I wasn’t going to give them another reason to criticize me so I got up and brushed my teeth first thing every morning and last thing every night. When it was time for my kids to come home from school it was show time and I would pull it all together.  It was time to smile and pretend that everything was all right. Time to hide from my kids the truth of their broken parents.

Self honesty was one of the most difficult parts of my recovery journey. I was ashamed and I felt guilty about everything so I tried to rationalize, justify and explain my behavior. I had this amazing sponsor. She told me to not be so hard on myself. So reminded me that I was pretty much like everyone else who showed to these programs. So much of the distorted thinking and some times irrational behavior that comes with living with alcoholism and dysfunction is understandable; Not right, but understandable. We all make mistakes. Most of the time we are doing the best that we can under the circumstances to survive. Most of us don’t know any better; dysfunction is all that we know. Recovering and overcoming requires self honesty so that we can see where we are wounded and broken and so that we can see that we aren’t as bad as we think that we are. It is learning where and how to define boundaries with other people in our lives, and it is learning to forgive ourselves and others. The healing to my soul was cathartic. It released me from the hurt of my past and opened a new door of happiness in my life.

This was not about me winning over him – this was about me winning over me

There is a slogan in my recovery program that ask “How Important Is It.” When emotions were high and I was at the breaking point of frustration, it is extremely hard to put on the brakes on and ask myself “How Important Is It” to continue this battle with the alcoholic. I just wanted to get my two cents. I just wanted him to know that I was fed up. I just wanted him to know that I knew exactly what was going on and that he is not fooling me about anything. I just wanted him to know……..

But the bottom line was I was being sucked into his chaos again. Once I lost my cool, then he felt justified in his mind to get drunk. I can’t count the times that he told me it was my fault that he got drunk, that I had pushed him there. He believed that he still had a hook in me because I was still engaging in his mayhem and pandemonium. Or who knows what he thought. But I could tell you what I thought after. I felt defeated. Angry with myself that I got sucked in again to a battle I could not win. Sometimes I was even embarrassed that I was so out of control, and sometimes I felt guilty for being so ugly for some of the mean things that I said. It was definitely a no win contest.

The only way that I could stop that snowball from getting larger and larger rolling down hill was to learn to recognize the signs before I was out of control. I knew that my alcoholic was notorious for pushing me to the limit and then going off and getting drunk. He was going to go off and get drunk anyway so why should I be left with the fallout. When he started his little agitations I ask myself – was this issue anything I had the power to control or change. If it was not then I decided if it was necessary to say anything at all. If I felt compelled to say something then I said things like “ Hum” “really,” “You don’t say,” or sometimes I said I’m so sorry you feel that way.” The key was to not wait until I was steaming and at the breaking point to recognize the signs of a “spirited debate” in the making. There is no debate if I don’t participate.

Well, let me tell you, when one person in the relationship changes the relationship changes; Sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Sometimes the above response worked. Other times he need a disagreement so bad that he could not tolerate the indifference. When that happened sometimes I lost it and gave him the battle he wanted. But I learn to minimize that response because of what it did to me. You see, learning to control my feelings was never about him. It was not about trying to control or neutralize him. It was about me and taking back control of my life. Therefore, I had to allow him to get as mad as he wanted to get mad without me. Was it easy? Many times not.

But I kept working on it and working on it until it became easier and easier to recognize the symptoms of his disease in action, and then making a conscious decision not to be a part of his disease. That phase above, “I am sorry you feel that way, “ well during those times I added a few more words, “I’m sorry you feel that way. On this you and I just happen to disagree. I am not saying that you are wrong. I am not saying that I am right. I am just saying that in this situation we have a difference of opinion. The first time I said that he was flabbergasted. Then after a while he would try to mock me with what I said. It was okay because I was in control of me. This was not about me winning over him. This was about me winning over me.