I had a Masters Degree in Enabling

I was the perfect component needed to facilitate my husbands ability to drink with little to no consequences. That’s right, I had a master’s degree in enabling. My obsessive overbearing need to try and control my husbands drinking, and minimize the fallout from the stupid decisions he made because of alcohol, only allowed him to carry on in the same way without any reason to change. Why should he change? I made it easy for him to do whatever he wanted to do without stress. I on the hand was stressed to the breaking point.

We had a budget and my husband gave me an allowance every week. Out of my allowance I paid for school lunches, field trips, and clothes etc, for the kids. I paid for groceries and gas for my car. Of course when I bought groceries I bought cigarettes (for him – I did not smoke) and beer (for him as well), and picked up his dry cleaning. Rarely was there anything left for me. It was tight but I made it work. As his drinking got progressively worse he would come to me sometimes and tell that he may have to cut down on my allowance for that week. At the same time he still went to bars for happy hour after work and many times stayed their till late in the evening drinking. I allowed this. We had a builtin bar in our home that was always stocked but the pantry wasn’t always stocked. I tolerated unacceptable and inappropriate behavior trying to keep the peace. But in reality I was enabling.

Other craziness that I volunteered myself for was paying his fines and tickets. I made excuses for him at social gatherings. Excuses as to why he was late, why we had to leave early or why he was not their at all. I had excuses for why he was drunk or on the way to being drunk: He had a bad day at the office. He did not have a chance to eat lunch. The bartender made his drinks too strong. If I did not have a ready made excuse I would event one on the spot.

I took his drinking personal. It was my fault, I failed at marriage. He was doing it deliberately to try to hurt or embarrass me. He did not love me enough or maybe he did not love at all. Then slowly over time anger and resentment started to boil. I hated him and loved him, but I was too insecure to stand up for myself and say no to his nonsense. I could not see that my helping was not helping him or me, and that it only made things worse. The two of us took dysfunctional to a whole new level.

I showed up at my first meeting despondent and desperate. Even then I was still resistant to the whole powerless over alcohol thing. There was no way I could wrap my mind around the idea that I could be happy whether he was drinking or not. In the end I learned to be grateful that I could be happy whether he was drinking or not, because sobriety was not even on his radar screen.

I knew that alcohol was the culprit that caused many of our problems. I could see that he drank too much but I refused to believe that he was an alcoholic. That sounded so awful, so I simply began to detach from the truth. As long as I denied it it wasn’t true. But the truth would not be denied whether I admitted it or not. The negative ramifications from his drinking infiltrated every facet of both of our lives. It cost him his life at 43. It darn near cost me my sanity.

My road to recovery started when I accepted my powerlessness over his drinking and when I accepted that it was not my fault. His drinking was not because of anything that I had done or failed to do. He was an alcoholic and he did what alcoholic’s do…. he drank. When I accepted that first step it took the spotlight off of him and put it onto me. One baby step at a time I worked my way through the 12 Steps and learned how to be happy even though he was still drinking. My 12 Step journey peeled away the layers of denial and justification so that I was free to move on with my life to something better than I ever imagined it could be.

It is all in the attitude

Life is not always fair. Some of us, from the get go, right out of the womb, are dealt a bad hand. We can’t help the environment or the circumstances that we are born into. From the minute that we draw our first breath until we leave home to go out on our own, we are more often than not, at the mercy of others. Those early life experiences have a profound impact on how we feel about life. Some people never get over it or get beyond it. They let those circumstances define who they are. Others use those same harmful circumstances to rescript their life.

There is a quote by Randall Jarrell that says, “If you have been put into your place long enough, you begin to act like the place.” It never occurred to me that I had a choice. For years I recycled the broken negative attitude of my parents. It wasn’t until I grew up and married an alcoholic and ended up in a 12 Step recovery program that I had my first dose of being responsible for my own attitude towards life.

My recovery program talked about how changed attitudes can aid recovery. Sounds easy enough, but I am here to tell you that changing an attitude that has been brainwashed and indoctrinated into every second of every day of your life is not easy. It felt unnatural and awkward. It felt like a lie. It was a battle because my old way of thinking constantly challenged every positive step I made. I had to do things consciously until I could do them unconsciously. I had to challenge stinking thinking many times a day. I question every good and every bad thought because my good and bad attitude was playing tug-of-war over control.

So much of the way I thought was a contradiction. I blamed myself for everything and I also blamed all of my problems on all the people in my life that had hurt me or let me down. It was a no win situation. No matter which side I took I could not win. It was either all my fault that they hurt me or I was a victim. In the end it wasn’t about blame. It was about what are you going to do with you life now Sharon Ann. Are you going to continue to beat yourself up for everything wrong in the world, or are you going to acknowledge that you aren’t all good and you aren’t all bad and then go to work to become the person you really want to be? Are you going to hang up your tragedy queen crown once in for all and start living life? So What’s the plan? Those are all of the kind of questions that my sponsor challenged my stinking thinking with. There was no wiggle room; No more hiding from life.

I can’t count the times my sponsor had me make up a gratitude list. She was a firm believer that an attitude of gratitude keeps us focused in the present. This exercise helped me to appreciate the things that I did have and kept me from dwelling on the things that I did not have. People and circumstances may never ever be what we want them to be or what we think they should be, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be happy anyway. We are human and we will be hurt and disappointed from time to time. But we decide how long we are going to stew in the misery juice. Our attitude decides if we are going to let those hurts and disappoints to take root and hurts us more or are we are going to find how to grow from that experience is a healthy way.

The challenge of changing my emotions, thoughts and feelings has been a life time endeavor. This program helped me define who and what type of person that I wanted to be; And, it gave me all the tools – Steps, Slogans, Serenity Prayer, Sponsor, and Recovery Meetings to help me reach that goal. No one could do it for me; It was up to me.

Surrender – happens when we get sick and tired of being sick and tired

The repercussions of living with an alcoholic, for me, was cataclysmic. I was a wounded broken person when I met and married my alcoholic; No big surprise there. Living with an alcoholic just kicked all of my fears and insecurities to a whole new level. The most amazing thing about this union is that it was the wake up call that I needed that pushed me to finally seek help for all of my hurts.

But it sure as heck did not seem that way to me in the beginning. In the beginning he seemed to be the answer to a prayer of making my dreams come true. In the end, life with an alcoholic was the nightmare that made me run for help. He was never physically abusive but the devastating effects on my life were there just the same.

When you look at all the symptoms of his disease, alcoholism, and look at the symptoms of my disease, codependency, you see that we were a perfect storm. I lived from one emotional crisis to the other and things were getting worse because alcoholism is a progressive disease. Over time those emotional crisis escalated and it was like quicksand sucking me down into despair. They say in our program that when we get sick and tired of being sick and tired we will do something about it.

It took a lot of pain for me to overcome my fears and my false pride to be willing to seek help. Even then, when I reached out for help I was not looking for help for myself. I was looking for the A, B C’s of controlling my alcoholic’s drinking. I wanted a quick fix; there wasn’t one. In my recovery meeting they told me that the program was for and about me and I could not grasp what they were saying. Didn’t they get it? He drank to much and did hurtful stupid things. I just needed them to tell me how to make him stop.

Even though I did not like what they were saying I kept going to meeting because I had no were else to go. Week after we I sat in meetings and listen to other people share. In my mind I had a yes but question for everything they said. I was still in denial and the drinking, and all of the problems surrounding it, got worse. I was desolated by the chaos and insanity in my life. I was hanging on by a thread. This little voice in my head said what do you have to lose? Obviously what you are doing now is not working. So I started going through the motions of trying to understand the 12 Step recovery concept.

First Step – I was powerless over alcohol – Well duh! How was admitting that going to help me? I’ll tell you how, it released me from all of the insane things I was doing trying to control his drinking. Just doing that one little thing took so much pressure off of me. I still struggled, from time to time with fear of what could happen. Then some wise person reminded me that all of my attempts at control in the past had not prevented repercussions from his drinking so let it go.

I don’t know how I could have survived without all of the steps that came after the first one. You see, once I had accepted that I was powerless that only left one option open to me, there had to be a power greater than me to lift me up and guide me through the land mines in my life or life would not be worth living. Trusting God’s will for my life required a leap of faith that I had not before. Taking a personal inventory and acknowledging the hurts, my reactions to those hurts and recognizing how I was allowing them to continue to hurt me was a huge step of progress for me. Making amends where possible was cathartic and it helped me to purge unhealthy and unwanted hurts and emotions in my life.
There is no doubt that this 12 Step journey was an emotional and spiritual metamorphosis that transformed me and allowed me to heal the broken places in my heart and in my soul. I feel peace in my soul when I look back and see how much I have grown and changed. When I make a gratitude list the 12 Steps, and my recovery meetings, are always on the list.

His alcoholism was not my fault period; End of discussion!

There is no way in this world that I made my husband, into an alcoholic. His alcoholism was not my fault period; End of discussion! Well, kind of sort of end of discussion, because now I am going to ramble on and tell you exactly why I feel so strongly that way.

For years I harbored the fear that his drinking was my fault. Of course I had lots of help in this assumption because his family, my family and many of our friends, one way or the other, carefully insinuated that I needed to step up and be a better wife, or something, I am not sure what, so that he would not drink the way he did. It is interesting to me how for a long time they completely absolved him of that responsibility. He had a stressful job, I should step up to the plate and make life easier for him, I needed to be more understanding, I should not allow him to drink to much, etc.

Looking back the whole thing seems crazy to me now. But at the time, I bought into the unabridged opinion that I needed to do something or be something to help him or save him from alcohol. No one, and I mean no one, saw or recognized how I was being victimized by his drinking. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because they simply did not understand alcoholism. They only saw the outward manifestation of what alcohol did to our lives. No one recognized the depression, anger, shame, fear and loss of trust that alcohol had eroded away from our marriage and our family.

Raised in a dysfunctional home I already had a broken and fragile self-esteem and his drinking problem had a titanic effect on my life and on my image of myself. I looked at his drinking as my fault – my failure. I was not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. He did not love me enough. Somehow someway I was just not enough of something and that was why he had to drown his sorrows in alcohol.

It was the people in my recovery meetings who were able to help me understand that I was the victim and not the victimizer. But more importantly they taught me that just because I had been a victim in the past that I did not have to remain a victim. I had to let go of a lot of preconceived ideas of life and how to live it. One of the first ones is that I am not my husbands keeper. He has responsibilities and I have responsibilities. His drinking was not my responsibility. I did not cause his drinking. If he wanted to drink there would not be one darn thing I could do to stop him from drinking. At the same time if he did not want to drink there would not be one thing I could do to make him drink. That decision was his and his alone.

For a long time I had either denied my feelings or I had beat myself up for having such black thoughts about him. Through working the steps, and working with my sponsor, I am able to express my feelings honestly. There is no condemnation, criticism or judgement about my feelings. Sometimes you just have to get them out. Sometimes we just need to be validated. But once my feelings have been validate it is important for me to take them to the next level, which is redemption and restoration from my pain so that I can let them go and move on in my life.

The benefits and priceless gift of serenity that this program has brought into my life is why I have so much passion about this program. Every single day of my life I have to reign in my passion for this program. I have learned that this program is not for everyone; it is for the people who one it. This blog and my fb blog are my 12 Step pulpits where I carry this message to others. The options expressed here are mine and mine alone. It is okay if someone disagrees. This is just how what works for me. Take what you like and leave the rest. God Bless.

Sitting on the sidelines just does not cut it for me

I have been hanging around recovery programs for many sunsets now and I am here to tell you that we only get this one life and there are no re-dos. It pains me to look back on missed opportunities because I was wrapped up in fear, or because I was wrapped up in being the victim, or because I was going to be happy someday when…….

I wasted hours, days, weeks and even a years sitting on the sidelines of my life. I had every excuse under the sun to exempt and absolve myself of any responsibility for what was going on in my life. I could not make it on my own. I was not educated or trained to make enough money to support me and my kids. Of course there was no way I could go back to school and prepare myself to be able to support myself… after all I had three little girls to take care of…. I was to old to go back to school….. I was not smart enough….. Even if I did it would take too long…. So I just hung out in my misery waiting for the world to come to me instead of me embracing the world.

My youngest son is 42. His life was a train wreck for years. He now has 10 years of sobriety. Love, Love, Love the man he as become. Four years ago he moved back home from the west coast with his world turned upside down. He had to reinvent his career opportunities and that meant going back to school and working full time to boot. I remember him moaning that it would take him four years to get through this program. My answer was yes it will and four years from now you will either have graduated or still be in the same place you are now. A few weeks ago we attend his graduation.

Through my recovery journey I have learned that we can find and excuse for anything that we don’t want or that we are afraid to do. Some of us spend our entire life sitting on the sidelines. Sure the life is challenging. There will be times that things will not work out how we plan. There will be times we don’t get what we want or what we think we need. There will be things that happen that aren’t fair and we will get bumped and bruised along the way. But the upside is that we will enjoy life beyond measure. Things will feel better, taste better, smell better because we will experience them up close and personal. We will have more laughter and less tears and we when we have a problem it will be a real problem. Sitting on the sidelines we have just as many imaginary and fabricated problems that never materialize as we do real problems.

It is interesting to me how much pain I was willing to take before I was willing to get into the game of life. I am amazed what I was prepared to endure before I was ready to take responsibility for my own life. One of our daily reading books states that no one else can make us change if we don’t want to change and no one else can stop us from changing if we want to change. My life is a testimony to both sides of that argument. I’m just sad that I wasted half of my youth sitting on a pity-pot. I am also grateful that I get to ride off in the sunset of my life with joy, peace and happiness.

The Wisdom To Know the Difference

So many times I have been my own worse enemy. Puffed up with righteous indignation I felt I had the right to “speak the truth” and if someone’s feelings got hurt then that was too bad. I was only speaking the truth. But somewhere along my recovery journey I was taught to examine my motives.

I had an amazing sponsor that, at times, spoon fed this program to me. She stressed how important it was for me to understand my motives. Just because something was true did not necessarily mean than I had to say it. Healing for me could not come through destroying someone else. She gave me three simple questions to ask myself before I said something. Was it necessary? Was it true? Was it kind. She told me that it had to meet all three criteria. Not one out of three. Not two out of three. It had to be three out of three. The “kind” part tripped me up over and over again.

My sponsor also told me to consider the last part of the 9th Step as a guideline when I was dealing with others. The first part of the 9th Step is about making amends; the last part of that step packs a lot of wisdom about how we heal and grow in recovery. It pretty much says that we don’t heal and grow my destroying someone else in the process. The last part of that step says except when to do so would injure them or others. It plainly reminds us to examine our motives. Can I really achieve peace in my heart while hurting someone else? She reminded me that this was my journey of personal growth and that I could not achieve that by putting down or hurting others around me. I can achieve peace, joy and happiness regardless of, not in spite of, what other people in my life were doing.

These amazing steps have been slowly transforming me through the years. The focus is always on me. Taking care of my own my business, and allowing others to take care of theirs. Knowing that I am not alone. Trusting God with how I live my life. Learning what I am all about and learning how to become comfortable in my own skin. What are my motives? How can I be honest and transparent without doing harm to others? Living and not surviving; The list of blessings go on and on.

Sure I mess up from time to time. But the good news is that no matter how I mess up there is always a step to help me resolve the problem. Some times I am back at Step 1 accepting that I am powerless over something or some situation. Some times it is dissecting the problem in the 10th Step so that I can understand my responsibility in the situation and do what I need to do to make it right. Of course the 9th Step is all about taking responsibility for my actions and making amends when it is possible.

For a long time I thought that the 9th Step was all about apologizing when I messed up. But it plainly says making an amend not an apology. An apology is acknowledgement of a wrong. And an amend is to restore, to make it right when possible. This usually requires a changed attitude and changed behavior on my part. Understanding this has made me mindful of what I say and do before I say it or do it and not after.

It is that wisdom the Serenity Prayer talks about of knowing when I need to be firm and when to walk away. The Steps help me to be firm without destroying. The Steps, Slogans and the Serenity Prayer, individually and collectively, are the templates I used to model my life. When I utilize these tools I cannot go wrong.

Choosing to be right or to be happy

Forgiveness swings both ways. There is the act of forgiving others and there is the act of others forgiving us. Of course when we mess up we definitely want and need for others to forgive us. But when others hurt or harm us there are times that we are not so willing to dish out forgiveness.

For a long time I held onto hurts because I felt justified in my anger and resentment. I used my hurt emotions to help me build walls to protect myself against future hurts. But the problem with those walls is that they held me a prisoner to my pain. I just could never seem to get beyond the pain. And of course, there was no way that a relationship had a prayers chance of being restored as long as I held onto what I considered justifiable hurt.

It took a while for me to wrap my mind around the idea that by forgiving I was not saying it was okay. I was saying that I was ready to leave this pain in the past and move on. In other words I had to choose whether to be right or to be happy. Before I could even get to that point though, I had to know that the person who had hurt me truly had regret for hurting me and that through that regret they had gown and changed. An apology without change behavior would only set us both up for recycled apologies without substance or meaning.

But the really hard people to forgive were the people who had no remorse. People who could not care less if they had hurt me or not. That is were forgiveness sometimes seemed to stick in my throat. I did not want to be friends with these people. I did not want them in my life. And, I did not want to them to think that they could do anything they wanted to hurt me and never have repercussions for their bad behavior. Again I had a difficult decision to make. I could be happy or miserable.

The only way I could be free of them was to forgive them. But that did not mean that I had to invite them back into my life and we did not have to be friends. It meant that I was not going to allow their actions to deprive me of one ounce of joy in my life.

The person I had the most difficulty in forgiving was myself. I beat myself up and magnified every wrong I had made. Without forgiving myself I could not let go of guilt and self-loathing. I set myself up to fail over and over again because I thought I was a bad person that did not deserve any better. Through forgiveness I learned that I was human like everyone else on the planet.

Learning not to ignore the warning signs

Denial was the anesthesia I used to relieve me from the anxiety and pain of my real life. If I ignored it or refused to acknowledge the truth then it was not true. At the time, I simply could not face the truth. I had plenty of warning signs that my fairy tale life may not happen the way that I wanted it to happen. But that was not what I want to see so I chose to ignore the warning signs. I totally rejected the road signs that clearly spelled out danger and warned me to detour and take another route. I had my eye on the target and I refused to believe that I could not make my wants a reality.

I have moaned and cried about the unfairness of it all. I have questioned why me and I have ask myself how did I get in this situation in the first place. I’ll tell you how. I literally walked right down the Primrose Path with all of it’s tempting enticements and completely ignored the warning signs of the danger at the end of the path.

Yesterday I was talking to a young woman in her mid twenties. She was telling me all about this obsessive controlling guy she is dating. He was already initiating steps to isolate her from her friends and family. I was scared to death for her. Red flags were all over the place but she could not see them. All she saw was an educated gorgeous handsome guy with a good job. It was almost as if she felt honored that he was interested in her. He had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. One moment he was telling her how awesome she was and the next moment he is tearing her down.

I wanted to tell her to not walk, but RUN as fast as she could away from this guy. I did not do that because she did not ask for my opinion or my advice. My opinion would not have mattered anyway because it would not have been what she wanted to hear. She is holding on to a dream of what her relationship with this man could be and completely ignoring the reality of what it is now. She was not asking for advice she was just airing out her concerns. I did ask her some pretty provocative questions trying to help her come to her own conclusions of the danger in that relationship. I strongly believe that if she continues in the direction she is going, that her life will be filled with hurt and sorrow. Her final destination will be one of an emotional prison and abuse.

At one time I was dating a man that came with alcoholic warning labels. I ignored them because I was convinced that love could change him. I wanted to ride off into the sunset with this man and live happy ever after. But the street signs to happy ever after wanted me to take a different route, so I just ignored them and continued on.  I refused to change directions and held on to the dream that I wanted with this man like a starving monkey hanging onto a banana.  There was no way I could let it go.  Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way that if I ignore the warning signs then I can’t really be surprise if I end up somewhere else other than where I had planned to go.

Once I got what I wanted I found out that it was not what I thought it would be.  I had such high hopes of changing him. Unfortunately the whole time that I was trying to change him I was the one that was actually changing. I became sad, depressed, angry, and resentful. As long as I deceived myself, ignored the road signs, and refused to take a different direction I got to stay miserable.

As I progressed through the 12 Steps I saw all sorts of detours that helped me to find peace and happiness in my life regardless of whether my alcoholic had it in his life or not. But not any of that was available to me until I was willing to change me and that meant that I had to change directions too.

Decoding the past and moving on

It is interesting to me how many times I have repeated the same mistake over and over again in my life. They say that twenty-twenty hindsight gives us the knowledge that we needed to make the right decision, but it gives it to us after the fact. In other words that knowledge was too late to prevent us from making a mistake. But, I believe that is only partially true. If we haven’t learned or grown from that mistake there is a pretty good chance that we will not benefit from hindsight. If our attitude does not change we cannot see the forest for the trees.

Without a change in attitude or perception, smart people will make the same dumb decision over and over again. Don’t believe me? Just look around the room at the people in a recovery meeting. They are from all walks of life. Some are educated some not. Some have challenging and difficult jobs and some don’t, but all of them have challenging and difficult lives. But none of that mattered when it came to dealing with the challenges of living with an alcoholic. Recovery is not about intelligence or organizational skills, or money. It is about the desire and willingness to change.

Through the years I have seen people come to their first meeting starved for what our recovery programs offer and they feast on the concepts of our program. I have also seen people come, and they actually keep coming yet they still continue to commit emotional suicide because they are unwilling to accept that they are the one that has to change. Why? Why are some people motivated to do whatever it takes to change how they think and feel and why do some people never seem to get it?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but for me, it was when it became more painful for me to stay the way that I was than it was for me to change. As long as I could tolerate my misery nothing changed. My false pride helped me to ignore what was right in my face. That’s right false pride. I refused to acknowledge my reality and held onto how I wanted my world to be. I wanted it my way and on my terms.

It is not that I did not realize that I had problems. I knew I had problems, I just did not accept that I had any responsibility towards fixing my problems. I knew that I was broken and I wanted someone else to fix my world and then I would not be broken anymore. I absconded from all responsibility towards making myself happy. Now! Here is the weird part. Almost at the same time that I wanted someone else to fix my world for me, I also blamed myself for everything that was wrong in my life. I was not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, deserving enough to have anything better than the misery I as in. It was all my fault anyway and therefore I did not deserve any better. WRONG!!!!! That is so so wrong!

With my distorted thinking it was impossible for me, on my own, to decode what was normal and what was not. Writing a fourth step inventory help me to get the facts on paper but they did not help me understand, identify and interpret what they meant in a positive healthy way for me. All of that came in the fifth step with my sponsor.

My sponsor helped me understand how to look at the history of my life with humility and not humiliation. Through the fifth step I learned that I was not as good or as bad as I thought that I was. I also learned that it was up to me to determine how my past was going to impact my life. I could either learn and grow from my past experiences or allow those experiences to hold me hostage to my past. In the end my recovery, or not, always comes back to me.

How I stumbled over a simple two letter word

No is a very simple word. It only has two letters. So why in the heck was it so difficult to apply in my little ole codependent life. Looking back I cannot believe the things I did trying keep the peace, or trying to control or manipulate someone else’s actions, or trying to be all things to all people so that they would like or accept me, or so they would do what I thought they should do. I over extended myself, I sacrifice myself, my dreams and my needs to be accepted or to make someone else happy.

What the heck was wrong with me that I had such little respect for myself that I could not just say no? Why did I believe that everyone else’s life on the planet was more important and more valuable than mine? My life was coping and surviving. Walking on egg shells and making the best of a bad situation. I did whatever it took even though I didn’t want to do it, or even sometimes when it was repulsive to me to do. But it was also more than that; It was self effacing; Self punishing.

Why did I allow others to take advantage of me that way? Why did I do that to myself? Why could I not just say no? Fear that’s why. Fear of being rejected. Fear of losing something I had or fear of not getting something I wanted. What amazes me is how willing I was to sacrifice my needs for someone else’s wants. Rather than embracing my wants, needs and my feelings, I tried to squash them and quite them. They were choking me. I was looking for someone else to be responsible for my happiness and to fix my problems. I was looking to someone else for self-esteem and value.

The blinders started coming off after I got into my recovery programs. In recovery the focus is on me and that focus is so intense that I could no longer look back at past hurts as an excuse for how demeaning I lived my life. By holding my life up to the light so that the 12 Steps could shine through it, I began to see my part in this debasement. I could see where I had given up. I could see how I blamed my faults and character defects on hurts from my past.

Usually, during a crisis, I was so focused on what was going on with all the other players in my real life drama that I neglected my own needs. But with the help of my program, I was now taking back ownership of my life. Through the 4th and 5th Steps I began to acknowledge the effects of the past, learn from it, and then move on from it. It took time for me to learn to take care of myself first; especially during difficult circumstances. But for the first time I began to realize that if I did not do it for myself no one else was going to do it for me.

As I began to grow and change I received a lot of resistance from the users and manipulations in my life. They did not like the new me that was evolving. If I was going to make it, I had to stand up for me and that was not always easy. It was like driving with one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas. There was a lot of stop start attempts along the way. But it was also that resistance that helped to make me stronger. By having to fight my natural tendency to role over and allow other people to run my life it became necessary for me to make conscious choices to do right by my me. In the end I made the decision that if one of us was going to be miserable it was not going to be me.