Somethings you just have to live and hurt through

Everyone had an opinion on what I should and should not do in my marriage. It was kind of interesting how our families viewed our situation. My family gave me sympathy but encouraged me to stay and fix my marriage, to do whatever I had to do to make things right. Like I said they gave me sympathy for the hurtful things I shared with them, but in the end they put monkey on my back to fix it.

His family on the other hand were conflicted. Sense they were heavy drinkers they didn’t see anything wrong with the way he drank. Sense they never thought that I was good enough to be in their family in the first place, they pretty much thought that the reason he drank so much was because of the mistake he made in marrying me. As his drinking problems escalated they began to be concerned. I can even remember one time my brother-in-law telling me that he did not know why I put up with it. He even told me that he would not blame me if I left my husband.

Then my husband got sick. Alcohol had damaged his heart and he was given a few years to live. The doctors told him that if he did not stop drinking that he would not even have that. So he stopped. That changed everything. Again, both of our families gave me all the responsibility. My husband was self-employed and worked when he could. I was working and between the two of us we kept ourselves financially afloat. I took care of the kids, of him and everything else and at bed time I collapsed into exhausted sleep.

Then one day he told me that he could not take the stress of family life. He got a job in another city and moved away. Three months later he showed up for Thanksgiving and said that he missed us and wanted us to join him. I wanted to give our kids an opportunity to be with their Dad for as long as he had, so I moved. All of my friends thought I was crazy to do that. Our families were convinced it was the right thing to do. Our children were young and could not wrap their minds around the fact that their father had a terminal illness. They could not understand why we were moving and they had to leave their friends. That was the beginning of rebellious behavior that made my life a nightmare long after their father had died.

My husband had been sober about two years when I uprooted our family and moved to join him. I moved in December. In March I discover he was drinking again. Even after all of my years in recovery I had this little voice that said that maybe it really was my fault that he drank. After all he was a dying man that had been sober two years and three months later I joined him he started drinking again. Never mind that we had really only been apart three months of his two years of sobriety. Never mind that he had been drinking long before I found out in March. Never mind all that I had learned about alcoholism – I did not cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it. Just like that I had been sucked right back into the chaos of his drinking.

Four months later he showed up at my work and invited me to join him for happy-hour after work. I felt like he had sucker-punched me, but I went anyway to see what he was up too. It was almost like he was trying to pick a fight with me. But I was not playing his game and that made him even more angry. He started to tell me how things were going to be from here on out. When I said I don’t think so he told me he wanted a divorce. I felt angry and I felt relief. I looked at him and said no problem and walked out of the bar. What I did not know at the time was that he had already rented and apartment and had the utilities turned on. You know what they say about alcoholism – cunning, baffling and powerful.

But you know what our families saw? Both of our families blamed me. In their eyes it was my fault that he started drinking again. They thought that I was the one that had ask for the divorce. To them I was a horrible person because I was divorcing a sick and dying man. Neither of our families ask me what happened. I was not even given and opportunity explain or defend myself.

I called my sponsor back home. She ask me if I was going to meetings. I hem-hawed around and told her I had tried but not any of them were like my home group. She told me to get my but back to meeting and work my program. Without the love and support of the people in my program I could never have gotten through that time in my life with any shred of sanity.

They told me to just keep doing the next right thing for the right reason. They helped me to always be aware of my motives and be honest with myself. They loved me when I felt the whole world was against me. There were many times my husband wanted me to engage in tit-for-tat behavior but I was able to avoid that trap because I had learned in my program that I did not have to react or engage in his unacceptable behavior.

I am not saying any of this was easy. There was nothing easy in my life at that time. There are just some hurts in life that you just have to live and hurt through, but thanks to my program I chose how I wanted to live through those difficult times. And I only had to live through it one day at a time. Some days were better than others. Because of the self-honesty my program requires I was able to look at things through the eyes of the Serenity Prayer and get the wisdom to know what was my responsibility and what was not.

My husband had also been in recovery and in the end he had two years of sobriety when he died. Thanks to both of our programs we had we did not hate each other when he died.

The program was our saving grace

I tried every thing I could think of to make my alcoholic “understand” what he was doing to himself and to our family. I tried reason and logic, I threatened, begged and pleaded, I defended and argued my case over and over again expecting the light to come on, and for him to finally understand, and do whatever he had to do to change. I said the same thing over and over again a thousand different ways. But not one thing I said made a difference, because he was in complete denial that he had a problem with alcohol. The sad thing is that he really tried to control his drinking, but he could not, and even then he could not accept that he was powerless.

You know what else is sad? I could see how obsessed he was with alcohol, but I could not see how obsessed I was over trying to control his drinking. We were the perfect storm, the yin yang of an alcoholic relationship. We were on opposite sides that absolutely encouraged our sickness. He could not look me in the face and not feel guilty, but he could not stop his destructive behavior either. I struggled trying to out-wit him and keep him out of trouble.

Every time in the past, before I got into recovery, that I had tried to change, or pull away, I failed, and I failed because of my motive. I was trying to control and manipulate my husband to try and force him to change. It was pretty scary standing up for my life. It was hard to wrap my mind around, and accept, that he did not have to change for me to change. What if I changed and things did not work out the way that I wanted them to? Many times it was painful to do the right thing. That is when the doubts came. Sometimes I was fearful and second guessed my decision.

My alcoholic had no reason to believe that things were different this time and he did everything in his power to keep the status quo. He wasn’t going to let me tell him what he could and could not do and his drinking got worse. As he began to see changes in me, he became even more determine to get me back in line. He tried to manipulated and guilt tripped me to try and make me believe that everything was my fault. I gave him an ultimatum and he threatened to leave. He left. The first time he left I was not strong enough, or well enough, to hold my ground, so after a few weeks, I folded and he came back home on his terms. The second time he left, he had about a years sobriety under his belt. He told me that he needed his own space and he moved to a different city. I was better and stronger, but he wasn’t and after about four months he made grand promises and “took me back.” The third time he left, he left for good.

You know what is so interesting about the third time? It was a mutual agreement. He knew, and I knew, that I had changed enough where I would no longer accept unacceptable in my life. His disease changed me, it changed him, and it changed the love we shared. It was only through recovery that I learned how to have compassion for his struggle; it was through recovery that I learned how to separate the disease from the man – which helped me to hate the disease but not the man.

It was in recovery that I learned how to love myself enough to not to allow his disease to destroy me. Which in my case meant that I had to walk away. Believe it or not, thanks to both of our recovery programs (he was in and out of the program) our breakup was rather tame. There was no war. We just knew that we could not make it work any more.

I am sharing my journey this morning, because recovery will create change in your life. Sometimes that change is not the way you envision it to be. Most couples stay together, but a few don’t. We didn’t, but the program was our saving grace. Without the program we wold have hated each other when the break came. Don’t get me wrong the break was not easy. It did not come without tears. Both of us were sad with the result, but we knew that in order for us to walk away without hating each that was what we had to do.

The death of a marriage

Without a doubt one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was to walk away from my marriage. Eighteen years; It took eighteen years for our marriage to die a slow painful death. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not been in recovery I would have hated him when it happened. Recovery helped me see that our divorce was another form of detachment with love. He would always be in my heart, but it was time that he was no longer in my life.

This decision did not come easy. There were many times that I fantasized about it and thought how much better my life would be without him in it. Others times I had nightmares and I was afraid of him leaving me and our family. I guess you could say that was all part of the love hate that came with living with an alcoholic. I did not want to be divorced and I did everything in my power to avoid it. There were even times that I thought that I had sold my sole to the devil to avoid it. But when it did happened, there was no screaming, yelling or drama. Both of us knew it was time.

My husband had almost three years of sobriety when he started drinking again. He also had a very sick heart that was caused by his drinking. When the doctors told him about his heart, they gave him about two and a half years to live. They told him to stop drinking and it may help him to live longer. When he started drinking again he told me he did not want any lectures. I told him there would not be any, he knew the consequences. He had been going to AA. I had been in my recovery program long before he stopped drinking. Both of us knew that I was powerless over his drinking and that he was the only one that could do anything about his drinking.

A couple of years after my divorce, I remarried. I had been remarried about five months when my first husband died. His death broke my heart. He would not see his girls grow up, or see them go off to college, walk them down the aisle, of hold his grandchildren. Even now it makes me sad that he missed out on so much because of that hateful disease.

According to the American Medical Association alcoholism is a disease. Alcoholism does not discriminate between young or old, male or female, rich or poor, educated or not, and it certainly doesn’t care what color your skin is. It destroys lives, jobs and careers, families, and friendships. I have no doubt in my mind that both my husband and myself tried to embrace the concepts of our recovery programs. He knew and I knew that his drinking was not a personal act toward or against me. We also knew that he was in a battle for his life.

My present husband, that sounds kind of funny doesn’t it, sounds like I have had a revolving door of husbands, but honestly I have only had the two, anyway my present husband thought that my first husband and I were very “civilized” in our divorced relationship. In many ways we were. I am not saying that we agreed on everything or that we never had “spirited debates” over anything, because we did. But because of what we had learned about alcoholism in our recovery programs, because we were taught to turn our will over to God, because we had a sponsor to help us see things realistically, we navigated the post divorce issues pretty well.

Our sponsors and our program taught us to look at our motives. Our marriage no longer worked and we knew that it was time to go our separate ways. Love had nothing to do with it. I loved him and he loved me, but love could not fix our problems. At that moment in time we were better off separate than we were together. It was time for each of us to look deep inside and come to terms with our history and what we wanted in our future. We had no desire to try and hurt each other.

According to the big book of AA self-honesty is critical to recovery. Jon was sober two years when he died. I believe that with the three years he had before his relapse and the two years after that, that he became a changed man. He was the man I knew he could be and not the diseased. Even though I write about our past life together, I do so to share the experience, strength and hope that my recovery program gave to me. But in all honesty when I look back at the life that I shared with him, I choose to hold onto, and cherish, the good moments of the man and not dwell on the disease the man had. There is no way I could separate the two without having my life transformed through the 12 Steps process.

This post is not advocating divorce. Believe me we did everything we could do to avoid it; our divorce was a last resort decision. We did not make that decision lightly. The death of our marriage was heart breaking and sad. The death of the man was devastating. He was a child of God as much as I am a child of God. Even though we were divorced and I had moved on I wanted him to fine peace and happiness in his life too. I do not believe that I could have had compassion an empathy for him if I had not had healing that I got through my recovery program.

My recovery programs have a powerful influence over how I live my life.

Me? Control issues? Come on man! I did not have control issues!!! I was just doing what I had to do trying to control my out of control life; but I wouldn’t classify what I was doing under the “control issues” column. I was merely running interference trying to minimize chaos and destruction in my life. But control? Never! I was completely unaware and oblivious that I had a little, well maybe a lot, of manipulation going on. I was simply trying to survive the best way I knew how without drawing attention to myself.

As a child I was completely defenseless against the rules and decisions my parents made for and about my life, especially when those matters hurt me and left me feeling insecure. As an adult I tried to do everything in my power to ensure that I would not feel that hurt and insecurity any more. As a child I was not allowed to have a voice or an opinion. “Children were to be seen and not heard.” What that overpowering control taught me was to be stealthy and antonyms when I was trying to make my hopes and dreams come true. It was not a conscious behavior on my part. It was just something I learned as a child to survive.

Transparency and honesty in my relationships never occurred to me. Nowhere in my life had anyone been interested in what I felt, what I thought or what I wanted. I knew that I was powerless, but I hated feeling powerless. So I tried desperately to control the uncontrollable through manipulation and subterfuge. Of course ninety-nine point nine percent of the time it didn’t work. The few times that it did work my victory felt hollow and I was always waiting for the other shoe to fall and destroy what I thought I had gained.

To say I was confused was an understatement. My burning desire was to be accepted, but I never trusted the real me with anyone. I was constantly trying to be all things to all people. In away, I kept the very people that I wanted to like me at arms length so that they would not have the opportunity to hurt or reject me. I know the whole thing sounds confusing. It was confusing to me too! By the time I started going to my recovery meetings I had no idea who the real me was.

This kind of life taught me that a life without honesty was shallow and insecure. Emotionally crippled, I did not have the skill set to have real honest to good healthy relationships with anyone. In recovery I learned that I had a choice of how I was going to allow my past, or the hurt in my present circumstances, define me and how I lived my life. The scary part was that I knew how to survive in the hurt; it was the only life I knew. In the beginning I was afraid and intimidated to reach out for something better. It was through my recovery programs that I learned how not just how to survive, but I learned how to thrive and be happy.

My recovery programs have a powerful influence over how I live my life. Through my programs I found I had a whole tool chest full of all of just the tools I need to survive and thrive. I talk about the 12 Steps all the time and how they transformed me. But there is more in my tool chest than the 12 steps. I had all of these little slogans that I could grab onto to help guide me through turbulent waters in my life. I was constantly reminded that Rome wasn’t built in a day – this is a One Day At A Time program. I did not get this way overnight and I was not going to wake up tomorrow and instantly be changed from the inside out. My sponsor constantly reminded me to look at my motive. Was I doing the right thing for the right reason?

Slowly over time I began to learn how to trust which led me to the most powerful tool in my tool box; The 3rd Step. Turning my will and my life over to God’s care took the lid off of the pressure-cooker that was my life. Getting the wisdom to know the difference from the Serenity Prayer was turning every issue great or small over to God’s care. Taking that 3rd Step also made manipulation and control very uncomfortable for me. Trusting God with my will and my life takes daily action on my part. As long as I trust God with the decision making process in my life I am fine. Now, I recognize that my feelings of insecurity are directly portionable to how willing I am to let go and let God be in control of my life. When I am obsessed with trying to force the solution that I want my emotions are like a yo-yo. I am way either up or way down.  Trusting God is the only way I can face life’s challenges and still keep my sanity.

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.

How I got trapped in the chaos

Let’s face it. I was wishy-washy. I would get mad and put my foot down and then later back down and give in. I sent a lot of mixed signals. This resulted in a lack of self-respect from others toward me and a lack of self-respect for myself. And yet, I still could not see my part in the chaos and turmoil in my life.

It was interesting to me how critical outsiders were of me and our problems. This made me either feel responsible for fixing the problem or stupid for staying, and my self-respect and self-esteem took another hit. For the life of me, I could not see or understand how I got trapped in the duplicity of his drinking. I was so caught up in the details that I never got a good look at the big picture. I was running from one fire to the other trying to put them out. Over time I had become so accustom to living in pandemonium and turmoil that it became the new norm for me.

Before I could ever begin to learn how to let my yes mean yes and my no mean no, I had to understand how I contributed to the insanity of my life. This insight came through a self examination in my 4th step inventory. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was a people pleaser. (Bahahaha) Oh Yea! I sacrificed my needs for other people’s wants many times out of fear, out of obligation and out of a way to try and control others or to manipulate a result that I wanted.

Looking back at the time, I can see that I had been on automatic pilot trying to survive in a chaotic situation. My sponsor told me before I started my 4th Step inventory that my inventory was not a witch hunt, it was not about blame and condemnation. She said that it was about understanding why we do the things we do so that we can understanding how to do things differently. She also reminded me that understanding was only one part of the equation. Not anything in my life was going to improve and get better until I took the right steps needed to change. I was only responsible for my part and my part only.

My husband, my alcoholic, and my untreated codependent family, did not like me changing one bit. I was accused of being selfish, stubborn and mean. And to be honest with you I felt that way myself some times. My sponsor gave me a couple of questions to help me discern if what I was doing was the right thing to do for the right reason. First, was I doing something for someone else that they could and should be doing for themselves? Second, what was my motive? Was I trying to punish or control someone else? Was this my responsibility in the first place? Was this the right thing to do for me and was it for the right reason? Was this decision based on feelings and emotions or was it based on facts? Then she reminded me that feelings and emotions were not facts.

I also learned that it is important how I said and did things. Say it with love and conviction. Another big lesson for me was to never to issue an ultimatum that I was not willing to follow through on if I did not get the results that I wanted. In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say. Say it once and shut up. Saying it twenty more time in twenty different ways will not convince any one of anything. Besides Alcoholics don’t understand words – they understand action.

These changes did not feel natural to me but I found that the more I did them the more natural they felt. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. But at least now I know what to do. I have learned that, in my life anyway, that life is never going to be perfect. I don’t always get what I want and I get things I don’t want and haven’t planned for. But now more than ever, I am prepared and equipped to face my life head on.

Recovery is sink or swim time

It wasn’t that I could not help my alcoholic, because I could help him deny there was a problem for him with alcohol. I could help him get out of one alcoholic jam after the other. I could help him cover up his mess ups and I could help him by financially by balling him out of trouble. What I could not do was help him find sobriety by taking away his responsibilities and his consequences. I had to learn the hard way that I could not help someone else recover and be restored who did not want to be helped and restored, and he did not want my help to do that.

The Serenity Prayer reminds me that I need wisdom to know the difference about what I could not change and had to accept over what I actually had the power to change and do something about. The wisdom to know the difference meant that I took the focus off of him and put it squarely on me. Clearly I was at Step One. I was powerless over him and his drinking. I was not powerless over me and my attitude.

This wisdom to know the difference helped me to realized that I had put all of my eggs in one basket. Without realizing it I was living my life vicariously through him. When he was okay I was okay. When he was happy I was happy. When he was sad I was sad. When he was angry or mad I tried to make everything better. I wanted what he wanted and did what he wanted me to do when he wanted me to do it. My world, my happiness, totally depended on this man. It never occurred to me that I could be happy whether he was happy or not.

There was no way I could apply this program to my life, and work these steps and focus on him. This program and these steps are designed to focus on the person working them. To be honest with you I felt extremely selfish and self-centered when I began my recovery journey. He did not want what I wanted and I felt selfish for going after what I wanted without him.

I had been treading water with him for a long time. Through this program both of us were thrown a life line. It was time to sink or swim. I was tired of the struggle. I could not make him change and he could not stop me from changing. I begged him to try. He was not interested so I swam without him. Was it easy to swim away while he still floundered? Of course not. As I looked back I could see his life line floating all around him. All he had to do was reach out and grab it. But he just did not want it.

When one person in a relationship changes the relationship will change. Parts of our relationship got better. Other parts deteriorated at lightening speed. When that happened I felt vulnerable and less confident that I was doing the right thing. My sponsor helped me get the wisdom to know the difference by reminding me look at my motives. Every choice in life has a consequence. Some consequences are good and some aren’t. Was I trying to control or manipulate his choices? Any time that I was trying to interfere with his right of choice and his consequence then I was not doing the right thing for the right reason. Again, I was reminded to focus on me and my choices. Was I doing the right thing for the right reason for me?

Through the years I have had to make some pretty difficult decisions. The only thing I had any real power over was me. I could not control what other people did but I could control how I was going to respond. I could not always avoid pain because it was very painful to watch someone I loved self-destruct. What I could do was choose to participate – OR NOT – in there self-destruction. I have not doubt in my mind now that this program is not for everyone. Only the people who want it.

First things first

I learned the hard way that I could make all the plans that I wanted as long as I did not give them more than a 50-50 chance of becoming a reality. Living with an alcoholic on a good day is hard. Just like Forest Gump said about a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get. He could be charming and accommodating or he could be a bad dream. Usually when he was charming and accommodating he was trying to manipulate me into doing something he wanted or he was trying to makeup to me for something he had done. The bad dream part was when he was hell bent on doing what he wanted to do and I could get on board or get out of the way.

I had big time control issues. I would do whatever I had to do to keep the peace and to hide what was going on from our family and friends. Trying to control the outcome or the collateral damage kept me on constant alert. It never occurred to me to establish boundaries in my life. At that time in my life decisions were made for our family without my input. Many times I was told what was going to happen and I could like it or not. I was an easy victim at that time. And then I reached the end of my rope and I became a bear to deal with. I was tired of being pushed around. I was tired of being taken advantage of and felt it was me against the world. Anger and resentment was boiling inside of me and I had no filter over my feelings. I would tell anyone where they could get off in a heart beat. Well, that did not make me any friends. As my grandma always said you can’t hug a porcupine and I was definitely a porcupine. I was also miserable.

I had tried being a doormat and tied to be all things to all people for a long time and during all of that time I did not have a real meaningful and trusting relationship with anyone. And of course when I reached the end of my rope and showed my hinny that definitely did not endear me to anyone either. I felt isolated and alone. I wanted instant relief but that is not how it works. As they say in our program – we did not get this way overnight and things aren’t going to change overnight either.

Another thing they say in our program is First Things First. Well, the first thing I had to do was learn how to be in a relationship with myself before I could be in one with anyone else. I did not like or respect myself. I had no clue where to begin. My emotions and feelings was so twisted together with my husband and my family that I did not know where I ended and they began. But I learned how to figure it all out through the 12 Steps. And in case you haven’t noticed the steps are designed to be implemented by one person. It is not a group project. It is singular. It was through the steps that I was able to find out where I ended and someone else began. I learned what was my junk and what was not. I learned what I could and could not do something about. I learned that even though it was designed to be done by one person at a time I was not alone and that God would help me do what I could not do in my own power.

Through this process I took baby steps replacing hurtful things in my life with empowering things. As long as I kept the focus on me and what I was responsible for, and what I was doing, I learned how to accept things I could not change. I learned how replace hopelessness with hope by changing the things I could change. I learned how to look at my motives so that I would have the confidence to do what was right for me. Sure I made mistakes along the way. Sometimes it was two steps forward and one step back. But as long as I kept the focus on me and what I was responsible for I had progress.

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.

Responsiblity for our own behavior comes with recovery

The dictionary says that an individual is a single person distinguished from others by special characteristics. That means that the responsibility for our own actions, thoughts and feelings lies on our own shoulders. We are only human and life is never going to be perfect. It is important not to take the progress that we have made in recovery for granted and the 10th Step is designed to help prevent us from digging a hole for ourselves that we can’t get out of.

Usually when I write on this blog I try to share what it had been like for me before, how things changed and what it is like for me now. Today I want to talk about the responsibility for our own behavior that comes with recovery. My sponsor (mentor) made sure that I understood that every single one of those 12 steps had the spotlight on me. My recovery was not about anyone else. It was always about me. Therefore, it was important that I learn right up front that recovery did not mean perfection. I wasn’t perfect in the past and I will not be perfect in the future either. So if we aren’t ever going to reach perfection what do we do when we mess up? How do we recover from our own mess ups?

Case in point. Yesterday I had an off day. I can’t explain it. I did not have a reason. Nothing negative happened. I was just off and I was crabby which is totally out of character for me. My sweet husband took everything in stride most of the day, but by the end of the day he was getting tired of my crabbiness. He let me know that he had been a nice guy all day long but it was not time for me to get over my bad self. And that really ticked me off. I assured him that there was nothing wrong with me. Of course this whole day of crabbiness was silly. For the life of me I cannot explain it. I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed so to speak.

I am telling you all of this because I believe it is important to know that we are responsible for our own behavior. Life will not always be sunshine and daisies. Recovery doesn’t meant that we walk around with a permeant smile on our face and we won’t do everything right. And believe it or not we will have an off day from time to time. Or at least that it how it is for me. I am always, always, always responsible for my own behavior. Being a recovering Codependent will not give me a free pass to be crabby or mean spirited in any way.

The 10th Step says that, “We continue to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. So you see that little snit that I was in yesterday can’t be ignored. I can’t just can’t act like it never happened. It says, “when we are wrong we promptly admit it.” Very wise advise and you know why? The longer we let something go the harder it is to do. And, if we ignore it all together the easier it is to repeat and when we repeat it, it eventually becomes a bad habit.

I hate having to apologize. I hate that there is even a reason that I have to apologize. But there is a reason and so this morning I will have to make an amend to my husband for my crabbiness. I could say things like I am sorry for being crabby but I am a little off because I have a sore throat (which is true) I could say that he should not have done those nit picky things that he knows annoys me. But, if I am going to make this amend right I can’t do any of those things, because the first one is an excuse and in the second one I am blaming my husband for my bad behavior. So I just have to suck it up and admit that I was crabby and I’m sorry.

Many people look at the 10th Step as a maintenance step. So much in our life is about the maintenance. We take our car in for maintenance, we wash out clothes to prevent the stains and dirt from ruining them, we have regular maintenance on our homes, We have regular teeth cleaning to prevent tooth decay, we have annual physicals to maintain our health, even our lawn requires watering, fertilizing, weeding and cutting to be maintained. Just about everything our life requires maintenance if we want it to last. So it should come as no big surprise that the architects of these 12 Steps understood the importance of not letting things go.