Tag Archives: healing

I would never be with an alcoholic

That’s what I said to myself, all those years ago when I (practically) crawled into my first Al-Anon meeting.

“I would never be with an alcoholic.”

I was engaged to a man who drank. Whose drinking bothered me. Whose personality changed (in a not nice way) when he drank.

My life was most certainly, as they say, unmanageable.

I had lost strength in half of my body. “A viral infection of the nervous system” the doctors called it, after they gave me an MRI and ruled out a stroke. I was only twenty-four and quite young for a stroke, but I had lost strength in half of my body.

A cousin suggested I go to Al-Anon, and I went. But all that was running through my head as I entered the church and found my way upstairs to the meeting room was, “Tell me if he’s an alcoholic. There’s no way I would ever be with an alcoholic.”

I would come to learn that alcoholism is a self-diagnosed disease, and it was my fiancé’s place to label himself an alcoholic…or not. I would also come to learn that there was every reason I would be with an alcoholic.

My grandfather had been in AA for the last four years of his life. My father and grandmother liked to comment that he was nicer then “because he finally found friends.” My father drank and drugged nearly every day – at least as far as I was aware of – and yes, his personality changed when he did. (He often became nicer.) Oh, and did I mention I was raised in a cult and that, in many ways, I raised myself.

In short, there were numerous reasons why I would be with an alcoholic and very few reasons why I wouldn’t.

I remember the shock as this dawned on me, slowly over the weeks of attending meetings. I remember my first Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting – that I attended by mistake. As they read their laundry list of characteristics of Adult Children, my jaw dropped and my brain buzzed with recognition. Nearly every, if not every, characteristic they listed was something I felt. Didn’t everyone feel these things? We are frightened by anger and any personal criticism; we judge ourselves harshly and have low self-esteem; we get guilt feelings if we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others. Didn’t everyone feel these things? They were so true inside my mind and heart, I didn’t even know they were there. They were so true to the core of my very being, I thought they were simply a part of being human. Not a part of being human when you haven’t had the chance to grow in an atmosphere of love and nurturing – a part of being human overall.

I remember the love and acceptance I found in those rooms, and the people who understood me in ways I’d never felt understood before. I remember the countless individuals who offered me hugs and their phone number. I remember listening to people say, “getting involved with an alcoholic is the best thing that ever happened to me,” and I remember thinking how insane they must be to say that.

Getting engaged to an alcoholic and getting knocked to my knees was the best thing that ever happened to me – well one of the best, because now there’s my husband, my kids, and my book about to be published – because it was my first step to realizing I needed help and my first step to finding help and healing.

“I would never be with an alcoholic” I used to think. “Aw honey,” I think now, “you would and you did. And thank god you did.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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I (don’t) deserve to die

I did something the other day. Something simple. Something small. Something quite insignificant.

But somehow my internal critic was certain that what I had done was horrific – and that it mattered greatly. And the shame rose up in me like a tsunami, threatening to wash me out to sea.

Whereas my rational mind knew that what had happened was no big deal, my irrational self was taking over. And this irrational self had determined that what I had done was so bad – that I was so bad – that I deserved to die.

Now, I know I didn’t deserve to die. I don’t believe in the death penalty, and even if I did, I know that no jury would condemn me to death for the little mistake I had made. But even though I could tell you this – even while I was overcome with shame and horror – my emotions were taking over.

I truly felt like I deserved to die.

I know these are old thought patterns that are, perhaps, deeply engrained in my psyche. I describe my mind – at times – like a luge path. Once I get caught in the course, once the mind games are started, it’s nearly impossible not to rush down, on the icy path at full speed, to the foregone conclusion.

That I am bad. That I deserve to die.

I was raised in a religious cult where I was taught about my inherent guilt and sin and shame. I was taught that I was never good enough. The things that happened to me certainly convinced me of that. I learned – I learned well – that most things were my fault and that I was sinful and bad. Or at least that if I took most things on as my responsibility and fault, I might be able to control what was happening around me. I could repent. I could change my ways. I could try harder to do better. And better still.

Luckily I now know that these thought patterns are lies. Luckily I now have the wherewithal to perhaps not make them go away in the moment, but to remember that they will pass. If I can just keep breathing and reminding myself that although they feel true they aren’t true, they will pass.

Years ago I learned a wonderful saying, “Feelings aren’t facts.” I can be awash with feelings, and they can be based on mistruths. I can be overcome with shame and guilt and horror, and that can be based on lies.

I did my best to love myself through this shame-fest. I did my best to acknowledge my feelings, while I acknowledged they were crazy. And crazy making,

Because you know what, I certainly don’t deserve to die.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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Is it okay to expect someone to do what you’d do?

Someone I know is letting me down.

They’re not acting how I want them to act. They’re not doing what I want them to do. They’re not being how I want them to be.

And I’m pissed.

I’ve learned that “expectations are premeditated resentments.” If I expect you to be a certain way, I’m setting myself up to resent you when you’re not that way.

Even if it’s the “right” and “best” way to be. Even if it’s what I’d do if I were them.

Is it okay to expect someone to do what you’d do? To act like you’d act? To be like you’d be?

I’ve decided, for now, that it’s okay to expect it, but that by expecting it, I’m potentially setting myself up to be disappointed. And resentful. And even hurt.

So maybe it’s okay to expect it, or to at least want it. But I’ve learned to be realistic. If this person hasn’t acted like I would act in a certain situation before, what would make me think they’d do that now? No matter how much I want them to? Nothing really. Not if I’m realistic.

So probably best is to admit that I want it but not to expect it. I can wish for this person to be the way I want them to be – to be the way I’d be – and then find a way to be happy with whatever I get or go somewhere else for what I really want and need. “Don’t go to a hardware store for oranges,” I also learned long, long ago.

Expecting someone to be anything is setting myself up to be let down. And honestly, I’ve been let down enough.

It’s a fine line, I think. I’ve had to work hard to be okay with wanting what I want. I’ve had to work hard at realizing I’m allowed to have wants and needs. And I’ve had to work hard to learn that just because I want it doesn’t always mean that others can and will give it to me, and that I therefore have to find it for myself.

Bottom line, I think it’s okay to have standards and things I want, and I think I’m most okay when I don’t need anyone to hit any marks and act in any specific ways. When I just let them be, and I just be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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