I am powerless over the people I love #addiction #recovery #alanon #alcoholism #familysystems

May 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

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I just need a bit of time to write. I need some time to sort out where I am at, what I need to do, how I make sense of the relationships I am in.

My deepest pain, my greatest loss, my pervasive terror all arise from my relationships to the people I love. I hurt when they shun me, dismiss me, invalidate me, punish me, talk over me, ignore me, neglect me. I grieve the absence of security, of knowing I am safe in these relationships, of knowing that they are capable of caring for me, of treating me with respect, not taking out their unprocessed or unmet emotional needs on me. I live in constant fear that, at any time, if I spend time with someone I love they are going to do something to me that is going to hurt. That I am going to have to spend my own precious life energies recovering from their unconscious lash.

I have tried to cut myself off from the people I love. I have tried deleting all their emails, of retreating to my own space, of pretending I live my life as a sole, autonomous agent who does not need anyone and does not need anyone to need me. The amount of grief I had to process in that attempt was stupendous. It was impossible for me to process the depth of pain that came with needing to put myself in the world without family. I gave up the effort and decided it was the path of least resistance to deal with the day to day life of living in a family than to cope with the day to day reality that my family relationships are so toxic for me that I have to remove myself from them entirely.

Escapist fantasy leaps to mind. What if I just packed up my car and my dog and a little tear drop trailer and left this whole part of the world entirely? What if I just got out? But that would not address the internal condition that I must address. There is no geographic cure because I carry the geography of my mental and emotional states with me wherever I go.

No. The reality of my life is that I must process the experience and I must do that on a daily basis. There is some percentage of my life energy that must be channeled into making sense of the relationships I chose, and the ones I was born into.

I am in a bad state this morning. I am on day 3 of separation from Husband. We did not speak at all yesterday. The day before that the last words we said to each other were, “Fuck off”, and, “You fuck off.” I do not fee safe around him. This morning when I realized he was getting up I had a moment of panic as I gathered up all my stuff from the dining room and headed down to our basement suite. Thank goodness it is not booked right now. I need it for my own respite from the constant pressure of living with an emotionally volatile husband who will not hesitate to use intense emotional pressure to control me, and who will never, ever admit that is what he is doing.

To be fair, I do the same thing. We are both in recovery, so there are times when either one of us are triggered and unable to cope with life in any but the most immature, rudimentary way.

It is problematic for both of us, and we have to be very careful to take care that we have others we can talk to so as not to burden the marriage with our PTSD insanity.

I am powerless over the people I love, and that is a good thing, because who would want me in control? That would not be a safe world for anyone. At the same time, the people I love are also powerless over me, and in that I can take comfort because I can find my own safety, my own comfort, and my own connections.

It isn’t that I need to seek out anymore relationships, after all, they will simply grow to resemble the relationships I already have. No, my task is to make the most of the relationships I have, and to make myself safe, to find connections despite my own internal condition that will tend to corrupt any relationship to conform to the conditions of my unsafe, deprived and anxious childhood.

Time to walk the dog.

Final note – I find the celtic knot motif helpful in processing these difficult relationships. My philosophical approach to these drawings is, “Many is one, One is many, Neither exists without the other.” In this sense, each line fragment is conceived as a part of the network of relationships that make up my life. The ways these relationships fit together is imperfect, as is the rendering of any one of the relationships in and of itself. I am realizing now that I want to leave two open ends to the design, to represent that idea that it is not a closed system. That there is always the possibility to form new connections.

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You don’t see me and I can’t see you

May 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

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‘Walking on eggshells’ does not alleviate emotional tension, it makes it worse #alanon #addiction #alcoholism #recovery

May 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

I wonder if I can express how fed up I am with being controlled by other people’s emotional instability. When I sense underlying tension and the capacity for someone else to blow up emotionally I will bend myself into a pretzel to try to avoid triggering the blow up. The fallacy of this response is that I did not cause the other person’s emotional tension, I cannot control it, and I cannot cure it. My belief that I can somehow mitigate their emotional pressure by contorting my own mental, emotional and physical presence causes great harm to my own well-being and results in emotional pressure build up inside me.

I am very familiar with ‘walking on eggshells’. I am so habituated to the practice that I am not conscious of when I am doing it until I am so tired and perturbed I will explode to release the emotional tension. Unfortunately, this pattern does nothing to prevent the damage of 1) living under tension and stress, and 2) relational damage caused by my own blow up. Not only that, but because the patterns of emotional and mental suppression are so firmly entrenched, we never get down to the real, pragmatic issues that need to be addressed. We are always reacting to the emotional condition of our relationship instead of addressing problems relating to finances, household management, or improving the health of our relationship.

I get so angry that there is a huge knot in the middle of my shoulders. My back, neck, shoulders and hip hurt. I am tense, irritable, on edge, defensive, distracted, and anxious.

My mental and emotional condition in turn contribute to the state of health of my marriage. I am angry at my spouse for being angry all the time. It is a self-referential cycle perpetuating a continuous state of mental and emotional unease. With periodic blow ups when the tension becomes unbearable. The only antidote is to stop contributing to the condition of suppressed emotional and mental turmoil. Ha. Easier said than done.

What I can do right now is leash up my dog and get out for a walk. Notice that I am contributing to the condition and stop blaming my spouse for my problem of walking on eggshells. My response to tension does not help to ease the tension. Get angry does not reduce the amount of anger in the family and it does nothing to resolve the underlying problems that are generating frustration that leads to anger in the first place.

It is strange how writing about a mental or emotional condition helps to ease the pressure of that mental or emotional condition. Time to get moving on the day.

Fractured fairy tales

May 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

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“Eff you!” He said to me as he stormed off. “Eff you too!” I shouted at his retreating back. Time for a time out. Luckily I had not booked our b&b suite for the next two weeks anticipating major renovation mess in our house. So I retreated to my pristine suite and spent my time alone puzzling out a drawing and then thinking about the relationship between the drawing and my internal emotional state and my discombobulated marriage.

It isn’t the first time we have parted in anger and I am sure it will not be our last. Every once in a while the tension of patterns of dysfunction between the two of us builds to an unbearable strain and we can no longer talk to each other. We just need to call a time out and separate for a cooling off period before we can talk again.

In the past, when we reached this point in our relationship I would panic because I would tell myself the relationship was over. Now I just get my stuff together and find a quiet place to collect myself. The drawing I did last night was part of that process, to focus and find a way to calm myself and make sense of the issues I was encountering.

When we got married I thought I had found the answer to all my problems of loneliness, emotional deprivation, bullying and put downs. I thought I was finally safe. When we had our first big fight after we got married I was shocked. All of a sudden I felt trapped. I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life.

In the intervening eight years of marriage I have learned that our relationship is going to go through ups and downs. It is going to suffer growing pains and there will be periods of contentment.

My marriage is an example of a fractured fairy tale. I did marry the man of my dreams. I did sail off into the sunset. But when the sun came up the next day I was faced with financial difficulties, education demands, house renovations, and a reactive dog. Not to mention our combined histories of dysfunctional family patterns. So, I am living the dream, and sometimes it takes an unexpected but predictable swerve onto the gravelly shoulder. Luckily, nothing is broken.

waking up #recovery #renovation #familysystems #alcoholicfamilies

May 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

It is nineteen years since I came into recovery. In January, 1996 I turned 40. By the end of the day I was plastered, laying on my back in my front yard on the dirty snow, unable to get up. The next day I asked myself, “If I die tomorrow will I be content with how I lived today?” The answer was no.

On April 20, 1996 I smoked my last joint. I was a habitual pot user, smoking regularly at 5 pm everyday. It was all I looked forward to and everything I regretted afterward. After I stopped using I went into a catastrophic emotional tailspin. I remember at one point I was sitting on the roof of a friend’s house sobbing uncontrollably.

On May 26, 1996 I boarded a bus to go to a drug rehab centre. I had to be pried out of my familiar surroundings with a crowbar. Even though my situation was extremely unhealthy and destructive, I couldn’t imagine living any other way.

After the first week in drug rehab I realized I could not go back to my marriage and home. I would never stay clean from drugs and alcohol if I went back. Two weeks later my stay at the centre ended and I was on my own, beginning the process of building my new life. I was forty years old. I had a maxed out credit card and I was living on social assistance.

When I arrived in the city I had less than a hundred dollars left on my credit card and a ten dollar bill in my pocket.

Since then I have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine art, graduated with a masters’ degree in technology studies education, married, bought a house, put a new basement under the house, entered a carpentry apprentice program, and worked to complete a doctoral degree in curriculum and pedagogy.

I am now 59 years old. I have begun tearing down the walls on our century old house. My home is a chaotic mess of piles of dirty dishes, renovation dust, and misplaced furniture.

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The front porch has been covered with a tarp for three months. A giant beam sits in the front hall awaiting installation.

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I have two client’s houses to caulk and paint.

Jethro, my reactive rescue dog, sleeps on the couch nearby. My husband sleeps upstairs. My son stayed out with his friends last night, he is here for the summer working for our contractor and helping us on this house.

The sun is coming up each day further and further northward on the eastern horizon. This morning the rays of sun light up the full green leaves of spring past the roof of the meditation centre. The linden tree outside my dining room window is in full bloom.

Today I plan on getting the kitchen cleaned up so we can use it again. I think my other task should be getting the mountain of dirty laundry into the washing machine and getting the mountain of clean laundry put away.

Also my neighbour, who is teaching me to garden, has told me to water the new plantings. So I must get out to do that.

Everyday of my life these days is a busy day. I work hard, and the fruits of my labours show in my surroundings. I have people who love me and care about me, and who are also not using drugs or alcohol to make life bearable. Life is tough, it has always been so. Today I will manage life on life’s terms because I have found a new way to live. If I die tomorrow I will be content with how I lived today.

Time to put the coffee on.

picture of jars

May 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

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Ugh what a mess

May 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

We have demolished the kitchen ceiling and the front hall ceiling. There is plaster rubble in the front hall and demolition dust, including the dust from removing urea formaldehyde insulation in the kitchen. Everything needs cleaning. The bathtub upstairs is coated in a layer of grime from washing our dirty bodies all week. I have to rouse myself to get cleaning but I am also tired from the week’s work.

The dog needs walking, so that is what I am going to have to do first. Then, put on my dusty coveralls from this morning and re-start the never-ending cleaning job. With my dust mask on, of course.

I went to a meeting today and took my 19 year multi-year fob. Hard to believe I have managed to abstain from drugs and alcohol that long. On the other hand, I have no desire to use, so I guess it isn’t too hard. In the intervening years I have become very irritable when it comes to mistreatment and emotional or psychological nonsensicals. So then, because I am in so many relationships that exhibit these traits, I end up pushing for my rights over and over again and doing so, sometimes, with a decidedly grumpy countenance and composure.

I am sick of cleaning up this place and I am sick of the clutter. At least, at the end of one of these processes I arrive at a clean and tidy place. The clutter is more evidence of compulsion than anything else. Cleaning is evidence of effort to get healthy.

It is a beautiful afternoon. The sun is shining and there is a light spring breeze in the air.

The dog is flopped out on the floor at my feet. He knows the minute I close the laptop lid we are headed out for a walk.

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It is kind of interesting. I lost my wallet sometime between Thursday morning and Friday morning and now I don’t have any working credit cards. I don’t have a bank card, driver’s licences, health card or student card. It’s nice to have my options curtailed. I could save a lot of money if I couldn’t spend any of it.

I have figured out how I am going to tackle the kitchen, and I am going to go at it first when I start work after the dog walk. I am going to empty it out because everything is now covered with a fine dust. I am going to finish removing all the foam I can find and then get a bucket and a rag and wipe down the entire kitchen, including washing the floor. Then, one piece at a time, I am going to load the kitchen back in. But this time I am only going to load in things that I am actually going to use. Everything else is going to have to go into storage somewhere on this property. I don’t need it in the kitchen. That should cut down on a lot of the annoying clutter in the kitchen.

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Next I am going to clean the rubble out of the front hall and give everything a wipe down. There is also a lot of clutter in the front hall, items that are not in use and have no business sitting there unused and causing more distraction.

What I have just lined out is at least 4 hours work. And that does not take into account cleaning the bathroom upstairs.

I also have to remember to water the garden tonight. I am making an effort to actually have plants grow in the garden and my neighbour is giving me watering instruction. What I want to do, now that I don’t have a spray handle or a sprinkler, is dig a series of channels amongst the plants, irrigation channels, and run the water from the hose to seep into the channels.

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