Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Relationships and Recovery

You’ve hit bottom. You know who you are. You’ve made the decision.

I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use.

You’re cool with that. You know you have no place else to go, you have to stop or die.

And for a reason you can not explain, your significant other has let you come home. You lucky guy.

But your significant other, your S-O, is furious. She's always down on you. She's not letting you off easy, even though you're sober, even though you're going to Cocaine Anonymous, or Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous. Even though you SAY you're straight and sober, she's distant. She won't have sex. She'll barely let you hug her. She acts like she'll never let you in, like she has an inventory a mile long.

And she does. Her memory is FULL of things you've done and not done.

And she's yelling at you ALL OF THE TIME!

All you have to do is look guilty (and you always look guilty) and she’s on top of you like butter on toast. She's mad.

G-d forbid you should buy something. YOU’VE ALREADY WASTED ALL OF OUR MONEY. WE CAN’T BUY A HOUSE BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE. HOW CAN YOU SPEND $11.00 ON A PAPERBACK?

Or you're late. YOU WERE WITH HER!

Must be.

Or you bump into an old friend. YOU'RE USING AGAIN. YOU MUST BE. But you're not.

You say, I bought a book.

But BECAUSE my therapist told me that reading is better than snorting coke somehow doesn't cut it.

I was late because I had to work late.

I saw an old friend at a C.A. meeting!!!

SHE WANTS NO BECAUSE.

Tell her she’s right. You'll return the book. You'll take books out of the library from now on. You'll try to be on time. You will NOT see that friend outside of meetings and you will NOT be using drugs with him.

Repeat after me. She wants no BECAUSE. SHE WANTS NO BECAUSE.

You can’t defend yourself anymore. You don’t WANT to defend yourself anymore. Even if you have an excellent answer to her questions, even if you think you’re a hundred percent in the right and she’s way off track and she doesn’t get you and she’s unfairly maligning you and she’s exaggerating.

YOU’RE NOT TO DEFEND YOURSELF. Probably not for a few years, make it two years, best case scenario.

AND YOU’RE NEVER TO CON HER AGAIN, OR EVEN CONSIDER DOING THAT because

You want her. You want your kids. There will be no next time. There will be no more chances. So you’re going to work your program. You won't use. You'll hear her criticism, her anger, her sadness.

You’re going to let her tear you to pieces, beat the living emotional daylights out of you if that’s what she has to do, if that’s what feels good to her.

Should she get therapy?

Heck yeah.

Will therapy help her anger?

That all depends upon how angry she is AND whether or not you own what she’s talking about. But again, don’t think of conning her. She’s not letting you in so fast this time. You’re in the house, but there’s no way she’s letting you into her heart. She’s not stupid.

I’ve talked to partners of users who have been angry for so many years that there is no hope of them getting over it. They do not make it through the guy’s recovery marriage in tact. They have to leave. Oh, and sometimes, another guy has already taken your place.

What did you think?

So there’s no saying that you can really keep her, just because she said, “You can come home.” There’s no assurance in this post that even if you follow all that I’m about to tell you to do that she will not kick you out of her life. She might do it tomorrow, and honestly? Who could blame her? She’s been through so much more than you know.

That’s why you’re going to listen to every word she tells you.

Here’s the short list, the very least you can do to try to salvage your relationship.

1. You should not expect sex. Forget about it. Take care of yourself, do not cheat on her. Try to share a bed with the both of you fully dressed. Work on having a friendly relationship. See if at some point you can get kissed. Enjoy the kiss. Pretend it is the first kiss you have ever had in your life. Don’t make it a sexual kiss. Don’t make it passionate. Express your love softly. If she’ll let you.

2. When she’s yelling at you listen and own every word that comes out of her mouth. Do not argue. Validate what she says. Repeat what she says. Ask her if she minds if you write it down. Say things like, “I’ve been such a jerk, such a selfish person. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to hurt you anymore.” And mean it.

3. If she’s repeating the same rant over and over again it is because you haven’t responded to her complaint in a way that makes her feel you HAVE heard her. You’re probably responding defensively, telling her facts you think she’s missing and should know. This is not what she needs. She doesn’t care at all about your excuses. She needs you to hear what she’s saying and to grieve, as she is grieving, the insensitive, selfish, out of control human being you have been for as long as you have using, and perhaps before you ever started.

4. Do not hang onto that, “I’ve got a disease,” excuse. I love A.A. as much as the next doc, for sure more (since I like the religious/spiritual intervention, whereas not every doc does). But “It’s my disease” makes it seem so irrevocable, like a death sentence. It may very well be true that you will be an addict until you die, even many years after your sobriety has begun, but she doesn’t need to be reminded of that. It’s so negative. This is not about you, okay? It’s about the person you need to be to be in a relationship with HER.

5. You can’t ever, ever, ever, ever be in denial and think that indeed, you have this licked, that you can control your drinking, using, sexing, spending, whatever. Your mantra for the rest of your life is that you really can’t do it on your own. You will always need friends to help you, a community, probably A.A. , C.A., N.A, or a similar support group to keep your coping strategies operational. Getting a therapist and going to therapy once every couple of months for the rest of your life is a fine idea.

6. If she’s given you the chance to live with her during your recovery, you owe it to her (and to yourself) to become her MAN. You have to take care of HER. I’ve focused in this post upon you letting her vent. You’re to take in her anger, HEAR her words, VALIDATE her feelings, OWN the error of your ways. That's taking care of her.

This is all very hard. But it’s what a woman wants in a relationship with a significant other. She needs and deserves honesty. This means that you have to take a good look at yourself and match what she sees to what you see. She deserves to be heard. The anger you hear is her pain.

I know that when you listen to her vent that you want to shout back, WELL, WHAT ABOUT ME? I’M THE ONE WHO HAS TO COPE WITHOUT MY DRUGS AND IT IS SO FREAKING HARD, BABE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD.

She doesn’t want to hear it. She doesn’t care, honey. She just doesn’t care. She might have wanted to hear it at some point while you were using, maybe after your first relapse, but after a few years, after you’ve squandered good money after bad, after she’s slept alone knowing you’ve slept with others, and that you’ve lied a million times, deceived her in a million ways? She doesn’t care.

And you’re going to tell me that having to take that kind of beating makes you want to get high. I know it does. That’s why you have a sponsor, right? That’s why you go to meetings, maybe every day in the beginning, maybe many times a day. That’s why you see someone like me.

When you get those thoughts, especially the ones that tell you that you can’t stand it anymore (her attitude) and that you simply HAVE to use; if you’ve lost your sponsor, if you’re not in A.A., if you have no sober friends, then stop and think about why you’re really using.

She wasn’t there when you started. You’ve probably been using since you were a little kid. Maybe you were rebellious, maybe depressed. Maybe you wanted to fit in and had no idea how susceptible you’d be to substance abuse and dependency.

At the end of all those maybes is the simple truth that you needed something to do, something to change the way you were feeling, something to fill in your emptiness, loneliness, or bad to horrible sense of self.

Your using was never about her and it is STILL not about her.

You want her back? Shut up and listen to what she says and take it like a man. Take care of her. And don’t ever lie to her again. Oh, yeah. And don’t forget your next appointment.

P.S. After I posted this I saw an alcoholic in recovery. He goes to A.A. meetings twice a week. He would go three times a week but SHE wants him home (I told her, since it's a marital therapy, that she should kick him off to meetings as often as possible, but okay.) ANYWAY, he said that if he attended a meeting and complained that his wife was yelling at him too much that his group would say, DUDE. YOU DESERVE THAT AND SO, SO, MUCH MORE. JUST LISTEN.

'nuf said.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Therapy Doc!

I found your blog this morning on blogher. Wow, your blog site looks amazing. I can't wait to get home from work tonight and peruse the rest of your blogs.

The ones that I have read are so insightful, wonderfully written and to the point. What a treasure you are for those in need, which is all of us whether we admit it or not.

Therapy Doc said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Therapy Doc said...

Bloggers LIVE for positive feedback like the comment above.

It's not that we only live for positive feedback. I feel that even though the minutes can be tough for everyone, every single day, even the days that are bad (ala, I had a bad day) is a gift.

Annie didn't sing about Tomorrow for nothing.

Thanks to those of you who visit this site, who take away something when you read.

It's a good system we've got going here.

Therapy Doc said...

sorry about that grammatical error above. Yeah, I know you caught it.

Mark said...

I love your post! This is so good that I am printing this out and putting it in my wallet. There are so many people who could benefit from what you wrote today! Great job!
In one word it is all about "accountablity"

Bjurstrom said...

Dear Doc
my memory of things tends to be kinder than the reality.....however I think I needed to remember the real---this blog was very real...thanks for the sobering thoughts....no pun intended.

Dan G said...

Great fantastic wonderful blog post.

One observation: I am fascinated that when people/women want the male to act a certain way they say "be a MAN." But so often, when a male wants to or does behave 'like a man' the male is told how silly is that behavior.

curious.

Anonymous said...

Telling you that I wish my late husband had read this, understood it, lived it.

Artemis said...

I'm looking for some advice. We recently learned that my brother is an alcoholic and has stolen credit cards from my parents. Along with reporting this last theft (they didn't on the first two), they have decided they don't want him living in their house--at least for now--once he gets out of detox (his idea, 2nd time since Dec. 06). My sister and I have decided to let him stay with us (a couple of weeks w/me, a couple with her) for a limited time until he gets back on his feet, but we've been advised that we should have a contract listing what we expect if he wants to stay with us, something in writing that he will agree to and sign. But we have no background in this, so I was wondering, do you have advice as we cobble this contract together? Are there templates for this sort of thing? We realize it may take him a few more tries to kick this addiction, so we don't want to make things unnecessarily hard or authoritarian, but we don't want to do things that enable him either.

Thanks.

TherapyDoc said...

Me? I wouldn't want the risk of someone coming into my home and stealing from me. But he's your brother. My feeling is that any contract signed by an alcoholic is about as good as the paper it's written on. He's powerless over his drinking and will be for at least a year. If he really works a program then you'll know it. You'll SEE the differences in his personality. Where should he live? Very big problem. Maybe a half-way house, maybe Savation Army. I don't know. But stealing like he did tells me he's a mess and you're inviting that mess into your life. It will contaminate you, for sure, then you'll hate him for it. More damage, more regret. Go to Al-Anon or Families Anonymous, the programs for families of addicts for support and advice. You're going to need it. Good luck.

Artemis said...

Thanks. I appreciate it.

thejunkyswife said...

That just made my night. I want to make my husband read it. Can you come over and talk to him? He's such a dick right now, and wants me to imagine that the last 3 months of his shiftless unemployment, his constant lying, his stealing from me and rendering our lives into utter insanity just never ever happened. It happened, and I'm mad, and hurt, and I want him to suffer...I've been supportive long enough, and I need my chance to be pissed.

Grrrr! You've just given me permission to be a bitch! YAY!

therapydoc said...

Nah, I'm not coming over, but I'm glad you liked the piece. Sure, tell him I said so, but anger is the enemy. What is that expression? Don't just talk the talk?

BrokenHeart said...

I'm going through pain like this, because I discovered two months ago that my husband is a sexual Addict/Porn Addict. This article truly does apply to sexual addictions as well. It's hell to cope with the pain of such betrayal.

therapydoc said...

That would be the word, BrokenHeart.

David Rochester said...

This.
Was.
Great.

And it brings home to me, yet again, the fact that my narcissist alcoholic father is in fact not only an alcoholic, but a narcissist asshole. His attitude? "I'm not drinking now; all that stuff is in the past. Why don't you love me?"

Um.

Gosh, I can think of about ten million reasons.

therapydoc said...

Incredible, I know.

Anonymous said...

No way anybody should let anyone....

"... beat the living emotional daylights out of you if that’s what she has to do, if that’s what feels good to her."

That's abuse and it most definitely cannot lead to healing, in my opinion.

"...You want her. You want your kids...[so suck it up]" Abuse with a side of emotional blackmail. Lovely way to treat a fellow traveller.

If that's all you've got left to go home to, then move on, get straight and start over with someone who is not your enemy.

therapydoc said...

Thanks, Anon.

lynetteb said...

i am married to a man who has treated me very badly -- no beatings, no drugs, no affairs -- but verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, belittling, control, withholding affection, sex, decision-making, help, support. all bad.

i read this post, and i felt all that anger you described. over the past few years since my dad died and i realized how much my marriage was missing that my husband could not even say one word of kindness, reach out for a single hug, but instead would call me from work yelling at me for being irritable or cranky and "what the hell was your problem?!"

my father died, a**hole. someday yours will too.

and i wish i could vent all that anger at him and have him own it and hold it. but i think i would then be doing to him what he has done to me. there are reasons for his behavior. he DOES need therapy (as do i -- and i am doing it).

i feel sorry for him. he must be so unhappy. i am trying to own the knowledge that i cannot rescue him, and that i have a choice about living this way.

but i know that anger. and your post made me feel better inside. so powerful. even if i could never treat him that way. if i was that over the edge, i would not let him come home. because what would my kids see? and who would i be?

Cat said...

I wish somehow I would have read this in 2007 / 2008 when this was going on in my life. Maybe what I really mean is I wish he ahd read this.

We would stumble, fall, get up, try again and there were times I thought my anger would not allow me to move forward, would not allow him back in and it made me sad. The thought that I had waited around through all the shit years only to finally give up? Give in? Let go?

Happily, we are now better friends than we have ever been and it feels good after coming through so much together.

Cat said...

I wish somehow I would have read this in 2007 / 2008 when this was going on in my life. Maybe what I really mean is I wish he ahd read this.

We would stumble, fall, get up, try again and there were times I thought my anger would not allow me to move forward, would not allow him back in and it made me sad. The thought that I had waited around through all the shit years only to finally give up? Give in? Let go?

Happily, we are now better friends than we have ever been and it feels good after coming through so much together.

Cat said...

I wish somehow I would have read this in 2007 / 2008 when this was going on in my life. Maybe what I really mean is I wish he ahd read this.

We would stumble, fall, get up, try again and there were times I thought my anger would not allow me to move forward, would not allow him back in and it made me sad. The thought that I had waited around through all the shit years only to finally give up? Give in? Let go?

Happily, we are now better friends than we have ever been and it feels good after coming through so much together.

therapydoc said...

Yeah, if I had to pick a top three message to shout out to the universe, this would be one of them.

Bev said...

I'm with lynetteb. Maybe when someone first comes back you can treat them like that but soon after it's like-you have to rebuild trust and that has to come from both people-not just the one with the problem.

I think she is right as well about what example she would setting for their children. It's hard to balance between accountability and trust but it still needs to be done.

Craig said...

Wow, this is some tough love, right on the mark. I can see you are coming from a place of experience, and you care enough to say it like it is. Thanks for your caring, generous inspiration to deal with one's history, cold turkey.

therapydoc said...

Thanks for reading, Craig.

therapist in Irvine CA said...

I love your post! This is so good that I am printing this out and putting it in my wallet. There are so many people who could benefit from what you wrote today! Great job!

therapydoc said...

Thanks, therapist in Irvine. I'm really flattered.

jamie7397 said...

how long have you been hiding under my bed? j/k obviously but wow id swear to whoever you have video of the past two to three yrs of my life, which i love to watch by the way, even when i learn what kinda bone-head i can really be, lol. hey i love your blogs and getting to know a little about myself ,

therapydoc said...

Jamie, it does seem like I'm eavesdropping, hiding under the bed, no? Thanks for reading.

Liz said...

great post. thanks.

http://pocketshrink.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I have been forced to get my healing through blogs lately as my little one has STREP. Your has helped me tremendously. I would love if someone would delve into this view toward the alcoholic children involved too! Although I have my own program, after all the alcohol and cheating I still feel I deserve some form of truth and at times I feel that is unfair. Even if I knew the details of the affairs and such can I change it? Am I focusing on the problem or a solution? And so goes my anxiety about being healthy for me! UGH Thanks for the insight!

therapydoc said...

Anon, I can't give you any personal advice. One thing that's generally true is that boundaries are a good thing, and intimacy is something that takes time and trust. Maybe that helps, maybe not, but best of luck, and hope everyone recovers soon!

AnAddictsMom said...

Just found your blog and this post. It's perfect. If you haven't already done a version for kids (no matter how old they are) and their parents, we could really use one.