Category Archives: You’ll Be Ok

Lost and Found

When going through healing and recovery, they recommend making a list of all your losses as a result of being married to an addict. It’s important to acknowledge them so that you can grieve and process them (as opposed to ignoring, denying, or being oblivious to them). What they don’t tell you when you’re making this list is that you will eventually have to then list how all those perceived losses could, with time, be restored. This exercise was an extremely powerful tool for me, and I thought I’d share my experience with you:

Outside of my freedom from the STDs I got, I was unsuccessful in identifying any of my losses that are unable to be restored, at some point, in my future. Of note, my personal power is the biggest. I may have felt like a powerless victim, but the fact is I always did, and still do have a choice in everything and every situation. In victim-mode I was more focused on not having a choice in the things that were out of my control. This is true and remains true. I do not have a choice in his behavior and acting out. I did not cause his addictions, I cannot prevent his addictive behavior, and I cannot cure it. I do not have a choice in how he does his recovery. But the fact is, I never lost that control because I never had it to begin with. Although it was occasionally surrendered, I had, and continue to have, a voice and a choice in my marriage. That was never lost.

I could argue that I “lost” my husband, but if I were to be brutally honest, I never “had” him in the first place. He was, and still is, his own person. And although I could say I “lost my partner”, even that would be untrue. When he left, every night in my anguish, shock, and pain, I fell to my knees and prayed. I am not a religious person, nor do I ever pray. But this got me on my knees praying and I prayed for him. I prayed for us. I prayed for our family.  Through the time I spent in prayer (and not getting any of those things I was asking for) I unexpectedly fell into a new partnership – a partnership with God.

Another perceived loss was my hope in my marriage, my relationship with men, and in my ability to trust myself and my intuition. While I still do not have “hope” in any of these, I do know that they can be rebuilt – even the marriage- if that is in God’s will. My hope right now, as I have slowly learned, is that, one day at a time, my Higher Power is walking with me and giving me the courage and wisdom I need to make it through these difficult times. This gives me hope for my future. I know I will make it out alright. My perceived loss of “hope” has developed into a new found “faith” and my “faith” has been strengthened exponentially all because of my initial loss of hope.

Some things that appear lost, apparently,
transform themselves into new bigger and better things.

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I also thought I had lost my smile, my inner light, joy, and brightness. I have found that I may have lost it at a moment, but that moment was not the first time. I have lost it several times in my life and through time got it back.

This too, shall pass.

Interestingly, I also listed that I had lost my friends, family, and people that matter most. I had put the spotlight on my husband as having this role as all of those people, not realizing that there are tons of other people that fill those roles in my life. Not only that, but I’ve come to find that they have always been there for me, even in my darkest moments, even when I’ve made bad decisions that could have sent them running. I don’t know where my husband falls into this equation yet, but I do know that I never lost my friends, family, or the people that matter the most. If anything, their commitment to me through this whole ordeal has been a sign of their unconditional love, acceptance, and importance in my life, as well as my significance in their life.

I thought I had lost my ability to trust, but I realize that I actually trust a lot of people. In fact, there are some people that I didn’t trust at one time and trust them now. I realized that trust comes and goes. It is lost and gained again. It is possible that my trust for my husband is gone now and can come back later. It is also possible that my trust for my husband will never return. The reality is I don’t know. I never questioned or worried about him or his behavior in the past and now that is all that I do. This may last for a while and go away, or it may stay forever. I don’t know. The truth is, though, that I never lost my ability to trust. It’s largely dependent on time and the relationship evolution. I also realized that although I don’t trust him on some things, there are things that I do trust him on: he’s a hard worker, he loves his son, he has the capability of being honest, good, and genuine (he just chooses not to be sometimes). So while it is true that I lost trust in him, I have to admit that it hasn’t been lost completely. Is that enough to stay in the marriage? Of course not! But I’m not going to blind myself with this false belief that he is completely untrustworthy, because that simply is not the case.

I also thought that I had lost my confidence, but that, like trust, was not completely lost. I may have lost confidence in how my husband feels about me, but I never lost confidence in how I feel about me. I really like who I am and what I bring to the table. I see my flaws, know I’m not perfect, but still feel that I am a person worthy of love, admiration, affection, and loyalty. I believe I am valuable, beautiful, and wanted. I believe my opinions matter, that I am smart, and worth fighting for (even if he chose not to). I believe that I am capable of doing anything, even if I have to do it alone. I believe I have it in me to overcome any hardship and that I am resilient and wonderful. I have no confidence that my husband sees that in me, but I see it in me, and I think that’s all that matters. Maybe one day he will see it. Maybe he never will. But that, apparently, was never enough to affect how I see myself.

I thought I had lost the ability to protect my baby, my kids’ future, and my ability to do good parenting. I thought that my choices had caused such irreparable damage that I had somehow scarred their adulthood. My hypervigilance and controlling behavior for sure, had gotten the best of me, and took my attention and energy away from them, and that has definitely affected them. But my ability to right the wrongs and turn our lives down a different path, for sure, has not been lost.

I thought I had lost the ability to feel comfort, security, and peace in my own home. Everything had become a trigger: our bed, our T.V., etc. After the separation, however, I moved some things around, changed a few rituals and rules, made some space for myself and am starting to feel at home (maybe even more so than before). My sons and I enjoy the space and the loss I felt was only there because I was connecting my marriage to my home. A home is just a physical place- it was the meaning I put on it that made me feel suffering.

Finally, I thought that I had lost my belief in love. I thought that everything I thought about love and marriage had been wrong. After the betrayal I began to believe that maybe there is no such thing as “real love” and that maybe every man cheats on his wife and every marriage will suffer these wounds. I thought that love meant being loyal and honest and committed. I began to believe that the past we had was all a lie. I have since learned that our past was not a lie. I do not know how he really felt or even how he feels now, but I do know that my love for him was true. I also have learned that love is still what I thought it was, but it’s also something MORE. Love is freedom. I have learned that it is not easy, as I had believed, to love another. Love is very difficult because it means allowing the person to be free to make his/her own choices, to walk his/her own path, and to find his/her own way in life. It is the greatest sign of love, to let go of another and let them be free. Anything else would be selfish, and selfish is the opposite of love.

At the end of the exercise, I learned I lost nothing but gained everything.

So what’s up with all these sad crappy feelings and emotions? It’s called grief. It’s normal, it’s good, and will pass.

Fear and Insecurity- How It Lead Me to Being Fearless and Less Insecure

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When I was six years old, I remember getting the training wheels off my Rainbow Bright bicycle and riding alone for the first time. The feeling was exhilarating and the fact that my bike was Rainbow Bright made it magical. What a glorious moment for a six-year old. I was fearless.

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Needless to say, the bike apparently wasn’t that magical as I fell off and scraped my knee. My father ran to me, scooped me up, and took me to the house. Although I was hurt, I hadn’t cried until I looked down and saw the blood. The blood horrified me. Just the look of it made the pain grow exponentially. “The blood! The blood!” I screamed. The pain, not from falling, but from seeing the blood, was unbearable. My father never let me live that down…

Now I’m 34 years old and still sensitive to the sight of blood, but it doesn’t intensify the pain. I’ve since learned that neither blood or riding a bike equals pain. I can enjoy a bike ride without fear of falling off. I can see blood and not feel immense pain.

But when we are traumatized with other horrific events, such as being betrayed by a spouse’s infidelity, everything that is connected with the infidelity becomes the “blood” that intensifies our fear. Now, whenever I pass a massage parlor, I feel pain. My emotional pain increases and I experience tension, anxiety, fear, sadness…(the list could go on). Whenever I hear my husband’s phone go off, I experience the same feelings. Whenever I am triggered (my triggers are numerous!) I fall into great despair. My emotions go into a downward negative spiral and my creativity peaks as I start envisioning all the times he acted out and was unfaithful. I create stories that may have never even happened, and somehow manage to make it the worst possible scenario imaginable. I then relive those events in my mind and heart, over and over. While the betrayal was real, and the emotional turmoil and trauma I experienced was real, the pain wasn’t something I needed to hold on to. It is natural to grieve and feel “broken-hearted”. All those feelings are natural and should be appreciated. You’ve been hurt! Hurt hurts! It’s supposed to! But it doesn’t have to last, and it doesn’t have to be recreated or tightly held on to. Even now, as we pick up the pieces of a shattered dream, there are days when I feel paralyzed by my fear of him acting out again, of being betrayed again.. and I am totally justified to feel that fear. I could even let that fear control my entire day.

It’s fear. Fear of the unknown.
Fear of ambiguity.
Fear of being hurt again.
It is insecurity.

The feeling is real, for sure.
But it doesn’t have to affect me unless I let it.

I could have decided, at six years old, that considering the pain involved, riding a bike was way too risky and not worth the effort, but I didn’t. My desire to experience life and all it had to offer- especially on an awesome Rainbow Bright bike (did I mention the rainbow streamers on the handle bars?) with the wind blowing through my hair as I rode down the street- was stronger than the fear of experiencing that pain ever again.

It took me a while to finally understand that massage parlors, prostitutes, other women, porn, and sex were not my enemy. They were doing what they were supposed to do. They were doing their job. It’s a reality I could not fight. To deny their existence would be a battle I was sure to lose, every single time. Every time I tried to fight that battle, I would feel more pain and more fear.

What I did learn was that not even my husband was my enemy. He was just doing what he does. He was “doing his job” too. That was his reality at the time, on his path in his life. It was his choice and there was nothing I could do to prevent that from happening, and nothing I can do to prevent it from happening in the future. In fact, even if I decided to get a new husband, lover, or partner, there’s still nothing I can do to prevent it from happening again. People will make their choices whether or not I like them, because that is reality.

Emotional and physical pain sucks. Betrayal sucks. Infidelity sucks. Lies suck. Liars suck. Reality can really suck. But in the end, it’s still reality and whether or not I fear all of that, it’s still a reality.  I can choose to remain resentful, mad, angry, sad, depressed, insecure and fearful, but the crappiest reality about that is that it will only affect me in the end. Me staying resentful, mad or angry and depressed won’t affect anyone else but me. And why would I want that? Life will still play out in unpredictable ways. It will bring joy and it will bring sadness.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of bikes and I’ve fallen down a lot as well. I chose to ride again, despite the numerous crashes. I’ve learned that some falls I could learn from and take certain measures to prevent similar crashes. But there were other falls that were completely out of my control.

I can let that insecurity ruin my day, month, year, and even life. Or, I can let it go.

I’m  not saying don’t feel your pain. I’m not saying don’t process your pain or deny your pain. I’m saying don’t dwell on it.

Feel it, acknowledge it, AND…MOVE…ON.

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Running Away From…Myself

I thought I finally figured out why I was staying in the relationship; I was staying because I was afraid that if I left it meant that I didn’t try hard enough, or that there was something that I still had to prove to someone. And then it hit me…
I wasn’t staying because of that. I was staying because I was running away from the responsibility I had towards myself. By staying I was able to use the excuse that I had to take care of this person, or I had to prove myself to this person or that person. By taking care of, and helping others, I had a a sense of control. This was not the control over others; it was a different kind. It was a false perception that my life was under control. In other words, the belief that I had my shit together.
And from the outside, it seemed pretty believable to those who didn’t know me. I stayed and remained codependent, trying to help this person and make this person feel loved. I wanted to prove that I was worthy and great. I put up with things I shouldn’t have, and I stayed because if I left him I knew I would regret it and always wonder, “if I tried harder would it be different?” But somewhere deep down inside of me I knew I was lying to myself. I wasn’t staying for that reason. I was staying because I didn’t want to do those things to myself. I didn’t want to work hard for myself, or suffer for myself, or take care of myself… Why? Was it because I didn’t feel like I was worthy? No… It was because somewhere inside of me I wanted someone else to do that for me.
I longed for someone else to burn with passion to love me, take care of me, be patient with me, protect me, and stay by my side no matter what, like I was doing for so many others. I longed for someone to make me feel secure and accepted, because I didn’t get that as a child. Since I knew that wasn’t going to happen, I had to put those expectations and desires on someone else. I was subconsciously setting myself up for the greatest disappointment.
That was my codependency. That IS codependency. That was the root of the problem. I resented the fact that there was no one there to do all those things for me so I found a way to do that to others, and that was by being in a relationship in which I could guarantee I could do that (which meant being with someone who needed “fixed”).
When I finally realized that it wasn’t him that needed fixed- it was me- I finally realized there was nothing I could do to truly help him. No amount of “unconditional love and forgiveness”, no amount of patience, and no amount of me sacrificing my own needs for him would “fix” things for him. Now only did I NOT need to fix him, I didn’t need the relationship either.
Perhaps he did need “fixed” in many ways (Sex addiction is killing people daily and hurting people and crushing families, so yes, it has to stop) but, that wasn’t my job, it was his. My job was, and always has been, to love and care for myself. I owed it to myself to treat myself with the same unconditional love and acceptance I gave others. I owed it to myself to make good decisions for my physical, mental, spiritual, and financial health. I owed it to myself to give myself love, laughter, and smiles every day. I deserved it.
But I was so afraid that if I did that for myself it would mean that no one else would… and oh how I secretly wished, hoped, and prayed that someone else would… So I clung to this marriage half expecting, half hoping, that I could put that heavy and impossible burden on my spouse, because the thought of me loving myself and taking care of myself and doing what was right for myself horrified me.
For some reason, taking care of myself had the image of rejection, isolation, being alone, and missing affection. I clung to the marriage because I was afraid of what it meant to face myself and say, “I love you, and I’m sorry.”
I was afraid to look in the mirror and say to that beautiful woman staring back at me, “Hey! You! Yeah, you. YOU deserve so much better, and I’m going to make sure YOU are safe, loved, protected, respected, accepted, admired, and even adored. I am going to treat YOU well. I am going to give YOU what YOU need, because I love YOU.”

Holding on to Painful Memories: A protective mechanism, or something else?

As I was doing dishes, ruminating on the acting out my husband was doing, a thought came to mind: Maybe me ruminating on past trauma and painful memories is a natural coping mechanism- an attempt to protect myself. Like cavemen who had to remember which berry was poisonous or where the dangerous animals where, they had to rely on memory, so they held up those memories in order to protect themselves from future harm.
 caveman surviving piece
Maybe that’s me, just enacting my primal instincts to protect myself from future emotional pain and betrayal. This might have been important 300 thousand years ago, but does it truly protect me or serve me well now?
The one thing I failed to realize is that it doesn’t prevent the event from happening. In fact, no amount of spying, snooping, nagging, threatening, or manipulating kept it from happening. He still acted out. He still lied. He still hurt me. My ruminating just kept me in a state of panic, anxiety, worry, and confusion.
Maybe a part of me felt spent so much time thinking about it because it justified that he was wrong and I was right; that he was the evil villain and I was the innocent victim. I constantly worried and ruminated on the acting out because if I didn’t worry I might trust again. I might get lazy or absent-minded and forget about the danger and fall for future betrayal.
It was a tactic that didn’t work because it kept my mind off the here-and-now (what was really sitting in front of me) and paralyzed me in What-If Land.

 

 

How A Beat Up 1987 Toyota Camry Changed My Life

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At one of the largest turning points in my life (my 2nd year of undergrad in New York) I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on life. I was flunking all my classes. I walked in on my boyfriend of 4 years sleeping with another woman. I had two jobs and still, my bank account was nearing zero. I was living off of canned tuna and rice. I was living in a basement and still couldn’t afford rent and was being evicted.

“Why try anymore? I’ve done so much already and nothing happened. It’s too much work, and I don’t know if my efforts will ever pay off. What if I’m destined to live this life? Why not just accept it?” I told myself.

Here I was, a small town girl from Idaho, living in New York trying to make something of myself, but no matter how hard I tried, I kept failing. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t good enough. It’s not fair! Why does everyone else have it so easy and I have to struggle? No one loves me. No one will ever love me. I’ll always be a failure. I’ll never find happiness… “I quit! This is hopeless!” I told myself.

On what I decided was my last week of class, my professor noticed my glum attitude and asked me to dinner. That night changed my life. We talked about why I was sad, what I was so disappointed in, and why I was blaming my life and problems on external things like other people, my childhood, and “bad luck” or “destiny”. She told me:

“Everything that you have done in the past, and everything you are doing right now, and everything that you will do in the future is because YOU chose to do it. Everything that you didn’t do in the past, and everything you aren’t doing right now, and everything you don’t do in the future is because YOU chose not to do it.”

I fought back, “No! I don’t have a choice in this! I tried! I did my best! It didn’t work! It’s hopeless now….I’m not at fault! This is just life. I’m being realistic!”

She repeated what she told me, again, and again, and again, until it finally sunk in. “THIS IS YOUR LIFE, AND ALL OF IT IS YOUR CHOICE. AND YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR CHOICES AT ANY MOMENT…”

Wait… what? I can change my choices at any moment? At each and every moment in my life, I can change what I chose to do or not do…

13 years have passed since that day. The greatest lesson of my life. Sometimes I still want to externalize my disappointments. But I’m constantly reminded of her words. I learned that honestly owning up to your choices (good or bad) takes a lot of courage. I learned that if one choice didn’t put me where I wanted to be, I had to make a different choice.

So ask yourself: “Do I like where I am right now in life?” If not, “What did I do to get myself into this situation?”

Now ask yourself: “What can I choose to do now to change my situation?”

The good news is, no matter what choice you make, IT’S ALL YOURS!

The bad news is, that no matter what choice you make, the consequences are all yours too. So choose wisely…

But if you really want it, you do what it takes. Yes, the first few steps are the darkest and scariest, and it might mean leaving New York with your tail between your legs, feeling like a failure while you get into your broken down 1987 Toyota Camry in the middle of summer with no radio and no air conditioner, with one door hanging off it’s hinges, and driving across the country to move back in with your parents and starting all over until you get back on your feet… (or not! That’s just what it took for me.) The point is, no one is to blame for your life, and changing it is scary because we are essentially stepping into the unknown- out of our comfort zone – that place where, ironically, all the juiciest, yummiest, priceless payoff is waiting. Yup… A good life takes effort, work, and time.

I learned that no magic fairy dust or princess wand was going to bring bliss to me on a silver plate… (Yeah, I think I may have honestly hoped it would at that time. And why not? I deserved it! I was a good person. I had good intentions. I was a hard worker. I was nice…I thought…)

What I learned was that no one on this Earth owed me anything. What I learned was that those first steps, however scary, ultimately empowered me and served as a reminder that I AM THE MASTER OF MY LIFE. If it sucks, it’s because I let it suck.

This life is all yours. If you don’t like it, or notice you keep seeing the same disappointments, CHANGE something you are doing in your life! But your life is yours, and only yours, for the taking. It’s your birthright. Own it. Your ONE life is here for you now.

BTTB – Going Back to the Basics in Moments of Strife

Often times people will ask me for a “quick fix” to a specific problem that they may be having, and each time I try to reach into the back of my mind for quotes, books, movies or songs that helped me in my (one of several) times of struggle, and although there are so many inspiring messages out there, I always find myself going back to the same piece of advice – Find gratitude in this moment, because it is an essential piece to something greater.

When I was at the peak of my troubles- or should I say the birth of my freedom- I fell upon an audio book by someone I can’t remember now, but what they said stayed with me and it was to always maintain the attitude of gratitude. I think that came from “The Secret” or was at least inspired by it. The point was to trust that at this very moment, recognize that everything is just as it should be. To trust and recognize that you have everything you need for this very moment, and that the struggles were also a part of what I “need”. I’m not going to go into detail right now (perhaps some day I will) about what all that means, but I was at my greatest despair. I had taken a great leap of faith in ending an abusive marriage and took on two jobs to take care of my son and two dogs. I was scared, insecure, alone, and had been told for years that I would never be able to make it on my own. For me, having confidence in my decision was one thing, but being grateful for the repercussions that came out of it (a lot of hard work and navigating my life as a single mother all alone) was key.

It’s been 4 years, and although I’ve come really far, the inevitable downfalls in life will occasionally dampen my spirits. In those times, I like to remember the speech, “Gratitude” (spoken by Brother David Steindl-Rast, music by Gary Malkin, and Louis Schwartzberg’s cinematography):

“You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. it’s the only gift that you have right now and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.

Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes that can open. That incredible array of coors that is constantly offered to us for our pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather, and even with the weather we don’t think of all the nuances of weather. We just think of good weather and bad weather.

This day right now is unique weather. Maybe a kind that will never be the same as it is right now. Open your eyes.

Look at that. Look at the faces of whom you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face. A story that you could never fully fathom. Not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far. And in this present moment, on this day, all the people you meet, and all that life from generations and from so many places from all over the world, flows together and meets you here, like a life giving water, if you only open your heart and drink.

Open your heart to the incredible gift that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light. You turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water, and drinkable water. It’s a gift that millions and millions of people in the world will never experience.

These are just a few of an enormous number of gifts that we can open our heart to. So I wish that you will open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you. Let everyone who you will meet be blessed by you. Just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch, just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you. And then, it will really be a good day.”