Another Epiphany

As part of my recovery I’d gotten very spiritual. Not in a traditional sense, but in more of a new age-y kind of way. I’ve always believed in signs, but I’d gotten more in tune with my intuition. It was a great way to feel my way through life. As life has gotten more busy, it’s been harder and harder to meditate. I’ve lost touch with myself in a lot of ways, but I’m working my way back.

At this moment, I’m actually pretty glad I’m a little “out of touch,” because I’ve been having a lot of realities hit me smack in the face. Tonight was yet another.

When my father reached a certain level of drunk he’d call me. The conversations ran a few different lines. One was about all the things he accomplished in life and all he had hoped to do, but didn’t. One was about his marriage to my mother and how he still loved her, but included all he had done wrong. One was a random rant about politics – he and I were polar opposites, but I typically kept my mouth shut to avoid the verbal assault I’d get for disagreeing. The worst line of his drunken rants was when he’d talk about sex.

I knew about his sex life with my mother, his girlfriends, and his second wife. I knew more than anyone would ever want to know. The conversation would often turn to me. He had me so groomed to not say no to him that I would find myself answering horribly personal questions about my sex life with my husband or boyfriend. It was a nightmare.

I felt frozen in place even though I knew I could just hang up the phone.

Hanging up on him sent him into rage and I’d spend the next hour cowering while my house phone would ring, then my cell, then my house, then my cell over and over and over again. I felt trapped, stalked, threatened, scared, sad, and helpless. Every. Single. Time.

This is where I always need to stop my recollections – when the tears start to flow – so on to the epiphany for tonight.

I HATED, absolutely HATED when my ex-husband would grope me. I would always feel completely violated. I absolutely understand that part. But, what I’ve learned during the several relationships since my divorce is this —

I can talk sex with anyone. I can talk fetishes, kink, extremes. As long as I am online, on the phone or having some other “safe” conversation, I’m okay. The other part of feeling safe is if I am not in a relationship with the person I’m speaking with.

HOWEVER — when a man with whom I’m involved starts talking dirty or rough or about fantasies, I feel myself shrink away. I’m feeling it with the man I’m currently dating – with whom I feel the “safest” I’ve ever felt. When he starts joking about sex or saying very sexy, suggestive things, my walls go up faster than a heartbeat. It makes me pull away.

Finally tonight I understood. The person who was supposed to keep me safe from the world exposed me to some of the worst life has to offer. My walls are the only thing that protected me – it certainly wasn’t my father. It’s that entire fear I’ve lived with my entire life – that the closer people get, the more they will hurt me. And it’s not just the criticism or physical abuse I’ve endured – it’s the feeling of being out of control and subjected to another person’s fantasies.

While I know I am safe with my boyfriend, my reaction after 44 years of living through my father’s sexual talk is the one I’ve developed for my own protection — I simply shut down. It has absolutely nothing to do with this man, but everything to do with what I grew up with – for as long as I can remember.

I need to continually remind myself that my father was a very sick man who would say things to me – as one therapist explained – to get off. And that very statement still makes me sick to my stomach more than a year after I first heard it.

He has been gone for more than 1-1/2 years and while I feel myself finally growing into the person I had been meant to be, I still am trying to work through the nightmare of a relationship I had with him. Tonight I will be honest with my boyfriend and tell him how I feel about the comments, of course including a reminder of why I feel that way. And I will remind myself that this man is not my father. My boyfriend has shown me in so many different ways how big his heart is and how much he is willing to do to make me feel loved, safe, and protected. It’s my issue to deal with; it’s his choice to stand by or walk away. But, I think he’ll stay.

My father is gone and for that reason alone, my world is a much safer place.

 

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Co-Dependency and Change

It’s amazing how clear things look from the outside. Other people who are stuck in their own toxic relationships seem to have things so easy when I look at the situation quickly. Silly me.

I often need to check myself back and remind myself that change isn’t easy for most people. And toxic relationships are inherently filled with fear. The status quo means we know what to expect when we walk in the door after work. If it’s the insults hurled at us while trying to make dinner or the drunken stupor just before bed, the status quo we have learned to manage our way through.

It’s the “What Ifs” that come with change that are absolutely terrifying.

Raw from the wounds that are freshly opened everything single night, even making a simple change to a hairstyle, losing 5 pounds, or coming home 8 minutes late because we took a new route home can send our lives into a new kind of death spiral.

My best friend is in an emotionally deadly type of relationship. The manipulation, the lies, the deceit, the exclusion, the silence are awaiting her every time she is home with her husband. It has broken my heart to watch her go through this for all of these years. He has her convinced that she can’t leave. That her life will be worse without him. That their daughters will suffer.

For the most part I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and listen. But as the years roll on, it has been a dull ache for me as well. At times I’ve hurt so badly for my friend that I wanted to confront her husband. That’s the co-dependent part of me – trying to swoop in and fix things even when the person doesn’t want a change. It’s the changes that I want for her that hurts me. I’ve learned to distance myself, but I sometimes find myself faltering in my detachment.

The time leading up to my divorce was tough, but I made it and my kids and I are achieving things we never would have had I stayed married. The changes are amazing and despite the heartache, I am so thankful I took the leap of faith and got out of my toxic relationship. As a co-dependent, I still find myself considering helping my ex-husband. But my help only hindered him for years. I allowed him to stay a 20-something. My co-dependence was bad for us both. I want the same freedom for my friend. Freedom to make her own happiness.

I’ve tried to explain how wonderful a fresh start can be. I’ve tried to explain that her daughters will follow in her footsteps and will, most likely, end up in toxic relationships. I’ve tried to be gentle. I’ve tried tough love. I’ve tried it all.

But I know that her path is hers alone. I cannot take steps for her. Nor can I make decisions for her. I can only look at her life from the outside and try to remind myself that what I see so clearly is a reflection of my path. She is the only one who can choose her own steps.

Part of co-dependency is putting other people ahead of ourselves; trying to be the solver of problems. Changing that aspect of ourselves is tough. One of the biggest lessons is to step back and realize that other people walk their own path. They are the ones who have to hit rock bottom. They are the ones who have to make their own life decisions. We need to learn how to detach ourselves so that when those we love hit rock bottom, we aren’t drug down with them to the airless bottom.

What I have learned without a doubt is this — Change is constant. Change can be hard. But not changing can be deadly to the soul.

Coping Techniques

Addiction comes in so very many forms. It can be an OCD-type of obsession, alcohol, food, drugs, gambling, or any number of things or behaviors that affect your thoughts and your day-to-day ability to function.

We go through life living our own unique experience and dealing with each event using our own viewpoint to make decisions. Most of us try to do the best with can with the hand that we are dealt. With that we all have our coping techniques. I went through periods of drinking too much and now can go months or years without a drop of alcohol. My most loyal coping mechanism has always been food.

When I’m happy I eat. When I’m upset I eat. When I’m bored, aggravated, annoyed, tired or really any emotion at all. It’s truly an amazing feat that I am only tickling at 200lbs and not 500.

I’ve been told that overeating is a mechanism adopted by victims of childhood sexual abuse. Being overweight makes us feel safer because we are less attractive. It makes sense in a really dysfuntional kind of way. But, what is addiction other than a dysfunctional coping mechanism.

My father – the person who was the source of most of my abuse – died in the fall of 2014. I don’t miss him. I don’t miss the drunk phone calls telling me what a horrid person I am. I don’t miss the comments telling me that I’m worthless, fat, and that my daughters – his granddaughters – flirt with him or he knows they’ll be having sex soon.

Seriously – what kind of sick person says that kind of shit?

Since his death I’ve been healing. Baby steps, but steps nonetheless. I’m giving myself credit for all that I’ve accomplished, but also the daily steps I take – getting out of bed, telling my children that I believe in them and that they are capable of greatness and, yes, credit for choosing a salad instead of a burger.

His 75th birthday would have been this past Saturday. I wished him a happy birthday in hell and wished him crispiness as he burns.

Perhaps someday I will not take such pleasure in that thought or those wishes, but for now the image makes me smile.

Perhaps my healing will reach a peak when this insane lawsuit my half-sister served me and my brother with is over. See, my father also convinced her that I am worthless, but that she deserves the world. Heaven forbid – in her opinion – my brother share in our father’s estate and certainly I should get nothing.

That pain has been the source of my binge eating lately, but at least I see my self-destruction and understand the cause.

I know I am worthy of all the world has to offer. One day I won’t feel that I need to prove that to others.

Secrets

When I started this site 3 months ago I was gung ho about purging myself of all of the demons that rattle around in my head.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to face them down publicly.

We often hear how keeping our secrets hurts us the most. Opening up and telling the truth allows the healing to begin. I believe it.

But sometimes pulling off the scab is so incredibly scary and overwhelming.

Everyone who deals with addiction knows how to keep secrets – whether we want to admit it or not.

I was married for 16 years. He and I were together for 18. It took until 2-1/2 years after our divorce for me to tell him that I had been molested. It took more than 6 months after my father had died for me to tell him. He couldn’t understand why. But I could only admit it to myself a year after our divorce was final.

I was fortunate that I was able to bust open the facade and confront my father before he was diagnosed with cancer. I was able tell him that I will no longer be his whipping post. I was able to say that I don’t trust him, would never trust him and was mortified with the things he said about my daughters. I told him that I knew he was a sick man. And I let my siblings know all of this at the same time.

It was a defining moment to me. No more secrets. My brother supported me. Never questioned me. I’m sure it explained quite a bit about me to him. He was horrified that I dealt with what I dealt with. I realized at that moment that no matter how much I resented him at times (as younger sisters sometimes do), my brother had ALWAYS been the strongest supporter I had ever had. It still brings me to tears. My brother is amazing and I am thankful for him.

My half-sister, on the other hand, stopped speaking to me.

Reflecting back on my marriage, I realized that I never felt safe or protected by my husband. Incident after incident showed me that he would take the back seat to everyone and I was on my own. I could never let down my guard enough to tell him about the demons I battled.

The man I have been dating for the last year allows me to share my truths without judgment. He makes me feel safe, protected and loved. He has the patience to allow me to share my secrets when I feel comfortable. No pressure. He is willing to sit quietly, holding me, and just let me slowly peel off the scabs to release my secrets and let the healing in.

 

 

 

 

 

The Beginning

Many of my earliest memories are no different from anyone else’s.

Family.
Beloved pets.
My bedroom.
Music.

I categorize my memories just like anyone else into what home I lived in; who I was with; what the weather felt like. Mine also include before and after my parents’ divorce when I was three.

A few memories have always stood out among the others.

Standing at my bedroom window looking down into the street and seeing people gathered in front of the house. I remember being frightened and sad. Being younger than 3, I am surprised I remember anything, but it’s one of my only memories of when my parents were married. It took me until I was in my 30s to learn that what I had translated into thinking I was left alone during a neighborhood street party was actually me looking down at the neighbors gawking while the police came to drag my drunken father out of my dog’s house in the backyard.

Going under my cousins’ front porch to play a bunch of times. They lived in a great big farmhouse and I loved going there. My aunt was always wonderful and one of my older cousin was more like a sister to me. One day her oldest brother took the two of us under the front porch and told us to pull our pants down so he could see which one of us had the bigger girl parts. I remember him “measuring” with his fingers, then she and I pulled up our pants and went inside. I remember never feeling comfortable around him again. Even now more than 40 years later.

Always plagued with night terrors, I awoke at my father’s house one night and went to his room. I know I was young, but am not sure how old. I would guess younger than 5. I climbed into his bed because I was scared and snuggled up against him. He rolled over and stuck his hand down the back of my underwear. I freeze up at this memory every single time. I don’t remember anything after that. It’s as if a door slams shut. Even now, putting it in writing makes me shake and my throat has a big lump in it. I guess it’s something I still can’t understand or deal with.

There were good times, of course, but when I look back at myself in pictures from my youth, I see such sadness. The older I become, the more I realize that none of this was anything about me, necessarily. It all is about other people’s demons that they let take over. I was a child. I did nothing wrong.

Unfortunately it’s taken me decades to get to the point where I feel I can let my guard down. Decades of bad relationships, my own divorce, and the threat of my own daughters being potential victims for me to finally find my voice. To forgive myself. To forgive the people who hurt me. To realize that this is my life. I can’t change my past, I can only come to terms with it.

I am the child of two addicts – an alcoholic father who began drinking to quiet his demons around the time I was born (which is another topic for another post) and a mother who became a prescription drug addict after a medical procedure gone badly. I realize now that my mother has her own demons and she let them take over her life. I let mine rule my life for far too long.

During the craziness of the past few years of my life, I have decided to take my life back and make it what I want it to be rather than just floating along and landing wherever the wind takes me or wherever other people decide I should be. This is my one life and it’s never too late to make my dreams come true.

This blog is my story. My life. My truth. I’m owning it now. And this is part of my healing.