Sunday, April 26, 2009

Invincible Summer

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." ~Albert Camus

I found this quote in my copy of Courage to Change, which I just received from Amazon this week. It was on the page for a day in January a couple days after discovery, a day which is actually my husband's sobriety date for alcohol and sexual acting out. There was a lot of snow on the ground at the time.

Winter is my least favorite time of year. I hate being cold. Since moving from my temperate-climate part of the country to this college town where they have real (cold, snowy) winters, I've had to really adjust to getting around in several feet of snow. We live in an old house with very little insulation, and heating is an expensive proposition in the wintertime. Discovery came at a time when I was already physically suffering from the weather, and the emotional circumstances fit as well. I was stuck in the snow, and I was stuck in this situation that I couldn't control or change or cure.

The snow is finally gone, both from the ground and from our marriage, one could say. I guess I'm not as stuck in my own fear and denial as I was in the winter, and I have some tools to avoid being stuck in the future. I'm learning how to live with intention now, something I thought I was doing before. I guess I was doing it in some areas of my life, but not in my most intimate relationships.

The above quote gives me a lot of hope, something I don't often get from quotes. I know I'll need that invincible summer within me to get through whatever the future holds.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Marriage makes you ready for marriage.

One of the notable authors in the area of marriage counselling is David Schnarch, author of "Passionate Marriage." I'm a big fan of his. One of his main contentions is that issues that arise in marriage (and he includes committed relationships, particularly those of people who are not allowed to legally marry, like same-sex couples) should not be dealt with in a pathology model, saying that there is something "wrong" with the relationship that caused the issue or problem. He states repeatedly that "problems" are inevitable in marriage, because it is the nature of marriage to bring up our issues and force us to deal with them. He likes to say, "Nobody is ready for marriage. Marriage makes you ready for marriage."

Of course, the problems I am facing in my marriage now are related to pathology. In fact, aside from the things that addiction has brought into our marriage, our relationship is surprisingly strong. We have a great deal of love and respect for each other, probably even more than we ever have had before. That doesn't mean that everything is going to turn out rose-petals and walks into the sunset for us. But we have a lot to work with, and a lot to be thankful for.

On my run this evening I started out by thinking of how I was going to start working my steps. I really want to get started on them. I am a "planner" and a "doer." Giving me a list of 12 steps is a challenge, because once I saw them I immediately began planning how I was going to work each of them and get them done. Why? Did I think I would be "recovered" faster if I did my homework quickly? I don't think so, per se...but there was a clear plan outlined, and it is in my nature to want to work a plan.

But I don't have a sponsor. I'm a long way from getting a sponsor. I don't even really have a HP. What I decided to do was "act as if" and say a prayer, just like I used to when I was tight with the Baby Jesus. I prayed to...something...HP?...for guidance on how to start my steps and get a sponsor. And I had a sense of an answer, from the Universe or from somewhere within myself, or maybe from an external HP, who knows. That was..."wait."

I have a bunch of work to do before really doing a good First Step, so I used the rest of my run to meditate on how I got here. I thought about my family of origin, my relationship with my mother (a blog topic for later...) and ended up thinking about marriage and wondering what Schnarch would have to say about all this SA and alcoholism stuff. I don't really know what he'd have to say about it. But I am certain, without a doubt, that my husband and I are together for a reason and that we were drawn to one another for a purpose. I think we recognized something in one another that brought out the best and the worst in us both. And I think the worst possible thing for me to do right now would be to bail on this marriage (not that I want to, because I don't, but I used to think I should).

One of the things that Schnarch says a lot in his books is that marriage is a people-growing machine. Marriage has certainly forced me to deal with things that I would not have dealt with otherwise. I thought about the first time I learned that my husband had been unfaithful to me. It was about 9 months after we were married. I probably wouldn't have even found out if we weren't married, because the woman found me on Myspace through my husband's page. If he didn't have me on his page, and have his status as "married", and if I didn't have photos of our wedding on my all likelihood she never would have sent me the message that he had cheated on me with her. And if she didn't tell me, he certainly never would have. If I did somehow find out about it, there is a pretty good chance that I would have left the relationship if we weren't married. (I say "good chance" because I'm a pretty good codependent, and he might have been able to talk me into staying...I have no way of knowing.) The only think I know for sure is that things would not have turned out exactly the way they have if we were not married.

And for all the pain and turmoil that this has caused for us, I wouldn't want it to have turned out differently. (Okay, a couple things, yes.) I needed to be forced to see my own illness and deal with it. My husband needed to be forced to see his own illness and deal with it. We needed a basis of honesty to really make our marriage work and grow. I do believe our marriage, as it was, ended on the day of discovery, January 7th, and thank HP for that. What we have today is the beginning of a relationship based on reality, not illusion and denial.

I don't believe that we would be in this place today if we weren't married. I know a lot of people say that it's "just a piece of paper." I've been married twice, and in my experience, it is not. There is something about that legal binding that adds a certain weight and significance to the decisions you make individually and as a couple. You can walk away from it, but you are still bound, and in a way you always will be, even if you divorce. (I heard somewhere else that you never really divorce, you just add marriage partners. Anyone who has been married to a divorced person can attest to that--the ex is never really out of your life completely.)

As I thought about this, I realized that this creates yet another injustice in the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Today, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage in their state. I personally feel that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is one of the biggest civil rights travesties of my generation and should be one of our generation's biggest contributions to the future of the United States. I see no difference between this battle and the "anti-miscegeny" arguments of Loving v. Virginia. (And don't quote me the Bible; I don't recognize it as an authority in civil matters, or any other for that matter.) If Loving v. Virginia hadn't happened, I might not have been legally permitted to marry my husband in the first place, and nothing in our lives would be the same. I am not saying that without the ability to sign a license and file it in the courthouse, couples can't be deeply committed or deal with the kind of people-growing issues that marriage raises. They can, but marriage is a unique vehicle for raising these issues, and civil unions just aren't a substitute, as any same-sex marriage advocate will readily tell you. It is one of many ways that our society tells gays and lesbians that their relationships aren't as significant or as valid as hetero ones. They aren't worthy of legal protections. And they aren't afforded the right to get themselves into these life-and-death embroilments and deal with marriage counselors and divorces and all those things that suck but make us grow as people.

Yay to Iowa, and I hope the rest of the Union follows suit in my lifetime.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

All I wanna do is have some fun...

I'm on spring break from school right now. It doesn't look the way I want it to look: money is very tight, and I am stuck in my college town, which is cold and gray right now. I had planned an overnight trip to go see my family and friends on the other side of the mountains, but the pass is not really safe for travel today, so I had to postpone the trip. So here I am, in my apartment, with hubby.

I'm trying to make the best of it, though, even though I have this vague sense of dissatisfaction and almost panic that my spring break is slipping by and I'm not "having fun". Which is funny, because I am beginning to realize that I've either forgotten how to have fun or never really knew in the first place. My sickness has manifested as constant business (something I'm sure other coaddicts can relate to). I am always doing something, and I'm never satisfied. But when I stop to think, "What would I really, really like to do right now?" I have no answer.

I can have fun; I had fun on my vacations. I have fun when I enjoy an evening with friends. I have done fun things, for sure. But here I am with several days left of a rare break in my schedule, and I have a hard time thinking of fun things to do that don't cost money. That is kind of sad.

I've been doing some crafts that I haven't done in a long time, and reading. I do enjoy those things. While doing my crafts, I've been listening to more recovery podcasts: the SA/S-Anon conference, and some talks by Kevin Griffin. They fill me with ideas to journal and blog about. I'm trying to fill my brain up with positive messages about recovery, and it seems to be working. I still really wish I could be on a beach in Mexico, but that is one of those things that I have to accept that I cannot change. I'm here, with my kitty and my hubby, and we are pretty lucky to have each other.

I guess I am experiencing dukkha. This is the Buddhist concept that is often translated as "suffering" but can also be thought of as unrest or dissatisfaction or uneasiness. That is exactly what I am feeling. It has nothing to do with the externals of my life, the money, the addictions, the uncertainty about the future. It is really separate from that and it exists even if those things were solved; that is the nature of dukkha and the nature of longing or desire. It can't be satisfied. How do we overcome the desire for things that we don't have, or the desire for things to be different, perhaps even in ways we don't understand? The prescription given by the Buddha is the Eightfold Path. How to implement that is beyond my understanding at this point of my life, but we are told that we all have the potential to gain this enlightenment.

One thing that I've been practicing that does help is being present in the moment. This is talked about a lot in recovery circles, for good reason: addicts and codies both have developed ways of escaping from the moment. Usually this escape mechanism developed because there was a time when the moment wasn't safe; it develops as a coping mechanism. But eventually the thing that we developed to protect ourselves becomes harmful itself, and we learn to avoid the moment completely, just in case it might be painful or unsafe. Almost always, it seems that the pain we are spending our lives avoiding exists either in the past or the future, not right now. This is helpful for me to remember. I am afraid that we won't be able to pay our bills, for example. But right now, we have a roof over our heads, food in the kitchen, heat to keep us warm, clothes on our backs. We have each other, and we have a community of support. The moment is pretty good right now, even if the future is uncertain.

To remember how to be in the moment, I try to concentrate on what I feel right now, physically and emotionally. I feel any sensations in my body, anything I am touching or leaning on, the ambient temperature. I also check my emotions, because I will almost always ignore them unless I force myself to pay attention. What I have discovered in the past few days is my emotions are rarely what I initially thought they were. Yesterday I thought I was happy and calm, but as I checked into myself a little more closely, I realized that I was actually feeling a bit edgy and uneasy, and was doing things to try to make myself happy and calm. Happy and calm were what I WANTED to be then, not what I actually was. Becoming aware of how I actually felt helped me to calm down, ironically. So being in the moment is something I am learning how to do, and it does help with this sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction.