Thursday, August 20, 2009

Making Space

I've been away for a bit...but this blog has been on my mind. I think there might be enough disconnected thoughts of blog posts floating around that perhaps I will have a little flurry of posts in the next several days.

I've had a difficult week this week. A lot of my codie thinking and habits have been triggered by life circumstances and people who probably don't have my best interests at heart. I've been thinking a lot about trust, and how to rebuild trust after it has been broken.

I learned a new (to me) term this week: "gaslighting", which is basically subterfuge and redirection designed to make another person feel crazy so they believe the lie the "gaslighter" is trying to pull off. That happened to me a lot, as my SA husband tried to keep his activites from being discovered. This kind of thing has a lasting effect on a person, because you end up doubting yourself and most insidiously, your instinct. It was my very instincts that were targeted by this behavior, so that now what was once one of my strongest tools is constantly subjected to doubt.

I started suspecting my husband of relapsing. Rather than call a program friend or even just stop long enough to remember that his program, including his sobriety, is his business, I spiralled into crazy thinking. I began to think that I would never be able to trust him--or anyone--again.

Finally, I started to see that his program and his sobriety are his business. I have to count on his own investment in his recovery to prevent relapse, or to enable him to recover from a relapse if one happened. Once I could see that, I realized that what I wanted most was for him to be able to tell me if he slipped or relapsed, but that I had made it impossible for him to do that, through a series of ultimatums and insinuations that any slip would be the end of the relationship. There was no room in our relationship for that kind of honesty, and therefore no basis to rebuild trust. It's not just me that needs to be able to trust him; he has to rebuild his trust in me, too, to be able to share something like that with me. If I am not a safe place for him to share his struggles without risking our marriage, where is the trust?

I do understand that for many people, relapse is a part of recovery. I don't like that, but I do understand it's true. That certainly doesn't mean that it is inevitable for my husband or for anyone in particular. But I have to be prepared for the fact that it could happen, and the only way to minimize the damage is for us to be able to talk about it and for him to feel that it doesn't spell doom to our marriage. If he feels that there is no space for a conversation like that to happen, not only does resentment build up, but if a relapse does occur there is that much more reason for it to be a big one, rather than a small slip. After all, if it's going to mean the end of the relationship anyway, why not "do it right?"

If it does happen, what he does next is his to decide, and is a subject between him and his sponsor, and probably our therapist. I hope at some point along the way he would feel comfortable sharing it with me, if I didn't know already. But none of that is up to me. All I can do is try to create the possibility for understanding and trust between us, without closing off any possible avenues to communication and growth.

I feel a lot better that I was able to finally get this, and share it with him. I've behaved poorly up until this point, and have suffered for it, as I think he has too. I have a lot to learn still, but I'm grateful to be in the position to learn it.