Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lose/Lose- Our current negotiation system

I get this clutch feeling in my chest when we're negotiating, regardless of what it is that we're negotiating about. I keep bumping into it lately. Saturday, it was negotiating for time. Sunday, it was over the last two pieces of pizza. Yesterday it was about whose turn it was to do the dishes.

We really don't negotiate well, at least not yet. It's not pretty. It's also not adult. We're two little desperate survivor children, and whatever we're arguing about takes on waaay more importance than who gets the pizza or who does the dishes. It's about survival, not just survival of the relationship, but of each of our very selves.

Our arguments must look really weird to an outside observer. This is how it looks to me like they usually go, with credit to MPJ for the codiespeak and to A for the courage to tell me what she hears when we're in conflict.

Me: I want to talk about how this (time, pizza, dishes, life) situation is not working for me. (Uh oh. Am I stepping on a landmine this time? Here goes nothing.)
Her: OK, let's talk. (Warning Will Robinson. I'm about to be under attack. OK, just hang on till it's over.)
Me: Here's what I think, feel, want. (What she hears: "blah, blah, blah, attack, attack, attack.")
Her: OK, have it your way. (Things aren't going to go my way anyway. If I give her what she wants, maybe she'll stop attacking me. Besides, this is all I deserve anyway. I'm worthless.)
Me: No, wait, have it your way. (Please love me. I'll try harder. I'll do better!)
Repeat last two lines until someone gives up.
Me: Are we OK? What do you need for us to be ok? (Oh My God! She's LEAVING ME! Come Back! I'll do anything. Just come baaaaaaaaaccccckkkkkk!!!!!!)
Her: I'm tired. I'm going to sleep now. (I gave her what she wanted. Why won't she stop attacking me. What I hear: "I'm going away forever.")

Needless to say, this cycle is not working for either of us. But I'm having a hard time breaking it. I'm getting better at the first part. I'm learning to put my wants and needs on the table in spite of my fear of abandonment. I'm also getting better at the second part- identifying what I feel, what I need, and what I want.

But it's all downhill for me as soon as I hear "have it your way." I'm all wrapped up in her head and I lose me. You know, even when I'm writing out this dialogue, I'm in her head, and that's dangerous territory for me. I guess I need to get better at taking care of me, and leave the taking care of her where it belongs, with her.

The truth is that neither of us is going anywhere, even though it feels like it to me every time we start down this path. Hopefully, as I get clearer and more focused on me, she'll get clearer and more focused on her. But whether she does or doesn't is her journey. And I really gotta get back to my side of the street.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ever So Patiently

So, this morning, I was waiting ever so patiently for my partner to wake up so that we could go attend a very special event that we look forward to all year. This year, I'm doing something special there, that I'm excited and nervous about, and since I want to make sure I do it right, I wanna get there early and see other people do it first.

So, she's asleep, and I'm waiting, ever so patiently.

I try distracting myself by luring my sponsor to chat with me in our new toy. And I wait for her. Ever so patiently. Of course, ever so patiently involves stalking her, and bugging her and leaving secret messages for her everywhere, letting her know how ever so patiently I'm waiting.

Then, of course, there's a bug in our new toy, which gives me more and more opportunities to practice patience. There's no refresh button. God does have a sense of humor, doesn't he?

My partner finally wakes up, with just a teensy bit of encouragement from me. She gets a text message, and I lay her phone right next to her hand. Of course I let her know that I've been waiting, ever so patiently.

She decides that she has a particular shirt she wants to wear to the event, but it's dirty. She'll have to wash it. ARGH!!! I remind her about how patient I've been. I ask if she could at least wash it in the sink and then dry it so it can be done faster. We get into a silly argument over how long it takes to run a mini load in the washer. She tells me not to worry my pretty little head about it, and then tells me to quit whining. I get all tight inside, and then stop and tell her that it's ok for me to express my wants and needs and ask if we can negotiate. Negotiation is a tool we've been learning that we're not very good at, yet. We did it. Not perfectly, but we did it. And now I have more time than I wanted, but less time than I would have without negotiating. To wait. Ever so patiently.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

keeping what i have by giving it away

Somebody was talking about her struggle around money in the Junky's Wives Club today. In sharing my own experience, strength and hope, I was able to get clearer for me. Here's what I said:

"What I'm learning is that I have to work on acting, and not reacting. I need to look inside myself to figure out what I want, what I need, and what I feel. That's been the hardest part, b/c I completely lost me for a while, and I'm just now figuring that out. Once I know what I need, then I have to set boundaries to take care of myself. You might, after looking inside, decide that what you need to feel safe is to have control of the money for now. Many addicts and addicts wives have come to that decision together. If you decide that you need to be in control of the money in order to feel safe, and you set that as a boundary, then it's up to him to decide whether he can live with that boundary or not. If he chooses not to honor your boundary, then it's up to you to decide whether you can live with that or not. It's hard, hard, hard, complicated stuff. I surely don't do it perfectly. But I'm getting better. Hang in there. And keep sharing. That's what's helped me the most."

Then later, I was just talking to a dear friend who's struggling with boundaries. She called me white light, and said she thought I didn't need my step group because I AM white light. I told her that MY disease is that it's waaay easy for me to boss other folks around, but it's much harder to let them in and see me and my struggles.

In talking to this friend, I got even clearer about the losing me I referred to earlier. I think my greatest character defect of all time is fear of abandonment, and it draws me to go to any length if I let it. I won't even state a boundary, let alone decide for myself what the consequence of invading it might be or, God forbid, follow through on that consequence, because the end result might be abandonment. And abandonment feels intolerable for me.

But, as I'm learning to date myself (go on artist dates and write morning pages and get more comfortable with me), I'm increasing my tolerance. And that's making me, and my relationships, so much healthier.

I'm so grateful for the tools I'm learning and my friends, real and imaginary, who help me to get clearer and healthier, one day at a time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

White Light

We finally met about the 12th step yesterday in our Step Group. It's been an amazingly powerfully healing journey. I look at the growth in the 4 women around me and I know I'm growing too. Getting ready to meet, I rediscovered a tool just when I needed it. I've been spinning for days and not realizing why. I'm finding that my feelings are a barometer for how my partner is doing. She's been working through something major and hadn't been ready to share it with me. My codie powers picked up that something was wrong, but the powers are a bit warped, so how it gets interpreted in my brain is that something must be wrong with me. Anyway, once I used this 12 step tool, I was able to get myself much better centered. And then, not so coincidentally, as soon as I felt more centered, my partner felt able to share what's been going on inside her. Wow! Yet again, it works when I work it.

Here's the tool, modified from from The 12 Steps- A Way Out.

Write a clear concise statement about a situation or condition that's really bothering you and bringing up big feelings (resentment, fear, sadness, or anger.) Then apply the principles of all 12 steps to work through the situation.

Step 1: Write about how this situation is demonstrating your powerlessness and your life's unmanageability.

Step 2: Ask yourself how your higher power can restore you to sanity. My response was that my higher power could help me focus on me.

Step 3: Write an affirmation about how you're now choosing to turn the situation over to your higher power. (Mine was "I now decide to turn my frustration and anxiety over to God.")

Step 4: Write down what character defects are surfacing. For me, it was control and fear of abandonment.

Step 5: Admit your wrongs to God, to yourself, and to another person. I used the exercize the book taught us in Step 5. First, I looked in the mirror and said it out loud to me. Then, I virtually, put God in a chair and said it out loud to God. Then, I told my partner.

Step 6: Write about your willingness or lack thereof to have God remove the character defects that have surfaced. I wrote that I am willing because I do want to stop spinning in response to her feelings and actions.

Step 7: Write a prayer humbly asking God to remove the shortcomings you just identified. Here's mine: God, please help me to keep the focus on me and to take care of myself. Help me to give A time and space to work through her own stuff.

Step 8: Make a list of those you've harmed. Mine was me and A.

Step 9: Describe how you intend to make the amend. What I wrote was that I needed to tell her that I've been getting all enmeshed again. When I told her and showed her my work, she said that she thought that I was supposed to actually amend something. Hmm. Guess I'm working on that living amends thing of changing my behavior.

Step 10: Look back over your work and see if anything else surfaces.

Step 11: Pray or meditate and then write about your higher power's will for you in this situation. I wrote that God wants me to have peace.

Step 12: Write about whether you sensed a spiritual awakening and your understanding of who's in charge, you or God. The book suggests that good indicators of who you see in charge are your attitude and emotions. I wrote that I did sense a spiritual awakening and that God is in charge, because I'm calmer and more focused on me.

This was such a powerful exercize for me. I want to make a little card to carry around with the book's version of this exercize. I'd like to try to remember to practice these principles in all my affairs. This, for me, was a very concrete way of doing that.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hi, I'm R, and I'm a Lesbian

I talked about this in therapy yesterday, and then dreamed about it, so I guess it's still a big issue for me.

Last week, we went on vacation with my family. My dad and I went for a walk, and he asked me if I thought that the couples in our family were happy. When I didn't jump in with a yes, he said it wasn't a trick question. He said that he thinks he and my mom, my sister and her husband, and my brother and his wife are pretty happy and that A and I are too. But he said that the rest of them are not as physically demonstrative in public as we are, and he wondered if we were trying to prove a point.

I told him that we didn't realize it had been an issue for him in years, so no, we weren't trying to prove a point. I told him that we are very physically affectionate, but not in a sexual way.

I pointed out that while we were having this conversation, my dad had his arm draped around me, and I wondered aloud if that felt like an uncomfortable display of public affection. My dad sheepishly replied that he somehow felt that the particular moment felt more private to him, which was interesting, since we were on a very public beach boardwalk with LOTS of tourists meandering about.

I challenged him to consider that what felt different about him draping his arm around my shoulders was that he and I are not two females, and that it's his prejudice that raises his antennae when A and I hold hands or cuddle. I then pointed out all the couples around us that were holding hands or touching in some other way, and challenged him to look again in our family to see if my siblings or even my parents touch more than he realizes and he just doesn't notice. He agreed to look at it, and I did NOT agree to stop being affectionate with A around him.

The conversation left me with mixed feelings, and I keep coming back to them. I'm glad that I did not cowtow to his prejudice. I'm glad that he really seemed to hear me. It makes me sad that I still have to fight this battle, in society and in my own family. Next week is Pride in my community. I'm looking forward to holding hands with my partner and not standing out. I'll continue to do so in the presence of my family of origin, and maybe someday we won't stand out there either. So, dad, no, last week I wasn't trying to prove a point, but the next time we're together in your presence, I will be. And I still love you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Codies AND Addicts: our meeting of 2

We've been travelling together. Night before last we tried to find meetings and got lost. So, like we did once before, we decided to have our own meeting, this time on the beach. It was really an awesome experience. Somehow, the formality of doing readings, choosing a topic, and not cross talking is really magical for us. Since it's been on my mind a lot lately, I chose the topic of what codies and addicts have in common. I started out sharing some of the stuff I talked about here, but as we went back and forth taking turns, we came up with a lot more. She shared that she thinks that both often come from backgrounds where we didn't get our needs met, though it may be less obvious in a codie's background. We talked about the vulnerability we both share. We talked about the fact that we both have to work the same steps and work through our own character defects. We talked about how for both, it's easier to look at the other person's character defects than to focus on our own. We talked about why the cycle seems to start out for each of us chasing and getting a high from our own behavior but why it ends up going south. She shared that the addict pulls in more and more as he or she is chasing that high, and that the codie chases the addict (our drug of choice). It makes sense to me. It used to work that I'd get all my needs of feeling important and belonging by taking care of her and her wanting to be taken care of. Then, as she isolated more and more with her drugs, I kept trying to pursue to get those good feeling while she was busy trying to withdraw. I wish I hadn't waited two days to post this, b/c there was a lot more that I'm not remembering now. But it was a GREAT meeting! And I'm really grateful.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


MPJ and Indistinct have been blogging about acceptance. I do that "accept, damn you accept" thing that MPJ talks about too. I guess that's what Indistinct would refer to as compliance. But here's what I've learned in my magical meetings about acceptance. Acceptance doesn't mean that I like something or even that I agree with it. It just means that I recognize it for what it is and that I recognize that I can't change it, whatever the it that I happen to be struggling with at the time. Once I acknowledge that something is not to my liking but it is what it is and I can't change it,then I free up a lot of energy that I've been wasting in obsessing and/or manipulating. I have energy left now to figure out what I can change- my reaction, a boundary I need to set or a way to refocus my energy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Codies vs. Addicts

I've joined a new community, The Junky's Wives Club. There seems to be a thread within a thread in "How do you get better" that I'm really drawn to. I'm obsessing (of course) about the label b/c it looks like an antagonistic us vs. them when I mean it in the compare/contrast kind of way. I mentioned in the other thread that I see my primary addiction as to my addict. And that just like my addict does, I start out engaging in the behavior of my drug of choice (being enmeshed) because it makes me feel good. But then, it takes more and more to give me the high until I no longer get the high, I just have to engage in the behavior.

For me, the flip side is way more complicated. I've been noticing over the last week that the addicts in my community tend to open and close with the "we version" of the serenity prayer- God grant US the serenity... In our naranon circle, we use what the addicts refer to as the "me" version. I do think that both versions are appropriate for the groups that are using them. I think that part of getting healthy for me is learning to focus more on me, figuring out who I am and what I want. I use my addictive behavior to avoid me. My partner tends to isolate in her disease. When she's in her disease, she'd much rather be alone with her pill bottle than interacting with anyone, including me. She gets extremely self absorbed and she can't even see me.

On the surface, it seems that she get's self absorbed in her disease and I get selfless. I've often said that we got waaaay out of balance, and for us to get better, I need to focus more on me and SHE needs to focus more on me. But here's where it gets complicated. My selfless behavior really is SELF LESS. It's not generous and loving. It's disappearing. The more I think about it, our behavior here isn't that different at all. Both of us lose ourselves in our drugs of choice. And as we get healthier, both of us become more available, both to ourselves and each other.