Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gaslighting vs. Reality

As always, I start with the warning that this will ramble as I sort through my emotions. This morning, I’m going back to my blogging roots.  

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a journal entry and the ol’ brain needs a good mental cleansing. I’m sure it’s due to the culmination of several things; Devin’s slip, this is the near the anniversary week of disclosure, and our wedding anniversary.  

It’s hard to believe it’s been so long since I discovered my husband’s addiction.  Seems like forever ago.  Seems like yesterday.  And, that is an odd place for my brain to be, but, with the help of a good old fashioned word vomit, I’ll be right as rain soon enough.  Plus, I don’t have high expectations of myself around this time.  Now is the time to be gentle with me and not rush healing.
During my talks with Devin about his slip, I asked if he knew the “why” of it all.  I was curious if he saw the same insight I did (the death of his dog) or if he was minimizing the event.  It wouldn’t be the first time he minimized a slip and while it’s common for an addict to do so, I wanted to know where his head was in all of this.

The first time we discussed it, he said there was no why.  It just happened.  I let that excuse slide because well, one: I was too drained to go into a debate, and two: I understood the shame he felt at the time and didn’t think it’d help matters to push him too hard.

When I broached the subject a few days later, he said it was human nature.  When I called BS, he hemmed and hawed, then I told him we’d have to agree to disagree at which point he said, “Well, you’ll just have to ask our counselor because she’s the one that said it was human nature.”  That didn’t sound like anything our rockin’ counselor would say and more like a need to feel right, but I agreed to let it go until then.

Then was yesterday. 

I spoke to our therapist and she said she’d never tell one of her clients with an addiction that a slip was human nature and too ignore the reason behind it.  She felt she may have said it was natural to have a slip, especially early in recovery, but so far in she felt he should have better clarity, control, and insight.

She asked if she could talk to him about his perception of “human nature” after their group last night. I agreed she could disclose our session.  On his drive home from group he told me about their brief conversation.  That call confirmed my suspicions that I’d been gaslighted by Devin.  For those not familiar with the term, it means to have someone try to distort or manipulate someone’s reality.

An example of this from our long ago past:  I walked into the room to find Devin looking at porn and masturbating. I saw this with my own two eyes.  But, Devin had the ability to convince that what I’d seen didn’t really happen.  By the time we finished talking, he had me believing it was my imagination.  All in my head.

Yes, it sounds utterly ridiculous (especially in hindsight) but when you live with an active addict, your mental perceptions become distorted through time and manipulation.  I asked our counselor yesterday if having experienced that made me hyperaware or hypersensitive to it – was I more likely to suspect gaslighting and prevent it or more prone to being manipulated?  She said it was probably a bit of both. And, I agree.

Being gaslighted is literally crazy-making.  It is a form of mental abuse.  Do I feel Devin sets out to make me feel this way?  No.  I think it’ something he learned along the way to cope with his emotions. It was also easier back then for me to believe his distortions of the truth than the reality of our marriage.

Having experienced gaslightedness (my word), I’m able to see it for what it really is, Devin’s first defense and a way for him to avoid thinking too hard about his slip.  

And, as I said earlier, having written this out, I feel better.  I know I’m not going to fall into the same pattern I was stuck in a few years ago. That terrible codependency or as I used to like to say, "survival mode" I experienced.  There’s been too much time, healing, and recovery for that to happen to me.  And, to him.

After the reminder of the trauma of this time passes, so will my feelings of unease.  And I think his recovery will take a turn for the better.  It always does.  I just need to give him a bit more time and a bit more patience and do the same for myself.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, my Hooligans.  I feel better getting those emotions out.  

I’m grateful to each and every one of you.  Now go on, enjoy your week and I’ll do the same.

Got any cool plans for the upcoming weekend?  I plan on digging in and getting some writing done.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Taking the Risk - IWSG Post

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Happy Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day!  A time to talk about our fears and doubts, or inspire others by sharing our success and happiness.  We’ve got a great bunch of people in this group and we’d love to have you join in on the fun too.  A big thank you to it's creator, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Don’t forget to stop by and say hello to our fantastic co-hosts:   Heather Gardner, T. Drecker from Kidbits, Eva E. Solar at Lilicasplace, and Patsy Collins!
Many of you may recall I’m working on a self-help book.  It was suggested by a critique partner that I add a bit more personal stuff as a way to connect better with the readers. Really let them know what I went through during my hubby's disclosure of his sex addiction and all that happened as a result.

I was hesitant.  I feared I was over sharing – something I used to do here on my blog when the wounds of my husband’s addiction were still so fresh and raw.

With time, I learned to tell my stories and experiences with less detail but still get the point across.  So, when it came to my self-help book, I went back and deleted most of the personal stuff I'd written and stayed almost generic with my writing before I sent it off for review by my critique partners. 

This chick rocks!
I wasn’t quite sure I should take my CP’s advice or stick with generalities.  That was until I read a draft of my friend Robyn Engel’s book.  She shared a piece of her childhood that struck a cord in me and literally brought me to tears. 

I won’t share the event Robyn described because it’s her story to tell, not mine, but I will say it involved an incident between her and her dad.  I was so moved by her writing and that glimpse into her childhood, I shared it with my husband.

He was so deeply touched after I read the excerpt to him, he was unable to speak for a long time. He saw himself in her tale. He took what Robyn wrote to heart and made the changes that needed to be made to be the best father he can be to our teenage daughter. 

The transformation has been amazing.

And, it all started with the chance Robyn took by writing about her childhood.  She allowed herself to be vulnerable and it paid off tenfold.

It made me realize just how much we have the ability to change lives with our writing.  Dramatic?  I don’t think so.  I’m watching it happen in my own home. And, I want to do that for someone else and generalities won't get me there. I have to be willing to show my own vulnerabilities and detail my growth because of them.

That risk of sharing our personal stuff with the world is one worth taking.  We never know whose lives we’ll touch and inspire. 

But, we know it’ll never happen if we don’t take the gamble. So let's go for it!

What about you?  Are you holding back on something because you fear the risk?

Monday, December 1, 2014

When the Slip Hits the Fan

If you're not working on recovery
you're working on relapse


I’m a big fan of trusting my gut.  It rarely fails me.  There was a time when my instincts couldn’t be trusted because I was in the midst of hypervigilance. I never gave myself enough time to listen to my feelings because I was already on high alert.

But, the more I worked on my recovery, the less hypervigilant I became.  I was able to trust my gut once more.  Getting that ability back has helped me tremendously.

Not long after Devin and I started using FANOS again, my spidey sense told me he was either on the verge of a slip or already had one.

He’d been lax about showing up to his group and meetings on time.  And, when he told me about them, he was only sharing generic information instead of what he learned from the other addicts or what he shared with them.

So, when our dog died few weeks ago, I knew he was in a terrible place in his recovery and ripe for a mistake.  He had a special bond with our dear Charlie Bear.  He’d been with him for fourteen years - through his divorce, our marriage, and the discovery of his addiction.  They shared a unique and precious bond.

Rather then push Devin and remind him he needed to dive into his recovery, not run away from it, I let him be.  I understood he needed to work out his feelings on his own, even if it meant a slip occurred.

Then, the red flags began to wave. Little tells he has when he’s about to fall off the wagon.  While I wanted to shout out a warning to him, I didn’t.  I watched on the sidelines as he struggled in his recovery.  I detached with love.  I offered him comfort when he needed it about Charlie’s death, but knew it wasn’t enough to fill the hole in his heart.

Without a strong recovery in place, the slip was just a matter of time.  So, when he disclosed it during FANOS, I wasn’t all that surprised.  But, I was disappointed and sad he didn’t confide in me until I told him I suspected it happened.

Because I'm in a great place in my own recovery, I didn’t take the slip personally like I’d done in the past.  I used to get wrapped up in what he was doing to prevent another slip.  I feared it would lead to a relapse. Or, worse still, I’d convince myself I could’ve done something to stop it.  That somehow his slip was my fault.  Now, I know it’s not.

So, when the slip hit the fan last week, I told him I appreciated his openness, asked that he’d tell me on his own rather than me coming to him, and asked how he would prevent another one.  I didn’t judge him; instead, I felt compassion.  He was already ashamed of what he kept from me.  Nothing I could’ve said would change how he felt.

Now, he’s back on track despite the enormous hole in his heart where Charlie Bear used to be.  And I’m doing just fine too.

Rest in peace, Charlie.  You were one awesome dog and the best listener and cuddler of our pack.  You’ll live on in my memories and always have a special place in heart.

Have you endured the loss of a pet?  How did you heal your broken heart?