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.

47 comments:

  1. Glad you feel better after writing this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ivy. Sometimes it's just good to purge. :)

      Delete
    2. Good deal.

      Got your comment, I'm doing Tim's zine staple and fold stuff. Then, bake, cook, clean and bills. All indoor stuff for me today. But looking forward to hitting the shoppes tomorrow.

      Delete
  2. If you feel better, that's what matters.
    It does sound like a defense response that doesn't have anything directly to do with you. Just what he does to cope.
    I pray this is a coping and healing week for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel way better than I did when I woke up this morning (4:00 - too early for this chick!). Writing things out has always been a great form of therapy for me. It's a great way to gain clarity. Thank you for the prayers Alex. Sometimes I think God may be a bit tired of hearing from me. (don't worry, I know He's not)

      Delete
  3. Writing it all out is very cathartic and thank you for sharing with us. What I'm concerned about is that he may be feeling like he's tired of working on this and will keep having slips more frequently. My ex husband was like that....he'd work hard on the issue for awhile and then just get bored with it and do it again (his was a money spending thing, which I now realize was tied to his bipolar condition that wasn't diagnosed till after 20 years). i'm glad that he's still going to counseling and group though. That's huge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You hit the nail on the head, JoJo. My concern lies not with the slip itself (because they may happen in such an emotionally based addiction) but with how he handles things moving forward. It's important for me to see him invest himself back into his recovery, despite how uncomfortable it will make him. He's at a pivotal point in his steps and they only get more difficult from here on out. He's given me comfort in being humble about the slip, getting to more meetings and group, and seeing our counselor. Steps in the right direction.

      Delete
  4. Writing it all down used to really help me. Like writing a letter to someone that is really bothering you but never sending it. Hopefully you're able to enjoy your wedding anniversary this week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Diane!! I'm a huge fan of writing a letter and never sending it. I used to go to the beach or lake and write my little heart out, then shred it and toss it in the garbage. Such a great emotional release. Thank you!

      Delete
  5. Back to the long winded ones huh? The cat can send you a little gas to counteract his gas, what? That's not what you meant? lol

    Main thing is you feel better writing it out and getting it out of your brain. Never heard of it called gaslighted before, con, pulled one over, liar liar pants on fire, but not gaslighted lol sounds like someone farted on a fire or something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Pat, you know you love when I talk in circles and ramble on for days about the same exact thing. It's like when you're chasing your tail. hehe

      I learned the term gas lighting a long time ago while I was researching his addiction. I discovered it's a common behavior among addicts/alcoholics as a way to control those around them to support and/or enable their disease.

      No, cat, it's not lighting farts on fire - that's what Pringle cans are for...

      Delete
    2. Pringle cans work well and are swell. Cashews cans are used now though, hold more. lol

      I've seen a few gamblers use gaslighting, they really can weave a tall tale

      Delete
  6. Well, I've learned a new word today -- "gas lighting." I always just called that phenomenon "mindfucking." And yes, it is definitely crazy-making until you figure out it's all BS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is absolutely a nice way of saying mindfuck because that's what it really is - them fucking up the wiring in our brains to get us to fall into their line of thinking. I have to admit, it was hard to see the bullshit initially until he just wouldn't concede to the reality of what's going on, then it dawned on me, duh - I'm being gaslighted again.

      Delete
  7. I suppose it's a lifelong process of learning to change your coping mechanisms to ones that heal instead of continuing the self-deception. Can't be easy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wasn't easy but it was well worth the long process of healing and learning how to be my old, former self. That independent woman I know and love so much. :)

      Delete
  8. It's like he's saying "are you going to believe me or your lying eyes" If done often enough it can unhinge you and mess you up for years. It's a common technique used on POW's to alter their sense of reality and to break them down. It's also used during interrogation. My father did this to my mother in order to control her. One of the things he'd do is move things around the house. She'd notice and ask, "Perry, why have the pictures been moved." He'd say, "They haven't been moved. You must be imagining things" One time I saw him in the bathroom putting his shaving cream on the mirror and then walk out and accuse my mother of doing it. She knew she hadn't, but he'd convince her that she'd done it. He'd do it to us kids as well. I was the only one who he couldn't break and I'd stand up to him. Then he'd beat me. I felt like the beating was worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne, thank you so much for sharing that with me. I had no idea you endured that kind of behavior from your dad. I'm sorry you went through it as a child, it must have been brutal. I'm super impressed you stood up to him and as messed up as it is to say, I'm glad you took the beating for standing up and not let him bully you or manipulate you. You're a strong woman now, and were a strong child then. I hope you're proud for thriving and coming out as healthy as you are now.

      Delete
  9. Do you ever go back and read your really old posts? I find that when I do that, I don't even recognize that person. It's encouraging. It's cathartic. It's proof that there's been solid growth... even though it might not always be apparent. It's an excellent reminder of where you were and where you are now. Even this post will one day serve to show how far you ~ and Devin ~ have come on this journey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I've gone back and read through them. Gah, the agony of that old blog. It took a few years before I had enough strength to link my old blog through this, much healthier, blog. Those posts were so raw and many of the people who commented today were with me in the beginning. They stuck around and helped me through - such awesome people we have in our little blogging community. You and I should be uber proud of ourselves. We've been through much and come so far.

      Delete
    2. Re: going back and reading old writings... especially in my journals... that is when I realize i have made great progress in my Life issues... Things that at one time really almost paralyzed me are now very minor issues in my Life.

      ~shoes~

      Delete
  10. I hope you feel better. And as a few others have said, you taught me a new word today. Gaslighting. While I have no experience with sex addiction, I have seen gaslighting in an old friend who got addicted to heroin. We caught him breaking into our buddy's shed to steal his tools and presumably pawn them (stealing from the same buddy who'd just given him a roof over his head for the night, mind you) and in the most absolutely convincing tone he swore that he was just trying to make sure everything was okay because he saw some black guy breaking in and he was only trying to see if anything was taken. No one believed him, and he was clearly strung out, but it was eerie the level of conviction he had in his voice. So I can see what you mean about questioning your sanity after someone swears up and down that you didn't see anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm feeling way better now than I did at four this morning. :)

      I'm sorry you had a friend addicted to heroin. That's a tough addiction to overcome. I watched an uncle of mine go through it and he never really recovered. Just switched to methadone which is equally as addicting. But, yes, that tone, the one that says, "How can you not believe me right now?" - it's chilling when you see it for what it really is.

      Delete
  11. You are wiser and stronger as a result. Your compassion shows no bounds and you know, inherently, what is best. I am so glad that writing this out is cathartic. Every addict has slips and they revert to the old ways because of their guilt and shame. He may not even realize or doesn't want to admit that the death of your beautiful dog made him slip. He may have grown up being taught not to have these feelings as they are "weak". You know him best and you know the illness best and I am glad you can move forward. I wish you a wonderful week ahead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have definitely learned much these last few years. Not just about sex addiction but about myself and my flaws and how to (try) to overcome them. I've gotten a handle on most of them but some days they flare like crazy. You're right, Birgit, he was never taught how to correctly handle his emotions. He never had his mother's love and while I can relate to an extent (my mom was awful to me when I was a teen), I can't quite grasp how truly terrible it was for him to be emotionally neglected by his mom. It's sad.

      Delete
  12. "You don't want to sell me death sticks."
    "I don't want to sell you death sticks."
    "You want to go home and rethink your life."
    "I want to go home and rethink my life."

    You need to watch and make sure he's not waving his hand around when he tries to do this in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Elsie .. with many thoughts - it can't be easy to be where you're at in life ... and this is very brave of you to post here - I'm just glad that you feel you get support here - the blogosphere is amazing .. cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  14. Interesting. I have a friend with similar behavior. It's difficult for him to set boundaries. I on the other hand, set them to encourage a continuing friendship, but nothing more, which seems to work.
    I cannot imagine the depth of your own situation. I'm glad therapy is available and utilized. It takes a great deal of courage to have the thoughts you have, and then to openly share them. Good for you!! I wish you both well.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am well familiar with gaslighting... Your post made me wonder if that isn't what the poster on FB I wrote about yesterday is doing to himself... manipulating the truth until he himself loses it, and has to hang onto the tiger of fantasy he created for himself.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I admire your courage to share. I have been known to "Gaslight" my wife when it comes to finances. She is the responsible one while, I am the spender In the end it is the yin and yang of the relationship that makes it organic.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Another brave post, Elsie! I'm glad that it helps you to write it out. I was gaslighted in the past by my first husband ~ different addiction, but the same reality-warping games. It's so hard to escape codependency hell. Kudos to you for climbing out and staying out! Take care!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Always I say and repeat again I think your brave, really Im not sure If I would make all you lived dear.
    Really admire you and always I learn something new with you.
    All my love and blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  19. i hope that he does take that turn for the better...it does not feel good to be gaslighted at all...though i had heard that term used differently before...i think htough at times we all fall into hearing what we think we need to justify our actions...

    ReplyDelete
  20. It is so important to write out your emotions and feelings. It does help... greatly. It took me quite a bit of time and writing to get through some very chaotic times in my Life... and all seemed to kick into gear after the death of my Dad. It is still amazing for me to grasp that the end of his Life set so many different events into motion...

    Write what you feel you need to write... it is healing... it is therapeutic...

    *huggles*

    ~shoes~

    ReplyDelete
  21. This IS a brave post, Elsie, and I so appreciate your insights, wisdom, and love. Your husband is lucky to have you - and I can SEE the work you've done to get to this place. Hard, grueling, painful work, and so worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sometimes writing helps I know it does for me often I like to just sit and let my fingers dance on the keyboard and after pouring out my thoughts and feelings I feel better

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is a new word for me and I now appreciate your journey and Devin's too ~ It may be human nature to slip and fall but if we don't take responsibility for our lapses, we may not be able to recover from that slip ~ I wish you Happy Holidays Elsie ~

    ReplyDelete
  24. It's interesting that gaslighting occurred so often in my marriage - which you've read about - though he wasn't an addict per se. I didn't know the term; I learn so much from you. You're clearing growing in strength, wisdom, and insight. I'm proud of you, my friend. xo

    ReplyDelete
  25. I sincerely hope that writing this all out helped. It's amazing how people become stronger after facing such adverse situation in life.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Very familiar with the term after I found out of my wife's mental illness seven years ago. Take care of yourself. It's a hard road.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Rambling is a great way to express your feelings.
    I hope you feel much better.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi Elsie. I'm glad to hear you're feeling better now. Sometimes all you just want to do is speak your mind, right? As for gaslighting (great term by the way), I've had my fair share of it at work. It's called office politics: the truth is distorted in multiple ways and recorded by bureaucrats who then announce it to be reality.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Happy New Year, Elsie! I know.... I'm a bit early.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm here to help any way I can.