Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Matching Childhood with Today

AA and Al-Anon - marriages? What if we are matching today, with what we learned growing up? What if we know that this is NOT what we are supposed to do, but cannot help it?

Are we attempting to match subconsciously to bring into existence what we learned as a child, when these were the height of our imprinting years?


When I was younger, I used to wonder why some of the nicest and prettiest girls hung out/dated the jerks.

I now realize after some analysis and therapy, that we try to "match" ourselves with what we saw in the home. What we grew up with, in other words. The "matching" was what we knew, experienced, thought was "normal."

Somewhere, in the recesses of our minds we felt inadequate, undeserving, controlled, hurt, frightened - or whatever.

Think about this for a moment. This is a hard pill to swallow.

I did so much work on myself, but never with a therapist or with Al-Anon.

I told my therapist I disliked the word "therapist." Of course she asked, "Why?" What a powerful word, this word "Why?" You have to answer. And every single time, you have to explain why. So simple. So revealing.

I said, "it was a word we laughed about in movies or TV shows for people who couldn't deal with reality." Now I am one. So she said, "Use the word, "coach," if it works better for you."

Great. That's another $130. As Robert Anthony said, "A therapist is an expensive friend."

What if we get out of one relationship that is faulty, only to find ourselves looking for a person who matches our subconscious beliefs we grew up with. That is, we go back to the same type of person again?

My personal experience: I was dating two girls. This one was drunk most of the time. Called me in the middle of the night, drunk of course. Drank wine at dinner - Chardonney - and had bottles of it all the time in her refridgerator. Both girls were 22 at the time. One was havoc. The other peaceful and gentle. Attractive - yes - very. The one who drank the wine, knocked a three-masted sailing ship off my fireplace mantle. A ship I built by hand. Knocked it off on purpose. Said, "Oooops." It crashed to the floor. Broke of course.

I got pissed off but did not do anything. Probably more hurt than anything when she explained, "I just didn't like that ship." I cannot remember what I did or said, except I didn't want to "offend" her. Excuse me, did you just type that?

The other girl. I think she had a mom who was drugging and/or drinking. Her parents were divorced. She "lived" with her father and step mother and children. I met her mother once, but I remember something about it as being an "addict" of some sort. I was naive then. Still am. I know only about an "inch" in a mile's worth of data. But in that inch, is a lot of info I never had before.

So, I may have had two girls with situations. But because one was more chaotic and obnoxious, and I knew that this one was a little "crazy" or bizzare - I wind up marrying her. It was at a time where I had just begun to find "peace, joy, and serenity." I had this certain "calm" over me and my thoughts. I had this sense of fulfillment and forgiveness. I was hard working, yes, but still this empathy for life and the world.

So, I am sitting here this morning typing at 5AM. Asking myself, "Well how did I get here?"

And, "What do I do now?" Unfortunately one question is irrelevant. Although, I have to see what map I used so I can burn it and never use it again. The irrelevant question is from the Talking Heads. It is the cheapest therapy analysis I have ever recieved.

But the pertinent question is; "What do I do now?"
I added this a day later. I miss my wife. I used to be able to ask her questions like this. But I never really got a really heart felt response. I didn't know it at the time, that she was drinking. I felt like I didn't exist in her world. It's been like this a long time, the "I didn't exist in her world." I was in denial of this pain. I knew it, but I wouldn't face it squarely. I am still in denial to a large extent.


Anonymous said...

That's a fantastic question!
How did any of us get here?
I had a great education in a very selective school. I am now a well paid professional responsible for educating others of my profession.
Why do I do this to myself and my children?
I have to say, the more I read, the more I worry for my children. I thought they would be ok with one "normal" parent, but now I see that I am no longer "normal" and neither are they.
If I was really honest with myself, I think in the beginning, pride kept me from leaving my husband. I didn't want to be a "single mother", I didn't want to have to tell my family and friends what I had endured and why I left, so I stayed.
Here I am 17 years later. Damaged, lonely, and pretending to the world that all is well.


Joe said...

One thing I am learning and relearning and relearning, is that we - me specifically - thank you for taking ownership Joe, do over and over, is I ask myself "why?" - which is past. And I beat myself up, by feeling guilty.

I cannot know what you are feeling Skip. You did the best you could with the knowledge you had.

It is one of those sayings or quotes that I read, "We do the best we can with the knowledge we have, at that particular point in time. Or else we would have done something differently.

I read "What is Normal for Adult Children ..." Interesting reading. So is Hope for Today from Al-Anon.


Anonymous said...

For me, I had to deal with the fact that I was making excuses to stay, or excuses to leave the relationship.

Oh, she needs me.

Oh, I can change her.

Oh, I made a death to us part promise.

Oh, I can't admit a failed relationship.

Oh, She will change.

She won't drink today.

She will make it to work.

She will do what she say's she will do.

On and On and On.

I pushed the excuses aside and took a hard look at the relationship. In the end, we never had a married relationship. She was 12 years younger, very attractive blonde, lot's of fun and flash on the front end. As time went by, and the silver lining began to tarnish, the relationship grew farther apart, and finally exploded with her binging and poor personal decisions caused by her addiction.

The price was just too much for me to pay. I had to make the decision to end the relationship. I began to believe that I was simply a "father figure", that would forgive, forgive, forgive, day after day, after day.

Now, looking back, it wasn't a relationship at all, it was 2 people, 1 taking and leaving the rest, and one that spent all his time cleaning up the mess.

Initially after the break, I actually missed cleaning up the mess.... Figure that one out.... Now I had all this time, what do I do with it?

Then she would call, promise to quit drinking, go to treatment, cry, cry, cry. Sober for a day, no longer getting everything she asked for because I enabled it, she then would go straight to the bar, and start all over again. Cry, cry, cry again this time stone cold drunk, and never remember whether she bitched at me, or tried to say the right things to come back to the townhouse.

I saw a very selfish, ugly human being. From the inside out. Worst of all, there is nothing I can do to cover it with make up, and make it all good. I have accepted that that is not my job anymore.

How did I get here?

God only knows, but I believe in my heart there is a reason for it all. There is a reason for why I had to experience years with an alcoholic, and a reason that led me here, and to a 12 step program.

In the present, I am finding my work, my learning, my commitment to myself, is changing me everyday.

I feel damn good about it.

And I had to sit and watch her be taken advantage of by others for the course of months after the decision to end the relationship.

They took advantage of what the saw looking from the outside, in.

Worst part is, she let's them. She is living in the dark, stumbling through each day. It is sad indeed.

For me, "Never judge a book by it's cover" has become Gospel.

Thanks for letting me vent this morning.



Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share a book for adult children that has been so helpful to me. "Days of Healing-Days of Joy" by Earnie Larsen & Carol Larsen Hegarty ... is just a great resource for me.

Catherine said...

These are some intense shares and I'm getting a lot out of it.

In your original post, Joe, you mention the therapist...

I have started couples therapy with my alcoholic but have heard anecdotes about therapists who didn't want to talk about the addiction a all. After 2 sessions, we've only brushed past the topic. If anyone has wisdom or experience to share I would be grateful.

Joe said...

Most "marriage counselors" are not trained nor have the experience in alcohol addiction.

I have been told that going to "couples therapy" when the alcoholic is still drinking is a empty promise that can't be fulfilled. If the alcoholic is in recovery, and he/she has to be "in recovery" or not drinking for somewhere beyond six months (I heard 9 months to 12 too) you can get somewhere with a "counselor."

There are marriage counselors that have background in addictions - specifcially alcohol. They may be hard to find.

That is what I know and it does make sense.

In my opinion, when you think about it, couples therapy and not addressing the alcoholic's addiction first is like setting your hair on fire and trying to put it out with a hammer.

Just my opinion based upon what two therapists have told me. (not the hair on fire part, that's my opinion/metaphor.)

Ashley said...

About a year ago, my husband and I started going to counseling. We were very lucky in that our counselor did address the alcoholism. I felt at the time that that was the elephant in the room, if he would stop drinking, then all of our other issues would fall into place.

For the next six months, I did feel better (even though he was still drinking), but it was a fleeting feeling. It lasted about 24 hours after our appointment.

In September last year, my husband went to a 30 day in patient treatment program. My god did I enjoy that month. I started going to Al-Anon, and found a bunch of people experiencing the same thing as me. I also realized that I had developed coping skills from living with active alcoholism for 10 years. I had issues that I had to deal with that didn't involve his drinking. For the first time in 6 months, I started feeling better more than I felt bad. And I was able to hold onto that even when he relapsed after two months of sobriety.

But it wasn't something I was even willing to look at until he stopped drinking. I realized after the fact that yes, the drinking is a huge part of the problem in our marriage, but it's not the only problem.

Catherine said...

Thank you both! That metaphor made me laugh too.