Learning to live

It’s funny how when things are going well we seem to be always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Shane has been sober since he came home from jail.  That’s an awesome thing to be able to say, he’s been sober for 13 days.  I realize that many of those he was in jail, but they still count.  Yet, I seem to keep waiting for the day that he drinks.  I have been great on my new way of eating for 18 days, and yet, I’m still waiting for the day I mess it all up and eat 3 loaves of bread or an entire bag of chocolate.  I’m not craving those things, and I can’t speak to if Shane is craving alcohol, although I believe that he is sometimes.  However, we are both making good choices each day.  So why am I still waiting and worrying?

It seems to me that that’s an issue with addicts as well as codependents.  Particularly with codependents.  I have lived so much of my life in complete chaos that when I’m not surrounded by it, I don’t know how to handle it.  I tell myself all the time that I really just want to live a peaceful life, but I’m also afraid that since I’ve spent so much time in chaos if I don’t have it I’ll create it.  I need to focus on learning to live my life as peacefully as possible.  I’m not sure how that’s done, but it is something I need to work on.  What I would hate to have happen is if I spend the rest of my life worrying and waiting and miss out on the life that’s right here in front of me.

It is in my nature and is part of my personality to get things done.  To be moving and working the majority of my waking hours.  If I’m not sure how to do something I’ll look it up or try things until something works.  If I’m not sure of the answer to something I’ll create one.  What I’m slowly discovering is that doesn’t really work.  I am accustomed to being the only person that I can count on, the only one that gets things done or gets them done “right” that I tend to force things to happen not in their own time but in mine.  In doing that I’ve likely missed out on some opportunities and have forced some solutions that could have been better if I’d waited them out.  Often when I’m confused or worried about something I feel the overwhelming need to DO something about it.  It doesn’t even have to be the right thing but I need to do SOMETHING.  I think that sometimes in doing something I’ve blown right past other possibilities and things that may have worked out better.  As I was reading the other day in Courage to Change I came across this idea; “When my thinking becomes distorted by trying to force solutions, I probably won’t get the results I seek.  As the saying goes, “When in doubt, don’t.'”    That doesn’t however mean that we should sit and wait for answers, which is good, because I don’t think I could ever do that.

What I’m going to be working on for a while, is to keep working my program, to keep supporting Shane in his, and just let things come.  It’s ok if I don’t have all the answers today or even next week.  They’ll come when they’re supposed to.  I think if I keep working on things, keep praying every day, keep talking to the people who care about me and support me, things will just work out.  There’s no way for me to know if Shane is going to drink next week, or even tomorrow.  There’s no way for me to know if I’ll be able to overcome my unhealthy relationship with food.  I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or even in the next 5 minutes.  That’s ok.  A little scary for me to live there in the unknown.  But as the slogan goes, one day at a time.

You can’t reason with a drunk.

I was thinking today about the time before Shane went to jail  He’d come home from treatment on the 31st of January and was arrested on February 7.  He’d started drinking 2 days before that.  So that first night he was drinking, a Monday, I came home from work and here he was sitting on the couch, drunk.  I was flabbergasted.  I was angry and I was hurt and confused and I didn’t know what to do.  So I did what most angry wives do.  I yelled.  I told Shane how upset and angry and disappointed I was that he was drinking.  I told him that I was frustrated that the second I went out the door to work he had to start drinking again.  I told him I wanted him to leave.  He did what all alcoholics do.  First he tried to lie to me, told me he hadn’t been drinking when it was clear to me that he had.  Told me he didn’t have any alcohol in the house and that even if he was drinking, since he was out of alcohol, he wouldn’t be able to drink anymore.  Then he just sat and ignored me.  Then he became angry himself.    I realized that this wasn’t a way I wanted to live.  I realized that I didn’t want to spend my life being angry and that yelling at him until he became angry wasn’t going to work.  I gave up and went to bed.  The next morning when I was leaving for work, the fight started again and ended with Shane telling me he wanted a divorce.  Of course he doesn’t recall saying this and now says that’s not what he wants, but at the time it seemed very real to me and very hurtful.

That Tuesday when I came home from work, I had done a lot of thinking while I was at work.  I decided no matter what condition my husband was in I wasn’t going to get angry and yell.  No matter how upset I became I wasn’t going to be angry and I wasn’t going to yell.  Of course when I walked back in Shane was drunk again.  I felt the old anger rising in my body and I reminded myself that I wasn’t going to get angry.  I sat down on the couch next to Shane and tried to talk to him.  I asked him, in a very calm fashion, what was going on with him that he was drinking again.  He just told me he didn’t know.  I asked him what it was going to take to get him to stop.  He told me again that he didn’t know.  I asked him how we were going to live together if he couldn’t stop drinking.  Again he just said that he didn’t know.  I could feel myself getting frustrated.  All I could think was if he didn’t know then how was I supposed to?  I continued calmly to try to talk to my husband.  I told him that I understood that he was struggling with alcohol right now, and I wanted to be able to be there for him, but since I was working on my own recovery issues, if he was going to be drinking I didn’t think we could be together anymore.  I told him that I love him very much, but I needed to figure out a way to be healthy and if he couldn’t be healthy with me then I needed to end our relationship.  Shane just sat there staring at the television.  I decided that I wasn’t going to argue with him at that point.  I was going to fix myself something to eat and go to bed.  And that’s exactly what I did.  However, as I was getting into the bed, where I had just changed the sheets, Shane was going to get into bed too.  Now I don’t know if you’ve ever been around an alcoholic, particularly one that binge drinks, but when they are drinking most other things go by the wayside.  They don’t eat, they don’t talk to people and they don’t bathe or change their clothes often times.  That’s the case for my husband.  So here he is, not having showered since Sunday morning, thinking he’s going to crawl into bed next to me.  I have to admit that made me angry.  Something so seemingly inconsequential as messing up the clean sheets was making me angry.  I realized that I was being ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop myself.  I told Shane that he was going to have to sleep on the couch until he sobered up and decided to shower.  He was shocked.  He asked me if I was serious, and I told him that I was.  I told him that I had just put clean sheets on the bed and I was not going to have him in them until he managed to clean himself up.  I know in my head I was thinking that would wake him up and convince him to shower and stop drinking.  It didn’t.  It managed to convince him to sleep on the couch and keep drinking.  Which, of course, made me angry.  How could he choose that over sleeping in the bed with me?!?  Of course I know that it wasn’t his rational brain making the decision, it was his drunk brain making that decision.  But I was still angry.  He slept on the couch that night and then was arrested before I got home from work the next day.

That started me thinking.  I yelled and got upset and made myself known to my husband, and that didn’t work.  I sat and tried to talk to him reasonably and that didn’t work.  I tried to punish him for his drinking and that didn’t work.  The common denominator was all that I was trying to convince a person not in his right brain to do what I wanted him to do.  Perhaps I am the crazy one!  Yes Shane is an addict and has a problem with alcohol, but I’m the one trying to reason with a drunk.  I know it’s an impossible task, but here I was trying to do it.  The funny part is, I was on my high-horse thinking I was getting better, but here I was still trying to fix, manage and control this man who has proven to me over and over again that my behavior in the situation doesn’t work.  Now, I’m not saying that Shane’s drinking is my fault.  It’s not.  That’s totally on him.  However my contribution to the messed up situation can’t go unnoticed.  When I’m trying to fix, manage and control Shane, I’m the one who is wrong.  Whether he’s drinking or not.  I am not the boss of anyone’s life.  The only person I can control is me.  Threats don’t work, persuasion doesn’t work and leaving won’t work.  The only person that can decide to get Shane sober is Shane.  The only person that can decide to fix me is me.  I guess if I’ve learned nothing else through all of this it’s at least to take responsibility for my own stuff.  When I am trying to make someone bend to my will it is me with the problem.  I have to give the illusion of my control over their lives over to God.  He can fix, or help to fix, things for other people.  I am not God and I can’t fix others.  The only person I can fix is me.

Monkey Brain

Shane has been sober since he got home from jail.  So what on earth is wrong with me that I don’t trust him?  When I went to the family group at his treatment facility one of the things they talked about it the thinking of the codependent.  I really thought codependency wasn’t my issue, until I heard them talk about this.  When an addict starts thinking about their drug they become all consumed by it.  The addict part of their brain gets louder and louder until they are consumed with thoughts about using, finding their drug and so on.  It’s not all that different in a codependent’s brain.  When I start to worry about Shane drinking, my monkey brain takes over.  Shutting that monkey off, or even turning the volume down is hard, and almost impossible.  In my brain the monkey sounds like this; “I wonder if he’s drinking?  If he’s drinking again I’m going to have to leave.  I don’t want my marriage to be over.  But what if he’s drinking.  How am I going to know if he’s drinking?  I’ll smell it on him when I get home.  But by then the damage is done.  Maybe I’ll search the house for bottles again.  But he’s really good at hiding them, and I often can’t find them.  But maybe if I look harder this time I’ll find them.  Then I’ll dump them out.  But he’ll just buy more.  How long can I keep doing this?  What if he never stops drinking.  That’ll kill him.  I wonder if I can talk to all the area liquor stores and get them to stop selling him alcohol?  But then he’ll just go to the next town over.”  And it keeps going on and on until I’m making myself crazy.

So what do I do about this?  It’s not just a matter of learning to trust my husband again, I have to work my own program and work on fixing myself.  How?  I wish I had a good answer for that.  One of the recommendations is to go to al-anon.  How do I make it to a weekly meeting when I work such weird shifts?  The only al-anon meeting in my town is Monday nights.  Unfortunately I work 2 out of 3 Mondays.  There are more in Brainerd and in Aitkin and other neighboring towns.  I could go on my days off.  So what’s holding me back?  I can’t help but think it might be partly fear.   This “monkey brain” of mine isn’t new since I met Shane.  It’s been going on most of my life.  It’s just that his drinking gave me a place to focus it.  Before I knew Shane there were other places I focused this thinking.  If I get better and stop thinking like this, what will that look like?  I wish I had all the answers to these questions, but I guess the only way I’ll get them is to try to get better and find out.

Back to how to get better.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading, I’ve been to a couple of al-anon meetings, I’ve been working on my 12 step group, and I talk to my sponsor every single day.  I’m still wondering if this is all enough.  I know what the 12 steps are.   They are the same for codependents as they are for addicts.  But how do you know when you’ve achieved each step?  There’s no litmus test that I can find to figure that out.  No one seems to tell you when you’ve met the criteria for the step.  It’s not like earning badges in girl scouts, and I am a person that needs lists and steps and check boxes.  Unfortunately there’s no way to do that to work the 12 step program.

Step one of course is to admit we are powerless over others and our lives have become unmanageable.  I think I’ve got this one.  I know I can’t make Shane’s choices for him and God knows my life is totally unmanageable.  That doesn’t however mean that I don’t want to make some of his decisions if I could.  I’m not sure why I think I would be any better at them, but I always think I can’t make any worse decisions.  However, I know that’s unreasonable.  OK, step two, Came to believe that a power greater than us could restore us to sanity.  No problem.  One thing I know is that I have a solid faith and I do truly believe that if anyone is going to fix my crazy brain it’s going to be the God I believe in.  Step 3, Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood him.  Wait a second.  You want me to turn my life over to someone that’s not me?  I’m not so sure about that one.  It sounds like a good idea, but what if God messes up?  But then again God doesn’t make mistakes so there’s that.  And then my monkey brain starts again.  So did I even really achieve step one.  So then it becomes a never-ending circle with me never getting beyond step 3.  I get frustrated and give up.  I don’t know how to work the program well.  And it gets frustrating not being able to figure it out.  I’m a reasonably intelligent person, and I can’t figure out how this al-anon thing works.  I’m not sure what to do about it.  And maybe that’s the place I need to be.  Unsure, and ok with it.

I know this, I need to get to meetings more frequently.  I need to be working in my workbook and I need to be talking to my sponsor.  Beyond that, somehow I need to learn to let go of some the idea of control I have.  If you know me at all, you’ll know that’s incredibly difficult for me.  I like to have a plan and be sure of where I’m going next and what’s about to happen.  I’m working every day on trying to figure this out.  Trying to be more go with the flow if you will.  It’s definitely a skill that I haven’t yet mastered.  I just try to keep taking life one day at a time.


I know we all have resentments.  I know that they are painful to hold on to.  I know I have them that I hold on to as well.  Recently I was watching a movie recommended by that same family group I attended at Shane’s treatment facility.  It’s called When Love is Not Enough.  Many of you probably know that Bill W. is one of the co-founders of A.A.  But did you know that it was his wife that was really responsible for founding al-anon?  This movie is about how that came to be.  The part that always draws me in is after her husband, a long time alcoholic, finds sobriety and is continuing to go to meetings and help other alcoholics.  One night he’s getting ready for his meeting and she was trying to talk to him about something in the household.  He, Bill W., keeps telling her that they will talk about it after her meeting and his wife, Lois, is getting more and more frustrated as the conversation continues.  At one point she removes her shoe and throws it at him.  She was yelling, and what she says really strikes me.  She says “You’ve been with me all these years and you have no idea what I’ve been through!  You’re my husband and I can’t depend on you at all.  I have prayed and I have fought for you like no one else.  Why wasn’t my love enough to make you stop?  When is it going to be my turn? When are you going to be there for me?”    That’s the questions I’m pondering today.

I know Shane is doing the best he can.  I know he is trying.  For some reason, I’m still struggling.  Every time I have to go to work I worry.  I pray that he’s not drinking, but I worry.  I’m still handling most of the things at home.  He’s trying to cook, he cleans sometimes, but I’m still the one who has to make sure the bills are paid, the laundry gets done, the small bedroom gets cleaned out.  At what point does he take over some of the burden?  Is this going to be my life forever?  I’m not sure I want to live this way much longer.

When we started dating I expressed to Shane that all of my adult life I have taken care of everyone else.  Not that I minded, or would have had it any other way likely, but now that I’m getting a little older it would be nice if someone took care of me once in a while.  I don’t need anyone to take care of me financially, I have a good job and make a good living.  I don’t need someone to cater to my every whim.  What I need is a partner, and I feel like I don’t have one 95% of the time.  I know he is doing the best that he can.  While he was at treatment I took care of keeping the household running.  While he was in jail I took care of things at home.  If the kids have a birthday I shop, I wrap, I do all of that.  If a meal needs to be made I do that too.  I do all the laundry, to include all the dirty clothes he makes when he’s drinking.  I clean up the messes he’s made when he’s drinking. I try to smooth things over with people he’s hurt when he’s drinking.  At what point does someone take care of me?  At what point to I come first?

I know that sounds incredibly selfish, and juvenile.  But I can’t help what I feel.  It’s frustrating when you’ve had to make your whole life about someone else, every single day and it begins to feel like that person doesn’t value you over time.  Particularly when they come home and you still feel you can’t trust them.  I get so sick of harboring the resentment that won’t ever go away.  I don’t want to live my life resenting my husband, but I also don’t know how to get past it.  It’s honestly very difficult to move past all these resentments.  I recall thinking while Shane was in treatment that it must be very nice to be in a luxury treatment facility while I was at home working, shoveling and taking care of all the responsibilities.  Rationally I know that treatment is hard work, and I likely was wallowing in self-pity.  I try not to dwell in that place, but it is hard.

I also know that I resent the feeling that I can’t trust or rely on my husband.  I know it seems like a little thing, but every time I ask him to throw in a load of laundry while I’m at work, and it doesn’t get done I get a little angrier than the last time.  I even know it’s not the laundry I’m angry about.  I’m angry and hurt and frustrated with the fact that I have a husband I can’t count on.  I don’t know how Lois did it for 20+ years with her husband.  I don’t know if I will last that long with a husband I can’t trust or depend on.  I like to think things will get better, but not being sure is really hard.  I think that’s partly my personality.  I need to be sure of things.  I need to plan things.  That is my stuff, but there are times that it’s hard to separate what’s mine from what is Shane’s to deal with.  Our lives have become so twisted up and intermingled it’s very difficult to tell where his addiction stops and my codependency starts.  It’s a daily struggle to remember that I can’t be mad at him for choices I’ve made.  I know the decision to worry all the time is mine and mine alone.  I still find myself blaming Shane for causing me to worry.  Yes, if we hadn’t had all the betrayals of the past I wouldn’t need to be worried all the time.  Conversely, if I’m really working my program and focusing on me, I would let go of these worries and let Shane and God take care of his addiction.  Sometimes that’s hard to remember.  If anyone has any suggestions on how this is done I’m all ears.  In the mean time, I guess I just keep hoping, praying and working my program.


Shane came home from jail.  That’s a good feeling, having my husband home again.  Of course I was back to work tonight.  I wish I could say I felt totally great going back to work and having my husband home, but I can’t.  I love my job, and I love working.  I love having my husband home.  The problem comes from the feeling that I can’t trust him.  Not because he’s done anything to not deserve my trust this time, but all those broken trusts of the past are still with us.  I wish somehow people could just say they are sorry and it won’t happen again and things were magically better, but it’s not the way it works.

That’s what I’m working on today.  I’m trying to learn to trust my husband again.  It’s no secret that when he’s drinking he lies.  All the time, and about such little things.  I’ll ask him if he’s been drinking, even though I can smell it from the door, and he will tell me no.  Last week, before he was arrested, I told him if he hadn’t been drinking to go out and start his car.  He has one of those little box things that won’t allow him to start the car if he’s been drinking.  He came back in and told me the car started right up.  I knew he was lying but what could I say.  He lies to be about if there is anymore alcohol in the house, where it’s hidden, what his plan is for the next day and anything else he thinks might upset me.  It’s hard after all those lies to just go back to trusting him again.

I know that today while I was sleeping Shane was sober.  I know this because he did actually drive his vehicle, and one thing I’ve gotten very good at over the years is smelling alcohol when someone has been drinking.  I didn’t smell any alcohol on Shane.  He told me he was going to a meeting, and I hope he was.  He called me at work after the meeting and unfortunately I didn’t have time to really talk.  He told me he was going to bed at 10 and would be sober when I get home in the morning.  I really hope that’s true.   I want that to be true, but I’m having a hard time believing that it will be.  I wish I could just get past this lack of trust, but I’m assuming it will take time to rebuild.  I wish that I had time off to manage his homecoming and his drinking, but again that’s my stuff.  I am having a hard time figuring out that I have no control over Shane’s drinking.  I am having a hard time giving up control of that part of my life.  Somehow I have to learn to trust not only my husband, but also that God has a plan for him and for me.   I want very much to believe what my husband says and that he’s telling me truth.  I just wish I knew how to do that.

Shane will start outpatient treatment this week, and seems pretty receptive to that.  I have my doubts as to whether or not this will work.  I am trying to learn to trust in the system and that the experts know what’s best for him, but that’s hard for me too.  I think I’ve spent so much of my life having to be in control and managing everything, it’s very hard for me when I can’t be anymore.  Something that it frequently said in al-anon it that we’ve admitted we are powerless over our loved one’s drinking.  That’s an easy one, I know I don’t have power over that.  But do I really?  The struggle for me is that when I’m home, typically Shane doesn’t drink.  It’s when I’m gone that he seems to do most of his drinking.  This leaves me feeling guilty, like I should be at home to stop him from doing it.  However, my husband is a 45 year-old man.  Why should I need to be there to stop him from doing what he knows he shouldn’t?  Is that my job?  And when did I go from being a wife, to being his mother and his keeper?  I don’t want to be his mother.  He has one of those and I have my own kids.  My kids are all grown and don’t need me much anymore, but I have kids, and I don’t intend to raise any more at this point.  I certainly don’t want to raise my husband.  He is supposed to be an adult.  So I’m left with two options.  Option 1: I can quit my job and stay at home to keep my husband from drinking; or option 2: I can trust the process, learn to trust my husband and remain hopeful that he will stay sober.

So, clearly I know that I need to choose option 2.  The rational adult part of me knows that, but then why do I keep trying to do pieces of option 1?  Is it because that’s what I know to do?  Again I’m lead back to the family group that I attended at the treatment facility.  Somehow in my brain I have this weird need to fix, manage and control Shane’s addiction.  Despite my best attempts I haven’t been able to do this, and yet I keep trying.  I know I used to tell my kids that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over an over again and expecting a different result.  Yet, that’s what I keep doing with my husband.  Maybe I’m a slow learner.  So, here’s the decision I have come to.  For today, I am going to trust my husband, trust the process and trust God.  I am going to let go of my feeling of a need to control Shane, and everything in our world.  I am going to assume that he’s not drinking, unless he gives me a reason not to.  I am going to trust that God, and God alone can take this away from Shane.  And God is not another word for me. I can’t take this away from Shane, although I would if I could.  I am going to believe that Shane will go to a meeting and remain true to the promises he’s made to me, and to himself.  I am going to believe that this time he has a true commitment to being sober, and I am going to allow myself to rest.  If I allow God to be in control of all this, and Shane to manage his own addiction, I don’t have to work so hard and a what a wonderful thing that would be.  For this one day I will try this.  Tomorrow I might make a different choice, but for today this is how I will live.  I am going to assume that tomorrow will take care of itself when it gets here, and I am going to focus all my energy on living just this one day.

A new start

I had a nice visit with Shane tonight at the jail.  He’ll come home tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had some apprehension.  He’s telling me that he doesn’t want to live like this anymore, and he wants to live a sober life.  I want so badly to believe him, but time will tell.  I suppose that’s always the way life is with an addict of any variety.  I want to believe that he’ll come home and everything will be fine.  I need to believe that on some level.  I have a lot of hope that this will be the last slip, but I always live with that little voice in the back of my head waiting for the next slip.  I don’t know if my marriage can survive another slip.  I’m not sure if I or Shane will survive another slip.  I guess time will tell.

I myself have been struggling with my own addiction the last couple days.  There is nothing I want more than a chocolate bar, a mint condition from Caribou Coffee and a milkshake.  All at once.  Totally sick thinking.  And maybe a cheeseburger with the bun.  I was up at midnight last night thinking that the Holiday Station is right across the street and I could slip over and get some ice cream and a chocolate bar and no one would know.  Except I would know.  I have to live in my own skin, and lying to myself won’t work.  I’ll always know the truth.  I don’t want to have that guilt.  So as I was walking around my house at midnight trying to decide if I wanted to get dressed and get some ice cream I made a decision.  If I expect Shane to never take another drink, then I have to walk the walk and work my recovery program too.  I thought about calling my sponsor, but like a good Minnesota girl I don’t want to bother anyone at midnight.  So I decided.  I had some almonds and some cheese, and I didn’t get dressed and go get that ice cream I so desperately wanted.  And you know what?  The craving passed.  I can live in my skin knowing that I maintained truth to myself and truth to my husband.  This doesn’t make me self-righteous, and it doesn’t make me better.  It just means I made one good decision.  I can be proud of that.  I made one good decision and then this morning it was easier to make another one.  Every time I decide to eat is another chance to make a good decision and live my sobriety or not.  I hope I keep making the right decision.  I hope my husband comes home and makes the right decision.

I know that not every day I’m going to make a good decision.  I sincerely hope that the days of making poor ones are in the past, but I can’t promise that.  Knowing that, I don’t know how I can expect that from my husband.  I keep thinking I need him to promise me that he’ll never take another drink, but he can’t promise me that.  Another thing they went over in the family program at his treatment facility.  An addict can only promise three things.  I didn’t use yesterday, I’m not using today and I don’t plan to use tomorrow.  Anything beyond that is too much.  I’m the same way.  I ate well yesterday.  I’m eating well today and I plan to eat well tomorrow.  What will happen next week is beyond my control and even beyond my foresight.  That has to take care of itself.  I guess that’s part of letting go and letting God.  I need to trust that my God will take care of next week.  I know that I don’t have power over my addiction, any more than I have power over Shane’s addiction.  I can’t control it.  All I can do is ask God for help and pray that he decides to do that.  Whatever it might look like.  That doesn’t however mean that I blame God for my mistakes, or Shane’s relapses.  Those are a product of free will.  A gift we all received from God, or a higher power or whatever you choose to believe in.  My God doesn’t have total control but I have to believe that when we work together we can achieve great things.  I’ve been trying to start out each of my days with a meditation on that.  I’m hoping that the longer I do it, the more I’ll believe it.  For anyone that knows me, they’ll tell you that control is something I need to have all the time.  What I am quickly discovering is that I control very little.  All I can control is my next decision and keep trying to do the next right thing.  If keep doing the next right thing I’ll keep making good choices and maybe one day the good choices will become habit.  That’s the best I can hope for.

I am so looking forward to having my husband home tomorrow.  I hope that things will be different and better and we won’t ever have to be in this situation again.  Shane has so much to offer the world that he deserves better than the life he’s giving himself.  Isn’t it funny how we can see that in other people but it’s so hard to see in ourselves?  Maybe one day that’ll become the norm as well.  Perhaps one day we will all be willing to give ourselves the life that we deserve.  The lives we were destined to live.

Working through

Today I received my new 12 steps workbook recommended by my sponsor.  When I first started looking at it, I thought, “this is so dumb.  This stuff doesn’t apply to me.”  I mean really I don’t have an alcohol problem, or a drug problem.  I said that to my sponsor.  He said to me,  you need to look yourself in the mirror and decide if you have a problem with food or not.  I did just that.  I looked at myself in the mirror.  I realized that it had been a long time since I had done that.  Until today, the only mirror in our home was the one in the bathroom medicine cabinet, and I never really looked at myself in it.  I mean I look at my eyes when I put on my makeup and I look at my hair when I’m trying to get it to do something, but I’ve not really looked at me.  I frequently look at pieces of me, but not all of me.  I had lost sight of what I look like.  So I was standing in my bathroom looking at myself in the mirror and realized I wasn’t seeing the person I thought I was.  It’s funny how when we get so caught up in addiction, be it ours or someone else’s, we lose site of who we are, where we are going and even what we look like.

Today I really took a good look at myself.  And yes, I admitted I had a problem with food.  It’s not something I can blame on Shane and his addiction, or any of the other myriad of addicts I’ve been in relationships with.  It’s something I’ve done.  I don’t blame myself, but I do carry a lot of guilt about it.  Had I recognized this sooner, I could have been a much better mother to my kids.  I might have had the energy to do more with them when they were younger.  I might have been a better daughter to my mother and had the energy to help her with the things I should have been helping out with.  I would have likely been more fiscally responsible if I hadn’t been spending so much at restaurants and grocery stores.  It’s a tricky addiction, this food thing, because we require food to live.  Like anything else, when used to excess, it becomes a problem.  I will say that I have used food to manage stress.  When Shane has been at the height of his drinking I found that I was eating more and more.  It’s not his fault I was eating mind you.  It’s my sick response to the stress.  However, his drinking had caused such chaos in our lives I felt stressed.  How I dealt with that is totally on me.  Funny how two such similar personalities find each other.  Even though we seem so different on the surface, our politics are different, our religion is different and our jobs are totally different, underneath all that we have many similarities.  Maybe God put us together so we could both realize what problems we have and the chaos we are creating in our own lives and the lives of the people who care about us.

Anyway, back to the mirror thing.  As I was standing there looking at myself, I realized I don’t like what I see very much.  I pride myself on being an extremely honest person.  The people who know me best will tell you I don’t even try to lie because my face always betrays me.  I have been telling the biggest lie of all, to myself.  I’ve been going through my life telling myself I don’t have a problem, and to some degree even questioning if Shane has a problem with alcohol.  Rationally I know we both do, but there’s some little piece of me that always has to question it.  Even when it’s staring me right in the face, I’m still questioning if it’s really a problem.  The first step in my workbook is admitting I am powerless over my drug of choice, in my case food, and admitting my life has become unmanageable because of it.  I really put some thought into that.  I can see how Shane’s drinking has made his life, and by extension my life unmanageable, but has my eating done that too.  I looked back through the checkbooks.  The amount of money I have spent on food in the last few months is insane.  I guess that’s one way I have made my life unmanageable.  Yes, I guess I am powerless over food, just as my husband is powerless over alcohol.  While I was at the family group at the treatment facility one of the leaders poured a half a glass of water.  They told us to pretend it was alcohol.  They asked us, the family members without an alcohol problem, what was wrong with the glass.  None of us saw anything wrong with it, or maybe the fact that it wasn’t full.  Then they asked the addicts what was wrong with it.  Unanimously they said it was the fact that it wasn’t empty.  They could not see any way they would ever leave an unfinished glass of any alcohol behind.  That shocked me.  I’ve left unfinished glasses many times.  But do I ever leave an unfinished plate?  Rarely.  It’s something I’ve been working on, but I’m not always perfect.  I was raised to not leave food behind.  Not because my entire family has a problem with food, but because they lived through times when there might not have been enough.  You just didn’t leave a plate with food on it.  I, however, have never lived through a time when there might not be enough food.  There has always been more than enough.  I don’t need to eat everything that’s not nailed down.  It’s ok to leave some left over.  That took me a long time to realize.

Shane comes home on Friday.  I’m excited to have him home, but nervous of how we will work this program at the same time.  I need him to be sober.  I need me to be sober.  I’m hopeful that if we each focus on our own programs we can find recovery together.  I went out today and bought a full length mirror.  I haven’t brought myself to look in it yet.  I’m not sure when I’ll be able to.  My hope is that maybe while I’m working a program I can get to a point that I can look in the mirror again and like the person I see looking back.  I’m hopeful that perhaps if Shane and I both work our programs we can both look in that mirror and like the people we see.

A long road home

I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me with words of support and encouragement.  Your thoughts, words, prayers and messages are greatly appreciated by both Shane and myself.   I’ve gotten some push back to my writing my truth from people I’m sure have well-meaning intentions.  With the encouragement of my sponsor and the full support of my husband I will continue to write my truth as I see it.  I never expected this blog to cause such a range of emotions from people.  My true intent at the beginning was to have an outlet for myself as well as to give a voice to people who are living in a situation similar to my own.  I know no one’s truth is exactly the same, but there are many similarities amongst them, and I want people to realize that it’s ok to tell your truth no matter how painful it may be.

I had a nice conversation with Shane tonight from jail.  It’s always good to talk to him when he’s sober.  He says he’s feeling really down, and that makes me sad.  It’s sad that our life has had to come to this.  It makes me incredibly sad that alcohol has caused such havoc in our lives.  Shane is a good man, with a really big problem.  I like to think I’m also a good person with a really big problem.  I can’t help but wonder if God hasn’t put us together so that we could come to that realization.  I know that if I hadn’t gotten to this point in my life, I likely wouldn’t have sought help for my own issues.  It seems that when things are at their lowest is when we finally reach out for help.  At least I know that’s how it is for me.

While Shane was away at treatment, a lot went on here.  A lot went on I would have liked to have my husband home for.  Despite his faults, I do love my husband and I do depend on him for many things.  Close to the end of his time at the treatment facility I had some trouble with my car.  I know this seems pretty insignificant, but it was eye-opening for me.  So I was on my way home from a night shift, on a particularly cold Sunday morning when the battery light came on in my car.  I happened to be on the phone with Shane who said to go to Brainerd and have the battery checked out.  Instead of making the turn to come home I continued on to Brainerd.  About 5 miles out of town my car stalled.  Completely quit and wouldn’t restart.  I knew I needed to call a tow truck, but I had no idea where to have it towed to.  Being relatively new to this area I don’t know the mechanics in the area and who on earth was going to be open on a Sunday morning.  I called for the tow and luckily they knew who would be open on a Sunday morning and even had a recommendation for me.  I had my car towed and they informed me they wouldn’t be able to fix it until Monday sometime.  Of course I had to work Sunday night, and Monday night.  I realized at that point I know almost no one here.  Who was I going to call to take me home and help me get to work that night?  Of course, like most people I called my mom.  She told me she would come down, but my mom lives almost 2 hours away.  That would help me get to work, but how was I going to get home so I could sleep before work?  I did what most adults would do.  I called a cab.  I took what was likely the scariest and most expensive trip home I’ve ever had in my life.  I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say I hope I never need to utilize that service again.  My mom came down and I used her car to go to work while she spent the night at my house.  Monday morning my car of course wasn’t done, but it would be done that afternoon.  Luckily for me my mom is retired and she spent the day at my house, of course doing what moms do, my laundry, and took me to get my car that afternoon.  I know this is a long story to get to this point.

This was when I realized how isolated I had become.  It wasn’t just Shane’s drinking that caused this, but also my own stuff.  In my attempt to keep his drinking a secret I had lost contact with the few people I knew in the area.  In my attempt to hide my own eating I had refused contact with the people I knew in the area.  It struck me that addiction wants us to be alone.  If too many people know what’s going on in our homes they might stop allowing us to be sick.  If we can’t hide what’s going on at home, we have no choice but to get better.  I don’t want to live my life in a vacuum.  I don’t want to have to avoid people to hide my problems.  I want to be able to live in the sunshine and do what normal people do.  So I guess that means I have to get better.  Not for Shane, and not for the people who want to support me, but for me to be able to live the life I want to live.  And the life I feel I deserve.

I also realized that I’ve lost contact with some of my long-time friends.  People I’ve known for years, that have always been there for me and I for them.  I’ve spent some time reconnecting with one or two of these people and I have to say it feels so good.  I like feeling like I’m not all alone in this.  I’m lucky to have an amazing sponsor in my own recovery, and I have some amazing friends.  I am lucky to have a family that loves and supports me and I have a strong faith in my God.  It’s going to take all of this to manage my recovery and make sure I don’t end up in this situation again.


Shane has been in jail since that Wednesday night.  He will come home on Friday.  I’m not going to lie, I have had a lot of feelings about this.  At first I was totally embarrassed.  Here I am, a Registered Nurse, in this community and the police were in my home arresting my husband.  Then I was just plain angry.  How dare my husband put me in this position?!  He just got home from treatment and he’s supposed to be better!  I understand that they can’t “fix” people in treatment, but I seriously thought we would have more than 4 days.  I realize that my thinking was naive and I didn’t realize what all went into someone staying sober.  I have to accept responsibility for my own part in this.  I put a lot of pressure on Shane.  I expected him to come home and just jump back into our life.  I expected him to be able to be responsible for things around home and keep himself sober, while I worked my program.  I’m working my own program around being a recovering codependent, not always successfully, but I was also diagnosed with my own addiction.  I was diagnosed with an addiction to food.  I’m working my program, trying to stay in recover despite the chaos going on around me.  It’s really hard.  I know that if we both can’t find recovery, we can’t stay together.  That scares me.

My own struggles started long before I met Shane.  I’ve probably always had a codependency problem.  I feel the unending need to fix, manage and control everything around me.  That’s likely partly what works for me in nursing, but it doesn’t work for me in the personal world.  When I see people doing things I feel are “wrong” or leading them in the wrong direction, I have this unstoppable need to help.  To the point of trying to take over.  I’ve been accused of being overly motherly.  I suppose when you spend so much of your time around people who can’t manage their own lives, it’s somewhat natural to want to step in and manage it for them.  What I struggled to realized was that in my need and my desire to control everything around me, I had lost control of my own life.  It’s a daily struggle to remember to “watch my own bobber.”  I need to remember that I need to keep my own house clean before I can help anyone clean up theirs, both literally and metaphorically.

For people who knew me when I was younger, they’ll recall I never struggled with food in high-school or even in college.  If you knew what was really going on, if you’d lived in my home, you’d know differently.  I have always been obsessed with my weight.  When I couldn’t control what was going on around me, I controlled what I could, and that was what I was eating.  I was a normal weight and body habitus when I was growing up.  I swam regularly.  I didn’t eat regularly.  When I felt I was “getting fat” I didn’t eat at all.  If only I could be as fat now as I thought I was when I was younger.  Then in my second year of college things fell apart.

Some things happened when I was away at college.  I’m not going into the details, that’s not something anyone wants to read about.  What I will talk about is how my addiction started.  I moved home in my second year of college, and I started eating.  It’s normal in my family that when someone is having a hard time, or we are celebrating that we center that around food.  I think that’s normal in all Northern MN families.  We come from a heritage where our grandmothers fed us.  All the time.  I started gaining weight.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it.  I got pregnant and had my son, so of course I was gaining weight.  Then after he was born and I never really lost the weight I told myself that was normal too.  My mom didn’t lose all the weight when my sister and I were born.  My family is heavier, so that’s normal, right?  I gained more weight.  I got divorced.  I continued to gain.  I got remarried.  I continued to gain.  I got divorced again, and realized things were becoming a problem, but I had no idea what to do about it.  So, I did what came naturally to me.  Tried to control it.  Ate less.  Ate nothing sometimes.  Lost a bunch of weight.  But I didn’t do it in a healthy manner.

When Shane and I got married, and I realized how bad things were with his alcoholism, I started eating again.  I started gaining weight.  I realized I had my own problem.  I talked to someone.  I had to do something about it.  I’m working my own program, but it’s hard.  When my husband starts drinking, it’s hard for me not to relapse into food.  It’s hard not to revert to my codependent ways.   I can honestly say when he first came home I was asking him regularly if he was going to meetings.  What I needed to be asking myself is if I was going to meetings.  I wasn’t.  How can I expect my husband to work a program when I’m not doing a good job of it myself.  I’m working with my sponsor, I’m checking in every day, I’m cataloging everything I eat, but I’m not going to meetings.  I’m not talking to people who are like me at least on a weekly basis.  This is something I need to get better about, not for Shane, but for me.  I need that in my life.   I need people to talk to who are like me.  I can’t just read the books and talk the talk.  I have to walk the walk as well.

I’m still angry, although I’m less angry at my husband.  I’m as much angry at myself for my own slips.  I think alcoholics, addicts in general, look for other addicts and codependents, likely unconsciously.  They need these people in their lives to survive.  When the partner starts getting better, often there are problems in the relationship, because the partner is no longer doing what the addict needs them to do to support their addiction.   When I can step back and thing about things rationally, I know this.  I have definitely played my part in allowing my husband’s alcoholism to continue in our home.  I have allowed my own problems with food to continue in our home.  I need to hold myself accountable for my own part in this.  I am still disappointed in Shane for the choices he’s made.  I’m sad that he’s made those choices that have gotten him to where he is today, but I can’t own that.  To do so would lead me down my own path of self-destruction, and I don’t want that.  I’m hopeful when he comes home on Friday we can come up with a workable plan to keep him sober and me in recovery.  I don’t know how it will all play out, but I have hope.  We are both still alive and I have always believed, “where there’s life, there’s hope.”

A reprieve

Shane made it through treatment ok.  It was a long 28 days for him and for me.  I hadn’t realized how much I depended on him for when he was sober.  When he was drinking I wasn’t able to depend on him for anything.  Of course while he was gone I was still working full-time and taking care of all the household tasks.  Normally it wouldn’t have been fine, but of course in his drunkenness he had made quite a mess and I had to dig out from under that in the first few days.  I’ve often wondered if alcoholics realize the messes they create.  Not just the physical mess in the house, but the financial, and emotional messes they create in their wake.  I know sober these people wouldn’t want to make that kind of mess, and wouldn’t want to wreak that type of havoc, but when the alcohol takes hold they are such a shell of their former selves that nothing else seems to matter.  I recall telling Shane once that it was almost as if he had a mistress.  It’s just that the mistresses name was vodka.  Nothing but the vodka seemed to matter.  No me.  Not his kids, not anything.  That’s really hard to watch.  Knowing that’s not who he is when he’s sober but he’s willing to throw away a life and all the people who care for him for the booze is hard.  He came home on January 31st. I understand from him that treatment was hard but he said he had a serious commitment to stop drinking when he came home. While he was there the facility ran a three-day intensive family program. I went. I’m not going to lie, it was a rough three days for me.

I walked in on that first day having no idea what I was getting into and incredibly nervous.  I was on the phone with my mom on the drive down and the last thing I said to her was that if I got there an all the chairs were in a circle I was leaving.  If you know my family at all, you know that talking about our feelings, particularly in a large room of strangers, is not something that we do.  If I’d only known.  The next three days were a whirlwind of feelings, learning, lectures and in so many ways totally overwhelming.  I left each day feeling totally exhausted and with the strangest headache.  It wasn’t like a normal headache.  More like total exhaustion mixed with tension and something I can’t even explain.  I learned a lot, not only about alcoholism, but about myself and the part I played in the disease.  I left with an idea that I could manage my life, and Shane would have to manage his own.  I knew I wanted things to be different and I thought I had a plan of how to make that happen.  I felt like I had the strength to have him come home and we would be OK.  I knew that things wouldn’t magically be fixed, but I had an idea of how to work my own program and the idea that I could leave him to his.  I didn’t feel the overwhelming urge to fix, manage and control everything in our lives.  I only wish I could have carried that on.

The day Shane was set to come home was interesting.  I had worked a night shift the night before and then made the drive to the treatment facility.  Shane was ready and waiting when I got there.  He looked like his old self.  I know I had it in my head that things were going to be better.  I was going to al-anon whenever I could and I assumed he would be going to A.A. meetings.  I had a few days off so we had some time to spend together.  It was so good to have him home.  It felt like things did before the drinking got in the way.  He got his outpatient follow-up care set up, he wasn’t thrilled with the schedule to say the least, and the fact that he threw a fit and yelled and stomped about it was a huge red flag for me.  However I remembered everything I learned in the family group and let it go.  It wasn’t mine to fix and I couldn’t control it, so I tried to let it go.  But that little voice in the back of my head kept nagging at me.  I felt like we were headed for a crash.

We had a really nice weekend together, and then Monday morning I was back to work.  I called Shane on my way to work and things sounded ok.  Later in the day we talked on the phone and I thought things were ok.  When I got home, things weren’t ok.  He was drunk.  I was furious.  He had been home all of four days and he was drinking again.  I couldn’t figure out where things had gone wrong.  I yelled.  I was so angry.  Shane refused to look at me, he refused to speak to me.  I gave up and went to bed, even though I didn’t sleep.  The next day I was back to work.  This time when I called I got no answer.  I can’t even begin to tell you how worried and upset I was.  I knew my husband had been drinking, I was absolutely terrified that he had hurt himself or worse.  I wanted to leave work and go home.  I needed to be at work.  Again the tape started playing in my head.  What are we going to do?  How could he be drinking?  He just got out of treatment and he’s drinking!  Of course I got home and Shane was passed out.  I’d been at work all day, making a living to support us and he couldn’t even do the dishes.  He couldn’t make dinner.  I was so angry.  I tried to talk to Shane.  You can’t talk to someone when they’re drunk.  They aren’t reasonable.  I was so frustrated, and I didn’t know what to do.  I noticed on his voicemail that there was a message from his probation officer.  Shane had a DUI last year and was still on probation for that, to include a condition of not drinking.  I reminded Shane he needed to call his probation officer back.  I asked him to do it.  Wednesday from work I asked him to do it again.  I texted him to remind him to do it.  I knew he wouldn’t do it.  I talked to the probation officer myself, gave him the information he was looking for.  When he asked me why Shane didn’t call him back, all I could say was that Shane just wasn’t able to call him.  He wasn’t in a condition to call him.  I was trying to protect my husband, from what I didn’t know, I may have made things worse.

Wednesday on the way home from work I tried to call Shane on his cell.  No answer.  I tried to call our home phone and a police officer picked up.  I was terrified.  The only thing I could think of was that Shane took his life.  The officer assured me that Shane was ok, but was being arrested.  They said that they were sent to my house and Shane would not answer the door.  The officer told me that they could see my husband stumbling around in the house and saw him fall.  They decided they needed to come in to make sure he was ok.  Evidently, based on what the officers were able to tell me, Shane went into our bedroom, where he had a loaded handgun and closed the door.  The officers had to push the door open and asked Shane to take a breath test to see if he’d been drinking.  Another condition of his probation is that he submit to a test when asked.  He took the test and blew a 0.251.  More than three times the legal limit.  I was so upset.  I was embarrassed, I was angry, I was scared.  My husband was drunk and going to jail because of it.  I was embarrassed that the police had to go into my home after my husband.  I couldn’t believe what was going on.  It just seemed to surreal.  I thanked the officer for letting me know.  And I started praying.  Over and over I asked God to protect my husband and keep him safe.  Jail is not a place that’s safe for a former law enforcement officer.

I got home that night and started cleaning up the mess my husband had made.  I had to call his mother, his kids, my mother.  It’s hard to always be the one cleaning up the mess.  I was so angry.  It’s funny how quickly we turn to anger when we aren’t sure what emotions are safe to feel.  When Shane called home to let me know where he was I’m not even sure what I said to him, but I’m sure it wasn’t kind.  I pride myself on being kind all the time.  I didn’t even have it in me to be kind at this point.  It’s hard to admit that, but that’s the honest piece of how I was feeling.  The anger comes in waves.  I’m trying to let it go.