Sunday, May 20, 2012

Taking Care

I haven't been here in so long, I forgot this was in my drafts waiting to be finished and published. I think I'll just finish it now...


A year and a half ago I joined Weight Watchers. I've lost 20lbs so far....but it should've been more. And I say that not to be self-depricating, but because I'm admitting that I haven't been taking it very seriously. Most of the time, I'm not really trying to follow the program. It's super-difficult for me to keep a weight-loss program up high on the priority list. Is this any surprise, really? This, in fact, is the problem: I don't take care of myself and I'm not allowed to (says me). My kids are more important. My husband and his issues are more important. Taking care of my home-- that's my identity-- that's more important.

But slowly, s l o w l y... I am learning to move myself up on that priority list, slowly I'm starting to see and believe how taking care of myself benefits my family.

But what does that even mean? Again, slowly... I'm learning... I have two friends that come to mind who have asked me how that's going, or what I'm going to do this week to take time for "me" (note to self: let them in!).

Sometimes when I am stressed, bored, overwhelmed, or whatever emotion I find painful, I start wanting to eat. It makes no sense to me: what will eating solve? Now that I'm thinking about it more I realize I'm not really even hungry...or am I? I don't know if I'd know hungry if it growled in my stomach. My brain says eat. My body says, "no thanks, I'm cool."

Years ago, my mom sent me a series of books by Geneen Roth. I finally cracked one open, and in Feeding the Hungry Heart I read this:
"Binges are purposeful acts, not demented journeys. They do not signify a lack of willpower or the inability to care for yourself. On the contrary, a binge can actually be an urgent attempt to care for yourself when you feel uncared for. Binges speak the voice of survival. They are protective mechanisms. Binges are signals that something is terribly wrong, that you are not giving yourself what you need-- either physically (with food) or emotionally (with intimacy, work, relationships). They are your last stand against deprivation."
When I read this, a lightbulb went on. I'm not sure why I couldn't admit it before, but suddenly I let myself recognize my true feelings: I feel uncared for.

Sure, as the wife of a sex addict in full swing, you are uncared for. To the extreme, you might even be flat-out abused, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. But right now, at this point in my life, at the space I'm in where our marriage is fairly healthy and my own issues are bubbling to the surface,  feeling uncared for happens in seemingly benign situations. If the kids are fighting and agitated when they're getting ready for school, and then we're late and I didn't have breakfast and someone's complaining about what's in their lunch and someone else forgot their jacket or shoes (yes, that has happened!) I suddenly can't get my mind off what I'm going to order when I am smiling at the barista in give-or-take 15 minutes. But I haven't had breakfast, where can I get a gluten-free pastry? Because I definitely deserve some elaborate pastry at this point. And now I'm driving half-way across town to "take care" of myself when I would've actually been better cared for by quickly going home, fixing a healthy breakfast and taking a bike ride with the baby. And doesn't my insanity sound just like a certain sex addict I know...?

So now I'm on the lookout for times when I feel uncared for. I'm not sure what to do in those moments, but I know what NOT to do. That's a start.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

(tap-tap) Is this thing on? (A Warm-up)

I don't think I even know how to blog anymore. How did I used to do this on a regular basis? Was I ignoring my family more? Getting less sleep? Because nowadays I feel like the end of the day comes and dang, I'm just ready for bed. It doesn't matter what time of the day it is, I feel guilty for being on the computer when I *should* be spending time with the kids or the husband, or cooking or cleaning or any number of chores. It's not like I can justify it by claiming an income... and I suppose I don't feel like I deserve simple recreational writing. I'm working on those layers, I'm working on it...

Oh my gosh seriously?! A minute ago, my whole family was in our tiny bathroom, which is right next to my bedroom where I'm snuggled up in bed typing... they were all yelling out their individual weird noises as they bathed, pooped, brushed, texted and filmed the whole hullabaloo. We are all crazy. And I LOVE it. But alone-time is a difficult thing to come by. We don't have enough room for us in our little house. It is true, even though we hold our chins up high and make the best of it. Because it could be worse, it could always be worse. But if I'm going to be completely honest, I am praying for a larger space, so the kids can spread their wings a little, so there are two bathrooms for the 7 of us (it's like Greg vs. Marsha all the time!) and so there are are places to retreat around here. And now my ridiculous husband is singing Don't Worry Be Happy, which is always a cruel thing to do because anyone knows that song gets stuck in your head and won't leave for days.

What I really want to write about is...... well, there is just so much. I never really know where to start.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fear of Storytelling

Just another little reminder for future reference to help me with my fear of telling my story. I'm a little afraid of sharing the gory details, but mostly, I'm just trying to sort out what the heck has happened. I can't get alone enough to process these 37 years...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Confession: I Have An Addiction Too

Confession: I have an addiction too.

I've been wanting for a while to introduce my own struggle with addiction to this blog, publicly taking note of the many ways my and my husband's symptoms overlap and how this helps us to understand and support each other, but I have much bigger priorities, like laundry and a toddler...

(I seriously just had to break in the middle of that sentence to start a load of pee-pee sheets and do a puzzle.)

Anyway... now that I'm here, writing it down for the world to see, I'm having a hard time deciding how to label my addiction. I am addicted to _______? In fact, I'm not sure that telling you I'm addicted to a particular one thing is going to paint an accurate picture of what I struggle with.

More accurately, I medicate.

Mostly, I medicate with food. Sometimes with spending money. When it's money, it usually overlaps with food; I'm not racking up credit card debt on closets-full of clothes. We have an extremely tight cash-only budget, and if I can weasel out a dollar here and there from the gas or groceries, I don't save it for something that we need and can't afford, like new tires. I'll use it to "treat" myself with eating out or getting a coffee. And I won't tell. I don't want my kids to be jealous and think we eat out now and start begging me for stuff I have say no to. I don't want my husband to be disappointed that I'm using our precious dollars for something other than what it was allocated for, especially when it's me who's making such a big deal about sticking to the budget. And once I eat or drink it, the evidence is gone!

The primary mindset of an addict is, "if you really knew me, you wouldn't love me," and I can't help but feel that now. I've only described a fraction of the sneakiness in my heart, and now I'm sure you think I'm a creep and a loser.

Actually, that's just what I'm thinking. You are most likely excusing me, or thinking I'm ridiculous for making such a big deal over a cup of coffee. Sure, there are a bunch of reasons why I deserve a latte once in a while, or why it should be okay to let someone else whip me up some Pad Thai when doing all that work at home will go largely unappreciated. But it's when I'm stealing from our budget to medicate stress at the expense of my family's overall well-being, and the fact that I'm intentionally keeping it a secret that my motives turn the event into something destructive. And I do this more often than I'm aware of because I largely tune-out my motives so I can get away with it. At least, I think that's what I do...

But I'm working on it. Slowly, over this past year or so, I've been trying to cut through the haze of my own medicated state to see and understand what the heck is going on with me. There are so many layers! Physically, emotionally, spiritually... and I'd love to hash some of those things out here.

I am really loving being married a recovering addict these days....I'm in good company :)

Infinite Possibilities...But What Is Mine?

My life experiences have taught me that every woman's pregnancy experience is different, not only from other women's experiences, but from her own different experiences. No two pregnancies or births are completely alike.

 In the same way, no two people have the same relationship with God. Now think of all the people God knows, and it's incomprehensible that He doesn't start to treat us all alike in some ways. I feel stretched to the max getting to know my husband and five kids. Not to mention all the "friends" I have on Facebook (annnnd, I'm kidding). But God has made us all so unique, that the ways in which he relates to us are infinitely unique.  Although most of us like to enjoy affinity with one another, I try to be cautious not to project my own preferences or experiences onto others.  As more grey hairs twang out of the top of my head (which I infer to mean I'm growing wiser) I opinionate less and listen more...and I am amazed at our creative God and the depth of his love for us.  I'll notice that he loves someone else in a completely different way than he is loving me, much like how I relate to my own children.  I can be jealous of how He is loving another, or maybe just glad for them, because that's not what would float my boat.  It drives me crazy to see people rolling their eyes at a mother's maternity choices, or telling someone what God wants them to do, as if in their limited frame of reference, they've become all-knowing.

Sometimes I don't want to admit it, but marriages are all different, too.  There are some basic ideas, but how that plays out for each person is infinitely unique.  I recently heard Bill Clem of Mars Hill Ballard say this:
"What I understood about marriage, before I got remarried, was that I could be a good husband by being a biblical husband.  But if you have start understanding you can love them, but there really is a difference and that you can't just generically be "dad" or generically be "mom" to all [five].  That there's a way that you have to love each person in a unique way.  That becomes the assignment in marriage.  It isn't to be a generic biblical spouse, but it is to be a biblical spouse who is tailor-shaping that love to your spouse, and that they tailor themselves to express a biblical love to you and that's what makes it marriage instead of simply fellowship."
The reason I don't want to admit this is because I am married to an addict.  I want to squeeze my marriage into the boundaries of another marriage, so I can somehow extract more of the romantic ideals that other marriages seem to have more of.  I want to be experiencing what I regard as cohesive marriage where we're both equally contributing to the relationship (picture me doing the Robot here).  In our relationship it seems like we are both contributing to the healing of the addict, and a very unequal piece of care comes my way. This may or may not be true, and this may or may not be something I have control over; I haven't completely figured it out yet.  On many good days, I'm leaning hard into friends and my Redeemer Husband to keep my heart from exploding with need.

Twice this week I've heard Philippians 2--
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who,being in very nature God, didn't consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross!  (NIV)
Wow. If Jesus was equal to God and used this status to serve others with to-the-death humility, then how about this: I am unequivocally loved, accepted and provided for by God, so I have the ability to use this to serve others with to-the-death humility. Obedience....the very nature of a servant....tailor-shaping that love to your spouse.... It all fits together, and it serves me well to keep asking... how?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Thanks a lot" and also, Thanksgiving

Just before Thanksgiving, a friend of mine called to ask if I could fill in for her capricious nanny until Christmas break, while they look for a more permanent replacement. I said sure! I always want to help a friend; I could use a paying gig.

Sunday after Thanksgiving, we made our budget for December, proud of the success of November's frugal, cash-only budgeting and laid December on the altar for the holes that paychecks won't fill, knowing God is always providing for us in crazy ways. And this doesn't even take Christmas Consumerism into consideration...just the basics. Maybe a little less than the basics, but we're alright.

Monday morning comes too early, but there I am, with my own toddler in tow, ready to serve. My friend answers the door, gaunt and slouched, eyes drooping, barely standing, barely breathing.

"Are you okay?" I quickly begin to realize something is very wrong.

No, she is not. Her husband has left her. He told her--on Thanksgiving-- that he wanted out of their almost-20-year marriage, and then sat down with their three kids to feast on the meal she'd been cooking all day, while she went to an out-of-town friend's house to crumble into a pile of rubble, a ruined city. Alone.

My friend is the heartbroken, heart of ashes, languid spirit. Mourning has it's place and I try not to bombard her with messages of hope, and I do my best to know the pain with her, share hugs and tears and to be hands and feet in her home for what seems the trivial daily grind next to remembering to breathe.

I am feeling disappointed (understatement) in yet another spouse giving up, making a conscious choice to be discontent and withdrawing from relationship, instead of playing through. NEWSFLASH: there is no perfect relationship. You will never find that person who never bugs you, whom you have everything in common with forever. REALLY-- You want your life to look like a sit-com, with strings of disposable relationships based on your own comfort and entertainment? Life is not like TV and movies, duh! This guy says he's "not leaving the kids" but what kind of dad will he be if he's just in relationship for convenience? I have a 12-year old know-it-all daughter battling to the death of wills every day and let me tell you, it's not comfortable, entertaining or convenient in the least! There are days when I look at my husband and wonder what alien has taken his place and I'm horrified that I'm set up to grow old with this dork... but I play through and things iron out. God is always moving, we are always growing, there are ups and downs. This stuff requires grace and patience and second chances over and over.

Dude: you are leaving your kids by leaving your relationship with the wife of your youth. And they will probably know it before you do.

This guy has a problem, and I feel sorry for him, too. He's totally unhappy, and has been for a while and I think it has little if anything to do with his wife. I am just sick of this magical thinking. I am sick of the struggle with it in my own brain. It's an evil lie. But I am really sick of watching my friends and their children suffer the fallout. It might be "normal" but it is not okay. STOP ABANDONING EACH OTHER. That's what I'd spray-paint on a stop sign if I could.

But this is not the only thing I wanted to write about. Off the tirade, back to our budget.

Now I don't think my friend here is walking with the Lord. I think that is a thing of the distant past for her (we met through a church group). But little does she know it, God is using her. The money she set aside to pay her nanny is now going to fill in the holes in our budget! We might be able to pay all the bills! Buy the food we need (the end of the month is always slim pickins around here)! Maybe fill some Christmas stockings! What a blessing, albeit a mixed bag of emotions...God works all things, you know? It's just weird, maybe enlightening to be on the other side of this.

The other thing is that being able to be there, present for my friend in this dark night of hers is a gift of redemption for me. It gives the dark times I've been through purpose. It wasn't all for nothing. Now I get to be, once more, Grace to the Brokenhearted. And I know this is only one small way God will redeem my own Ruined City. Like a giant oak next to a sprouting acorn, the evidence of God's grace in my life is so very apparent. It's been a while since I read the manifesto of that first year when truth and recovery began, the Year of His Favor, so I'm reading it aloud to you now. My story is in here:

Isaiah 61 (the message)

Announce Freedom to All Captives
 1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor, 
   heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives, 
   pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace— 
   a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies— 
   and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, 
   give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom, 
   a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness" 
   planted by God to display his glory.
They'll rebuild the old ruins, 
   raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They'll start over on the ruined cities, 
   take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You'll hire outsiders to herd your flocks 
   and foreigners to work your fields,
But you'll have the title "Priests of God," 
   honored as ministers of our God.
You'll feast on the bounty of nations, 
   you'll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble 
   and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled 
   and your joy go on forever.
 8-9"Because I, God, love fair dealing
   and hate thievery and crime,
I'll pay your wages on time and in full,
   and establish my eternal covenant with you.
Your descendants will become well-known all over.
   Your children in foreign countries
Will be recognized at once
   as the people I have blessed."
 10-11I will sing for joy in God,
   explode in praise from deep in my soul!
He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,
   he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo
   and a bride a jeweled tiara.
For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers,
   and as a garden cascades with blossoms,
So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom
   and puts praise on display before the nations.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Being Attracted vs Being in Love

On Sunday we were discussing Jacob, who stole his brother's blessing and then ran into the desert to hide. His reverence to God is conditional, he brings chaos and jealous, adulterous baby-making to his unhappy wives ("What? You want me to just have sex with your servants? Gee, okay, if you insist..."). What a mess! As a husband and a servant of God, he's kind of a wuss. Jacob is not turning out to be a very attractive man in my opinion.

But still... God has a plan. Jacob's been blessed, and God is moving forward with it. As over-dramatic as his response seems, Jacob has an encounter with God and proclaims, "Surely, the Lord is in this place!" In the middle of nowhere, God meets this most undeserving man with grace and mercy.
These lives in the bible, they are all examples of the stuff we live too, and the stories all point to Jesus and the grace and mercy he gave to the undeserving.

And I'm realizing that I don't have to always be attracted to my husband. I just have to always be in love with my ever-faithful God. He has a plan, He's doing it. And the purpose, never forget, is for my story to point to Jesus, and the immeasurable grace and mercy he demonstrated to me (undeserving) on the cross.

So my marriage? Surely God is in this place. I just need to be looking for Him. what, exactly?

He calls me, excited at spending more time with one of "his guys", getting to share more of our story. "And it's encouraging people!" He is clearly smiling on the other end of the connection. Today, at this moment, he is having a good day.

But. I am not feeling encouraged. In fact, I am increasingly losing hope.

I am feeling the weight of a string of little betrayals, little slips, little character flaws coming to the surface. Lately, he has not been fighting like a warrior; in fact, he reminds me of a teenager who doesn't want to do his homework, whining and procrastinating and... failing the Test.

I'll be straight with you, it turns me off. Mighty warrior, fighting for God, fighting for me... now that's sexy! Lazy, acne-ridden teenager? Not so much.

My hope comes into question, then. Am I just a loony, hanging on to this? Should I be kicking myself in the rear for placing just a tiny bit of hope in having a husband who loves me and fights for me, who honors God and raises his children with intentionality and fervor? He seemed like he was on his way to maturity, one of the strongest men I know, to get this far. He has fought through so many obstacles....

But is it all just there, under the surface, like cancer cells, waiting to spring up and kill us off? How much of remission is his will to survive, and how much is still generations of sin, hidden, clinging on?

What am I hoping for, anyway?
Am I hoping that he will grow into a husband who loves me and our kids with his subservience to God?
Am I hoping that we just somehow stop passing on the majority (if not all) the psycho strongholds we brought into marriage?
Am I hoping that I will manage to honor my Father God with my own heart's intentions, whatever may come of my husband? That's a hard one...because how do you explain it to the kids: all the subtle ramifications of his sin that affect their lives: lost jobs, parents not being on the same page, his subtle isolation from them and from mommy. When they ask the questions and I know the answer, and I have to do something I rarely do: not trust them with the truth. What about all that?
We lay our hope, full and tender, into the depths of Him and wait in hope for God to resurrect something good. Good always necessitates long waiting. --Ann Voskamp

I have to teach them that God is trustworthy. That we can wait in hope for God because he is doing a good thing...we just have to wait. Maybe even generations. They might have to wait too, not ever seeing what we all want to see: Daddy choose God and Mommy over medicating his discomfort. Daddy finding his identity in God, trusting the process, fighting through pain like a warrior who has a legacy to protect, a King to serve!

I don't know how I'll explain those awkward, painful things. I have to hope that God will meet me in those moments too. I have to hope that God is resurrecting something good in me, and consequently, in my children. Not only in spite of my addict husband, but--I'll admit it--in spite

Monday, August 22, 2011

Remembering the Promise

Many times, in order to keep perspective on what addiction recovery is all about, I think of myself as being married to someone with a medical condition. For instance, if my husband, whom I love dearly and have committed my life to-- in sickness and in health-- had had a stroke, I wouldn't have up and left him saying, "I didn't sign up for this! Hmph!" While stroke and addiction are very different, strokes are debilitating, unfair and therefore a kind of painful betrayal, and while you will  never be the person you were before, it is often possible to recover almost completely with years of patient, hard work. It would be heartbreaking and immeasurably difficult, but if I made that choice to stay, I would have to remember that this is the life I'd chosen to take on. And the person you become as a result of the struggle and fight to recover might even be a person you like better anyway.

This last week we had a situation. A friend invited the kids and I to an overnight at a beach house with her family. One of my first thoughts, admittedly, was that I can't stay trapped at home forever by my husband's "problem"... aaaand things have been feeling more "normal" lately so we should be fine-see-you-on-the-flip-side-bye-bye. He went to work, I went to the beach, end of story.

If only.

I have signed up to be the main helper of  a man with a debilitating disease, and I just left him for a weekend without preparing, without making a plan for his care in my absence. Loneliness swept in with full force and before he knew what was happening, he was slipping.

I'm not saying it's my fault, or that he's not responsible for his own choices and actions. But both of us have a longing to be "normal" (whatever that means), to have a break from the arduous work of recovery. Sometimes, when the work has become a normal part of life and everyone looks healthy, it's easy to forget that we are healthy because we are doing that hard work. If you throw something different into the day, you have to compensate by changing your recovery plan, or "changing your meds" as I like to say. We should have made a Relapse Prevention Plan*. Being active in recovery affords us the freedom of being apart, or doing things that are otherwise triggers to us. So when loneliness comes pounding on the door, my husband would be prepared to answer. And I, instead of secretly worrying like a codependent, could enjoy my time at the beach more fully.

What the Locusts Have Eaten...

There have been years and years-- generations in our family history-- that have been eaten up by an army of locusts...

What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts have eaten.
Joel 1.4

...and I forget that this isn't just a clinical disease that I can control and fix with educated, strategic choices. I forget that a promise has been given to me. I forget what my husband once said that I had to write on the wall because it was so profound it had to be our family mantra: It's not just a fight to survive, we're serving God! It's the promise; the promise is why we're doing this. I saw it again this morning, in Joel:

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten--
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm--
my great army that I sent among you
Joel 2.25

Over and over again the Bible tells the same story: the people don't trust Him, they rebel and find their own way and end up leading themselves into destruction. God helps expediate their destruction because He is in a hurry for His people to return to Him. And then the promises: I will repay you... you will have plenty... you will know... because I am faithful... never again will my people be shamed (2.27).

I am not JUST following doctor's orders. I am living out a promise! What the locusts have eaten, God is restoring...and  I will praise the name of the Lord my God, who has worked wonders for me!

*Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan helps you to remain 'sober' and offers you a way to escape when tempted. I will work on posting a more detailed description of a Relapse Prevention Plan in the future.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Personal Transformation

Someday I want to explain to you the layers upon layers that are in this sermon, and the reasons it absolutely rocked my world, and is still rocking my world today. The Word of God. Man... It does not come back void. A promise He gives you one day, will still be true and alive later. To look back on this sermon from -oh my goodness- FOUR years ago and to know how God has been keeping and has yet to fulfill even more His promise to transform us for His glory is nothing short of the most humbling, amazing realization. I know without a doubt, I am seen and loved by God, because of how much He cares about my story and what He can do with it.

Near the end of the sermon Rick (the pastor) talks about a woman who sent him an email about her husband's adultery... well, that was me! I hope you have time to give this a listen.