08 October 2014

God told me to write this...


Sandra Bullock told me to leave my husband.

Well, that’s only partially true.  It was God but he used Sandy to do it.  God doesn’t often speak to me in words or pictures that are crystal clear but when he does, it’s generally one of two ways.  The first method is more subtle.  It’s a tap on the shoulder; a “hey, over here” kind of thing.  The other method has all the subtlety of blunt force trauma.  This time, though, was something between the two.

A brief recap for those of you who might not have seen the movie:  Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock’s character) is part of a US space shuttle mission.  Near the end of their mission, she and the rest of the shuttle crew are caught in a shower of debris from a destroyed Russian satellite that demolishes their shuttle and leaves Dr. Stone stranded in space with a very slim chance of ever returning to Earth.

My life at the time I saw Gravity was feeling more and more fragmented.  Like Bullock’s character, I saw almost no chance of our life returning to anything close to what it had been.  When the Spousal Unit and I met and married, he was AA sober and had stayed that way for many years.  However, over the last decade, and especially the last six years or so, his drinking had steadily increased to the point where he was now drinking copiously every day – whole bottles, morning and night.  His willingness or desire to try and hide it was less and he was becoming more vocal about how I needed to just shut up and deal with it or leave.  The SU and I were both in the grip of alcoholism and codependency.  I wasn’t the one drinking but alcohol and its effects ruled both our lives:  irresponsible behavior, isolation, lies, deceit, anger, sorrow, rage…

Living with a drunk is difficult at best and soul-destroying at worst.  Part of that is the actions and attitudes of the alcoholic but part of that generates from the person living with the alcoholic; in this case, me.  In general, those of us who love alcoholics become part of the insanity without even really knowing it.  To borrow the AA/Al-Anon phraseology, our lives become unmanageable but we don’t really see it.  We’re so set on trying to figure out the set of circumstances, the ritual, the “bottom”, the ONE THING that will cause the alcoholic to realize what he or she is doing and turn away from their self-destruction and towards sobriety that we miss the signpost that says we passed the Twilight Zone a long time ago.

To quote Eeyore:  “It’ll never work.”

During this time, I started journaling again.  My opening entries are full of anger and fear, so many of them starting with some variation of “SU drank.  And lied.  Again.”  I desperately wanted change and healing.  I wanted my husband back and I brought that to God time and time again.  There was no one prayer.  There was no one time.  There was no one experience.  All of it involved tears.  I did not understand why I continually implored God to rescue my husband and was always met with the response (subtle in this case) to remain in the marriage, to continue to learn about God and to be Jesus with skin on to my husband.  Didn’t God know how hard this was?  I mean, seriously, dude (Lord)?  You want me to be Jesus to a guy who gets blind drunk every night, calls me names, lies to me, threatens to beat me, leaves me feeling bereft, alone and insecure?

Every time I’d ask that, He’d say “Yes.  I do.”

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I can see better what was happening at that time.  In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about cheap grace versus costly grace.  Cheap grace acknowledges what Jesus did for me but lets me go about living my life exactly as if nothing has changed.  Costly grace calls us to follow Jesus, to understand what He did changed everything and I am to follow in his footsteps.  With cheap grace, it was very easy to consider that God loved me.  After all, I wasn’t the alcoholic.  I wasn’t the one wreaking havoc.  Costly grace told me to remember that my sins were no better than the Spousal Unit's and that God loved him just as much as He loved me and hurt just as much for the SU as I did.  Cheap grace creates a hierarchy.  Costly grace makes us all equal.

While I prayed to God to change the Spousal Unit, God was working on changing me.  One of the first things that He worked on was my willingness to be obedient and submit and one of the biggest ways I was asked to submit was by staying in my marriage because He was telling me to do so.  God and I talked a lot about that one because, to be totally honest, there were a lot of days where I desperately wanted to leave.  But I had to come to a place where I was willing to put God back in his proper place, to let him be my security above all else – even my husband and my relationship with him.  To help with that, He pointed me towards Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen.  Manning wrote a Christian classic, The Ragamuffin Gospel, yet he struggled with alcoholism his whole life and died from its effects.  Nouwen dealt with deep depression.  Both of them wrote truthfully about their struggles and how God loves us as we are in all our brokenness and pain; that He hurts along with us even as He asks us to follow him and carry the crosses He assigns to us.  Their writings gave me hope and showed me a God who was NOT indifferent but was, in fact, deeply involved in my life and in my particular circumstances.  A journal entry of mine on that topic reads:

“Whose mind, whose outlook do I adopt?  God’s or man’s?  I must deny the right to set myself up as the authority.  You have my interests at heart.  I must deny my desire to take authority and wrest this situation away from you.  I must pick up my cross and follow you, seek you, become you.  Be your beloved and find my identity and my safety in you and not the things of this world – not even my relationship with my husband.”

Another thing God taught me was the need for consistent prayer and that my timing was not necessarily His.  I learned to beat a path to Him every day and, more than that, to be honest when I prayed.  A lot of times there was nothing very pretty about my prayers.  There were no elegant words or pretty turns of phrase.  If I recall correctly, there was some cursing involved at times.  I had to ask forgiveness a lot for trying to impose my timeline and asking for proof.  I had to learn that just because I didn’t feel like God was there didn’t mean He wasn’t.  It meant I wasn’t experiencing Him the way I thought I should or wanted to and I had to back up and rethink my attitude and mindset.

In Gravity, there is a point shortly after the space shuttle is destroyed where it appears communication with Mission Central in Houston has been lost.  However, Dr. Stone keeps talking, telling Houston what she is doing, what is going on and what she is going to try to do next with the hope that they can hear her even if she can’t hear them.  Every time she does, she starts off her transmission with “Houston in the blind” and I tend to classify a lot of my early prayers as starting off with some version of “Houston in the blind” because I was angry.  Angry that even though I was praying and trying to do what God wanted me to, I still wanted my timeline.  I wanted my miracle – even more so when it became very apparent that my husband would, in all likelihood, drink himself to death.  You see stories all the time about God miraculously doing something or another in response to someone’s prayer and all those stories seem to sum up with “And the next thing you know…”.   How could God ask me to stand by and try to be Jesus in a situation like this?  Wasn’t He going to rescue my husband?  Wasn’t there going to be some obvious, unmistakable turning point where everything magically became better?

Yeah…no.  God can certainly do that if He wants to but a lot of times I think he has things to teach us in the midst of our suffering and we can only learn those if we choose to bend our will, submit and be obedient to what he asks us to do.  In Jesus, the One and Only, Beth Moore writes, “A plan of profound importance exists that sometimes overrides the miracle we desperately desire.”  She also says later that Jesus doesn’t only see our excitement but that he also sees our exhaustion.  Well, he was seeing a lot of exhaustion with me. 

Let me tell you, obedience is a slog.  It’s a painful, heartbreaking slog where you have to get up every day and ask for the strength to submit to Him again because you just don’t see the freaking point.  You have to bend your stiff knees and remind yourself in prayer that you have asked for God’s will to be ascendant, not your own.  You ask for patience when you can feel the frayed threads of your sanity ready to snap.  Some days you can say that all in a normal tone of voice.  Some days you scream it out in the car on the way to work.  Or sob.  Or a combination of both. 

It’s a good thing waterproof mascara exists.

God was speaking to me but he was doing it in a book chapter here, a worship song there, a conversation with someone.  Then, in July 2013, God spoke directly to me through my journal.  I’m not going to write it all down but there were some very important things he said that I kept holding on to as things continued to get worse and worse:

“Do not try to steer.  You don’t know the way, where I want you to go.  Let me steer.  You cannot perceive of what I am doing but I am about my Father’s business…. Your strength is  in your submission…The beauty of what I will do is far beyond your imagining...Do not hold back until you “see” me act because you will miss it.  Step forward.  Act forward.  Act in love.  Act in faith…What you ask for will be done.  Do not hasten it or try to craft it, push it into being.  We are on my timeline. Walk the beaten path to me everyday…I will give you everything you need if you trust me to do so.”

That was in July.  In December or so, we went to see Gravity.  I remember watching the Spousal Unit to try and gauge how sober he was and settled down for what I figured was going to be just some time to turn my mind off and get away from the wreck of my life and my marriage for a little while.

I got much more than that.

One of the first introductions we get to Dr. Stone is when the mission commander, Matt Kowalski asks her what she does after work.  She just says she listens to music and “just drives”.  It turns out this is what she was doing when she received word her daughter had died from a freak accident and it’s what she’s kept doing since, caught up in an endless cycle.  After the debris destroys the shuttle, Dr. Stone manages to make it to the International Space Station.  She takes off her space suit and curls up in the fetal position, floating.  The hoses attached to the airlock door look almost like umbilical cords.  This was the point where I truly heard God say, “I want you to pay close attention from right now through the end of this movie.”

What became clear to me through the words and pictures of Gravity was rebirth, was the idea of more than just the will to exist but to more than that, do more than survive.  Bullock’s character became me in a way.  She was showing all the behaviors and all the ways I’d shut down and shut myself off – I’d been “just driving” the same way she had been.  When she makes the choice to try and get to the Chinese shuttle, Tiangong, and says that it’s time to stop just driving and go home, God said, “I want you to do this.”
My response?  You want me to fly in a space shuttle, God?  Really?  ‘Cause that’s a little weird, I gotta say.  Also a little out of my price range.

That was the moment God proved He has a sense of humor ‘cause he didn’t smite me.  Instead, he said, “No, keep watching to see what I mean.”

I watched the last several minutes of the movie feeling like I could barely breathe.  The Chinese escape pod, pointed towards Earth, is caught in the planet’s gravity and Stone’s control of the pod and the outcome of her journey is negligible at best.  She calls out to “Houston in the blind” and says:

“All right, the way I see it, there’s only two possible outcomes:  I either make it down in one piece and I’ll have a hell of a story to tell or I burn up in the next ten minutes.  No harm, no foul.  Either way, whichever way, it’ll be one hell of a ride.

I’m ready.”

Stone then punches the ignition button and begins a bone-rattling, fiery free fall to Earth.  At this point, I’m starting to cry because I understand what God is telling me.  He’s saying,

I’m going to ask you to do something that seems at least as scary as this.  You’re going to feel like you’re in free fall too; completely out of control.  You have to trust me and be ready.  You have to love me more than you love your husband.  You have to love clinging to me in uncertainty and faith more than you love the predictable insanity you now live in.  You have to decide who you love more:  the person I gave to you or the One who did the giving.”

On February 6th, I told my husband we needed to separate.  My journal entry that day contains a plea to God that this not be the road He is asking me to walk down.  On February 8th, our 22nd wedding anniversary, I wrote: “Henri (Nouwen) talks about choosing to respond to circumstances and how you can choose to respond with joy.  Right now all I have is sorrow.  Abba, the cry of my heart is that this can be stopped. ..my first request is for my husband to be returned.  If not, help me to be obedient to you and walk the path and someday find joy again in it.” 

That was my own way of saying “I’m ready.”

At what looks like the last possible second in the movie, Stone’s escape pod releases its parachute.  My parachute came in the form of friends, and family and church members who grieved with me and helped me do the things I needed to do in order to move out and set up my own apartment.

The parachute deployed again when my husband left me a note pleading with me to help get him to rehab and God moved swiftly and obviously, bringing together both the rehab and the funds to get him there in just a four days.  On February 14th, I put my husband on a plane to California to begin three months of rehab (which means I totally win Valentine’s Day forever).  My prayer that day and every day since has been for both of us to have the courage to face up to the triggers, issues and pain we have been carrying around, that we would have the strength to submit and seek to make God the center of our lives both individually and collectively as a couple.  I’ve prayed for both of us to be able to find the resources He will provide to live in a state of separation while we work on reconciliation – and He has.  He’s provided my husband with a job, a place to live and even a car.  He’s provided us a therapist who cuts through the smokescreens we cling to and helps us figure out other ways to go with care and with honesty (and not without a little sarcasm as well).

He’s now been sober nearly eight months.  We are tentatively talking about living together again and how that will work.  There are no guarantees he will never drink again.  Of course, there’s no guarantee I won’t try to revert to previously insane behavior again so, you know, all’s fair.  Our therapist asked me during our session last week what I would do if the Spousal Unit started drinking again.  My response was that if he stumbled but got back up on the horse, I would have all the time in the world for him.  If it began to turn into what it had been previously, it would depend on the situation and what God was telling me to do.  But I know now that I can do more than survive.  I can do more than “just drive” whether or not he is drinking, whether or not our marriage falters or is renewed. 

Either way, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

I’m ready.

06 July 2014

Tales from the Couch

We're nearly five months into the sobriety thing and almost a month into couples' therapy.  I have to say this round of therapy is an improvement because at least he's showing up sober to the sessions.  It makes a difference...

Sometimes I really just feel like I'm flailing like that robot from Lost in Space ("Danger, Will Robinson!  My arms are flailing wildly!").  I have yet to be handed the road map to this kind of experience and most of my thought process is taken up by behavior (mine and his) and is it healthy, dysfunctional and so on and so far ad infinitum, ad nauseum.  Our therapist, Cortana, protege of Master Chief, has told us flat out that prognosis is poor for couples unless both are fully committed to the hard work and the long haul.  We are trying to work through years of dysfunction and alcoholism and it can be exhausting.

In session last week, the Spousal Unit talked about how he felt resentment that I had continued my plans to move out versus waiting to see the "finished product".  In his mind, I did not say I was going to move out until after he went to rehab.  I refrained from my first response which was something along the lines of his timeline was incorrect because he was blitzed/in a blackout for the entire month of January - which is when I told him - so his recollections suck ass.  I think I pared it down to "As far as I remember, that's incorrect" and then clamped my lips shut before the rest of it could escape.

Cortana made an interesting comment then.  I'd had kind of unformed thoughts around what she said but she put it into perspective.  She asked the SU a little about his first marriage and how that ended.  When he asked her why she'd wanted to know, she told him that she wanted some background because a lot of times someone may be having a conversation with the person in front of them but they're actually looking just over that person's shoulder at the memory behind them.

I do think the Spousal Unit is worried that my creating the separation is going to make it easier for me to either say I want a divorce or to "find" someone else.  To the first?  Never been my intention.  To the second?  That would imply I'm looking and, frankly, I'd rather run naked through poison ivy and then roll around in honey and dive headfirst into an anthill as a finale.  So...no.  But okay, I think I kinda get it.  Rehab was/is in part to save our marriage.  I mean, it is.  But it was also to save his life and to save mine.  To do that, I had to leave, to get somewhere where I could start to sort things out and get healthier my own self. It was never a case of one of us being totally in the wrong and the other a perfect angel.  It's easy to point to his drinking but I have my own junk - it was just better hidden.

Time away has given me perspective.  I can see the insanity we were living in.  Sure, I could have stayed.  I could have stayed and been abused.  I could have stayed and come home to his body some day after work.  I could have stayed and done a lot of things.  I stayed as long as God told me to even when there were days I wanted to walk out the door long before God finally said "OK, step aside.  It's my turn."

And I do love the SU.  I love him a lot.  He makes my heart glad when I see him.  But I also can still see all the crap floating around that I have to deal with if I'm going to be healthy with or without him.  And I have to say "without him" because I don't know how this will end up.  He's also his own person.  We both want to be married to each other but the other side of the coin has to at least be acknowledged.  Nobody is guaranteed a happy ending and our better ending is only going to come about by dint of much blood, sweat and tears.

I want it.  I want to work at it.  But it's scary and frightening.  This is not where I thought I would be at close to 25 years of marriage.  To be completely honest, there are some days I think it would be easier just to not work at it.  I can admit that I like my own apartment, that I like being able to buy and cook the foods I like without hearing about icky vegetables.  I like the quiet and I like the peace.  But I also miss the sound of a guitar being played and someone to snuggle up next to at night.  I miss sitting and holding hands while watching TV (and just for the record, honey, Quarles did die at the end of season 3 of Justified.  You don't lose a limb like that and just walk away :P).

I pray every day for the restoration of our marriage.  But I also pray that I walk in God's will for my life and not mine.  That can be hard because sometimes (well, a lot of the time) God's will has been different than what I've wanted and it can be heartwrenching to say "yes" to God and "no" to what I want.  Right now I'm praying not to live in fear of "what may" but to work on "what is", to ask God for what I need for this day only and to work on letting him be in charge of the rest.  Some days it's easier than others.

Kinda like therapy.

01 June 2014

The Life Raft of The Dawn Treader

The Spousal Unit has been back for about two weeks now and we've settled into what I guess is a kind of normal for us.  This is truly a set of experiences that I desperately wish there was some kind of road map to follow, left behind by others who have gone before.

Yeah...not so much.

Right now he has no funds except what little I managed to save from our joint account and the money I've put in from my own account every now and then when I can.  I've kept him on my insurance so he has relatively inexpensive access to the meds he needs.  I've bought him groceries each week.

Part of me feels the things I'm helping him with are unfair.  He *censored* up yet it is still affecting me - has never stopped affecting me.  I know rehab isn't a vacation, per se, but for those three months the SU didn't have to worry about groceries, bills, et cetera, while I did.  I had to coordinate my move into my apartment as well as the closing down of our old apartment.  NOT that I'm going to say God wasn't there in that because He was.  His generosity along with the love and generosity of His people made these last three months something...good; in a way, even awesome.

But I struggle with the idea that I took care of things then and I'm still doing it now.  Part of it, I know, is I have a money button.  My dad was never very responsible with it and, for me, having a surplus on hand represents security.  I wonder at times if that makes me akin to the parables about those who try to store treasures on earth.  They store treasures.  I look for a particular number that makes me comfortable. Although, come to think of it, they never stopped storing up treasure and I never found a number that made me comfortable.  Ah, irony.

Maybe that's what God has been trying to drum into my head?  Not to spend willy-nilly but to be generous with the Spousal Unit as my Abba has been generous with me.  It was God who paved the way for the SU to be in rehab in four days from his initial request.  It was God who showed his provision for me with all of his people who offered money, love, supplies and time.  Now that I have the opportunity to model this for the Spousal Unit, I balk?

To give the Spousal Unit his due, he has set out to do exactly what he said he would:  demonstrate a commitment to sobriety.  He has attended a meeting each day since his return.  He has a sponsor.  He starts his new job on Monday.  He is respecting my boundaries.

I think part of what makes this difficult for me is that there are so many triggers - some of which I don't even know about until they get set off.  Let's take yesterday for example.  We went to Walmart.  He pulled the truck into a space and I started to get out just as he took his foot off the clutch.  The truck jolted forward a couple feet.  This is a normal "oops!" moment for anyone else.  It's an "Oh no, he's been drinking!" moment for me even though there was no indication of it.  It's a trigger.  It's past behavior that is now inextricably linked to something bad even though, now, there may be a totally benign explanation.

I do my best to not ask about his meeting attendance or what he does with his sponsor.  His recovery, not mine and controlling co-dependence is so unattractive :P.  I definitely need not to try and control for my own recovery and mental health (scroll back through previous entries to see how well my attempts to control his drinking worked.  Cliff's Notes answer?  Not very well).  But holy cow, it' shard!  I want to know.  And I want reassurances.  And I want them in a language I can understand.  But I also know that to "make" him do or say the things I want him to will not really assuage my fears in the end.  They will be done or said because I demanded them and not because they came honestly from him.  I have to...HAVE TO...let him say or not say, do or not do, what he will in terms of recovery and relationship repair.  And all the time, I have to be working on my own healthier boundaries and expectations.

Separating and attempting reconciliation along with mental health is a ball of laughs, let me tell you.

We've had two date nights so far.  He comes over on Saturday afternoons to do his laundry.  We hang out on the sofa, watch Cops and cook frozen pizza.  It's actually not a huge change from what we used to do but it has been a long time since we've done it.  It's nice.  We've both said how much we've missed doing things like this.  No spending the night yet.  I'm not ready and neither is he.  I want my apartment to be my safe space a little longer; introduce him gradually into my new world.

To work on forgiveness and grace in such an active manner is painful at times.  The SU was a blackout drinker, meaning he has no recollection of a lot of the things he did or said.  BUT I DO.  Vivid, technicolor memories.  That means I also have to work past wanting my pound of flesh (carefully weighed and measured, mind you) for the pain he has caused me over the years.

However, I'm currently reading Timothy Keller's Jesus the King as part of my study.  In it, Keller talks about the need to go deeper in a relationship with Jesus past the "I wants" and the attempts to carve out or preserve what we believe our identity should be instead of building it on Jesus.  Doing that and letting Jesus go as deep as He needs to in order to be our foundation is risky and painful.  Keller illustrates this with the chapters of C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Eustace has been turned into a dragon by his own greed and thoughts.

Just when Eustace thinks there is no hope left, Aslan appears, tells him to undress and jump in a pool of water.  Eustace figures out "undress" means to shed his dragon skin and starts trying to do so layer by layer.  But as much as he gnaws and tears, each shed layer only reveals another layer underneath.

It's at this point Aslan tells Eustace that "you're going to have to let me go deeper" (i.e. use his claws to divest Eustace of his dragon hide).  Eustace is afraid because, hey, claws! (and remember Aslan is not a tame lion, either).  But he agrees.  In describing it, Eustace says, "The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt."  Soon, though, the skin is off, dark and ugly-looking and piled to the side.  Eustace is thrown in the pool and realizes he is a boy again.

Keller's point is that Eustace tried to do it little by little and could never have succeeded on his own.  He desperately wanted to be a boy again but tried to do it just by taking Aslan's instruction as a suggestion and never asking him how to get the dragon hide off.  It was only when he let Aslan take over that the change, the transformation, occurred.  We have to - I have to - let Jesus "use his claws", as Keller puts it, and reconfigure the main thing my heart wants.  The SU remaining sober is one of my most heartfelt wishes but as has been shown time and again, MY attempts to grant MY wish have ended in failure.  I have to let Jesus act as Savior and know that even though He can grant me what I want with a snap of his fingers, I need to let Him go deeper, let him deal with and remove/change the anger and fear that threads through my relationship with the Spousal Unit.  Forgive and be forgiven.  That's the only way either of us will ever receive true healing.

15 May 2014

Starting Over

Yep...long time again since I posted anything.  Maybe I should make *that* my subheading for this blog.

The Spousal Unit came home from rehab today.  I did meet him at the airport and took him to lunch.  He was really tired since he'd gotten up at 3:30 PST for his flight and then flew to CST so I think that played a part in how quiet he was being but there was definitely some awkwardness between us.

He looks really good.  I would say that rehab agreed with him.  He's lost a bunch of weight, his eyes are bright and clear, he has a tan and a new flattop.  He told me he's going to a meeting tonight.

But still...

Since we are still separated, a guy in the church has a mobile home he said the SU could live in rent free for a while.  This is good since the SU has no income right now except for what I've been putting into the last of our joint bank account to help.  We drove out there and, well, he's definitely back to where I met him post-divorce: living in a rusty single-wide.

Looking around, half my brain immediately flashed to how I needed to make this better because (as per previous entries) still working on that codependency thing.  The other half kept trying to tell me that this was *not* my fault.  This is more of his consequences.  I also kept wanting to ask him if he was mad at me but I didn't.

We came back to town and went our separate ways.  I'm now having an ugly cry while I write this.  Go me :P.  I know today was harder than I thought it would be but, then again, I've never been separated from my husband so how the heck would I know what to expect?

I'd like to be all eloquent about this situation - maybe wax a little philosophical - but all I can say is that the hurt is still there and the wounds are still there; slightly healed, maybe, but still just as painful.  Everyone keeps asking me what the plan is.  Well, I don't have one.  All I'm doing is repeating the "Three C's" to myself:  didn't cause it, can't control it, can't cure it..  I desperately want someone to tell me that it's all going to be okay.  Instead, I have to keep going back to Step One:  I am powerless.  I have done my part and am continuing to do my part.  I can't control his.  I can't make it better no matter how much I want to because that's part of the dynamic of the past.  If I want a chance at a new future, I have to put all this stuff I'm talking about into practice.

Have I mentioned how much this sucks?

31 March 2014

New Digs

I just noticed that it's been a long time since I posted anything...oops.

The Spousal Unit completed his 30 days of rehab and has since moved to a sister facility for aftercare.  Insurance has okayed at least 30 days which will take him to the middle of April.  We are praying for another 30 days to give him a full 90.  When I talk to him, he sounds like a completely different person than the man I have been living with for the past seven years.  He talks about a renewed optimism and hope and being focused 100% on his recovery.  He also said in a letter I received Saturday that he wants to demonstrate the ability to live sober so he can regain my faith and trust and affection in him.

The only thing we kind of have words about is the separation.  I finished moving out of our old apartment into a one-bedroom this weekend.  It's a little scary and I'm praying I can be a good steward of my funds but there is a sense of peace in coming home to something completely different that is totally my own.  There are no memories.  It's a clean slate and this place will become what I make it rather than be a reminder of what happened before.  I woke up Sunday morning and felt relaxed which is a new feeling for me.

His contention (and I'm not sure how much he's truly holding on to it and how much is his sadness over taking this step) is that he would have liked to have tried living together when he gets back.  I asked him if he truly thought that would be possible to live together, tripping over each other's triggers while trying to become healthy.  He admitted he didn't know but insisted he would have liked to try.  I finally just told him that wasn't possible for me and that was kind of the end of our phone call that night.  It made me feel bad and I found myself questioning if I was doing the right thing.  I put the question to several people I trusted and got a resounding "yes" from them so...

I do agree but, emotionally, it's a hard thing and it's not helped by my good old friend, codependence.  You know, I swore for the longest time I was not codependent and then my new therapist, Cortana, made a few, er, astute observations and my response was "Dammit, Jim!  I *am* codependent."  So now I get to separate what is a healthy emotional response from me wanting to fix things for him - which I did a lot of.  I get that now.  But I think I'm learning to make dividing lines.  For example, the SU asked if I would check with our previous therapist, Master Chief, to see if he could recommend some therapists - preferably ones in recovery themselves.  I asked, got the answer, and told him I would send him the info but that he was responsible for making the appointment.  Before, I would have done it or else asked him a bizillion times if he had.  So, yeah...therapy and Al-anon once a week are hopefully a healthier person making...

I would be remiss if I didn't point to how much and how awesome God has been in my life.  He continues to absolutely amaze me with specific answers to prayer, with support and encouragement from so many people.  Heck, *eleven* people from the church showed up to help me move.  People have asked for the SU's address to write him notes and send him things.  People have stopped me before and after church to ask how each of us is doing and what they can pray for.  Resources to help pay bills have shown up or been offered.  It's truly been amazing and something I never would have even dreamed would be poured out over me.  God has been such a wonderful, gracious God and I cannot thank Him enough for all He has done and continues to do.

I guess the only thing to say is that the process continues with reconciliation still the goal for both of us.  In speaking to his counselor, she says that is what the SU is working towards also - is a stated goal of his - and she believes that if both of us continue on the path we are on that we will be able to do it.

Here's hoping.

04 March 2014

A Different Lens

(My journal entry from yesterday, March 3rd)

Something so simple hit me like kind of a "duh" moment in my reading.  Brennan Manning points out that Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened" because He KNEW there would be times of being tired and discouraged.  It wasn't just an exhortation to the emotionally downtrodden or the poor.  It was a reminder, a signpost for all of us to come to Him every time we are discouraged and weary.  No one can walk through it with us the way Jesus can.  My own journey has been living, solid proof of that.

"Come to me."  Not because He will make it all better or because He will always reveal some miraculous plan for you to follow.  You may still have to walk through every last thing.  But come to Him because He will sustain you.  He will give you strength and comfort.  He will give you a peace that is beyond your comprehension and is even a little but puzzling.  You're in the midst of craptasticness!  Why should you feel peace?  Because you've gone to Jesus as he asked and said, "Lord, I cannot carry this burden alone.  I need help."  And he does.

Henri Nouwen calls us to embrace all of our past - good and bad - because all of it has brought us to where we are now.  Nothing happened outside of God's notice or His love.  Even the things we are not grateful for having experienced need to be looked at - and looked at with God's eyes and NOT ours.  Through the good and bad events in our lives, we can be brought to "a deeper recognition of God's mercy, a stronger conviction of God's guidance, and a more radical commitment to a life in God's service."  But to do so, I think we have to let go of the fear, shame and anger that comes from the bad experiences.  It is easy to thank or praise God for good experiences, for the ones we perceive as blessings or gifts.  To embrace the bad, I think we have to give up the "why?".  Why did this happen to me?  Why do I have to deal with this?  That is in no way an easy thing to do but getting stuck on "why" narrows my field of vision to me and only me.  There is no larger context because I have made myself the center of my universe.  By going to Jesus ("come to me...") and laying my need to know why, to understand what is happening to me at His feet (again and again if necessary and I know it has been for me at times), I gain a larger perspective.

It doesn't happen all at once.  It may be slowly and over time.  But I realize that I am in this alone.  God has provided not only Himself and His Son but resources to help me, His Word and fellow Christians being chief among them.  I may never know "why" but "why" has become less important as I seek God's guidance and rely on His strength to go through whatever is in front of me.

Rom 12:12 - "Be glad for all God is planning for you.  Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful."

24 February 2014

Moving Forward

I've been working on the things I need for my new apartment and how to pack up this one.  I signed the lease for the new place and set up cable/internet also (only $27.99/month!).  I get the keys on the 27th and formally take possession on the 28th.  Then its a matter of moving over what I can until the guys come to help on the 28th of March.

I did go to my first Al-anon meeting.  Walked in and immediately ran into someone I knew.  Funny, God.  Very funny :P.

I separated our DVDs and put mine in some milk crates to take over and found myself crying while I did it.  There are large stretches of time where I am okay and then, with things like the DVDs, it's like ripping a scab off a wound and the hurt is fresh again.  Cortana may actually get to see me cry in therapy this week.

In the midst of all this, God has continued to be very good and very present.  I've been blessed with some really supportive friends and that has been awesome for a still-kinda-introvert like myself.

I did get to speak to the Spousal Unit on Sunday night.  He earned phone privileges and was able to make a ten minute phone call.  I had discussed some ground rules with his therapist on how to verbally maintain my boundaries with him and remind him that the separation is part of his consequences.  I think I managed it.  He verified he's requested to check and see if my insurance will cover a 60-day aftercare facility which I told him was awesome and I fully support.  He then said "But you'll be gone by the time I get back."  I let it slide by and said only yes, then added that my  prayer is still for us to reconcile and that both of us need to be healthier and working our issues for that to happen.  He did seem to be okay with that - at least for the ten minutes we talked.  I'm hoping he heard past the depression and issues he's working with to the fact that I love him and want to stay married to him.

He says he gets to do ten minute calls on Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday, depending, and that the rehab is really working him.  They are heavily scheduled and with therapy every day also.  They had to put him on Valium when he arrived at the detox unit to try and help him but they have since weaned him off it.  The exact phrase the SU used was "I feel like a brand new man".  (My inner voice mentioned that, yes, one might feel better once one stopped drinking two liters of vodka a day).

I'm hoping my insurance will cover the aftercare and that the SU really digs into the issues that "terrify" him and gets down and dirty with himself, that his focus shifts first to "what my life can look like sober" and then to "what my life and marriage can look like sober".  In the meantime, I'm hoping I can keep it together and be the boundary person I need to be for him and figure out a little more what I'm going to look like as I move into this next phase.

17 February 2014

The Gospel According to Pink

The Spousal Unit has been in rehab since Friday.  It's very quiet in my neck of the woods.  It's been so long since I've experienced anything like it that it's almost a little eerie.  I don't remember how it felt to just sit and be still or just sit and listen to the stillness around me.

When I got home Friday morning, I started crying (again) and said thank you to God a bunch of times.  I am utterly, truly grateful that God moved so very quickly to get my Spousal Unit into rehab.  And, a few days later, I'm still grateful but it's also like I can start to feel the...weight of current and future changes settle down on me.  Things are going to be changing in a lot of ways.  The hope and prayer is that the end result will be restoration and reconciliation but this is still unsettling in the fact that I've lived one way for almost ten years and now I'm going to be taking steps on a new path - by myself to some extent.  Not that I won't have the support of my friends and church (as will the SU) but rehab, separation...all that was never in my plans and now it's here.

I've been listening to Pink's "Try" a lot.  It's meant different things at different times.  For a long time, it was kind of my "keep going" song while God was telling me to stay and to be Jesus to the SU.  Now that we are at this point, it's started to mean something different to me.  However, I keep gravitating to the chorus nowadays.  It's not in the "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" sense.  It's more that even with all the hurt and confusion and worry I feel, I can't give up.  I have to get up each day and try to do what I need to do to repair myself and be ready for the hoped-for reconciliation:

Where there is desire, there's gonna to be a flame
Where there is a flame, someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die
You gotta get up and try, try, try

It's not easy.  I'm sleeping like crap right now and expect to for a while.  I wake up multiple times throughout the night.  Some of it is ingrained from night after night of getting up to see where the SU had passed out this time and try to get him into bed.  Some of it is just that I plain miss him.  And a lot of it is probably stress, etc., related to suddenly having something removed that has been a part of my life for years (even if it wasn't good).

I worry.  This is prime time for worrying.  One of the things I worry about is money.  God has been very good in terms of provision so far but money is one of my buttons and has been since my childhood.  I set up my power to be turned on in the new apartment and found out I have to pay $215 as a "new" account even though it's the same company we've been using and I'm only moving one building over.  I'm buying only minimal groceries and trying to keep enough money to pay both March and April rent (the SU should be home mid-March if he only does 30 days.  I move out March 28th)..  I don't know what he's going to do come May.  This morning, I took a walk for my workout today and scrounged around in car ashtrays and loose coins on desks so I could buy a cup of coffee rather than use any of the remaining funds in our bank account.  Money is a chink in my armor and I'm going to have to work hard on continually turning that over to God and trusting Him.

Master Chief has referred me to a new therapist who has been through this and will also cost less but my brain says "Hey, that's $40 dollars that you could be saving instead."  That's where I try to use Pink because therapy is part of my "try, try, try".  I cannot get better on my own.  I cannot deal with the issues I need to on my own.  God provided Master Chief and now he's provided Cortana (dude, I have got to stop with the pop culture references at some point).

I'm also going to investigate local Alanon meetings again.  I told the SU I would and it's another resource.  I tried Celebrate Recovery a few years ago and...no.  When you know more than the small group leader and end up facilitating the discussion, it kinda makes you not want to come back.  I've successfully used that excuse to avoid any other CR or Alanon groups.  But I'm going to have to "try" as another commitment to my own recovery along with trying to remember the things I liked to do before and making myself do them again.

I sound really firm, really committed as I read this over but part of me is quaking in my boots.  My church as been truly awesome.  Support is there both for the SU and myself.  I managed to let our life group know what was going on last night and they prayed for both the SU and me.  But sitting here alone I can feel the weight of change and it's kinda scary.  Well, no, it's a lot scary.

But I'll get up and try.  I want the opportunity.  I want to change.  I need to change.  Change can be good.  It just sucks that sometimes it really hurts along the way.

14 February 2014

God moves

A lot has happened since the last post...

Shortly after writing it, I went to an appointment with our therapist, Master Chief.  I told him that I had made the decision to move out and he agreed it was the right one which really helped a lot when combined with all the friends who have been praying for me/us this whole time.  He put into words the abusive relationship this has turned into and that I have definitely done what Jesus has asked of me.  We talked about what if the Spousal Unit went to rehab and I told him that even if he did, I would still separate because (a) 30 days is a start, (b) he needs to learn to live as an outpatient and a sober individual (and find a job), and (c) I need some time to live in a safe, secure place and learn to understand and hopefully dismantle some of my own triggers.  He agreed that was the right call as well.

The SU actually asked about rehab.  After I got over my "you're serious?" moment because he's been Jekyll-and-Hyde-ing faster than I can keep up, I said I would check with my insurance and got some recommendations from Master Chief that he thought highly of and were out of the state so it would be less easy for the SU to just leave.  I settled on one and called them just to get some information.  The intake counselor that I talked to was *amazing*.  We did the whole intake questionnaire and he interfaced with my insurance to find which of their rehab sites would have the best coverage.  What it came down to was we would need to pay $600 up front and buy him a plane ticket to California.

That was a bit of a sticking point since the SU had recently lost his job.  Money is very tight.  So I sucked it up and placed a phone call to my father-in-law.  My FIL is a good man but has always been kind of rigid and not really one for showing his emotions.  (The SU cannot ever remember my FIL saying he was proud of the SU),  When I explained what was going on, the first words out of my FIL's mouth were "What can I do to help?"  I told him about the money need and asked if he would be willing to front the money to me.  If so, I would pay him back each month.  He said, "We'll talk about all that later.  I'll write the check and get it in the mail today."

God removes hurdle #1.

In the meantime, the SU is still up all night and drinking heavily.  He leaves me notes that plead with me to get him into rehab.  I told him where we were with it and that he would hopefully be in rehab in about a week to two weeks.  HIS job was to make sure he would be sober enough they would let him on a plane.  He promised he would be.

I called back the counselor and asked how we work the money issue once I have the check.  He asked me to hang on for a moment and then got back on the phone to tell me that, based on what I've told them about the SU, they want to get him into treatment immediately.  Therefore, THEY will book the plane ticket and I can send a post-dated check with the SU for the $600 and the plane fare to coincide with when I should have the FIL's check deposited.

God removes hurdle #2.

I started this process on Monday.  It is now Friday.  My pastor, his wife and I took the SU to the airport this morning for a 6am flight.  He texted me from his layover in Houston as he was about to get on the plane.  They should be calling to let me know he's there in California in about two hours.

I am absolutely overwhelmed and grateful at the way my Abba has moved.  After we dropped off the SU, I came back home and just sat and cried a little while and kept saying "thank you".  I know it is not over by a long shot but there is hope where before there was none.  He and I will both have a long road ahead but my heart and my prayer is still for renewal and reconciliation.

Throughout this process, I have been blessed by so many people through comments or a hug or listening to me cry my eyes out.  Sharing this stuff - even in a blog - has been a step of growth for me because I have always been one to play things close to the vest.  Even Master Chief has noted that I try not to cry in our sessions.  When he asked me why, I told him there was no point; doesn't solve anything.

Learning to let people come alongside me and let them in has been a slow, painful process but I would hate to think where I might be if I had not.  I have been reading a lot of Henri Nouwen lately and when I got home from the airport, the selection today talked about one of the best ways to deal with sorrow is to share it "with someone who can receive" it, that we honor our friends when we trust them enough to share with them what we are struggling with, and that if we really want to grow and mature spiritually, God will send us the friends we need.  I get that now in a way that I never really did before and I guess I had to go through this to learn it and so I can be that friend to someone coming along behind me.

I don't know what will happen next.  I don't know if he'll come home in 30 days or need to stay longer.  I don't know what it will be like to be separated and working towards reconciliation with Sober SU - what he will look like, act like, et cetera.  I haven't seen him in six or seven years and, to be fair, he hasn't seen me without triggers and so forth in about the same amount of time.  I do know we want to stay married and we want a better marriage than we've had in recent years.  I am praying He will lead me through the things I need to change, grow in or confront at the same time He does that with the SU.

God has provided and continues to provide.

07 February 2014

This is not the happy ending you were looking for

I have my answer.  I have told the Spousal Unit that I will be leaving.

There are not words to describe how much this hurts.  I didn't know I could cry this much.  I cry everywhere - except at work where I will myself to stop tearing up long enough to make it through eight hours.  Sometimes there are a lot of bathroom breaks.

Although the SU has always said "deal with it or don't - I don't care" when we have talked about this before, now that I have told him what my response is, the ugliness has been ramped up.  I took his keys the other night when he was drunk and wanting to go out and get another bottle.  That was probably the closest he has come to hitting me.  (He ended up walking to the liquor store after cursing me out).

His suggestion after I told him was that we split the apartment down the middle and live like roommates until April since it is "disadvantageous" for us to split right now.  I told him no because (a) nobody wants to live with an abusive alcoholic as a roommate and (b) it is too painful to watch him slowly kill himself.  I just can't do it anymore.  Since then, it's been a lot of "you're a f****** b****" and how I am responsible for this.  He has done nothing to push me towards this decision.

Even with all the crap going on, I still love him and he is still my husband.  My fervent prayer is that something or someone will reach him.  I've asked our kids to keep praying and I'm asking anyone who might be reading this blog on any semi-regular basis to please pray for him also.  The depth of his self-hate, his anger, and his desire to just...be no more are staggering.  He says that if I leave next month, that is it.  I get "one chance" to leave him and we will never get back together.  I've told him that my God is bigger than him and that I will be his wife as much as he will allow while we are still living together and even after we separate.  That I believe and hope he will want to get help and turn towards recovery and we can reconcile.

I got a big fat f*** you for that and the same response every time I repeat it.  I also get to hear how he wants nothing from the apartment that is us and I am to take it all with me.

Tomorrow is my 22nd wedding anniversary *waves to irony*.  I am torn apart at the idea that soon I will no longer be with my husband and that he seems not to particularly care.  I know that is the disease talking as well as the altered brain chemistry but it just makes the moments (fewer and fewer) where *my* SU shows up all the more bittersweet.

I am fortunate to have friends for support and I know the SU would as well if he would just unbend enough, if he could recognize that they are there and have been willing to help him all along.  But no.  When I asked if he would go to church with me any more, he said no.  Said he likes the people but doesn't care to make the effort.


I wish I could write a post that eloquently expressed my emotions and my longing and wound up with some pithy saying...but I can't.  I am equal parts assured of God's provision and so very much afraid of what is coming.  I am afraid for the life and well-being of my husband.  I know those things aren't my responsibility and he will make his own choices but even the thought of not only losing him but losing him is beyond anything I think I can bear.

I have begged and pleaded with God.  I don't know why this is his answer and I don't particularly want to walk this path.  I miss my husband.  I want my husband.  I love my husband.  And my prayer is still that God will somehow give him back to me.

Hope is very hard right now.  I've lost my best friend.

31 January 2014


So, the SU lost his job.  To quote Forrest Gump: "And that's all I gots to say 'bout that."

We went back to Last Hometown for Monkey's 8th birthday as the guests of honor (we were the special invites of the birthday boy).  The weekend was custom made by God for the SU.   So much love, so much for him to see of all the kingdom work he did.  Loved on non-stop by an 8-year-old who says things like "you make my day better".  We put out an FB notice saying we'd be at a restaurant Saturday night if anyone wanted to come by and see us and *twenty* people showed up and loved on him.  The Sunday sermon was tailor made for him.

And...now we're back.  He has been drunk every day this week when I've come home from work.  I looked in the hot water heater cabinet today and found two empty two-liter bottles of vodka, one empty bottle of Irish whiskey and one bottle with maybe a quarter left.  Well, that explains that.  When I came home today, the SU could barely focus but managed to pull off his wedding ring and say, "You want this?  Yes or no?"

To what better be to my credit, I did not call him Señor Drunkypants to his face but just said, "My answer to you is what it always has been.  I want to stay married to you.  But to do that, you have to follow AA's step 1 and commit to recovery."

He's too drunk to be coherent enough to respond.

I am at the point now that I am asking God if I can go.  I've told him that I've tried to follow his will and I'm still trying so the "yes" or "no" needs to be HUGE.  Like, completely unmistakeable.  'Cause I'm dense like that.  I don't want to.  This is the absolute worst pain of my life.  I have always MEANT it when I call him the love of my life.  I have spent almost a quarter century with him and the thought this might be over is frightening and heart-breaking.  But I cannot take the emotional, mental and verbal abuse much more.  I cannot live like this indefinitely.

Part of me is trying my hardest not to be angry at God that things haven't changed.  I said to my friend that I really don't want the whole point of this exercise to have been just to change *me*.  That's going to be a very hard pill to swallow.  And I'm crying more now than I ever have in my life, I think.  I cry on the way to work.  I cry on the way home.  I cry alone in bed at night.  I'm crying while I type this.  This just sucks so hard.  I wish I could be more eloquent about it but I don't think there are words that can adequately describe the potential end of what has been a HUGE portion of my life.

I know God can still pull this out.  I know he can and it is my fervent hope and prayer that he will.  But it's really hard right now to look down the end of the tunnel and not envision the light there as the oncoming train.

21 January 2014

Lessons from the Alcoholic

Be forewarned.  I feel like this is one of the whiniest entries I've ever written.  I'm angry and bitter and just...up to HERE with everything.  And yeah, slight profanity but, hey, it's toned down from what I was thinking...

I have learned many different things over the past few years of struggling with the Spousal Unit's alcoholism.  Some of the are things I wish I never would have learned.  Some of them are things I could not have learned without walking through this.  Some days I just want to stop learning and some days I'm grateful for what I've learned.

In this blog, I've tried to be honest about the ups and downs, the failures and successes and the times I've just wanted to pack it in.  My edges feel frayed lately and I've found myself in the car on the way to work yelling at God, "Why me?  Why do I get to do this?  What makes him so special that he gets to hurt everyone else but, according to him, no one's pain - including mine - comes close to his?"

No answer. But no lightning bolt, either, so I'll call it a win.  So, in no particular order...things I have learned include the following:

1.  Alcoholics lie.  They lie at the drop of a hat.  They lie to your face.  Yet he insists that he's truthful and responsible in other areas so what's my problem?

2.  I do not remember how my husband acts as a sober individual.

3.  I find the smell of vodka repulsive.  I find the fact it oozes from his pores some nights disgusting.

4.  I now have an entire list of behaviors that I use to verify his drinking and his lying to me about it.  I call it my Sixth Sense of Drunk 'cause I see drunk people.

5.  I know exactly how long it takes him to get home.  If he is late, he has either stopped in a parking lot to guzzle vodka first or is stopping at the package store to bring home a gigantic bottle.

6.  My formerly responsible, God-serving husband will now f*** you over at the drop of a hat and tell you how angry he is at God.  Ad infinitum.  Ad nauseum. 

7.  I have become a very different person than I might have been.  This is both good and bad because I would not have the relationship with God that I have without going through all this but, at the same time, I'd rather have the relationship I have now with God without all the pain that accompanies it.

8.  If I leave the house for any length of time, it is almost a Pavlovian instinct for him to run to the liquor store, buy vodka and slam it down before I get home - while hiding several bottles for good measure.

9.  He has no "rock bottom" that I can discern.  He drank while taking Ambien.  He drinks despite having a gastric bypass.  And if being involuntarily committed to the nuthouse and asked about your intent to harm yourself doesn't do it, I don't know what will.

10.  Driving while drinking is apparently okay.  Who knew?

11.  It has taken me a LONG time to separate out the fact he will not stop drinking from whether or not he loves me.  It is not that black and white.

12.  He is selfish.  He is also carrying around pain and anger for decades that he refuses to let go of.  He will not talk to the one person who can help him with that.  And it saddens me that he chooses to hold on to his anger and bitterness and let it wreak havoc.

12a.  I get to hear long, long diatribes about everything that goes on in his life but I can't even remember the last time he asked me about my day, my job or anything that involves how I think or feel.

13.  I hate crying yet I have done it more over the past few years than I have in my entire life, I think.  And I ugly cry.

14.  Thank God he has given me people that don't mind if I ugly cry around them.

15.  However, I've even started censoring what I say or don't say to those people because I am tired of being "the wife of the alcoholic".

16.  If I have not personally talked to you about what is going on, please do not come up and offer me condolences or what you may view as support.  I will back away from you so fast it will make your head spin because we do not have that type of relationship and I am left wondering how you know versus feeling any type of comfort.

I'm tired.  I'm tired of trying and I'm tired of God telling me to be here.  Because, yeah, getting bitchslapped on nearly a daily basis is really awesome.  Last night was...not only did he come home drunk but got upset and started cursing at me when I asked if he'd been drinking.  Then he made a point of going and pulling out the booze he had hidden in his car and bringing it into the house.  Then I stumbled (literally) over a bottle he'd hidden under his recliner.

At that point, I'd just had it.  Toast.  Burnt toast.  I told him that he was released from any request of mine to be honest and just bring the damn bottle(s) in the house because it was now painfully obvious to me that he had absolutely no intention of ever actually doing that so...more fool me.  I also said that I would no longer depend on him for any of my emotional needs so he is free from that burden as well.  Go ahead.  Drink.  You will anyway.

I really hate my life.  I really hate that God says, no, stick around and be Jesus to him.  I hate being in pain every single day.  I hate having to put on a bright, happy face to the world   I hate that the person I love continues to kill himself and make me watch.

I'm so tired. 

03 January 2014

One of these days is just like a lot of other ones

Having one of those days where I wish God would (a) clue me in and (b) tell me that it's going to be okay.