Diane has graciously shared her story. For anyone else having trouble posting their story, simply e-mail it to me through the contact page or at [email protected]
Anyhow—it’s a tad long.
Diane’s Story–Drowning in the Shallow End of Recovery (okay it’s just a chapter)
It was less than two months since D-day. My spouse had begun to attend SA meetings. He was quite light-hearted these days, feeling proud of his first step toward sobriety. I was also proud of him, and very affirming whenever possible.
But strange things were happening—new strange things. My husband, who for the last thirty years consumed a glass of wine or a beer about once a week, was going through bottles of gin like water—kicking back doubles several times a night like he’d been doing it all his life.
At the beginning of our marriage I had told him about the alcoholism in my family, and that I could not be around people who were drunk or getting drunk. So, now, I reminded him of that and told him this new taste for hard liquor was really upsetting me, and made me feel even less safe in my own home, the same place he pursued his porn addiction. I reminded him that he had told me that many of the SA’s he met had multiple addictions, and asked if his new taste for double gin drinks was a smart idea. Wasn’t he just trading one medication for another?
Well—he stood up with extreme effort and exasperation all over his face. What was my problem now? He had gone to SA and I had no right to question his behavior. He was an adult and could drink anything he wanted. How dare I interfere? His program was none of my business and I wasn’t to question him. He didn’t appreciated the inquisition in his own house, and made a point of taking a big drink while he said all this. I yelled back and pounded the counter with my fist, demanding that he consider my feelings.
In the weeks following, as he continued with therapy and SA meetings, the drinking stopped. But no apology.
Once we were invited to close friends birthday party held at a city restaurant. No one yet knew we were in crisis. My husband assumed we would go. I told him I couldn’t go and pretend I wasn’t devastated and traumatized, and I couldn’t watch him pretend that everything was just great, though I acknowledge that he was just better at deception than I was. He was incredulous. What was wrong with me? Was this going to affect every part of our life? Again, he was completely insensitive to my feelings and the stress I was under. He strutted about the house like a peacock deprived of its god-given right to open its tail. Occasionally he opened his hands out with some exasperation to tell me ‘I’m sober’. I’m sober. What more do you want? I want you to think of how I am feeling. No chance. There are only one person’s feelings in this recovery story.
When he finally started to deal with his mother, who his therapist and sponsor had identified very early on as his emotional wife and object of worship, he told her we were now living apart. He shared their conversation with me, and how she began to jump in with criticizing me and blaming me (she figured it was now open season). I waited for him to tell me how this time he stopped her. But he didn’t. I set this before him as another example of their combined emotional abuse of me. Why was he telling me this? What was new in it for me? Nothing! He got angry. I was just never satisfied. What did I want him to do? I told him I wanted him to defend me, protect me, and shut her up. Well, he shook his head and turned away. He was just really tired of being wrong all the time. And I was a bitch. (he didn’t say I was, but I’m pretty sure it was in the air). He told me how hard he was trying. Really hard. He didn’t ‘appreciate’ being questioned about this conversation when he was (supposedly) really laying down the law with her. Again, he was completely blind to my feelings and I felt that my expectations were somehow right over the moon.
The secrecy of the ‘program’ was waved in my face regularly. My spouse loved his secret life of sexual acting out, and now he loved his secret life of meetings, anonymous friends, confidentiality etc. He would tell me that there were ‘famous people’ there, and people we knew from work—-but noooooo. I wasn’t allowed to know who they were—a point I was reminded of, even thought I never once asked who they were. Secrecy isn’t my drug of choice. But Secrecy IS a sexual drug for some SA’s, so the early stages of recovery give them a little something they like. Like an addict on meth. My guy’s pride and ego just couldn’t resist rubbing my face in it. And to think all this came from the recovery program itself. It was too good to be true for him. And it was all he had from his acting out that was still allowed. I named this for him once. He literally looked down his nose at me and told me not to criticize his program. I wasn’t his therapist. He didn’t ‘appreciate’ it.
Later, when my husband and I decided to give his car to our boys, and buy a new used vehicle for him, I agreed to provide half the value of my six year old van toward the price of a vehicle. We agreed that something gas efficient would be good since we shared use of the van for any moving we had to do (which with kids in school is several times a year). When he used the van I used the car. So he decides to by a sexy six speed standard transmission sport coupe with sun roof and spoiler etc, that I can’t drive. I point that out. He ignores me and tells me he had it doing 75 and still had a gear left, and comes home with a mid-life crisis car. I freak. I happen to know (after the fact) that before the internet, he was cruising public lots and waiting areas looking for his turn-on template women and masturbating in the car while looking at them. This looks a lot like a trolling vehicle to me, and one that I can’t drive. He insists he didn’t know I told him I couldn’t drive it. And waves off my concerns about why he’s bought this more expensive and sexy care. He’s dismissive and doesn’t ‘appreciate’ me suggesting it’s a clichÃ© car. I’m shut out now. He’s exasperated again with my over-reacting. My feelings don’t matter. He doesn’t even offer to teach me how to drive it. I climb into my beast of burden van. Sigh.
This stuff and lots more like it went on in what I now call the ‘shallow end of recovery’. They have their toes in and think they are swimming. Their awareness of their addiction is still so limited. They haven’t touched the hard part yet, but they are thrilled with themselves, expect constant praise, and gift us with tearful expressions of remorse that do not herald any new or better treatment of us. It’s just all about them. We don’t have a story, and when we suggest that we do, we are just bitches who won’t co-operate with their ‘recovery’ agenda. In the shallow end, they haven’t learned to put their head under yet—so their crazy self-centered and un-self-aware thinking process is undisturbed. That means they are still acting out just at levels they aren’t seeing. They are not fully conscious to their addictions.
That’s how SA’s end up launching ‘personal recovery sites’ on the internet, probably the universal place for SA’s to act out—and never notice the problem with that. That’s how they ‘don’t see’ what’s their own sites and act so hurt when you ask about ads for sex books and exotic women sites, and why they write down details of sexual experiences and dismiss our concern about that. How dare we?!!! They are in recovery!!!! And it’s really hard !!! We have no idea!!! Blahblahblah.
But they are in the shallow end of it. And they may never go deeper.
All the same, it’s important for all of us to remember that you can drown in two inches of water. We and they can drown in the shallow end of recovery. So if that’s where you are, you can do a few things to protect yourself. Get a personal flotation device and wear it all the time. Take life-saving certification so that you know how to deal with a drowning addict who has you in a death grip and will down you both. Or, get out of the shallow end.
For me, it meant getting out of the shallow end and watching recovery from poolside. It also meant going deeper with my own story and finding the challenges and healing of it. I could still cheer and support. But I didn’t have to pretend that he was swimming, just because his ego wanted me to.
It has gotten better with my husband’s program. He has apologized for several things, the car included. He is aware of how slowly awareness comes to the SA.
He’s dog paddling now, at least. And I am proud of him still. But I don’t know what will become of us. I’m just glad not to be drowning in the shallow end of recovery, and I hope none of you will.