Holiday Stress

Being in a relationship with a Sex Addict puts us into an almost constant state of stress. Add in the holidays and we feel as if we’re Mt. St. Helens ready to erupt

Triggers are everywhere. Holiday expectations, visits to and from relatives we may not like or even want to be around, financial worries, keeping up the ‘front’ for friends, relatives and children as well as our internal battles do not make for happy times. Whatever the relationship is with the Sex Addict their stress levels will also be high which only adds to our distress.

Every time we pick up a magazine or newspaper or turn on the TV we are bombarded with ways to lessen our stress. Unfortunately, most of these methods are ineffective, trite or downright silly and will have no effect on our stress levels except to give us a false sense that we are ‘doing something’, therefore we must be in control.

So, how do we manage all this stress? How can we face the next few weeks and keep our sanity?

Well, let’s take a look at the root cause of stress. Most of the time stress is caused by a conflict between what we expect something to be and what it really is. If we expected our relationship to be whole and it is shattered, that causes stress. If we expect our holidays to look like a Norman Rockwell painting and instead it looks like a Picasso–again, stress. If we expect our spouses to be Sir Lancelot when, in reality they look more like a combination of the Joker and Jack the Ripper–well, that makes us really stressed.

Stress really is all in our head. And, our brains do not know the difference between real or imagined stress–the result is always the same whether we are facing an attacker in a dark alley or the conjured up images of a lost, unrealized relationship.

Stress, whether real or perceived (or even remembered) floods our bodies with hormones for fight or flight, and yet there is nowhere to run. So, our bodies take the beating. Our blood pressure rises, acid floods our stomachs, our hearts race and our emotions swing wildly back and forth, not knowing where to stop.

Can we eliminate all the stress out of our lives? Of course not, that would not even be wise. Stress does serve a good purpose. It is the motivator for action. But, when allowed to get out of hand, stress can be debilitating and disabling. What we can do is take control over the things that we can in order to give our bodies a break.

We definitely can control our thoughts. You know, all that ‘stuff’ that constantly swirls around in your head, keeping you awake at night and ruining your days. Here’s what I recommend to help tame the stress dragon.

Make a list of your expectations that are not being met. Take your time, hours if necessary. List them all. Try to remember all those things that you expected out of the relationship with your partner and for the life you always dreamed of. Did you imagine growing old with your partner, calmly watching the grandchildren play? Did imagine an anniversary in Paris? A celebrity style wedding? Lazy weekends spent making love for hours? Retirement spent trotting the globe? Someone who would comfort you when you were sick. Someone to share your deepest thoughts and dreams with? You make your list. Put it all down on paper. Read it. Feel it. Cry over it. But, most importantly, take it out of your brain and put it on the paper.

Now, some may suggest that you burn that paper. I don’t agree with that idea. These were realistic hopes and dreams. They are yours to keep or revise as time goes on. But, they are your dreams. They just can’t happen now, or with the person you had in the picture.

Now the dreams on safely secured on the paper. You can go back to those dreams any time you feel lonely or sad. They can form a framework for your future. These were your expectations.

But, they are not your reality now.

Separating your dreams, and in a sense protecting them, allows you to face the reality that you must in order to find your way back to those dreams. By taking those expectations out of your brain you allow more time and space for the reality of coping. Life is what it is and we can change whatever we don’t like by simply starting the process, one step at a time. We must move forward in order to change. Change will not come by swirling in the whirlpool of regret and broken dreams.

Change will come when we stand strong, fight our battles with courage and integrity and then move forward, clutching our list of dreams close to our hearts and never looking back.

The winter solstice has passed. It is the end of the darkness and the start toward the light.

Much love and light to each and every one of you.

JoAnn

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Responses

  1. Thank you JoAnn,

    I so badly needed these words…in fact, I printed off 3 copies and gave them to my 2 (older/adult) kids and my Mother….none of which begin to understand or at times, most times I feel, don’t WANT to understand……I am expected to be perfect all the time, every day……

    Truth is, I am Mt. St Helens gurgling over the edge these days, often I feel like I truly am going to “snap” at any given moment……….At times it is a major test to maintain control, my fight or flight sensations send me racing to my bedroom in search of solitude at the first opportune moment, if I am not already fighting. I’ve 13 people coming this holiday, the SA included….It will prove to be disfunction at it’s finest…thanking the lord for Lorazapam!

    Again,

    These are great words, I will keep them close to me the next few days.

    Happy Holidays to you and to all my sisters here,

    Peacefulness upon you all………..

    XX,

    Mary

  2. Thank you JoAnne for the great advice, I like how you don’t suggest burning them. I never got that. Does it take time or practice or both to be able to feel OK with these unmet dreams and be able to understand these were just exectations but no longer our reality so we can move on?

    I have tried throughout the years on many different occasions to do the letter thing, go for a drive and scream at the top of my lungs or hit my pillows to relieve the stress. But for me all it does it make the stress worse and I find myself getting even angrier than when i started. Appears i am only good at “stuffing it all” away..

  3. JoAnn – Thank you so much for thinking of all of us and giving us such wisdom during this holiday season when depression is more intense among all of us who are struggling.
    Mary and litteb- I am so sorry for your pain. The both of you still have a lot of emotions to work through, and yes, it does take time to work through trauma such as you have been through. You didn’t get this way overnight, and you won’t recover overnight. The only advice I can give you right now is to let the feelings you have flow – let it out, and totally focus on what these men have done to you. Get the anger out. Then every time you have a melt down, let it be a constant reminder on how much damage they have done to you, and what a healthy person you can become if you don’t let these SA’s drag you down any more!! You have a chance for recovery, to be happy, well grounded and start a new life based on life after living with an addict – The addict will probably be “stuck” in his miserable degenerate life forever. You will be the one’s to rally!!
    Merry Christmas to everyone. Keep the faith.
    You will become whole persons, and come out all the stronger as your own recovery progresses.

  4. Thank you JoAnn for this! One of my best Christmas presents so far! We have both familys in two different states to deal with this year and all of our situation is still a secret. Worst thing is that before all the secrets came out we were “supposed” to start having kids next year and had mentioned this to family. This is the part of the relationship that I know, for now at least, is not a reality. Yet, all the family is asking about it. The excuses hurt almost as much as the reason.

    We are still trying to work it out so it may be a reality with my husband one day but realizing that no matter what…it will be a reality for me. With my husband or someone else. It is my future and I will work hard to get it. Just a hard time of year to deal with it.

    Thanks again,
    Aileen S.

  5. Thank you so much for this, JoAnn. You not only have a vast amount of knowledge and insight from both books and personal experience, but you are also able to express it with such clarity. How lucky are we to know you and to be in the company of all of the sisters on this site?

  6. Thank you so much for this entry. I had an awful time trying to keep it together throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas day; between dealing with my “husband” and what he’s done, running after my toddler, or listening to his family rant and rave about how “lucky” I am to have such a wonderful husband. The stress of everything caused me to break down in tears more than once. Your words have made me feel less alone.

  7. I have been so stuck in anger and sadness. I literally wake up each night in my PTSD – in a nightmare, thinking of things, I not only knew existed, but were even on line. I feel so confused and literally have not known what to do in this turmoil I surely didn’t deserve then, and still don’t now in his so called, “recovery.” (laced with slips may I add, and tons of euphoric recall which in my faith is ADULTERY) Thank you JoAnn for your writings. I will write my dreams on paper, those that are crushed and those that even after 25 years with this SA, whom right now I call “IT” as most of all I think about it how pond scum doesnt mix with a Christian mother that loves wholesome and clean. I feel like what he did is not human, and with all of my understanding of the disease, it makes me no less angry that I am waking up to this nightmare. I have nothing in common with this man. I am not naughty nor nasty, but I am great and loving and know how to love Gods way!!!! Ladies, I am on my second time around with this same man. This addiction will win every time if your SA is not making a career out of major life changes, starving that addict, avoiding many things, daily meetings for life of some type or another, and lots of counseling and trauma work. I trusted my SA’s words and did not check up on anything ever. I trusted the untrustable. This is a huge mistake, and for those of you thinking about having children to an SA, think twice. Addicts are very self centered. If you think you have problems now, wait till after children, you feel papa is morally unfit and would not be safe for the children to be around for a multitude of reasons including driving “while under the influence of lust, and possible things your kids can be exposed to around daddy on his computer, and even grandma and grandpas house that you had thought would be safe. (Often times this is generational, and grandpa, grandma and uncles aint no saints either!) I pray for my COSA sisters daily. This life with an SA defies what God had planned for all of us. I would say to write this list, cry about it, mourn it, and REALIZE that this is not your problem, its theres and you don’t have to live it. LET GO and let God fill your life anew. All I could think of today was how pathetic this life is with an SA. I looked at a brochure with an image of a woman on it, and it triggered my thought, “Wow, one look at you and my whole life could be upside down again in seconds if he goes back to his addictive lifestyle. Who can live like this? After the holidays, I want to buck up and stop being so pathetic. It is Christmas time, and there are happy families out there that aren’t being triggered over going to the makeup counter at CVS. Find a man that appreciates you, adores you and wants to touch YOU. That is my wish for us all. After the first, I will look at this list – and then in time, I will those dreams again! But first, the final paperwork on the divorce. Takes time and money ladies – especially if you have children involved. For those of you on the fence, talk to someone with children about how hard the paperwork is when you don’t really want daddys influence on your children cause daddys sick with a brain disease that could end his butt in trouble, spreading diseases or dead. Dont we all deserve more? I think so. To a NEW YEAR for us all. There is help out there. Try a support group for rape victims. You will get alot out of it because we were raped – raped out of our life, years of memories, and choices were made for us that we would never have chosen for ourselves. Look at you in the mirror. You deserve more! You are beautiful away from this sickness. At its BEST, its a ticking time bomb and one Victorias Secret commercial on TV from flipping your life into turmoil. Sorry for being so negative but this is reality. There is no total freedom in my opinion. Just learning how to bend a mind that God wouldn’t intend to have us bend into a pretzel of understanding. If you aren’t into it, then get set free. You do that with tons of support in place so you don’t get weak and fall back into the lonely painful existence. Fly free my sisters. God wants you to be fully fullfilled and totally at peace. SA wives don’t have that, and the ones that say they do, I think are in some denial when it comes to the pain this disease causes us. Next to anorexia, this ones the hardest to kick. I need to be well mentally and physically. Living with a bomb is not peace to me. Blessings to you in 2011. WE CAN DO THIS! P.S. All I could think of while opening gifts yesterday was, “no one if they knew what you were really about would have given you all the gifts they did on every christmas, over all of these years. You were a con man and you violated them as well as me and our children. Surely I am angry. I have the right to be. I know its a disease, but it has no heart. It devours.STAY STRONG, you will need it with an SA in your life.

  8. Hurtheart,
    Sounds so familiar. It appears to be a common thing, where the family talks about how “lucky” we are and that their son is soooo great. Gag. Even though my inlaws now know, nothing has changed. They baby him. They are now helping him get a car, another hand me down from family that they are going to buy for him. He is in his 30’s hard to imagine they still go along with this, given his track record. Some things never change, and they are the enablers. I see it now. None of them will ever change. Appears they like haveing to take care of a 30 year old boy. P.S. he is living at home again.

  9. Hi Lee,
    I don’t think you are being negative, its life with an SA. Sucks. But I think you made some good clear statements about what it is like. Sorry to hear about your story and as you said be strong in the process. Good Luck to you.

    P.S. I feel the same, almost like he is a conman (the SA in my life). He deliberately lied and covered for himself and the addiction. Constant bait and switch, says he loves, and then lies to you in the next sentence. Maddening living this way. Lied all through dating and in the marriage. I had not idea. Then to top it off, did not work very much at all first couple years of marriage, minimum wage now, did not help around the house… When asked why? he says he felt bad but did not help. WTF? No one needs this. So mommy and daddy take care of him now. I had adopted their problem for a few years, but giving back the spoiled goods.

  10. I wish I read this a few days ago. Unfortunately, on christmas eve I blew up at my visiting mother. Yes, she has just arrived the night before but I done her usual damage only a few hours later. Usually, I can deal with it and blow it off but I just exploded. I don’t even know what set me off. It is all a blur. Off course I cant say what is going on and I don’t want to make excuses for myself but I wasn’t equipped to deal with company but my guilt wouldn’t get me off the hook. But it is just a good reminder that so many of you had to deal with the same thing.

    I wish all of us a Happy New Year…it is possible 🙂

  11. oh please don’t feel badly. I told my m-i-l to go fuck herself right after i got married. 22 years ago. (believe me, she totally deserved it.)

    We’ve had a very good relationship ever since.

    boundary setting. 😉

  12. Annie,

    Please don’t feel bad….I think you hit the “nail” on the head…that is “being equipped” for company. I’ve felt the same way, and have had a house full since the 20th. My Mother is here and driving me crazy…my kids, my Brother and his family….and I feel its more about me than them….I’m overwhelmed by all these people and wud rather be back in my bedroom ALONE and in quiet. I didn’t need Christmas to come when it did…but like the rest of us, am forced to do the best I can with what I have….Many don’t understand and my mother has now started referring to my SA as the “addict” when she spent the summer befriending him behind my back…..Now she doesn’t stop trying to talk her way out of that since I caught her and him….They (my family) all laugh about this and joke about my SA….they can not begin to truly understand the devastation his behaviors/choices have brought about to me/us…..They make jokes like “I’m not ever shaking his hand again!”…or my Brother talked about buying my SA a “pocket pussey” for Xmas….stuff like that…then they don’t understand why I’m so pissed off or angry and it’s more like me and my feelings don’t even exist…my moods to them are nothing more than me just choosing to be a bitch …nothing more….and I find like you, that it takes little to “set me off” as well… With New Years around the corner, my spirits couldn’t be higher because I get to spend it with not only my Mother, but my SA as well! Yippeee…..he acts all elated that he’s going to spend New Years with me! Talks all of how he’s looking so forward to the new year because he’s going to grow with me in love!! PUKE….He spent xmas day walking around here like a fucking guest, never lifted a finger to help with ANYthing other than take out some garbage..rather, spent the night and day shoving his damn iphone full of bragging pictures of all his material toys in to people’s faces so they could think he was so important and rich….PUKE AGAIN…..I decided yesterday my onryness is because I am forced to have to be around those which I do not wish to be around…..I know that I will be forced to go back to him because of my financial situation and I don’t want to do that….Currently, my SA has excuse after excuse, (as he always has), he procrastinates over everything (as he always has) and has now on top of it all, mastered the art of passive aggressive responses. He agrees with everything and artfully talks his way through it all but does nothing to change other than offer more words and non stop statements like “I need to work on that”, or “You’re right”, or “I won’t do that anymore” (That was to a SECOND time found watching desparate housewives”…)”I get stuck at points,” “I have no excuses though”, “I am trying to break through”, “I’m committed to time and patience and I’m not giving up on me”, “Yes, I am lazy”, “Oh yes, I need to do something about that” “and you shouldn’t either”…he keeps saying about not giving up on himself…… Then “bully’s me over any comments I may make about washing my hands of him…….Every time I say anything suggesting it’s over, he says “Well, you don’t need any money from me anymore then do you”, or “that’s what you really want?” or “Go ahead, quit on me now! You’ve picked a fine time to quit on me now!!”………Thinks his supposed 4 months of sobriety which HE CAN NOT PROVE, and his attending of meetings and church makes him a NEW man, a CHANGED man… yet he continues to say how much work he has to do yet….and how it’s going to take TIME…..LOTSA TIME…….It’s BULLSHIT…ALL of it and It’s maddening I tell you, simply maddening!! Fact is, if I had to move back in with him today, not ONE thing would be any different than it was 8 months ago, a year ago, 2 years ago…NOT ONE!!!!!!!!!!! and I as much told his sorry ass that last night…..They’re all ASSWHOLES….ALL of them………….

    Sorry, fed up today….
    Happy New year to you all

    XX

  13. Dear Mary,

    Well, I’m pretty you are at the end of your rope. As you described the behaviour of your family and SA, I could see why.

    Listen, dear one, you’ve got remember there is nothing normal about your situation but they are all trying to “normalize” it so they don’t have to deal with it—really deal with it. You are not crazy. They are. And he is an asshole. You’re right there too.

    Can you get rid of these people? I think you really need some alone time to recover and regroup. And you WILL recover and regroup. I think they are bullying right now, trying to bully you into pretending what they are pretending. But you aren’t going to be bullied! Good for you. When they leave do some self-soothing techniques from Barb. Steffens book. Look after you.

    Then get the best lawyer you can and look after yourself some more. Nobody else in that crowd is going to. You are the one with your best interests at heart.

    Go get your life, honey.

    love,
    D.

  14. Dearest D,

    Thank you so much for the “pep” talk….I so need it….and you are so right, about so much…and I know I will recover, but I can’t seem to be able to take care of myself right now because I am being pulled by so many others…(mainly my kids and my 16 yr old who was ripped from me 8 years ago illegally and has just returned home)….I have felt really ready to simply snap the last several weeks…I’ve been barely hanging on to be honest….My Mother leaves on 1/4, the kids will be back in school/work and I am going to seek as much solitude as I can. I had another therapist last winter/spring who was great and I think I’m going to give her a call and pay her a visit. I’m in the middle of “my change” and that’s not helping ANYTHING either…last this gal heard from me I was hanging on in a bad relationship…the Sex addiction crap hadn’t been discovered yet…Today was an even better kicker…I’m still driving my SA’s caddilac…on 12/7 I hit some guy or should I say “drove into” the back of some guys pick up truck while at a stop light on my street (Is how I really knew I was/am ready to snap, 35 yrs driving and never had an accident!) anyway, light turned green, all cars moved, the old truck in front of me did, then hit the brakes and I hit him…his ball from his trailer hitch put a hole in my bumper but because it was higher up and on a truck, his bumper got trashed…Amazing what damage can be done at 3 miles per hour….Long story short, I think I’m about to be sued (Poor person seeing an opportunity to get some money, I saw his gears turning when we were talking at the parking lot down the street after) No one was hurt, police came and left in less than 30 seconds without any report or ticket, etc. However, this guy after agreeing with me that there was no need to involve the insurance companies, is all the sudden contacting my insurance etc and seems to be setting up to sue as he’s also retained a lawyer…I asked my SA for the insurance on his car yesterday and he responded with “oh great”….then, out of the blue, my SA texts me today that he had something to tell me….The asshole let the insurance on the car lapse and it was not covered at the time of the accident! Just last night I was texting with him and told him my intuition in addition to myself, didn’t think he’d changed one bit…and when I asked for him to give me any examples of his supposed “change”…he throws out “Complete Openness Mary”….I am all about complete openness!’…..LYING piece of crap….he tells me today he knew the car wasn’t insured but hoped replacing this mans bumper would make it all go away…He lied for the last 3 1/2 weeks…My heart stopped as I thought my two kids have been driving this car and if this would have happened to one of them would have been disaterous, especially if someone would have gotten hurt or killed. My boys said to me today, gees Mom, if he lied about that, what else is he/has he lied about…”Mr. I’ve been sober since August!”…………

    Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find a lawyer willing to sue for palimony…………

    You are so right Diane, I need to get these people out of my house, ALL of them and get my life!

    Thanks for letting me vent…I’m sorry, it’s one of those days……….

    hugs
    XX

    Mary

    Oh, and I also told the ass that his “dream” of spending new years with me was “up in smoke”….He’s not getting NEAR me Friday night…………..

  15. I think sometimes we are trading one addict for another. I think what set me off with my crazy family was they asked me to buy them booze when they hadn’t even been in my house for more than 4 hours. they know I am not comfortable with their drinking in the house (they aren’t fun drunks). And I just felt I couldn’t deal with them and my SA at the same time.

    My husband still seems to be walking around in a fog. It was the first Christmas since his mom’s death (the incident which set him off I am sure) and the guilt of what he’s done. His remorse is still strong but I am always wondering when that will pass and he’ll get too comfortable again.

    Mary, I am sorry about your family. I think that’s why my family doesn’t know. They don’t think or realize how hurtful those comments are to you. It’s like a criticism of the commitment you made a long time ago and you are trying to figure out now.

    I hope we all have a happier year ahead.

  16. Happy New Year Every one,

    I hope we all do have a happier year ahead as Annie has said..I had my Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens, Country Ham and Corn Bread for New Years Day….It’s supposed to bring good luck for the coming year…LOL..I’ve been eatin’ them for 50 years and still waiting
    :-)…..and yes, Annie, I hear what you are saying. I’m sorry you had to deal with what you did during the holiday as well. I have had the experience of being around “non fun drunks”……I think that can be worse than being around our sa’s at times…….I hope you didn’t provide for them, as it would have made matters much more complicated for you, especially if they do not know about your SA husband. I wanted my family to know the truth, but like many, they do not understand what sex addiction is and they don’t want too…my Brother calls my SA “Tiger”…..Its a joke to them, my personal nightmare to me. I have mixed emotions about them knowing any of this, but with my family it would have been hard not to let them know..and they found out from my SA to begin with as he called them up after I moved out and tried to get them to think he was the “good guy” and did nothing wrong. He spent all summer talking to them and going to see them, behind my back without my knowing. I really had no choice but to tell them after I found all that out.

    My SA did that “remorse” crap for awhile…that was part of his “I’m going to kill myself” mode last fall (sarcasm….He just couldn’t bear living with himself after what he did to me, and even though his new found church had told him God will forgive him, he just couldn’t!! Oh dear…That was October, now, he doesn’t stop quoting the bible that God says we MUST forgive him for his sins since Jesus has!!) ….but his “I’m going to kill myself” and threatening suicide all stopped when the shrinks wanted to commit him….oh, gosh, He didn’t go for that part…………he hadn’t banked on people wanting to lock him up…he was only looking for the attention!!!!!

    I spent my first day of the new year summarizing my position after the latest go around with the lying and hiding, tried to get to the bottom of all of my emotions…..I determined that my anger is really representative of knowing that my future and anyone’s future with an addict of any kind will hold more of the same….more of the same cycle of lying, hiding, busted, remorse, straight, relapse, lying, hiding, busted..etc….Reality….they won’t change….that 1 – 3% recovery figure is a very small amount and I’m coming to terms with the fact that my SA isn’t going to be in that percentile. As time passes, they get real good at feeding lots of bullshit…I knew this all already after being around so many addicts during my life, guess I had held out hope for a different outcome this time. My SA started texting me from 8:00 a.m. until noon today and I answered NONE…more of the same empty words filled with the same empty promises……..I however, had NO remorse taking back the invitation to join me and my family last night for new years..NONE…I kept getting emails and texts last night how he missed me….YEAH…PUKE…sure he found something to keep himself busy with last night.

    I’ve 6 months left on my lease………With God’s grace and help, I can find income to go on without him.

    I hope things get better for you Annie and sadly, I have to say don’t hold your breath on the remorse shit lasting….after all, he had no remorse while he was doing it Annie, so why should he all the sudden feel bad now? Remember, his remorse now, is he got caught!!

    XXX

    Mary