Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I have a lot of hope for the New Year.

I had a wonderful New Year's Eve lunch with Scarlett today. We did a small amount of reflection, and we also raised our glass to good things for us in the new year.

2008 was an eventful year for me. There were massive changes where I work. Hell, there were massive changes where MOST of us work! And I'm pretty sure there are many, MANY more work-related changes to come. I lost my Mom in 2008, which was a major life event for me. But as big as those two things were, maybe the most significant thing that happened to me in 2008 was hitting my wall in August, and the realization that I needed to start working on myself. I plan to continue that work into the new year. Why, I'm just getting started!


Also, as Scarlett mentioned at lunch, whether we are Democrat or Republican, we all need to rally behind our new president so that we can start to turn this country around. I'm not much for politics, and truth be known I am a registered Republican, but to that comment I say "here, here"! It's time to put our differences aside and come together for someone who seems truly interested in helping our nation. Working together is the only way we're going to fix the problems we have.

Thank you again, to my support group; my closest friends for being there for me. Whether it's codependence, alcoholism, food addiction, shopping addiction, or any other addiction, we all have our own issues. Let's all work on ourselves this coming year.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Was Your Day?

I cannot stress this enough; I absolutely detest forwarded emails. But for some reason I always get a little intrigued at the ones that include surveys about yourself. I even like the ones where you answer questions about your friends to see how well you know them. I don't know why.

Anyway, last night during my reading I found a sort of survey that instantly caught my attention. I liked it so much that my new plan is to read it every night before I go to bed and answer the questions as they pertain to that day. I think these questions could be beneficial to all of us on a regular basis.


Today, did I stand and deal with a feeling? I may have done it awkwardly, but did I do it?
Did I think about any of the Steps once, during a crisis?
Did I do something differently today than I would have done a year or two ago? Even a little differently?
Did I reach out to someone and allow myself to be vulnerable?
Did I start to get into shame or negativity, then become aware of it and get myself out?
Did I do something nice, gentle, and loving for myself?
Did I do something for someone else that felt good?
Did I do my work well today?
Did I deal positively with a bad day?
Did I practice gratitude or acceptance?
Did I take a risk?
Did I set a boundary, enforce a boundary?
Did I talk honestly and openly to someone and feel we got a little closer?
Did I own my power in a way that was good for me?
Did I take responsibility for myself in a way that I might not have before?
Did I take time for prayer or meditation?
Did I trust God?
Did I talk to God and turn things over to God?
Did I let someone do something for me?
Did I start to get caught up in someone else's issues, then practice detachment?
Did I go on with my daily routine, when what I wanted to do was sit and obsess?
Did I listen to myself, trust myself, and see how well that worked out?
Did I hold my own with someone who tried to manipulate or control me?
Did I nurture myself instead of criticizing myself?
Did I go to a meeting, read a meditation, or think about a recovery concept, even for a short while?

I like it. I hope you do too.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mary's MILFs

As a young girl I had three huge crushes. By huge, I mean massive. And they lasted years. One of them was a real-live person (I'm pretty sure we'll talk about him another time). The other two were on television. One was a recent "Mary's MILF", David Cassidy. The other was Arthur Fonzerelli.

I had every poster, every teen magazine, Fonzie socks: every piece of Fonzie material I could get my hands on. I even had a Fonzie action figure.

Unfortunately, the longer the "Happy Days" series went on, the more mellow Fonzie got. But I loved him most early on when he was a bad boy rebel with his tight white t-shirt, black leather jacket, motorcycle, and duck tail hair. In those days he didn't say alot. He didn't have to.

I always hated that Fonzie's girlfriends usually looked slutty. I knew girls like Pinky Tuscadero just weren't right for him. In my basement, when I was about 12 years old, I remember dressing up in a poodle skirt with my saddle oxfords and my hair in a high pony tail. I had a Ronco record with a bunch of 50's songs on it. I would listen to them and fantasize about being in the Fonz's apartment over the Cunningham's garage, and......well, I just knew I was the kind of girl he needed.







In 1974 Henry Winkler starred in "The Lords of Flatbush", a film with Sly Stallone where he played a similar biker/thug character. He was hot in that too.


Yeah, in the mid seventies I was pretty sure I could fix him.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quotes I Like

"When I repress my emotions,
my stomach keeps score."
-John Powell

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Line In The Sand

Tonight I've been reading about boundaries. As expected, most codependents don't have them.

Boundaries are limits that say: "This is how far I will go. This is what I will or won't do for you. This is what I won't tolerate from you."

Alcoholism and other compulsive disorders laugh in the face of limits. The diseases not only push on our boundaries, they step boldly across them. Each time the disease pushes or steps across our limits we give in. We move our boundaries back, giving the disease more room to work. As the disease pushes more, we give in more until we are tolerating things we said we would never tolerate and doing things we said we would never do.

Sometimes it is necessary to set a certain boundary that applies to a particular relationship, such as, "I won't baby-sit Mary Lou's children anymore, because I don't want to, and she takes advantage of me in that area."

Set boundaries, but make sure they're our boundaries. The things we're sick of, can't stand, and make threats about, may be clues to some boundaries we need to set. They may also be clues to changes we need to make within ourselves. Mean what we say, and say what we mean. -From "Codependent No More"
A couple of years ago I finally established a set of my own personal boundaries. Lines in the sand that must not be crossed. I like to think I'm strong enough now to enforce them, but fortunately, I've not been tested much.

It's pretty simple to think of a long list of boundaries when you live with an alcoholic. It's much trickier when you realize you need to establish them with other people in your life, but I'm seeing now those boundaries are just as important.

As with all codependents, it's very easy for people to expect things from me and when I don't fulfill their expectations, it pisses them off. This has happened more than I like in the past few weeks and it's really starting to annoy me. It would be different if I promised things and then didn't deliver, but when people tell me what they expect from me and then get disappointed when I don't do what they want, it makes them and me crazy.

Setting boundaries is closely tied in with saying "no", and we codependents don't like to say that word. After all, if we say no, people might not like us! This is an area where I need some major work.
I realized tonight that not saying it is costing me my sanity.



Friday, December 26, 2008

You Say It's Your Birthday

Today is my birthday. I feel good. It's my first birthday since Mom passed away but I don't feel sad. I made it it through Christmas pretty well too.

I've got a lot of work to do in the coming year. I'm going to be a better person.

But for today, my birthday....I'm happy with me, and I'm happy with where I am.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas to All

I've obviously been sidetracked with all the unexpected drama of the past few weeks. Couple that with the fact that the big holiday rush is on and I've been neglecting my journal more than I'd like. Hopefully things will be back to normal in a few days and I can get back to writing.

In the meantime, I'd like to send each of my readers a Christmas message.



Mystical:
Hands down, you are the most even-tempered, easy going friend I have. I've rarely seen you rattled, let alone freaked out about anything. Your patient and even demeanor compliments me well. Thank you for standing by me and understanding, even when I didn't expect you to. I wish you peace and security in the new year. Rock on, sister.


Sally:
You are probably most like me when it comes to processing things, and why wouldn't you be? Our kids are the same ages and we've both been married to people with addictions; we have a lot in common. In the coming year I wish for something great to happen to you professionally. It's past time. I also hope you will continue to make strides along with me. Working more on yourself and worrying less about others. Whichever life change the new year brings you, I know it will be the right one.

Madison:

You've been there, done that and I know I can always count on you when I need some wise words. Somehow you always have them. You understand how my brain works and my often irrational, insane thoughts. You are making good decisions and you're in a good place. I hope you stay there in the coming year. I'm proud of you for holding down two jobs AND going to school. I know you will be rewarded and I'm proud of you for working so damn hard.


Jules:

Since you are part of my husband's family you almost always know why he does the things he does, and more importantly why he does them the way he does them. You've helped me make perfect sense of things that once made no sense at all to me. You've never once criticized me or turned away your ear, even when I know it had to be numb from listening to my incessant ramblings. You've told me for years to work on myself and the rest would fall into place. I wish I'd listened sooner. You've achieved successes beyond anyone's wildest dreams and I know you busted your ass to do it. I wish for some rest and relaxation for you in the new year. Enjoy what you've earned.


Scarlett:

You're constant. You're reliable. You love me unconditionally. You've driven to my house every Sunday for the last several years in rain, sleet, snow, and hail because you knew that was the only way I was going to be able to visit. Our Sunday Afternoon Cocktails and our out of town Diventures have given me an opportunity to focus on myself and have some fun. Those are pretty much the only times I get to steal away with no responsibilities or demands, and I treasure that. You have worked so hard on yourself this year. I know you've already added at least ten years to your life and you have inspired me with your healthier eating and daily exercise. I've known you since we were kids and I'll swear in court I never would have believed your ass would be riding that bike every single day like you do! More of the same for you in 2009. Keep speaking up for yourself, keep eating right, keep working out, and keep trying new things. This seems to be working for you physically, mentally, and professionally. You kick ass.

Without you guys I am quite certain I would be in an institution someplace. I love you all, and wish the best for all of us in the new year. Merry Christmas, my friends.






Saturday, December 20, 2008

Stuck on Stupid?

Someone I care about very much made an off the cuff comment to me yesterday, but it has me troubled. I passed Cici in the hall at work yesterday and she said "Mary, I'm stuck on stupid. I can't get this weight off and my blood pressure is too high." We had a brief discussion in the hall and as she walked off, Cici again said "I'm stuck on stupid!".

Our brains are very powerful. In one of my earliest journal entries "The Day I Hit The Wall Part 2" dated Oct 30, 2008 I mentioned that someone had suggested I read a book called "Feeling Good". That book is all about cognitive thinking and how our thinking patterns control our moods. It suggests our distorted thinking may even be responsible for depression.

It's not easy to lose weight, but my friend Scarlett is living proof...it's not impossible either. It takes hard work and dedication, but it starts with the right attitude. Melody Beattie tells us we should stop saying bad things about our minds. Quit telling ourselves things like "I'm stupid," "I can't make good decisions," "I've never been good at figuring things out". It's just as easy to say good things about ourselves as it is to say negative things. And, we'll probably start believing the positive things and find out they're true!

Cici has read this journal at least once. I don't know if she'll read this or not. But maybe all of us can take a little something from it. Women seem especially inclined to belittle themselves when things don't go as planned. Let's start giving ourselves some long overdue credit! I'm positive with some hard work and the help of a friend Cici could lose some weight and get her blood pressure back to normal.

There's really nothing we can't do if we put our minds to it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sally's Dilemma


My friend Sally had a rather bothersome codependent moment over the weekend. We've talked about it and Sally said I had full permission to write about it in Detach. Let's take a look.

Sally has been divorced for a few years now. She has two grade school aged children with her ex-husband. We won't spend too much time focusing on him, except to say he's had a long history with addiction; alcohol and amphetamines. Like most addicts, this addiction has caused him to make some really bad choices in life. Like most women who are married to addicts, Sally became quite codependent, with a strong urge to control things. We've studied this so we all know why.....for years, Sally had to be the exclusive caregiver of the children. They had no contact or support from their father. She made all decisions and paid all the bills because she had to. If anything at all were to get done, Sally had to do it.

I am happy to report that the ex-husband has now been sober for a couple of years, and therefore has inched his way back into the children's lives. Immediately in to his recovery he got remarried; then divorced. Very soon after the divorce he started dating a new woman. That brings us up to this past weekend when he told Sally he and the new girlfriend planned to get married. While he's known this new girlfriend for awhile they've only been dating a few weeks.

Naturally, Sally is very worried that the revolving door of wives is going to have a negative impact on her children. They were very hurt when he divorced his last wife. Sally has met this new girlfriend and while she seems nice enough, Sally feels an overwhelming need to step in and tell her ex "NO! You can't get married again, it's a stupid idea!" Since she has full custody of the children it's very tempting to pull a trump card and tell him he can't see the children if he goes through with this. Of course this would be detramental to everyone, especially the children.

I don't know the right answer here. I'm not sure there is one. The only thing I do know for sure is that we have learned that no matter how hard she tries, Sally can not control her ex-husband. She will not stop him from doing what he wants to do. My opinion is that as long as her ex is sober and the children are safe, she should step back and continue to let them visit their dad. If he hurts them by pushing and pulling another person in and out of their lives IT'S NOT SALLY'S FAULT! The children are getting old enough to make their own decisions about their father and in time that's exactly what they will do. In the meantime she will not be seen by them as manipulative or as the person who prevented them from seeing their dad.

It sucks big time Sally, but I vote you let this one go. Keep a watchful eye, but let this one go. We'll definitely update this situation in the future.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catchy Phrases Decoded

So for years I wondered what those strange bumper stickers were all about. I think at some point in time someone must have told me they were slogans associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, but I never really knew what they meant until my husband started working on his sobriety and I picked up the AA blue book and started learning more about the program and all that goes along with it.

When I had my awakening about codependence and my own special set of "issues" I discovered that the teachings of AA are used for many different programs, including Codependents Anonymous. These slogans became much more important to me when I started applying them to my own special set of circumstances.

Today we will look at the phrase:

"Easy Does It"

I found this explanation online:

Recovery is about changing our attitudes and learning new ways to live. This does not happen overnight. We don't need to demand perfection or punish ourselves for mistakes along the way. It helps to be patient and gentle with ourselves.
We can not rush recovery. Insights and serenity come in their own due time. The Steps make sense when we work through them carefully and methodically. "Easy Does It", reminds us to be gentle with ourselves and not burden ourselves with more than we can handle. We try to approach life in a relaxed manner while taking responsibility for living in the solution. Things have a way of unfolding when we are willing and patient.


There's a lot going on with me right now. Couple that with the fact that we are smack dab in the middle of all the Holiday Madness and I think I'll really try to practice this one this week. In fact, I think most of us could benefit from this one right now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Not Tonight

Tonight would be a textbook night for me to slip into a codependent coma. My husband has gone to a concert. We've had some pretty crappy "incidents" involving concerts, so typically this would be a night for me to give him "The Concert Speech" and then begin my worrying and irrational thinking. But I didn't. I did manage to ask who he was going with and who was driving, but I was very proud of myself for cutting out the bulk of the (very exhausting) speech, which includes not drinking and driving, not drinking period, what time he would be home, and what action he should take if he did decide to drink. No, tonight I cut off "The Concert Speech" early on.

I'm not sure if I did that because I'm making strides against my codependency or because I have so much on my mind. Either way, I was proud of myself, at least for now (night ain't over yet).
Actually, I feel like focusing less on my husband tonight and more on myself.

You know that feeling you have when a failed relationship ends? I'm talking about a relationship where you really loved someone at one time but the love is now dead? You anguish the thought of leaving that person. You fight it. You justify why you should stay; sometimes for months or even years. Then, when you've exhausted all your defenses at saving the relationship you finally accept "what is" (see last journal entry) and make the decision to break it off. That is exactly where I am right now. Not in my marriage or with any type of lover, but in another relationship that has been around much longer than any lover ever has. The relationship that has caused me so much grief the past couple of weeks.

Ever since I made the decision to accept "what is" I have been at peace. In the last journal entry I said I was trying to decide if I should "stay still" or move on. I was sick with a sinus infection all weekend so I had plenty of time to sit around and think. No Christmas shopping, no errands, not even much housework. I think God knew I needed to slow down for a couple of days and think. And think is just what I did.

I have decided that this time it would be best for me to move on from "what is". And just like the relief you get when you finally decide to break up with that doomed lover, I feel at peace with my decision.

I just haven't quite figured out my exit strategy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Art of Acceptance

Sometimes facing reality is simply more than we can bear. We may have too much to accept, our present circumstances may be overwhelming. Yet, we must come to terms with what is. If things are ever to be any different, we must accept reality. If we are ever to replace our lost dreams with new dreams and feel sane and peaceful again, we must accept reality.

Please understand acceptance does not mean adaptation. It doesn't mean resignation to the sorry and miserable way things are. It doesn't mean accepting or tolerating any sort of abuse. It means, for the present moment, we acknowledge and accept our circumstances, including ourselves and the people in our lives, as we and they are. It is only from that state that we have the peace and the ability to evaluate these circumstances, make appropriate changes, and solve our problems.
(Adapted from Codependent No More)

On more than one occasion in my life I've accepted "what is". Sometimes I've accepted and stayed still, sometimes I've accepted and moved on.

I'm at one of these crossroads in my life right now. I believe that today, I finally accepted something. I don't like it, but I accepted it. Now I just have to decide if I'll stay still or move on.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Follow Up To Yesterday's Post

Actual telephone conversation overheard at work today:

Mom (yelling) to Son: "You PROMISED you'd pay back the money you owe me by Friday. You didn't!" You're constantly taking advantage of me and I'm sick of it!"

This is so closely related to yesterday's "rescue" triangle that I had to note it. If the mom keeps loaning money to the son then she is enabling him. When she hands over the money she is the "good guy". When she doesn't get it back in a timely manner, the halo goes away and the pitchfork comes out. Next, she becomes the victim who is unappreciated and constantly being taken advantage of.

Will she loan him money next time? Me thinks she will.

On a related note....major props to Scarlett. She has a coworker who desperately SEEKS to be rescued. This person is only comfortable when she is in the "victim" mode, and for years she has held supreme power over the other three people in the department, ultimately turning the three of them into victims. Everyone involved was absolutely miserable. Today, Scarlett took some things from yesterday's post. She identified the signs that it was coming on. She refused to take her normal role in the daily cycle with this person, and she removed the victim--herself. This stopped the coworker from going into her roll (the victim role--on the bottom), and changed the course of their entire day. This was an incredibly empowering moment for Scarlett and her entire team!! Way to go on your incredible victory!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Word of the Day

The Word of the Day, boys and girls, is "rescue".

As I thought about a story my friend Scarlett told me tonight, I decided this would be a fitting topic.

Melody Beattie says rescuing and caretaking mean almost what they sound like. We rescue people from their responsibilities. We take care of people's responsibilities for them, whether they ask us to or not. Later we get mad at them for what we've done. Then we feel used and sorry for ourselves. That is the pattern. The triangle.

Rescuing should not be confused with kindness, compassion, or true helping. These are good things; rescuing is not.

Here's one example of how a rescue works. The alcoholic is too drunk to attend a family get together. You go without him. To save face, you make up a story about how they got called in to work. Everyone buys the story. You saved the day. On the drive home you are so angry that the halo is gone and the pitchfork comes out. By the time you pull in the driveway you want to go full fledged Crazy Bitch on the alcoholic.

Most of the time the people we rescue immediately sense our shift in mood after a rescue. They saw it coming. It's just the excuse they needed to turn on us. It's their turn in the persecution corner. Then it's time for our final move. We head right for our favorite spot: the victim corner... on the bottom! This is the predictable and unavoidable pattern of a rescue. Feelings of helplessness, hurt, sorrow, shame, and self-pity abound. We have been used--again. We have gone unappreciated--again. We try so hard to help people, to be good to them. "Why does this ALWAYS happen to me?"

But make no mistake. Rescues do not always have to occur with alcoholics. People who perform rescues perform them on everyone, every day; friends, family, coworkers. It's a vicious cycle. Many times we do it for the simple fact that we are afraid to say "no" to someone. To ANYONE.

So how do we break the cycle? Stop playing the victim card. We must learn to identify the signs of a rescue and refuse to do it. We also need to stop allowing people to rescue us. Take responsibility for ourselves and let others do the same. Whether we change our attitudes, our circumstances, our behaviours, or our minds, the kindest thing we can do is remove the victims--ourselves.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mary's MILFs

I think an installment of Mary's MILFs is just what I need tonight.

I like Johnny Depp....alot. I like Johnny Depp the actor, and one day I may feature him as a MILF, but today we are going to talk about the epitome of bad; Captain Jack Sparrow.


He's a pirate. He's dirty. He plays with guns and swords. He's always drunk; and he's got a pissed off woman in every port.


Oh yeah....
In 2003, I was pretty sure I could fix him.








Friday, November 28, 2008

Catchy Phrases Decoded

As a kid I can remember seeing cars with unusual bumper stickers. They said things like "One Day At A Time" or "Easy Does It". I never knew what those meant or why people would drive around sporting them on their cars.

Now I understand there are a wealth of little sayings like that used by AA and various other Twelve Step Programs. The one I want to talk about today is:


"Let Go and Let God"


A very simple phrase; needs no explanation really. But for people with control issues like myself, this one can be really, really tough. I want so desperately to figure out a way to fix some of the things going on in my life right now but I just can't. With the better part of three days remaining in this long weekend, I'm going to do some meditating and some praying, and focus my energy on practicing this concept. I'm going to concentrate on turning this situation over to God. He's the only one that knows the proper way to fix it.

(By the way, the big problem I'm facing right now is not alcohol related, but something very large. I'll be at liberty to talk more about it later).


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

-Melody Beattie


"Turns confusion into clarity....problems into gifts.....the unexpected into perfect timing"? There just couldn't be a more appropriate quote for me this Thanksgiving. I was shuffling through my Inbox at work late yesterday and quickly scanned a company newsletter. This was the week's quote. Imagine my surprise when I got to the end and found it was written by Melody Beattie. Under the circumstances, I don't think it's just me that take something from this right now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Dark Place

I'm in a dark place right now.

I'm worried about my friend.
I'm mad as hell about something someone said to me today.
I'm scared to death about a potentially life-changing situation I can not control.
I'm frustrated about someone I love who is sick, but I will not let that person make me more codependent than I already am.

I'm tired.
I'm overwhelmed.
My thoughts won't stop racing.
I'm worried about everything. Really worried....in an unhealthy way.

I really, really miss my Mom.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Results Are In

Several months ago, probably more than a year ago now, I kept hearing radio commercials for Lucinda Bassett's stress and anxiety program. I was aware I was having issues with anxiety but was still months away from realizing exactly why. One day I went on her website and took the self test. It's a lengthy test and very thorough. When you're finished you get a three page customized assessment. I ran across mine the other day and had to laugh.

Here's a couple of excerpts from my personalized results:

As a woman with anxiety and possibly secondary depression you probably find that you worry about yourself and others. You are a person who cares deeply about other people. You are very sensitive. You feel things intensely and take yourself and your emotions seriously. This is good unless it creates unrealistic expectations, anxious attitudes, hurt feelings, worry, fear, and body symptoms of anxiety or depression. You are smart, creative, and a quick study. Once you learn how to help yourself, anything is possible.

Control Category: (High Score)
You are someone who needs to feel in control of everything in your life to feel comfortable. You need to control your environment, your comings and goings, how long you will be there, whom you will be with. You need to feel in control of yourself and your life. You may need to drive the car or fly the plane to feel comfortable. You may worry about losing control of yourself or even your mind. You may worry about losing control in front of others. The whole issue of control is often a huge problem for people with anxiety and depression. And of course fear of losing control is the main focus for many and creates incredible worry and stress. To gain control one must understand the concept of control and how real control, the kind that lasts a lifetime, is manifested. It is by giving up the need to always control things that a true sense of control is achieved.

If you'd like to take the test for yourself, here's the link:
http://www.stresscenter.com/?gclid=CMC89eLMh5cCFQJHxwod7X7vdg
Click on "Test Yourself"
As you can see, it's pretty accurate.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hard Day

Maybe it was the stress at work. Maybe it was the large Thanksgiving Dinner I'll be cooking a week from today. Maybe it was the fact my son was sick....I always get unnerved when one of my kids is sick. Maybe it was a combination of all these things. Whatever it was, I gave in to my anxiety and had an episode of crazy, irrational thoughts tonight.

I bailed out of homework early tonight. I needed to go upstairs and color my hair so I left my husband in charge of making sure homework got finished. While I was applying the chemicals to my scalp, my mind started racing. By the time I got into the shower to rinse I was having a full blown attack. As crazy as this sounds, here are the thoughts I was having in the shower:

"I know homework didn't get done. I'll bet my husband is out in the garage talking to his brother or his friend Jerry on the phone and the kids are running wild--probably wrestling. The girl will get hurt. What's she doing wrestling anyway?? She should be in the shower by now. And probably no one is attending the fire that was burning in the fireplace. It's windy out tonight, what if the living room fills up with smoke, or worse yet; what if a log rolls out? The living room is probably on fire right now! Did I just smell smoke?"

Of course, everything was fine when I came down. Homework was done, my daughter was getting in the shower. The living room was definitely not on fire. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I think nothing can get done in this house unless I do it? Do I think that highly of myself, or was this something born out of all the years when nothing did get done unless I did it? Those days are over, why can't I let go?

Nothing happened tonight to bring this on, other than too much on my mind. There for awhile these types of irrational thoughts were happening to me almost every day. I haven't had them for awhile so I guess that's good.

I'm doing better, but it became apparant to me tonight that I still have a long road ahead.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Are We Eating Ourselves To Death?


I like to drink alcohol, but my drug of choice is food. When I'm stressed out I can easily binge on mashed potatoes, cookies, cake, Krispy Kreme doughnuts....any number of things, but those are my favorites.

I think a lot of people in the United States anesthetize themselves with food. It feels good. It releases endorphins. It's comforting.
I guess it sounds odd, but it was difficult for me to come to the realization that stopping on the way home for a few hot Krispy Kremes after a stressful day was not a reward. It was a punishment. I really thought I deserved those doughnuts. After all, I was a woman scorned.
Turns out, I didn't deserve that at all.

I'm working hard now on undoing the damage brought on by comforting myself with food. One of the ways I've stayed motivated is by watching "The Biggest Loser" this season. Last night they played an "80's trivia" game of sorts. Some of the things they mentioned really affected me. I've had this in my mind all day.

I remember the 1980's well. It doesn't seem that long ago. I was a young adult. Look what we've done to ourselves with our eating habits since then.

According to Prevention Magazine, since 1980 the obesity rates have doubled.

The National Institute of Health classified obesity as a disease in 1985.

The percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased by 300% since 1980.

Twenty years ago U.S. teenage boys drank twice as much milk as soda. Today they drink twice as much soda as milk. (I personally think that's a very conservative estimate).

Today the most commonly purchased women's dress size in America is a size 14. In 1985 it was a size 8.

Today women between the ages of 20 and 39 are eating an average of 385 extra calories a day compared to the 1980's. That's enough to gain 26.7 pounds in one year.

Does this freak anybody else out?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My First Attempt

I've been told more than once over the past several years that it would be beneficial for me to seek counseling. The first person to suggest it was a family counselor my husband and I visited about 8 or 9 years ago who said she wouldn't even see us again until my husband sought treatment for his alcohol addiction. "Oh, and by the way...it wouldn't hurt for you to go to Al-Anon." Another person very close to me who is an adult child of an alcoholic also suggested it. "You need to forget about what he's doing and start taking care of yourself!" Then finally, after some education about alcoholism and an early failed attempt at sobriety in the late 90's, my husband said (in his usually not-so-subtle way) "Maybe you need to stop worrying so much about what I'm doing, and focus on yourself."

As I mentioned before, that really pissed me off. After all, I was the sane one. I was holding down a full time job and raising two young children. I was responsible for everything! I was the glue that was holding this family together! How could I be the one that needed help? The only help I needed was for someone to tell me how I could make my husband quit drinking!!!

About 7 years ago, my husband's sister and I decided to attend an Al-Anon meeting. I thought, "If you want to figure out how to make someone quit drinking, go to a meeting with a lot of other family members of alcoholics. Surely some of them have figured it out"! So we located a meeting at a church right in my neighborhood and off we went.

I hated it.

In all honesty I don't remember what they even talked about. I'm sure it was something I could have used and learned from, but apparently it wasn't my time. I didn't have the right information. All I knew was they were definitely NOT giving me the tools I needed to force my husband to quit drinking, therefore it must be a complete waste of my time.

Now that I understand that there's absolutely nothing I could have done to accomplish that feat, and I've learned the only person I've ever had any control over was myself, I'm considering going back. Maybe not to Al-Anon, but possibly to CoDA (Codependent's Anonymous) or some other support group. Now I can clearly see how working the steps of a Twelve Step Program can and will benefit me.

I'm still thinking about it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Word of the Day

Today's Word of the Day is "detachment". I liked it so much I named my journal after it.

Most codependents are attached to the people and problems in their environments. By "attachment" I don't mean normal feelings of liking people, being concerned about problems, or feeling connected to the world. Attachment is becoming overly-involved, sometimes hopelessly entangled.

Obsession with another human being, or a problem, is an awful thing to be caught up in. A person who is obsessed with someone or something can talk about nothing else, can think of nothing else. Even if he appears to be listening when you talk, you know that person doesn't hear you. His mind is tossing and turning, crashing and banging, around and around on an endless race track of compulsive thought. He relates whatever you say, no matter how unrelated it actually is, to the object of his obsession. He says the same things, over and over, sometimes changing the wording slightly, sometimes using the same words. Nothing you say makes any difference. Even telling him to stop doesn't help. He probably would if he could. The problem is he can't (at that moment). He is bursting with the jarring energy that obsession is made of. He has a problem or a concern that is not only bothering him--it is controlling him.

Most people who live with alcoholics become that obsessed with the people they care about.



"Detachment" is not detaching from the person whom we care about, but from the agony of involvement.






Some days it's easier to focus on myself and not on my husband than other days. Since he seldom drinks these days it's easier than it used to be. Some days it seems completely and utterly impossible. If you make the decision to stay in a relationship with an alcoholic, detachment is a life long struggle. I'll be talking a lot more about detachment in the future.



Adapted from "Codependent No More"
by Melody Beattie

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mary's MILFs

Welcome to the second installment of Mary's MILFs. That's "Men I'd Like To Fix".

This was most likely the first.

I loved David Cassidy. I never missed an episode of "The Partridge Family" and I had all their records. My parents had a long coffee table and whenever I could manage to, I would lay on the floor underneath it on my back so that I was looking up at the underside of the table. It was there I created my declaration of love to David. In crayon or marker I drew hearts everywhere. Inside them I wrote "David + Mary". (I think that table is still in the basement of my Dad's house. Sometime I think I'll flip it over and see if my shrine still exists. )









I'll never forget the night I was watching my little black & white television and a commercial came on announcing David Cassidy was coming to my town for a concert! My parents bought tickets and my older sister took me and my little friend Michelle. (Little did they know it would be the first of many concerts for me.)

He came out on stage in his white, fringed jumpsuit, and for several moments we stood there like statues. After awhile it became too much. We joined the rest of the crowd and started screaming at the top of our lungs like the girls from the Beatles Shea Stadium concert.

Yes, David Cassidy had stirred the flames in little prepubescent Mary.




He never wanted to be a pop star. He wanted to be a real rocker like Jimi Hendrix. In my mind he was.

In 1972 David Cassidy posed nude for Annie Leibovitz in a photo shoot for Rolling Stone magazine.

That cinched his bad boy status with me! I still love him today. And I'll bet he'd still look hot naked.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Caretaking

If you've known me longer than five minutes you've probably been given advice from me....whether you asked for it or not. It's the "Caretaking" part of codependency. Some days my office at work has a constant flow of phone callers and visitors seeking advice, or just a sounding board so they might think out loud.

I like it that way.

Melody Beattie has identified several Caretaking Characteristics of Codependents. I shortened the list to focus on the ones that fit me best, but then I realized many of the characteristics on the list apply to some of my closest friends. I added them too. See if any of them strike a nerve with you.


  • Think and feel responsible for other people
  • Feel compelled-almost forced-to help other people solve problems
  • Wonder why others don't do the same for them
  • Find themselves saying "yes" when they really mean "no"
  • Feel sad because they spend their whole lives giving to other people and nobody gives to them
  • Feel no one is truly grateful for the help you provide for them
  • Find themselves attracted to needy people (see yesterday's journal entry)
  • Find needy people attracted to them
  • Over commit themselves
  • Say other people make the codependents feel the way they do
  • Believe other people are making them crazy
  • Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated, and used
  • Find other people become impatient or angry with them for all the preceding characteristics
Caretaking isn't all bad. The world needs nurturers. It's when we turn caretaking into obsession or when we let these feelings affect us in a negative way that we need to step back.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Accidentally On Purpose?

Some professionals believe codependency is no accident. They believe we seek out sick individuals because we need them around us to feel happy (in a sick and unhealthy way). That's an interesting theory that I have been pondering.

I've already told you I've fallen for the bad boys since I was a young girl, but did I do it because I was a glutton for punishment, or because it was the alluring opposite from my stable, sheltered Southern Baptist upbringing?

I knew my husband drank too much when I married him, but at the time I knew absolutely nothing about the disease of alcoholism (I n fact, I didn't truly know much about it until the last couple of years). We were in our twenties when we met, and just out having fun. I truly believed he would change once we got married. I thought he would "outgrow" his drinking. Well, he didn't.
I didn't purposely sign on for events of the next 13 years, but somehow I held on and weathered them. Did I do that to myself on purpose, for some kind of sick self-gratification? I've thought alot about that, and decided....

Hell no.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Word Of The Day

Today's Word of the Day is: Codependent

The word codependency first emerged in 1979. The basic thought then was that codependents were people whose lives had become unmanageable as a result of living in a relationship with an alcoholic. As we learn more and more about mental health, the definition today is somewhat broadened.

A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior.

The other person might be a child, an adult, a lover, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a grandparent, a parent, a client, or a best friend. He or she could be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a mentally or physically ill person, or a basically normal person.

Think about it....
Do you know anybody who has significantly affected your life, somebody whom you worry about and wish you could change? Does this person's behavior affect your thoughts or your behavior?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What Have I Done For Me Lately?

People who are in relationships with alcoholics are very observant. They are able to turn a kiss "hello" into a quick sniff to see if any alcohol was consumed on the way home. They are able to recollect parties from years past and remember exactly how much alcohol was consumed. They can recite word for word the ridiculous things the alcoholic said when he was drunk. They can tell you how many consecutive days their alcoholic has gone without eating (an advanced ability reserved for more severe cases).

I fancy myself a master at these observations.

After every party I would call my support network to report my findings. "He hasn't had anything to eat since lunch on Friday. He drank at least 16 beers; and that's just the ones I SAW him drink! He jumped in the pool with all his clothes on!"

But something odd happens when the alcoholic stops drinking. Suddenly the codependent doesn't have anything to observe. Nothing to count, nothing to sniff. That's when you start obsessing about other things.....ANYTHING!

You realize you've been so focused on everything the alcoholic was doing that you forgot to observe something even more important....yourself. Taking a look in that mirror is tough. I was so busy for so many years counting how many beers my husband had that I didn't have time to count how many brownies I had, or how much money I had spent, or a lot of other things I was doing obsessively.


It's so much easier to stand back and point out someone else's faults; particularly when they screw up on a regular basis. It's much harder to turn that finger around and point it at yourself.

For years I tried so hard to control an alcoholic, and that is an impossible task. All along, the only person I really ever had any control over was me, and I was doing a crappy job.

I'm trying to work on myself now. I'm writing this journal. I'm eating healthier and exercising. I've lost weight. I've set goals for myself.

I'm on the right track; at least for today.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mary's MILFs

Now before you go jumping to conclusions...take the time to read my idea of a "MILF"!

Like many codependent women, I have always been attracted to bad boys. Then, once I hook them I work very hard to make them stop doing the very things that attracted me to them in the first place.

I've done this in real life...a bunch. Oh, I'm sure there will be times we will discuss my real life loves, but in "Mary's MILFs" we will talk about fictional characters or maybe celebrities. I was going to put them all in one post, but the more I thought about it the more I thought it would be a great recurring segment.

"Mary's MILFs"......that's "Men I'd Like to FIX"!!!

The first one that comes to mind is a fairly recent MILF. It was 1991, and it was the first time I ever laid eyes on the young and beautiful Brad Pitt. I was recently divorced and went to see "Thelma and Louise". His name was J.D. and they picked him up on the side of the road. He ended up in Thelma's (Gina Davis') hotel room. You remember the scene...





Thelma: You're a real live outlaw, aren't ya?

J.D.: Well I may be an outlaw, darlin', but you're the one stealing my heart.





Of course he stole all their money which forced them to commit armed robbery and ultimately drive their car off a cliff into the Grand Canyon, but damn, he was hot!


In 1991.... I was pretty sure I could have fixed him.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How Did We Wind Up Here?

After reading the page full of unpleasant adjectives that described the word "codependent", and resigning myself to the fact that pretty much all of them fit me, I started thinking "How did it come to this?" I didn't have to read much further into the book to find the answer.

Again...these words paraphrased from "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie

After a couple of years of sobriety, Ms. Beattie was beginning to understand herself, but try as she may she could not understand the codependent people (usually wives of the addicts) she had been assigned to work with.

Years later when she was counseling a group of alcoholics, things changed dramatically. Ms. Beattie became so caught up in the lives of the alcoholics she was counseling that she practically stopped living her life. She stopped thinking. She stopped feeling positive emotions, and was left with rage, bitterness, hatred, fear, depression, helplessness, despair, and guilt. At times she wanted to stop living. She had no energy. She spent most of her time worrying about these addicts and trying to figure out how to control them. She started finding it hard to say "no". Her relationships with friends and family members were in shambles. She felt terribly victimized. She lost herself and didn't know how it had happened. She thought she was going crazy and thought, shaking a finger at the addicts around her "it's their fault"!!! (Sound familiar??)

After floundering in despair for awhile, she began to understand. Like many people who judge others harshly, she realized she had just taken a very long and painful walk in the shoes of those she had judged. Now she understood those crazy codependents. She had become one.

Most people aren't born codependents, although with many of us, characteristics start to develop at a very young age. Most of us grow to become codependent out of necessity. The addicts and alcoholics in our lives create so much chaos for us that we don't have a choice.

We have felt so much hurt that hostility becomes our only defense against being crushed again. We're that angry because anyone who had tolerated what we had would be that angry.
We are controlling because everything around and inside us has been out of control.
We manipulate because manipulation is the only way we can get anything done.
We feel we are going crazy because we have believed so many lies, we don't know what reality is.

It's taken six journal entries to briefly explain what codependence is, and how we get there. It's a sickness all in itself that can be crippling. We don't get there overnight, we don't get out overnight.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

An Answer To A Prayer

On my drive to the bookstore that Monday, I started praying. I knew that the previous day's events had been a sign that my life had become unmanageable, and I knew that if I asked him to, God would finally lead me to the right book, the right program.

I walked back to the "Self Help" section, said one more prayer, and within a couple of minutes I had a copy of "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie in my hand. The subtitle read "How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself."

I bought it.

That night when I began reading it, I knew within the first couple of pages I had been lead to the right book. The next few lines are paraphrased from the book's 'Introduction'.

In 1976, Ms. Beattie was a recovering addict and alcoholic. She had begun to work as a counselor in the chemical dependency field. Because she was a woman, and she had little seniority, she was assigned a job to organize support groups for the wives of addicts in the program.

She was not prepared for the task. She found these women to be hostile, controlling, manipulative, indirect, guilt producing, difficult to communicate with, and more. In her group she saw women who felt responsible for the entire world, but they refused to take responsibility for leading and living their own lives.

She saw people who constantly gave to others, but didn't know how to receive. She saw people give until they were angry, exhausted, and emptied of everything. These were women who were experts at taking care of everyone around them, yet doubted their ability to take care of themselves.

She saw mere shells of people, racing mindlessly from one activity to another. She saw people-pleasers, martyrs, stoics, tyrants, withering vines, and clinging vines.

Most of them were obsessed with other people. With great precision and detail, they could recite long lists of their addict's deeds and misdeeds: what he or she thought, felt, did and said; and what he or she didn't think, feel, do , and say. They knew exactly what the alcoholic or addict should and shouldn't do. And they wondered extensively why he or she did or didn't do it.

Yet these codependents who had such great insight into others couldn't see themselves. They didn't know what, if anything, they could do to solve their problems (if indeed, they had any problems--other than the alcoholics)!

Soon, she subscribed to two popular beliefs.
1. These crazy codependents (wives/significant others) are sicker than the alcoholics.
2. And, no wonder the alcoholic drinks; who wouldn't with a crazy spouse like that?!

Was I as bad as the people Melody Beattie described? Had I been so busy watching, analyzing , and attempting to control my husband and everyone else, that I'd lost control of myself? Was I "codependent", and what does that really mean, anyway?Could this be....me?

I looked down at my out of shape, overweight body. I replayed the "unfortunate deck incident" and a thousand others just like it over again in my mind.

Oh, I've definitely found the right book.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Day I Hit The Wall: Part 2

A year or two ago I started mentioning to close friends that I felt like something was wrong with me. I was having a lot of anxiety. My thoughts were becoming more and more irrational.

My friend Scarlett kept asking what I thought was wrong. I kept telling her that I was a very "complicated" person. That was the only way I knew to explain it. I'm not sure I was even able to put what I was feeling into words.

I was worrying about everything and everyone around me. These feelings intensified when my Mother passed away in April. I was worried to death about my Dad, and how he would cope. Less than a month after Mom's death, my son had an accident on his skateboard that required a CAT scan, and layers of stitches and staples in the back of his head. Two major events, back-to-back, that I had absolutely no control over, launched my insanity into overdrive.

I was aware of the fact that much of the change in my mental well being had occurred when my husband quit drinking. In fact, he kept telling me I needed to focus on my own issues; maybe I should even consider going to Al-Anon.

That really pissed me off.


Someone suggested I read a book called "Feeling Good". This book had some good information, but didn't really fit me. My sister-in-law said she thought I needed to try some counseling. I felt she was right but I kept putting it off.

Every time I'd have two or three good days in a row, seeking help would take a back burner. I'd feel better, so maybe I could just lick this on my own.

That leads us right up to the unfortunate "deck incident" described in Part One of this entry. As bad as it was, it had to happen. I had to hit the wall that morning.

I spent the day (a Sunday) feeling angry, embarrassed and ashamed of my insane behavior. After a lot of soul searching and praying for an answer, I realized these issues of mine were some kind of sick web, spun out of my need to control, driven by my husband's drinking, and ultimately his sobriety.

On Monday I headed to the bookstore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Day I Hit The Wall: Part 1

People who have problems or addictions rarely seek help for them until they hit a wall. There are “obvious” walls such as a DUI, an accident, health problems, or the loss of a job. Any of these may push the addict to realize they need to seek help.

I hit my wall in August.

My husband was hanging out with our neighbor. After I’d gone to bed I realized they had parked themselves on our deck, which is directly below the bedroom window. All night long I kept waking up. I’d hear them talking. Normal voice, not shouting or anything. It got later and later. Every time I awoke I envisioned the scene. In my mind I saw beer cans everywhere. The next time I woke I could picture them laughing at how I’d never know they were drinking because I was asleep. The next time, I could just see them staggering, slurring, and about to pass out. Who knows what else!

At about 5:30 I awoke and heard guitar strumming. Dear God, they've been up all night and now they've dragged out the guitars! I was livid. I tried to go back to sleep but I was so filled with rage from my psychic visions that I just couldn't. I just new the entire day would be one big hangover. Nope, no work would get done that day! It would just be a day filled with throwing up, headache, arguments….the day was ruined!

At precisely 6:45 a.m. I couldn't take it anymore. I got up, grabbed my robe, and headed down the stairs. Even though my entire body was shivering, I could feel my blood boiling with every step I took.

By the time I reached the kitchen I was out of my mind. I walked to the back door that leads to the deck. I reached for the door knob. I yanked the door open as hard as I could.

I suspect I looked quite Gollum-like as I pointed my shaking finger in my neighbor’s face and said “YOU NEED TO GO HOME”. I then turned the finger to my husband and scathed “YOU NEED TO COME IN!”

As long as I live I’ll never forget the looks on both their faces. My neighbor was standing there holding an acoustic guitar. If there was beer or any other alcohol involved I never saw it. There were no dancing girls either. Neither of them reacted with a drunken confrontation. They both just looked at me like I was crazy.

At that moment…..I was.

I didn't know it right then, but I had just hit my wall.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meet Mary Bailey

Internet Usage 101 teaches us we shouldn't use our real names when we post things online. So when the time came to select a screen name for this blog I wanted one that fit me. One that most people could identify with, that gave some insight into my personality and what makes me tick. One that might help well-adjusted people who don't know much about codependence, well....get it. It wasn't long before something "wonderful" came to mind.

My all time favorite film "It's A Wonderful Life" is all about the life of George Bailey. All his life, George dreamed of being an adventurer. He planned to travel the world. Exotic, maybe even dangerous places! Tahiti...Africa! That spunk of his quickly attracted the attention of adolescent angel Mary Hatch, who declares "George Bailey, I'll love you til the day I die."

Well, you've seen the movie; George never makes it out of Bedford Falls. One disaster after another befell him and eventually things got so bad he jumped off a bridge in an attempt to end his problems. Now the story will tell you it was George's guardian angel Clarence who saves the day, but every time George fell, it was Mary who was there to pick him up and fix everything.

Mary dedicated her life to raising her children, volunteering for the USO, and most important, fixing George Bailey.

Here's a photo of Mary after she rebelled against her mother (who wanted her to marry the rich Sam Wainwright). Mary lured George into her parlor where she's about to convince him to marry her, even though he'll tell her he never wants to get married....EVER!








Here's Mary on her wedding day, saving the entire population of Bedford Falls from economic doom by offering up a large wad of cash she and George had stashed for their honeymoon. The stock market crashed and George was in a major pickle because everyone panicked and wanted to withdraw their money from the Building and Loan.






Finally, and most important...here's Mary after the bank deposit was misplaced and ultimately stolen by the evil Mr. Potter. George fell apart and attempted suicide, but Mary rallied the entire town together and single-handedly saved the day!




Like me, Mary was out to lasso the wild boy from early on. In the process she performed rescue after rescue (a term you'll be hearing a lot more about), and fixed every problem that came along. So you see....there really was no other choice for a screen name except "Mary".

I think that's what all codependents really want--to be like Mary Bailey. Able to take complete and total control of any situation; able to rescue everyone around them until they finally get their "happily ever after". See how happy they all look? Ahhhhh......that's a codependent's dream come true.

Problem is, controlling and rescuing don't typically result in a happy ending in the real world. That's what this journal is all about.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The First Step

My husband is a recovering alcoholic. Last night at a neighborhood Halloween costume party he drank. I don't know how much; it really doesn't matter.

It's the first time that has happened since I truly realized I had massive codependency issues, and started the long road to recovery.

This morning when I couldn't wake him up in time for work I felt that rage and those overwhelming urges to "control" coming on. That's when I realized I had two choices. I could do what I always do and wake him up with a lecture, then we could have the same argument that we've had a thousand times before, or I could try a new approach. I could practice the things I've learned from reading Melody Beattie's wonderful book "Codependent No More".

My husband is never a pleasant person when he first gets up; particularly if he's running late. That unpleasantry is magnified considerably if he's hungover. But for the first time in 15 years, I reacted differently. I stayed calm. I made coffee. I didn't view his action as an attack on me, but rather an attack on himself. I realized that if I reacted the way I always reacted then we'd have the same exhausting conversation we always had and frankly, I just wasn't up for it.

I realized I had taken the Codependent's First Step:

"We admitted we were powerless over others-that our lives had become unmanageable."

This realization was so empowering that I decided I would write this journal about my journey out of codependence as part of my therapy and recovery. I realize I've only taken the first step, and that I have a long, LONG way to go--probably the rest of my life! But for the time being, this will be therapeutic, and maybe I'll share some insight and interesting stories along the way!