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 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:
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 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


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

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.