Friday, December 30, 2011

Might As Well Face It, You're Addicted To Love

Sally found this article awhile back and we have been discussing it. We have both known many women who are either currently in, or have been in this type of relationship. Essentially a relationship that never has any hope of getting off the ground from the very beginning. Since this is a good time for reflection, resolutions, and new beginnings, I thought I'd post (most of) the article.

Addictive Relationships
It is often very hard to end a love relationship even when you know it is bad for you. A “bad” relationship is not the kind that is going through the usual periods of disagreement and disenchantment that are inevitable when two separate people come together. A bad relationship is one that involves continual frustration; the relationship seems to have potential but that potential is always just out of reach. In fact, the attachment in such relationships is to someone who is “unattainable” in the sense that he or she is committed to someone else, doesn’t want a committed relationship, or is incapable of one. Bad relationships are chronically lacking in what one or both partners need. Such relationships can destroy self-esteem and prevent those involved from moving on in their careers or personal lives. They are often fertile breeding grounds for loneliness, rage, and despair. In bad relationships the two partners are often on such different wave-lengths that there is little common ground, little significant communication, and little enjoyment of each other.Remaining in a bad relationship not only causes continual stress but may even be physically harmful. The tensions and chemical changes caused by the constant stress can drain energy and lower resistance to physical illness. Continuing in such bad relationships can lead to unhealthy escapes such as alcohol or drug abuse.

In such relationships, individuals are robbed of several essential freedoms; the freedom to be their best selves in the relationship, the freedom to love the other person through choice rather than through dependency, and the freedom to leave a situation that is destructive.

Despite the pain of these relationships, many rational and practical people find that they are unable to leave, even though they know the relationship is bad for them. One part of them wants out but a seemingly stronger part refuses or feels helpless to take any action. It is in this sense that the relationships are “addictive.”

Are You Addicted?
Listed below are several signs of addiction. Consider whether they apply to you:

Even though you know the relationship is bad for you (and perhaps others have told you this), you take no effective steps to end it.
You give yourself reasons for staying in the relationship that are not really accurate or that are not strong enough to counteract the harmful aspects of the relationship.
When you think about ending the relationship, you feel terrible anxiety and fear which make you cling to it even more.
When you take steps to end the relationship, you suffer painful withdrawal symptoms, including physical discomfort, that is only relieved by reestablishing contact.

If most of these signs apply to you, you are probably in an addictive relationship and have lost the capacity to direct your own life. To move toward recovery, your first steps must be to recognize that you are “hooked” and then try to understand the basis of your addiction. In this way, you gain the perspective to determine whether, in reality, the relationship can be improved or whether you need to leave it.

The Basis of the Addiction
There are several factors that can influence your decision to remainin a bad relationship. At the most superficial level are practical considerations such as financial entanglement, shared living quarters, potential impact on children, feared disapproval from others, and possible disruption in academic performance or career plans.

At a deeper level are the beliefs you hold about relationships in general, about this specific relationship, and about yourself. These beliefs may take the form of learned societal messages such as “Love is forever,” “You are a failure if you end a relationship,” “Being alone is terrible,” and “You should never hurt anyone.” Also relevant are beliefs about yourself such as “I’ll never find anyone else,” “I’m not attractive or interesting enough,” or “If I work hard enough I should be able to save this relationship.”

At the deepest level are unconscious feelings which can keep you stuck. These feelings develop early in childhood, often operate without your awareness, and can exert considerable influence on your life. Children need to be loved, nurtured, and encouraged in their independence. To the extent that parents are successful in doing this, their children will be able to feel secure as adults in moving in and out of relationships. To the extent that these needs are not met their children may be left feeling “needy” as adults and may thus be more vulnerable to dependent relationships.

Strategies for Overcoming Relationship Addictions
Robin Norwood, in her excellent book “Women Who Love Too Much” outlines a ten step plan for overcoming relationship addiction. While this book is directed toward women, its principles are equally valid for men. Stated here (reordered and sometimes paraphrased), Norwood suggests the following:

Make your “recovery” the first priority in your life.
Become “selfish,” i.e., focus on getting your own needs met more effectively.
Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself, i.e., fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.
Learn to stop managing and controlling others; by being more focused on your own needs, you will no longer need to seek security by trying to make others change.
Develop your “spiritual” side, i.e., find out what brings you peace and serenity and commit some time, at least half an hour daily, to that endeavor.
Learn not to get “hooked” into the games of relationships; avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, e.g., “rescuer” (helper), “persecutor” (blamer), “victim” (helpless one).
Find a support group of friends who understand.
Share with others what you have experienced and learned.
Consider getting professional help.

When to Seek Professional Help
Some counseling may be called for when any of these four circumstances exist:
When you are very unhappy in a relationship but are unsure of whether you should accept it as it is, make further efforts to improve it, or get out of it.
When you have concluded that you should end a relationship, have tried to make yourself end it, but remain stuck.
When you suspect that you are staying in a relationship for the wrong reasons, such as feelings of guilt or fear of being alone, and you have been unable to overcome the paralyzing effects of such feelings.
When you recognize that you have a pattern of staying in bad relationships and that you have not been able to change that pattern by yourself.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quotes I Like

"A little stress and adventure is good for you. If nothing else, just to prove you are alive."

-Lady Bird Johnson

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my 48th birthday. A time to celebrate another year of life and for me at least, a time to reflect. I started thinking about my life this time last year, and I remembered that I was in the throws of depression. So I went back in the archives and actually read last year's birthday post, and it reminded me just how sad and sick I was a year ago.

It would be a couple more months past my birthday before I melted down in the gynecologist's office during my annual exam, and she would recommend I go see a psychiatrist. Let me reiterate that was some really good advice. I've been on anti anxiety and depression medication for several months now and I can't begin to tell you how much that has helped. The interesting thing was I'd been on meds before, but they never made me feel right. Having an actual psychiatrist prescribe the meds instead of your family physician makes all the difference. At least it did for me. But it didn't stop there. I've seen my counselor Kate, every week or every other week since I started the meds. She's helped me tremendously. I'm happy to say that these were life changing events for me, and while I'm not trouble free, I am certainly not in the bowels of depression like I was last year at this time. For that I am so grateful.

I managed to get off some of the weight I gained during last year's depression, but not all of it. As always, I need to focus on my eating and exercise. Particularly exercise. I need to keep this old body healthy.

But just like yesterday, I'm not going to push myself too far into 2012. Not yet anyway. Today I will celebrate my life! I'm going to finish my coffee, then check my well wishes on Facebook. After that, I'm going to get cleaned up and hit one or two stores for after Christmas sales. Then I'm going to go see "Kenny". He does my nails. I'm getting this bright Christmas red off my fingernails and switching to something else. I think I'll get the sweet Vietnamese lady who lives next door to Dad to give me a pedicure while I'm there. Whenever I get done with all that, I'm going to hook up with Scarlet for lunch and a cold beer. Then, I'm not sure. Later this evening, I may drop by the home of my friend Margo from work. She's on vacation this week and invited me by for a birthday cocktail.

For some reason I just feel the need to go and go, and just keep busy today, so that's what I'm going to do. I got some money and some gift cards for Christmas and my birthday, and I'm going to spend them! I'll buy a couple of new clothing items--it always makes you feel good to put on something new!

Anyway, on this birthday I am thankful to my friends and my family. Without you I would have withered away long ago. I am thankful for this forum, so that I may organize my thoughts and keep them journaled for myself or someone else to ponder later on. But mostly, I'm thankful that the cloud of depression and anxiety that literally tried to snuff the life out of me this time last year, has lifted.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas morning and my family is still sleeping. I'm having coffee with a cat curled up on my lap, and searching for inspiration to publish a Christmas post.

Lots of emotions this quiet morning. I am thinking of Kitty and family spending their first Christmas in South Florida. I am so glad Kitty's mother Cher was able to fly down and be with them.

I'm a little sad that my kids are too old for Santa. I miss that thrill of them charging down the stairs on Christmas morning. But at the same time, I'm proud of the young people they are growing up to be.

It's the 4th Christmas without her, but I'm still missing my mother. I guess that will never change.

I am trying not to think too far into 2012. I'm trying to live in the moment and think about today. Today I will celebrate Christmas with my husband and my children. We'll open gifts and then have a big country breakfast around noon. This evening we will go to my husband's brother's house for food, sweet wine, and probably some karaoke. Then, the big day will be over. Right now that's about as far out as I can think.

My son is in the shower and my daughter just came downstairs, so I guess it's time for presents. Merry, Merry Christmas to my friends and readers. I hope your day is low stress, and that you will be blessed in some special way.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This And That

Does it mean that I'm not a dedicated person, or not committed to relationships because I am totally unable to follow "The Love Dare"? I'm not really sure about that, but I am still struggling with that "not saying anything negative" thing from Day One.

"The Love Dare" is a great book, based on the teachings of the Bible, and it's loaded with great exercises, but I'm just too tired to mess with it right now. I'm just being honest. If you want to take the challenge, and start fresh with Day One, I'll gladly loan you my copy. Hopefully you will be more dedicated than I was, and will have success.

I'm trying very hard to stay focused and not let the hectic Christmas season get the best of me. On top of holiday shopping, we've encountered $1200 in car repairs this month, $200 in washer repairs, and numerous other unexpected expenses totaling up to about another thousand dollars. Last week I bumped in to a coworker's Cadillac when exiting the parking lot at work, causing $507 in damages. I'm not sure where all this money will come from, but I know it will come. Maybe somehow it's an answer to a prayer, who knows?

I feel like I have dozens of questions that I need answers to, and I'm not sure I'll ever get any of them. I'm warding off holiday depression, but rest assured it's looming right outside my door.

I'm looking forward to seeing most all of my readers in the coming days. I had a nice lunch with Scarlet yesterday, Madison today, and Miss Pamela tomorrow. I only hope I don't gain a bunch of weight making all this merry!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Are We Doing?

This shit is hard.

I came home from work today and discovered that in a hurry to get out of the house, my husband left an entire pound of sliced turkey and about a quarter pound of ham sitting out on the kitchen counter all day. My immediate response, out loud to my son, was "Daddy's gonna pay for this!!". Then....I remembered my challenge. How can I stay positive??? I thought about the kindness lesson from yesterday, and by the time my husband got home I was able to calmly say "Honey, guess what? You must have been in such a hurry today you forgot to put away the lunchmeat!". He was so upset, but only about his own actions, not by my words. I was so happy I didn't light into him. It would have been unnecessary.

The random act of kindness was vague. It involved helping with some Christmas decorating. A half hearted attempt at this gesture.

Little things like holding your tongue and random acts of kindness sound simple. They are not.
I didn't have the energy to see what Day Three might bring. It's gonna have to wait.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Dare You--Day Two

Quickly I discovered that keeping all negative comments to yourself is much easier when you focus on one, maybe two or three people, and leave everyone else out of the loop; particularly co-workers. Any way you slice it, it's hard to keep negative thoughts from impulsively shooting out of your mouth. Hard, but I have to say, it made me feel good.

So the next lesson? Kindness. The Bible keys in on the importance of kindness. "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart." Kind people find favor wherever they go. "The Love Dare" breaks kindness down into four categories.

You are tender, even when you have to say hard things. This is where I struggled with Day One. I had to talk to my son about a missing homework assignment. I thought "How can I handle this without saying anything negative?" The key is you speak the truth in love and make it a little easier to hear.

Kindness enables you to do things to help others without feeling your rights have been violated or you are being "put out".

Instead of being reluctant or stubborn, you cooperate, you stay flexible.

You often have to make the first move. The first smile, the first kind word.

It is difficult to demonstrate love when you feel little to no motivation. But love in its truest sense is not based on feelings. Rather, love determines to show thoughtful actions even when there seems to be no reward. You will never learn to love until you learn to demonstrate kindness.

Today's Dare:
In addition to saying nothing negative again today, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness.

The unexpected gesture is a walk in the park compared to holding my smart ass comments inside for another day!!!

Oh, and for the record--I'm quite aware I missed a day in between Day One and Day Two. I gave myself permission.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Dare You

Last Christmas I received a book from my sister-in-law, Pinkie. It was something I had asked for. A book called "The Love Dare". This book and it's concept was featured in the film "Fireproof". I wrote about it in "Detach" on December 4, 2010. Anyway, I'm ashamed to say I just now picked up the book and started reading it. I'm intrigued with it so far. When I read the first chapter, I decided these ideals could work with any relationship--not just a spouse. So I decided to try an experiment. I decided to implement these ideas in all my relationships. My family, coworkers, and friends. I was anxious to see how trying them may benefit not only my friends and family, but also how they might affect me. So today I tried....and failed. Stress at work was just a bit much, so I decided to skip the coworker part, and just focus on my family and a few friends at this time. So I plan to start over again tomorrow. Of course I will be documenting my results. I hope some of you may even join me to see how this works. I don't want to get in trouble for plagiarism, so I will try to put the concepts into my own words.

We're sometimes at our worst around the people we love the most. When we are busy in the kitchen and turn around to find our child under our feet we might lash out with "Billy!! Watch where you're going!!" If we did the same to a stranger in the store we would say "Oh, excuse me!". After a few years of wedded bliss, a married couple surely finds the honeymoon has worn off and the littlest things can become incredibly annoying. That's where "The Love Dare" comes in.

The Bible tells us love is patient and kind. Learning patience is the place to start. The key. When you learn patience, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation.

Today's Dare:
For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience, and to say nothing negative at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It's better to hold your tongue than to say something you will regret.

I never thought of myself as an impatient or a negative person, but in many situations, I certainly am. Until you start keeping track, you may be very surprised how many negative comments come out of your mouth in any given day. I certainly was!! I attempted this at work today and failed miserably, but I've done fairly well practicing it with my friends and family. So tomorrow, I will focus on a much smaller group of people. I want to see how this affects my closest relationships, and how it affects me.

Try this dare with me. Tomorrow....pick a person or a small group of people. Practice patience, and NOTHING NEGATIVE comes out of your mouth. I welcome your comments.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Redirect Your Thinking

I've spoken dozens of times in this journal about my racing, out of control thoughts. I've described them as a tornado in my brain, and feeling like my finger is in a light socket, among other things. Today Kate told me I can control my thoughts. What an interesting concept. I'm not quite sure I believe her, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Do we really have control over our thoughts? Is having irrational, distorted thinking a learned behavior, or is it something we are just wired to do? I've been sitting here trying to ponder this. I don't believe I had distorted thinking as a child, so maybe I did condition myself to do it. Maybe it was analyzing specific events over and over in my head; looking for a reason or justification for them that caused the incessant thinking, I don't really know.

Madison thinks it has a lot to do with an overwhelming need to be in control. You never want to be taken off guard or appear to be stupid or vulnerable, so you are constantly thinking....analyzing. Preparing yourself for the worst at all times. A defense mechanism that eventually turns around and attacks you. I think she's very right in this theory.

So I've been given some exercises. Things to do when I feel myself starting to think too much...starting to obsess. Exercises that are supposed to distract me from what I'm over thinking. I can't wait to see if it works.