Hey! Do y’all remember me? I know most of you are Facebook friends with me or follow me on Instagram, so you probably know that I’ve been busy. Maybe sometimes a bit too busy – I love to be at home and haven’t been there a lot in the last few months. That’s actually not the reason I haven’t been blogging. When I’m trying to process things or work through events in my life I’ve come to prefer to journal them to understand and I think I’m finally reaching a point where I feel I can share things.
These last few months have been a big learning and growing time for me. While things were brewing under the surface for a while now, there was one life event that caused them to rush to the surface: I lost a dear friend. Now, when I say “lost”, I mean she’s still alive, but I’ve lost the friendship we once had. It was a very difficult time for me and I would compare it to going through a relationship breakup. Thankfully I’ve had to break up with more boyfriends in my lifetime than friends, so I didn’t realize how much it hurts.
Without going into too many details, my KISA and I had an argument one night when we were out, in front of her and her fiancé. My KISA was under the influence, which I now recognize was one of the first issues I unknowingly had, because I thought it would be best he go home since he was running a relay with some coworkers (including an executive) the next morning. We agreed to part ways – me going home that night and my KISA would drive home the next morning. When I was leaving to go home I overheard a conversation that was not meant for me to hear and some hurtful things were being said about our argument and me leaving by her to her fiancé. After a confrontation I left to go home. Because of the way things unfolded in the coming weeks I requested she no longer be a part of our wedding party and we’ve since gone our separate ways.
After that evening my KISA and I dissected not only that evening’s argument, but other arguments we’ve had (which thankfully aren’t very often…just for some reason in front of them). There was one common denominator: me trying to control him. It’s funny because while you can hear from everyone that you have an issue with control, until you realize it for yourself are you able to work on it.
At that point in time I reached out to see a therapist here in San Francisco. I’ve always intended to see a therapist since I’d seen two different ones in Madison, but I was always afraid. You see, it’s easy to see everyone else’s problems, but to admit your own problems and to then work on them is more difficult than a person would think. When you’re with a therapist and are honest with yourself it’s painful all the hideous things you realize about yourself. After my second therapist (a psychoanalyst), it actually put me into a deeper stage of depression, thinking that I was no good and an awful person no one should want to be around. (Hence the reason I was a little sluggish to go back to see one.)
I did a bunch of research online at PsychologyToday.com and read the profiles of many therapists that specialized in anxiety and control. One that I read stood out from all of them: her name was Laura and her theory on effective therapy had more to do with the relationship with the therapist than anything. I called her that morning, fell in love with her, and made an appointment to see her the following week. She had me fill out some long questionnaires that she requested I handwrite, as opposed to type out. I knew from my first therapist that he believed that there’s something more that registers when you write something versus type it, which I’d come to believe as well.
Our first session was reviewing my responses to the questionnaire. I knew she was going to be great when she never made me feel defensive. In fact it was quite the opposite – she made me feel loved. She explained to me that in therapy they have a term, called transference, which is when you unconsciously transfer feelings and experiences to the therapist. I felt like she was really listening and she understood me. When you’ve felt like I have the last 31 years it’s great to feel like someone finally understands you, even when you’ve been disgustingly honest with all the hidden caverns within you; you’re not crazy – you’re just hurt.
In our second session I admitted to her the falling out I’d had with a friend and we talked through it. She then brought up a subject that was a soft-spot – my KISA and his alcohol usage. I was never raised around alcohol usage, so I didn’t understand or have a point of reference on whether my feelings on it were normal or if I was being overly sensitive. Laura tasked me with reading a book, called “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and to go to my first Al-Anon meeting. She explained that she was less worried about my KISA’s alcohol usage (or diagnosing him) and more about my reactions to it.
In reading the book learned the word “codependent” didn’t mean what I thought it was. I’d always thought being codependent meant I couldn’t do anything without the assistance of others. I’ve always prided myself on being independent, so I was shocked to learn that I’m a raging codependent. To give you some examples of what resonated in the first chapter of the book:
Overly responsible; dependable; “mother hen” in most situations; anxiety; depression; control; I work while others play; with my KISA he’ll say he’ll do something later – I intervene and do it myself; I feel obligated to do things to make others happy; I worry about other people when I shouldn’t; I try to help others even when they don’t ask for help; I like to surround myself with men that are challenging; I like to feel needed; I allow other peoples’ moods to control my emotions; I believe that if I take care of others they’ll appreciate and love me more; I am constantly seeking approval and affirmation; denial; fear of anger or criticism.
You get the idea. The most startling thing in the book is realizing that all these problems I thought my KISA and past sig others had was really my own unresolved problems. Feeling the need to control my KISA when he drank was another example of this. His drinking wasn’t necessarily the problem – my feeling the need to control him was.
I also started attending Al-Anon sessions. The purpose of Al-Anon is to have a support group of other people that have or have had some sort of a relationship with someone who drinks. Again, it’s not about diagnosing the person because the group is not meant for the other person – it’s meant for yourself. I finally settled on a group that I grew to really like that meet every Monday at local church. Their group name is “Progress, Not Perfection”. The motto of the group is to continue to work on yourself because you’re never really done. They also believe that in each session you should take what you like and leave the rest – not all of it is for everyone. The biggest thing they teach is detachment and how to let things go. I’d never been good at this, but thankfully hearing other stories and sharing at our meetings have helped me dramatically. And, it has helped me realize I’m not alone in the way I feel and the struggles I have.
Similar to AA meetings, Al-Anon has 12 steps to work on how to make yourself a better person and to practice detachment. The steps seemed a little hokie to me when I first started, but every other week we read about one of the steps and I’ve come to realize they’re really good, well thought out life lessons. And, every week I feel like it’s speaking directly to me and what I’m going through in life. What’s even more interesting is that you have people that have been going for 30 years and are continually working through the steps again and again – either solo or as a sponsor (I think of it more as a life coach). Throughout life your struggles change and you look at each of the steps differently.
Granted, I’m only a few months in, but I really like the progress I’m making. While it’s unfortunate the means in which this life lesson was taught to me, I’m glad it’s something I’ve learned since I’ll be spending the rest of my life with myself. And, I need to like me. (And I suppose my KISA will be around as well.)