Archive for April, 2009


Was I the easy target?

April 24, 2009

Was I the easy/convenient target for hurts my ex-wife felt from the actions of other men?

This question came eerily to mind this week.  My ex projects a bitter anger toward me.  Inordinately so in the opinion of scapegoatfamily members… including her own family. 

None of us are clear on this and a question has finally arisen as to whether she has found a way to express anger at the hurts caused by others by lumping them into the hurts she felt in her relationship with me.

There were at least two men that hurt my ex many years ago.  One was a teacher who had belittled her in front of a class at about age 13.  I do not use the word abuse too freely and easily.  In this case, in the mind and developing emotions of a 13-year-old, the humiliation would have been devastating to any of us at that age. 

The second was a family member who she looked up to.  It was revealed years after the fact that he had had a prolonged affair with his friend’s wife.  My ex was shattered when she found out because of how she admired this man deeply.  Her trust was shattered.  She eventually got over it to a large degree, but the family member continued to be flirtatious and in fact, inappropriate with other women and his wife continued to tolerate it.

I came to mind that others and I wondered if perhaps my ex’s seeming over-reaction (and prolonged bitterness) to the hurts from my part of the dysfunctions in our marriage was a result of past unresolved situations like these. 

To complicate matters more, the family member who disappointed her with his behaviour has now passed away.  It was further pondered whether, now that he is gone, and she can never reconcile the hurts and disappointments directly with him, if she is not somehow re-directing those unresolved issues toward me. 

In fact by doing so, she can preserve the selectively untainted image of the family member and lock out any blame on him by blaming me.

Again, her resistance to being forgiving and congenial are inordinate in everyone’s viewpoint including her own family’s.  And she refuses to seek any meaningful professional help as far as anyone can see.

If any of this is true, and certainly it appears to be, is this not telling of how complicated … and frankly …. messed up… we humans can be?  And that without outside help of others, what chance do we stand to untangle the web of complexity thats within us?

That we can sustain complicated toxic bitterness for years, decades or even a lifetime and affect ourselves and others.  Including our children and perhaps grand children.  And it is all passive and relatively invisible.  Nobody gets punched or slapped.  But people are hurt and damaged by these behaviours spawned by bitterness and misdirected blame.

With all of that said, I am not saying for a moment that there were not issues that she and I brought to the table that harmed our marriage and led to its failure.  I have spent the last 5+ years asking myself what my part was and how I become someone different. 

I simply am dumbstruck by the intensity of the prolonged bitterness and blame.  Everyone agrees that is must relate to something far beyond what happened in our relationship.




When things work out…

April 23, 2009

Something in my life worked out extremely well this week.  A business situation.  Then I got ambushed by my old thinking.  I stepped onto the pathway of destruction.  Gladly, I found a way to step off.


Funny how I lost track of the fact that my self-destructive thinking didn’t apply to my successes as much as my failures.  Funny how I forgot momentarily that I needed my program of recovery to handle the ups in life as much as the downs.

With my old thinking, when my ship came in, I would sink it.  And this recent situation showed me that threads of old thinking are still woven somewhat into the fabric of my character.

I believe these negative threads are weakening, but there is still a remnant.  I know they are weakening because I caught myself before any real damage was done.

I had managed to pull off a particular achievement.  Many people said kind and affirming things.  So what was my alcoholic conclusion?  “I really am ‘the shit’ !!!  I must be because all of these people co-signed my thinking with their affirmations! Had I carried on along this pathway, I think life would have gotten really complicated.

Instead, I made a few phone calls and got to a meeting.  I quickly remembered how blessed I was to have recovered enough to achieve what I had, and how easily I could throw it all away if I started to think more highly of myself that I ought to.

Once a few others helped me get back to a sense of reasonableness and humility, I was able to feel simple joy about the achievement rather than unhealthy pride and ego.  Now I simply feel grateful.  Grateful to be part of the success, and not think I was completely the success.

Recovery is not just about damage control.  It is about handling whatever life brings next.  Incluidng the successes.





first Celebrate Recovery experience

April 20, 2009

I attended my first Celebrate Recovery meeting last week. 

For those unfamiliar, it is a 12-step program used by people who recognize God as the Bible describes him as their higher power.

Overall, it was very good and it felt like where I needed to be on that particular night.

Of all that happened, the most compelling things to me were the guys I met there who had so many amazing similarities to me in their journey.

Also, this simple list from the literature of what Celebrate Recovery is and isn’t.  Here it is…

celebrate-recoveryThings we (Celebrate Recovery) are:

  • A safe place to share.
  • A refuge.
  • A place of belonging
  • A place to care for others and be cared for.
  • Where respect is given to each member.
  • Where confidentiality is highly regarded.
  • A place to learn.
  • A place to demonstrate genuine love.
  • A place to grow and become strong again.
  • A place for progress.
  • Where you can take off your mask and allow others to know who you are.
  • A place for healthy challenges and healthy risks.
  • A possible turning poing in your life.



 Things we are not:

  • A place for selfish control.
  • Therapy.
  • A place for secrets.
  • A place to look for dating relationships.
  • A place to rescue or be rescued by others.
  • A place for perfection.
  • A long-term commitment.
  • A place to judge others.
  • A quick fix.

Imagine if an organization of people could actually adhere to these determinations in a meaningful way?  What a powerful setting this would create.

First thing that jumped to my mind is that if more of my church experience was centred around these objectives, I may have found church a more helpful place.

Looking forward to seeing how this unfolds.





“Outside” issues

April 19, 2009

Often in AA we hear about limiting discussion of “outside issues”.  We also hear about us having a “singleness of purpose” in our groups.

confusion-outside-issuesBoth of these refer to AA being focused on the recovery from alcoholism as our main purpose and doing our best to set aside any other issue.

I am beginning to get a real grasp for why this practice has come about in the process of recovery.  Simply put, to take on too many things usually means that we end up doing a little of everything but a lot of nothing.  And if we fail to recover and get sober, at best, it means ongoing pain for us and our families.  At worst, we die.

I believe that defining a singleness of purpose is one reason AA has been as successful as it has been over the years.  AA learned the hard way that to divide its agenda too many ways meant distractions that led to failure.

At the same time, my heart breaks when I get to know people in AA who are having pronounced troubles in other parts of their lives and don’t find the same kind of support available that they had in getting sober.

I am specifically referring to a situation I am close to where a young guy is in a relationship and it seems to be on a dangerous pathway.  He is an eager, hard working guy in early recovery.  It appears he connected with a young lady, also in eary recovery, who as far as we know, has never had a regular job.  She has 3 kids by 3 different men and a life story that would shock most of us.

She is now pregnant again by this young fellow who supports her and her 3 kids who he is not the father of.  I shake my head in amazement as to how he handles it.  Yet he revealed to me the other day that he is not.  And he wants to bolt from the situation because he cannot handle how much of the load he needs to carry and how immature and demanding she is.

Now, I will be there for them in every way I can.  As a friend who cares and has travelled the pathways of life a few years longer than them.  Yet, it is odd feeling how powerless I feel in being of any help.  The guy wants to go to counseling with his girlfriend.  She feels it is not necessary.  Yet he is the one providing for her and her kids and she appears to be demanding of him.  I really do not know the whole picture, just what I see.

I guess there is just a huge contrast in the rallying support we find in getting sober versus other life issues.  Yet, to remain effective, organizations like AA cannot divide their focus to other agenda.  This has always faied in the past.

And I look at other organizations like many churches I have experienced who broaden their agenda so wide that they become diluted and corrupt.  It is a strange balancing act.

For me, for today, I just have to make the wisest choices for what is directly in front of me.  And not think or look too broadly.  If I do, I am in danger of taking on too much and venturing into things that I cannot handle for me or anyone else.

I guess this is where trust and surrender come in.  I have to trust that the little input I can afford to offer people like this young couple is all I am supposed to do.  And then surrender the rest of their circumstance and believe that it will be taken care of by a power greater than myself. 

It just breaks my heart to see the kids affected and these two “adults” make a complicated mess of their lives.   

A day at a time is all I can do.





Emotional reasoning

April 15, 2009

Emotional reasoning…. simply put, “I feel this way, therefore it is this way”.

girl-in-painI am glad that today, I no longer believe this as much as I used to.  I no longer let my unreliable, inaccurate feelings convince the rest of me that reality is meaningfully reflected by my feelings.

I borrow this phrase from the practice of “Cognitive Behaviour Therapy”.  Which is psychobabble for “Learning to think differently”.

I am glad to have come accross a few methods that have served as tracks to run on that have helped me re-shape my thinking.  New thinking in turn reshapes my feelings.  And also helps me believe on a very genuine level that just because I feel a certain way, it does not mean that reality or truth is indeed that way.

More often than not, I have found that I am able to push through the tough feelings when they show up.  And show up they do.  More often than not, I can take a “ya, ya, whatever” attitude and just continue on and let the feelings do as they wish.  It is hard, it is agonizing sometimes.  But it gets easier and I always feel better in a short while.

After I push through, and the positive feelings follow, I always wonder what it was I felt bad about in the first place.  Which further convinces me that the feelings were unreliable in the first place.

I post this because I had an agonizing day this way.  I had some things to accomplish and the feelings were all over me.  As dark and hurtful as I can remember in a long time.  I wanted to quit and say just screw everything and take the day off.  I didn’t.  And now, a mere 3 hours later, lots has been accomplished and I am energized to face the next thing on the list.

Had I emotionally reasoned that the day would be as crappy as it started out feeling like it was, I would never be at this point sharing this and feeling good.

The 12 steps of AA are a big part of what has taught me this.  So is the work I do with my shrink.  So is what I learn from my faith.  So is what I learn from the likes of Dr. Phil.  So is what I learn from my fellow bloggers.  Using what I learn, not just talking or thinking about it, but actually DOING is what makes the difference for me.

Pressing through even when everything in me is in emotional agony and wants to quit.

It does work, and life does get better.




A Complex Weave

April 12, 2009

We are each a complex weave of characteristics.

To me, the process of recovery is the process of removing or weakening the negative threads and strengthening the positive threads.

Visually, this is how I see our character make up.  Each thread a charaterstic of who we are and how we think.complex-weave-11


Somehow through our lives, we invariably end up weaving in some negative threads.  This is how I see it…


We may fundamentally be the same person with the same weave of traits, but to it we have added some negative weaves…. negative thinking and behaving patterns that we learned once, then practiced again and again until they became a part of who we were.  Woven into the “fabric of our being” as it were.

This to me is addiction.  This to me describes to many self-defeating behaviours.  They are so intricately woven into our being, that we can barely be aware of them being there because it feels like it becomes who we are.  Or if we are, we are too deep-in to know what to do.  Because the thinking and behaving that got us there is keeping us there.

Thousands of years ago, someone wrote that “The heart is wickedly deceitful and no man can know his own heart”.  In my experience, negative characteristics such as selfishness, self-pity, intolerance, unrealistic expectations, judgmentalism, greed, unhealthy ego, living in the past, living in the future, resenting, and many, many  more are these negative threads.

It is also my experience that with help of others, we can begin to know our own heart.  And we can begin to change these characteristics.  We can remove some of the negative threads, we can slowly weaken others, and we can strengthen the positive threads.  Visually, this is what I see the process of recovery to look like…


This is progress, not perfection.  Some negative threads we remove, some we weaken, and some positives we strengthen.  This has been the working of the 12 steps as I see it in my life and others. 

I have been blessed to have God as I understand him show me my heart.  He uses people in and out of my program.  Some of them are long passed away but they wrote their experiences in books and literature.  Others are bloggers, teachers, ministers, and trainers.   Some of them are people who have done me harm, but those experiences often reflect something back to me about myself that I can then learn from and improve.

The key is that I needed to be open and willing to listen and be guided.  Then to do some of the things that were suggested to me.  The DOING is the good part.  This is where the real work and recovery happen.  Listening and thinking are of some value, but DOING changes the threads and makes us into a different, more functioning, happier weave of characteristics.

Thats how I see it anyway.




Second Wife, Second Best?

April 7, 2009

second-wife-second-best1For those of us remarried, this is a fair question.  Especially if we were not the one that wanted the divorce that got us here.

My wife and I had to come to grips with this reality.  I got walked-out-on in my first marriage.  I had a tough time accepting and letting go especially since new hurts and injustices continued to arise that would take me back emotionally to the initial pain. 

I was hurt and bewildered for years.  How could I in this state express honestly to a new woman in my life that she was “The One”?  That she was now the love of my life?  Great questions eh?  They had to be asked and they had to be answered in order for me to truly move on and form a new, loving, happy, and intimate relationship.

A few keys for me were:

1. Acceptance:  I had to learn this word on a dimension that I never knew existed.  I had to identify where I was living in self-pity and accept that unfair and bad things happen to people all the time and have throughout history.  And that fairness and justice may never arrive in this circumstance.  Yet acceptance at a deep level could allow me to move on in spite of these inequities.

My new wife also needed to learn acceptance that I had been devastated on many dimensions in my divorce and that the healing process would take time.  My imperfections in dealing with things would show up from time to time and as long as I was not wallowing in them, she accepted that there was some residual injuries that only time could deal with.

2. Owning our stuff:  Even thought I got left for another man, I had a big part in why the marriage got to this point.  I had to be rigorously honest about what I had to deal with and change so I didn’t bring these things to the next relationship.  I had to be careful to not let my ex’s hurtful behaviour overshadow the reality of my shortcomings.  In this way, I could bring a better “me” to the new relationship and thereby make it a totally new thing so there was no basis to compare this relationship to the last…. and thereby move away from the “Second wife, second best” dynamic.

My new wife had to own her stuff too.  She had to be real about what ended her first marriage in the same way I did.  She also had to be real about how she felt about the hangover of my ex.  She had to deal with any insecurities about this fact and be sure of who she was to me.  She had to be equally convinced within herself that she was not second best.

3. Get Help:  Come on… there is no longer any excuse to not have help in a marriage relationship in North America.  Counselors, books, Internet, church, support groups, marriage mentors…. how many of these existed 20+ years ago?  We got both Drs. Phil and Laura and others on TV/Radio.  If they are not your flavour, you can find some other resource that is.  It is there and much of it is free.  We just have to show up with willingness and an open mind.

The result is that I am nuts about my new wife.  It has been a few years since we first met and were married after nearly 3 years of dating.  My affection grows for her by the week.  We are working better and better as a couple and blended family.  But none of this…. and I have to state plainly NONE OF THIS happens by accident or just sitting around doing the same dumb crap we did yesterday.  Or thinking the same self-pitying, self-limiting ways we did before.  It takes effort and commitment to do what we have not done before.  We have troubles but we work on them in ways neither of us did in our first marriages.

Today is a brand new day to think differently, to live differently.  And if we continue in this long enough, we become a brand new person.  So for me, life moves in only one direction…. forward.  With my new wife who is the best for me.





What if the day ended?

April 1, 2009

I had a day off today.  Lots to do.  Where do I start?confusion

In the past, a day off and lots to do often resulted in nothing done.  I got so overwhelmed with choices and pressures of choosing the ideal thing to do first, I would get jammed up in my head and say, “screw it”, and do nothing.

In drinking days I would drink.  In early recovery, I would just sit and escape with movies, sleep, or any other avoidance strategy. 

Dissatisfied with this behaviour, I eventually started asking myself a question when in this predicament…

If I were to do one more thing today, and then suddenly the day ended, what would that one thing be that would leave me saying,               ‘man, I am glad I at least got that done!’ ?

I would then act as if the day was going to end at some point unexpectedly and then just get on with that thing.  This strategy allowed me to put all the competing and paralyzing  thoughts out of my mind.  Such as…

  • Should I do this or that first?
  • What if I do this but later find out that I should have done that?
  • What would ___________ do first?
  • Man I feel like a loser for not being able to decide.
  • Nobody else has this problem making decisions.
  • Etc.

The crowded department store in my head would quiet down and I would get productive.  After I accomplished that, I would be re-energized.  Then ask  “what if the day ended…?” question again.  And do another task.  In vast majority of circumstances, the day did not end early or get interrupted. 

But even when it did, I finished the day knowing I did my absolute best.  I knew also that the serenity prayer that I had prayed so many times was guiding me to “do the things I could do”.  The results were amazing!  Looking back on the days, I always had satisfaction and peace.  I knew I had put “first things first”.

This morning… I had resolved that I had to prepare my taxes today, visit my Dad at the hospital, and do some housework.  So my first “that” was visit Dad.  Then taxes, then house.  Glad to say all were done by noon.  And had rest of day to be productive in other things.