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In Response to RE: Are you happy living alone? by kaytoy
Your letter really speaks to me because it sounds so much like I was. I don't know what I can do to help other than tell you a bit more of my story.
Leaving marriage #3 was the hardest thing I have ever done. On the surface I had everything I had ever wanted. My husband was the TV news anchor in our mid-sized city at the most popular of our 4 channels. He was the face of the MDA telethon on Labor Day and after the first year he was involved I worked with the organization too. We went to Las Vegas to meet with Jerry Lewis and the crew before the telethon. I didn't have the necessity to work a full time job and had the time to concentrate on art and writing, which had been what I studied in college. Most importantly, I had 2 step-children that I dearly loved and was very aware that if I left their father, I would have a hard time continuing a relationship with them. That alone kept me in the marriage during the last 2 years while my stepson lived with us and attended junior college. Last, but not least, I kept thinking "3 strikes". I thought if I failed at this marriage I was a total loser.
My husband's employer had a therapist on staff for the use of their employees and their families. I am totally convinced that this was the work of God, my Higher Power, the Universe or whatever else there is. This therapist was an expert in addiction. It was my husband who suggested I go and actually made the first appointment since I was the one with the problem. At the time, I considered this a put-down but I had to admit I was miserable and desperate and I went along with my husband who presented me to the therapist with the message that he should fix me. At the time I was hoping that I could be fixed. After the first visit the therapist suggested that I come alone the next time.
At my first visit alone, he suggested that I keep a journal, which was something I had never done. I had decided I would do everything he suggested since I really didn't know what to do. For me, this was hitting bottom. After a few visits he asked me to write a bit about my childhood and growing up. I showed up at his office the next week with about 50 pages I had written on the computer. I think he expected 2 or 3 pages but the words just kept pouring out of me, things I had never talked about or even thought about.
I was totally shocked when he suggested that I go to a support group called ACoA (Adult Chidren of Alcoholics) as there was NO alcohol in my home growing up. My parents were strict Presbyterians and my father was an elder in the church. I thought "Great, I've gotten me a crazy therapist". Even though I was pledged to do what he suggested I didn't go for the first 2 weeks. I was always the student who did her homework in school and it was hard to show up to my session the first time and say I had not fulfilled my assignment. The 2nd week I drove to the meeting place but couldn't get the nerve to walk through the door. When I had to confess my "sin" the therapist and I had a very good discussion about what I feared and finding the courage to walk through it. This led me to my first tool for helping me to survive what was to come.
When I finally went to the meeting it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. When I walked through the door there was a table containing pamphlets, etc. One of them was a list of characteristics of an adult child. When I read it I thought someone had seen into my soul. I almost ran back out the door because there were things there I wasn't certain I wanted to look at, never mind having someone else know about them. My therapist had asked me to pledge to attend 6 meetings and told me just to listen. I didn't have to open my mouth.
At the time, I think I was in my mid-forties. There were about 25 people at the meeting with the age range from 18 up. I think the oldest person there was probably in her 60's but most were in thier 30's. I was amazed at what people were talking about. I was amazed that so many people had the same stories. Times and circumstances might be different, but the stories were the same and most of them might have been telling my story.
I learned there is such a thing as a "dry alcoholic", which is a person who has addictive behavior without the substance. Both my parents fell into this category. Growing up in this way had opened me up to not only choosing the wrong people to trust but to then try to first please them and then to try to change them. I learned a lot, most importantly that the only person I can change is me, which is both good news and bad.
Most importantly I llearned that there are many people who have similar issues as I have and are finding or have found ways to deal with them. Some, like me, left their relationships and others have not. What they have all learned is that their wants and needs are important.
A friend who I met at that first meeting reminded me last week that it was almost 20 years ago. We have been friends ever since and have supported each other though a lot of changes since then. We agreed that this last 20 years has been the most exciting adventure that we could never have imagined.
That first meeting led to other meetings and other groups: CoDA (Co-dependents Anonymous) and Al-anon as well as church groups, and other interest groups. We were so lucky to have entered "recovery" at a time when the entire topic of addiction and co-dependency was new and so popular. There were Oprah shows featuring books on the subject as well as PBS series by John Bradshaw and others. There were programs at addiction centers on Co-dependency. There are still lots of books, tapes, etc. around. There are very few programs available now since insurance no longer covers it. In many cities there are still meetings and there are now on-line meetings as well. There's even CoDA on FaceBook.
But whatever path you choose to follow, you have already taken the first step. You are talking about it! You are sharing with other people and allowing other people to share with you.