Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Road of Recovery

Debra has had two fantastic posts in the last couple days, especially yesterday's on minding your own business. There's a Part 2 today that is awfully insightful, too.

These posts practically leaped out off the computer screen and slammed me against the back of my chair because they hit so close to home.

I definitely grew up with the rules she listed:
* It’s not okay to talk about problems, or really, to have any
* Negative feelings should not be expressed openly; keep negative feelings to yourself
* Communication is best handled by messengers between people, not by direct contact
* Be strong, good, right, perfect and happy
* Make us proud beyond realistic expectations by becoming what we need you to be
* Don’t be selfish
* Do as I say not as I do
* It’s not okay to play or be playful unless we want to
* Don’t rock the boat

And I picked up a lot, if not all, the following personality traits as a result:
* controlling behavior usually disguised as "helpfulness"
* distrust of others
* demand for perfectionism in self and others
* avoidance of feelings
* intimacy problems and sexual confusion
* care taking behavior
* hyper vigilance for threats, insults, mistakes and other "dangers"
* physical illness related to stress

Fortunately, over the years my therapy sessions and self-exploration through self-help books, etc., have helped a lot to reduce these traits and make me a more sane person. But I'm definitely not "cured." I don't know if I ever can.

Debra's one paragraph summed me up to a T:
"These unspoken rules, and ones like them, are reflective of situations in which the children got a double tap: their own needs were not adequately met AND they were expected to fulfill the needs of their caretakers (for peace at any price, super accomplished children, happy kids, a low-maintenance household, etc.). With basic training like this, we frequently grow up to get involved in relationships with people who are unreliable, emotionally unavailable, or needy (just like Mom and Dad!), and then we try to provide and control everything within those relationships without addressing our own needs or desires. It's the perfect set-up for continued lack of fulfillment. It's just never our turn to be taken care of."

Those relationship patterns and corresponding lack of fulfillment has been a reoccurring theme in my life that leads me through a range of emotions: anger, resentment, sadness, hurt, disappointment. And because of that emptiness, I've turned to food over and over again to fill it.
And look how well it's worked! Not.

It's no wonder I could never give up food as my abusive substance of choice. In a life so full of demands (self-imposed or not), food was my one solace, the one thing that didn't demand anything of me or make me feel like a slave or a martyr.

So I have tried to become more selfish in the past three or four years. I quit volunteering for everything. I left a job that made me feel like an indentured servant. I distanced myself from toxic people and tried to let go of situations and relationships that drained the life out of me. And in the process I've also lost 120 pounds. I don't there's any coincidence there; it's all connected.

Lately my new mission is to make my family more responsible and not look to me to be their 24-hour caretaker. My daughter's old enough now to start assuming more responsibility for her own things and her personal hygiene, and I'm slowly trying to teach her how to be more self-sufficient and to help more around the house.

As for Hubby, it's a challenge. He was used to having his mother be his caretaker and take on a lot of his day-to-day responsibilities, and he often looks to me to take over that role. I just can't do this and continue to progress on this journey of mine, and when I buck against this neediness of his, it causes sparks. For example, he often wants me to make decisions about what to do around the house or what he's "allowed" to do; that way, if I complain about something later, he's blameless because it was my decision. When I say I won't do it, he can get ticked off at me. It happened this past Sunday, and I think I managed to get through to him that I would rather make this certain decision together, instead of being put in the role of the sole caretaker/ decision maker.

It feels like a struggle sometimes, standing up for myself, saying no or letting go. But it gets easier and easier to do, and each time I do it I move a little farther down the road of recovery.

2 comments:

Beula said...

Thanks for book title. I agree, Debra may be a genius.

I want to do what you are doing. I want to stop being at war with my body. It apparently thinks my current weight is fine and will not budge another pound without drastic measures. I resent having to use drastic measures. I am also sick of eating food with no taste. "If it tastes good I spit it out." That is just about how I feel. I don't want to go back to eating yards and yards of junk food, but I am sick to death of non-fat plain yogurt.

Mark was content to allow me to be the responsible one because it was easier. He could be a lazy teenager forever. AND I GOT TO CONTROL HIM. We still work on this, maybe until we are both dead. His lesson is to accept responsibility and mine is to give it up. Hard lessons.

BigAssBelle said...

For example, he often wants me to make decisions about what to do around the house or what he's "allowed" to do; that way, if I complain about something later, he's blameless because it was my decision.

oh my goodness, do i ever recognize THAT one. nice that my mission is shared by two fabulous women here.