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Love in the Gardens of MacantarA Spiritual Journey of Healing from Codependency and Relationship Addiction
By Lisa Acor Laurel
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Lisa Acor Laurel
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSomewhere in the Mix of Things
In the Black of the Night and the softness of the rain
I fall down to the ground, defeated.
In the silence; I feel cut open.
My Creator knows my Pain.
I am back at the beginning of Time.
There is no Thinking
There is no Breath.
My Defenses are worn to the bone.
Like a Broken baby bird, I need my mother's wings to protect me.
My heart makes no sound.
I need mending.
Through the Broken shards of beliefs held dear,
I am shown the way back to love.
The Last Night
This is the last night before Seth leaves for Europe. He will be gone for two months. This is my chance to break free. He may know that this is coming, or he may not. I have had my last lash of abuse. No more sleepless nights, or too much sleeping, or feeling guilt, anxiety, anguish, disgust, rage, self-loathing, him-loathing, loneliness, fear, hope he'll change, hope I'll change, hope God will intervene, suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts. No more thinking, Will he call? Should I call? Who can I talk to? Who will listen? Who will understand? No more feeling confused, embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated, unfocused, sick, jealous, suspicious, insecure, inadequate, angry with everyone, angry with myself, angry with him, angry with God.
This is the last night. A friend sent me a poem that spoke of healing. It came at the right time.
I consulted the ancient Rune stones. They said the Universe supports my decision.
I opened the Bible, and a phrase caught my eye: "Why are you wasting this precious oil on his head?"
This is the time. The veil has parted. I must walk through or be forever lost in a cycle of harsh negativity.
I will smell his body's scent tonight for the last time as he sits near me—the scent that always pulls me back to him with a mother's maternal feeling, the need to protect him like he is a child, not a grown man.
After tonight, my heart won't leap, and my stomach won't churn over every time I hear a car in the driveway. My phone won't ring with his number. Oh, a pang of reminiscence—or is it fear or guilt? I need a rest. No more.
The 1st Day
I drove Seth to the drop-off point, a rifle range, so he could get a ride the rest of the way to the airport with his friend Horace. During the drive, he screamed and intimidated. I certainly would have been justified to just stop my truck and let him out right there at the bank's drive-through window, but then I would never be sure that he left the country. What had set off his rage I hadn't a clue. Gripping the wheel, I kept on driving and did not respond. Never had I ever been sure what set him off. I could never find a way to stop the raging behavior, and I certainly wasn't going to stop it this time either.
Upon arriving at the range, I suggested that I walk him into the office where he was to meet Horace. I needed to be sure Horace was there and that Seth's trip would be completed. Seth was horrified for some reason. I've never met these rifle range friends before. Insisting, I opened the large glass doors and entered a small lobby where three men sat in chairs, facing the door. It was a strange sight, as they all looked alike. They all had slicked-back gray hair, thin, weasel-like features, and false smiles. Although Seth did not look like them, I knew in my heart that he was exactly like them in the hidden parts of himself. They responded to my question about Horace, saying he was in the back room. I felt as though I had entered the heart of the "He-Man-Women-Haters Club" and that the only reason I escaped being burned at the stake was that I left the lobby instantly.
Seth walked out with me and took his baggage out of the back of the truck. He had completely calmed down by this point, lest the friends inside witness his loss of control. We performed a perfunctory hug, I wished him a great trip, and I watched as he wheeled his suitcase toward the glass doors. I knew that this was the last time I would ever have to go through verbal and emotional abuse on this level ever again.
As I climbed into my vehicle and drove away, an enormous weight began to lift from my body. I was free. I did this. I had worked hard on myself and on my deep-rooted codependency issues to get to this point. I thought of God and thanked Him for making this moment possible.
After doing some errands, I arrived home to the phone ringing. It was Seth. Because of some mix-up, the apartment in Europe that he had rented for two months was not available, and he was coming home! Oh, God, what now? He said he would wait several hours, and if things still weren't settled, he would cancel the trip. I was near the breaking point. The clock ticked by. The hours came and went. The phone never rang.
I left the house and met a friend for coffee, but I could barely hear anything she was saying. I had absolutely no energy.
When I finally returned to the house tonight, there were no messages. Seth must be on the plane. I need to sleep. Good night, for now.
The 2nd Day
I am angry. I have done the perfect "anti-me" mantra and told myself that I am angry for letting this go on for ten years. No. I am changing that as of now. I am not angry with myself; I am angry with him. I need to nurture myself. I need to find a way to stop obsessing. I need to take care of my sobriety and go to a meeting tonight. I used to think that taking care of my needs meant having enough drugs and alcohol to kill the pain. There were never enough substances to do that job. I have to learn another way.
I know that isolating myself isn't taking care of anything. Even an on-line support group would be better than lying around reading about abusive relationships and codependency. Sometime this behavior can work in reverse, letting the anger feed on itself and become bigger. If I do not roll off this couch and do something good for myself, I'll be at a liquor store in no time. My anxiety is out of control.
Evening: Tonight I went to a meeting and received much-needed support from people I knew. Upon returning home, I called my recovering friend, Cathy, just to talk. Cathy is a no-nonsense person when it comes to staying clean and sober.
She barked at me that what Seth did—planning the whole Europe trip behind my back without me when we were supposed to go together—was vindictive and abusive. She also said that my problem had gone way beyond codependency and into relationship addiction. Seth is my drug of choice, replacing the other substances I was using in the past. I even tried to control the relationship the same way I tried to control substances—trying to make it all work at any cost—but to no avail. My moods and feeling of well-being would sway with the rhythm of the relationship. Cathy pointed out that I am now again at life-or-death point. If I go back to the relationship, I may be forever lost.
The 3rd Day
Wow! What a good day it was! I went to a thrift shop and took my time. I bought some items that interested me. I went to the library for a visiting author's talk on the book, Quail Hill; Life on an Organic Farm. Stopping at the church that I take care of, I ran into my friend Maryann, and we sat inside and talked for quite some time. The high school was having a play this evening, so I went with a friend to see them perform Pippin.
It was so nice not to feel rushed, that I had to get home, that he would be angry or waiting or planning a retaliation because I had a night out. I thought about the conversation I had with Cathy last night. In all my past love relationships, I had put the men high on a pedestal. I had made them all my Higher Power. She told me to knock them off and put God back up there. That thought helped to put Seth into a better perspective.
The 4th Day
After reading so much information about addictive and abusive relationships, I am learning that my significant other is not special or unique. He is just another garden-variety abuser. I had picked up the book, Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft. I read this book three years ago, but for some reason it makes more sense now. In the book, I learned that his abuse is his problem that only he can work on, just as my substance abuse was my problem that only I could work on. I did not cause or create the abuse, and I cannot control it. This is his problem. This concept has helped me with the free-floating guilt I have been feeling—the feeling that urges me to blame myself in some way.
I went to church this morning, another thing that Seth never liked. He said it cut into our time together and that I was hiding in religion instead of facing my real problems. Pastor Diane's sermon was about the fear of change and standing on the edge of making a life-changing decision. She spoke about the "leap of faith" and about learning who you are as a single entity. I realized I do not have any idea who I am without being a daughter, an ex-wife, a mother, a girlfriend, a boss, and so on. The sermon got me thinking. I asked for prayers and support.
Upon coming home this afternoon, I decided it was time to prepare the "final farewell e-mail." I made it as benign as possible; it stated that I needed to move on, and said, "thank you for all the good things that you brought into the relationship, and I will continue to build on them in the future." I hit the send button and put a "block-sender" on his address. I thought I would feel great or at least better than I had been feeling, but I didn't. I felt bad. I felt sad. I had hoped for something better.
The 5th Day
Feeling physically not well again today, I needed to sleep. Venturing out only to go to a meeting to ask for support, I found that people helped me once again to get out of myself and out of my despair and lessened the constant emotional pain. Wishing for a magic remedy to release these feelings, I wonder how some people just seem to breeze through events like this.
The 6th Day
Seth called from Europe. I tried not to pick up the call, but I faltered. When I tried to ignore the call, the free-floating guilt feeling resurfaced. I talked for two hours about his needing to get help for his abuse and how couple's therapy would not work until he took responsibility for his own behavior. He said he does not have an abuse problem—that I have the abuse problem. Do I? I begin to doubt myself again.
He tells me he loves me, he misses me, and that he has been sick ever since he left that he did not take me with him. He sounds lonely, lost, and afraid, and my warped maternal instincts come to the rescue. Eventually, we end the phone call, but it was a bad conversation.
Feeling totally confused, I had no idea what to do, so I called my mother in Florida. She asked, "What does your heart tell you to do"? I told her I didn't have a clue what my heart was saying but that I knew I couldn't go through more of this. She said, "Well, you've come a long way. Stick to your decision."
The problem is I know he loves me, and I know he needs me. Then, again, what do I really know? With all the lies and behaviors that speak the exact opposite of love, what do I really know?
The 7th through the 11th Day
Feeling horrible, I stayed on the couch and watched episode after episode of X-Files. Mulder and Scully gave me comfort. I ate chocolate cake with whipped cream and had "root canal." A friend once said that root canal, metaphysically speaking, represents getting to the "root of the problem." Coincidentally, I also had a tooth pulled for the first time in my life.
I ordered more books on "getting unstuck," "gaining control of your life," and "relationship addiction." I swallowed antibiotics for my tooth. Seth called again, but I didn't pick up the phone. I went to a meeting and then went to a movie alone, but it was sold out.
It is freezing outside. I went to church and prayed for relief and direction and for these feelings to end.
The 12th Day
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
I am feeling mentally and emotionally better. After doing a lot of reading on codependency and relationship addiction, I came away with the simple fact that I must change my thinking. As the saying goes, "Your best thinking got you here." My ninety-five-year-old friend, Carol, said, "The key is to know who you are, dear. That way, you will not bite the bait every time someone does the defining for you. You will not buy into the garbage that they tell you that you are."
There is that question again. Who am I? I have been focusing on others and on external events my whole life. How do I know who I am? I have had a lot of therapy in my life to try to answer this question, but the "pro and con" lists of my attributes and defects of character weren't helping me to know myself, and listing hobbies and writing essays about where I want to be in five years wasn't answering any of the core questions.
My therapists have gently explained to me that I should be talking about myself and not my significant other, but I could never seem to talk about myself outside the context of speaking about the distressed relationship. I just didn't know how to do this. My anxiety level was always so high that I could barely breathe, let alone think clearly. The more fearful I felt, the narrower my focused became. Thinking "outside the box" has been impossible, but I have to begin somewhere.
I asked myself these questions today: Do I believe I am good enough to expect goodness back? Would God want me to suffer as I have? Do I believe that I have what it takes to be a winner? Can I believe I am already a winner? Do I believe that I can at least feel free to care for myself? Does my child deserve a healthy mother? Have I gone through all the events that have happened in my life just to be disrespected by some abusive jerk? Are others missing what I have to offer because I am always depressed, miserable, and Seth-centered as I try to exist in this unhealthy and destructive relationship?
At least I can now answer these questions, and I am a little surprised that I've even felt the need to ask them.
When I was drinking, it was easy for my ex-husband and Seth to blame their raging on my addictions, but now I am not drinking and I am recovering, and they are still raging. Abusive people have that "wonderful" side that keeps you hooked. I was always trying to control the relationship to keep that "wonderful person" from disappearing into a mean, emotionally devastating, physically violent, sexually and financially withholding monster. I am neither the cause of nor the cure for their problems. I have allowed myself to be a victim all of my life because of my thinking.
If I go back to Seth after the new knowledge I am gaining, I will no longer be a victim of his abuse; I will be a participant in it.
The 13th Day
Seth hasn't called from Europe for a while. My thinking immediately went to the possibility that he was with another woman. I let myself fantasize about that one for a while, and, of course, she was more attractive and more capable than I am. I laughed to myself. I suppose it is a thought I need to get used to since I've made up my mind that I've passed the point of ever returning to the relationship. Several times over the last ten years, Seth left me—sometimes for five days and sometimes for five months. I realized that he left me at least four times a year—that makes forty times. Each time, I was emotionally devastated.
This time, however, I realized that this pattern might never end. Each time he did something hurtful, I would finally pick myself back up and out of the resulting emotional ditch and start to feel somewhat better, and then he would do something hurtful again—and again. How much more was my sobriety and physical health supposed to take of that type of treatment? As I have done in all my relationships, I kept hoping and praying for the big "change"—his change, of course. I thought I was just fine.
Excerpted from Love in the Gardens of Macantar by Lisa Acor Laurel Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Acor Laurel. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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