Sunday, January 26, 2014

Amends

When I consider all the things about my alcoholism the one I never think of is the way it affected my husband. How, after years of dealing with me, he might have a part of him that has just given up on me. Then when I think of that I strangle and choke some inside.

It's not only the things I said when I was shit faced, deep in and blacked out; it's the things I said the next day, too. It's how I took out my overflowing anger at myself on the person dearest to me. I was so critical and hard on myself in my own head, it was bound to spill over into my marriage. It was bound to stain us.

It's hard to think of the hundreds of times I've told him "You're doing it wrong" or "You aren't doing it right". I struggle to reconcile the way I feel about him to the way I act about him. It's hard to know that now, even without the booze, I am in the habit of using him as my mental punching bag. This is true when I've had a tough day ("You never blah blah blah") and when I'm feeling extra superior ("You should blah blah blah").

At group on Tuesday I was busy talking about how injured I am by things in our relationship. I was easing my uncertainty by blaming it all on him. My therapist kindly but firmly gave me some perspective. She talked about making amends. She talked about how I'm not the only one who is hurt by my alcoholism. It showed me that as much as I don't want to I have hurt other people with my behavior. Hurt them. Hurt him.

I was crushed by this. My heart crumpled, crippled by the weight of my own persistent ugliness. Sometimes it's too easy to stay in the self centered swirl of alcoholic behavior even when the alcohol part is long gone.

It's one thing to become sober and not drink anymore. It's entirely another to take responsibility for the person you were while you were drinking. Just because the booze goes away doesn't mean the giant life eraser swoops in and undoes all of your already dones.

I came home that day and hugged my husband to me.  I looked up into his face. Into his eyes. I said "I'm sorry for all the things I've done. I'm sorry I hurt you, and that I didn't see you were hurting. I can't change it, but I'll try to make it up to you." I gave him the apology not for me, but for him. It felt different. The intention wasn't to heal myself, but to give healing to him.

He smiled his crooked smile at me and pulled me close. "It's OK," he said.

I offered an apology rather than requesting forgiveness. Even though I think my words couldn't possibly have that much weight they can come on bearing tons. The people I love hold all the things I say, all the things I do, and so I need to be care full with them. I still have a long, long way to go. I am still pretty angry inside for reasons I don't really understand. Sometimes I'll be sitting and realize I'm all clenched up and bitching in my head and wonder, "What are you so cranky about?" I wonder if it's because I know I need to work harder, even though I feel like I'm working so hard already.

It has taken me all week to wrap my head around the fact that my drinking affected him deeply, that it can't just be chalked up to having too much to drink and easily blown off. That I hurt someone I love with my careless words, over and over again. That he carries that hurt. That "I'm sorry" helps, but doesn't fix it. That just because I want him to forgive me maybe he just can't yet.

I haven't totally forgiven myself yet, either.

Understanding the hurt I've caused others only deepens the understanding of the hurt I've caused myself. There are amends to be made all around my life. Letters to write. Apologies to offer. Wanting to be someone and being that person are two different things. I have to do the work, untie the knots, comb out the snarls. Push myself to be the woman I am today when I want to go back to the comfort of being old me.

Making amends takes time. Trust takes time. If there's anything sobriety teaches you it's that things take time. (Aghhhhh! Sometimes so much time!) That's OK too.



13 comments:

  1. This is wonderful, Amy.

    We certainly affect more than just ourselves in our alcoholism. The mantra "we're not hurting anyone but ourselves" doesn't fly. it's just a justification, a delusion. We hurt may folks. And that's why I have had to make many amends.

    And the first one was to my wife.

    Like you, I said and did many hurtful things. I didn't respect her or treat here the way she deserved to be treated. She endured more than anyone should endure. the echoes still reverberate today at times.

    I say my wife down one night and said "I harmed you. I did ______ [insert what I did]. Is there anything else I should know about these things?" Then I shut up as she mentioned stuff I forgot about (ugh). Then "what can I do to make things right?" then i shut up again as she thought about it. She told me that she would think about it, then told me that I was to treat here with respect and dignity. And that is what I do. I didn't say sorry, as she has heard that a million times. This was about changing my ways. And that is what I have done with my folks, ex-employers, family, friends and even an old girlfriend I hadn't seen in 20 years (but ran into "coincidentally"). I have, through letters, made amends to people I am pretty sure I will never see again. I still have 3-4 more to make. Part laziness on my part, part not being able to reach them. But they will be done.

    I am so glad you have come to this, Amy. It's amazing how much we not only heal ourselves, but more importantly, we give others the opportunity to heal. It's win-win. The only time I don't make an amend is if it will make things worse, or will harm someone more (i.e the most common is discussing or fessing up to affairs, etc.). Sometimes we let sleeping dogs lie.

    You will find that your heart gets lightened up and you carry less baggage from the past...you will find yourself freer and deepen your connection to this new way of living. What a joy.

    Loved this - thanks for sharing, Amy.

    Chhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrsss :)
    Paul

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    1. Thanks Paul. Why it was such a revelation that he could still be hurting I just don't know. But it was. I read this post out loud to him and he hugged me and said he forgives me. We become closer as I ask for help and offer my apologies. It feels good to say I'm sorry as an offering. Cheers!!!

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  2. Such an insightful post. I, too, have lots of amends to make with my husband. But action speaks louder than words, remember, our lives now can help heal.

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    1. Feeling this way makes me want to hide, so I'm really making sure I stay in today and be that woman. Thank you.

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  3. Loved this post, Amy, thank you.
    Amends take time, so true. And we have to make amends to ourselves too. Keep doing the next right thing. Actions, as well as words; even more than words ...
    Love, Christy

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    1. I've been ok at forgiving me, until I realize I'm to a new part. Me as an onion. :) thank you so much. Xoxo

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  4. Welcome to recovery...it's nice here...we have cookies.

    I say that because what you describe is what I felt when I moved through sobriety to recovery. I was at about a year or 18 months when I realized that just putting down my wine bottle wasn't enough. It was a huge step, but I had work to do. That's when I started to heal. That's when I started to make amends.

    I think I had to wait because I wasn't strong enough when I first quit. It was all I could do to stay sober. I didn't have the courage or tenacity to look inside at what I'd done to myself much less look outside at what I had done to everyone else. I had to wait until I healed a bit before I could begin that work.

    This was such and eloquent and heartfelt post. I loved it. Love you too.

    Sherry

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    1. Recovery. I love the sound of that. I am definitely in it. I realized a while ago that the getting sober was the easy part for me- the hard and wonderful part is becoming who I am supposed to be. It's like I'm a balloon, filling up the empty spaces with my real self. Lord, does that sound hokey pokey or what!? My sobriety on there peoples terms. Looking from the inside out AND the outside in.

      Love you back!!!!

      P.s. I totally get what you mean about strong enough yet. I am readier for more, so I see more.

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  5. Amy, this is such a powerful post. As you may know from reading over at my blog....I was never a drinker, but raised by two violent alcoholics. I would say I grew up to be a dry drunk. Filled with rage and I could relate to so much that you wrote regarding your husband. With your honesty and COURAGE to share it, are helping me peel back yet another layer of my onion self.
    I would like to share, from one hard worker to another.....sometimes acceptance is our key to freedom. It all is what it is. We have been the type of person we have been, we have made mistakes, caused harm, and all we can do now is accept our limitations and make things right with those we love and learn new ways to do life. You are doing all of that! Be gentle with yourself sweet mama.

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    1. Thank you so much. Gentle to self practice underway. :)

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  6. Wow wonderful post and what amazing comments too. Not much to add here except to say keep on keeping on.. I do so appreciate you sharing all that you are going through and learning and discovering and building on. xxx

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    1. Thank you. :) keep on keeping on is one of my favorite sayings.

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  7. Amy, was at the hospital today having labs drawn when I read your article in a magazine. I think it was fate. After a nite of drinking,I woke thinking it had to stop. Then...your article appeared in my hands. You said everything I feel especially about how I treat my husband. Makes me so sad....I keep thinking I am depressed and that is the reason for many of my actions. But now I think it all has to do with my drinking. I isolate myself on purpose then blame others for my loneliness. Probably need help with this....don't think I can do it alone. Wish me luck!!

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