Sunday, November 1, 2009

Triggers

My ex-husband is an alcoholic.

Now, he would never admit this, mind you. And I never saw it. I'd never been around it and didn't recognize the signs.

When we dated, I loved when he would get drunk. That's when he would admit how much he loved me. That's when he couldn't get enough of me and would swoon all over me. I adored him that way.

He didn't do that sober.

About 6 months into our marriage, while on a business trip, he neglected to call me. He always called me when he landed or checked into his hotel. He was always traveling and this was our means of staying in touch. I liked to know he was safe.

I paged him for hours. I contacted his hotel and they said he'd never checked in. His rental car company had given me his license plate number in case I needed to call the police. Eight hours after his plane landed and there was still no contact, I hysterically reported him to the police as a missing person. He finally called 2 hours later, completely inebriated and told me that he lost track of time.

Those first few years were difficult. He would go out to happy hour after work and not return until the wee hours, pale, unable to walk and I'd have to clean up vomit from whatever room he landed in.

He would avoid contact with me when he was like this, leaving me to ponder if he was alive or dead. When he would finally call, I could tell within the first few words whether he'd had beer or vodka and exactly how many drinks were consumed.

Soon I began sleeping in another room, leaving a beer can on my pillow. The alcohol, to me, was his mistress. The alcohol was who he chose over me. I began to resent every time he traveled or every time he would have a drink. I didn't trust him anymore because it hurt too much to try.

I left him, early in our marriage. I told him that I wouldn't come back until he attended an AA meeting. He finally did go to a meeting. He told me that he knew at the meeting that he wasn't an alcoholic and that he wouldn't go back. And I came home anyway.

To this day, every single night that he is out of town on business - which is every week - he will drink until he's drunk. Instead of staying in his hotel room, renting a movie or reading a book, he will go to the hotel bar or some other bar and drink til he's stupid drunk. Then he'll drive...

---

Gentleman Jack likes to go out, occasionally, to a little neighborhood bar that's about 5 minutes from his house. Its like the TV show Cheers... everyone there knows him. He took me there so I could meet the gang of regulars and to show me that it isn't a long drive back to his house. He frequented this bar a lot before we got involved. He rarely goes there now.

When he does go out, he will text me and let me know who's there and who says hello. He will stay in contact with me so that I don't worry. There have been a few rare occasions that he will go somewhere else, at a friend's insistence. He hates those nights. He'd rather stay in his comfort zone and get to bed at a decent hour.

He will call or text me when he gets home. I am usually asleep but hearing his voice will wake me and we'll talk for an hour. My sleep is disturbed but at least I know he's safe.

There have been a few occasions that he will sense my panic and get upset. He doesn't want to hurt me. He doesn't like to feel bad for enjoying himself. I don't blame him and I don't want him to stop. He so rarely goes out anymore.

---

The other day, when I felt so ugly?

He had told me, earlier that day, that he was going out on Friday night. I didn't think much of it but after admitting those ugly feelings, he pondered that maybe his Friday night plan had triggered those emotions.

"I know you get upset when I go out. Its the only time I see my friends. And I hardly go like I used to. If you were here, I'd much rather stay home with you."

I know all of that. I trust him.

But still... when he's out, though he's been texting and I will go to sleep knowing that he's having fun, like clockwork I will wake up every hour.

Gripping. Sweating. Panicked. Worried. Out of breath.

Just hearing the words, "I'm gonna go out..." will make me physically sick to my stomach. 

I try to ignore those irrational feelings. When he is out and I awake with anxiety, I will text a quick, "Are you ok?" and he will respond immediately. Friday night, he actually called shortly after my panicked awakening. We talked and I told him how weird it was that my body will panic though in my mind, I know he's all right.

He went out again tonight. Two nights in a row and he's never done that since we've been together. He was in a good mood after being with his boys trick-or-treating. He wanted to catch the end of the game that was only available on pay-per-view. Of course, it'd be playing at the bar. No big deal.

We texted all night and I went to sleep soundly.... only to wake up in a panic an hour later. I texted him in my panic, lashing out at him for being out two nights in a row.

I hated showing him my ugly and he reacted to it. He thinks that I don't trust him. He is trying to convince me that he loves me more than anything. He is telling me that he makes a conscious effort to stay in touch, to reassure me, to let me know how much I mean to him. Why am I lashing out? Why am I panicked?

I've realized that I don't trust him. Not to go off with another girl. No... I am afraid that alcohol will become his mistress. I'm afraid that he'll choose her over me. 

Triggers..... what am I supposed to do with that?

22 comments:

  1. T, I can relate to how you're feeling. I've been there plenty of times with CBG, reacting to him and what he's doing based on how I've been hurt in the past.

    It's a tough situation to be in...because no matter what he does, he can't alleviate fears that are there because of OTHER people or completely unrelated situations.

    My awesome counsellor told me once that there is really no way to battle those old memories and old demons. She said that by trying to do that, we pay MORE attention to them, and it only makes them get louder. Her advice is to just keep moving forward, and to work on making memories and having experiences that are COUNTER to those old messages and memories. So when you're experiencing those feelings of mistrust and fear, you can remind yourself of all those times when Rascal has been loving, loyal, and trustworthy.

    Eventually those old fears will get quieter and quieter.

    *hugs*

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  2. Yeah, you're changing a learned behavior. Your brain (and your heart) have to learn that the same thing won't happen again and again with different people. The good thing is that it WILL learn.

    Keep trying--keep communicating--don't beat yourself up.

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  3. My Dad is an alcoholic and it took many years to be comfortable with my dates drinking. Nowadays I'm okay with it, but if you get drunk it's another story. My sanity comes from knowing I can just end it if it becomes a problem.

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  4. Wow, T, I got the chills reading this. I've called you during my own "ugly" moments -- and you know how much this resonates with me. Wow.

    I've been working SO hard on this, too. Here's what has helped me: realizing that my own reactions to drinking/alcohol often stem from my OWN past. I can make myself sick with my own demons sometimes. I get it.

    Oh, darling, you're doing good work.

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  5. Well, here's a "trigger" for you. I've been in 3 car accidents in my life. Two could have been fatal. One - the most recent - was nearly 3 years ago with my teenager in the car. Was alcohol involved in any of them on the part of the other drivers? I don't know. I've blocked out much of the older accidents, which occurred when I was in my 20s.

    When I was 31, my father whom I adored, talked to me on the phone one night, and at 9 the next morning he was dead in a car accident. He didn't drink. Ever. He was an athlete and hated alcohol, even beer.

    Was drinking involved somehow? Again, I don't know.

    You speak of triggers. Every time one of my sons gets in a vehicle with someone else, or as I teach my 16-year old to drive, I feel the twist in my gut of what can happen in a flash and what is more likely to happen when anyone is behind a wheel with drugs or alcohol in their bodies.

    I know you aren't the one doing the drinking, but if you have any influence over your ex at all, remind him that drinking himself into a stupor and staying put hurts no one but himself. Getting behind the wheel of a car puts a deadly weapon in his hands. And anyone - someone's father, someone's child - could be the victim.

    My triggers include moments when I have to drive on the street where the accident occurred nearly 3 years ago, with my son. An idiot in the rain, no lights on, speeding. He t-boned us as we were left turning. I was injured, my son - miraculously - was not. Those moments just before impact will never leave me. Nor will the gratitude. Nor will the fear, every time one of my sons gets in a car.

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  6. Ahhh T. Do you know how much you are growing? You really are. Having this awareness and being with someone who is able to walk with you through it. You are building up muscle. It takes hard work and you are doing it. So so proud.

    --Kim

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  7. Ahh T, I hear the gut wrenching pain in this. Knowing that you are reacting to a trigger set up in your marriage, and yet reacting out of it to Rascal anyway.

    That's the hardest thing about having a "history" - current events trigger the past and we try to fix them in the present. But this is not about Rascal at all. It's about your ex husband.

    So, maybe Rascal will choose alcohol over you. I doubt it. But maybe. There's nothing you can do about it, if it's going to happen. Monitoring him, waking up in fear, texting him, none of that will help. It didn't help with your ex-husband, did it?

    So, let go. Let him go out, and don't make him text you. Let him have fun and be a man and don't judge or limit him. Let him show you who he is and what he does naturally. And then choose in or out.

    Meanwhile when he does go out, and you're triggered, deal with your feelings about your ex husband. Write him letters, but don't send them. Imagine him sitting in a chair and rage at him until you are spent. Use EFT to neutralize this trigger. There are so many ways to clear the past - if you want I can work with you on this.

    The way to share this with Rascal is this: When you go out, I feel triggered, so please know that. But please do not try to take care of me. It's ok that I hurt. You go and have fun, and I will use this opportunity to heal some wounds from my marriage.

    And that will help you guys build an amazing relationship.

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  8. Thank you again Rinatta. I had actually approached this with Rascal this morning in the exact way you suggested.... but before you suggested it! (Yay me! I'm learning!)

    I love your suggestions for dealing with the fear. I don't 'make' Rascal text me or anything. He does what he wants. I don't, however, wish for him to be uncomfortable because I hurt. It is my hurt. I am facing it, while he holds my hand with gentle encouragement.

    I need him to continue as he is so that I have to look at my fear. Who knows what will happen but thus far? It is a pretty amazing relationship. :)

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  9. That's a tough one. Rascal sounds like a really great guy though. I don't think he'll choose alcohol over you. He doesn't seem to be doing it so far and he seems like he's very much trying to put your mind at ease. The texting is thoughtful and sweet of him.

    I think you just have to find a way to come to terms with that trigger and the let go. You can't erase what was done and thinking/obsessing over it just makes it worse.

    I hope you get it figured out and get to where Rascal can go out without it hurting you or sending you into panic mode.

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  10. I love this post, because I can relate to it so deeply. I tend to project past fears onto relationships, and it ultimately leads to the demise. Facing the hurt is a big challenge, but you are doing it! You are really doing amazing things and inspiring others along the way. = )

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  11. This may not help..but have you thought about going to a meeting for friends/family of alchoholics...I can't think of the name of that group, I just know it's based on the AA group but it's for those affected by it. Keep growing!

    mel

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  12. Mel, Its Al Anon and yes. I have thought about it. I will have to see what happens next. Awareness helps!

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  13. I don't have any sage words for you. Alcohol as mistress? This is powerful life and literary stuff. You never disappoint. Wish I had more than genuine praise to offer; I know that's not exactly what you are seeking here. But I choose clumsy praise over silence.

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  14. My grandma is an alcoholic and there are lots of alcohol drinkers in my family. I can deal with the drinking but once they're drunk I have to get out and away in a hurry. It's so great that you are aware of your trigger and can communicate about it.

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  15. Yep, totally get this. With me, my dad was the first alcoholic in my life. My exhusband was the second. I get the panic too, and The Man rarely has more than a glass of wine with dinner. Sigh. No advice on this one, just lots and lots of empathy.

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  16. You have to separate the triggers from reality. Part of that process is in realizing you date men who fit a pattern. Once you break the pattern, the trigger goes away. And if the trigger is real - i.e. you didn't actually break that pattern - well then, you're self aware enough to notice.

    It sounds like Rascal isn't an alcoholic like your ex. But the trigger is still there. Maybe you didn't process everything you needed to with your ex, or with men like him. That doesn't mean you need to date alcoholics - just means the trigger is still there and needs your focus and attention. Sounds like you're addressing it.

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  17. T-
    This hits me straight in the face for so many reasons.
    1st- I have always felt that pang of wanting to puke when someone that I am involved with goes out. I am incredibly insecure with the fact that they can and might cheat. Even when I trust the person.
    I try to talk myself into being ok, rationalizing my fears, but it seems to make my lashings worse.
    I actualy think this is a big part of why I am getting divorced.
    My husband is an alcoholic too and won't admit it.
    He doesn't drink all of the time, nor does he go out often, but when he drinks, he drinks himself into complete drunkiness. Every time. He acts very agressive. Like he took a shot of adreniline and gets beligerant if i say anything. He is always hung over the next day and misses something that he has promised to do. Like Christmas or my daughters Birthday. Yet, he doesn't have a problem.

    I think my issues stem from my childhood and the things my parents did when they went out. Or the things I have done in my past, but I can't seem to be ok when the person I love goes out.
    It is so hard.

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  18. Great post and I can totally relate to the triggers. I haven't quite figured out how to deal with them and like you, I hate when the "ugly" surfaces.

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  19. Oh T, I wish I had some great words of advice, but all I can do is offer some hugs, and tell you that LCR sounds like a smart cookie. Perhaps her help, well, would help.

    *Hugs*

    -QT

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  20. T...that sounds painful, but it sounds like you are working through it well with him. Maybe that's one of the many purposes of this relationship. How wonderful.

    As a recovering alcholic myself (I was one like mentioned above, didn't drink or go out all the time -- only occasinally -- but when I did, I went all out). I highly recommend Alanon to loved ones of alcoholics. Becuase alcoholism affects everyone and Alanon helps loved ones of alcoholics just as much as AA can help an alcoholic if they are willing to do whatever it takes to stay sober. It's about so much more than not drinking...and for an Alanon it's about so much more than just the alcoholic, you get to work on you, too. It's a very powerful, spiritual based program for anyone really.

    Best of luck, I love your blog and your openess!

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  21. Can I say that I have had some great experiences within Al Anon.It helped remove the focus away from the drinker and back to me. I learned that obsessing about their problem was making me even crazier then them.

    I have also been a part of AA so have a unique double perspective I guess...!

    Imho, it sounds like a lot of your emotional feelings are coming up to be healed. These days when that happens to me, I really try to stay with the feelings and just experience them without acting. I find that once my feelings have been acknowledged they tend to dissipate. Often the situation seems clearer then.

    Good luck with it all. I do enjoy your blog.
    Carols

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  22. Wow... Great post. Reading this helped me realize what I was doing and could have continued to do to my loved ones if I kept drinking. Thank you.

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