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How to avoid empathy and fear...

Old 03-15-2011, 08:57 AM
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Question How to avoid empathy and fear...

I have a very sweet and loving BF who is an alcoholic. He has never done anything abusive or angry and in many ways is the most loving person I've ever been with. But he's caught up in a very self-undermining pattern in his life and can't seem to find path to get a hold on his own life. He has tried to get sober for the past 2 years or so, going to AA and then relapsing, usually not telling me until it became too hard to hide. There have been a lot of problems with him hiding things and lying about drinking. My last relationship was filled with deception and now it triggers something very compulsive in me when people tell me things that don't feel right.

I know that there have to be consequences for actions. I need to draw the line and say: Enough! But i relate so much to being out of control and self-destructive. I empathize with his sadness and I feel a huge sense of loss. I am afraid of losing a person I am so close to. But in my mind, I know that this pattern will just continue and feel endangered by it (esp. as an Adult Child)

I have gone to Al-anon meetings but it's hard in that context to hear stories from people that relate specifically to my situation. How have other people created boundaries with someone who has only been kind and caring?
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:27 AM
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I needed to make boundaries based on MY quality of life.
Our sickness comes about when our lives become more about helping our A hold it together, or picking up their slack, than about moving forward, having a nice normal day or night.

Write it all down, write it here, if you want.
Hash it out.
What are you willing to live with, what can you tolerate, and what will you simply not take part in anymore.

If you make boundaries, be prepared to keep them, and deal with the consequences.

You wrote thatYou are afraid of losing a person that you are so close to. Hopefully that person will be able to understand and respect your boundaries. That is healthy.

You also wrote that you know this pattern will continue and you feel endangered by it.
Protecting yourself from what you percieve as danger is healthy and normal..

Your feeling nervous about making a boundary to protect yourself is a red flag, meaning that you feel a threat around doing it.


Maybe his drinking is not affecting you too badly, yet, and maybe it is, but being adult Child it feels "comfy" to you somehow.
Think on these things. It is definitely affecting you enough that you came to this forum for help.

Also, take a look at whether he changes when drunk, or drinking, does his treatment of you get darker, less loving?

I guess you can say to yourself, "I cannot change or control him, but I can make choices for my self."

If the boundaries you make are reasonable, and are a problem for him, then you might find his drinking is a bigger problem in your relationship than you thought.

Alcoholics dont want you to rock their boat. He may be very comfortable with how things are.


Can you be more specific about what the boundaries are that you would like to set forth?
What is it that is causing you discomfort?
Is it the lying only?
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:38 AM
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Hi Jenny, Welcome to SR!

Boundaries with a loved one who is battling addiction do take some time to learn. Perhaps think about what sort of behavior is unacceptable around you. Be prepared, however, to follow through with the consequence if your boundary is crossed. If you don't maintain your own boundaries, then they will be disregarded again and again.

Is it acceptable for him to be drunk around you?
Have you been able to maintain separate finances in case he spends all your combined money on drinking?

You will find a lot of great information within the "stickies" at the top of each forum. Keep reading, keep posting. There are a lot of folks here who understand exactly what you are experiencing.

Hugs, HG
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Old 03-15-2011, 10:05 AM
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Thank you two so much for your generous responses. It is so helpful to be able to organize some of these thoughts; they get unbelievably confused when i start to unpack them.

It has been hard to think about my needs; somehow I end up feeling that I am critical and judgmental, as if I am finding him wanting. I start to think I am blaming the victim.

I did not mention in my previous post that when I broke up with him some time ago he attempted suicide. I never meant to just drift back into the relationship after that (I thought he would not forgive me for putting him through that) but I let it happen. I just looked at the good things, I guess. I craved the emotional connection. But that event has been extremely disturbing and scary and I have not known how to process it. Why do I let things like that slide?

Boundaries: I do not think I have set explicit boundaries about drinking, but I have told him many times that dishonesty is not something I can live with. So I guess that is the boundary that I have set and yet I keep going back on it because the answer is always that he lied because he was afraid of losing me. So then (in a confused way) me leaving the relationship when I finally know the truth seems to confirm that fear and almost justify it (I know: wha…???)

How does his drinking affect me? It makes me avoid commitment but still stick around. It makes me watchful and scrutinizing. It makes his life precarious and vulnerable and so I am with someone who probably cannot provide a solid basis for daily life. I am afraid for him. I think when he drinks be becomes more needy, more effusive, more desperate. On a few occasions when he was drinking he became cranky and irritated, but generally he hides away, I think, and then starts to slowly deteriorate. The lying has often been the cause of a crisis with us that gets him back into Working the Program.
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Old 03-15-2011, 11:03 PM
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Welcome!

I feel you! My AH is a good man. He's generally kind. He is wonderfully supportive and caring and gentle and thoughtful. He is generous. He is accepting.

My main problem was he was drinking a lot. In secret. And denying it.

I blew it off for a long time. It was a small part of our relationship. It didn't come up that often. When I brought it up, he denied it or blew up or shut down, but I didn't bring it up that often, so I could deal with occasional b.s.

He tends toward depression, but that's not his fault! Right? I mean, I was depressed at 17 and it's not like I chose it! I couldn't snap out of it!

He hid some stuff - porn, debt/shopping, but I only caught him rarely, so it was not that big of a deal...

We went along like that for 10 years.

Then, I got pregnant.

The old accepter WENT AWAY and out came MAMA BEAR.
Would I allow him to b.s. our child? To hide stuff or lie or abuse himself when parenting? OH, HELL NO!
Everything changed. I realized there was dysfunctional stuff happening.

So, I confronted him, with EVERY intent of working through it with him, but honestly.

Everything went to hell in a handbasket. He was defensive and sullen and shut down and sarcastic and fatalistic and hopeless and cranky and snotty.
For a year.

I kept plugging away with my message that I needed communication and recovery steps.

Nope.

I finally said, "I quit".

As I move forward with divorce, he is playing the depressed, powerless, victim. Weak. Sad, beat up. I "ruined his life" and "stole his dreams" and "destroyed his future". He has "offered me everything, but I obviously "have a grand plan to divorce" and "nothing is good enough".

Don't get me wrong. It eats at me. The powerless victim works well. But right now, I am seeing NO CHANGE and a bunch of bluster.

It may be powerless victim quacking and not all the other abuse junk that lots of folks on the board are talking about, but it is just another flavor of alcoholic quacking.

And if he was hiding and lying and not communicating, no matter how great he was, he had some jacked up sheet that I have every right to say, "no thanks" to and that I deserve more.

Hope that helps.
peace
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Old 03-16-2011, 06:47 AM
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First of all, Jenny, WELCOME to sober recovery. This site helped me dis-engage from the addict front and center in my life one year ago. Although I do - like us all I guess - still struggle with things, I am a changed woman, and have my self and my life back.

Let me, if I may, respond to two items in the orginal post

Originally Posted by jenny69 View Post
My last relationship was filled with deception and now it triggers something very compulsive in me when people tell me things that don't feel right.


How have other people created boundaries with someone who has only been kind and caring?
Pay attention to these triggers. I would say that the compulsion you feel is your struggle between what you body is telling you, and what you wish to be true.
Us humans are made to have instinctive reactions when something is "not right".
We also, I believe, get re-wired and sometimes react even when everything is right, based on our bad experiences. But...by and large I think you need to listen to your gut.
This stuff will make you crazy.

Someone who has only been kind and caring does not lie to a person they love and respect.
I know that the disease of addiction turns us into liars - I get why and all that - but that doesn't change the fact that it is simply not "kind and caring".
Perhaps something to rethink?
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Old 03-16-2011, 08:00 AM
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Welcome Jenny69. My story is like FindingPeace's above, only substitute child for step-children (mine). My husband is a good man with a BIG problem. As soon as I began challenging that BIG problem, he became the classic monster alcoholic with every behavior we can go read about in hundreds of books on the market today. As soon as I began to set appropriate boundaries and have consequences for them, he became even worse. As soon as I started doing things to protect myself...well...you get the picture. I ended up leaving the house with my kids and dogs and am in the process of starting over. Not because I want a divorce or am giving up on him, but because I can't live with him until he truly gets this 2 ton gorilla off his back, and that's way more than stopping drinking.

I struggled with Al-Anon at first, especially trying to relate to others who have completely out-of-control addicts they are dealing with. Some stories would leave me depressed for days! "My AH was never that bad", I would think. "Maybe I don't need to be here after all", I would think. But you know what I found instead? A big group of people who had similar feelings that I had about all of this and different ways of approaching it that, to me, seemed so much better than my own! Wow! Imagine that! But it took going back, at least a handful of times, to finally make that connection. I still giggle a little at some of the cheesy things in Al-Anon but I also believe it works, and sometimes I even find myself needing a little of that cheese to get through my day.

Our addict loved ones come in all shapes, sizes, flavors, stages of addiction, etc. Our stories are all different on the surface, but underneath are some distinct threads of similarity. Stay on this forum long enough and you'll begin to see them, and most likely relate to much of it. You are not alone.

~T
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Old 03-16-2011, 10:17 AM
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Tuff girl said it.
Some people say that "functioning alcoholic" isn't a type, it's a stage.
That may be true.
It doesn't matter, ultimately.

I began to realize although all of our stories are different, there are similarities. So, my problems may be different by DEGREE, but not by content.

Are we all doubting ourselves and rationalizing behavior we don't like? Yes.
Are our partners doing things we feel uncomfortable with and normal communication doesn't touch it? Yes.
Are we suffering? Yes.
Are we trying to control them, or worrying over them, or hurting over them? Yes.
Do we feel stuck? Yes.
Are we walking over our own boundaries? Absolutely.
Have our lives become unmanageable? Yes.
Do we need to learn skills of letting go of control? Yes.
Do we need to learn skills of focusing on ourselves? Yes.
Do we need to learn skills of taking action in situations we don't like? Yes.
Do we need to get over people pleasing so we may care for ourselves? Yes.
Do we need to work on finding out who we are and what we need? Yes.
Do we need to work on our self esteem and finding our voice? Yes.

We're here for you, babe, and we understand.

Check out Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It helped me a lot.

Peace
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Old 03-16-2011, 10:21 AM
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Just stopping in to welcome you to the forum!

Great insight here!
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by FindingPeace1 View Post
Are we all doubting ourselves and rationalizing behavior we don't like? Yes.
Are our partners doing things we feel uncomfortable with and normal communication doesn't touch it? Yes.
Are we suffering? Yes.
Are we trying to control them, or worrying over them, or hurting over them? Yes.
Do we feel stuck? Yes.
Are we walking over our own boundaries? Absolutely.
Have our lives become unmanageable? Yes.
Do we need to learn skills of letting go of control? Yes.
Do we need to learn skills of focusing on ourselves? Yes.
Do we need to learn skills of taking action in situations we don't like? Yes.
Do we need to get over people pleasing so we may care for ourselves? Yes.
Do we need to work on finding out who we are and what we need? Yes.
Do we need to work on our self esteem and finding our voice? Yes.
Wow - this is good! Should be a sticky. This is what I found here on SR and in Al-Anon, these are the similar threads of experience we all share. Well said, FP!

And I thought I was different....pfffft.....I see now that was my own stinkin' thinkin' getting in the way of my recovery.
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Old 03-16-2011, 08:58 PM
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Three hips for the mutual admiration society!!
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