Guilt and Pity

Old 09-02-2011, 10:51 PM
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Guilt and Pity

While I was living with the disease of alcoholism, my anger and resentment and the feeling that I would go crazy if I stayed any longer, gave me the impetous to make changes and get me and the kids out of the situation. Now, my anger seems to have left me and I feel so exhausted and feelings of pity and guilt are slowing creeping back in. I know I could never go back or put my kids back in the madness of alcoholism and I really appreciate the peacefulness and calmness at my new home. But these deep feelings of sadness and pity for stbxah - how he has lost everthing, Guilt and worry about him and what would happen to him and if he would recover, are making me restless and sad.

I'd really appreciate some suggestions and ESH on how you handled such feelings..

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Old 09-02-2011, 11:16 PM
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Do you have anything written down from the time you were living with an active alcoholic?

I kept a journal up to the point I married AXH. Then I stopped. I couldn't write anymore because I could not be honest with myself about how horrid my marriage was. But I wrote letters and e-mails and confided in a few close friends. During my divorce, I asked those friends if they would please send whatever letters they had back to me. Between that, the e-mails I have saved, and a blog I started (kept it closed and private) the night AXH threatened to kill me, I have enough to remind me of why I left and what it was I lived with for many years.

Pity is OK to feel, I think, as long as I don't think feeling the pity means I have to do something about it. I can have compassion for an addict without needing to step into some kind of action.

Guilt is trickier. I fought for about four years with the question of whether I had the right to leave before I actually did. I'm not a quick learner when it comes to these things, so it took me that long to actually believe that my AXH was, really, responsible for his own actions and choices. I didn't believe it during the separation that preceded our divorce, and I am extremely grateful that I was able to live NC for that time, because...

... because part of the dysfunctional dynamic in our relationship was that he wore me down with his superior argumentation skills, to where I would have believed that it was my fault that he was drinking and my responsibility to get him sober, had I had to have contact with him. Now, over a year later, it's weird to imagine that I was so manipulated, but I was.

The guilt has gone away for me -- but I think part of that is that I can sort of tell myself I was right: I never believed for a second that he would really become sober when he went into rehab, so when he started drinking again (after swearing up and down how much he was a changed man and had found God and seen the light), it was sort of a "confirmation" of sorts for me that I had done the right thing in leaving him.

The way I handle it when those guilt feelings occasionally rear their ugly head is that I imagine they're something I found on the ground. I can pick it up and turn it over and put it in my pocket and carry it around -- OR I can look at it, identify it ("that's guilt") and keep walking. More and more, I'm able to do the latter, and it really has lifted an incredible burden off my shoulders.
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Old 09-02-2011, 11:58 PM
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Thanks Lilamy for sharing your ESH - glad you are in a better place now and hope I am there soon, but it is pretty tough now.

Yes, I did keep a (sporadic) journal, which was what I read yesterday at my temporary custody court date, when I felt emotional and scared.. Gave me strength to continue and not cry..Maybe one day, I should just put down all the hurful things that happened (no job for 4 years, not to mention 3yrs few years prior to that, drinking and refusing help all those years, no help at all at home, passed out frequently at home, so many birthdays and occasions ruined, raising of hopes and the consequent dashing of the same hopes, the shakes/nausea/tremors for the week that he would white knuckle before invariably giving in, yelling at kids and me, some many of my tears cried, the anger and resentment, the yellling at each other and fights, etc, etc, etc, etc).... Dang, what the hell is the matter with me??

It also helps me to know that not enabling might get him on the road to recovery but my enabling him would only make him go deeper into addiction.
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Old 09-03-2011, 05:59 AM
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BeProavtive, just like you are not responsible for his drinking you are not responsible for his recovery or anything else in his life. It took me a really long time to learn that lesson.

What I have found that works for me is Al-Anon. I have found the tools and support I needed in those rooms. I am in a much better place now. I still get bouts of self-pity and guilt but now they are more like speed bumps not mountains.

I have also found that reading and posting here is very useful for me on keeping my focus on my recovery.


Your friend,
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Old 09-03-2011, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by m1k3 View Post
What I have found that works for me is Al-Anon. I have found the tools and support I needed in those rooms. I am in a much better place now. I still get bouts of self-pity and guilt but now they are more like speed bumps not mountains.
That's so true for me too, Mike! I catch these things so much sooner and take corrective action, rather than wallowing in the emotions for days on end.

Thank God for Alanon.
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Old 09-03-2011, 10:04 AM
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Thanks Mike and Freedom. I did go to a few al anon meetings. The people were very nice, I even found one meeting that I felt I could fit in (it was a big group though and a little far). But I am very uncomfortable talking about my feelings and thoughts in front of people. Individual therapy worked for me but speaking in front of lots of people intimidates me. Just now realized something, I prefer small groups, not big ones.. so need to look for such small groups..There is also the matter of looking for a group that also has childcare or I need to find childcare for the kids when I go there.

I think currently I am not doing anything (no Alanon, no reading books, no therapy)and that is not helping at all..I do have lots of excuses - it is crazy busy at work, kids started school, divorce going on, lots of other stuff to take care of in addition to the day to day responsiblities.. But they are excuses and I need to put care of myself first (still struggling with this one as well..)
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Old 09-03-2011, 01:36 PM
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I don't know if this applies for you at all, but I struggle with the difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt, for me, now is a yucky feeling I get when I have behaved badly and I need to own up and apologize for something. Or at least look at myself.

Shame though was a pretty similar feeling but for me it was about feeling bad that I took up space, or feeling bad that I existed etc.

When I start not feeling so hot I need to make sure which one I am coming from. I spent a lot of my life trying to only have a positive impact on others that, that if I was not having a positive impact I was apologizing or coming from a place of shame. That is an ongoing piece for me, and they continue to be easy for me to confuse.

At the begining of my seperation I was feeling pretty okay for myself and pretty worried about my loved one who struggles with A. It got better when I realized that my only true responsibility is to myself (no kids), and that I had been given life lessons that got me into the help I needed so desperately. If and when my loved one was open to his life lessons he would get the help he needed too.

I am not grateful for the lessons (at least not yet), I am grateful that it got me into the following to get the help I needed:
-Al-anon (different types of groups have worked for me at different times)
-Individual counseling
-Lots of reading about addiction and codependancy
-Bodywork (Rolfing, but also Yoga etc)

I am getting ready to take a meditation course in the next month which I am also hoping will help me on my healing journey.
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Old 09-04-2011, 07:38 AM
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I used to struggle with speaking in front of groups of people.

At Alanon, I probably didn't speak for at least 6 months. I found listening to other people's experiences, essentially telling my story, and how they found happiness and calmness in the face of everything, helped so much.

I also found that it was the conversations during breaks, after meetings and the friends I met that I could discuss things with that helped even more.

I find I have two type of Alanon friends: the ones that wherever I would have met them, they were similar enough in tastes etc. that we would have become friendly, and the ones that although we are unlikely friends, they have such a strong program that I am drawn to them.

There is one member of our group that has never shared at a meeting although her attendance is more regular than most. No one judges her and I can see a brightness about her that wasn't there a couple of years ago.

Thinking of you.
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