Rejection is bad enough, it feels awful. However when it ever it comes around it never comes alone. Rejection brings its unwanted twin siblings shame and contempt. When rejection arrives it delivers its punch, and lets lose the other two holy terrors on my life. What’s worse, after the initial rejection sting…these two stick around for a while. In this crazy train of his addiction, the part that gets me is why do I feel bad? I shouldn’t right? But nonetheless there I am. Turning the rejection inward, and now I am in shame. I am going to say it again, shame is nothing more than rejection turned inward.
I use shame as a way of rejecting myself, and I am really good at it. Since childhood I have lived with I am not good enough. So I then use whatever slight was hurled upon me as a way of justifying the heap of shame I lob my way. I don’t stop there, I then proceed to make my case not only with the current slight, but with every other one from the past. Like a prosecutor presenting a case before a judge and jury…I bring up every failure to be paraded in front of my soul to win my case.
The funny part is, I hate losing. I hate losing with a passion. Even when I am the one at stake, I will take rejection and run with it until all that is left is a shell of the woman I could have been. So not only am I the prosecutor, I am the defendant, the judge, the jury…and ultimately the executioner. The defendant never takes the stand, and judgement is passed quite swiftly and just like that I become the martyr. How twisted is that?
Shame, I believe is what gives rejection it’s true power. With out shame exploiting my own insecurities, his actions or anyone else’s would not have power over me. I wouldn’t buy into the lie that ‘I am not good enough’. There would be no case to present, and no life to destroy.
Shame is the insidious bastard that has ruined my life. It is the one thing that has prevents me from recognizing any story of redemption in my life, and I let it repeat the message ‘I am not good enough’ with a mega phone. I am constantly amazed at how it can hone in on the things I am insecure about the most. It’s like a missile on a seek and destroy mission, whipping through twists and turns until it finds its target, and blows it up for the world to see-or so it feels like it anyway. In order to remain “safe” I isolate. I hide. I distract myself with work, children and victim hood. I wear fear like a piece of armor, and use supposed rational thinking as a defense for not taking risk. All the while shame is having a field day preventing me from experiencing life the way I was meant to. Suddenly I can’t breathe, and I circle back to my failures. How did I let it get that far out of control? More shame.
This addiction, by its very design ruins lives. It uses gorilla warfare tactics and my personal belief is shame is the secret weapon. The operative word here, is secret. I let shame keep and exploit my secrets, it stuns me into silence about all my past failures-real or imagined. I don’t call them out, I tuck them away. I pretend they don’t exist, and I certainly (heaven forbid) don’t forgive myself for them. I don’t name my failures, and learn from them. I use shame to destroy me.
So how do I stop it? The truth is I don’t know. I don’t know if I can-completely. But I can minimize its effect. I can recognize when I am crossing the border from healthy examination to shame. I can bring that shame into the light, and ask a trusted friend to hear my fear/ confession. I can ask forgiveness, and I can use my affirming emotional safety plan to build myself up in the heat of battle. Most importantly I can acknowledge it exists and let grace cover it all.
As I wrote in part one, I have allowed rejection to write a reoccurring theme of “I am just not good enough” on my life. I wish these messages came to me with ex-h, however my journey with rejection started much earlier. Unfortunately too early.
I can’t remember a time in my life when rejection wasn’t a prominent part of my day. My mom is mentally ill, and that time manic depression or more commonly known as bi-polar disorder was a relatively “new” thing. My earliest memories of her caring for us are mixed in with her own messages of self-depreciation. It feels like every day she would cry, wail, carry-on about how she was stupid, dumb, unlovely, etc. As a young child (and I mean young 4-5 years old), I thought she was the greatest thing to walk the earth. And why shouldn’t I? However, these daily barrages of how awful she saw herself, had me questioning if my perceptions were untrue. At first I would affirm and praise her, only to have it continue. More questioning. Soon, it was a tired game, and I believed her. What this ultimately begat was a notion that “I just wasn’t good enough.”
I just wasn’t good enough, at the ripe old age of 6 to soothe her self perceptions. I wasn’t good enough by accident or default of birth. I reasoned that even if my father was the polar opposite of her, by birth I was at least 50% stupid, dumb, unlovely and that was already failing. My odds of being anything more were certainly stacked against me. I wasn’t good enough to cover her tracks and create a normal life for us. And I wasn’t good enough to be rescued.
By age 6, I was already caring for my brothers full-time (ages 4 & 2). Making us food, cleaning what I could and keeping my four year old brother from her screaming fits-as he was usually the subject. She would lay in bed for days-crying. Unable to care for us…until my dad was about to come home. Then she was magically better. My efforts were completely unnoticed or if they were, it was expected and certainly not praise worthy. Of course my dad didn’t really know who had done the work, and so he would come home and say little things like “these dishes need re-washing” or “it must have been a rough day, this ‘insert meal’ is a little over done”. To which she responded with “I guess I just can’t do anything right!” Run off and cry some more. Of course I died inside.
Her illness also left me wondering why we were not enough for her to feel joy? Why wasn’t my dad enough to sustain her through out the day? Why when it came to school did I not have the energy or the desire to care about it? Why wasn’t I normal?
Rejection whispered so loudly into my ear that I believed I was so faulty that there really was no point in trying. Teachers sent home with report cards with comments like “she is such a bright kid, if only she would try.” I wondered how they knew that. Didn’t they know my mom was dumb? And since I didn’t try, there was no evidence to support their statements. Thus they became liars in my eyes. Rejected again by people who wanted to justify their failures. Not good enough to care about.
The playground was an even more cruel place. Neighborhood kids were aware of the crazy I lived with, and like me they instantly knew I was 50% defective-and exploited it. Rejected again. I had a few friends-mostly social misfits like myself. Many of whom became bright spots in my life. One in particular, who is officially my oldest friend. She moved away in fourth grade-rejected again by circumstance. Not good enough to stay.
Fast forward to the truly awkward years of teenage hood. I craved complete acceptance . I desired more than anything for someone to love me as I truly was. But I couldn’t believe for a second that I was worthy or good enough for anyone to see me. Enter Holmy.
Holmy, was this goofy guy in geometry class that couldn’t remember my name half of the time. He simply called me “hey you”. He was popular, every one loved him and he noticed ME! We became friends, and even dated a little off and on over the years. But what is important about him, he was the first person with whom I allowed even a hint of vulnerability. He held it like a precious gift. He never spurned me, or rejected my notions. As far as I know, he never whispered behind my back-it wasn’t like him to do so. We would spend nights talking until the sun would begin to rise, about life, love the future, we would laugh and dance-more like boogie, and sometime be silent together. My appetite for acceptance-his acceptance grew. You know when you haven’t eaten for a long time, and you get a hint of food & your stomach becomes ferociously hungry…it was like that. What does every girl desperate for affection at the age of 15 do? She seeks it any way she can. Let’s just say, I scared him off. I didn’t realize at the time he too was dealing with quite a bit-and years later I learned the battle he faced was far more complex than the one I was begging him to soothe for me. (That is his story to tell-not mine.)Nonetheless, our friendship/ somewhat romantic life went on like that for about four years. One day he disappeared (it was his journey that took him places. But I didn’t know or understand the depth of that journey, and it would take almost 20 years to reconnect again. Not good enough to be around.
By the time I married the first time, I was willing to settle for someone-anyone to see me as special, beautiful and amazing. Rejection had whispered so much pain so much heart ache that I could not see any value in my self. And why bother trying. It masked some of the things in life that were truly beautiful. I became a mother 5 months after my wedding day. It was the first time I experienced-so I thought….unconditional love. But even then rejection whispered…20 years old and already a failure. I failed to do the marriage thing properly. Failed to be the good girl I was taught to be. I failed at being a good friend, and failed to learn how to live life appropriately. I didn’t know how to budget, or manage money. I let my ex-h do all of that. Not good enough for this little baby.
Suddenly I understood the hurt my mother hurled upon herself. The feelings of inadequacy in caring for such a small human being. How easy it was to hide all the fear and rejection for the sake of another. And I let it whisper quietly, never to be spoken out loud lest my daughter feel the pain of rejection by a parent. It ate at my soul, it paralyzed me with fear. And primed me to become a sexual assault and domestic violence victim. I deserved it all. The twisted lies whispered more.
I stand today, the spouse of an addict. Who knowing every bit of this history…its sordid details. The intense pain, took the most sacred part of my life/ our life and use the one thing that I perceived to be the only pure thing in marriage to betray and reject me. I have already discussed my discovery day, so I will not rehash that here. The ultimate rejection, and it because the final whisper “You, Sarah, are just not good enough.” Rejection my one constant companion. It became the thing that I could rely on for sure…and my heart closed. I pulled inward. It whispered more and it grew into a monster I could not contain. I lived in deep shame, and projected contempt.
I hate rejection. When it happens real or perceived…I become a wilted flower. So give me a minute….I am going to straighten up…force those leaves to unfurl….open up the petals. Here I go.
Rejection-I reject you. I reject the hold you have had on my life. I reject the notion that you are my only faithful companion. I denounce you. You can no longer take up residency here. I am good enough. I am good enough for long-lost friends to return. I am good enough to be a faithful and beautiful wife. I am good enough to have a mom who loves me, and she doesn’t have to be biological. I can chose my mom. I can be an amazing mother, and I don’t have to dwell on the past. I was exactly who God needed me to be at the time, good,bad and ugly so that I could shout this today: “I AM AMAZING!!!!”
I recently had the pleasure of going through a class called the “Re-Telling”. It is all about taking our story/stories and holding them as a gift-examining them as we experienced them…how does it impact us now…and where does the redemption of God reveal itself in the Retelling. We worked in small groups each week and listened to one another and spoke out hurts/ slights and perceptions out loud. Extremely powerful stuff.
I dreaded going each week, doing the homework etc. I kept asking myself why would I pay and subject myself to a ripping of my heart out just so it can be thrown on the ground and kicked about each week. Each week I would leave the class learning new and powerful things about myself, and ultimately glad I went. It was horribly affirming. Yes-I do mean that exact combo of words.
I became acutely aware the power rejection has had on my life. I wore it like a merit badge. I allowed real and imagined rejection to force me into a position of fear instead of empowerment, and I learned I was indeed a fighter…but more importantly I discovered I was also a protector. A protector of my brothers and my fear protected my children-and it was okay to let go of the things and experiences I failed to protect. Friendships, relationships, my dignity, my pride.
I allowed rejection to form my life’s story. I allowed it to tell the story “I am just not good enough” and it gave me shame and contempt to carry with me-for myself and rightfully so for others.
I was able to see how I could take that pain that sorrowful intense emotional trauma and use it for good. That if I hadn’t felt the fear, hadn’t experienced the rejection and lived it..I couldn’t bless others with empathy. More importantly I could now forgive myself for the road not traveled. I could let go of the coulda, woulda, shouldas.
In the face of this addiction I have journeyed with rejection like it was a lover. I could hide behind it, and use it to keep my heart at a distance-no risk. But nothing gained either. And while it served to protect at times it has cost me dearly. Time to say good bye and give it power no more. The next few posts I will say good bye to this unwanted lover of my soul.
It has been awhile since I could even feel like opening this blog again. The last six weeks have been some of the hardest of my life, and I am just starting to taste the air again. I have been through some really hard things in my life, divorce, domestic violence, emotional abuse, life threatening illness of a child, personal debilitating illness, and even sexual assault. All of them horrific in their own right. Each time I have prevailed, even rose to the occasion fought through and came out the other side stronger. For some reason, this-this healing process from his addiction-his recovery-has knocked me for a loop. It is like the culmination of all of my past and this has just broken me. I have experienced these past few weeks an emotional sensory overload that has opened a floodgate of triggers and feelings I never thought possible. It is like someone put toothpicks in my eyelids and held them open while strapped in a chair and forced me to be exposed to emotional trauma past and present over and over again. If I were to take the events of the past three weeks and separate them out from the previous hurt…it was really nothing, small and perhaps a mountain out of a mole hill…but it just collapsed me.
We had the full disclosure meeting three weeks ago. I should have been smarter, I should have prepared-at all. But I really thought I was ready. I had heard the warnings. I had been advised to prepare. I even thought, I have a bath bomb-hit me with it. I longed to rip that band aid off and get it done. So when he came to me and said, I am ready for you to read my sexual inventory. I was alright let’s do this-now. Yeah, bad idea. Very bad idea.
Let this be a lesson for anyone else not matter how prepared you think you are-you are not. It is not a head issue. It is a heart issue. Do what you can to protect it. Have your support team on standby, have your emotional safety plan in place and ready to go. Get your boundaries for what will happen immediately after firmly in place and buy stock in facial tissue. Do NOT take this lightly. I so wish I hadn’t. I can’t go back, but I can beg anyone who will hear me to prepare. And addicts if you are reading, please encourage your spouse to do this. It may just save your marriage. Share with them my heart ache if you need to…just please make sure it is done.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Very little in there was a surprise to me. Actually I knew 95% of it already. I knew his particular brand of fettish, and if I accepted that…there couldn’t be anything else. The one thing I didn’t know, however has messed me up big time. Sorry for now that will be another post. Not sure I can write about it yet. What I will say about it is that it was the one thing I wasn’t prepared for at all. I had considered a ton of other things, like prostitutes, homosexual tendencies, perhaps a role play he engaged in prior to marriage, or even an affair. I was prepared for all the major stuff. But it was this one fantasy, yep just a fantasy…that hurt like nothing else has hurt before.
Even as I typed that last sentence the emotion welled up, had to walk away, anxiety rose and tears just broke through. I didn’t even tell you what it was! How messed up is that? But I titled this post Coming Out of the Fog, and that is where I am today. For the first time in weeks, I can think…even just a little. I don’t want to isolate…too much. I finally feel like a little healing has taken place. I still want to cry out to God and ask Him to take all this pain away. I still want to feel joy or happiness again. But now I can smile-a little. And I am going to call that a triumph and sure sign that darkness will eventually be defeated and the sun can shine once more.
My grandmother always said trouble comes in threes. Usually she was referring to me and my two brothers, but the old adage does seem to hold. Last week, hubby fell. Yesterday our only car blew a head gasket on the expressway, and I am sicker than a dog-boarding on a case of bronchitis.
So instead of hubby staying in a hotel for the mandatory separation period, all the remaining money we have left is to pay for the repair and a rental until the repair shop can fix it. Not until next week Tuesday.
I am so sick that I can barely care for myself, and I needed him here because just moving off the couch to the 15′ to our kitchen makes me want to nap for three hours. Getting food for myself is so exhausting I can hardly stay awake to actually eat.
I am so mad. It feels like the world is conspiring against me. I wonder what God is trying to tell me. “You can’t have boundaries. You don’t deserve space.” I would cry, but since I cannot breathe through nose and having a hard time with my chest already I am actually worried I will pass out due to lack of oxygen.
Seriously!!? I just want to punch him. It feels like because of everything that is going on, he “gets away” with it once again. The best I can do is have him sleep on the couch and it just feels so unfair. On top of that he is being extra nice, and keeps asking me if he is giving me enough space? Do I have everything I need? What angers me the most is not him, but me. I am questioning his motives. Laying bets in my head on how long this is going to last. Is it all going to last? I want it to so badly, but I don’t think I can survive another head game. I am so mad that THIS has to be my reality.
I have increased anxiety over getting sicker, because the last time ended so very badly for me/us. Let’s just say he ended up in a jail cell for 5 days and an 18 moth separation was needed to heal that mess. All of it because of his damned addiction. Our financial problems, my anxiety, his anger issues…all of it because of this. It is almost too much. Too much for me. Too much to take.
It has been a tough week, and amongst the business I have not even have had a breath to process the events. Two months ago I confronted my husband and said, choose; Me or it. I am sure it wasn’t without some struggle, he chose me. He began a program and was doing fairly well. Not without pain, not without real hardship but he was 7 weeks pure. Pure from porn, masturbation, and yes even sex.
He was just a little over halfway through a 90 day detox. We had marked the day on calendars of when we could be intimate again, and frankly I was starting to look forward to true intimacy with him. Since he chose porn over his wife our entire marriage, it felt to me like we were waiting for our wedding day all over again. Never one to initiate intimacy, he confessed on Tuesday that he was yearning for me. I couldn’t have been more excited. I honestly felt so desired. This was actually new, in 12 1/2 years of marriage I can say with absolute certainty we were heading in the right direction. I was elated! Progress at last!
Truth be told there was serious temptation on both our parts to say that 90 days may not be necessary. After all just because the man who designed his program felt that the time span of 90 days was what it took to detox didn’t mean that it wasn’t what we needed. However, terrified that Darrell and S, his sponsor, might be right. It was ultimately decided to wait it out, not without real internal conflict mind you. We were better than half way through and why potentially mess up what was to be a sure thing, right?
No less then 24 hours later, he fell. He went searching for porn. He brought it into my home, right after such a powerfully positive experience the night before. He confessed right away, lest I find out the hard way. Instantly, the pain returned. My new found security although tentative was destroyed. My heart broken. I kept saying “you ruined everything”. He destroyed the magic I felt the night before. He destroyed a dream I have held for years in just 10-15 minutes of searching. He ripped my emotion security away, and with it my financial security.
He is clearly remorseful, which makes this worse. I almost prefer the jerk from years ago that would tell me to “get over it” because I am strong enough now to know what to do with that guy. But here we are, me having to enforce boundaries of a temporary separation on a person whom despite everything I still love. He looks shattered, and I am pissed.
I am pissed that what little money we had left is paying for a hotel. I am pissed because I think he had started to get lax in the daily homework, choosing play over the work he needed to do to keep me-us emotionally safe. I am pissed, he abandoned me again to women on a screen. He put his personal comfort in front of his supposed favorite person in the world. I am beyond angry that a new forming confidence was stolen, especially with an important job interview coming up on Friday. I am pissed that because he fell, I am the one who gets to be broken.
I want to punch him. I want him to feel just a little of the pain he caused for what really? Was it worth it? I know he would say of course not. I know says “I didn’t realize how serious this is” and “I understand now”. It’s not like I haven’t heard this before, but I will say this is the first time he has been in any true recovery. What is it going to take for his ass to remember? Perhaps it will take losing it all, and that is what scares and angers me the most.