The Power of Rejection-Part 2 I am just not good enough

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!!!!”


Detachment and Emotional Safety

I have to admit I am struggling with something. I have been going through the steps of my own healing for awhile. But now that my husband is going through his own recovery I am starting to have trouble with detachment and emotional safety.

As we have just reached four weeks sober, he is showing signs of withdrawal. He is irritable, easily agitated, sensitive in a negative way to my trauma. My emotional safety plan is messed up. In a small spat yesterday, I felt really triggered. I realized that in this situation there wasn’t a safe place for me to go, and I felt trapped. I immediately went into a traumatized state. This angered him further and all I could do was “run away.”

I don’t want to speak ill of him here, because he has made great strides in being the man he wants to be. The addiction is one of the last places where he has not done any work. Pornography and childhood abuse made him angry and devalue women. There was a time over 4 years ago, that he was emotionally abusive and even once resorted to physical violence. I assure you he is not that man anymore. However, he does from time to time resort to a few of his old tricks (not the really serious ones). Like with addiction, there is almost a ritual when he is entering that abusive place. He is good at breaking his anger ritual early, but lately I find myself triggered by the beginning even. I know that the shedding of the porn is causing his struggle. I just had no idea how much I was going to be triggered by it.

When he was working on the anger issues, we were separated for 18 months. So detachment was much easier, and we even had a no contact order in place for a while so emotionally safety was easier. Unfortunately due to financial issues and other changes, a separation now would actually cause more damage in multiple ways.

So I am having a hard time finding a way to detach a bit while he works through the withdrawal, and our little condo has a very open floor plan…so a hard place to actually go where I can emotionally process away from him. While he is home, it is unfair for me to occupy our homes only bathroom for several hours. Same with our bedroom, plus I am slightly triggered by the bedroom alone. So not a good option.

Anyone out there have a simmillar situation? I know this will pass, hopefully sooner than later. But we have both worked too hard to get this far…I hate to see it undone through this step.

Is SAA the Answer?

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to reconnect with an old friend. During the course of our conversation she confesses that she too is the spouse of an addict. Fortunately for her, her husband has been working an active recovery plan for a few years now. He has been using a program similar to AA’s twelve steps or SAA, and fortunately for him and her it has mostly been working. She mentioned that for the most part her husband, she believes, has remained sober. She did a acknowledge that he did have a few relapses, but they were far and few between.

The irony here is that my husband went to his first SAA meeting last night. Now, he is also involved in another program. But their regular meeting wasn’t available so he decided it was best to go to any meeting. My husband in his recovery plan has been very open about the processes he experiences. Now I am going to issue a disclaimer here: One, I wasn’t there. Two, I am repeating second hand what I was told by a person who is still early in his recovery. Three, this is only observations on one SAA meeting AND not a reflection on SAA as a whole. He was grateful for the meeting and even had an overall positive experience.

There were things he observed that appeared to treat sexual addiction like other addictions. First was that there was not much in the way of accountability. Sponsors, yes. But little talk of what had prevented sobriety today or that week. Many of the guys were not even “sober” for more than a day or two. In addition, if they were sober many seem to be in abstaining mode…not addressing the heart of their issues. An example  was a guy spoke of another group that was co-ed and that there was a lot of hugging. This man bearing his heart remarked that he found this co-ed group triggering. Another spoke up and said with much laughter…”where is this group?” Much laughter ensued, but to his surprise no one said….perhaps that is not appropriate. It was almost too accepting. Each person at their own rate at their own time will move forward when or if ever they decide to do so. In the mean time keep coming, and eventually they might realize that this floating through will cause them to dig deeper. My question to my husband then was, where are the steps? A clear cut plan to move forward to gain freedom? His answer, “I don’t know. I thought perhaps they would have talked about that, but they really didn’t.”

I was crushed. I had high hopes for my spouse and this group. They had an opportunity to help a man seeking freedom in their midst and were so wrapped in their own boys hour to care or notice.

It feels to me that at least this group missed the big difference between other addictions and sex addiction. And that is it really isn’t an addiction. It is a symptom of a much bigger problem; an attachment disorder. At some point in their early years these men failed to learn how to attach healthily. Now there are a myriad of reasons for that, and that is a subject for another day. But they never grow emotionally as a result. They chose to attach to themselves as a way of coping.

The real key for getting clean and staying clean is relationships. Healthy, positive, affirming relationships. Isn’t that what the AA/SAA model is all about? Help me understand. Can’t one be affirming and still hold people accountable? We do it with children all the time. And let’s be real, all addicts are infants. I don’t say this to be demeaning. I say it because their relational capabilities is on par with an infant/toddler. It is demand, after demand, center of attention, me focused, petulance, and downright selfishness. Was that harsh? Sorry, but the truth hurts.

I guess my question is, can this model work if you have toddlers leading infants? Who holds them accountable? And is there a group leader that is at least past his pre-pubescent stage emotionally facilitating the group?

I think, as a wife who’s own emotional security actually hinges on these groups…I have a right to know and understand the process. Somebody please give me a clue here.