Unmistakable Signs that Signal Change

The past couple of days I’ve been struggling with the desire to act out in self-sabotaging ways. I don’t want to drink and/or use; but I’ve thought about reaching out to ex’s (behind Mitch’s back), joining dating sites (again, behind Mitch’s back), and/or attending AA meetings that I know are not good for me (ones full of chaos and misery, rather than strong recovery).

I recognize these desires as a sign that something deeper is bothering me; and I have kept my feet moving in an attempt to ignore the whirling hamster wheels in my mind.

The problem with that is that eventually the feet get tired and I’m left listening to the endless squeaking of madly spinning wheels. And they’re always squawking about the same damn thing…

A Problem I Cannot Solve Alone

Mitch and I have not had sex in over twelve years, for many reasons: Mitchell is diabetic and has sustained a lot of nerve damage in his wrists and hands. He’s morbidly obese, which complicates sexual functioning. And, after four years of marriage, he declared that he was a-sexual (a decision he made without consulting me).

He has also stated that I was always the instigator in our sex life (and upon reflection, I found this to be true); and now that I am sober, I find it really hard to take on that role.

We also have massive trust issues in our marriage that we are trying to overcome. Mitch is really bad at keeping his word (regarding anything to do with us — chores, plans, finances, attempts at intimacy, etc.); and I am an addict who relapsed on drugs and alcohol, and had multiple affairs after ten years of forced chastity.

My husband has said that he understands the role he played in my relapse. He has apologized for being MIA emotionally when I needed him most. He has granted his forgiveness for the affairs, and says that it no longer bothers him (but I have a hard time believing that in light of the fact that we still have not broken any ground towards repairing the sexual rift in our relationship).

I have also forgiven Mitch — and continue to forgive him — for not keeping his word; but forgiving is not the same thing as forgetting. I find it hard to trust him; and I know he must feel the same way about me. And trust is a really important part of intimacy (in all of its many facets).

A Difference of Opinion

When we argue about this issue (and blessedly, we haven’t for quite some time), Mitch is fond of saying, “Cass, there is so much more to marriage than sex.”

I agree with him; but I also point out that sex is an important part of marriage — and that I need it to be a part of ours.

In response he always says, “I’m working on it. Soon, I promise.”

Apparently though, his definition of “soon” is different from mine. As a result, I’ve spent another three-plus years in forced chastity; and it’s beginning to take its toll.

Stepping Up

I have started to gain a deeper understanding for Mitch’s inability to keep his word in regard to chores.

The man works twelve hours a day, five days a week. He is perpetually exhausted; and since I am now obese myself, I have a greater appreciation for how easily one tires when carrying around an extra one-hundred pounds (and Mitchell carries much more than that).

To help in this department, I have started stepping up my responsibilities at home.

This past week, I vowed to do at least one load of laundry each day — meaning all the way through from the washer to putting clothes away (vs. leaving them in the dryer for days on end) — after returning home from the gym. And you know what? I’ve kept that vow, and feel incredibly accomplished for having done so (those of you who battle with your own mental health afflictions know that these small victories mean more to us than most).

After a couple of days of that routine, I found I had a bit more energy; so I decided to start adding one other household chore per day (i.e. I scrubbed the shit out of the powder room — something that hadn’t been done in many weeks — after doing the laundry yesterday). This morning, I plan to change the sheets and to tackle at least two sink loads of dirty dishes (sadly, we do not have a dishwasher in this damn house).

True, the kitchen is supposed to be Mitch’s responsibility; but clearly, it’s a chore that he just can’t handle at this particular moment in time. He does make dinner each evening; and for now, I have to allow that to be enough.

I’m hoping that if I stick to a routine — dishes each day, powder room once a week, dusting once a week, etc. — that my shame and anger regarding living in a home I am not proud of will dissipate. That the arguments about these things will grow fewer and farther apart; and that ultimately, Mitch will follow my lead and do the few things around the house that I cannot (i.e. yardwork is impossible for me in the summer heat of the Sonoran Desert).

Already, my efforts have given my husband a sense of pride and gratitude that I rarely see. He has thanked me for keeping up with the ice trays (we make ice the old fashioned way, and often, I just neglect it and leave it up to him). He is astonished at his closet full of clean clothes. He marveled at having a “floor he did not stick to” in the bathroom, and generally seems more relaxed when he’s at home.

For my part, I have a renewed sense of accomplishment and self-confidence (both of which are hard for me to obtain). I’m also starting to reclaim the satisfaction of having a clean home (something that is far more important to me than it is to Mitch).

Practice Makes Perfect (Or Closer to Perfection)

It occurred to me that if I think of intimacy as an art, then it is something that has to practiced and maintained.

Mitch and I haven’t even kissed one another with our mouths open for more than a decade. It’s a skill of sorts that we both threw aside… waiting for the other to make a move.

I have always been the leader in our relationship, and Mitch the follower.

Perhaps if I make a greater effort to make my husband feel desired, things will start to turn around for us. I know that when I feel sexy and wanted, it’s easier to act that way.

I haven’t felt that way in my marriage for a very long time; and it breaks my heart on a daily basis… but maybe, my husband feels the same way (and I’m well aware of the fact that if he does, he’d never say it).

Mitch is fond of saying, “My wife is the one that gets in the ring and fights. I’m just a spectator, always wondering where she’ll jab next.”

I suppose it’s time for me to put the gloves back on.

Soundtrack: “Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts

This is “our” song — Mitchell and I.

A Cringe-Worthy Lack of Effort

Weight Loss Endeavors No. 2

I struggle with multi-faceted addictions; and though I have managed to beat some of the worst ones into submission, there are a few evil lil’ hamsters still prancing around the confines of my mind celebrating their own harmful choices and actions… particularly, the chubby lil’ furball who enjoys binge-eating.

The night before last was a rough one for me. I didn’t sleep well. I tossed and turned, waxed in and waned out of flop-sweat-inducing hot flashes (thank you menopause), and grew grumpier as the night wore on.

Aware of the fact that this particular situation rarely gets better before it gets worse, my ever-patient husband remained on the couch throughout the night and got very little sleep himself. So when I woke up — cranky, in a low mood, and kind’a angry — I let Mitch know that he could take possession of the bed, and sleep for as long as he’d like.

When he woke in the early afternoon, I was sullen and disconnected. He asked if I’d like to go the gym, and I said, “Nope.” Discouraged and frustrated with my apathy, I sought a false sense of solace through food; and when I went slightly over my weight-loss calorie count, I thought, “F*ck it. I’m over anyway, might as well continue with a full-fledged evening of binging.”

And that’s exactly what I did. I even stopped logging the calories I consumed. “Already set the house on fire, might as well let the damn thing burn down,” was my way of thinking at that point. (Definitely, a trait of addiction.)

So this morning, I woke up with feelings associated with shame and failure.

Why Do I Do This To Myself?!

Why do we embrace our negative traits, thoughts and actions (often to our own detriment)?

I’ve never really had an answer to this damnable question; but this morning, when I logged on to my computer, I read a beautiful post by my friend Ms. Simone at Wordy Spirit about “Labelling”; and she had written an answer for me:

“Because there is no going anywhere with talk like that. For it doesn’t require any amount of effort, sweat, and toil. We give ourselves an easy way out by labeling our behaviors, our personalities, and our very selves.”
– Simone E, “Wordy Spirit”

I’ll be damned, if the girl ain’t right!

It was far easier to just throw my hands up and stuff my gob. Just as it’s far easier to pick up a drink than it is to deal with my emotions… but I’ve managed to get a handle on that (for the most part — dealing with emotions is still not one of my strong suits); so I imagine that if I really want to (and I do), I can also get a handle on my terrible eating habits.

It Takes Time, Dummy

…and for me, instant gratification has never been fast enough.

If I spend a day at the gym, and keep within my 24-hour calorie limit, I want to see that result — literally see it — in the mirror that very evening; and unfortunately, that’s just not how weight loss works.

In fact, I remember reading in one my psychology textbooks (and I apologize for not knowing which one it was; and therefore, not properly citing here) that the body will do it’s best to maintain its equilibrium. If it’s overweight, it has an intrinsic desire to stay a bit fluffy.

In other words, my body is used to consuming thousands of calories per day… and as I try to change that, it will fight me every step of the way. That chubby lil’ hamster in my head will stomp her feet, throw a tantrum, and try to convince me that I’m starving to death… when really, I’m dealing with medication side-effects (i.e. increased appetite) and a desire to self-soothe through food.

So… What Now?

Well, the first thing I have to do is stop dwelling on my failure. The sun has already set on yesterday; and I cannot change the poor decisions I made… but they don’t have to affect the choices I make today.

I can choose not to think of myself as a “binge-eater”; and instead, recognize that I am a woman taking action against this discouraging label.

Yes, I screwed up a bit… but the two days prior to that screw-up were successes — I went to the gym and I stayed within my calorie intake goals. And if I did it once, I can do it again.

It’s simply a matter of not getting mired in the negative muck being flung around by my temper-tantrum throwing chubby lil’ hamster.

Much to her chagrin, when my husband rises from his slumber, I will be lacing up my brand new workout shoes and hitting the gym. I will ride the recumbent bike for 15 minutes, listen and adhere to my husband’s weight training instructions, and then stomp around on the treadmill for 35 minutes. I will make smarter food choices today… and will not wake-up feeling ashamed tomorrow.

And the next time I feel like throwing up my hands and stuffing myself with ice cream and rice Krispy treats, I will turn on my laptop and read the wise words of my lovely friend, Ms. Simone.

Besides, I’ve never learned anything the easy way… so I might as well take the harder path. 🤣

“Addict”: The Label vs. The Word

My dear friend, Ms. Alana at “Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On” posted this morning about her feelings on the label “addict”: “Yes, I’m an “addict”. (I fucking hate that word. Always will. And I’ll probably always fight against it as a defining word for myself.)”

I Can Use the Word, You Can’t Use the Label

Quite perfectly timed in the light of Ms. Alana’s post, my husband and I had an argument about his use of the label “addict” yesterday afternoon.

I mentioned to him that I was going to need more e-juice for my mod; and he pointed out that I seem to be smoking a bit more these days. I explained that I’m trying to quit; but that with all of the other changes I’m going through at this particular moment in time, it’s difficult to try and overcome my nicotine addiction as well.

“Mitch, I’m trying. I really am; but this isn’t an easy one for me to let go of.”

To which, Mitchell said, “Of course not, you’re an addict.”

Ouch. Arrow to the heart, my fathead husband.

While I have no problem using the word to describe myself, my hackles immediately rise to their fighting position when someone else throws the label at me. So I growled back at him, “Nice. Way to use that against me, Babe. Do you have to take every opportunity to remind me of that fact? Like I don’t fucking know I’m an addict?! I have to be reminded?! Seriously?! Jesus!”

We both went uncomfortably silent for a moment after that… until I reminded myself to take a deep breath and re-evaluate my reaction to his offhand comment.

“I’m sorry, Honey. That was an overreaction; but do you realize that you never take the time to reminisce on all of the addictions that I have given up (booze, narcotics, reckless sex)? It would just be nice if you would use that particular term in a less derogatory way from time-to-time.”

“I only spoke the truth of the situation.” Mitchell said through gritted teeth.

“I know, but I’m aware of those particulars of my own personality. I don’t need you to constantly remind me of them.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

Many of us that battle with the demons of addiction struggle with these types of interactions (even within our own heads). The problem resides in the old adage “there are two sides to every coin.” In this case, there is the label “addict” (see no. 1 below) and the word “addict” (see no. 2 below). The Oxford Dictionary demonstrates these opposing viewpoints by defining “addict” two different ways:

  1. “a person who is addicted to a particular substance, typically an illegal drug”
  2. “an enthusiastic devotee of a specified thing or activity”

It Works for Good, as Well as Evil

The label that resides within my personality never works out for anything less than evil… if I drink and/or use, I tend to lose my moral compass and any compassion towards others. I can’t have just one shot of whiskey… once I start, I want the whole damn bottle and the dregs from any others that happen to be lying around. I also have no qualms about spending the rent money on more booze.

The word that resides within my personality, however, often does work out for good. It makes me passionate and determined about the healthy choices I make (i.e I’m an extremely dedicated university student that routinely gets awarded high academic marks). When I put my mind to something (like visiting the gym daily), I’m more likely to stick to the plan than other folks, etc.

This subtle difference is something that I vehemently stress to newcomers in the proverbial Anonymous programs in which I sponsor… because I do take issue with having to introduce ourselves at meetings as “alcoholics” or “addicts” — not because it isn’t true, but because we are so much more than these derivative labels. We are a collection of other beautiful words — woman, strong, survivor, determined, passionate, empathetic (when sober), etc.

Often, in response, newcomers lament that they see very little of these words in themselves; and that’s okay. They’re new, they’re raw, they’re emotional; and often, up until they work with other women in the program, they’ve only been described by those around them in negative terms — manipulative, liar, cheat, not trust-worthy, etc.

This was true in my case; but by surrounding myself with strong females who had decades of sobriety, I learned what I could become; and then changed the opinions of those around me through positive action.

It breaks my heart to read the words in Ms. Alana’s post that I hear many times repeated in the rooms. If you are struggling with a negative addiction, please know that you are not alone. If you feel there is no hope, please know that it is out there… waiting for you to find it. And last, but not least, if you feel as if you will never overcome, please know that if I can overcome, fucking anyone can.