Tag Archives: infidelity

Insides to Outsides: Envy vs. Compassion

I get envious.  I hate to admit it.  Envy’s such a low-down, ego-driven emotion, but sometimes the best I can do is admit I’m feeling it and maybe ask god to help me stop.  Lately, god’s been doing just that – showing me how little I know.

Envy can happen only when we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. And what a beautiful (AA) phrase that is, too!  We get lonely, assuming others are capering about with friends.  We scroll bored and depressed through Facecrack, convinced everyone else is reveling in a kick-ass life.  Always, we imagine other people have it easier.

In my drunken 20s and 30s, even after my Near Death Experience showed me otherwise, I clung to an objectivist, mechanical view of the universe that kept things pretty straightforward. But as the years brought on a series of paranormal experiences – knowing stuff I shouldn’t know, seeing stuff I shouldn’t see – I had to expand my realm of possibility.  Quantum physics increasingly shows researchers what an elusive, pliable, witness-influenced phenomenon “reality” can be.  And the spirit world is constantly showing me the same.

Angels & Demons

For me, it’s no longer beyond the bounds of possibility that when I pray for help with a specific character defect, god will provide the grist for just that – if I’m willing to perceive it.

So, anyway – I asked god to remove my envy.  It had been plaguing me particularly since I brought home my alcoholic ex-boyfriend’s cell phone and discovered his extreme, prolonged deception around his sex addiction.  I felt like an idiot for having banked all my love in a rotten vessel.  And all around me, it seemed, were couples savoring romantic bliss.

Left outFor reasons I can’t explain, my comparisons swarmed around a particular friend.  She and I had known each other only faintly from ballet class on the day when, less than a month after my horrific break up, I sat in the Department of Motor Vehicles, skinny from insomnia/inability to eat and still subtly shaking, waiting to renew my driver’s license.  In walked gorgeous Jane with her two beautiful children, so I waved her over.  Ten minutes later I knew that Jane, just like me, was a sober alcoholic who’d had her kids late in life.  She’d been married 10 years to a wonderful non-alcoholic man.

I trusted her.  By the time I left with my license, I’d confided the entire gruesome betrayal story, exposing all my wounds down to details I’d told no one else.  For some of the lewder texts and fetishes I’d seen on my boyfriend’s phone, I even spelled out words while her wholesome preschoolers played nearby.  Jane’s stricken face showed genuine empathy.  Even so, I berated myself afterwards for sharing TMI: “Why did you do that?!  You’re such a freak!”

Days, weeks, and months later, Jane’s husband would stop by our class lovers runningto pick up their kids, the two of them exchanging a brief kiss.  Mind you, I have plenty of friends in happy relationships, but for some reason that image, or even the thought of it, would spur me to beat myself up mercilessly:  I’d fucked up my whole life by choosing the wrong man.  If only I’d chosen more wisely, held out for a normie, found a good, church-going father like that, I’d have the happy intimacy Jane enjoyed!  Instead, I had nothing.

~

We never have a clue what’s coming.  Last week as I arrived at class, Jane rushed up to me in tears. “Thank god you’re here!” she said.  “My husband’s been cheating on me for years and years!  He’s a sex addict!”

I hugged her.  My heart flared with empathy as I understood this bomb had blasted not only her heart, as in my case, but her entire hearth, home, and family beyond anything I could imagine.  Still, the knife of betrayal – that I did know.  I looked into her eyes and spoke the words that had saved my sanity: “His sickness has nothing to do with you.”  We went to a coffee shop where I sat and listened while ‘crazy’ words spilled from her mouth — words of rage and agony and violence!  I nodded with recognition at even the harshest threats of retaliation.  I remembered that white rage.  Because when everything falls apart, there are no rules – except to stay sober.

To help Jane do that, I made up my mind to offer everything I could.

Love is the ultimate risk.  There’s no protecting yourself.  You open your heart and let someone live in there.  The more you love them, the deeper into your core their roots grasp.  So if a day comes that those roots are suddenly torn out, chunks of your soul get ripped out with them.  You die a little bit.  This is true for all of us.

backside embroideryWhat I’ve learned in AA is that nothing I’ve felt, thought, or done is unique to me.  Nothing!  In meetings we reveal our knotty, crisscrossed under-stitching instead of the smooth embroidery we show the outside world.  That’s how we learn to trust each other.  God reminds me over and over: in spite of whatever differing externals ego and envy harp on, our pains and our joys are the same. Helping one another through them, whether in ways big or small, is indeed the ultimate purpose of being alive.  Nothing matters more.

Jane is a strong woman.  She’ll walk through this hell, and she’ll do it without a drink.  And I’ll walk with her as much as I can.  I remember all the little kindnesses friends offered that helped me through my darkest days – frequent texts, maybe a positive CD, a bouquet, and most of all, listening.  Today, those are things I can do for Jane.

Why did I decide on that particular day, that particular hour, to head for that particular DMV to renew my license?  Why did Jane?  Was it merely by chance we shared the hour that bonded us?   You can think what you like, but I believe god sows at our feet the seeds of all we need to heal each other.

Everything is in divine order.

 

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On Wreckage and Forgiveness

The ironic thing about forgiveness is that when we truly achieve it, we realize there’s nothing to forgive.  We experience a shift of perspective, a widening of the lens we’ve been looking through.  The person we needed to forgive goes from being a beetle mounted on a card and identified as faulty in various ways to a piece of our own soul – the part of us that also struggles and often fails.

Resentment works by keeping score.  But we can keep score only when we have rules, agendas, and an assumed point to the game – all of which tend to be the work of ego.  To bring about the outcome we would have preferred, the mounted beetle in question should have chosen to do X and Y.  They should have seen and realized how important X and Y were.  Why the hell didn’t they?  What the hell were they thinking?!  Now the outcome is all fucked up and it’s totally their fault!

40803_10150244489590608_8125380_nTwo weeks ago I brought home my boyfriend’s old iPhone and discovered that for two and a half years – ever since we got back together after a one-year break-up – he’s been leading a double life.  He’s had a second girlfriend whom he saw just as much or even more than me, a chunky girl half his age who clearly worships the ground he walks on and matches him drink for drink as they get bombed together.  I had trusted him completely.  I believed he was still the Good Man I fell in love with while he was sober.  Because of this, I gave him ample room to do his own thing (we lived 90 minutes apart) and never checked up on him – ignoring the fact that he was a relapsed alcoholic who merely didn’t drink in front of me – and that active alcoholics tend to lie.

My agenda was as follows: the relationship I thought I had with him was meant to flourish and endure. For this to happen, we both had to be committed and true to each other.  Those were the rules of the game as I saw it, and when I first discovered their porn-style sexting and rendezvous set up around my visits (she sometimes left the same day I arrived), I did very much know the rage of betrayal.  That rage has faded now, but what puzzles me is that it hasn’t morphed into resentment.  Somehow, I’ve jumped straight from rage to forgiveness.  Mind you, I don’t intend to see the man again – his future is god’s business and no longer mine.  But anger I do not feel.

I let go my agenda.  The whole thing.  Clearly this relationship was not supposed to be.  For a woman like me, 20 years sober, to be with a man who drinks in her absence was not a good set-up.  It could not have worked.  Yes – there was a lot of love over the nine years we shared, and the loss of that remains tragic to me.  I’m grieving it.  It hurts.  Further, what my boyfriend did is clearly heinous on a number of moral levels.  You don’t have to be the one cheated on to see that.

beerBut I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  Okay – I’ve never developed a sex addiction with someone young enough to be my child, but by the final stages of my drinking, I lacked moral sense to an equal degree.  In the fifteen years I was drunk, I cheated on three partners in a row – the first one physically and the second two emotionally.  I developed wild crushes on people while pretending to be in committed relationships and chased down the high of those infatuations regardless of their eventual impact on my partner.  I didn’t care.  In fact, it seemed to me at the time that I couldn’t care.  I needed the fix of the person I was addicted to just as much as I needed my next drink.

In every fifth step I’ve heard, sponsees have felt failed and betrayed by important figures in their lives – often a dysfunctional parent either alcoholic or affected by alcoholism.  Time and time again, the 4th column comes down to the question, “Do you think this person would not have done better if they were capable of it?”  Sponsees struggle with this.  Their minds wrestle with the dichotomy of who they wanted the parent or person to be, with all the power to choose wisely they believed that person possessed, versus the truth of what actually happened – the fact that the parent or person simply did not have the integrity, self-awareness, or the moral resources to show up any better than they did, let alone with honor.

Who wants to be a shitty parent?  Who wants to betray and abuse the partner they’ve loved?  Nobody.  In the case of alcoholics, prolonged alcohol abuse actually atrophies the emotional centers of the brain; we reach recklessly for whatever we think will bring relief.  Compassion shrinks.  We become selfish monsters.  We do shameful things.  It’s part of the disease.

Resentment at these facts can do nothing but harm me.  Nurtured anger traps us in our heads, our stories, our righteousness about what should have been, whereas the sunlight of the spirit is cast only on what is. And it’s only once we accept what is that we can feel gratitude for all reality offers us and try to lead useful, constructive lives, granting others the freedom to seek their own path.  24350_10150106518895608_1574989_nSo forgiveness, really, is just acceptance of a person exactly as they are.  In my case, I also have to accept the toll of addiction.  The Big Book even tells us, “More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life.” My guy was just a late stage alcoholic doing what drunks do best: dishonesty with self and others.  He’s consumed in tearing down his own emotional life and perhaps career, veering obliviously toward alcoholic decline.  None of this will end prettily for him.  My mistake was fighting reality, closing my mind to his addiction, trying to love him as though he were sober.  So much I wanted better things for him!  But when I let go that agenda, it’s all just life unfolding as it should.

 

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