I have two questions I have to address with my therapist on Tuesday. “When was the first time I recall feeling connected and when was the last time I felt like my authentic self.”
How did I get this assigned to me? As I work through trying to figure out why I developed my compulsions (drinking, eating, shopping…), I am learning that my compulsions helped me to deal with an emptiness. I have always blamed my bouts of loneliness, these past 30 years, on Jim’s work schedule. I married a man that works a lot, all the time and I do have resentment towards this. When I first had Carly, my first baby, Jim and I decided that I would stay home. This meant that Jim had to work two jobs. He worked 6am-3:30pm and then 4:30pm-11pm Monday- Friday and then from 6am-Noon every Saturday (though most Saturdays he really didn’t come home until 1, 2 or 3pm). Sunday was for yard work and home maintenance. I was never so lonely in my life. Every day dragged on and on for me. And the guilt I felt for feeling this way as a new mom still haunts me at low times. Even when I finally went back to work, Jim still worked crazy hours. For about six years, I would take the kids everywhere by myself. I even took them to Rhode Island to visit Jim’s family every six weeks- WITHOUT JIM because he was working. I used to “jokingly” tell people I was married, yet a single Mom. I felt like a single parent for many years. I cried a lot, A LOT. I know during these years I did feel true loneliness. So I just always thought that the nature of my marriage made me lonely. I never felt unloved, but I did feel lonely. I am learning while yes, those were very tough years for me, they were not the real reason’s for my need for compulsions. Though the compulsions were helpful.
My first couple of “dating” experiences jet-setted me into protection mode. I eventually landed myself in a serious relationship with a man 5 years older then me, when I was 14 going on 15. This person was so insecure that he only felt confident when he was controlling me. I lost many friends during this relationship and I lost myself during this relationship. Something that happened to me 36 years ago triggered my need for compulsions. In learning to protect myself, I lost myself, I abandoned myself. I was not allowed to be me, if a glimmer of me came out, I paid for it. I didn’t show up much. And this traumatic experience could very well be when my “craziness” started. This relationship lasted 3 years. And when I got to walk away from this relationship I imploded, and created an unsafe world. I went from protecting myself to putting myself in dangerous situations. I was still abandoning my true self, I am unsure if I knew where she was anymore. Compulsions became my go to, feel good, friends, the compulsions were always there for me, they are so dependable. While I may have had times when I felt lonely in my marriage, I was also feeling abandoned, from myself from many years prior.
As I explore events that happened to me at a younger age, I am learning this is when my compulsions began, so my compulsions have been good trusty friends for years. I have needed them, they serve a purpose. They are my sense of control, my meter stick. Drinking and food are my compulsions. As a newly sober person, I can only now count on binge eating or compulsive eating.
So my therapist wants me to look back to remember when I first felt connected and then the last time I felt like my true authentic self. She thinks that I may be suffering from affects of me abandoning me. It appears Jim is off the hook! I probably could handle loneliness without compulsions if I wasn’t also feeling so abandoned (something I did to myself).
I had a great childhood and I had an honest to goodness real life best friend when I was little. I had the kind of best friend kids dream of. Jennifer Martin was my best friend, we were inseparable. We lived across the street from each other when I was 3, 4, and 5. When I was turning 6, my family moved. For years after, I still got together with my best friend Jennifer every summer- up until we were 13 or 14. I was so connected to her! We were silly, naughty, adventurous, and happy. Of course, living far from each other, we did eventually grow apart but we did keep in touch on and off. And at this point we are Christmas card friends. My relationship with her was my first experience at being connected. So I have one question answered!
The second question is much more difficult. When was the last time I felt like my authentic self???? I feel like since I have been sober, and working at learning as to why I felt I needed alcohol to survive, and now working on my other compulsion, food, that I have been reuniting with my authentic self. I am experiencing deep close relationships with my adult children- I used to have so much insecurity about my kids loving me or needing me but I do not have that anymore. And Jim and I are working on rebuilding our relationship. We have always been in love, and we respect each other and support each other. Our marriage was never threatened, per se but with a spouse recovering from alcoholism the marriage was obviously stressed and our world needs some redefining. We have been reconnecting recently and during this time I do feel like my authentic self. I am happier, laughing, joking, silly, and rekindling the sparks of our 30 year friendship. I am lucky, I can answer this question as I can. This leaves me feeling hopeful. I feel like maybe, just maybe I can find peace. I may one day really love myself enough to just be, with no need for reacting to my compulsions. I will always have compulsions but I am hopeful that I will be able to respond to them and not just react to them, in the times to come.