I’ve been working for my husband for a few years now in his business. Like many wives, I keep the books and pay the bills while he performs the work that actually generates income. I also help out by filling in when someone is off work due to illness or vacation. The work is difficult for me. I’m not good with numbers (we have real accountants to do the taxes and oversee everything) and I tend to obsess over the details. The plus side of this is that we aren’t going to lose a penny when the IRS comes knocking because I have every single penny accounted for. The minus side is that I’m working with numbers and dealing with the public, both of which I find stressful.
Recently we fired someone. Fortunately for the business, I was the person who provided the spark that prompted this person to flip her lid and walk out but even so, it was hell at work for quite a while. My own responsibilities remained undone for quite a while. In fact, I’ve just caught up this week on paperwork that should have been done long ago. Added to this stress is the fact that I’m working in a field that is completely unfamiliar to me. I’m definitely more experienced now that I was before, but it’s been stressful.
I’m 46 years old and although I know menopause is a fact of getting older, I wasn’t prepared for it to start this month. And while I’m looking forward to not having to deal with periods, my self-worth definitely stems from my role as a mother. And for a sex addict to contemplate life with sexual organs (even internal ones) that are “dried up,” well it’s stressful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible tragedy or anything – it’s actually kind of funny – I’m always cold so having hot flashes would be a nice change. But clearly I’m not getting any younger.
In a less funny way, neither is my husband. He finally got some routine blood work done and is cholesterol is awful, even though we have a very healthy diet, low in saturated fats and high in whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. It turns out that he has been indulging in a bit of a secret life at McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts. Ha! I had no clue! His PSA was also elevated. That last part is really scary because it takes him 2 or 3 minutes to start peeing in the morning. We’ve been laughing about his golf ball-sized bladder for ages – he hasn’t made it through a movie without having to pee for years – but it’s not so funny to me now. He told me his exam was so painful he nearly fainted. Still, it’s not so bad. He’s taking medication, which should cure the infection that he probably has. After repeating the blood tests in a few weeks, we’ll know whether he’ll need to get a biopsy. At his age, that’s very, very unlikely. But it’s very stressful.
One of my sons is in college. I worry about how little he studies. I worry about how unmotivated he seems to be. I worry that he’s going to get his girlfriend pregnant and they’ll end up living in the basement.
One of my daughters is in graduate school. I worry that she’s lying to us about how she’s doing (like she did last year). I worry that she’s depressed and not taking care of herself (like she did last year). I worry that she’s gaining too much weight. I worry that she’s lonely, that her poor self-image contributes to her keeping young men away. I worry that I didn’t do a good enough job parenting her. She’s so special, so wonderful, what the hell did we do wrong that she can’t believe this? And why won’t she listen to us when we try to help? Should we stop trying to help – is our helping making things worse?
My other daughter is in high school. I worry that she’s texting too much. I worry that she’s too peer-dependent. I worry that she’s not working to her academic ability. I worry that she’s lying to me, that she’ll get caught up in drugs, that the idiotic drama that high school girls generate will become toxic and harmful.
My other son is in the military. We were lucky to have him home on leave from Iraq over the Thanksgiving holiday. That meant we could go as a family to get our Christmas tree, as we do every year, which was wonderful. But I worry about how his life is on hold right now. He planned to be attending college and doing his reserve duties on the weekends. I worry that he’s lonely. I worry that he’s sad. He’s so darn stubborn that he doesn’t listen to us, and like our daughter, we can’t be sure that giving advice or not giving advice is the right thing to do. On the one hand we’re his parents, and we should be giving him accurate feedback, right? On the other hand, we’re his parents and we should be stepping back and letting him lead his own life.
Dropping my son off at the airport to return to Iraq was, I think, the trigger. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I absolutely know he has a greater chance of being injured in a car crash here in the United States, but I’m . . . it’s . . . I can’t even think straight about him being there. We parents are supposed to be protecting our children. There’s something very, very wrong about this – having my son in uniform fighting – something that goes way beyond politics. I had a hard time letting go of him; just stopping hugging him so he could walk into the airport. When I go shopping to put care packages together, I have real trouble getting through the checkout line without losing my composure. Just typing this, I can’t see the screen for all the tears.
Life is difficult and we all have different stresses, struggles, and burdens to bear. If I’d been following the precepts of the 12-steps better I would have called someone and talked about how I feel. I’d have gone to a meeting and let the others know that I’m really, really struggling with things. Instead of measuring and weighing my stresses to see if they’re “bad enough” or “strong enough” to warrant the tears or the fear, I’d talk. I’d tell the truth and say that I’m overwhelmed and I just want to stop feeling.
For the record, acting out sexually really did help numb my feelings for a while. Right now, every cell in my body is screaming for sex (well, not sex – porn) but it’s just not a sustainable activity. And when you stop, the shame makes everything much, much worse.
Talking and sharing and feeling and crying are more difficult, require more courage, and more energy. And finding a safe, sane place to do your talking, feeling, and crying is absolutely necessary if you’re going to stay sober. Gentle Path wasn’t the perfect place for me, treatment wise. Looking back, they got a lot wrong – but what they did do was provide a safe, sane place with people who were willing and able to listen and accept each other.