The girl…

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I came across a website recently, http://www.lisaoliveratherapy.com, and I have found it to be SO inspirational.  She is a therapist who writes so elegantly, but also her messages are so relatable.  I am still having a very difficult time “letting go”, not only of my exboyfriend, but also of the entire traumatic experience I went through with him.

In this blog, she writes about how we sometimes identity with our hurt to the point where we “become” it and begin to over-identify with it.  I definitely have a tendency to do this.  During my childhood and teenage years, I was the “girl with the crazy abusive alcoholic father”.  I started having problems with anxiety when I was in my 20s (which I am still dealing with) and I took on the identity of the “girl with anxiety who couldn’t get on a plane or drive far”.  After my marriage ended at age 31, I became the “girl who went through a terrible divorced’.  And now I have become the “girl whose sat at the bedside of her alcoholic boyfriend of eight years while he was in a coma for 17 days, even after she found out he was lying and cheating on her, and even though she saved his life, his parents still treated her as a scapegoat.”

I go down these rabbit holes where I become the tragedy…it defines my life, my identity, my day to day routine.  I have an obsessive tendency and I must have said, “I don’t understand why his parents treated me the way they did” like 2,000 times over the past six months. It is like I can’t get over it…I don’t know HOW to get over it and there’s a weird tiny part of me that doesn’t want to get over it.  I am not saying that I like to feel like a victim, I truly don’t, but I desperately want some kind of acknowledgment from his parents for the sacrifices I made for their son.  My friends advise me that I need to let it go, that not every situation ends with closure and I know they are right.  My exboyfriend tells me all the time that he knows how much I did for him (and the fact that we are still in contact will be the subject of my next blog…still really struggling with enforcing boundaries), but I feel like I deserve more.

Unbeknownst to me, he contacted his parents and told them that the rift between them and me was negatively affecting his recovery and he threatened to cease contact with them if they did not try to rectify things with me.  This is the complete opposite of what I want and I was very upset when he told me this.  But of course, I got an email from his father a couple of days later saying that he told them I think they hate me and they don’t and they also don’t “hold a grudge against me” (what the actual fuck? what possible grudge could they even HAVE against me????).  His dad proceeded to write that all they care about is their son’s recovery and that the day he walked into the ICU and saw him in the coma was the worst day of his life.  All the email did was make me more angry.  There was no mention of me at all (and I do truly understand all they care about is him, but COME ON…throw me a bone).  Does his father think it wasn’t the worst day of my life?? At first, they were not even going to travel to come here and then it took them two days to get to the hospital.

I know for myself that I have to find a way to stop making my whole life and identity about this and him.  I am preventing myself from moving on, but there is something safe about that…like that expression, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”.  I am terrified about dating or meeting someone new.  I cannot imagine being in a relationship with anyone but him.  And if I am honest with myself (which is why I started this blog), part of me feels unlovable and fears no one else will want me.  I feel so broken, so damaged.  On the surface, I look like I have it all together, but inside I am a freaking mess.  Who would want that? And even if I found someone, how will I ever trust them? I am holding on to all of this because I am scared to move on and as long as I can wrap myself in trauma and continue identifying as “the girl”…, no one else can hurt me.

Which leaves me…?

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Lately I have been having a hard time with labels.  I know theoretically, people are not “supposed” to have labels, but when I was in 8th grade I was slapped with the label: “Child of an Alcoholic”.  This label became a part of who I was, how others saw me…it became a part of my identity.  However, in my case, this label was not a bad thing.  After I was given this label, I knew I wasn’t alone.  I was a part of a bigger group.  I could check out books in the library that could help me understand myself and my father better.  Once I got older, there were online groups I could join.  That label lead me to write this blog.  Over the years, I accepted and even embraced having the label “Child of an Alcoholic” or a COA (now a ACOA).  That label made me feel like a victim, but also gave me strength.  It made me feel like a survivor.  I never used being a COA as an excuse for my behavior or treatment of others, but it helped me analyze myself, my relationships, my family.

I have a lot of roles in my life that can be labeled: sister, friend, teacher.  Up until a year and a half or so ago, I would have added child of an alcoholic to that list.  I never really saw it as a bad thing, rather just a fundamental part of who I was.  It was one of those things that if I met another COA, we had an immediate bond.

Almost a year and a half ago, my father had a stroke.  After drinking every day for over 20 years, he stopped.  Just like that.  One day he was a drunk and the next day he wasn’t.  It sounds ridiculous and impossible.  It seems too easy.  He is not a perfect father now, but he is no longer belligerent or unpredictable.  He does not verbally abuse me through email, voice mail or in person.  I’m not afraid of him anymore.  Trust me, it is so much better, but it is also confusing.  If my father isn’t an alcoholic anymore, am I still a COA?  I talked to my therapist about it, knowing what her answer would be…of course I am.  Him changing now does not erase the two decades of abuse that I suffered through.  It doesn’t just magically repair all of the damage he did to me and to my family.  I guess I am just having a hard time reconciling the before and after of who I am if he’s no longer an alcoholic.  I know fundamentally I did not change, but things do feel different.  I suppose that is the dangerous part about having labels- what happens when they change?  I mean, at one point in my life I was a wife.  Then I got divorced and the next day I wasn’t one anymore.   But that situation seems different to me.  I guess the breakdown of my marriage happened over time and I knew it was coming.  My father becoming sober was so unexpected, it happened so fast.  And although I was a wife for several years, I was (am?) a COA for the majority of my life.

There has been a part of me throughout this past year and a half that has just been waiting…waiting for my dad to drink again, to have another stroke, or even to die.  And now that some time has passed, I’m beginning to trust that this is the new image of my family.  I guess that I am still figuring out with what to do with the old one…