It’s time for an inventory! This week’s topic asks you to delve into ways you have changed since you’ve begun your recovery journey–or since you’ve been coming to these boards. What have you learned? What is now different about you? What subtle changes have you made to your behavior for better (or worse!)
I will start by listing a few of the major changes I made that have shifted my behavior since beginning recovery (I have a very long list, so I’ll keep it to only the top most important, that have had the most impact)
1. I learned that my “idea” of my perfect mate was a childish one and no longer fit the person I was. I was always attracted to the single, dark haired ‘bad boy’ but I wasn’t bad, I had kids, and I was a very stable, simple girl. These were qualities about me I didn’t recognize. I also did not want to recognize that I should have been looking for someone more like me who was also interested in family, stability and a more simple life. Once I let go of my childhood image of the perfect mate, I was more open to different, healthier men.
2. I learned that when a relationship was not “right” I would get physically sick or emotionally moody. I could not just blame it on my period or something I ate, which I tended to do (it must be something else that’s bugging me). Although periods and certain foods would definitely exacerbate my moods, the reality was, I was in a bad relationship and didn’t want to face it. When something was not right, my whole body would SCREAM at me. I finally started to listen, and became honest with myself– even if it meant change.
3. I learned that my love addiction was not exactly about love. At the root of my love addiction (at the root of ALL addictions) is a very strong desire to AVOID something that you really don’t want to face. In my case, it was my responsibility to work and financially support myself. I DREADED the idea of work and finding a job. So much so, that I got married to avoid it. That I’d date and fall in love to avoid it. Once I faced my fear (forced myself to do things alone, took myself out of my comfort zone and experience awkwardness, etc.) I suddenly had a much healthier ability to pick and choose boyfriends. Because I was not choosing them to care for me or to help me avoid something, I was able to choose a mate on other qualities like friendship and kindness.
4. I learned that Water Seeks Its Own Level. As messed up as you may think your PoA is, you are equally messed up (hard to face!). As “healthy” as you think your hubby is compared to you, look again. We seek out people who balance us. Who match us. Only when YOU are healthy will you be able to find someone equally as healthy and well-adjusted. This lesson was a hard one to accept. I always thought I was better than everyone else, and so I would get angry when they didn’t live up to my expectations. Boy was this an eye opener to recognize that I was just as bad. Well, I didn’t want to be on the same level as my PoA!!!! I was better than that!!! And so…the “water seeks its own level” was a lesson in self-love. If I thought I was so great, I needed to prove it by connecting with healthier people. Not just PoAs…but friends and family too! I changed many people in my life and improved my circle of friends.
5. I learned that as deeply as I delved into my past for answers in the end, what mattered the most was what action I was willing to take at that time to change my behavior. Dr. Phil said once, “It’s one thing when you’ve suffered as a child from abuse or neglect; it’s another thing entirely when you drag all that suffering into adulthood. Let it go!” So…this lesson was about getting out of my head and actually taking physical action. When I would catch myself sitting around doing nothing but thinking and analyzing whatever failed relationship, I recognized that this too was a form of avoidance. So…I would get up and go for a bike a ride (even if I did not want to! And that’s the key). Remember, as love addicts it’s very hard for us to take any action outside ones that draw us closer to our PoAs.
6. I learned that, for years, I believed that my ideal mate was the image of my father. I felt as though I would be betraying my father if I liked any other type of man. But the thing is, he may have been an OK father, that I had no choice in selecting. But he did not make the perfect model of the man I should date. I didn’t have to repeat history. I could change it. I could find someone with whom I was more compatible. Sometimes we feel anchored to our past. We feel obligated to stick to our tradition. You don’t have to! In fact, in order to break the chain of dysfunction in families, you must do something different than your forefathers.
7. I learned that once you do find someone healthy, your old ways of communicating, and working out problems will not be tolerated by a healthy individual. Especially if your old ways are dysfunctional. I had to change many of my dysfunctional ways of communicating. How did I do this? I read. A lot. I learned what manipulation was and that I was doing it. I learned what blame was, and that I was doing it. I learned about complaining, and decided I no longer wanted to do (that I wanted to be a grateful person instead). I REPLACED bad behavior with good and I continued to do until it became a habit.
8. I learned that communication, negotiation, compromise, sharing and respect are the foundation to not only bonding with someone but living with them successfully. Sure, we can all fall in love and operate on our emotions for a brief time. That doesn’t take anything but animal instinct. But it takes learning to communicate well, learning to respect others, and learning to share and be kind for a healthy, longterm relationship.
9. I learned that for most of my life I was operating on my Emotions. I made decisions with my emotions. Just like my mother, and most of our society said. “You will know in your heart…” and that’s what I did. I based decisions on my heart, not my head. HUGE mistake. We are given both a brain and a heart and we need to use both. I never knew what that was like until I actually applied it and experienced it. Making decisions with your brain, not just your emotions, takes different strategy. It takes writing out lists of what is logically the right thing to do, versus the wrong. It takes calculating, strategizing, and it takes recognizing and facing RED FLAGS. The emotional side of us wants nothing to do with red flags. The logical side only focuses on the red flags. When you are using BOTH your brain and your heart to make decisions, you don’t have that confused “should I stay or should I go” feeling. You are in perfect alignment and both your head and heart are happy, not pulled and frustrated.
10. I learned that I was, indeed, capable of change. But it wasn’t when I had hit my “bottom” or when I became so sick and tired of my life and the way I was living it. I was like that almost from the beginning and I never got anywhere. Reading one book after another on love and relationships was just another way to avoid facing the real issue! It was ONLY when I decided to take ACTION that real change occurred. Instead of staying in my head, dreaming of change, instead of reading yet another self-help book about how to break my addiction to a PoA, I got up and actually DID SOMETHING WITH MY LIFE that had nothing to do with the PoA. And it wasn’t exactly what I thought it should be (action to get rid of the PoA).It was to start working on facing my underlying fear of working and doing and being a grown up. And when I did that, there was no need anymore for the PoA.Sometimes we focus so much on what seems to be the “big problem” in our lives (our addiction to someone) that we cannot see that there is another, deeper, more costly problem occurring. That we are denying ourselves an authentic life.
We don’t live forever. Where do you see yourself in 2 years? Five years? What haven’t you accomplished in this life that you always wanted to accomplish? What are your fears? What are they keeping you from achieving?