“Relationships don’t just happen. They take work.” I don’t know exactly where I heard that advice but the concept had stuck to my psyche like burs to a cotton sock.
Despair is a lonely, desolate place we’ve all visited at some point in our life. While in its depths it seems to take an immense amount of courage to reach for rose colored glasses and put them on.
I spent the first thirty years of my life as a pleaser, yielding to everybody else’s expectations of me. Convinced that it was inconsiderate to ever put myself first, I continually dismissed my own needs. Having never developed a healthy self-esteem, I based my identity entirely on the ever-changing opinions of others and my interpretation of their reactions to me. My boundaries were undefined; I wavered between unfiltered vulnerability and impenetrable emotional walls. Those were very tumultuous and depressing years for me.
In my early twenties I met and fell in love with a recovering drug addict. I believed that if I loved him enough he would stay straight. But it wasn’t long before that love turned into a painful, toxic obsession and I found myself trapped in the depths of despair.
Until I began to gain insight into where I had come from I couldn’t capably decide where to go. I couldn’t correct a problem that I had no understanding of in the first place. My awareness came by way of twelve-step group attendance, professional therapy, and a plethora of self-help books. The healing lavished upon me is a spiritual gift. Out of immense gratitude I want to pay it forward.
My aspiration through the sharing of my story is to offer hope, encouragement, and enlightenment to the millions of people who currently suffer alone in their darkness, lost in a maze of confusion and despair. My message is to hold on; that a brighter day is on the horizon.
For those who have already healed after living through experiences similar to mine, my hope is that they’ll glean new insights from the benefit of a different perspective.
The stories that I reveal in this book are true and honest accounts. Most of my recollections are from memory or from letters, records and journals that I’ve kept over the years. Some names have been changed to preserve the person’s anonymity. At the risk of being labeled “One Fruit Loop shy of a full bowl,” I feel that I must also give due credit for the input that I received from “The Beyond.” I believe without a doubt that much of the wisdom and some of the details from the past that had slipped my mind were imparted to me that way. Believe what you will.
I am thankful for everyone who has touched my life. I’m especially grateful to the people who have presented the most difficult challenges for me; I consider them to have been my most valuable teachers.
According to research conducted by professionals in the field of psychology, there are common threads that have been traced back to the childhoods of many adults who suffer from co-dependency. Many had been “pleaser” children who’d been conditioned from a young age to believe that they were only good or valuable when compliant with their parents’ wishes. Often those wishes were illogical and confusing. As children they felt unduly responsible for their parents’ needs and happiness. Healthy emotional boundaries between their parents and themselves were never properly established. They had often suffered from depression and/or anxiety in their adolescences, conditions that continued to trouble them well into adulthood.
The codependent syndrome develops over a long period of time. Those who suffer from codependency in their adulthoods have often had erroneously difficult adolescences. But they are largely unaware of their tendencies until their condition impedes their ability to form healthy, stable relationships.
I am grateful to say that although I suffered from that confusion for the first thirty years of my life, today, at fifty-two years of age, my life doesn’t resemble that portrayal in any way. But remembering where I’ve come from keeps me humble.
It is my sincere hope that as you peruse the pages of my book you will find my story touching, inspirational, and most importantly an impetus for healing.
I wish you joy, serenity, and an abundance of love in your life.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Backgammon Game
“Relationships don’t just happen. They take work.” I don’t know exactly where I heard that advice but the concept had stuck to my psyche like burs to a cotton sock. I’m pretty sure I misconstrue d the guiding principle though because my interpretation evolved into, “Relationships are burdensome and backbreaking. Like war they are only won with blood, sweat, and tears!”
I had taken on this responsibility and would see it through till the end. It never occurred to me that my needs were just as important as Keith’s needs or that I’d lose myself in the process. After all nothing was wrong with me; he was the one with the problems. I believed that I had enough endurance to undertake the fixing of Keith. I’d just have to find the right approach.
Our relationship went into a honeymoon phase after I came home from California. We even took a three-day trip to Florida. We had a good time but every single night Keith felt ill. He’d spend hours in the bathtub sweating out his fever and vomiting from nausea. He said he probably had some kind of virus. It definitely looked that way to me. Oddly he seemed fine during the day. Looking back from a more knowledgeable vantage point I’m sure he was suffering the effects of withdrawal.
After returning home from Florida, as far as I could tell, Keith continued holding it together. Either that or he was doing a good job of hiding his problem. We never discussed his sobriety. I allowed myself the luxury of basking in the glory of our drama-free life. Friends frequently stopped by and in our alone time we played backgammon.
I never abandoned my sleuthing tendencies but I didn’t spend as much time worrying.
One afternoon in the middle of one of our backgammon games there was a knock at the door. Keith got up from the sofa then opened the door and greeted a casual friend who was standing there. He led his friend right back to the kitchen, mentioning to me as he passed by that he’d be right back to finish our game. Only a few minutes passed before he walked his friend back to the front door and said goodbye. Then he sat back down and we resumed our game.
About fifteen minutes later I noticed a distinct change in his demeanor. His eyes started looking heavy and his speech slowed down. Within a very short time he started slurring his speech and his eyelids kept drifting closed. There was no mistaking the “Keith on Quaaludes” affectations…
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I believe that there are divine reasons for the pregnant pauses in our lives; the times when our life seems to come to a screeching halt and we are rendered powerless over it. Those are the times we should pay especially close attention, for those junctures may be the most profound times in our lives. Though painful, those intervals cause us to sit quietly and come face to face with our true selves. They provide tremendous opportunities for our spiritual growth.