Thank you, Charlotte Kasl!


When I was attending SLAA meetings, everybody would talk about “the steps”. “Are you working the steps yet?”; “The steps changed my life!”; “Everything will get better when you start working the steps”.    The steps can be found in the SLAA basic text, first published by The Augustine Fellowship in 1986. I just couldn’t see what the big fuss was about with this book. I’ve read plenty of books on sex and love addiction, and this one was pretty unmemorable, as far as I was concerned. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I found some parts of it objectionable.

My main problem with the book is that Rich, the person who started SLAA, after being in AA for many years, was a white, middle-class man, and the basic text was written, mainly, by a white, middle-class man. Where am I – a woman – in this book? If I mentioned this to my sponsor, she would just smile knowingly, and say “Oh, but, deep down, the emptiness sexually addicted men and women experience is the same”. I’m not a moron, for Chrissakes. I know that an addict is an addict is an addict, and I know that no matter what we are or who we are, we all suffer. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are all living in a patriarchal society where women’s and men’s experiences are not the same. While I don’t doubt that Rebound Guy from last year (ugh, remember him?!) is in a huge amount of pain because of his drinking and all the casual sex he has, I doubt he’s ever felt used, and cheated, and humiliated because of his addictive involvement with a woman. That’s how I felt, though, after our little fling was over. For him, I was just another notch on his bedpost, another sexual conquest he could boast about to his friends down the pub.

In the SLAA basic text, Rich writes about the addictive sexual relationship he has with Sarah although he is married to a very pregnant Kate. Sure, it’s not great he cheats on his poor wife, but, OK, I get it – he’s an addict. Lying and cheating is pretty much par for the course, so I don’t think he’s necessarily a terrible person for committing adultery. It is, however, the way he writes about his lover, Sarah, that really disturbs me. He very subtly paints her out to be an arch manipulator. Just read the break-up letter he sends her!

Sarah,

I am terminating our relationship. I have come to realize that for all the love there has been between us, and there’s been much, at least an equal part of sickness, obsession and neurosis has been present also.

My long term needs have been consistently sold out to my getting my short term feel-good buttons pressed, and you are a master button presser. My own personal center has been thrown askew through my trying to constantly service your needs, which are also excessive

My inventory has been exhaustive and has led me to the lamentable truth that you are bad news for me. Therefore, I’m getting out now.

We are all through.

If you are tempted to contact me, I ask you to re-read this letter.

Rich

He might as well just have called her Lady Macbeth instead of “master button presser”. And look at his interesting choice of verb tenses: “my long term needs have been consistently sold out to [...]” and “my own personal center has been thrown askew [...]“. All his verbs are passive. You would think that some external force was making him “sell out” or “throw himself askew”, but that’s not the case at all. He was the one who chose to be with Sarah, and to give in to his addiction.

And as for the “you are bad news for me” statement….? What the fuck?! Oh yeah, Rich, in contrast, was such a catch, what with his very pregnant wife, about to give birth any second. Sure, Sarah herself chose  to get involved with a married man, but did Rich ever stop to think how much he fucked up her life? He does eventually devote some of the book to talking about the pain he caused his wife, but Sarah? Nah, she’s just collateral damage.

When my concerns about the basic text were poo-poohed by other people in the program, I began to think that maybe I was just some bitter feminist harpie who was getting her knickers in a twist for no reason. But, it wasn’t like I went out of my way to do a feminist literary critique of this book. Fundamentally, it just makes me feel uncomfortable and icky.

Going back to the steps again, I also felt strange when I looked at the some of the steps to come, especially steps 4, 5 and 6:

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.

The language in these steps is incredibly ponderous, moralistic and serious in tone, especially for people who probably have just found their way to a 12-step meeting because something very serious and nasty happened to them. I’ve had enough seriousness and judgement in my life. I need to lighten up and have fun! And by that I don’t mean that I want to get drunk and party, but just that I want to focus on the simpler, more beautiful parts of life. As Charlotte Kasl points out in Many Roads, One Journey : Moving Beyond the 12 Steps, “there are no steps about expressing love to people, having fun, celebrating life, and becoming powerful or healing the physical body” (160).

When I contemplated working step 5, it felt like it would be such a chore. Again, I felt guilty, and imagined that I didn’t want to do that step or the steps immediately after it perhaps because I was trying to avoid taking responsibility for my actions. But Charlotte Kasl to the rescue again:

The term defects of character might be apt for perpetrators, narcissists, and other exploitive people, but it doesn’t fit for shame-based or guilt-ridden people who all too easily focus on their failings and weaknesses. “Defects of character” is a culture-bound, Christian concept stemming from the idea that we are all born sinners and must redeem ourselves through a life of confession and atonement” (317).

Thank you, Charlotte! Now I understand why I had such a negative reaction to step 5. Why would I, somebody who has beaten myself up forever, want to focus on my “defects of character”. Of course I need to take responsibility for the bad things I’ve done, and the people I’ve hurt, but I’ve already done that! I can’t spend one single second more obsessing over how I’ve fucked up. I desperately need to realize what’s good about me for a change!

Coming Tomorrow: A list of all my good qualities!

Many Roads, One Journey


ForkintheRoadIt’s been a while, eh? Nearly six months, to be exact. I didn’t think I’d ever come back to this blog, to be honest, and I was planning on starting a new one elsewhere. But if I do start a new blog, it would probably be something that I could use as a “writing sample” if I ever wanted to get a writing job, so it couldn’t be as self-confessional. True, I could write in a journal instead, but I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people online and getting their feedback. Writing is such a solitary activity, and it’s so nice to know that you’re writing for somebody other than yourself.

I don’t have anything much to report about my six-month absence. Nothing particularly exciting has happened. I haven’t been dating although I’ve had a few minor obsessions “from a  distance” with unsuitable men, so, yeah, my issues with men haven’t been completely resolved, that’s for sure. It’s been nearly six months since I got divorced, and I can say confidently that I’m over the divorce, and my ex-husband. I do still think of him from time to time, and feel sad that the shit hit the fan so badly, but, ultimately, I’m incredibly glad we’re no longer together. The relationship was keeping both of us stuck, and miserable. Sometimes it’s hard and lonely being in my mid-thirties and single, but now I have the opportunity to work on myself, and make changes for the better. It’s an exciting time really!

I haven’t been going to SLAA meetings for quite some time. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of them really. There were some nice, cool people there but there were also others who were very cliquey, and stand-offish. There are a lot of good things about 12-step groups, but there are also things I don’t like – the rigidity, for one. Nobody ever came out and said directly that not doing things the SLAA way is “bad”, but I distinctly got that vibe. In fact, I had been feeling guilty for not going to meetings anymore, and was worried that “my addict side” had taken over (because that’s what 12-step groups would have you believe if you stop going). It never occurred to me that it’s okay that I don’t like SLAA that much (or perhaps, more accurately, that I don’t like the only women’s group we have here in town). I’m allowed to have an opinion, and not like things, and that doesn’t mean that I’m weak or about to give in to addiction.

Recently I’ve been reading a couple of books by Charlotte Kasl – Women, Sex and Addiction – A Search for Love and Power and Many Roads, One Journey – Moving Beyond the 12 Steps – and I’ve been completely blown away by what she has to say. I would highly recommend that every woman, whether struggling with addiction or not – reads these books. In fact, I would recommend that every man reads her work, too. Contrasted with 12 step programs, Charlotte Kasl’s 16 Steps are life-affirming and empowering. I’ve been so inspired that I’ve even been thinking of starting my own Charlotte Kasl-inspired “Discovery / Un-covery” group because it would be nice to have a support group of women, just not via SLAA.

Should I Work From Home?


investorcatWhen I was a full-time erotic masseuse, my immigration status meant that, for the most part, I was not able to find regular employment. I spent more years than I care to remember giving sensual massages to corporate types during their lunch breaks, or whenever the urge overcame them. During that time, I worked exclusively from home, and I scheduled my own hours. I know that a lot of sex workers love the freedom that sex work gives them, but I, on the other hand, have come to realize how important it is for me to have a regular routine. I might not like going to bed at a reasonable hour, and getting up insanely early to go work for the Man, but, as somebody who suffers from depression and anxiety, I need that grounding. I also like seeing people at the office, and being able to socialize and connect with them. I missed out on all of that when I was an erotic masseuse and, of course, when I actually did meet people, there was an immediate barrier between us because I certainly couldn’t tell them what I did for a living.  My time as a full-time sex worker was a period of immense loneliness, and disconnection.

It has occurred to me recently, however, that there is a huge difference between enjoying seeing my colleagues (because, well, I’m human – and we’re social animals) and actually liking these same people. There are, of course, some nice, decent people in my office, but most people there are either mind-numbingly dull or – much worse!- backstabbing, fucked-up assholes. In fact, I have realized that for all of my self-identification as “somebody with mental health issues”, I am actually a damn sight healthier than many of the so-called healthy people around me. I may have my flaws, but I am at least genuine, sincere and honest. I would never intentionally hurt another person with my words or actions. Despite being thirty-five fucking years old, it still blows my naive mind that there are people out there who would do that in a heartbeat. I just don’t get it.

I have this one colleague, for example, who has a disturbing fetish for anything involving young Japanese women. He has also told me all about his nightly internet activities with online dommes while his wife and kids are sleeping. The fact that he told me this information about himself should probably have alarmed me, but I guess at first I stupidly felt “special” that he had chosen me as his work confidant. And, honestly, there are a lot of people out there with strange sexual quirks but it doesn’t make them bad people. Besides this one happens to be an Irish Catholic heritage-wise, and I pretty much assume that all Catholics are sexually screwed up.

Apart from his odd sexual confessions, there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary about this guy. In fact, I felt comfortable enough around him to open up about my own troubles – the divorce, my mental health problems, the loneliness I sometimes felt. He’s a chubby guy in his mid-forties with a friendly, smiling face who looks like he would be somebody’s favourite uncle so he has an air about him that almost invites you to open up to him. In fact, I’m going to refer to him from now on as “Mr. Avuncular”.

There came a day, though, when I realized that the things he said to me were somewhat passive aggressive and just generally “off”. Not “off” in a sexual way, but “off” in a “oh-fuck-I’m-now-seeing-an-entire-other-side-to-this-person-and-I-don’t-like-it” way. One time he yelled at a colleague and me for laughing at something while he was on the phone with an important customer. That in itself isn’t a big deal – when you work with the same people 8 hours each day, 5 days a week, you are bound to get mad at each other at some point. No, it was that when he yelled at us with such anger and contempt in his face I realized I’d finally seen the true him. The witty, self-deprecating “i’m a friendly chubby guy” act he puts on is exactly that – an act. I think it hides something much, much darker and I do not want to know what that is.

Recently this guy has distanced himself from me for no discernible reason. If I wasn’t codependent, I would probably just have thought “Oh, fuck him” and would have forgotten all about him, but my subconscious reacts badly to any form of rejection or what I perceive as abandonment. By this point, I didn’t care for him anymore, but that didn’t stop me trying to chat with him from time to time via the office chat system. I suppose I did that so I could feel that he still liked me, and that I “matter”.  Two Sundays ago, I was incredibly sleep-deprived, and hungover, and, since it was the week before my divorce was finalized, I was feeling particularly depressed and hopeless. I told him how I was especially upset by the comments a friend had made at the party the night before about how it’s “weird” I have so many cats, and I sorta joked (actually genuinely worried deep-down) that I was going to end up as a crazy cat lady. Here’s what the “kindly” and “helpful” Mr. Avuncular had to say to that via chat after I had expressed very clearly that I was absolutely not going to give up my pets to find a stupid boyfriend:

Mr. Avuncular: I’m sorry. I was hoping to persuade you that if you didn’t want to be alone you could have “giving them up” as an option. But clearly it isn’t one. You’re going to have to find someone very, very special to accept you with all of your cats into their lives.

Petrichor:You’re not really cheering me up here.

Mr. Avuncular: I truly hope you do. You can be cheered up knowing that you’ll always have your cats. They make you happier than a guy would. And that’s alright! If you can accept that, then you can be happy.

Despite my warped, codependent brain, I wasn’t far gone enough not to notice that there was something incredibly weird about that little exchange. He was clearly fucking with me in some sort of strange passive-aggressive, manipulative way – pretending to dispense “advice” and be my friend when really he was trying to hurt me. And I have no idea why. And I find it especially troubling that he would try to hurt somebody he knows was going through a divorce and who freely admits to being depressed. It’s almost sadistic. Maybe you don’t pick up any of that from the chat I posted above but, believe me, all my intuition tells me I am right.

These are the kind of people I work with. I have realized too late that I set myself up for these kind of experiences because I am far too trusting, and let people into my life who have no business being there, and tell them things they have no business knowing. Really there were two very unhealthy people involved in the above chat exchange – Mr. Avuncular, for obvious reasons, and me, for recognizing that people are unsafe but still keeping them nearby because I want them to like me. I also share inappropriate things with inappropriate people. I was beating myself up about that before writing this post (because, c’mon, oversharers are embarrassing!) but, you know what? It’s probably inevitable that I do that given that I am living in a foreign country by myself with no contact with my family. Looking for a connection with other people is intensely human, and intensely normal. I just need to make sure that I spend more time with my real friends outside of work, so that I don’t get lonely, and then end up getting too close to people at work.

My company has started allowing some of its employees to work from home if they want to. I dread the feeling of social isolation I know from my massage days that I would get if I stayed at home all day, but, on the other hand, I hate the fake and meaningless work interactions i have. Why not work from home so, at the very least, my cats and dogs will have me all to themselves?

Have any of you lot ever worked from home? If so, did you like it?

REST


Curious….I’m going to blog about the effects of finally getting enough sleep, so I googled “Rest” to see what cool pictures I could find for the post, and I found R.E.S.T – Real Escape from the Sex Trade. That wasn’t really the kind of rest I had in mind. In fact, I have no intention of giving up sex work any time soon. I have been taking a break for the last couple of weeks, but rent is due soon, so I saw a client tonight. Embarrassingly, I have apparently seen this guy quite a few times before, and I barely remembered him at all although the last time was only a few months ago. It has occurred to me that there must be countless men who have been my clients, and who have seen me out and about in public at some point, and whom I wouldn’t recognize. This doesn’t make me feel slutty, but it does make me feel that I’m cheapening the sex act if I can’t even remember some of the dudes. I’m sure most of you think that being an erotic masseuse is already cheapening sex, or sexual intimacy, but I don’t think it has to be that way. It can be a meaningful exchange for both parties involved. I’d like to think that I would remember every guy I came into contact with, but obviously that is not the case. But who cares, eh? Would every dentist I’ve ever been to, for example, recognize me and my molars if they saw me in a non-dentist chair setting. I doubt it, and nobody would accuse them of cheapening dentistry.

But oh how I digress. I wanted to talk about sleep. I went to bed last night at 10:00 p.m. which must be the first time I’ve gone to bed that early since I was a wee girl. Admittedly I did read until 10:30 p.m. but that still gave me 7.5 hours sleep before getting up at 6:00 a.m. I wouldn’t say that I leapt out of bed with a spring in my step (um, I wasted 45 minutes posting cat videos to Facebook) but I certainly felt a whole lot more awake at work, and after coming home. My mood was noticeably brighter too.

It occurred to me with some sadness that a lot of the things I have fucked up in my life (relationships, job, graduate school etc) are probably the result of being sleep deprived, to a certain extent. I’m already  (how could I put it kindly) somewhat emotionally labile by nature, and if you throw some lack of sleep into the mix (and, God forbid, alcohol and lack of food) I can barely control myself. There have definitely been many things I’ve said and done when deprived of sleep that I bitterly regret.

I’m not claiming that 8 hours sleep a night is a panacea for all mental health problems, but, hell, it gives you a stronger base to start off from.

The Seven Minute Itch


Recently I’ve noticed that I’m incredibly sleep-deprived. I’ve always been somebody who skimped on sleep with the intention of fitting so much more into my waking hours. Despite this inevitably always backfiring, with me ending up too exhausted to do all the fun/important things I’d planned, I never stopped trying to burn the candle at both ends.

I just cannot ignore that this type of lifestyle is not working for me anymore. It’s totally unhealthy to have some sort of vague, unspecified bed time. More often than not I’ll end up lying down for “five minutes”, just to “rest my eyes”, and I’ll wake up hours later in the wee small hours with all my clothes on, my eyes glued shut because I didn’t remove my contact lenses, and without having brushed my teeth.

So, I’ve decided that this needs to change. There are four things I would like to happen every day. The first two are things that the average person doesn’t even think about out, and just takes for granted, but somehow I find them incredibly difficult:

(1) Get 7.5-8 hours sleep a night (This means going to bed at 10:00 a.m., maybe reading to 10:30 p.m., and getting up at 6:00 a.m.)

(2) Eat three consistent meals.

The other two things are goals related more to spirituality and creativity:

(1) Meditate every day

(2) Blog every day

And I want to do both of these things even if I only have a few minutes to spare, like tonight.

I’m sure that this blog post (written in 8 minutes – I cheated) isn’t exactly entertaining, but the point is to get into the habit of writing every day, even if I don’t have the time to knock out an amazingly analytical work of art.

And now….I’m off to meditate for 10 minutes. Then bed, and reading.

D.I.V.O.R.C.E


divorceWell, my divorce was finalized yesterday. It was kinda weird getting divorced because I had to do it in front of all the other people who were getting divorced that morning. I thought there would have been (and would have liked) more privacy, but I guess that’s just how it’s done. Hell, since MM and I eloped, there were way more people at the divorce than the actual wedding! MM didn’t have to be there himself, thank God, since the divorce was uncontested.

The two women who got divorced before me looked so mournful during the whole process. I didn’t want to look mournful so I tried my best to have a feisty air about me. Hmmm, not sure if it worked. Afterwards I went to Whole Foods to grab some breakfast, and ended up crying in the parking lot for about an hour until I got on Facebook, and chatted with a friend who reminded me that MM was a dick.

He wasn’t an out-and-out dick, but, yeah, there were certainly some dickish tendencies, one of which was refusing to get a well-paying job so he could concentrate on his art, but then never finishing any art, so we were constantly broke. When he finally did get a semi-decent job, the first thing he did with his pay check  was go out and get drunk and stoned with a friend, blowing off all the plans we had made to celebrate. When he did that, I trashed his art studio, which, yeah, obviously was very uncool, but that gave him the perfect opportunity to avoid facing up to his own behaviour. Whenever he did something wrong, I would overreact, and then all the focus would be on how mentally unstable and selfish I was. I’m still trying to get over that now. I’m constantly beating myself up about how fucked-up and selfish I am.

But, oh well, whatever, there’s no point now in rehashing everything that he and I did wrong. We were just no good for each other at all. Despite knowing this, I do still get sad because I feel that he didn’t really try to fix things between us. There was never any acknowledgement of what he did wrong. Sometimes I’ll think “Oh, I would have been willing to work on myself if he had been, too”, and then I’ll imagine a different “us” – still an “us” with problems but a couple who are working on them, and learning to grow together. But then I realize that there’s no point in feeling sad about what could have been because the person I want to be with again is not really the person he is, or probably ever will be. It’s just a fantasy.

And, in all honesty, he deserves a person who loves him much more than I ever did. Whenever I re-read the blog posts I wrote about him, or any journal entries, all I ever seem to do is bitch and complain. There’s nothing wrong with that per se if you use that as the impetus to get out of the relationship, but I didn’t. Instead I just stayed and kept on losing more and more love and respect for him, and making sure he knew it. He didn’t deserve that. He deserves somebody who truly appreciates him.

I hope he finds that person one day. I hope we both do. But right now I’m not even sure that anybody could love me.

Free Pass


Free PassI went to see my psychiatrist yesterday, and it turns out that the 20mg of Prozac I had been taking for the last month or so was nowhere near enough. Back then she had given me a second prescription for 40mg, and I was supposed to start taking that after a week of being on the 20mg dosage, but I forgot about that, and just continued taking the 20mg capsules. Oops.

I went home, and immediately took a second 20mg capsule, and I have to say I am feeling so much better today. It could be entirely unrelated, and perhaps it’s just the placebo effect of having the hope that an increased dosage will make me feel better. But who the fuck cares what it is. All I know is that when I woke up this morning, I didn’t have a horrible sinking feeling. I actually wanted to  get out of bed and do things. I actually feel hopeful! All the household chores that I have to do today don’t feel insurmountable. Unpleasant, yes, but not insurmountable.

When I first started meditating again, and going to the Zen center, I had been on Zoloft for a couple of months, and I didn’t think it was working because I was still struggling with a lot of perfectionism-related issues (which may or may not be a symptom of OCD or OCPD). However, I did notice that I was much better disposed towards my fellow human beings. I wasn’t thinking so much in terms of “us” and “them”, or judging other people in a black and white way. I felt more connected to other people, and less inclined to distance myself. At the time, I put this down to my newfound interest in Buddhism and meditation, but, in retrospect, I think the tiny buds of my “spiritual awakening” were only able to grow because I was on the Zoloft.

Now, I’m absolutely not saying that Zoloft (or any other antidepressant) can actually cause somebody to embark on a spiritual path completely out of the blue. What I am saying is that antidepressants can allow depressed people who are already spiritually inclined to find the motivation and energy to explore their spiritual side. Before taking Zoloft I was still interested in spiritual matters, but I would often lose interest after being unable to find a satisfying intellectual answer to certain issues that I would ruminate over obsessively e.g. “How can I put my trust in a God/Higher Power/whatever the fuck you want to call and believe that He/She/It has my best interest at heart when such terrible things happen to other people?!” These questions still interest me, but, right now, I don’t have an obsessive need to analyze them to death in the vain attempt to find an answer. I’m more comfortable with grey areas.

What the fuck has this got to do with the title of this blog post – “Free Pass” – you might ask? Well, yesterday I wrote about how people should stop hating on poor Amy Bouzaglo because she clearly has some serious mental health issues. Xul, who actually managed to drag herself away from watching Game of Thrones, posted this response in the comments section:

As someone who also has parent issues, it’s sometimes hard for me to sympathize with the negative behaviors. I find myself vacillating between the notion that they can’t help the behaviors because they are disordered and the fact that they are willful and deliberate in their actions and can damn well choose to behave the way they do.

I think that there comes a time when you have to make a conscious decision about your life. Yes, I had a screwed up childhood. Yes, I had my own disordered behavior. Yes, I reached the point in my life where I no longer wanted to be that person and I’ve done the introspection and self-work that it took to be better. It’s still a work in progress. It’s hard for me to give a pass to someone else when I’m proof positive that change is possible.

I’ve struggled with such thoughts myself because, like Xul, I grew up with a mother who was a controlling, critical bitch. My mother had an awful childhood, and so, intellectually, I understand why she is the way she is. She’s a victim of child abuse. She’s also a working-class woman who grew up in a time and place where mental health issues were never discussed, and where it would have been taboo for her to acknowledge she had an issue and to seek help, and take medication. Unlike me, she did not have access to the internet and the ability to google non-stop to try to find answers. Unlike me, she is also a mother, and it must be so hard for a mother to admit that her mental health issues made her, at times, that most unsocially-acceptable of all things – A Bad Mother. Because then it’s not just about admitting you have a mental health issue, it’s about having to re-construct your own identity and sense of self. Can you really blame her – or any mother like her – for just burying her head in the sand?

It’s easy for me to have compassion for my mother, though. When you haven’t seen or spoken to somebody for eight years, the jagged edges get worn down, and it’s easier for compassion to grow. I don’t think I would be so understanding if I had to deal with her criticisms and put-downs again . I’m pretty sure I would just react like a hurt child, who doesn’t understand how a person who’s supposed to offer unconditional love can be so fucking cruel.

As I said above, I’m not a mother, so I’ve never been a Bad Mother. But, oh, I have been a Bad Wife, and this is something I also struggle to understand in terms of the “free pass” I’ve been discussing. I don’t think that I’m a “bad” person, but I did a lot of bad things to my ex-husband: hit him; kicked him; spat on him; smashed his things and told him he was a worthless piece of shit. How much of this was “me”, and how much of this was mental illness – and does it even matter at the end of the day when then cause of the harm doesn’t lesson its effects?

Am I trying to let myself off the hook when I mention that I do feel more capable of being calm, rational and loving when taking an antidepressant? Is this just me saying: “It weren’t me, guv. Honest! It was my brain chemistry!”

I do feel terribly sorry for the things I did to MM but, sometimes, honestly it’s really hard to feel remorse when he sends me mean texts telling me that I am “barely human”, “a demon”, ” a fucking monster” and “I’m sad, because you’ll drown in that”. He told me all the time during the relationship that I was a “bad person”, and, even though I don’t blame him for having that reaction, how on earth did this make it possible for me to change? And, you know what, I didn’t want to change then because I was sick of being the crazy one, the “identified patient” who was to blame for everything. Why didn’t he have to change his drinking? Why was it apparently my fault that he’d started drinking more? When he started being violent towards me, and I pointed out that it was only a matter of time before he broke one of my bones, why didn’t he care and why was it me who had “provoked” him? When I told him that he scared me when he got drunk, why did he say that I was such a bully that being drunk was the only time he had the courage to say what he really thought? People have told me that MM was abusive to me, too, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around this because I am deathly afraid of giving myself one of those “free passes”.

When the relationship was over, I felt horrific pain, but there was also this little tiny voice deep inside me that said excitedly “You can change now!”. If I was still married, I would still be stuck in the role of the “bad person” and I don’t think I would now be meditating and interested in finding out more about Buddhism. It’s like there was a terrible hurricane, which stripped all the trees of their leaves, but there’s one tiny bud sprouting hopefully on a branch.

I’m sad, though. Whatever happened to “Until Death Do Us Part”? Maybe the pain I caused was just too much, I get that, but I don’t feel that MM ever wanted to help me change or support me through it. It was me who bought him the book Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Love Has Borderline Personality Disorder. He read it, and his attitude appeared to be “OK, cool. Now off you go and – change!”. He never did any internet research about how to cope with having a partner who was mentally ill. In fact, the only research he ever did appeared to be after the break-up when he “diagnosed” me with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Oh, how things could have been different. We loved each other, and it didn’t need to turn to shit. I could spend a lifetime regretting this, and obsessing over what went wrong. But I’m not going to. I just need to accept that neither one of us was ready or right for the other. He wasn’t “the one” and I wasn’t “the one” for him. It’s that simple.

All I can do is remember that, and work hard to be a better, kinder person in the future. And I don’t think that’s giving myself a free pass.

Is it?

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