Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Living Beyond Your Means.

That phrase is generally understood to be referring to our financial states, but I was thinking today that I lived far beyond my means emotionally, in the marriage.  I extrended myself to exhaustion, trying to keep something going for which I didn't have the resources.

I was, for many years convinced (and told, since the alcoholic refused to take any responsibility for our relationship whatsoever, it was always and forever all my doing) that if I just tried harder, I could make it work. I'll never forget hearing somewhere, at a meeting, or perhaps a 12-Step speaker, that it's impossible to sustain a relationship when only one person is willing to put in the effort. 

When the other person has made it clear that they are unwilling to respond to me in any way other than the one they've chosen, whether that way is dismissive, painful, or merely indifferent, and I keep on trying, in the hope that they will "come around" "see the light" "get the program" I am living beyond my means. When I am expending myself in the effort to get what I want, giving more than I can afford emotionally, not receiving what I need in return, I am spending resources with no consideration of what happens when it's all going out, with nothing coming back in.

I want to be clear that this was my choice, to live beyond my emotional means. I may have felt like a victim, bvut I was a willing, if misguided, participant.I may have been susceptible to the acceptance of this treatment because of a self-image damaged in an abusive childhood, but I was also going regularly to an Al-Anon meeting, and denying to myself, my sponsor, and my Higher Power that I was married to an emotionally distant, and increasingly verbally abusive man.

Abuse creates abuse, and the cycle is broken only when the secret is broken. I pretended that my marriage was good for many years, partly from sorrow, and also from pride. It hurt my pride that I, a woman who had been in Al-Anon for many years, was living this way.

My pride was hurt,  and I felt ashamed that my pride was hurt, shouldn't I be above or beyond this after all the time I'd been in Al-Anon?

And then my beloved friend died, and suddenly pride was no longer of the slightest importance.

My grief opened me to my Higher Power, and completely, with utter clarity, to myself. I knew that I was emotionally bankrupt in that marriage, and that I had given all I had to give. That knowledge gave me the peace to leave.

I've survived the worst of the grief for my friend, my marriage, my dogs, and the life I wanted so badly to have, that I was willing to deny the reality of the terrible loneliness I felt in that marriage.

I went to a meeting tonight where the topic was "Living in the Present Moment" and I felt gratitude and peace as each member of the group shared.  I listened to the ways that each of us has fought with ourselves, sometimes for years, before we could find the peace and strength to choose to live in the now.

I pray to be granted relief from what AA's Third Step Prayer terms "the bondage of self."


  1. Thanks for this. I very much identify with this:

    "trying to keep something going for which I didn't have the resources"

    I did this practically from birth. I now have peace and insight into the process thanks to the Fellowships and my Higher Power.

    The struggle has left its mark and if I allow too many 'trigger' things to enter my life I soon relapse. But now I know that fighting is not the answer. I have to surrender to win.

  2. What a great concept - living beyond our means emotionally. I'll remember that one! Thanks for your share

  3. I'm so sorry you've hurt/been hurt this way. In my own marriage to a sober (not always recovering) alcoholic, problems are either all mine, or he's hopelessly damaged. That old dualistic thinking, or playing the victim. I also doubted my ability in forming lasting relationships and I assumed blame that wasn't really mine. Eventually, I left for a year to shake the system. The marriage survived through intense counseling and the fact we have a child, but there are no guarantees.

  4. Thank you for posting your truth. I TOTALLY get this and did the same thing through more than one marriage. Until I, fell to the disease of addiction myself. It was shortlived thank goodness. Enough though to draw me into the program fully and begin to learn about my own damage and stop trying to save others. I've since learned to detach (sometimes with love, sometimes just detach and move on), care for myself, be of service to those who are actually trying to help themselves (rather than just expect I do it for them and me skip along merrily doing so until I explode). It hasn't been easy at all...learning to live differntly...but I can breath today, I can sleep at night, I don't have stress related health problems any more, I can be present for my kids & family and as an employee. Finally...I rest knowing I am not alone...that others go through and have gone through what you and I have. Again...thank you for your courage and posts....

  5. This was so profound--I so relate to what you have written. I have only been in Al-Anon for 1 year, and my husband just left me right before Christmas. The ugliness of my husband's actions in this divorce is beyond my ability to process, but your writings have really helped me realize that once it's all over, I will heal and be free to live again and choose a better life for myself. Thanks for being so real, and for helping me to realize that I don't want to keep living beyond my emotional means every day. There is a place for sacrifice in love, but when a relationship is never mutual? You are opening my eyes to the realization that I am on the road to wholeness, and can thank my Higher Power for taking me out of a horrible marriage I would not have been able to leave on my own. May you heal as well. Keep on writing!
    Florida Lizzie

    1. I'm new to this site; however been involved with AA and Alanon for years. I want to tell you I'm glad for your gain, and not sad for your loss. Life started getting better for me when my HP lead me to people who could help me and I asked for help and did the work. History has a way of repeating itself for me and I can easily fall back into those dysfunctional patterns of self-abuse when I choose not to make "healthy choices" for myself, and in the beginning, I didn't even know what a healthy choice was???? Best wishes on your journey.

  6. I think that emotional bankruptcy was what I experienced. I had used up all the emotions until I was empty and dead on the inside. I'm glad that things aren't that way today. I have filled up with love from program friends, my HP, my wife in recovery, and me these days.