Today I met with my sponsor, and we talked about honesty. One of the questions in the Al-Anon Blueprint for Progress, in the chapter "Honesty" is:
"Whom have I hurt with my dishonesty?"
Myself, primarily. An inability to be honest with myself about my marriage, and the alcoholic I was married to, caused me years of unhappiness. I couldn't face the reality of the man with whom I'd chosen to share my life, so I chose to deny that reality to myself.
I've had to struggle to forgive myself for that denial, but I've arrived at a place where I can feel compassion for the women I was and am, and I can forgtive myself for my character defect of dishonesty with myself about my marriage. I've worked hard with my wonderful, loving, wise and funny sponsor, and through her acceptance and encouragement of me, I've been able to feel love for the me who felt she had to pretend so much.
Live and learn.
My self-esteem, so bashed and beaten down, has begun to reassert itself, and I'm feeling more serenity and peace. For many years of my life, the truth was just too frightening, I didn't have the ability or the strength to face it. Being able now, to tell myself and my sponsor the truth about my marriage, and my husband, being able to let go of trying to force myself to feel what he was always telling me I should feel, gives me an almost giddy sense of freedom.
A line from the opening of the chapter on honesty, hit home today:
"Because reality is sometimes paintful, facts get distorted, and fantasy offers a way to cope."
I had a strong fantasy life while married to my alcoholic, I was always fantasising that he would hear what I was saying, change the way he treated me, and life would be better for us. What I couldn't face or accept, is that for him, the same life that made me desperately unhappy was quite acceptable for him. He was content to continue to use and abuse me, as long as I was willing to stay and accept his unacceptable behavior. Nothing changed until I made the change of leaving. All the talking, explaining, rationalising, expounding, begging and stating that I did for 17 years fell on deaf ears.
When I went to see him in the hospital a month or so ago, he spoke mournfully about some periods in the marriage, and how he wished "it could have been like that all the time." I sat in the half-light, listening to him, and realised that nothing I'd said had ever penetrated his defenses - those times of which he spoke with longing for their return had been some of the most miserable stretches for me.
He spoke of our years living in a tiny fishing village up-island, of about 1,000 people, with horrible weather year-round, lashing rain and howling windstorms in winter and in summer, endless cloud and fog - we'd go weeks and never see the sun. I found the size and isolation of that town depressing, and I was miserable there. He loved it. It was one of the first shocks in our marriage for me to understand that because he loved it, it was immaterial to him that I didn't. He truly didn't care. I told myself lies about that for 7 years, until I decided that the only way I'd ever get out of that awful place was if I stood up and said, "I'm going, you can come or not, as you choose." He chose to move with me, and we stayed together for another 10 years.
Had I been able to be honest with myself from the start, life would have been very different. But I'm at the place now, of accepting that what I gained in those years has made me who I am today, and I'm liking who I am today.
No regrets. Regrets are pointless. I want to learn and understand so that I continue to grow in my recovery and don't make the same mistakes again, but I want to understand myself with compassion for my inability to be honest. So much of that was fear-based, and my childhood trained me well.
Life is good, and getting better.
If you are wondering if you need a sponsor, consider this - when we work the program with a sponsor, or sponsor someone ourselves, we are embarking upon a wonderful adventure in the company of someone who is equally as excited to be starting that journey. That's a gift. Give it to yourself, you'll be glad, I promise.