July 20, 2020

Addiction to Potential

I suppose I will start out by saying that I won’t be writing about Big Daddy anymore. I think that much was probably apparent to most of you over the course of the last few months. Our story together has come to close. It wasn’t by my choice. I would have continued writing our love story until my pen ran dry, if I could have. But, you can’t be married alone. In this time of my life when I have felt devoid of choices and when i have felt as if everything has happened to me without my consent or consideration, the one choice I can make is to close the door behind me and so I have.

Several years ago, as I worked through something very difficult in therapy, my therapist walked me through closing the painful memories into boxes where they could be stored until I was ready to look through the contents. I lay Big Daddy away into boxes like that as well, complete with tissue papers and sachets to keep fragile things cushioned for the day I can pull them out and look through the contents and feel a little sentimental melancholy, but not heartbreak. Maybe that day will come. Maybe it won’t. I can’t say right now.

What I will continue to write about, however, is my portion of the marriage. My failings and my missed opportunities. Marital problems mostly require two people and mine certainly did, but as I mentioned, this isn’t Big Daddy’s story anymore. This is mine and mine alone now with some spatterings of the three little birds mixed in.

Let’s talk about codependency.

Once upon a time my therapist looked at me across her office and said “You are obsessed with him.”

Folks, I am ashamed to say I thought that was as romantic as it got. That after twenty years of being together a professional would say I was obsessed with my husband. I thought it was a good omen. Look how much I love him, I thought to myself. I’m obsessed.

Ya’ll, let’s start here. Obsession with another human is bad. It is NOT romantic. It is NOT positive or something to strive for. Oh, sure, it’s not awful in the new beginnings of a new relationship when you can’t get enough of that new person. But, after twenty years it’s not normal, sustainable or reasonable.

It took me a few more months and my husband leaving for me to realize just how wrong my line of thinking had been. But, let’s go back to codependency. Codependency is kind of hard to define and it is defined numerous ways. Melody Beattie, who wrote the definitive book on codependency describes it as “one who lets another person’s behavior affect him or her and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior”. The dictionary defines it as ” a person with an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction. “. CoDA (or codependents anonymous) says ” We attempted to use others – our mates, friends, and even our children, as our sole source of identity, value and well being, and as a way of trying to restore within us the emotional losses from our childhoods. Our histories may include other powerful addictions which at times we have used to cope with our codependence. “. A blog I was reading last week referred to it as “addiction to potential”. Some define it as “addiction to control”. Some believe codependency is the queen mother of all addiction and that all addictions stem from being codependent.

In 1946, German psychoanalyst Karen Horney (omg. that name) found that some people exhibited a “moving toward” personality trait to overcome their anxiety and that “moving toward” process utilized means of control to attempt to win approval, affection and relationship security. However, the concept of codependency itself rose from the Al-Anon rooms. Author Beattie popularized the concept that she found in the rooms among many family members of alcoholics.

In January, I bought a copy of Codependent No More and found myself in its pages. I highlighted myself in the symptom list. I highlighted 3/4 of the symptom list. I saw there the intense need to sleep my life away, the freezing trauma response, the overwhelming fear that something terrible was going to happen and doing anything I could to diminish myself to make myself unable to left.

That obviously backfired.

It was all there. The passive/agressive bullshit. Saying yes when I wanted to say no. Feeling personally responsible for happiness and well being of ADULTS and feeling at fault when they were angry, sad or frustrated. Feeling like I could personally fix and/or remove someone’s negative emotions and, more than that, feeling as if I should.

Newsflash. You should not.

I felt bored, harried, worthless, pressured, empty. I blamed myself for everything. It ALL had to be my fault. If I was thinner/kinder/smarter/less depressed/more organized/more creative/more frugal/faster/more patient/less sexually repressed (sorry kids)/less emotional/less sensitive that my life would be perfect. That I could be perfect.

That I could be perfect.

When I was speaking to my sponsor today (yes, I have one of those. CoDA is a TRUE 12-step addiction recovery program), I spoke about the addiction to potential. Control was important to me. I needed to control everything because i was afraid that if I didn’t, it would all come flying to disaster.

Yeah, wrong there, too.

But, I realized that what I have been mourning so deeply is the potential I was so certain of. I’m smart enough to know that none of us are every promised anything. Not time or love or a partner or children or anything we so deeply desire. One of the reason I wanted more than one child is because I didn’t want the Princess to ever have to be alone without a family. Of course, there’s no promises that the Princess, Littlebit and Baby Bee would remain much of family if they didn’t have parents anymore, but we all push forward based on potential. As I’ve lost my marriage, I have come to grieve so many things; dancing with husband at our children’s wedding, having sleepovers, together, with our grandchildren, long lingering vacations. A future that was so bright I needed sunglasses even though I understood that no one of that was every really promised. I was so obsessed with what was coming, I stopped living for now. I was so busy thinking about the song I would dance to my husband with at our daughter’s wedding that I missed the beautiful dance we were already in together, day by day and step by step. I was so focused on the vacations we would take when the kids were out of the house that I missed the ramshackle trips we were already taking.

I was so busy scrabbling toward some perfect tomorrow that I didn’t nurture today. I was obsessed, not just with my partner, but with some perfect illusion that was waiting just beyond my reach.

And, I was controlling, but that’s another post.

The addiction to potential was doubly dangerous for me. Not only did I squander the beauty of right now, but I projected something that wasn’t true onto myself and others. I built palaces in the air based on the idea that I and others would be perfect, if I just overlooked this or did that just a little more. I could make sure that I would never be alone if I just became helpless enough that I couldn’t possibly be left. I took the ability to be myself from myself and I took it from others, too. Marital problems are mostly 50/50, so don’t take this as me eating all the blame. I’m not. This is my share of the pie. It’s shit pie, but it’s still my share.

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