On the same note, what about us? This is what a woman in recovery looks like:
Why do we ask this? Because recovery comes in waves for the spouse of addicts.
➡️ First Stage: It’s the, “if my husband stops acting out I’ll return to normal” – which doesn’t work. We’ve been changed, over a long period of time by his deception, our own self deception, ignoring our gut feelings, taking the blame and buying into the unhealthy messages of our addict when they deny, justify, blame us, minimize our feelings. It’s insidious, meaning under the radar and slow, but the behavior has to be called what it is: emotional abuse. We need to recognize its effects, acknowledge it’s stolen a part of our “self” and accept we need recovery too: recovery of our sense of self and strength to enforce boundaries.
➡️ Second Stage: Then it’s the “I’ll do this, as long you do that” – which doesn’t work because we aren’t doing it for ourselves, we’re doing it for the relationship. We don’t take it seriously as something we need to heal or change in our life, or we don’t take advantage of a full recovery program and just “check off the list” of a few recovery items.
➡️ Third Stage: Then after we succumb to our own self-defeating behaviors and maladaptive coping mechanisms, of monitoring in secret, constantly watching them for signs of distraction, never feeling safe. We instinctively do these things, because we can’t live under current circumstances, and we can’t tolerate if they return to their acting out. Or, we hit some other “rock bottom” of our own, and finally see we cannot manage our lives by watching their addiction or recovery any longer. We finally realize: 💪I have to work towards recovery for myself, and get outside help from experts, and do the work. 💪
There’s no checklist, of either/or behaviors. None of these will happen overnight, and they may come easily for us one day, and then difficult the next. You can’t tick off a list, and change to healed, strong person – as we will know too, if we struggle with weight, depression, smoking or other behaviors we need to change – doesn’t come by flipping a switch, but by flipping several switches, and repeated attempts at change.
A woman in recovery will do this more:
* Makes the decision that she will be “Ok” no matter what.
* Learns about Boundaries, how to create them, how to communicate them and knows she will enforce them
* Ends her isolation and reaches out for support from solid friends, wise people, group members, faith friends, strong family members, volunteerism and therapy.
* Takes ownership and accountability for her own healing and recovery, ** whether her spouses recovers or not. **
* Resumes or improves excellent self care: diet, sleep, exercise, faith, mammograms, OBGYN appointments, salon appointments, time with friends, joyful activities
* Stays committed to her own recovery – therapist appointments, group meetings, reading books about partner recovery, journaling and writing homework.
* Begins to focus on her own feelings – naming, journaling, creating boundaries based on, expressing. Feelings are not right or wrong, always begin with “I FEEL” and never begin with “You”.
* Does not try to manage, help, control, suggest, etc. anything for his recovery. Gives support when he asks, but otherwise does not get involved.
* Begins to see personal insights from recovery work
* More willing to go outside of herself for help – not trying to do recovery “on her own”
* Spends time developing interests, and actively pursuing those interests and passions
* Accepts that other people are out of her control, and that she can control herself.
* Accepts that she is responsible for her own thoughts, feelings, actions and words. Does not blame others for her feelings.
* Understands the anger cycle and works on healthy “exit” points when angry
* Develops friendships with other strong female role models or other women in recovery
* Tolerates his difficult emotions aka “holds space for” but does not tolerate abusive language or behavior (It takes time to learn to tolerate other’s difficult emotions)
* Works to develop non-sexual intimacy
* Will be working on trying to cultivate empathy for the addict’s illness and past traumas/neglect that led to his addiction (this does not mean to excuse his adult choices – this one is very hard and has to be taught!)
* Awareness of what her triggers are.
* Will have a trigger plan, and know exactly what steps she’ll take should she be triggered in a negative way
* More time focused on her, “Spiritual” life, however she defines it
* Gratitude for big and little things in life
* Works on always speaking and behaving according to her own values, according to her own definition of integrity
How do you know when you’re actually in a real recovery?
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