As my homepage indicates, I have promised to be fearlessly authentic on this site. Funny thing about that – I am finally realizing at the age of *eh-hem* 39, that it is really hard to do!
Recently a friend and I discussed how our 20s were about self-discovery which meant “trying on” a bunch of groups and not being totally secure with ourselves. We put in a lot more effort to be accepted. We decided that our 30s were about being a lot more secure with ourselves and not giving AF (a fuck) about what people thought. We had found our group of people, friends and partners, and the struggles were more about work/life balance, self-care, and healthy partnerships. My naïve 39 year old self is now realizing how I’m still trying to be secure with myself and the authentic me.
I love the idea of authenticity. I mean who doesn’t? It is such a freeing feeling to be yourself and even more freeing when you’re accepted and appreciated for being yourself.
Although I’ve always aspired to be myself, I’m not sure I ever contextualized it as being authentic. I came upon this mantra of “being authentic” about two and a half years ago when my husband was at a recovery center, Caron, for alcoholism and addiction. Obviously, I knew what authenticity was before this, but it really stuck with me at that time. I attended a Family Program in which family members of addicts and alcoholics spent three days discussing addiction, the defining characteristics of the disease, the impact that it has on family and relationships, and what things as partners and families we could do to assist in our person’s recovery and also what we needed to do for ourselves. As related to our own recovery, we discussed being authentic and about setting healthy boundaries, among other things.
During the program, I literally wrote down in my notes, “Be Authentic.” It spoke to me as something I needed to do for myself and in my relationship with my husband. In fact, I even got a tattoo stating “be fearlessly authentic” within a month of my husband coming home from Caron.
The funny thing is – it’s taken me more than two and a half years to finally understand that I have been doing the complete opposite! I’ve been banging my head against the same wall for awhile now. (This was also despite the help of a great therapist and a great support group of friends).
Recovery is hard. I was not exposed to alcoholism or addiction in my youth. I should say, I was not exposed enough to the point that I could spot someone with an issue with alcohol or drugs. In college and law school I definitely interacted with a lot of social drinkers but I just identified those folks who drank more as partiers, not alcoholics. I knew nothing of how much it can control and manipulate a person and result in deceit even when they are actually not drinking. Even after my husband came home from a month’s stay at Caron, he struggled with acknowledging that he needed to continue on his recovery path. But it is progress not perfection, right? The problem for me, was the fact that I did not realize how much I lost myself in the process. I became a caretaker and tasked myself with the responsibility of taking care of our home and child and my partner. I did not trust that he would follow through. However, that was not entirely because of my husband, but also because of me. Along this journey of attaining authenticity, I have also realized that I am a codefendant and I have just realized that.
I have been in therapy for at least two years at this point as a direct result of my husband being in recovery. I have dabbled with Al-Anon and Nar-Anon (support groups for partners/families of alcoholics and addicts). The biggest struggle I have as a spouse of an alcoholic/addict is how to have boundaries “with love”. I just don’t understand how to do that. I think part of it is as a result of fear — A fear of what the response will be once a boundary is set. A fear of being completely honest with myself and him and that somehow he cannot handle it. “You can’t handle the truth!” comes to mind (spoken like Jack Nicolson in A Few Good Men). I felt defeated, hopeless, sad, resentful, and tired and it never seemed to get better. Somethings worked – better communication with my husband, scheduled self time, and friend time. However, it never fixed anything and it would get worse again.
Upon my therapist’s suggestion, I started reading Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Take Care of Yourself by Melody Beattie. It was literally like a light-bulb finally went off in my head. “Oh my god, I’m a codependent,” I told my husband immediately after starting the book. Sadly, my therapist suggested this book over a year ago and it makes me a little sad that I did not start the book sooner. But I’m not sure I was ready then and I wasn’t sure at the time what really was the issue.
Being a partner to someone with addiction issues can feel isolating. But it is not supposed to be that way. Therapy and support groups are there to help you feel less alone, much like AA and NA are there to make the addict/alcoholic feel not so alone. I have commenced going back to Nar-Anon and I am so happy that I have. It took me some time to recognize that I needed a community of people who were going through similar experiences. It has also helped me in continuing to work on my codependency as the principles are really the same, one of which is detachment with love.
I write this as a recovering codependent, who has just recently taken the first step in acknowledging that I am one, and that I am not fearlessly authentic (although I strive to be). But I do find that it is a mantra that I still hold of value and strive for. So although I promised to be fearlessly authentic on this site, I am admittedly a newbie at it and will likely not always achieve success. But I am mindful that this has been my promise and I will do my best to continue to do so.