Friday, July 17, 2015

Oh Anger, How I Attach Thee In Pain

Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
~  Mahatma Gandhi

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
~ Buddha

"Well, you're lucky he died," sarcastically spouted the woman.  I'll call her Charice.  Her acid-filled, vengeful retort followed my reply to her question, "What happened to your husband?"   

Charice is angry, pissed, enraged.  Her husband is an active alcoholic and is getting worse.  Right now, she hates him.  Her declaration, "I hate him," emotes an anger so volatile any fellow human she has conversation with is at risk of experiencing her stinging, piercing, paining verbal wrath.  Her spew of hurtful, thoughtless, vengeful, harmful words are like that of  a semi-automatic weapon, firing off at every innocent, unsuspecting human within her path.  And if you do not engage in a reciprocal dialog of a commiserating nature, watch out.  She doesn't want empathy, sympathy or guidance, not yet anyway.  She doesn't want suggestions or advice.  She can't hear you.  What Charice wants, right now,  is relief.   Living with an active alcoholic is a pressure-cooker on monumental proportions and what she's seeking is an outlet to release some of the pressure, in order to cope, if only for a little while.  Charice is so blindly consumed with what's happening in her home, with her husband, with her life that she can't see or hear, yet, what's happening to her, personally.  She too, like the alcoholic,  is turning into someone not very attractive, loveable or even likeable.  Right now, all she wants, thinks she wants, is validation that her uncontrollable anger is justified.  Her anger is justified; alcoholism and living with it sucks (read: Reality).  It's a cunning, baffling, powerfully dreadful disease.  The uncontrollable part of Charice's anger however, is not justified, it's an excuse, and it's common and frequent at an early-advancing stage.

This is the disease of alcoholism -- the family disease -- and how in one way, it affects, in this case, a spouse.

"The Face" of anger, despair, loneliness - 2009
How do I know?    Charice is me -- was me -- not too many years ago.  Though I like to believe not to the intense extreme she exhibited toward me.  For me, I seethed in my anger silently, spewed to those closest too me, but never about what was really going on (read:  Florida).  I lashed out uncontrollably about non-issues.  Moreover, my silent suffering generated physical manifestations of discomfort and what humbly came to be known as, "The Face."  I could cut you with a look.  The look of anger, despair, loneliness and most significantly reluctant admission of powerlessness.

The book, The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage, talks about coping with our anger:   "What alcoholism is doing to us gives rise to resentment.  Resentment creates anger, and our anger must be dealt with, for our own health and growth... otherwise it can have two undesirable consequences:  1.  We suppress the anger, turning it back into ourselves to fester, which can make us sick, mentally and physically.  2.  We 'take out' our feelings on others... ."    I did the anger dance with both examples one and two.  In my suppression efforts, I gained a bunch of weight, ate and slept miserably, had migraines almost daily, gave myself tendinitis, turned cold, distant and unfriendly, among other kookiness.  With my close allies, I either isolated in keeping my pain-filled secrets (read:  Maya ) or I dominated all conversations to lament about all my woes, who's to blame for them, everything except the drinking and the disease infiltrating and destroying my (our) life.    

Hurt people hurt people.  The irony is how my anger, no matter how warranted or justified, continued to only hurt me, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, along with every one of my relationships.  When I began to look at my anger, and address the feelings I had, things began to change -- that thing was me.   My husband didn't, but I did.  How?

These questions, from The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage, were my beginning guideposts in helping me to get help, and in so doing I helped improve the climate at home, and in all my relationships.  As my anger diminished, love restored, and compassion grew exponentially, even though Boomer drank more and never stopped:
  1. Have I really accepted the fact that I cannot control another person's drinking?  Am I willing to carry this acceptance a step further and admit I am powerless over anyone but myself?
  2. Do I realize that the alcoholic is an individual?  That the alcoholic has habit patterns, characteristics and ways of reacting to daily happenings that are different from mine and from other people's?
  3. Can I believe that these individual qualities were established by the alcoholic's heritage, early training, experience and contacts throughout life?  
  4. Can I realize that my trying to change the alcoholic only brings resistance in the form of hostility or hidden resentment?
  5. If I do realize this, can I justify my criticism and condemnation of the alcoholic?  
  6. Will I try to overcome my resentment that arises when the alcoholic refuses to be and do what I want the alcoholic to do?  
  7. Will I try to teach myself to stop trying to make the alcoholic over?  
What's also important to note, the above queries are applicable to everyone, who cares for, and is concerned about an alcoholic in their lives -- not just a spouse.

As a result of the efforts I have and continue to put forth for myself, I'm happy to say, "The Face" doesn't exist in ways it use to.  Whew.  Further, the zing I felt in hearing, "Well, you're lucky he died," was just that -- a bee sting.  It wasn't personal.  It was misdirected, pressure-cooked anger talking.  My silent internal reaction was, "OUCH! That hurt.  Wow, she's is soooo angry and in alot of pain.  Reminds me of me back in the day."    My external response was nothing; I offered Charice a hug instead.  That's the power of recovery from the family disease of alcoholism.  I'm free of that victimization I carried and am increasingly immune to the opinions and actions of others -- especially the alcoholics in my life.

I'm so grateful I got to where I am.  I hope Charice gets there too.

Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you.
  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
 When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, 
you won't be the victim of needless suffering.
~  Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

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