Monday, August 20, 2007

Homework for Jake's Councelor

A couple of months ago I got a phone call from Jake. I could tell that he wanted to tell me something but I didn't quite know what, so the conversation progressed and there were these awkward pauses where I was kind of waiting for him to say whatever it was he needed to say, but he didn't quite get to it.

Then after about five minutes he just sort of blurted out, "I need to know what you love about me." Just plain as day. Simple, short and to the point. When he blurted that out my first thought was "Why?" Not that it mattered but I couldn't figure out why the heck he was asking. That was followed quickly by my mind freezing. It just went blank. It's not that I didn't know anything; it's just that I'm not really a Johnny on the Spot kind of girl.

I could tell that my silence really bothered him. He was kind of waiting for me to say something and then when I didn't the tone in his voice kind of changed and it sounded kind of sad when he said, "Well if you don’t know you can think about it and I can write it down later." And really, it wasn't that I didn't know, I was just sort of taken off guard.

So, while my mind was racing, he answered my original question of why. He told me that his counselor had asked him that day and he had told her he didn't know. So she had told him to ask me and then write it down. Therefore, never one to disappoint the counselor, I pulled my thoughts together and just started rambling things off as he wrote them down. Or at least I thought he was writing them down. Every once and awhile he would stop me or tell me to slow down so he could get it all down and then he would read back to me what he was writing down.

I thought this was sufficient; however, a little over a month ago I found out that what he wrote down was apparently the readers digest or the Cliff's Notes version of what I had told him. When I talked to his counselor after his visit in June she told me there were only three or four things on his list and they were just items written down with no explanation.

So, since she was trying to work on Jake's self esteem, obviously he has low self esteem, all addicts have low self esteem, she wanted me to think about it and write down what I loved about Jake.

At first I didn't really think that this would be as much of a reflection project as it has been. I thought I would just write a few things down and then move on with life. However, when I was talking to a friend of mine about this project right after I received it she said to me that she thought it would be kind of hard. In her opinion I had only known him as an addict and so if she had to write down ten things she liked about Jake she wasn't sure she could do it because she's not sure she knows the real him.

At first this really caught me off guard and I admit, I saw red. I thought how rude of her to say such a thing. She is not married to Jake, so of course she couldn't write down what she liked about him. She was seeing the superficial stuff, not the real him.

I on the other hand have known the man for 11 years; of course I know what I love about him. Don't I? In fact it kind of made me defensive, like obviously if I've stuck by him for this long I should know what I love about him. Shouldn't I?? And then I started thinking about it. I ran through the list of things that I had given him the first time and there were several character traits that I do love. Several things that are fundamentally him but there are also several things that I am now questioning.

As I listened to myself say them out loud I wasn't so sure that some of the things I loved didn't sound like what a parent would love about a child instead of what one spouse would love about the other. You see Jake and I have fallen into a very parent/child relationship over the past 11 years.

Mostly out of necessity I have taken on a parental role in taking care of the finances and continually having to remind him to do household chores. He has a prepaid Visa card because he has been unable to manage money and therefore has never been allowed (see that parental role) to have a regular credit card or checking account. I also did a lot of parental "babysitting" when he was home. Calling to check to see where he was, trying to make sure I knew his friends or where he was, going to get him if he didn't come home, things like that.

At first I was unsure if I was willing to give some of those roles up because I'm pretty comfortable with them. But after some more reflection I've come to the conclusion that if he wants to get a good job and work full time while I work part time I would gladly give up the role of the main breadwinner. If he wants to step it up and take care of his house I would gladly give up the role of nagger of the year. (I never really liked that one anyway.)

In fact one of the things I am most looking forward to when he returns is having a normal adult relationship. I don’t want to have to question where he is or what he's doing. I'm NOT his mother and I'm tired of being "forced" to play that role. I have actually grown quite comfortable with being able to sleep the whole night without waking up for every little sound wondering if it was him and being able to work a full day without having to call him and worry about where he is or what he's doing.

In fact, so much of the last eleven years of our lives has been in such turmoil that some of the things I convinced myself that I loved about Jake had really just become things I was comfortable with. And in the same token, so much of what I thought were qualities that he had I am now questioning whether were lies or truths. Do I really know the real Jake??

In the end, what I thought was going to just be a quick write down the things I love about Jake has turned into a two month project of really examining everything about our relationship and everything about who he is to me. I have really had to examine the roles that we have kind of put ourselves in and decide if I love those qualities and those roles or if I'm just comfortable with them because they are all I know.

So once I sorted out the things I wasn't sure were things I loved but were more like things I was comfortable with I discovered that the list was pretty small. So I decided to look back at our website and through my old journals to try to remind myself of who Jake was and who he has been to me. And you know what I discovered? More anger.

In fact it has taken two trips home for him and two trips down there for me and lots and LOTS of question and answer sessions for me to finally process all of that anger. I have anger about things that he has done and said and I also have anger about things that he should have been doing or saying.

On top of the anger I have resentment. All of this has been a lot to process in the past two months and not at all what I thought this process was going to be. However, I think I am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm finally starting to remember what it is that has kept me with Jake for all of these years and the things about him that just make me smile inside. For two months I have been looking all over for him and this weekend, while I was visiting him, I opened my eyes and there he was.

I feel like I've come full circle and I can now start to be Jake's biggest fan and supporter again instead of his biggest critic. For several years now I have been the first one to question what his motives are and take a position against him. Now I finally feel like I can begin to support him and believe in him again. I've come to a place where I can once again take his side or believe him without needing to call his counselor and question him or check his story. It's taken me a LONG time to get here… but it sure feels good to have arrived.


lonna said...

Wow, you've really come a long way. I can tell that you know this, but sometimes it's good to hear from an outside observer: You damn well should feel anger and resentment. We all have expectations about what our marital relationships will be like and your real relationship wasn't like that. Very few people have the dream relationships that they expect, but they are not usually as far off the target as an addict's relationship is. I think you've had a great opportunity to work through your emotions without him around. If I were in your shoes and Jake was still in the house, there would be much yelling and less healing. It seems to me that now that you've gotten over some of the bigger hurdles and are more aware of what this has done to you as an adult, as a spouse, and as a mother you can really work on fixing some things for yourself and you can be the strong support that Jake obviously needs. Good luck.

Shane and Jessica Olson said...

Through this lengthy and emotional process did you learn to understand (maybe not agree - but understand?) what your friend meant?

Kbreints said...

You have a very good friend in Jess. She is very insightful. You HAVE come a long way. You seem to know yourself better than ever as well.

spellconjurer said...

I am so happy for you. And then I wondered,,,,if Jake is sad sometimes now. To really become sober and know what he's done, and the feelings he's left and what his life had become. I am joyful for you. So much so. I want to give Jake a hug too and say,,,,,"Ok it definately completely sucked, what your life had become, but now? Now you can make it what you want. Be for Heather what she needs,,,,,,find joy in life without drugs and with your son, Heather, family and friends." I hope he knows there are people pulling for him like crazy. I know I am.