“Stacy, are you o.k.?” I stood there in front of five women, getting ready to begin our monthly growth spurt meeting. My goal with this group is to inspire and motivate them to new levels of achievement and desire within their sobriety. Therefore, when one of them is visibly miserable and sad right before I start my dialogue, to say the least it was a bummer. “No, I’m not, but I’ll talk to you later about it.” She replied. “Do you want to leave?” I asked, intuitively knowing it must have been taking everything she emotionally had to sit in that seat. “No, I’m staying, this is what I NEED!” She said with strong emphasis on the word NEED. I slowly gathered my focus back to my objective, it was a rough mental start for me, because I had to purposely shut off my thoughts around her, and go back to the initial objective. She’d have to wait.
This group meeting, I was discussing our needs within relationships. This group of women have been working with me as their sobriety and life coach for several years. The purpose of meeting as a group was to help keep them on track, my personal hours were no longer sufficient to coach one on one weekly. Plus, they individually had enough foundation established with 12-step work, that one on one weekly shouldn’t be necessary unless something significant is happening in their life.
The recent phone calls from several of them have been focused on personal relationships. Primarily, intimate relationships, but every now and then professional. These women have had a rough road, one their addictions and actions took them to, they have essentially been reborn into normal lives. Lives they have had to work hard to receive. However, when a relationship begins for the first time in sobriety, they are confronted with new issues they have never experienced before because most of their prior relationships were usually damaged and dysfunctional.
Most people fall into their first relationship at a younger age. Because of this they’re not asking themselves “what are my needs” going in? Even if they did, based on their age they probably wouldn’t know what their needs were – other than “he’s hot, or she’s hot”, or “he doesn’t beat me”. Some women in sobriety eventually partake in a relationship – sometimes they sleep with the other person too soon, other times they make the relationship their god – devoting everything to it – almost in a worship kind of way, more often than not they aim to please and the fear of rejection or “rocking the boat” keeps them from expressing how they really feel, or what they really need. I knew Stacy was a prime candidate for this behavior.
When I first met Stacy she was 18 months sober. She approached me after an AA meeting asking me if I would temporarily sponsor her. I asked if she is looking for a temporary sponsor because she wants to stay temporarily sober? With the point being clearly made, I made it clear I will be honored to sponsor her, but it’s not temporary. She agreed. I looked forward to helping her because she was full of anger, and very loud about it, she swore and complained a lot about her ex-husband. I hadn’t been around an alcoholic that angry and resentful in a long time. I like it when this happens. It gives me a lot to work with when helping someone. A persons anger doesn’t scare me, could be because I was that person years ago. I understand anger and hate, and because of this I get excited when someone comes to me so blocked with anger they can’t even see their side. I know after we are done with the work this person is up for a huge peaceful awakening.
As soon as possible I had her writing down all her resentments – ex-husband, kids, past friends, and family. She did an o.k. job. She visited shortly thereafter, and read them all to me, we discussed and she was on to more work. She scratched the surface. I knew it was only a scratch, but sometimes even a little scratch can provide a great sigh of relief to allow someone to continue.
Stacy is good at responsibility. She works hard, pays the bills, goes out of her way for her girls. She is the boss at work. She manages well. However, when it comes to the intimate relationships she is blind. After several months of working together she disclosed she lived with someone! It wasn’t a full disclosure, I had picked up on something during a phone conversation and started to ask questions, then she divulged. Yes, she had been living with someone and his 3 kids, with her two kids for years! I believe close to 10. Yet, she never brought it up. I found this intriguing to say the least. I remember being a little dumbfounded about it. She held back a significant piece of her life. What eventually came out was she suspected he was sleeping around on her. She was very hush about the whole ordeal. Over the next few months, she worked on getting the courage to end it, but it was messy. She couldn’t cut the strings completely. There was sleeping together back and forth, him coming over doing her floors, her allowing his stuff to be stored on her property, all the while he is fully engaged sexually with another woman, in fact, living with her. Stacy didn’t care, she was driven by her impulse of feelings for him, and continued to engage in this for several months. Then the call came one evening where she said she wanted to drink. I prayed for patience as she told me her story one more time. There is no right or wrong way to deal with such scenarios. I believe god puts me in a place to help someone, and unfortunately the news I deliver isn’t always soft and mushy. It’s more like thundering steel, intended to wake someone up, when they need it. My approach can be very direct, and I choose this approach because I believe the voices in the other person’s head have been chatting for as long as a year or more, sometimes several years. Their voices are screaming. That evening, while she was talking on the phone, I prayed, I knew my next words were going to be brutal. I pretty much yelled into the phone “Either you tell him to get his fucking trailer out of your drive way, stop driving by the bar he does his gigs at, or you can find a new sponsor! Because you are going to drink! And I hung up on her. All of this was deliberate on my part. I prayed right after I hung up the phone. Now, most people reading this might be thinking what a bitch. Yes, I’m o.k. with that. I’m also o.k. with giving someone a shock to wake them the up when they are blinded by their own misery. I knew if she called back, she changed something. She called me the next day.
I followed up with her by inviting her to my house. When she arrived, I walked her downstairs to our recreation room, handed her a pen and paper and told her to write down all her resentments against him. She was shocked. I told her we’re done talking about things, it’s time to get into action. She was at my house that evening for two hours. We went through each resentment, finding her part in the resentment, then I had her go through each resentment so we could discuss what the opposite was. This work was intended to get to her needs in a relationship. For example:
Resentment: you slept with that bitch Need: Monogamous relationship, faithful
Resentment: You never worked enough Need: Steady, secure income
Resentment: You never helped with the kids Need: A partner who pulls 50% of the work
Resentment: You drink too much Need: A sober partner
You get the idea? She did some great work, she got away from him – she broke the obsession, with only one slip up.
To bring us back to current, during our womens group meeting she was very distraught. She managed to laugh a few times, relate to a few things, but I could tell she was hurting. After the meeting wrapped up she hung around, we talked. She slipped up again, this time with a different person, but similar scenario – she wanted the relationship, he was unavailable, she was devastated, slept with him anyway. She again acted out of desperation. She was a mess – regretful, sad, depressed, etc.
You see, we can know our needs. We can make sense of what we think makes us happy in a relationship, but if we lack self-worth, all the knowledge in the world won’t matter. We will always feel less than, therefore not allowing ourselves to demand what we deserve in our life. This can be true in business, with our kids, and in our intimate relationships.
Personally, two of my biggest shifts in perception were in this area. The first awakening was a result of working on my first marriage. I had decided to give it another year. But this year I was going to work on me. I mean really work on me. I dove into self-inventories, helping others, beefed up my sobriety work, went into counseling. I wrote and I wrote. I leaned heavily on my sponsor. I dove in, knowing at the end of the year (if that’s what it took) I would either have a renewed satisfying marriage, which is really what I wanted, or I would be making a decision to walk away. We would be together 10 years, 3 daughters together, and one step-daughter from his first marriage. When the end of the year arrived, I understood what the next chapter of my life was going to be, and it wasn’t going to be to stay together. I cried and cried. I grieved before I ever told him. You see I had to believe I was worthy of asking for a divorce. I was worthy to walk away, even though my children would be paying a price for this decision in the long run, I was still worth my happiness – I deserved to ask for what I needed, I was worth other people being disappointed in me – our families, our friends. I was worth it. I was good enough as I was. This belief in self-worth was significant because it gave me a voice to communicate. One I never had, or I had refused to use for fear of rejection, complication, etc. It was a turning point for me regarding intimate relationships, I was no longer willing to settle. A few symptoms of an unworthy relationship might be:
Overdoing all the responsibilities in the relationship and then becoming resentful at the other person for no doing more.
Refusing to admit when things bother you because you think you know the other persons reaction
Not having “deal breakers”; rules or standards for oneself which are not negotiable, either the other party understands this is the deal or there is no relationship. (To make my point – abuse would be a deal breaker).
Tolerating addictive behaviors, lying or cheating; ignoring the pain to avoid losing the relationship.
Ultimately, you allow yourself to be unsatisfied, and used. You are responsible for this. You are responsible for your peace and happiness. Sometimes, we forget what a team looks like in a loving relationship. A healthy, loving relationship is 50/50. It’s o.k. to be 70/30 sometimes, as long as there is a willingness to get it balanced again. Two willing partners can have an amazing life together.
So, I left her with this thought: What does it take to be with Stacy?
And I leave you with the same question: What does it take to be with you?
For me: to be with me you need to be sober and on a spiritual path of growth – working with others in whatever capacity that is, you need to be healthy – I don’t desire a slob or a pig. I demand sexy to be with me. You need to be motivated and energetic, I won’t take care of all the responsibilities of a home by myself. You must have compassion for kids – because I have 3 daughters and I love them more than anything. You must have great credit, and a steady, solid income. You cannot be racist. You must be willing to communicate. You must be faithful, I have no desire for cheating, threesomes, or swinging. My jealous mind will be triggered. You must be a man, I don’t mind listening to emotional days, but if it’s daily I won’t have respect for you – you see I’m a driven, confident, balanced, motivated woman. You cannot fall behind me.
AND I’M O.K. WITH ALL OF THAT.
And so is my beloved husband.
Have a great day, enjoy the journey – You only have one!