Today I’m continuing on with the series, After Disclosure which I started on my other site. If anyone would like to suggest a topic, please feel free to post it in the comment section or send me an email and rest assured, you will remain anonymous.The first three installments can be found here:
I feel strongly that there needs to be a safe place to talk…and it really needs to stay a safe place. It was easy for me to lose sight of this right after disclosure. Who am I kidding? Not only did I lose sight of this, I was blind. I went ballistic on my husband a number of times the second he walked through the door because I was triggering. He would have no idea what was going on with me. As far as he knew, the last time we talked, all was peachy in my world. But that’s how the world of relational trauma works, isn’t it? It makes no sense. It blindsides us and in turn we blindside them.
I hadn’t learned all those nifty tricks like deep breathing, positive affirmations, meditation, warm baths, or even talking to myself in the mirror to calm myself down. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen for several months.
Which meant we needed to figure out a way for me to share my concerns about his recovery and talk about my triggers without clobbering him over the head and catching him off guard. He needed to a to listen to me with an open mind remembering to be mindful of relational trauma and I needed to remain calm if he was going to share openly and honestly with me too.
Thankfully, I heard about FANOS. A big “thank you” to Debbie Laaser from Faithful and True. We used FANOS quite a bit in the early days. It was truly a life-safer for me. Here’s how we used it:
F is for Feelings
Each person shares theirs feelings for the day. If they felt triggered by anger or disappointment, they can talk it through. It’s also a chance to share successes and happiness.
A is for Affirmations
This is an opportunity to let your partner know you support them and let them know you love and have faith in them. Something like, “I promise to have open and honest communication with you.” Or, “I affirm to continue to work on my recovery.”
N is for Needs
If you need your partner to do something, now is the perfect time to ask. Maybe it’s a request to have patience with you or take time to listen to your concerns. It’s also an opportunity to let your partner know what you need to do for yourself. It could be quiet time to write or do step work.
O is for Ownership
This is a chance to apologize for your actions. “I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier.” Or, “I need to let you know I forgot to do that favor you asked of me.”
S is for Sobriety and Self-Care
If the addict is struggling with their recovery and had a slip, this is a great way to tell their partner. There’s no yelling in FANOS, only love and support. It’s also the perfect time to share what you’ve been doing in your recovery to maintain sobriety. Perhaps you talked to your sponsor, or worked on your steps, now’s your chance to let your partner know. It will help them feel reassured in your recovery. The partner can share about things they’ve been doing like affirmations, meditation, yoga, etc.
I wish I could say we did it perfectly, but we didn’t. We both messed up. He had promised to be 100% honest about slips during FANOS, but in the beginning of recovery, he held a lot of shame after a slip. It made him feel like a failure. When it came time for us to check-in after that slip, he wasn’t immediately truthful about it. After some poking and prodding from me, he admitted the slip and rather than stick to my agreement of keeping FANOS a judgment free zone, I let the sarcastic remarks rip so he would feel as hurt as I did. In the end, neither of us felt good about ourselves and we took FANOS off the table for a few months while we rebuilt trust again.
In that time away from FANOS, we realized just how much we missed it. Sure, sometimes it got repetitive, but you know what? That repetitiveness meant that things were going well in our worlds. It meant that maybe, just maybe, we could ease off the FANOS three times a week. Maybe it was okay to keep check-in conversations on the nights of his meetings and groups because we had evolved and grown in such a way that we understood how important it was to be a safe person for each other…no matter how difficult the topic is for the other person to hear.
In fact, that’s when it’s the most important time to be a safe person to come to when times were tough and the issue was tougher. Eventually, we were able to let go of the format of FANOS, but we still keep the same values: open and honest transparency, a judgment free zone, no yelling, and remain being that safe person to come to when it seems like the world is coming unglued.
Do you have a safe person to talk to?