S is for Setbacks aka Slips

I’ve come to realize that I may still be doing to the 2018 A-Z Challenge well into 2019 A-Z Challenge. I truly hope Arlee understands.

This is a partial excerpt from my upcoming book. I’m still editing said book and I’m still not enjoying editing said book. Seriously. I have to force myself to do it each and every day. Have I mentioned editing sucks? No? Well, it does.

The post ahead is kinda long so feel free to skim. I did the best I could taking out chucks of the chapter but I still wanted to dive in a bit here on an issue that can be get quite emotional.

Trigger Warning for those with Attachment Trauma

download-1.jpg

♫ Slip sliding away…slip sliding away. ♫ Do you have that song by Paul Simon in your head too? Sorry about that. As an addict, I use the words setback and slip interchangeably although I understand and respect not everyone is fond of the word slip. To me, a slip is like when you slip on the ice. You don’t quite fall down on the ground. You try to catch yourself before you do. At least you hope you do. If not, then you have a huge knot on your head to remind you why you’re supposed to be cautious while treading in dangerous territory.

Talking about setbacks to Devin was difficult for me. Who am I kidding? It was tough on us both. In the beginning, I never confronted, (and confronted is the right word), I never confronted Devin unless I had undeniable proof.

That stemmed from all those years of gaslighting. I wasn’t capable of standing on my own two feet just yet. I hadn’t stopped snooping, not even close to stopping, so my hypervigilance paid off every now and again. Was it worth it? Hell to the no. That time could’ve been spent with my children or investing in my own healing and self-care. More times than not, I stumbled across the evidence of his slips because he’d gotten sloppy. Not because I was a genius.

Anyway, when I finally did come across evidence, it was a mixture of dread and a hint of “I knew it!” Almost like I was satisfied that all those hours I spent searching finally paid off, but now I had to actually talk to him about it and that scared me. It was far too early in our recoveries for me to understand about the shame, embarrassment, and disappointment that he carried. It was also too early for him to understand that his disease was personal to me. Our conversation may have gone something like this:

I confronted him with my “suspicions” of a slip. I tried to be subtle about it. You know, like any blunt New York girl would do.

“Hey, babe, how’s your recovery going?” I asked the second he came home. I didn’t even give him a chance to take his coat off.

“Huh? What?” He walked into the bedroom and closed the door so the children wouldn’t hear. Smart man.

Sarcasm oozed from my tone. “You know, your recovery?”

“Uh, it’s fine, I guess.”

“You guess? What does that mean? Guess? It’s either fine or it isn’t fine? Which is it?”

I hopped up on the bed and sat with my legs crossed underneath me and my arms folded across my chest. Warm and inviting.

“Elsie, I just sat in traffic for over an hour, is this something we can talk about after we eat dinner?”

“You want to eat dinner? Dinner! How can you think about food during a time like this?”

“A time like what?”

“Hello! Earth to Devin! I know what you did! I’m not an idiot like you think I am. You just love to think I’m so stupid right? All those years of lies and still, you lie, lie, lie. Just a liar, right? All the damn time. You just can’t help yourself, huh?”

Devin stood there, so I continued my verbal tirade until I finally asked, “Did you slip?”

“No.”

“More lies!”

download.jpg

We went back and forth like that until I showed him my proof and he admitted to the setback. Then I insulted him some more. Do you know what happened? Not what I expected. Not some sense of satisfaction after having berated my husband for about thirty minutes because I was right. I mean, really, who does that? Who talks to someone with an addiction and treats them like total and absolute dirt because they struggled to stay sober? Turns out I did. I understand the whys of what I did. The hurt, the trauma, but that doesn’t erase the words and the hurt I caused my husband. It sucks. I don’t like what I did. I can only apologize and not make those same mistakes again.

So, the next time he slipped, I didn’t treat him like a pile of shit I just stepped on. I remember him saying to me during one of my verbal vomits, “How much longer are you going to keep beating me over the head with my mistakes?” And the time, well, let’s just say I was thinking some pretty violent thoughts because I was in such an unhealthy place. Oddly enough, he was right. I was constantly reminding him how much he hurt me. He didn’t need my help. He already knew. He saw my pain every single day. Devin was in tune with my emotions and he did a good job showing me how in touch he was with my triggers. He would ask, “Are you triggering right now?” and “What can I do to help?” and “Do I need to do something different?” and countless other things to remind me that while he may not understand Attachment Trauma 100%, he was doing his best to try and willing to learn all he could to help me.

That’s why when that next setback happened, and my gut reaction was to freak the freak out, I didn’t. Again, I was the one who found out. Thankfully, I had a bit more recovery under my belt. Not too much, but a little. My snooping days were behind me. Thank the Lord for that. This time I had truly stumbled upon his slip by accident. In all honesty, I believe that God puts things where they need to be. But that’s just me.

When I found the evidence, I wasn’t all that surprised. My spidey senses had been tingling the last few weeks so I knew something was off-kilter. Knowing that the slip happened made me feel better. No sense of “gotcha!” this time. More of, “Phew, I’m glad my instincts are finally back.” 

Devin came to me the next time and over the years, we’ve learned how to talk to each other about setbacks. Thankfully, they are few and far between these days. It wasn’t an easy journey to get to where we are now. Our Marriage 2.0. We both made a ton of mistakes but we both learned from them and continued on each time.

Are there words you wish you could take back? Are you blunt or do you tend to beat around the bush?

ETA: Guest commenting isn’t working. I’m trying to resolve the issue (which means I wrote an email to the host so it’s not really me because I’m not that smart). Sorry for the inconvenience!