My spouse and I are older but still cycle through ups and downs, truces, and false hope. My spouse’s AA books and recovery paraphernalia sat on a table in his mancave/bedroom/living room. I wasn’t allowed to touch them. I resented his AA stuff anyway because they didn’t help. To me, it was clutter, and I dusted around them. On this ordinary cleaning day, I picked up his recovery book. I gasped in disbelief at how neatly the keywords and phrases were highlighted, underlined, and asterisked. He wasn’t practicing what the book preached. I read a few lines about addiction. Interesting. I sat down on his couch and read about the symptoms. Oh yes, I recognized the signs. I went down a list of addictions and thought, Ok, book; you’re not so bad. I found an AA worksheet he filled-in with lies. The bottom of the worksheet said: it works if you work it.
I skimmed through a pamphlet about AA, and a small section caught my eye. I read symptoms for the terms enabler and codependency. I stopped cold and froze. I wasn’t familiar with the terms in that context, but the definitions described me to a tee, and I had the symptoms. I needed to understand what the heck was going on with me. My spouse wasn’t home, but he has a habit of sneaking into the house to spy on us, or catch us talking about him, or going through his stuff. I stole the pamphlet, locked myself in the bathroom, and read in peace, searching for more information about my issues, not my spouses’. I was done trying to figure out my spouse. It was clear that I needed help too.
Enabling is defined in the link above, along with codependency. These definitions described my behavior. I didn’t know these terms when I was grown, in relationships and eventually married. Please know that I am not an expert but a layperson without professional or specialized knowledge in codependency and enabling. I am only qualified to share my story. For years my spouse knew what was wrong with me; his pamphlet diagnosed me. When we talked about our issues, he never once described what spouses of addicts go through or said: hey, here’s a crumb from my AA stuff that might help you. He knew there were meetings specifically for my issues and never opened his mouth. Instead, he gaslit the hell out of me. He said I imagined things, was menopausal, crazy, angry, and jealous of him. He would come home late, holding a folder full of papers like he had been working hard. I used to believe it until I didn’t. Then one night, folder in hand, I questioned his whereabouts, and he called me insecure and nuts. I decided to look inside the folder while he was in the bathroom. There were papers inside, but not one single sheet of paper was work-related. I shook my head, cursed him out under my breath and went to bed.
The Serenity Prayer, in the link above, was on the last page of the pamphlet. Growing up, the Serenity prayer hung on the wall in our house. I glanced but didn’t read it. I read it now. The words pulled me in. I re-read it and saw the terms change accept. I read it aloud and heard courage, wisdom, and know the difference. It finally clicked. I stood up this time and read it aloud again so the words could course through my mind, body, and soul and take hold. I did everything to change my spouse, fix him, bend him to my will, and improve him, only to find out I could not change him or anybody. I can only change myself. Locked in the bathroom, crying tears of joy, I finally accepted reality and came out of denial…