The eight recovery lessons that helped me survive my divorce

Here is what I know: I would not have survived my divorce without sobriety. 

When I say that, you might think it means that I would not have survived my divorce if I had been drinking. But what I really mean is that I would not have been capable of facing the hell of infidelity and abandonment without all of the lessons I learned on the path toward getting sober. 

Before my husband left me, if you had asked me my greatest fear, the one thing I did not think I could overcome, it would have been losing him. And when it happened, it destroyed me entirely. But the lessons of recovery were universal; time and again in those first days and weeks I would pull open my journals, old quotes and poetry, mantras and readings, and find some solace. Recovery literally gave me the tools and skills to face anything. Sometimes I think maybe I was meant to get sober just in time to survive this.

I learned most of these lessons through participating in what is now called Tempest Sobriety School (formerly Hip Sobriety School), created and led by Holly Whitaker. The course, plus Holly’s voice in the HOME Podcast, forms the basis for the lessons below. Other teachers and resources are linked throughout.

Lesson 1: You can’t get to the ‘bless you’ without the ‘fuck you.’

I said horrible things to my husband when he left me. Terrible things. I told him that there was no one on earth whose life was better for his existence. I told him he was a bad person. I wanted to make him hurt how I hurt. I wanted to get him to react instead of sitting there cold and calm as if the world wasn’t crumbling down around my life. Of course what I said hurt him, and I felt regretful later.

But you know what? He did horrible things. He lied and deceived and pretended to be a man he wasn’t. Does he deserve the cruel words I spoke? No. But I also didn’t deserve what he did to me. Only Jesus and the Buddha can react to that kind of betrayal with equanimity. 

A lot of people will tell you to be bigger, to move forward, to release your anger – they say things like “holding onto anger is like holding a flame – it only hurts you.” And that’s true. There is value in releasing anger, and left unchecked it will harden into bitterness and cynicism.

But anger is a part of healing. It is a natural reaction to divorce, infidelity, abandonment, and rejection. My husband’s actions completely upended my life. I had to start from scratch, and all of the dreams and plans I had were no longer within reach, or even possible. I felt demeaned, betrayed, and terrified. Other people would tell me not to be bitter, to “be the bigger person,” and that I wouldn’t move on until I forgave him. This is bullshit, and its spiritual bypassing. Not only did I have every right to be really damn pissed off, telling me NOT to feel it and to let it go only brought feelings of guilt and inadequacy, as if I wasn’t doing this whole divorce thing correctly. I already felt like shit, and now I was being made to feel guilty for my anger? No thanks. 

Episode 48 of the HOME Podcast with Seane Corn taught me that you cannot skip the “fuck you” to get to “bless you.” What that means is that anger is a part of life, and its a part of recovery, and its a part of healing. The shit that brought you here – on your knees and dying – it’s okay to be angry at that. It’s okay to feel rage. Pushing away your anger or pretending it does not exist only builds resentment and contempt and bitterness. All of that rage inside of you that was not expressed at the moment will come out later, whether you like it or not. Anger, like happiness, peace, jealousy, or love, is just another emotion. Accepting our emotions and allowing them to be fully expressed is critically important to healing, whether that be from addiction or heartbreak or trauma.

Of course, I did not want to spend the rest of my life thinking about my ex and being pissed at him. But the only way to get over my anger toward him was to experience it, to let the rage flow freely through me, until I was ready to release him and get to “meh.” 

Even when it doesn’t feel good, my life is better now.

I spent Valentine’s Day with a couple of girlfriends – we baked cupcakes and ordered pizza and watched movies. I woke up this morning in my apartment – clean, cozy, with my two pups. In two months I’ll leave the city where I’ve lived for a decade – leaving behind all the memories of my ex and our relationship and starting a new chapter. I’m sitting here with my coffee thinking about how nice my night was and how nice my morning is and how nice it will be to move, and I just feel like I’m so much better off without him in my life.

Life isn’t easier without him by any means but I do find more joy in my day to day now than I did with him – I laugh more easily and do more things I love. I don’t have to consider him and his feelings and his career and his needs before mine anymore. I don’t have to rely on him (and be disappointed by him) anymore. I have more agency and I like myself more – I have more respect for myself now.

This has been an incredibly painful process – I still feel angry and hurt and lonely and embarrassed sometimes. At times I still miss him so much. At times I just miss a partner. But I’ve learned how to sit with that without letting it destroy me – I’ve learned how to wait it out. I’ve learned that moving forward doesn’t happen in a linear way, that there are steps forward and backward. I’ve learned that I am strong. I’ve learned that I can take care of me and rely on me. I’ve learned how to love and care for myself – how to mother myself. I’ve learned to be grateful for the brief moments where it all feels like it’s going to be okay.

This was not what I expected or wanted from my life but I’m making the most of it. I feel like my life is divided into two parts – before he ran and after. And as painful and difficult as it’s been in the After, I’ve become a person I really love.

I hope someone reading this takes some encouragement from it. It is not easy and it does not feel good but the emotional growth you will go through will make you a fucking warrior. And it feels pretty amazing to say you love yourself when you land on the other side.

2019: my year in music

Recently Spotify released its ‘2019 Wrapped’ which basically looks back at the music you listened to most in the past year. This was, obviously, a weird year for me. A hard, sad, angry year for me. There were a TON of songs that helped or just made me feel understood. I’ve broken them into four categories below and included a note about why I loved it or just a really solid line from the song. Each playlist is linked for your listening pleasure.

The Angry Stuff

  • Heartless – Kanye West
    • No specific lyrics, this is just about a heartless person (AKA my shithole ex husband) who does heartless things.
  • Blame Game – Kanye West
    • fuck arguing harvesting the feelings, yo I’d rather be by my fucking self…’Til about two A.M. And I call back and I hang up and I start to blame myself
  • I Don’t Fuck With You – Big Sean
    • And every day I wake up celebrating shit, why? Cause I just dodged a bullet from a crazy bitch
    • Also, just this entire fucking song. It was my number 1 listen this year. For real. I can rap the entire thing now.
  • Fuck You – CeeLo Green
    • Fuck you, and fuck her too
    • Again, just the entire song.
  • Stronger – Kanye West
    • Ummm, a classic.
    • That that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger
  • Backseat Freestyle – Kendrick Lamar
  • Black Skinhead – Kanye West
  • Harambe – Young Thug
    • No specific lyrics for these songs. They just sound fucking angry.
  • Breakin’ Dishes – Rihanna
    • I’m getting restless, I’m getting tested, And I can’t believe he’s always out every night and never checks in, Is he cheating? Man I don’t know
  • Seventy Times 7 – Brand New
    • don’t apologize – I hope you choke and die 
    • so is that what you call a getaway? tell me what you got away with – cause I’ve seen more spine in jellyfish, I’ve seen more guts in 11 year old kids
  • Hit ‘Em Up – 2Pac
    • Well this is how we gonna do this, fuck Mobb Deep, fuck Biggie, fuck Bad Boy as a staff, record label and as a motherfucking crew, and if you want to be down with Bad Boy, then fuck you too, Chino XL, fuck you too, all you motherfuckers, fuck you too 
    • Are you sensing a theme? Not a breakup song, just an angry FUCK THE FUCK OFF SONG
  • Dickhead – Kate Nash
    • Why are you being a dickhead for, stop being a dickhead, why are you being a dickhead for, you’re just fucking up situations
  • FU – Miley Cyrus
    • I don’t really have much to say, I was over it the second that I saw her name
  • Don’t Hurt Yourself – Beyonce
    • Who the fuck do you think I is? You ain’t married to no average bitch boy. You can watch my fat ass twist boy, as I bounce to the next dick boy
  • Sorry – Beyonce
    • Middle fingers up, put them hands high, wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye, Tell him, boy, bye, middle fingers up, I ain’t thinking ’bout you
  • How Do You Sleep – Sam Smith
    • How do you sleep when you lie to me? 
  • Flesh Without Blood – Grimes
    • Baby, believe me, and you had every chance, you destroy everything that you know 
  • Lie – NF
    • You ain’t the only one to blame, no I’m the one that made you rich when I bought every lie you sold to me
  • Demons – Sleigh Bells
    • Just a ragey metal song by a chick band and sometimes that’s what you need
  • Unholy – Miley Cyrus
    • I don’t even know what this song is about, all I know is that it helped. Just Miley’s voice sounds angry and pained and troubled and its good.
  • Bitch Better Have My Money – Rihanna
    • Pay me what you owe me
    • For real though. Mike. FUCKING PAY ME MY MONEY
  • Over Now – Post Malone
    • I’ma put that bitch pussy in a motherfucking bodybag, so you know that I’m never ever coming back
    • I was an idiot, begging on my knees on to the floor, now I don’t even want you anymore, anymore
  • Shout Out To My Ex – Little Mix
    • I hope she gettin’ better sex, hope she ain’t fakin’ it like I did, babe
    • I mean, its not a lie…….
  • IDGAF – Dua Lipa
    • if you think I care about you now – well, boy, I don’t give a fuck
  • Smile – Lily Allen
    • When you first left me, I was wanting more, but you were fucking that girl next door – what’d you do that for?
    • I was so lost back then, but with a little help from my friends, I found a light at the tunnel at the end
  • Hard Out Here – Lily Allen
    • Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits, it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard out here for a bitch
  • Now That It’s Over – Everclear
    • My bad dreams just don’t seem the same, baby without you
      I wish you were willing to accept the blame for all the shitty things you do
      Nightmares just don’t scare me now baby without you
      I wish that I could find the words to tell you to go politely go fuck yourself
      Yeah now that it’s over
  • Made You Look – Nas
    • Another good angry rap song. I think rap music is great for anger.
  • Til I Collapse – Eminem
    • you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength, and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up, and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you want to just fall flat on your face and collapse
  • What Goes Around Comes Around – Justin Timberlake
    • Is this the way it’s really going down? Is this how we say goodbye?
      Should have known better when you came around that you were gonna make me cry, and now it’s breaking my heart to watch you run around ’cause I know that you’re living a lie
  • The Loser Wins – Atmosphere
    • you know you fucked up right? bye bye wish you luck with life
  • Won’t Look Back – Atmosphere
    • And that’s love – I never hated your guts, I never even understood where that phrase was from, but why would you believe that I could trust your touch, if you would never make me wanna sleep in my truck. It’s more than a drug – it’s more than any liquor you could pour from a jug. 
  • thank u, next – Ariana Grande
    • she handles pain – that shit’s amazing
  • The Devil To Pay – Johnny Cash
    • ‘Cause you’re drawn to the flame by the thrill and the shame, of the cheatin’ game they taught you how to play, you’ve got nothing to lose but your soul girl, and you’ve only the devil to pay,
      Join your friends while you got ’em,  ’cause you know they’re gettin’ fewer every day, you can’t wait to let them take you to the bottom, and I’m gettin’ tired of standin’ in your way
      But when you hit the ground don’t come looking around, for the pieces of the love you threw away, that’s the price of the high life you’re livin’, and you still got the devil to pay
  • Rooting for You – Alessia Cara
    • Damn, why you gotta be so cold in the summertime? I was really rooting for you
    • What a shame, we could’ve had a good thing, you let go of a good thing
  • Mama’s Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert
    • I cut my bangs with some rusty kitchen scissors, I screamed his name til the neighbors called the cops, I numbed the pain at the expense of my liver, Don’t know what I did next all I know, I couldn’t stop
    • Leave it to me to be holdin’ the matches, when the fire trucks show up and there’s nobody else to blame
  • wish u the best – blackbear
    • Just used my last one percent to text you, that shit wasn’t worth it
    • I would wish you the best but you’ve already had it
  • do u even miss me at all? – gianni & kyle
    • Girl, I used to love you, now all that shit you doin’ making hard to trust you, stab me in the back, know it cut deep, you saying fuck me, I’m saying fuck you

The Sad Stuff

  • Thick of It – Mary J Blige
    • I was there when no one wanted to stay with you baby, you know I deserve more than this
    • What a hell of a year, if I make it through hell and I come out alive I got nothing to fear
  • Dancing With a Stranger – Sam Smith
    • It’s pretty clear that I’m not over you, I’m still thinking ’bout the things you do 
  • human – Christina Perri
    • I’m only human, and I bleed when I fall down, I’m only human – and I crash and I break down
  • Warrior – Demi Lovato
    • you can save your apologies, you’re nothing but a liar
  • Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves
    • I know my place, and it’s not with you, sunsets fade and love does too
  • Dancing With Your Ghost – Sasha Sloan
    • Baby, why’d you go away? I’m still your girl
    • Never got the chance to say a last goodbye
      I gotta move on, but it hurts to try
  • The Archer – Taylor Swift
    • Who could ever leave me darling? …but who could stay?
  • I Almost Do – Taylor Swift
    • I bet this time of night you’re still up. I bet you’re tired from a cold hard week. I bet you’re sitting in your chair by the window – and I bet, sometimes you wonder bout me. 
    • And I just wanna tell you, it takes everything in me not to call you. And I wish I could run to you, and I hope you know that every time I don’t, I almost do.
  • Lose You To Love Me – Selena Gomez
    • I gave my all and they all know it, then you tore me down and now it’s showing, in two months you replaced us, like it was easy, made me think I deserved it, in the thick of healing
  • Too Sad To Cry – Sasha Sloan
    • Can’t tell my Mamma, it makes her worry
      I’m not suicidal, but sometimes the lines get all blurry
  • Tequila – Dan + Shay
    • Honestly I’m sober so this one shouldn’t resonate so hard but it does. Just makes me think of all of the fun times.
  • lovely – Billie Eilish, Khalid
    • I hope some day I’ll make it out of here, even if it takes all night or a hundred years
    • Isn’t it lovely, all alone? Heart made of glass, my mind of stone
  • What Hurts The Most – Rascal Flatts
    • What hurts the most was being so close, and havin’ so much to say, and watchin’ you walk away
    • It’s hard to deal with the pain of losin’ you everywhere I go but I’m doing it, it’s hard to force that smile when I see our old friends and I’m alone, still harder gettin’ up, gettin’ dressed, livin’ with this regret
  • Perfect – Selena Gomez
    • Curious ’bout the company that you keep, cause I hear you talking ’bout her in your sleep, and now you’ve got me talking ’bout her in mine
  • The Only – Sasha Sloan
    • I can’t be the only one whose lonely tonight, I can’t be the only one with nobody to call, this city makes me feel so small, a million people in this town, but I could scream without a sound
  • Ready Yet – Sasha Sloan
    • It’s hard for me to be mad at you
      I don’t wanna be
      It’s hard for me to be mad at you
      ‘Cause there’s part of me that loves you still
    • All that I want is to take you back
      Sorry, my heart doesn’t work like that
  • Nothing Breaks Like a Heart
    • This world can hurt you, it cuts you deep and leaves a scar, things fall apart, but nothing breaks like a heart
  • Bare – Rosie Carney
    • Left me broken, smashed like a glass that was dropped on the floor
      Words you’ve spoken, leave marks on my skin
  • Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi
    • I let my guard down, and then you pulled the rug, I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved
  • River of Tears – Alessia Cara
    • I’m going down, and you have watched me drown
      In a river of tears, lost beneath the stream
      Under the waves, I’ve found the strength to say
      The river of tears has washed me clean

The Empowered Stuff

  • Miss Movin’ On – Fifth Harmony
    • You killed me, but I survived
  • Look at her Now – Selena Gomez
    • Of course she was sad, but now she’s glad she dodged a bullet. 
      Took a few years to soak up the tears, but look at her now, watch her go
  • Hit ‘Em Up Style – Blu Cantrell
    • There goes the dreams we used to say, there goes the time we spent away, there goes the love I had but you cheated on me and that’s worth that now
      There goes the house we made a home, there goes you’ll never leave me alone, for all the lies you told, this is what you owe
  • Hell No – Ingrid Michaelson
    • Girlfriends say are you gonna be sad? When he calls you up, you gonna take him back? And I’m like HEEEEEEEEEEEEELL NO. 
  • Don’t Call Me Up – Mabel
    • I’m over you and I don’t need your lies no more, ’cause the truth is, without you, boy, I’m stronger, and I know it’s sad that I changed, have a cold heart, but it was your game that left scars
  • Like A Girl – Lizzo
    • Only exes that I care about are in my fuckin chromosomes
    • Honestly Lizzo just in her entirety will make you feel like a badass amazing woman. Team Lizzo. FOR LIFE.
  • Soulmate – Lizzo
    • A lot of two-faced people showed me both sides, so I figured out I gotta be my own type
  • Truth Hurts – Lizzo
    • Why men great ’til they gotta be great?
    • ^^I mean, the line of 2019 no?
  • Good As Hell – Lizzo
    • He don’t love you anymore – walk that fine ass out the door. 
  • Woman – Kesha
    • I’m a motherfucking woman, baby, alright, I don’t need a man to be holding me too tight
  • BO$$ – Fifth Harmony
    • C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T, that’s me, I’m confident, don’t want yo compliments, use common sense, I’m on my Michelle Obama
  • Brand New Me – Alicia Keys
    • Don’t need your opinion, I’m not waiting for your okay. I’ll never be perfect – but at least now I’m brave. 
  • Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
    • No specific lyric, this song just makes anyone feel like a badass
  • Superwoman – Alicia Keys
    • I am a Superwoman, even when I’m a mess, I still put on a vest, with an S on my chest, I’m a Superwoman
  • Confident – Demi Lovato
    • Another one that isn’t specific but again, just makes me feel empowered!!!
  • Fight Song – Rachel Platten
    • This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m alright song, my power’s turned on, starting right now I’ll be strong, I’ll play my fight song, and I don’t really care if nobody else believes, ’cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
  • The Climb – Miley Cyrus
    • There’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna wanna make it move, always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose. Ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb
  • Video – India Arie
    • I’m not the average girl from your video, and I ain’t built like a supermodel
      But I learned to love myself unconditionally, because I am a queen
  • None of Your Busienss – Salt-N-Pepa
    • How many rules am I to break before you understand that your double-standards don’t mean shit to me? 
    • This really isn’t a breakup song or even about overcoming but it makes me feel amazing so it made the list.
  • you should see me in a crown – Billie Eilish
    • You should see me in a crown, I’m gonna run this nothing town, watch me make ’em bow, one by one by, one
  • Revival – Selena Gomez
    • I admit, it’s been painful, painful
      But I’ll be honest, I’m grateful, grateful
      It’s my, my, my time to realize
  • Up We Go
    • It’s been a hard year, and I only know, from down this low, it’s only up we go, up we go
  • Really Don’t Care
    • I can’t believe I ever stayed up writing songs about you, you don’t deserve to know the way I used to think about you
  • Miss Me More – Kelsea Ballerini
    • I put on my old records that I hid in the back of the closet
      And I turn them up to ten
      And then I played them all again
      I found my independence
      Can’t believe I ever lost it
  • I Forgot That You Existed – Taylor Swift
    • And I thought that it would kill me – but it didn’t
  • Clean – Taylor Swift
    • You’re still all over me like a wine stained dress I can’t wear anymore
    • Ten months sober, I must admit, just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it
    • This song is super hard for me to listen to but its so good. I go back and forth between whether it is sad or empowering.
  • Nothing Like You – Frightened Rabbit
    • This is a story and you are not in it, flock of pages torn out, here is a bedroom that you’ve never been in and here is your shovel, there’s the ground
    • There is nothing like someone new, and this girl, she was nothing like you
  • Trust My Lonely
    • Go get your praise from someone else, you didn’t a number on my health, my word is brighter by itself, and I can do better, do better
    • Don’t you know that you’re bad for me? I gotta trust my lonely

The “From His Perspective” Stuff

This is a weird playlist. Its stuff that when I heard it, I could imagine him saying it. Its short because honestly there aren’t too many songs that come from the point of view of the asshole cheater. Its also short because I have truly no idea what he is thinking. And

  • The Most – Miley Cyrus
    • even in my darkest days, even in my lowest place, you love me the most….so why do I hurt you so?
  • Faking It – Sasha Sloan
    • I’m way too good at saying I love you like I believe it
      I’m way too good at staying up all night, keeping a secret
      I’m way too good at yurning my phone off whenever you call me
      Only say that I want you, ’cause it’s what I’m used to
  • Runaway – Sasha Sloan
    • Every time I fall in love, I go and fuck it up right when it gets good, don’t you think it’s funny? I know I did all the shitty things to you I said I never ever would, baby, that’s so like me
  • Afterglow – Taylor Swift
    • Hey, it’s all me in my head, I’m the one who burned us down, but it’s not what I meant, sorry that I hurt you
  • Fall – Sasha Sloan
    • I fucked up and now I see it, I get if you don’t believe it
  • Let You Down – NF
    • Please don’t come after me, I just wanna be alone right now, I don’t really wanna think at all,  go ahead, just drink it off
    • I don’t even wanna go to your house, everytime I sit on that couch, I feel like you lecture me, I guess that I’m a letdown, but it’s cool, I checked out

How to support a loved one with a runaway spouse

In the aftermath of my husbands departure, so many people asked me how they could help. I did my best to say what I needed and accept support, but I know a lot of people have a hard time with it. Here is a list of some of the Do’s and Don’ts when dealing with a runaway spouse, and how to support your friends or family who are living through it.

Do: Call them, email them, text them, every single day. Seriously, every day. A lot of people reached out to check on me in the first couple of weeks and it meant a lot. So many times people do not want to reach out because either a) they are afraid of witnessing someone’s pain, or b) they do not want to be intrusive. Please do not let this stop you from being there for someone you care about. There is not much you can do to make this person feel better right now, but simply showing up for them is one thing you CAN do. Also, keep it up! After 2-3 weeks I stopped hearing from most people and that is when the shock wore off and the despair set in. 

Don’t: Be offended or hurt if they turn down your offers to talk, to meet up, to visit, etc. They may not feel comfortable being a mess in front of you and just want to be alone. 

Do: Offer to help them with moving, if necessary. Packing up your home and moving is a physically and emotionally draining experience even if there is no divorce happening. Its so, so much harder to do after abandonment. Someone should be there to help with packing up emotionally charged momentos (photos, cards, letters). Someone should be there to hold them as they fall apart on moving day. Someone should bring by dinner. Someone should offer to watch kids or pets during moving day. 

Don’t: All show up to help on the same day! Again, moving is emotionally trying – try to be conscious of how much your friend can take. The divorce and moving day is not an excuse for a giant reunion of friends. 

Do: Send them a plant or something living once they have settled into their new place. My sister in law did this and wrote on the card, “Here is some beauty for your new chapter. Never forget: you are the dragon breathing fire.” It still brings tears to my eyes to think about how much that meant to me. 

Don’t: Send them booze. Alcohol is a depressant. It’s fun and cute to tell people to drink away their pain but it’s far more likely to make your friend feel like shit and/or do something they regret (like angrily rant on Instagram). I am not saying no drinking, I’m just saying your friend needs a friend more than a bottle of wine. 

 

Do: Give your friend articles, books, or other resources that you think they might find helpful, if you have them. 

Don’t: Give advice about what they should be doing, thinking, or feeling. 

Do: Keep inviting your loved one out. At some point, they are bound to say yes. 

Don’t: Guilt them when they say no thanks. For a long time, they will not want to be with other humans. 

Do: Tell your loved one how much he/she deserves better than this, that it is not fair, and that you are sorry it is is happening. There is not much you can do, but simply acknowledging how much much this fucking sucks is really helpful. Your loved one will get sooooo much advice from so many places and that really is not what they need. They just need to be loved and held as they grieve. 

Don’t: Wax philosophic about how this is a blessing and how much better off she will be. Its true: she will be better off. But right now, she can only feel how much pain she is in and how much her life sucks right now. Don’t patronize her by talking about how this is good in the long run. Allow her to experience the grief and the pain of right now. 

 

Do: Reach out on anniversaries and birthdays. As time goes by, the every-single-day calls and emails are no longer necessary. Your loved one will slowly begin to heal. But some days are harder than others. Keep tabs on when your friend has an anniversary (of the wedding – of the day they were left – of the divorce) or a birthday approaching – a simple “thinking of you today, let me know if you want to talk” can go a long way. I cannot tell you how many times I did not take someone up on their offer but so, so appreciated that they had offered nonetheless. 

Don’t: Assume that just because months or years have gone by, that those particular days are no longer hard. I cannot imagine a time when my former wedding anniversary will not cause some emotion for me.

 

 

Adventures in sober divorced dating

This past week I *officially* re-entered the dating scene. I’ve been messing around Bumble and the like since June, but canceled nearly every date – I just wasn’t ready. But I officially took the plunge and this is literally me right now:

I went on three first dates this week, which was a lot. I am le tired. But it was good – I feel like I got over my “get back out there” jitters and learned some big things.

First – I am not ready for a relationship. I definitely want to keep dating, and I am open to something developing if it feels right, but I am not ready for anything quite yet.

This is big for me – I’ve never casually dated. I’ve always been into a relationship or nothing, and the idea of NOT getting immediately serious is confusing to me. I literally never knew what people meant by “taking things slow” until now. Its amazingly clear to me right now.

Second – I am strong as hell. 

In the beginning, I felt like I was living without skin. I felt raw and exposed and wounded. I thought this experience would make me more afraid of abandonment and rejection. But it turns out, its made me almost immune to it. One of the men I went out with let me know he wasn’t interested in pursuing it further and it didn’t destroy me. Normally something like that would have sent me into a tailspin.

I will caveat that though – this guy wrote me early on and was clear, and kind, and concise. I imagine if he’d played the bullshit chase game filled with deceit and half truths it would have felt differently.

Third – My ex-husband is cruel. The fact is, this guy I’ve known for six days was more compassionate and kind about letting me down than my own husband was leaving our marriage.

Fourth – Sober dating is super confusing. I have been left wondering if I actually liked my ex husband on our first date, or if I was just drunk. I didn’t feel much with any of these guys, despite the fact that we got along well and had great conversation. I wonder if the butterflies come later, or if they are just a fantasy, or if these are just the wrong guys.

Fifth – There is a delicate line between honesty and putting your best foot forward. 

I’ve got baggage. I’ve got trauma. I’ve got trust issues, and intimacy issues, and body image issues, and, and, and.

I want to be open about who I am. I don’t want to hide the fact that I have dealt with a lot, but I don’t know how to be honest and true to self without seeming like a hot mess express.

I feel like dating post-divorce at a young age is tough. I feel like everyone out there is looking for a happy-go-lucky fun dating adventure and I bring down the vibe. I want happy and fun dating adventures too – but being realistic, I’ve got some bitterness in me. And I am working through that. I don’t think I need to be 100% healed before I can date again, but at the same time, sometimes I feel like a walking red flag.


That’s all for this round. Hopefully some more promising dates soon.

A revelation of compassion

The other night I woke up for my standard 4am panic spiral (when does that part stop? because I am le tired) last night and I had this intense feeling of heartbroken sadness for him. Compassion for him. Not pity or feeling sorry for him…. It was more like a clear understanding of the life he has ahead of him.

He must live in shame. He does all of these things that destroy his life, because he’s unhappy and he thinks [work, other women, alcohol, pot, porn, spending money, pick your poison] will make him happy. But it never will. He wanted to be a good person, an honorable man, and he tried to grow, he tried to change – I watched him. I was so moved and impressed with how hard he was willing to work. But in the end, he couldn’t do it. As someone in recovery and with borderline personality tendencies, I really get this. I get it on a level I wish I didn’t – I spent so long doing things I hated and that hurt others because I couldn’t stop. I thought my choices would make me happy but they ended up making me miserable and more self destructive. I am just like him in so many ways.

And that is an awful place to live. Doing things you hate and know are wrong but not being able to stop. Being driven by some compulsion to do things that your reptilian brain thinks will make you happy but just instead destroy everything around you.

This is not an excuse for bad behavior. He made these choices. But for the first time I really and truly feel intense compassion for him. I know what that life feels like. It’s absolute hell. It hurts to see someone that I loved so deeply make choices that will destroy him. I am so sad for him.

The difference between my husband and I.

A few years ago I was going through a really hard time. I was depressed and struggling with my direction in life. I’d quit my job and was waitressing to get by. I started drinking really heavily. At the end of the shift I would go out with coworkers and get plastered, coming home at 2, 3am. There was a guy who worked in the kitchen who was rather flirtatious and I found myself out with him a few too many times.

At the height of my drinking, I would black out on a regular basis. During this time, I was terrified I would black out and cheat on my now-ex. I loved him. I did not want to be with someone else. And yet, I knew it could happen because I know the power of low self esteem. I knew how good it felt to flirt with other guys – I knew the dopamine hit that comes from getting male approval.

One night I let this guy drive me home. The next morning I was horrified – nothing happened, but what if it had? If he’d tried, would I have said no? I don’t know. I was so filled with shame. It happened a few more times after that – I was repeatedly putting myself in situations that would destroy my partner, whom I loved, because of my drinking and my low self esteem.

The difference between my soon to be ex husband and I is that I made a choice to get out of that environment. I took steps to change and heal the pain that was causing me to seek validation from this stranger. I quit that job. I got sober. And I never cheated on him. I stopped flirting with other men. I became more honest and vulnerable.

On the other hand, he doubled down. He knew that going back to working nights in a rowdy bar was going to put him into the exact same situations that led him to cheat on me all those years ago. He knew, and yet he did it anyway (and – my favorite – told me over and over he was doing it for “us”). He ramped up the flirting and the lies. He repeatedly and consistently made choices that would threaten our marriage.

Every person on earth can be put in a situation that tempts them from being faithful. Cheaters are the ones that willingly put themselves back into that situation even though they know the risks.

Thoughts on karma

One of the hardest things to come to terms with: there really is no divine justice that’s going to come in and make his life terrible and make mine wonderful. Life is not a movie. People can and will do bad things and the consequences do not look like we want them to look. I may have the moral high ground but, in the end, that is simply a feeling of being right – it doesn’t translate into anything real. That can be depressing on one hand but also liberating on another. It can help you move on because you stop expecting consequences to appear – and stop being disappointed when they don’t

I am a firm believer in karma – the Buddhist principle, not the western interpretation. Karma is not divine justice. It’s just the natural consequences that flow from ones actions. His consequences are not visible to me yet but I know this: he has to go through life now knowing he’s a liar and a cheater. He has to live his life, as him, as someone who had a loving wife and family who supported him and would do anything for him, and he threw them away for literally nothing. He can pretend all he wants – he can lie to his friends and his family and the world – but deep down? He knows what he did.

And deep hidden feelings of shame and self loathing are the literal roots of future affairs or addictions. You can’t run from that – no one can – and the more you push it away the more insidious it becomes. I know he isn’t going to be living happily ever after. He’ll be living with guilt and shame that he shoves down, that will pop up randomly in unpredictable ways – but usually more affairs, gambling, alcohol abuse, porn addiction. His karma is a life without peace, without contentment.

Karma isn’t the universe sending bad things to happen to you because you did something bad – it’s simply what arises naturally out of the choices you make. My karma is that I am stuck facing the hell of abandonment and infidelity, not because I am a bad person, but because I married someone for the wrong reasons. And I have a choice right now – I could be like my husband and run from the pain, hide it away, become bitter and spend the rest of my life miserable and in more shitty relationships – or I can invite my pain in, make it some tea, and ask it to stay awhile. I can hold myself with compassion during this time, and recognize that by doing the good work now, my karma can be a life of peace and equanimity and love. 

The sea floor is calm.

Divorce feels like a hurricane. Its so destructive, and its nearly impossible to walk away completely unscathed. But I have gotten a lot of peace thinking about how the hurricane is just on the surface of the ocean.

On some days the sea is calm, and other days rough. Remember that while the surface may be choppy, the fish at the seafloor don’t feel the waves. Deep within all of us is a place that cannot be disturbed by what is happening on the surface. You cannot stop the waves, but you can remember that deeper place of stillness. You can find peace by retreating to that place.

Writings from early days: Thoughts on acceptance

I am writing this blog while I am in a place a little further down the road of recovery. But it wasn’t so long ago that I was in the thick of the crisis. I journaled a lot at that time, as well as posted on a number of support forums. I am going back now to post some of those writings, which capture the most raw and real grief. In some cases, I’ve edited the original text or combined text from different posts into something more cohesive.

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The time has moved so slow and yet so fast. The early days blur together – what have I been doing all this time? Has it really been that long since I’ve seen him? Since we said I love you? Have I really survived this long without a kind word from him, without a hug? And yet…the days feel like weeks. Every day seems to drag on. I don’t want to exist in this shell of a life, and yet here I am. I am so exhausted by the daily ups and downs. How can I go from confidence and grit to sheer terror in a matter of seconds? 

I honestly am really having a hard time believing this is happening still. Obviously it’s happening but I still believe that somewhere inside of him exists the man I married. It is hard to let go of the concept that he is in there. It is hard to accept that he may never have been that man. It feels humiliating, like I was conned or tricked. 

I knew that something was wrong with him, with us. I had that gut feeling that something wasn’t right. I was able to push it away and ignore it based on thinking it was my anxiety, thinking no one is perfect, and (most importantly) thinking we loved each other enough to make up for it. I believed that I could love him enough to heal him. I believed he loved me enough to not be able to walk away. 

I was wrong. And it stings. 

I miss him right now. The old him, obviously. I miss his arms. I miss his texts. I hate missing him because he doesn’t deserve it. 

I hate the idea of acceptance but recognize its necessary to survive.