Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “12-step program

Happy Mom Chat About How I Got Here: What I Figured Out

I took lunch to my mom’s house today, just to stop by and say hi. We talked about this blog for a bit.

See my ex-y left some sort of message about something I was doing that was damaging my family. My mom wanted to know what it was. I showed her The Off Parent and explained how it was anonymous.

“But it’s on Facebook,” she said.

“Yes, but it’s not connected to me in any way. I don’t even LIKE my own page.”

She was happy with my explanation. And she said something next that brought the conversation to a different place.

“I’m glad to see you taking a different path than your father.”

She went on to tell me about how he once told her that she was the reason he drank. “So, I told him I wouldn’t be that reason any more.”

We talked about my dad and how he went on to marry another drinker and eventually drank himself and her to death. And I told her, that her survival after the divorce had colored a lot of my childhood, and probably formed a good portion of my personality. She was always quoted as saying, “I’m turning X’s into plusses.” And that’s kind of a maxim that I have learned to live by.

Even as things got hard for us, back in my elementary through high school years, she would keep us pointed at the good side of the situation. A lot of the time I thought it was bullshit. Just a way of escaping some of the pain of the moment. But eventually I heard myself using the exact same phrase when talking to myself about bad situations.

I told my mom about how this blog had given me a voice, a place to process the anger and frustration at the divorce. And how eventually those parts of the blog began to subside and a new part of the story began to emerge. As I transitioned out of anger, depression, and divorce mechanics, I started moving into how to turn this major X into a major WIN.

The divorce is the biggest thing that’s ever happened in my life, and I’m 50 years old. What ripped through my safety and joy has now become the fire that has burned away the bullshit and brought me down to WHAT’S IMPORTANT.

Here’s what I figured out about the positive side of this blog, and the positive part of the divorce, for me.

1. Self-care. Physical and mental health are a full-time process for me. While I’ve never had a substance problem, I have used the 12-step program for various parts of my recovery. What I am working on is EMOTIONAL SOBRIETY.

2. Kids First. There is nothing in my life more important than the love and support of my children. Keeping them safe from the bitterness and anger that could’ve erupted in my divorce was always part of my agreement with their mom.

3. 100% Positive. While there are plenty of times I’m angry with their mom, there is NEVER any reason to voice those complaints to my kids. I remember how horrible my dad was at speaking about my mom. And of course, she was doing only a little better at voicing the victim side of the horror. And it was pretty bad. Eventually, in high school my dad began taking it out on me, saying that the divorce was my fault and saying that I didn’t love him. These will never be words that my kids hear from me. And I believe the ex-y has the same intention.

4. Lead With Love. I may not be in love with their mother, but I will never stop loving her. It’s often that love that turns to bitterness and hate when it’s flipped around. But I won’t ever go there. She is gone. She is someone else’s. And I can do better each day remembering the relationship of the divorce is about my kids. And if she’s happier, they will benefit.

I don’t always get it right, but I keep trying to return to these principles. And as my ex-y has now turned me over to the Attorney General’s office I guess we will see what it’s like trying to abide by these principles while she is suing me. I imagine that she is doing the best she knows how. At least, I suppose, she will know with the bankruptcy that I’m filing, that I’m not secretly stashing money away, or trying to keep her from child support payments.

Even in cutting off most of the conversation between us, I think she must be doing that for some personal, self-preservational reasons, rather than hate at me. We’ve got these great kids. And we do everything we can to support and encourage them. If she no longer wants to sit face-to-face to map out some plans with me, that’s okay. I guess we go back to emailing each other. That worked some while we were married.

And I’ll keep mapping my own path along this journey here. Turning my ex into a plus.


The Off Parent


Depression is No Joke: Suicide is Not the Answer to Any Question or Problem

get help for depression in your divorceAs I’m thinking about some of the darkest times in my life, the fall from having it all to having nothing was the harshest thing I could imagine. There were moments…

(Disclaimer: I am not a counselor or mental health professional. I am not offering advice on how to treat your depression or suicidal thoughts. I am saying GET HELP and GET IT NOW. See also the Divorce Reference Library page)

For now, here are a few things I learned about depression.

Your brain is fooling you. You can no longer trust your own thoughts. Even the negative thoughts are not accurate. What was critically important for me was to realize when I was getting depressed and go into humorous observation mode. “Wow, my thinking is really fucked up.” There’s nothing funny about depression, but sometimes if I could amplify my dark clouds to the ultimate extreme I could remind myself how silly my thinking could get. I mean, I was probably not responsible for nuclear war. But that’s how it felt sometimes.

Soft thoughts about suicide are actually suicidal thoughts. Harder to admit the word “suicide” into my vocabulary. But I had vague ideas about jumping from a bridge or crashing my car at high-speed. And while those are called “ideation” they ARE actually suicidal thoughts. Take them seriously. Again, remember, your brain is crazy at this point. Even odd thoughts about how you “might” kill yourself are actually thoughts about killing yourself. I know that sounds kind of circular, but it’s easy to discount the “concept” rather than the “plan” of killing yourself.

Tell your care team about your “ideation.” Even the littlest thing can be a clue into what’s going on in your brain. And once you get over the hurdle of talking about it, you can begin to disassemble the issues and problems that are making you consider that ending your life might be a solution to ANYTHING. It’s not a solution!

If you ever find yourself with a plan, call 911. Do whatever it takes to get yourself to share your planning with someone else. This is serious. If you have a plan, call your healthcare provider now. If you’re plan is in motion, call 911. Only you can take the action to prevent this.

Everything else can wait. Everything else, every problem, every situation, can wait for you to clear your depressive thoughts. There are a lot of helpful things you can do to move forward and out of depression. I have some powerful references in the Library. But for now, just know, that ANYTHING you do to stop your depressive acting out is worth it. Ice cream, funny movies, computer games, whatever it takes to break the spiral of dark thoughts.

Isolation is your enemy. Those dark thoughts can seethe and spin unchecked when you are staying in bed or blocking and not returning phone calls. What you need but can’t seem to ask for, is companionship. Just another soul to be with, to check in, to ask, “What are you doing tomorrow.” Do what you can to find that one person who understands. And then thank them for providing you with a check-in. That’s all you need at first. A “check-in.” Someone who is going to call and who you cannot block. It sucks, but the longer you dig in to the darkness the harder it is to pull out.

In my case I used some of the 12-step literature to help bootstrap myself back out of my dark cave and into recovery. The concept of MASSIVE ACTION really spoke to me. The idea being, that little incremental steps were not going to be enough to pull me up out of depression. So I signed up for a divorce recovery class (10-week counselor-led group) and joined an Aikido class. And every day, I made a plan to get out of bed and out in the world for a healthy lunch.

Just beginning these commitments toward health signaled to my depression that I was not going to take it lying down any more.

Some people have the idea that depression is a weakness. That everybody should be able to pull themselves up if they wanted to. Fuck that. Depression is a real beast. If you’ve never felt the weight of the black beast on you, you are lucky. But if you have dealt with, or think you may be dealing with depression, GET HELP.

You don’t have to do it alone. And trying to do it ALONE might even make things worse. The shame of depression is still real. But you cannot let it prevent you from getting the help you need.


The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

See also: Followed By the Black Dog of Depression