Please forgive me, gorgeous ones; I’m still unpacking and processing and analyzing and doing all the things that empaths and codependents do in addiction recovery from a narcissistic relationship.
The path to that recovery is not always linear; in fact, it rarely is. Translation: we’re going to slip and fall. We’re going to backtrack, regress.
Or at least, it seems that way. What we might not realize at the time is that even when it looks like we’re moving in the wrong direction, that somehow we “lost” the battle, it’s often actually part of our healing process. It’s a step forward disguised as a step back.
At least, that’s what I keep reminding myself about Wednesday night. After my big wins, I was proud of myself, satisfied, feeling a bit more comfortable in my own skin, all hey, my pretties, I got this.
And then life reminds you that you’re human. Your heart whimpers again, in mournful response to those random, unexpected moments where you suddenly flash back to the Lovely Days that you want back so badly. Your heart wants to trick your head into believing it was real, that those early red flag signs weren’t a big deal, they were just humans being human, and some humans…well, human differently than others.
The way I human is with love. Connection. Devotion. Humanity. The way they human…is not. It’s with supply security. Contempt. Judgment. Devaluation. Confusion. Manipulation. All of these ugly words that I used to use only when talking about people I didn’t know, and now I use them every day to describe people I once fell for, fell in love with, devoted nearly every waking moment to, tried to help in every way.
When there’s that kind of disconnect between two styles of human-ing, that creates pain, for the sane ones, the ones trying to be healthy and whole, even if that is a work in progress or even a more distant goal.
Our path to becoming healthy and whole is an individual one, always, but there is an underlying common core. This core consists of self-compassion, self-care, self-awareness, self-discovery, self-respect, wisdom, being part of a greater purpose, a greater consciousness, whatever that happens to be and whatever label we may or may not attach to it.
It would be so much easier if that path was linear, and on some days, maybe even weeks or months or years, it certainly seems that way. You gain experience and wisdom, practice forgiveness to set yourself free, connect dots and experience breakthrough revelations. You meditate or contemplate or pray on it, and answers and discoveries are delivered in mysterious ways at mysterious moments.
Everything seems to be rolling smoothly. Those early wins are a huge help, and the foundation of positive reinforcement that translates to self-motivation and healing as a feed-forward mechanism.
…A trigger boogeyman steps in front of you and blocks your path. For me, on Wednesday night, this trigger was a combination of a little too much wine (lower inhibitions), the NET session I’d had that day (emotional release), and the grieving process…well, processing still–acutely.
I’d let down my guard and spilled my heart to the very one I should have never reached out to that night. It was the usual story, gorgeous ones, you’ve heard it–and maybe done it–before: I Needed Closure, on Just a Few Things. Isn’t that often the way it goes? I Had Questions for him, and needed to Tie Up Some Loose Ends. Even though I was the one who had discarded him. My head had, my heart hadn’t. And they were locked in a tug-of-war.
Yet, wine lets the heart win, by taking away the head. Sure, it can help me relax enough to go to sleep, even when stress physiology would dictate otherwise, so it’s a mild numbing, sedating tool. I’m a cheap date; a couple glasses will often get the job done. I’m not interested in getting drunk anyway.
I’m such a cheap date, that one glass, maybe even half of one, depending on the wine variety in question, will start knocking down my inhibitions, and it will do it so gradually that it becomes a frog-in-boiling-water situation (you know the analogy, right? Stick an imaginary frog in an imaginary pot of boiling water, and it will shriek and jump out; however, put that same frog in room-temperature water and turn up the heat so slowly that the proverbial frog acclimates to the rise in temperature, and pretty soon the imaginary frog passes away, without ever having tried to jump). That night, the boiling water was the combination of wine and texting with the enemy, and the frog was me.
The odds that that would turn out well were pretty close to zero, but not exactly zero. However, when you add a trigger to the equation, the odds of catastrophe become imminent, a sure thing. In my case, the trigger was his mention of having scheduled a paid session with a professional cuddler.
I admit, I cried. Pretty hard. I thought back to those days and evenings in his warm strong arms and I just told him I used to do that, for hours, for free. I gave him all that, along with the love and devotion behind it, and more–any time he wanted it. I gave and gave, requiring little in return. I prided myself on being low-maintenance, aside from desiring affection, and even learned to live with breadcrumbs in that area, because at least it was some kind of sustenance.
I also admit that I was envious of the professional cuddler. Here she would get to spend time with him, a full hour. She would be the one to hold him and soothe him. She would get to run her fingers through his glorious hair and look into those deep eyes, and I wouldn’t. He’d have somewhere to go, someone to cuddle with, the following night, and I would not.
And, I admit that I was heartbroken, because if he can buy affection from someone else on demand, that meant he didn’t need me anymore, and he wouldn’t be nearly as motivated to stick by me. He could simply hand over his credit card and get what he needed, no strings attached, no Discussions to be had, no relationship to invest in, no effort to have to put forth.
I lit into him. I told him too much. This probably gave him some supply for the night. I noticed he didn’t elect to sign off earlier with me like he had every other night; he kept going until my litany put him to sleep. And how can you sleep when you know someone you love or even like is in that much pain? Oh wait…yeahnevermind.
I was angry. I was devastated. I was envious. I was vulnerable all over again, and then disgusted with myself for even going down that road.
It was definitely a backslide…or was it? In hindsight, I’m convinced that it wasn’t. Oh, it appeared to be, gorgeous ones, but it was actually healing in disguise. One thing to know about Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET) or any other healing bodywork (acupuncture, massage therapy of any kind, chiropractic adjustments, and so on) is that these treatments can take 24 hours to process fully. You release emotions during the treatment, either noticeably or not, and those emotions may still come in waves for about 24 hours. They may not even be noticeable until later in that 24-hour period.
The following morning (Thursday), the anger was gone. There was sadness left, and I still felt the brain-chemical addiction to this man; I was a little emotionally “iffier” and a little less emotionally stable than the previous morning (although not nearly as bad as before the NET treatment). Gradually, I did indeed begin to feel more solid again, just like I had after the NET treatment the day before. Apparently that was simply a wave of emotion, processing out of my being from the treatment, uninhibited by the wine.
And, I knew that event was ultimately a step in the right direction when it motivated me to lay some boundaries. I analyzed the situation (which is not fruitful when trying to analyze a narcissist, but is productive when you analyze yourself and your own roles in these situations), and came to a realization.
I thought back to the night before that, when I had signed off early to have a discussion with my husband, and realized I felt better that night and the next day; and I had texted late-night, after having wine, and felt awful that night and a little iffy the next day.
The Realization: I identified late-evening/night texting and wine intake as two possible weak points. Eliminate those two, and this begins to bring more stability.
Knowledge is half the battle, my angels; now we need an Action Step. I decided that I was going to sign off about an hour or two after dinner, when I felt the least strong and the most sentimental, and even earlier the moment I have my first sip of wine, such as with dinner. So, I would be open for texting only in complete sobriety, and only then until 8-9pm.
Unlike many narcissists, my ex did not insist on disregarding my boundaries. My problem was that I hadn’t even set any to begin with. I needed to do so, and the time was now. So I did.
My counseling session on Thursday afternoon was another breakthrough. My therapist mentioned that I had severe Intimacy Anorexia, and agreed that yes, I am in withdrawal. He mentioned that my ex was proverbially holding me captive in a symbolic jail cell, which has a door, and is also a bottomless pit. I’m trying to climb out of the pit and get to the door, to which I have a key, but I’m not sure how to use it. This climbing-out and key-using are where the psychotherapy comes in, giving me a road map on how to do that.
He said right now I’m addicted, and I need touch from others; he mentioned our kitties as one source, and he italicized and underscored the fact that something really needs to happen with my husband, Mr Neglectful Narcissist – I need touch from him, reassurance from him, compliments from him, support from him–all the lovely things normal relationships provide that I haven’t been privy to for two decades.
He said that self-talk is key; I need to be able to say “this is not okay”. Neglect is indeed a form of abuse, even if it doesn’t leave any obvious physical or even emotional marks or trauma.
There was more, but I won’t bore you with too many details, gorgeous ones. I did go home and have a heart-to-heart with my husband, who listened quietly. Gears were turning in his head, I could tell, but I didn’t know which direction. As with all narcissists I’ve been involved with, I gave him my monologue of what transpired during the therapy session and my thoughts, emotions, and experiences, and then asked him for his thoughts, because he didn’t volunteer them at first.
And like most narcissists, he didn’t have much to say, simply saying he wasn’t sure yet, he was processing, hadn’t expected to have this conversation tonight. On its face, that’s an understandable response, especially when one just gets home from a busy workday. However, the difference between a healthy person doing that and a narcissist doing that is that the narcissist will leave it at that, and consider themselves “off the hook” until you bring it up again, whereas a healthy person will have at least some barebones initial thoughts or feelings in response, and then come to you a little while later and say something like “hey, I’ve been doing some thinking on what you said, and here’s my perspective.”
However, from where I sit right now, I’m simply grateful that unlike my ex, my husband didn’t try to interrupt me, hurry me along, express exasperation, dismiss me, stare at me intimidatingly, or poorly conceal a bubbling rage. He actually seemed to listen and head-gears actually seemed to turn.
I’ll probably detail the weekend in the next post 🙂
Until then, my angels, stay strong, learn from my mistakes and your own, and no matter what, keep going. Even when it doesn’t look like we got this, We Got This. ❤