More insight

8:00am

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving next week with my long weekend in Chicago. I’m worried I’m going to get bored while I’m there. I’ll pick up an extra book just in case. Friday after Hamilton, I think I’ll take an architectural boat tour. I have this nervous fear my parents are going to “surprise me” by coming out. I hope they aren’t coming. I really want the solitude right now.

I have been thinking about the right way to structure/organize my thoughts about Michelle. I need to frame them differently. I need to stop thinking about our happiness. I need to remind myself she doesn’t want a family. More than that, I need to remind myself what my friend said the other weekend about hoping we don’t get back together. That was/is a paradigm shift for me. It brought all of the things Michelle did or didn’t do into focus. She took me for granted and I feel taken advantage of. She never really was bought into our relationship.

All her blame and anger are a smoke screen for her guilt. There is a part of her that hates she wants to be free of our family. We would still be together if I was able to move. She would have worked on our relationship if she could say, “I want to move to (insert city)” and I was able to do it. I can’t though. So she tells everyone what a piece of shit I am as the reason we broke up so they don’t know she really broke up because she doesn’t want the obligations and limitations of living her life with the boys and me. She can’t have the adventure and excitement she wants while being with us. She isn’t willing to postpone that till after my boys are grown and gone…she wants it right now.

Okay…giant sigh…that feels right. My life as a father doesn’t offer flexibility or adventure and Michelle wants adventure (right now) more than she wants us.

All of this doesn’t mean I don’t miss “us”. I miss the joy, laughter, love, care, sense of common purpose, sense of family, fun, ease, touch, tenderness, our conversations, her kiss, watching her love my boys, feeling her love me, making love, holding each other…I miss “us”. I have never felt closer to another human being as I did to Michelle. I have never been that intimate with another person. It is a once in a life time type connection I doubt either of us will ever find again.

None of this negates my controlling behavior. It was there! It was a direct result of my anxiety, my anxiety was exacerbated by my drinking. Controlling behavior was a way to eliminate the outcomes in life I was anxious about. Drinking helped numb the anxiety. It was a vicious cycle. I would feel anxious and drink to mute that feeling. Drinking lowered my inhibitions and allowed me to be more controlling. The longer I went in life drinking, the more I needed to drink to get the desired effect. The more I drank the more I felt the need for control. I went further and further down the rabbit hole. I feel like I have broken the cycle. I am clear headed. My anxiety is manageable because I am addressing it not muting it. I address it with exercise, meditation, reading, and writing. I have dealt with toxic relationships. I have worked on creating healthy boundaries (for me and my children) that do not sacrifice what is good and healthy for me/us to what makes other people happy.

I thought for a long time my anxiety stemmed exclusively from my relationship with my father. It doesn’t. It is rooted in bullying from when I was a child. There were some pretty traumatic things that happened in the 7th grade. It made me anxious to be at school. I felt powerless. I internalized all of it and told no one. I was afraid I was going to be bullied again all the time. It’s why I hid in the library at lunch from 7th grade until I was a Junior in high school. If I wasn’t where the bullies were, I couldn’t be bullied. It was my first attempt at controlling and it worked. It reinforced that if I could control things, I would be safe. Never addressing the root trauma allowed the controlling behavior to leach into most of my life. Drinking magnified it.

What I am about to say is very difficult. I have never articulated this before (not even to my therapist). I have had a substance abuse problem since I was 19 years old. I have self-medicated my anxiety for 24 years. From the first time I felt the wonderfully numbing effects of smoking marijuana in mid-September 1993 to August 1st, 2017 (when I quit drinking) I have used marijuana and alcohol to tune out the deafening noise of my anxiety. I used to call it “turning my brain off”. The never ending scroll of “what if’s” would just stop when I was high or drunk. They were manageable when I was controlling and in charge of the outcomes in my life…but they were silent when I was high or drunk.

I feel so much better now. Now I know what to do. Now, I know what is real and what is my anxiety screaming nonsense about the end of the world. All of this insight is the only positive thing to come out of losing Michelle. Losing her was my rock bottom. It was what inspired me to change and work to be a better man and father.

16 years ago, I did what Michelle wants to do. I moved to a big exciting city (San Francisco), worked, and advanced my career. It was a scary, wonderful adventure I’ll never forget. I didn’t have anything tying me down. I was single. She is right at the same age I was when I did that. Our age difference doomed us. If we had been married, she would have stayed with me and been bitter at how her life hadn’t been the adventure she had envisioned. We would have been divorced in 10 or 15 years.

Maybe one day she will look back on our time together without all the hate and rage she has. Maybe she can admit being a family with the boys and me wasn’t important enough (I say this without judgement) and not have the guilt or loss she is carrying around. At this point, who cares really? I have a good life. I have great kids. I am healthy and I’m working on staying that way. I love Michelle. I miss Michelle. I wish we could work through all of this and be together but that will fade over time. In 10 years, we’ll remember how we felt but the feeling itself will be worn down.

It is okay to be selfish (sometimes)

9:00am

I had an interesting conversation with a friend at Brad’s soccer game. She is friens with Michelle and sees her from time to time. She is glad Michelle and I broke up. More accurately, she said she hopes we don’t get back together. I asked why. She said it wouldn’t be good for Michelle, me, or the boys. She said Michelle has so many ideas and plans for her future and she is obviously so very happy about having freedom. She doesn’t think Michelle regrets us breaking up…in fact she knows Michelle is truly grateful she isn’t limited by having a partner/spouse and children. She told me she imagines 10-15 years into the future with Michelle and I married. She can see Michelle wishing her life had been different than having a family and being bitter at me for that. I agree with Cindy. At the end of the day, Michelle liked being with me and the boys, she just doesn’t want the responsibility and obligation(s) that come with it. I’ve been thinking and saying this for months now. She validated it.

Michelle wanted to want to be a wife and (step)mother…but faced with the obligations and responsibilities, she hated it. We made her feel trapped. What I am about to say is a statement of fact, not judgement. Michelle is being a selfish person. It is normal for a person who does not have children to think and behave this way. She is not interested in suborning her needs for the needs of a/our family. My friend is right. If Michelle had stayed with me and the boys, she would have eventually been unhappy.

I wish Michelle could be okay being selfish. Instead she feels guilt. For her that manifests itself in anger and denial. It explains why she has been so hateful and cruel.

I feel sad. Last night I cried as I was processing this. This is cathartic. The catharsis comes when I think about dating. There is no chance Michelle and I will work our way back to each other so I don’t feel guilty as I imagine being with other women.

What works

I am Regret. I

force questions that do not have

answers. I loathe sleep.


9:00am

Monday morning I sent Michelle a photo of Brad and his soccer team after they won their tournament with a brief description of the weekend both boys had. I sent her the picture because I thought she loves my boys and would like to hear about them. On my drive home from work I received the following text from her:

Michelle: I don’t see the need for us to have any more contact. I will not be responding to any more messages.

I was so upset. I have been feeling so good about things. Thursday I get all weird and freaked out about going on a date with a different woman then this. What the fuck? I did what works. I had a brutal workout, spent quality time with my boys, cried a little bit, talked to my dog, took a long hot bath, and read my book. By the time I was in bed I felt better.

I had some choice things to say back to her immediately after she sent me the text.

Me: Yeah, I can see that from your perspective. Why keep in contact with people you really never cared for to begin with. You are a cruel, unforgiving, and vindictive person. You kept that hidden for over three years. I don’t know if that is admirable or terrifying. You always said the song “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations was our song as a couple. Talk about foreshadowing huh?

About 5 minutes after I sent that I thought maybe I shouldn’t have. Now, I don’t have any regrets. Fuck Michelle and the space she keeps taking up in my head and my heart!! She IS cruel, unforgiving and vindictive. I am sending her the following text and then I am blocking her number from my cell phone as well.

Me: Yesterday, for about 30 minutes, I felt bad I sent that text. That was it. I stand by it. You ARE cruel, unforgiving, and vindictive. I should have included selfish, naïve, and immature as well. You’ve allowed one moment to define everything. You can’t allow I am capable of change because you are NOT capable of change. You have told me to “go fuck yourself” and that “you ruined my life and I fucking hate you.” I wish I had it in me to respond in kind…I don’t.

I’ll leave you with this: your actions the last 13 weeks and 2 days has as much to do with us being apart as anything I have done. One day, you will look back on our life together (our family) and you will regret leaving. You will miss us.

I sent this as a text and as an email. I have blocked her on my phone and email.

 

Love is a behavior

8:00am

Real love is a behavior not an emotion. It doesn’t matter how we “feel” if we have no action or “works”. An abusive spouse may feel they love their partner but the abuse says otherwise. A cheating wife may feel she loves her husband but the infidelity says otherwise…and so on and so on. Since our break up, I have tried so hard to make myself a better person. I can look back on the last 12 weeks and really say this has been a demonstration of my love for my children and Michelle.

Michelle doesn’t love me. It’s that simple. It is so clear looking at it through the prism of “love is a behavior not an emotion”. In fact, reflecting on our relationship, it makes me question if she ever did. I think she loved the idea I represented and the comfort my money provided. I say this because when we came to our first, real crisis she ran like a prisoner who sees freedom for the first time in 3 1/2 years. She has never looked back. Since then she has: misrepresented my actions, twisted my words, insulted my integrity, maligned me as a father, consistently said horribly cruel things (with the sole intention of hurting me), tried to manipulate my emotions for her financial benefit (health care), lied/went behind my back to try and maintain a relationship with my kids, and who knows what else. I guess the last one would be an example (all be it a misguided one) of her loving the boys. Her actions speak volumes about how she feels. She doesn’t love me. The only regrets she has with our relationship failing is losing Dennis and Brad and the material benefits that come with being with me. My “demonstrations of love” since our breakup have been a spectacular waste of time. I need to focus on loving just my boys.

Hope?

the difference from

where I was – to now, gives me

hope for the future


8:00am

Yesterday, I was so upset and angry at Michelle with the horrible thing she was saying to me that I left work. She is consumed by anger and resentment (maybe hatred?). She kept landing these blows that were expertly placed for maximum damage. I wish I could say I didn’t try to do the same but that would be a lie. She is just so much better at it than I am. My heart isn’t in it. I mostly ended up trying to defend and explain myself. I’m pathetic!

I got in my car and just started yelling at no one in particular as I drove home. That lasted a good 10 minutes or so. After I blew off steam I decided I needed to get out of my head. I got home, did a tough 20 minute circuit work out, and immediately went for a 3 mile run. All told it took about an hour. When I got home from my run, Dennis and Brad were home. Brad and I talked for about an hour while his brother did his homework. Then the three of us went out for sushi down in the old market. We walked around talking, having fun, and ended up at a coffee shop for desert. We talked at length about Michelle and how they aren’t going to be seeing her for a while. They were/are both sad. I explained why it was for the best with an analogy:

When you pull off a band-aid, you can do it slowly and it doesn’t hurt as much but it hurts a lot longer. Or, you can quickly rip it off. It hurts at first but very soon stops. The way I see it (this is me telling them), we can either extend the pain because it seems easier (it isn’t) or just rip that band-aid off.

As we were driving home, Brad said he feels good about the decision. I asked why. He said he feels less stress (he suffers from anxiety and has a therapist) because he knows what is happening now. There is no longer any confusion about the status of Michelle and I. Uncharacteristically, Dennis chimed in and said he felt the same way and then said, “this was a really great night.” Brad agreed.

After her attacks the last two days, I know what I wrote to her in that letter (on Sept 18th) about being so much further ahead of her and being afraid she wouldn’t be able to catch up…it has come to pass. She doesn’t even think she needs to see anyone. I feel so sad. I need to focus on the positives: I’m healthy, I’m sober, I have honest/clear/loving lines of communication with my children, and I’m not overwhelmed by being sad like I was.

After dropping the boys off at their mother’s I went to the movies. When I got home, I went to bed and read for an hour. I am proud of myself. I left work just a mess: hurt, sad, and longing (I’m being honest, I am still wanting Michelle). Shortly after, I had worked out and was on the front porch laughing and talking with Brad. I turned my day around. I did that! I didn’t stew about things. I felt those awful emotions, I let them in, and then got rid of them doing what I know works: exercise, time with my kids, movies, and reading. Last night I slept like a baby. I have made so much progress.

I just realized, my go to thing when I am upset (like I was yesterday) was drinking (either alone or with a friend). That never entered into the realm of possible solutions to getting “out of my head”. That is progress!!!!!!!

 

A dust-up

11:00am

Michelle received my letter. A huge dust up ensued. I wish I hadn’t engaged but I did. She said a lot of awful, hurtful things (!again!). She made assertions that aren’t true, she insulted my integrity, and maligned me as a father. Here is the last punch she landed before I stopped texting:

Michelle: Your boys are screwed without me. Have fun with their crippling insecurities when they are older because nothing is good enough for Collette. You’re a terrible father!! I was their only champion.

She is awful. I am so upset right now!!

 

I was so upset with all she said, I wasn’t able to concentrate, so I left work early today.

Ephemeral

she was like others:

ephemeral and fleeting.

I will never leave.


8:30am

Tomorrow evening I am going to have the conversation with Dennis and Brad about Michelle and not seeing her in the future. I need to get the logic behind the decision organized so it is coherent for them.

  1. We love Michelle, we miss her.
  2. Michelle no longer wants a future with me (I was going to say “us”…I think “me” is better).
  3. We need to move forward with our lives. We can’t hope Michelle will change.
  4. This is painful. It is okay to be sad, hurt, angry, confused, scared.
  5. These feelings may never go away but they will diminish with time.
  6. Some people will come and go in your life. I will never leave you.

Number 2 is still difficult for me. It will be difficult for the boys. I hope they are further along in their grieving than I give them credit for. The 6th point…it makes me feel good to remind them of it.

 

Happy birthday

we want you with us

but you are so far behind.

please catch up, hurry!!


the resentment I

felt was not real. it was fear

wearing a disguise.


9:00am

Michelle sent me a text a few minutes after midnight wishing me a happy birthday. Of course I’m reading all sorts of things into that. I just responded with “Thank you”.

I can see now I’ve really hurt my chances at reconciling with her. Thinking back to the letter I sent her on the 18th, where I said I have gotten so far ahead of her…of course she is resistant to everything I say. She hasn’t processed anything. I’m seven weeks into therapy and sobriety. Emotionally, Michelle is still in Arizona, nine weeks ago when my drinking problem and resultant controlling behavior became so evident to her. She hasn’t moved beyond that. She won’t be able to until she starts therapy.

I’m a different person. No, that’s not correct. I’m the same person…I’m just a better version. I understand what drove my drinking. I understand what created my need for control. I understand all anxiety touches and impacts in my life. Knowing helps me: not drink, squelch (I love that word) my controlling behavior, and manage my anxiety. I’m going to continue with therapy and continue to get stronger and healthier.

To say Michelle is resistant to therapy would be an understatement. Until she starts, any time we spend together will be fraught. It will be detrimental to any chance of us finding each other again. I’ll be looking to the future wanting to heal and she will be angry and resentful of what happened in the past. She has said she loves me and wants to be with me. She has also said she doesn’t see how that can happen. We can’t address the desire to be together and reconcile it with the anger and resentment she has until she gets help. As much as I want to, I can’t spend time with her until she does. I have to be patient.

Thinking through this…I’m not resentful (anymore). I am afraid. I am afraid she’ll never catch up. I’m afraid she isn’t brave enough to grow. I’m afraid we’ll never be a family again.


3:45pm

Michelle just sent me a text asking if we could get together. She wanted to buy me a crème brulee for my birthday. I told her I have plans and can’t. I do have plans tonight but I could meet her. I really, really want to meet her but can’t. It will do more harm than good.

 

Our future

resentment requires

living in the past. I look

towards our future


9:00am

Michelle and I had dinner last night. We ended up talking about our relationship…again. I had hoped we were just going to hang out and have fun together. In retrospect it was good. We didn’t have much fun but we worked on a few things. Michelle has a lot of resentment. I don’t say that in an accusatory way. That’s where she is. She kept talking about things that had happened in the past about my drinking, control issues, etc, etc. I told her that was the past. She is stuck on what I did instead of focusing on what I’m doing.

It makes me think about the movie “Land Lines”. The parallels Michelle and I have with this film are palpable. Jenny Slate’s character cheats on her fiancé, she comes to deeply regret it, and through it learns to truly value her fiancé and their love. Ultimately he takes her back but he is tortured by her infidelity and he torments her. She finally breaks down and tells him that she can’t help what she did. She did it. It happened. All she can do is love him and be the person he deserves now and into the future. He wants to be with her. He needed to learn how to let go of his resentment of how she hurt him. I hope Michelle wants us to be together enough to get past the resentment.

Michelle told me, on the phone, she wishes she had been stronger. She wishes she had MADE me stop drinking. I don’t know how to explain to her the only way I was ever going to stop drinking was if I hit rock bottom. Ruining our family and not having her to love is my rock bottom. Maybe there is a compliment in there…losing her was my rock bottom. That’s a pretty fucked up compliment.


my problem ruined

our lives once. did it teach me

how to be better?


1:00pm

I’ve been struggling with the “higher power” part of a 12 step program. Talking with Michelle last night made me realize what that is for me. It is the three of them. I truly hope we are going to be together. Michelle wants us to be together, pair that with her anger/resentment and it’s confusing…I get it. At the end of the day, if she loves me and she wants to be with me, she’ll sort out the resentment. We’ll find our way back to each other and be a family again.

If I ever went back to drinking I would lose Michelle and the boys. I will NEVER lose my family again. That is the higher power I have given myself up to, our family. It sounds like I’m making them responsible for my drinking. That’s not what I mean at all. I am responsible for my drinking. If I can’t stay sober for myself, I can stay sober for them. The ultimate motivation for sobriety: Dennis, Brad, and Michelle.

 

What is best for me

when faced with hurting

others, I struggle to do

what is best for me


8:30am

I’ve been staring at the letter I wrote Michelle the last two days. I’ve read it over and over again. I feel worse about this than when I sent that email to my brother. It’s the finality of it. If I send this letter, I will never see Michelle again. It closes the door on us. No matter how much I try to explain that I need this, she will never forgive me.

She spoke with a co-worker and scheduled an appointment with a therapist. I guess that’s good. She is going to need it. This is going to hurt her and make her angry.

She’s made her position clear as it relates to us. I can’t think about what’s best for Michelle or what’s best for us. I need to start thinking about what’s best for me and my children. I need to try and piece my life together now that she is gone: taking care of my children, sobriety, exercise, reading, and writing.

I guess the hesitancy is the finality. I want us to be together so badly. She told me she didn’t want me to hold out hope for us to get back together. Pathetically…that’s what I’m doing. That’s my reluctance to send this. I’m still so desperate for us to reconcile. I should listen to her. I can’t control others. I can’t influence others. I can only control myself. I need to look at things objectively. Objectively Michelle has told me, from the beginning, we are not going to be together. She has told me I should not hold out any hope. I can’t influence that outcome. I will not have hope.

I need to be the best person I can be for my boys. I need to move on with my life and find happiness again. I need to do what I think is best for Dennis and Brad. They are confused and upset. Seeing Michelle and continuing their relationship with her is fostering that confusion. This is what’s best.

I won’t give up hope. It’s not who I am. I am a glass is half full kind of a person. What I will do is behave as if I have no hope. With my grief…I’m trying to take care of body and mind in the hopes my heart will heal itself. With my hope…if I behave as if I no longer have any maybe it will finally atrophy and die.