KaRyn: The Challenge (of Living with a Clean Addict)

There was this from the Alanon “ONE DAY AT A TIME” book:

“THe change from active alcoholism to sobriety makes a great upheaval in our lives.  It is a challenge to both partners.  Making this difficult adjustment requires entirely new thinking patterns.  In the years of active using, the husbands of compulsive drinkers had to take on many extra responsibilities.  Along with earning a living for the family, they had to provide for the care of the children, take care of the home and get the meals.  Wives of compulsive drinkers often had to work to supplement the skimpy budget or do without many necessities, as well as doing the man’s chores around the house.  With sobriety, many of these roles must be reversed, many habits unlearned. Continue reading

KaRyn: In Training

I started going to cross-fit about three weeks ago.  My neighbor does it in his backyard and invites anyone who hears the grunting and thinks it would be fun to join him.  If you are unfamiliar with cross-fit, this description of one of my daily workouts should give you a clue to what we’re dealing with here.  

WOD (workout of the day) for Wednesday:

first:  Get a sledgehammer (don’t worry, neighbor has at least three of varying weights -pick the lightest one for your own safety). Stand around a large pronate tire that has presumably fallen off a monster truck and into your neighbor’s back yard.  Lift the sledgehammer above your shoulders and hit the tire as though you are breaking concrete on a chain gang.  Repeat the action as many times as you can for 1 minute.  When the timer goes off, switch arms and repeat the action again for another minute. When you are finished with this work, cry a little.

ifaacademy_combat_conditioning_fitness_02Second: Stand upright. (if you can after sledgehammer business).  Fall down into the grass until you are in a sort of horizontal place with the ground. Push yourself back up off the grass in a motion that might look a little bit like a push up.  Crawl apologetically back up to your feet, put your hands in the air and clap them high above your head.  Repeat as many times as you can in 1 minute.  This is called a burpee.  Why?  I have NO idea.  MODIFICATION:  Fall down into the grass and play dead until the timer goes off.  

Rest for 30 seconds and then start over again.  Do 20 minutes of these rotations.  

Yep. Cross fit.  I’m the special needs participant in a group of highly fit people.  My first day there, they told me there was NO SHAME IN THROWING UP (!) because at some point or other, every one has done it.  I modify everything and have an irrational fear of jumping up on a high box, but still I go every other day.  I’ve been fit before and have often said that I want to learn how to become an athlete.  This is not something that comes naturally to me.  In fact, almost every day when the text message comes telling us what time we will start falling on the ground and getting back up again, I think I might just do what DOES comes naturally instead. “Maybe today i will do what I know how to do well.  What I’ve always done.  What feels safe and intuitive.  Maybe today I will just eat this bag of kettle corn while watching old episodes of 30 Rock and Arrested Development and scroll through instagram until it’s time to go to bed.” (note: there is NOTHING WRONG with that occasionally.)

But then I remember that I actually feel better after cross fit.  I put on my shoes, grab some water to stave off the inevitable dehydration (sledgehammering a tire will do that to you), and make my way to the neighbor’s yard for 30 minutes of hard, hot work.  It’s worth it to feel the strength returning to my legs and arms.  

Justin has been home for 6 days.  His sobriety is precious and it is impossible to do everything right and exhausting to have to work at every aspect of our interactions.  I feel constantly drawn to what I’ve known and how I’ve done things before.  Sometimes, when there’s even just a hint of tension, I start strapping on the kettle corn feedbag (ie…old communication patterns).  For example, we were having a tense conversation in the car about my crappy driving and I felt like Justin was accusing me of not taking responsibility for myself and I just lost it. I screamed. Banshee screamed. I felt every ounce of my own sobriety slipping away…I was seemingly suddenly weak and unbalanced and afraid.  Afraid of not being loved.  Afraid of being abandoned and victimized.  THere was this tenuous moment where it was all collapsing, sliding into the kind of pit that takes days to dig out of. The miracle came when we were somehow able to recover.  I can’t even really remember what that recovery looked like (a fumble and catch?) but the thing is: We are getting stronger.  Slowly.  We are falling down and crawling back up again.  I take comfort in knowing that we aren’t going anywhere and tomorrow is another day to try again.  

Now, quickly, I want to say that I am not so presumptuous to believe that Justin’s sobriety can be undone by me.  I mean, I didn’t cause his anxiety, addiction or his recovery, so it would be pretty impressive if I could CAUSE his relapse.  But I CAN add to the stress that might cause a relapse.  So I am sensitive to that, but not overly.  What I’ve realized is that my brain is in training the same way his is.  I have neural pathways that have gotten really comfortable jumping to their conclusions and subsequent reactions.  I’m allowed to feel tired because the work I am doing is exhausting too!  But the important thing is that I keep showing up, choosing  to hit the tire and giving myself and my marriage the opportunity to evolve into something with real muscle.  And sometimes I cry to release the tired and that’s ok too.

Are there any other family members of alcoholics and addicts reading this who have felt this exhaustion when their loved one first comes home?  What has your experience been?  How long did the funky/walking on eggshells/finding your sea legs part last for you?

KaRyn: The Hole

Tonight, the ache in my heart required bad poetry.  It demanded it as I sat crying on an overlook above the city.  Here’s a bad picture to go with my bad poetry.

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There’s a part of me that wants to describe where the poem came from, but really, it’s not that subtle (as bad poetry often isn’t).  The reality is this: my husband is giving 110% of his energy to healing right now and though I have every right to feel empty, neglected and sorry for myself, I cannot blame my emptiness on anyone else.  I would venture to guess that this poem and this post are my Higher Power’s way of reminding me to seek Him to fill the void.

This night, this heart

is a gaping maw

Toothless gums gnashing open

closed, empty

a low gutteral hum whistling through its depths

Even the dusk-filled skyline

holds her flickering dotted gems at arms length

all is unable to satiate

all is hunger, want

why, heart

The sun retreats in a trail of curdled sky

swirling flames put out with his distance, but

not this heart’s desire.

What hopes to soothe it? why

nothing can be made from that

From here, it seems like something quieted by darkness

but really it is not reconciled.

It will wake again, desperate

for things it cannot create, gather, wish

out of this night, this heart

KaRyn: The Creation

It’s Homecoming Eve.  I need to go to bed because I have to get up early to head to the treatment facility to pick up Justin, but I also needed to document this milestone.  Or rather, the night before the milestone.  I’m not going to bother trying to describe my feelings.  Suffice it to say nothing makes you look more insane at work than having a panic attack followed by maniacal laughter.  Yep.  It’s like that.

I’ve cleaned the house because that makes me feel like I’m ready for something.

I tried to make something because that makes me feel the most like myself.  I started with a fancy BLT for dinner…heirloom tomato, REAL bacon from the deli at harmons (none of that turkey business for a last meal).  It was nice but somehow didn’t quite hit the poetic notes that I was hoping for.  I don’t know, I guess I imagined it like a scene in a movie where there is some sort of moody music playing while the camera shows slow shots of my hands close up, slicing the perfect purple red tomato, the crackling bacon and then my face with my eyes closed while I savor every bite – the music crescendo-ing to remind you of how alone I am.  It was more like just a sandwich in the hands of a moderately hungry person.  I don’t think I savored anything. Then I tried to make some fruit leather.  That was not a winner.  I used some cherries that I acquired yesterday and it took me forever to make because of all those stupid pits.  Then I cooked it wrong and it turned into a sort of tar paper with a flavor profile reminiscent of death and defeat. Like I said, not really a winner.   But that’s ok, maybe what I should be creating is not food related.

We’re making a contract, me and Justin.  It’s a document that says what he’ll do to maintain his recovery and what I’ll do to maintain mine and help with his.  We’re going to talk about it tomorrow with Ted.  We’ve also contacted our old marriage therapist who will start to see us again next week.

I realize that everything is going to change, maybe even this project.  I mean, how can it not?  I’ve been having this sort of one sided conversation with my husband, and he with me for three months.  He couldn’t read any of my posts while he was in there so I felt safe to say what I really wanted to say.  How will his ability to fully participate on this blog change what I say and how I say it?  Will I censor things more?  Will I stop writing all together?  And what about Justin…will the ability (and requirement really)to post his own videos change his experience?  Will he feel like he can’t really say things because he’ll KNOW that I’m watching? (even though he knew I was watching before, he didn’t have to watch me watching…if you know what I mean.)

There’s still so much to create, really.  First a contract, then a relationship and a revised life together.  Then trust.  Then, who knows!  I hope all this creation includes writing and video and The Beauty for Ashes Project because it’s been good for me.  Whatever we end up creating, Luckily, creating together is one of the best things about my relationship with Justin.  I probably won’t try to create cherry fruit leather again though.  You’re welcome.


KaRyn: The Countdown


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IMG_8466Justin comes home this friday.  I don’t even know what to say about it that will make sense to anyone. ever.  People sometimes ask me, “So are you excited?”.  To illustrate how that question causes me problems, I would like to tell you a story.

Because I have some weird food things right now, I have become chummy with a few of the food service staff at the treatment facility.  Nothing forces you to create a bond faster than constantly asking if there’s dairy in the breakfast/lunch/dinner menu.  One fellow, we’ll call him Ron, was especially helpful and often went the extra mile to make sure I had food to eat.  By the end of my family week tenure, we were trading recipes for granola and discussing the price of cantaloupes.  You know, the usual. Continue reading

KaRyn: Falling Apart (& How We Put It Back Together)


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Sometimes, the washing machine breaks on an ordinary Tuesday night.    And occasionally, when you hear that unbalanced sound of metal crashing into metal and you realize with horror that there is nothing with a zipper in this load, your heart starts beating faster than normal and you push the “end cycle” button so hard that it pushes the button right off the machine.  It’s possible that you might open the washing machine lid to see everything just horribly wrong in there – basket askew, water not draining – and you remember that you bought it (and the one year warranty) in February of last year and it is now June.  Sometimes, the washing machine breaking feels like the whole world collapsing and so you collapse on the washing machine and just FEEL.  Maybe that feeling looks like a lot of hot, angry tears and a tiny “woe is me!” especially when you remember that your husband, a huge and vocal proponent of extended warranties, definitely invited you to extend THIS warranty, and you politely declined. Because, well, you know better.

Fast forward to Wednesday and the start of another family week at Justin’s treatment facility.  This time, I went in preparation for his homecoming in two weeks.  His treatment team thinks (and I agree) that sober living (a sort of half-way house for addicts) is not the best option for a dude with a wife and kids.  It’s time to come home, step out of the safety bubble of rehab, go to intensive outpatient treatment and start rebuilding relationships and life in general.  A huge part of this planning and transitioning was a weekend home pass that we’ve been jokingly calling Justin’s Furlough.  Overnight passes Wednesday and Thursday and then home with me and the kids Friday to Sunday.

After it was clear that the washing machine was definitely compromised and after I had cried enough to feel like I’d done some good, I did what any normal person without an active warranty does…I started to poke around in there to figure out what the problem was.  This is where my Sue O’Daly gene takes full effect.  I realized, after feeling up the insides of my washing machine, that there was a sort of metal pole missing.  I took to the internet and began with the most logical thing: A diagram. Must. Find. Name for metal thingy.


Continue reading

Justin: The Good (seeing it in other people!)

June 21.   Justin notices that he’s beginning to really believe that people are good and not just always out for themselves.  His sobriety is reminding him that he wants to see other people succeed and he’s excited to see other people the way God sees them.  The help he received from everyone involved in the project is a powerful reminder of the goodness of others.


KaRyn: The Release

KaRyn: The Release

Have you ever been held captive by an inanimate object? Not even really an object, more like an idea, a concept, a perception, or maybe even an erroneous belief about yourself? My captor’s name is not what you might think. Yes, I’m the wife of a recovering addict and am myself a recovering codependent, but the thing that has held me captive for the past two years has nothing to do with addiction.

Do you know what an IRB is? No problem. I’m happy to explain. IRB stands for Internal Review Board and it’s a group of professors who decide if the research you are going to do will harm human subjects. It’s a good thing. NObody wants another Tuskegee Study. You make an application to the IRB and then you get approved and then you go merrily on your way with your research.  Easy, right?  hmmm…well somewhere between my race to graduation and sitting down in the middle of the road (that’s for you, adam), that IRB hopped on my back like a monkey and hunkered down.  Sometimes it hovered.  Other times it weighed a million pounds.  However it manifested, it was a mountain to me that even the von Trapps couldn’t climb. Continue reading


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