Yesterday after work Chris was supposed to stop at the grocery store and pick up my online order. I reminded him right before he got off work, and as he headed that way, he asked for instructions. He’d never picked up the groceries before.
I told him to pull into the assigned spot, call the number on the sign, and tell them the order is under “Mary Ritter.”
It’s not so much that I go incognito when I’m out in the world, but that my account with this store is so old that when I originally signed up, I wasn’t yet married. So even though I’ve officially gone by Graham for almost twelve years, when I go to the grocery, I’m still a Ritter.
A few minutes later Chris called to tell me the store didn’t have any record of my grocery order. They couldn’t find it in their system at all.
I immediately went to my email confirmation to make sure I sent him to the right store. Depending on my plans for the day, I might place the order at a different location, and I worried I’d made a mistake.
After a quick check, I came back on the phone.
“Did you tell them it’s under ‘Mary Ritter’?” I asked slowly.
“No,” he said.
“Did you even read the text I sent you?”
“Not all of it,” he responded.
“Goodbye,” I said through gritted teeth.
Later over dinner I sarcastically congratulated him on the grocery pickup.
“I got the groceries. Don’t make a big deal out of it,” he replied.
That’s the main problem right now: everything small doesn’t feel small anymore. After years of making excuses in my head, after years of ignoring small things that didn’t feel right, I can’t do it anymore. For those unfamiliar with trauma and healing, it’s called a trigger. A situation or memory or reaction that recalls the original issue and takes you back to the chaos or heartache or pain instantly.
Chris forgetting a conversation or important detail we discussed. Triggered.
Chris driving too fast or making a silly decision while driving. Triggered.
Chris sleeping in too late. Is he hungover? Triggered.
Chris making an impulsive decision. Triggered.
What I never expected in recovery was how many behaviors, words, or moments would send me right back to angry or suspicious. What should just be small mistakes everyone makes, feels more important and under more scrutiny.
My husband has been sober almost eleven months. He attends AA meetings regularly, he sees his addiction counselor every week, he does an AA-related devotional every morning. He takes his medicine for depression as well as a pill that would make him violently ill if he took a drink of alcohol. Even being around rubbing alcohol or certain household cleaners makes him nauseous.
I know he is not drinking. But convincing my brain to believe it after all the years of lying is still hard. This anger ebbs and flows. I’m not triggered as often as I was eight months ago or even two months ago. But it still happens, I still get mad, and Chris still gets defensive.
We’re working on it. Communicating well is the only way it gets better. Chris leaving the room or getting mad about it makes it worse. Lashing out with too many emotions is how I make it worse. Chris wants to ignore things and I want to address everything. We’re working on meeting in the middle, where I let some things go unsaid and he says more things than he wants to.
Change is hard, but we know the end result will be a healthier marriage.
In February, Ellie turned nine.
The night before her birthday, I laid in bed with her and asked her about her best and worst moments at eight.
Her best moments were riding all the adult rides at Kings Island the prior summer and holding a giant python at school the week before. Worst moments were crashing her bike at the campground, busting her knee badly, and having to ride back to us hurt. Also worst: the headache she got after the fifth ride on The Beast at Kings Island. Major eight year old stuff.
What she didn’t mention—and I held my breath for it each time I asked—was Daddy or our separation or seeing him that night in the parking lot so lost and broken or visiting him in rehab. Those didn’t even cross her mind. I feel like I barely survived 2017, and Ellie’s take-away was a bike crash and a headache.
When they tell you kids are resilient, it’s true. But they have to have the skills and support and environment to rebound. For my children, that was counseling, being allowed to ask any question they wanted, and constantly being told they were safe, loved, and none of it was their fault.
Occasionally addiction and rehab and Daddy not being around last fall comes up, but the majority of the time it doesn’t. If I happen to have an alcoholic beverage while on vacation or with girlfriends, I talk to the girls about moderation and why I can have a drink and why Daddy can’t. As they get older, this will come up more often and I might choose to not drink. We’ll address that when it’s time.
I’m still in counseling but slowing down. I go once a month at this point and I think my counselor really wants to tell me I’m done for now but I keep showing up anyway. I won’t let her break up with me. She reminds me her goal is to eventually work herself out of a job and this is the best outcome of seeking therapy. Plus, she says with a smile, there will always be someone to take my place.
Saying I’m nearing the end of counseling doesn’t mean all is right in my world. But it does mean I’ve learned the necessary skills to handle stress and problems and drama with healthy coping mechanisms I didn’t have when I started. I can identify healthy relationships and establish boundaries for unhealthy ones. There’s still a lot of work to do (always), but I’m better equipped to handle it. Plus, I can go back to counseling when necessary and probably will need to at some point.
Chris and I have not been to counseling together. I’ll share more about that tomorrow.
Last week we had date night after a few months without. We went to dinner, the bookstore, and saw a movie. It was an average date night, nothing extra special or romantic. But it was good. It felt safe and comfortable after a long time of not feeling that way. When so much hard stuff has happened, even when you try to get over it, you’re still dragging it around wherever you go. It just becomes part of your story, a part of what you carry. It never really goes away. But what you do while you’re carrying it can make all the difference. You can keep carrying it so it weighs you down and makes you angry and bitter, or you can carry it around, pay it the attention and love it needs, and it becomes this lighter part instead.
We’re still working hard to make what we’re carrying lighter. We’ve still got a way to go, but it’s getting easier every day.
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