Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taking responsibility for the rage

I had an epiphany this week as I wrote the answer to one of my sponsor’s questions. The question came in response to me sharing some things I had read in Kelly McDaniel’s “Ready to Heal.” McDaniel states that a woman who is violated sexually carries the rage in her body, and that in the triangle of victim, perpetrator and rescuer – she can only be the victim for so long until she has to somehow reclaim some sense of power.

I shared with my sponsor:
All my acting out against men and women (by way of having sex with their husbands) is part of my rage. Yet, I've never been aware of the rage. All my anger has been sexualized or comforted with food (or in rescuing others)and it is so demoralizing to think that I have to deal with that original trauma of my incest before I can begin to stop this uncontrollable rage from killing me and damaging the lives of everyone around me too.

One of my sponsor’s responding questions was:
Does the compulsion to seduce the husband have anything to do with pulling a power play on the wife? Or is she merely the supplier of an object to seduce and act out the rage on?

My reply:
It's interesting that you ask this. One of the greatest blessings for me in recovery has been discovering the blogs of several women who are wives of sex addicts. As I read their pain, I identify so very much with them and also connect to the reality of what I have done in my active addiction. I've become friends with a couple of the women and I've found we have a lot in common. Even in acting out, I was always curious about the wives of the men I was sleeping with. Curious not in a comparison way, but in a way of thinking ... "What would they say if they knew what their husband really was?" Or sometimes I would feel sorry for them and think how lonely they must be living with men like these. It's almost humorous the way the addict mind works. At times I would convince myself that I was doing these women a favor -- because they didn't want to put up with their horny ass husband's constant demands for sex. And as I write now, I think of the conversation that I overheard one night when I was about 11 or 12 between my stepfather and my mother. He was trying to convince her to have sex with him, and she didn't want to. He was drinking a lot back then and he told her, "Well, if you don't give it to me, I'll go get in from Rae. I already did once today." For years, I tried to deny hearing this conversation, or rather disassociate from it. I would not allow myself to believe that my mother, who I loved more than anyone in the world, knew what was happening to me and did not protect me. But the truth is she did - and she was too weak, too scared to do anything. She needed my stepfather's financial support. She had already gone through raising three kids (my older siblings) on her own and it had worn her down. It had worn down her health, her spirit, and what facing life on her own with three kids hadn’t done, living with my stepfather’s controlling ways killed. The only thing that wasn’t dead was her ability to make each of us feel loved unconditionally. The problem was – there were conditions. In her own way, she said, “Keep your mouth shut,” too.

I know today that one of the things I was trying to do with my silence as a child was to hold my family together, and to protect my mother from further suffering. I hated my biological father for leaving her and causing her and my older siblings such a hard life, and for forcing us into this miserable life with the bastard stepfather. Like most child molesters my stepfather would tell me that if I told anyone what was happening "between us" my family would fall apart, that I would be taken away and that my mom would be left alone because he'd have to go to jail. Today, as I think of the curiosity I had about the wives of the men I acted out with, perhaps I still thought somehow I was protecting them from the pawing hands of their dreadfully horny and animalistic husbands. Maybe somehow I tried to take even their burden. I never connected those dots, so thanks for asking.


I think I'm still trying to figure out if this is a crock of shit my addict is telling me... blaming someone else, now my mother. I've blamed all the men in my life for everything so far -- so now am I going to start blaming the women? Perhaps it's called working through the resentments. I don't know.

I’ve shared before that I’ve always had trouble with relationships with women. I found them weak and whiny and superficial at some level. Either that, or I found them judgmental and bitchy. It’s not that I never admired women. I have admired many women. Being friends with them and loving them without judgment has been more difficult. It makes sense that if I felt somewhere in my subconscious that I had to protect them in order to maintain the relationship – my internal rage may have pushed them away and resisted that tendency to take on one more person’s responsibility. A therapist once told me that my added weight may have been a result of carrying such a heavy burden inside. "It takes a lot of strength to do that," she said. "You needed all that weight to carry the burden."

I welcome feedback on this, as I’m trying to process it all. I’ll be honest and say that I fear provoking the anger and rage of some of the women who have helped me so much here … my fellow bloggers, whose husbands, like me, are sex addicts. I would tell you that your anger and true feelings are justified, whatever they are, but it is not my place. I will only say that I take whatever responsibility I have in creating the rage that lives inside the women whose husbands have lived in the throes of their own disease, and me with them. We have all been victimized. And today I am willing to take responsibility for being a perpetrator as well as a victim. It is painful and shameful to admit these things, but I have to so that I can move on.


Hope said...

I don't have time to process this right now but on a first read I can relate to a lot of it. I'll be back to post another comment.

Hope said...

I've also always had problems in relationships with women....more so in recovery than any time else. I find it very hard to trust women in recovery.
"And today I am willing to take responsibility for being a perpetrator as well as a victim."
I've never thought of myself in that way before. It hits me right between the eyes. Brings back memories of women whose husband's I messed with without any regard for their marriage. I know that power grabbing for me was a way of coping.

And I am struggling with it now as I lose weight. I feel far more powerful and I can't tell some days whether it's a healthy power or not. And I hate that. I've been asking myself this past week if that is my ego or coming from a healthy place. I don't know. Normally I would pack weight back on when I start feeling like this but this time I am determined not to sabotage myself in that way and to work through the feelings and figure out what's healthy and what's not. I feel more settled within my body but I am not used to feeling powerful in a healthy way so that's where the confusion comes in.
Thank you for sharing this where it can help my journey, too.

vicariousrising said...

This post really resonates with me. I've struggled with a lot of rage towards my mother as well, and it has affected my ability to make close female friendships. I find it difficult to trust women when that basic relationship bond did not happen as it ought to have.

In my case, my mother saw me as a rival in several ways, not the least of which was for my father's affections, so I think that may have had an affect on how my sexualiy manifested differently than yours -- I shoved mine down deep in an attempt to prove to my mother I wasn't trying to compete with her. I suppose this could have swung back in later years as a reflexive revenge, but I think I just continued to repress and use drinking to keep it there.

I never realized the feeling was rage until much more recently, though. Admitting that emotion was extremely difficult for me. It is hard to look at my mother and separate the woman from the mother and me from the needy child, but I am slowly doing these things to help me heal. Acknowledging the anger, though, was a huge step for me.

Thank you for sharing this post. It helped me a lot.

My name is Ken and I'm a sex addict. said...

Rae, I appreciate this post quite a bit.

I've wondered about a lot of similar things while carrying on extra-marital affairs of my own.

I'm also working on a post dealing with my own rage at my parents; although I don't think I've had quite as much to work through as you have.

Thank you for sharing. I always appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Rae, You amaze me even from long distance I learn so much from your ESH. Ally

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I wanted to thank you so much for this post. I have complex relationships with other women too -- and I think that comes in part from the culture at large, but also from my own family dynamics.

I both feel the need to protect and have unbreakable solidarity with other women, while having a hard time forming intimate relationships with them or trusting them.. Female friendships are something I'm just learning how to have.

As always, thanks so much for sharing. I always gain some insight into my own journey through your experience, strength and hope.