During the conversation-that-never-should-have-happened-with-my-ex, I got the opportunity to say some things that needed to be said. We all know that they fell on deaf ears, but it made me feel better to say them. I can tell myself that I tried.
When we were young and his father did or said awful things when he was drunk, I begged my then-husband to confront him the next day when he was sober. Surely, he remembered the event and felt remorse about it. Wouldn’t that be the ideal time to TELL him that it was hurtful and that he needed to make a change? I never understood why everyone just let it happen.
Oh, to be young and naive again.
I brought this up with my ex the other day, though. I told him that I was going to be brave enough to tell him the things that we weren’t brave enough to tell his father.
My ex is not ready to acknowledge that alcoholism and gambling addiction are part of his life. If I mention alcohol, he gets angry and says that just think that because of the way that his father drank. He doesn’t drink that much. And he NEVER gambles. (Yeah right, just like I NEVER eat chocolate.)
I knew that if I said those words, he would become defensive and shut down, and I really wanted him to hear what I had to say. Or at least pretend. Since he was sitting there with his hand out, I figured that this was my best opportunity.
I asked him if he could at least acknowledge that he has a lifestyle problem. (How’s that for a nice sugar-coating? It’s the M&M of addiction-speak.) He looked confused at first, so I pointed out that he has lived in 7, oops make that 8 different places over the course of the last 5 years. And how many times has his truck been repossessed? He’s been robbing Peter to pay Paul, and he’s constantly having to juggle financial obligations. (Seriously, I’m like a politician making a recession sound like a siesta.) He agreed that he “just can’t catch a break and get ahead.” Oh, Brother. He’s under so much stress and I can’t imagine how hard it is to live this way. Under this much pressure.
I had to pause. Choose my words carefully. Yes, I can only imagine, but do you realize that the way that you are living is the result of a series of bad choices? I mean, four years ago, you made more money, lived with a girlfriend rent-free, and you still had financial issues. You’ve actually been robbing Peter and thinking this way for more than 15 years. When you were gambling, you know, WAAAYY back then, you had to think that way to keep it hidden from me. You had to borrow from people and scramble around town.
Why do you think this line of thinking is so stressful now? Is it because of the length of time that you’ve been thinking this way and its finally taking a toll? Or is it because it has all finally caught up with you and there aren’t any more rabbits to pull out of the hat?
It’s hard for me to have sympathy for your situation (I know, Liar, Liar, pants on fire) because you’ve had so many chances to fix it in the past. You’ve been given so many opportunities to do the right thing. I often wonder why you won’t get a second job on the weekends. In fact, it’s something that I carried a grudge about after I found out about the gambling, you know, SOOOO many years ago. You promised to get a second job to pay off the debt, but you never did. You left it all up to me to figure out.
I see that as proof that you aren’t really willing to do the hard work that it’s going to take to make a permanent change. You are still looking for a handout. Giving you money isn’t going to fix the problem. I told you last March when you asked for money for the rent house that giving you money is like putting a band-aid on the Titanic. You will never change your lifestyle unless you suffer the consequences of your actions.
He tried to interject that he was suffering consequences, but I pointed out that these were only temporary consequences until he found someone to help. He always had hope that he could talk someone into helping him out, allowing him to get by just a little bit longer.
Until you hit rock bottom, you will continue to live this way. You won’t do the hard work that it takes to make a lifestyle change. There are people addicted to crack that are better able to pull themselves out of the trenches and improve their lives. People in worse situations that do it every day. You have to be willing to do the hard work.
I said that I felt like he needed to hear these things the way that I always wanted his dad to hear them.
He said, “I did tell my dad those things, but he continued to live hard. Hell, he lived harder than even I am. He lost everything and he still didn’t change.”
Can you see the bottom? I can, but I’m pretty sure that my ex can’t. He’s too busy looking for the next handout.