What am I bringing to the relationship that isn’t serving the relationship?

direction mazeToday I am feeling like a regular-not-alcoholic girl who doesn’t want to talk about sobriety. Honestly, I’m feeling exhausted with the topic. That being said, everything—for alcoholics—manages to weave itself back into the fabric of sobriety. Why? Because for those of us that fall into the category of I-tried-a-thousand-ways-to-make-drinking-work-and-couldn’t this is the reality of it. There must remain some type of vigilance to the process of growth. I’ve seen too many people with time (good sober time) return to drinking because they believed they had spiritually outgrown the malady that brought them to their knees.

This is what I take issue with—today. I’m tired of growing. Sometimes I just want a break from the pressure of evolving. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for my sobriety. I love my sobriety. But sometimes life just sucks. Or at least it feels like it sucks.

Usually, I keep it together, because the majority of time I feel together, but the past months have worn me down. My top issue: Who am I in my family?

When I initially got sober it was to save my unraveling life. I was worried for my marriage and worried for my ability to parent my children. I honestly believed that not drinking would alleviate these problems. While not drinking alleviated the drinking problems associated with my marriage and my children, it has not alleviated the problems with my marriage and rearing children.

I am still looking in the mirror asking the questions I did 10 years ago. And no matter how I slice it, it all requires more change on my part. More acceptance on my part. More setting boundaries on my part. More being strong, having clarity, authenticity, and perseverance for an outcome that still seems uncertain. And this … this is what exhausts me today.

I want someone else to change. And nothing, absolutely nothing good comes from wanting another to change. It is a prayer in futility. Life always points back to me. What am I bringing to the relationship that isn’t serving the relationship?

I hate asking this question.

Like a child I want to stomp my feet, scream, and have someone else come in and take care of everything. But this isn’t happening. What’s happening is that I am again at the edge and I am either going to push through my barrier or not. I’m at that place where I’m tired of pushing through, but I’m equally exhausted from not pushing through.

… And to complete my resistance I’m not clear on the best path for communicating.

Maybe today is the day I call a family meeting. How can we be a team if all the players don’t know what is expected of them? How can I be a leader or supporter if I don’t know what is expected of me? There is all this assumption about responsibility and accountability, yet no united front for managing the tasks at hand. Maybe I’m called to get the team together and invite in Love (God) and see where the conversation goes. Maybe I need to see myself as an equal amongst the group and listen to what others have to express. Maybe I am putting pressure on me or on others that is unnecessary.

Yes, I definitely need a reframe, but I need it with the family unit.

I want joy in my relationships. I don’t need it all the time, but clearly I want more of it than I‘ve had these past months.

I don’t know if this post is about sobriety or not, but I’m walking my way through some painful thoughts


I’m calling a meeting at the Neumann house—today. Because today is always the best day to do anything. Hopefully it won’t be just me and the dogs 🙂

LENOVO - WIN_20140608_104413 (2)


31 Responses to “What am I bringing to the relationship that isn’t serving the relationship?

  • I’m embarrassed to say, yet feel compelled to admit… I am hiding out in our home office, away from my family, for many of the same reasons you describe above, and this is what I find in my inbox. As I am fond of saying… THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES!

    Still not ready to “call the family meeting,” but at least I’m thinking along those lines, which is a great deal better than my thought processes before reading your brilliance.

    Good luck with the family meeting today, I hope we get to hear the outcome!

    • This happens more often than not with you. I get over to your site and think the same thoughts. No coincidence, we are divine friends. You are my gift from the heavens 🙂

      We had the meeting. Think I’ll just post about it next week after the goals unfold. My family it a trip, that’s all I can say. All I know is that I am incredibly blessed to have all of you.

  • That’s me today to the tee,I too feel exhausted parenting and having my family not changing ,not complying,pretty much not pulling their weight and creating more fires to put out on top of the fires I have from last week,last month,last year.

    • I like how you say “creating more fires.” It’s the perfect metaphor because that’s exactly what it feels like. I wasn’t sure what was most important anymore and it seemed a good idea to settle into a conversation when the heat wasn’t so high. And it’s nice to not feel alone, so thank you for chiming in.

  • Lisa-

    What a coincidence.

    It’s been a difficult couple of weeks not just for me, but for several folks I’m close to. Makes stuff like astrology sound sensible– it’s all because of the planets!

    Or whatever.

    I suspect it’s related to sharing humanity with each other and a chaotic species in a chaotic world. Whatever it is, you are, as you know, NOT alone. Hope the family meeting brings fresh and soothing rain that nurtures wonderful new growth for all.

    • Yes, yes, something stellar is in retrograde, or something like that LOL. (I know little of astrology, but I find it interesting.) I like the “chaotic species, chaotic world” thought. I sometimes think I am most normal, most accepted here with my fellow friends in recovery. Meeting went smoothly. Now we’ll see how it pans out in real life.

      On a separate note, I enjoyed your post last week http://treatmentandrecoverysystems.com/library/articles/building-content-on-your-rehab-blog/ on blogging. I’m working on another site and you opened my eyes to some options I had not considered, nor thought important. So thank you.

  • I’m another one in exactly the same place. 175 days without a drink, so why isn’t my relationship any better? I hope you have a successful outcome to your family meeting. I’m going to bury my head in the sand just a bit longer….

    • 175 days … three cheers!
      I had the same feelings at about 6-9 months of sobriety. I just couldn’t figure out what was so great about it. Truthfully it sucked. A lot. I know I hung on though. I wasn’t sure where it was all going, but I knew I didn’t want to go back. I think that’s how I feel now with the “family meeting’ yesterday. Not sure where it’s all going, but I don’t want to go backwards any longer. Sending over some love. Even if you’re still in the sand today, it’s okay. Not drinking alcohol is the only thing I for-sure do everyday.

  • I am so glad you have shared your thoughts here! I keep having the same frustrations… every word you have written here are mine 🙂
    It brings me great relief to feel I’m not the only one, so much so that I feel all choked up…
    I went the past six months through a difficult relapse in OA & it’s only my daughter who dragged me out of it about seven weeks ago, which I’ll be eternally grateful for.
    While the suffering I went through was so bad I can still say that now, I understand why I had to go through it… I tend to minimize the issue with overeating thinking often it isn’t one, this time I was clearly proven wrong 🙂
    I don’t know when I’ll have reached the actual bottom line (each time I think this is it :))
    I’m a slow learner but I have a feeling this was a necessary step to get to a higher level of understanding.
    I can’t thank you enough for having written this life saving post!

    • Such a kind and affirming comment. I feel as if I slip on many thing in life. It’s always hard to regain focus. Part of me doesn’t even want to go back inside because I feel like I don’t deserve to be any better. Something/someone always snaps me out of it (and often it’s my daughter). Glad we connected. I have been remiss in my reading and posting. I always love your words. You fill my heart.

      • It is good to know we are not alone & only for that I’m very grateful to have found your blog among the vast blogging world 🙂
        It’s sweet to know your daughter has the same effect on you!
        I think it’s important to know that even in the worst of our times we matter & mean a lot to the world, we have a tremendously positive influence even if we are not at our best…. (something I’ll have to keep reminding myself too ;)) so, keep up those amazing posts, known that sometimes the best ones are those when our life gets ruffled up a bit (or a lot) and when you write about it as genuinely as you have now 🙂
        Have a very good week!

  • What I love about what you’re saying is that you’re not calling a meeting so that you can fix everything or tell everyone what they need to do better, but to gather everyone involved and let them take their places at the table. That’s something I couldn’t do without sobriety. I’d resent having the stress of the situation on my shoulders but then I’d want the glory of being the one who fixed it. So, whether or not it’s a sobriety post, I see the wisdom you’ve gained in sobriety and I’m taking notes.

    • Karen, Thank you. You’ve pointed out what I could not (did not) see until after the post went up. Yay, I am still growing. The old me would go in like a bulldozer to fix it and get the award for fixing it. I relate completely to this train of thought. Through your eyes I can see I have grown in my approach to problem solving. Even when I am tired of growing I am growing. 🙂 Thank you for your insight.

      • Karen! You said exactly what I was thinking! Lisa…such wisdom can only come from a sober mind. One I happen to really enjoy BTW.


        • Sherry, Karen said it perfectly for me too! Thanks for the kind words. We all help each other. I enjoy you as much as you enjoy me. xox

  • Many of the comments you made struck quite close to home! As they say I am slow learner & faster forgetter! It is frustrating at times to do all the changing We can not change anyone else But when we set limits and use the communication that we are learning things improve all around. We are not mind readers and neither is our family As it took the whole crew to get where we are at It will take the whole crew to change and grow. If we try it all alone & I see a lot of this in the original comments we are doomed.We have work to do My gardening gives me a perspective. I can prepare the ground, change it completely if necessary do all the prep work and finally plant the plants or seeds. That is the end of my influence as to whether they grow or not. The rest is up to my Higher Power. I believe the same happens within these areas we call family, friends, and relatives. Continue to do the work if it is meant to be it will. We learn each day!
    Love & HUGS to all!

    • Bob, Perfect words for me to read. I’ve never heard the phrase “slow learner & faster forgetter” that’s great. It includes me too. You put this all in perspective. I conveniently forget “the whole crew” is in this conundrum even if I am the only one talking about it, we all bring something to the family unit. I think I was so used to feeling that everything was my fault that fixing it seemed my responsibility. I like the analogy with the gardening. We did some planting at the meeting yesterday and now I let it grow.

  • We started having family meetings a few weeks ago, at my wife’s behest. It’s every Friday and we talk about the struggles, hopes and good things that have happened that week. I bought a sea shell a few months ago in Key West (had no reason why), and this is what we hold when someone is talking. Anyway, it’s been fun, and the kids really get something out of it (well, they get to gripe…but then they also say what they love about us).

    I mention this because I have also been thinking about the Traditions that they use in 12-step and I know many couples use them as guide posts in their marriage. I have heard a few speakers (wife and hubby couples) talk about how they find them useful. I was thinking about that the other day, in the same way you were talking just now about being an equal amongst the group (even though you are one of the parents)…and one Tradition that claims that the only authority is a loving Maker, etc. Anyway, I just thought it funny I was pondering that kind of thing and then I read this 🙂

    But as for what you say off the top – of dear yes, I have those days. I can relate to this whole post, Lisa, in so many ways. And I am glad that you said it, with your long years of sobriety, because I have felt guilty at times feeling the same. Why is it ME that always has to change!?? Oh yeah, because I’m an alcoholic and am self-centered to the extreme and I didn’t have relationships, I took hostages. Oh THAT thing…ha ha. When someone in my circle of friends or family has a bad day (or thinks they are having one), they don’t go on a three week bender, end up in hospital or get arrested. they just might get grumpy or shoot hoops or talk to a friend or what not. That is why I stay vigilant. Even when all I want to do is not read or talk or write or do anything about recovery.

    We know the cost though…ugh. So we do this – you write a post about not wanting to talk recovery (ha ha) and then it dovetails wonderfully into the greater picture stuff. It’s part and parcel of our life, and while mostly I am grateful, I do get my wishful “ignorance can be bliss, right?” type of moments or days even.

    Thank you for sharing this Lisa. It really opened my eyes to a few things, and especially made me glad I am not alone 🙂


    P.S love that checklist / attendance sheet

    • I love how you take me back to my roots. This is what I am forgetting when I get stuck like this, my principles! Thank you for pointing me in this direction. You’ve got me thinking about implementing family traditions at the next “meeting” or maybe even a family mission.

      Ditto: “We know the cost.” I’d be a fool to not post these thoughts on my site. I know you are my lifeline for earthly fellowship. I never, ever want to take a newcomer chip again. Never. I don’t drink like normal drinkers and I need to find alternatives for dealing with my thinking. Thank you Paul for your continued support and love. You are a true blessing for so many of us.

      ps… everyone showed up to the meeting 🙂

  • You seem to have multiple identities along with multiple roles. I get the impression you are stretching yourself in too many directions Lisa.

    If you are constantly immersed in abstinence, you might have gone in to overload with it. The best solution to that is to have a complete break from anything to do with abstinence and just go where the tide takes you.

    Communication with your family seems the best idea to revise who you are, and where you are going.

    • This is a great suggestion. I am stretched and I need to implement some changes. I think we made a dent in the list at the meeting yesterday. Thank you for the advice: I think I will let the tides take me.

  • Hope your meeting went well Lisa. I was pretty numb with alcohol when I was raising my two daughters. Don’t remember having too many issues (notice “don’t remember). Now that I’m sober, they are grown and on their own. What I wouldn’t give to go back and have a redo with a clear head…even on those difficult days. Family is worth the effort. Just be kind to yourself.

    • This is so sweet. Thank you. I need to remember the “be kind to yourself” part. The kids were 4 and 1 when I got sober so they don’t remember the drinking, but the sober ride has been far from boring around here. I like your sage words: “family is worth the effort.” I will heed your kind words.

  • If only family members were as agreeable as dogs 🙂 I hear you on a lot of this. On being tired of working all the time, of moving forward, feeling the pressure to do so. I firmly believe downtime and even some backsliding is inevitable and different from giving up. The key seems to be in doing what I can to get back on track or just take care of myself today. Today – something simple and comforting about that. This was a great post, thanks.

    • Agreed. BTW: The dogs were the first to sit down with me in the living room 🙂 I do think we carved a little out of the heap yesterday. We’ll see how the week pans out. In the meanwhile I’m going to take your suggestion for some downtime. And I’m going to do it—today. (My sober girlfriends always know what to say to help me get back on track. Thank you.)

  • you took the words out of my mouth…wow. exactly how it feels right now. I will have 2 years in a couple months. Growth (spiritual, physical, emotional, financial, psychological etc) is so painful, hard and slow….SLOW! but we in recovery know the fruits of our labor are so worth it. and growth is what we’re here for…I’m convinced. but like you, it’s intensive work and resentments build in my family too…”why isn’t any one else working this hard on themselves?” but that is not my concern. like you say, that is futile. anyway..thanks for this. good stuff

    • Thank you for the kind words. I am grateful when a reader chimes in and shares the connection. One of my friends used to call it “slowbriety.” I’m laughing as I type this reply because it still feels like that some days. The good news is: this too shall pass.

  • Lee Davy
    10 years ago

    Hey buddy,

    Once again we seem to be in the same place at the same time.

    I had a blazing row with my wife just two days ago and it prompted me to write a blog post about it. At the end of every argument I believe I am the only one changing and resentment builds. Resentment leads to more anger, and anger leads to a lack of energy – not just within me, but also my poor wife.

    I get angry because I am always changing. I change so much that I am blind to the changes that those I love are also making, and yes they are always changing.

    I gave up drinking to save my first marriage. It did not work. What did I learn? That it wasn’t just the drinking that was causing a rift in my marriage. There were a lot of other problems separate from the alcohol. I actually believe I argued even more when I became sober. Man I was such a judgmental f**kwit (pardon my French).

    This is a blog post about sobriety because sobriety is about change, and this is what you are experiencing. When we are free from drink our thoughts run wild. We move on and make improvements, but where does it end?

    Sometimes making improvements in the positive sense can make you sad. I get lonely and isolated sometimes. I don’t think anybody ‘gets me’ and progress is too slow.

    You know it’s all about balance. I think it Jack Canfield who taught me to divide my days into separate categories: Work/Planning/Rest. I don’t follow this plan, I work far too much, plan even more and never rest, but this is the problem. The rest period needs to be time where you can immerse yourself in the love and warmth of your family. Forget the blog, the abstinence, the ongoing journey for perfectionism and just throw sticks into the river and race across the bridge to see which stick won.

    I check-in with my wife each night before we sleep. We bare our emotions to each other and talk about what’s going on for us. If I had children with my wife, then I think a daily form of this exercise at dinner would also me useful. A bit like your team meeting but more frequently because emotions can fester and smell after even a few days.

    Keep on keeping on.


  • You make me blush with these beautiful words. We do it together (with God) 🙂

Trackbacks & Pings

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    […] First I will pick Lisa Neumann, the brilliant author of the blog Sober Identity.  Lisa’s positive feedback on my blog was my first realization that blogging is an interactive business; not only do I get to write about the issues I am facing, but there are actual bloggers who have been there and done that, and they will help me along the way.  I have never read a post of hers that has not resounded deeply with me, her commitment to helping others in recovery is truly her life’s work.  If you are new to Lisa, I would start with this post. […]

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