By Ox Drover
I remember when I first learned to ride a bicycle. Most of us remember the day we first took off the training wheels, because generally, we fell down a few times before we got it right and were pretty safe from falling. It took practice. I can’t remember many days before I was about twelve that I didn’t have at least one band-aid on at least one knee. Even with the continual road rash I usually had on my knees and elbows, it never even occurred to me to not keep on practicing or to give up on learning to ride the “big kid’s bike.”
The past couple of months have been rather stressful for me with some deadlines I was facing, some big decisions I had to make, and the usual anxiety that I face when making a big decision that will seriously impact my life. Once the decision is made, I can usually accept it and the consequences of that decision and say to myself, “I did the best I could with the information I had at the time.”
With the changes I have made in my life in the past couple of years due the trauma associated with the psychopaths in my life, I have developed some new ways of dealing with life situations. One of these new ways is to learn to set boundaries with everyone in my life, not just a few people who are on the fringes of my life. Sometimes, setting boundaries means that we have to enforce those boundaries at a pretty steep price. If someone, even someone we truly value and love, disrespects those boundaries and betrays us, we have to “man up” and enforce those boundaries. Sometimes that means keeping away from that person for some period of time, or possibly No Contact forever.
Establishing new habits
New habits that we form in our emotional lives post-psychopathic encounter are, I think, like those early days of trying to learn to ride the bike … we end up with quite a bit of road rash. Even when we get to where we are pretty good at riding the bike, sometimes we take on a trail or a hill that we are not quite equipped to handle that day and we crash.
Since my decision to sever relationships with not only the woman who gave me birth, but with my convict son, and many of the people I considered “friends” in my days before I started to turn my life around, I’ve had to stop each day and think before I made a decision. It wasn’t just “natural” to do these new habits, because I had decades of past habits that were done almost without a thought of what to do. Now that I have instituted some changes in the way I make decisions, and in what behaviors I will expect from others, I can’t let myself go back and fall into those old and dysfunctional habits.
After decades of smoking and failed attempts at quitting, I finally made up my mind to really quit this time, and I have done so. Still there are times when I am stressed or anxious that I want that cigarette. I have to stop and think about my new way of doing things, that doesn’t include smoking cigarettes. I can’t let myself “cheat” even once, and I haven’t. I can already see improvements in my health as a result. I no longer have a cough.
In the past couple of years, I have also gained some weight (even pre-smoking cessation) and I know it has been a case of using a high carb diet for stress relief, so rather than just eat when I feel the urge, I am watching what I eat, when I eat it, and the weight is slowly coming off. Rather than just cooking something, though, I have to stop and think about calories, fat content, fiber content, and getting enough fluids. I can’t just “forget” about what I am going to eat, I have to actually work at staying on a good, healthy, low calorie diet. It takes more effort than just slapping something on the table and eating until I can’t hold any more. Practice makes perfect.
Sticking with the program
Recently, I got a business e-mail from my birth mother, and she sent about half the information I needed to take care of business. I emailed her back asking for the rest of the information I needed and why I needed it. No answer. I e-mailed her again with more reasons for why I needed that information. No answer. I was irritated, and began to think that this was her way of trying to get me to call her or send my adopted son over to talk to her. It was so tempting to do either of those things, but I am committed to limited contact, which includes only e-mails about business that must have information conveyed from one of us to the other. At first I was really irritated, then angry and frustrated, but I had to practice my new skills in setting boundaries and in enforcing them, and still “get the job done.”
So, I figured out another way to get the information I needed and accomplish the job. It wasn’t my first inclination though, I had to work at it. Practice it. Keep my head about the new habits, and see the advantages in them. Just like the not smoking when I want a cigarette is beneficial to me and I can already see the benefits to myself, the very limited contact with people I can’t trust, even when business makes it necessary to my own well being, I must maintain those new improved habits and skills. Practice makes perfect.
My new boundary setting and enforcement still doesn’t always feel “natural” and my immediate impulse is to respond with the old habits, but I know that they are not the best responses. Restraining my “natural impulse” and using my new and improved skills will benefit me in the long run. Practice makes perfect.
Some of my old habits and ways of responding are so deeply ingrained in my emotions that I’m not sure if the new ways of doing things will ever seem entirely “natural,” but it doesn’t make any difference to me, because I know that my new habits are much more productive, that I end up with less emotional “road rash.” I am riding with much more smoothness than I have in the past. I am getting my balance, even if I still feel a bit of trepidation from time to time about my skills at staying balanced, but if I don’t practice, I will never get it down!
Practice makes perfect!