How to Firewall Friends

I firewalled my friends through my divorce. I did not want them to be angry with my ex-wife for her being herself, or me for having feelings.

I was afraid to have feelings, I had trouble owning up to them and spent a year in counseling to get them figured out. In mid-march I stopped seeing my therapist abruptly. No big drama behind the stoppage; I missed an appointment and never re-scheduled. We had made it to the 3-5 week range for appointments, and so it wasn't the most obvious missing tile when my Jenga tower started tottering.

There had been a lash-out of hurt toward my ex-, my friends, my family, myself. Pretty much every base had been covered. I was full of hurt and didn't know why. The reason was simple; I had blocked a hurt channel like the Count of Monte Cristo.

So my ex-wife and I separated April 17th, 2011, I believe (the Sunday after my never-to-be-forgotten birthday on a Saturday). She ended up hospitalized from early to mid-May or thereabouts, and we lived together until mid-June, and had a final hurrah of maybe we could reconcile on June 28. That period of time was foundational to where I was in early May, for better or worse.

I don't think this ends my journey back home, I know this is not the last post about Prison Break Survival. But the me that entered that survival mode so long ago has finally fallen off the wagon and is ready to walk on his own again. He doesn't need to be carried along, driven along; he's capable and responsible enough to wal on his own feet.

In 2011 I was unwilling to splash my feelings all over my friends. That is to say, I had concerns that outweighed getting my business and messiness all over the people around me. I had a friend out West for venting my frustrations and for getting every major and minor pep talk I needed. I had a friend in the second city who was there just to be there. I had a friend in Columbus who helped me through my day-to-day. But with respect to messiness and people in Columbus, I had a therapist.

The reason was two-fold; I deliberately quarantined my anger and dismay from anyone in columbus so that (a) if we got back together collateral damage would be minimized and (b) if we didn't, collateral damage wouldn't make for a toxic emotional recovery for her devoid of resources.

At first and to this day I think this was in some way the right and only thing to do. It did more harm than good I suppose. Even if it did more harm than good, I cannot be the person a year ago that would have done otherwise. I made a deliberate decision instead of a defensive one (defensive would have been to horde resources and spread hostility) and instead of none at all.

This doesn't make me a good person; an altruistic decision can have very pragmatic underpinnings. I didn't want to create any kind of excommunication mechanism among our friends, and I didn't want to fight for resources among people I love, and I didn't want to hurt someone I still cared about if I could help it. The question was how far would I go to address my own feelings if I couldn't turn to my imediate friends?

Ten months of therapy was a good start. I ended up with an awesome girlfriend that's a real fer-shur partner, and who's totally willing to help move and unpack my baggage. But I put myself on the outside of my friends, I ended up excommunicating myself, and now I don't know how to get myself back in. My therapist, who I'd recommend a thousand times over, is not really the right medium for this. My partner isn't either.

For the record, they've been as supportive as I've allowed them to be. I've failed to make myself available. The big problem boils down to my personas. I had a persona of the guy who got divorced. I had a persona of the guy who quit drinking. I went through the stages of grief with both of them. Both were huge losses for me.

Both drinking and marriage were enormous coping strategies, both were security. In the span of two weeks, I divorced myself from both of them. I can only qualify that kind of loss with death. But, as with the deaths I've struggled through before, I came out the other end, but never expected to.

In early May after the wedding of one of my cousins, my Uncle and I had a good exchange about acceptance. He initially was speaking about it in one sense, and I quickly re-read it in the context of the stages of grief. I had entered the acceptance phase of accepting the death of the person I was. The exdrinker, the exhusband; both these me's died in mid-May.

The ex-exdrinker, the ex-exhusband; both these me's needed access to his friends. The ex- hadn't planned for integrating his ex-ex-self. The firewall was in the way of this. I love my therapist and the role she played in my personal development, but my ex-self needed her; my ex-ex-self may not.

It seems this morning that it is more important for my ex-exself to rebuild the local structures he let lapse. It seems more important to change the exclusive roles of my friends out West and in the Second City (who is now back in Ohio). As far as I'm concerned I made plenty of mistakes while doing everything that I needed to do then. Now it is time to adapt my strategies.


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