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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.


Alcoholism Recovery #1

We are at the end of the first week of intensive outpatient treatment for alcoholism, and when I say "we," that is a very intentional reflection of the most basic learning we've done this week:   
If someone in the family is affected by the use of alcohol, then the whole family will show signs of the disease.  So it is that, while He has been attending His required and prescribed series of classes and AA meetings, T and I have also spent time in both "class" and group therapy sessions.  Tonight, we will attend a nearby open meeting of AA -- as a family.  We've ordered a whole shelf full of reading materials, spent time doing online research about the various aspects of alcoholism recovery, and begun to shift our thinking and perceptions to move us, each and all, toward recovery together.  It is all so very new, that we are feeling like we've been dropped suddenly into the middle of some foreign land without a map, with no useful language skills, and with no idea at all which way to proceed. 

I've come to my computer probably a dozen times in the last few days, my head full of swirling thoughts and feelings -- and been completely unable to get words to line up reasonably here on the screen.  So many things that I could say, and then there seems nothing at all for me to say.  I cannot remember when I've ever had so much trouble dragging my thoughts out into some sort of acceptable prose.  In some very significant ways, life seems so completely different than it was that I've questioned the very foundation of our lives together.  I find myself wondering how it can be that who we are together this week remains at all consistent or congruent with what we have been for so many years, with the story we've told here for well over 9 years. This post then, is my attempt to travel back through the archives here to find words from myself to myself -- I really need some wisdom for these days, and I have sometimes thought that I knew what I was talking about when it comes to knowing about "us." 

We do not, as one commenter guessed, engage in SM play anymore.  It has been months.  If there are people who look in from the outside and wonder about the state of our power exchange, and clearly there are some, they are no different than we are -- questions of power and control linger in every minute of the day.  Having admitted to being "powerless over alcohol," He is (I think understandably) uncertain where His power lies, or even IF He retains the capacity to exert power in any context.  There are just so many more questions than answers at this early stage.  None of us know what to expect or where we might come to rest in time.  The admonition to take "one day at a time," seems simultaneously wise and frustrating.

I know that He is feeling lost.  It is almost akin to amnesia.  He will often say that He does not know who He is.  I have watched Him moving through the motions of His day, and sometimes He seems so vulnerable and new that it is as if He were an infant still in those early first days of life when a loud noise or a sudden movement elicits that characteristic newborn startle reflex.  Having traveled so far into the darkness of the disease, He frequently feels guilty, remorseful, and ashamed of all that transpired to bring us, finally, to this point.  I honestly think that He is engaged in an ongoing self-assessment that is somewhat comparable to the sort of thing that submissives sometimes get into asking, "what is it that makes a GOOD dominant."  I am imagining that He is running through some sort of list of character traits that "make or break" a dominant, and then coming up with His own score card. In December of 2009, I wrote a post that I called
About Dominants in which I borrowed a list of dominant traits from  Associated Content:
  • Honesty
  • Trustworthiness
  • Integrity
  • Self-Control
  • Sense of Humor (even at himself)
  • Capacity to Love, Be Loved and to Express that Love
  • Desire to Learn and Grow, both for himself and for his partner
  • Dependability
And then I added this bit --

The one thing that I'd add to that list is

The ability to believe in and rely on a dominant; the ability to be certain of his love; the comfort of knowing that He can laugh at Himself, and the silly things that happen in real life and real love, the knowledge that He can take the lead as partners grow and change -- all of those things are essential and foundational to making power exchange work. 

There isn't anyway that I'd pretend that He was possessed of self-control or self-awareness or honesty or trustworthiness when He was most seriously in the grip of His addiction.  A very large part of the situational dissolution of our power dynamic was due to the fact that He was no longer capable of exercising any sort of responsible or dependable dominance.  No more.  Admitting His addiction and moving to address that (even if that came as an outcome of terrible circumstances) has completely shifted things.  He is once again awake and aware and actively becoming the reliable, strong partner that I want, and that He wants to be.  Surely, I have seen the embodiment of that desire to learn and grow both for Himself and for T and I.  

Maybe my thinking about this reflects what I said about it a while back when I wrote a post called
Goodness.  There, I worked to contrast what we submissive types sometimes refer to as "good dominants" and "bad dominants."  Some of us want to assert for ourselves and for others that the ones that we allow to exert control over us are "... that "knight in shining armor" sort of strong protector ... a paragon with character traits like kindness and responsibility and honesty and gentleness and generosity ... he would never, ever do or say or ask for anything that might cause ... true discomfort -- emotionally, physically, or spiritually."

And conversely, the sexy, sort of scary, "bad dominant" who "must be a person of low character -- no ethics, no integrity, no human feeling, no heart, and no soul. ... in a relationship with one of these guys... a person is likely to end up abused, de-valued, broken, lost, ruined, and less than human."

What I said about that duality then is what I continue to believe today, maybe even more now -- "the vast majority of us live somewhere in the middle range -- burdened with flaws and graced with glorious gifts... human creatures..."

For good or bad, we live and love, and we grow in the doing of that living and loving.  He isn't perfect.  Neither am I.  Neither is T.  We all suffer from this FAMILY DISEASE, and we are all now working to live in recovery from that disease.  We've made mistakes, hurt one another and been downright arrogant and foolish in the event.  But not always.  There is good along with the bad.  Today we are more awake, more clear, more humble.  We are living with a cherished hope that there are better times ahead and that what we will learn in the coming days and months and years will enrich our family and allow us to share our gifts with others we may encounter.

There are moments, as we work our way along through all of this that I am reminded of the possibility that I outlined in a post that I called Ownership and Being Owned.  I was playing "devil's advocate," challenging the assertion of some that they were living in total power exchange relationships without any limits.  Instead of drawing up grisly hypotheticals of slaves dismembered and killed in the name of "no limits," I proposed a scenario that, in my mind, seemed almost worse than death:  What if any or each of us were to get this sort of direction from the One to whom we have pledged our obedience?

I've had a revelation.

I've been on the wrong path.

I understand that SM is "bad, sick, and abusive."

So, the first thing that you must do is pack up and discard all of the paddles, whips, clamps, clips, and other "toys."

Dismantle all of the restraints and bondage gear.

From now on, I want our relationship to contribute to the well-being of mankind and the earth, so each day your "tasks" will be as follows:

Monday -- volunteer at the homeless shelter
Tuesday -- voulnteer for a local agency for people with developmental disabilities
Wednesday -- volunteer for an agency that works for the environment
Thursday -- volunteer for the local Headstart
Friday -- volunteer for a local agency for the aging/elderly
I expect you to journal about each of your daily activities just as you have been doing.

Oh yes, I've also decided that as part of my ongoing spiritual quest, I am adopting the practice of celibacy, so please dispose of the bed and purchase two simple twin beds for the bedroom."

Now, the shifts in our lives have not gone to that extreme.  Not exactly.  On the other hand, what is happening for us is surely not particularly kinky or sexy.  We are immersed in the hardest, most desperately important work we've ever done.  There are times, especially late at night and very early in the morning when I lie in bed and stare at the toys hanging unused in the racks on the wall, and I think that they ought to be packed away.  When, I wonder, will that part of our lives ever come back?  Ever?  I get sad and sink down into hopelessness and despair.  I don't want what was -- it was too often scary and frustrating and just awful.  Things are better now that He is not drinking.  Things are much better now that we are recovering.  Things get better each day, and I am hopeful that we'll continue on that path.  But it is all different than what I expected so very many years ago.  If there was some implied limit regarding having life turn out differently than we expected, then we have blasted through it into some unfamiliar territory -- AND we are still here.  Together.  Working and growing and learning.  We still love.  We still laugh. We are still good.  

And so, just for today, that is the story about the path in this particular place.


  1. Anonymous7:49 PM

    Big warm cuddly {{{{{HUGS}}}}} for all of you.


  2. Don't despair, and don't pack the toys away. That part of your life is like the frosting, what you are working so hard at now is the cake. Yes, you can eat cake without frosting, and frosting without the cake, but it's just not the same thing, is it? To continue this analogy that kind of ran away with me here, you three are baking the new cake right now. Once that's done, you can apply the frosting...Then we'll all celebrate with you.

  3. I am truly in awe of the way you bare yourself and share your struggles. We all have so much to learn. It's so easy to be too full of ourselves and the way we live, so sure that we have the answers. Or that the one to whom we have ceded power has all the answers. Even in situations that are not as extreme as yours, it is a good and necessary thing to stop and examine and make adjustments before going forward.

    Thanks as always,

  4. SweetSassyT9:30 PM

    I know that place of no words. That place when there's too much emotion, too much pain, too much that your brain still doesn't fully comprehend, and most of all too much of the unknown. This has shaken you all to the foundation of your core. Different is hard, even when it's better, it's hard. You will get there. The shock will subside. There will be a new normalcy. When my father stopped drinking it was a shock to find out the friends he would lose, and the notion that every single thing he did had to be relearned was almost inconceivable. He had drank since he was a teenager. He was an excellent bowler, but never threw a ball without alcohol. He had to relearn everything, including writing, which just about undid the whole thing! I want to assure you, though, whatever he endured, whatever was required of us as a new family, we remain a family still today 2 decades later. One day at a time. Blessings to you all!

  5. Thanks for the update Sue. Seems like you are all doing well. Nothing like new territory to make life interesting.

  6. Swan, I've wondered these things too. What happens if you are in a power relationship and suddenly he wants to change it all to something you never wanted, never consented to, like celibacy and good works? We all talk all the time about limits without thinking of limits like those. And I'm certain that there are places that I would follow him and places that I wouldn't.

    I don't think taking the toys down would necessarily be a terrible mistake btw. Maybe it would be a relief for all of you? I don't know. Might be worth a thought, might take away some of the pressure to be as you were before.

  7. I've never felt that S&M PLAY defined a long-term relationship. Certainly it can be the foundation of short-term tops and bottoms and play partners. But once the relationship deepens to include more than play, the play is no longer what it's all about. W/we are not defined by our play. Play is there to serve us and our needs not the other way around.

    In time you will play, or possibly you will not. This single facet of a relationship does not determine the nature of that relationship.

    In a power-based relationship it can sometimes seem the lines of power are blurred. But that won't last forever, and together you will all create your relationship each day.

    I hope that you can enjoy each day for what it has to show you, without looking to tomorrow. In focusing on the future and what will come, it is harder to see the present and learn what it has to teach. It is really about letting go of expectations and need to control the outcome. Not easy to do, but worth the attempt.

    My Master would say it differently and more simply. He often told me "It's OK to not know." And then He would tell me to "Breathe."

    I hope you all relax into your not knowing, reveling in the newness of each day. And I hope you all breathe, deeply, of the beauty and novelty of the moment. I wish you all the peace and acceptance you need. And of course the support and encouragement to go with it. Blessings to all of you in the living of these days.


  8. "AND we are still here. Together. Working and growing and learning. We still love. We still laugh. We are still good. "

    To me those words are the most important part.
    Whatever happens from now going forward will be because of your love and patience for one another.

    It is not easy what you are doing; you have my deepest admiration.

    My heart goes out to you three.

  9. Don't pack those toys away!

    Just rewire your thinking a little, from "When, I wonder, will that part of our lives ever come back? Ever?" to "My god look at those toys ... we sure had some fun ... what magical memories".

    From someone who's been there: those toys WILL be used again :)


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