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A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Joy and a little boy named David. Both of them came from families that were not quite like other families. When they grew up big enough to get away from home, they went off to college.

David and Joy met each other, fell in love and got married. They were going to have a wonderful marriage and for a while it was. They were very much in love and they were going to have a child of their own and have their own wonderful family. Things would be different in their own wonderful family, not like their childhoods.

But the evils of fortune struck them and the baby girl never breathed the air. They were both devastated. But David did not know how to grieve and he shut off all the feelings he could. Joy couldn't stop grieving and couldn't get help from David because he was shut down. Joy was put in a horrible hospital to make her stop grieving. David began to feel only through things that fed his ego, like sex and achievement.

They eventually had more children but that did not right the loss or regain the feelings. They pretended to have this wonderful, happy family, but they fought a lot about things that didn't seem to be as big as the fights. No matter how hard they tried, something was missing.

Now David could only get feelings through sex and work and he saw many other women to try to feel the feelings. Joy's feelings were mixed up. She wanted to believe that David loved her and the children. Just when she started to believe and think things were OK, David would be shut down and unavailable again. So, they separated from each other for two years and tried to figure things out alone.

Both of them were very lonely, David was mean and angry. Joy was sad and depressed and had to be both mother and father to their children. Each of them was determined to live as best they could. Then David found drugs and a whole new way to hide the real feelings and pretend to feel. Joy was angry that she was abandoned with two little children. She kept thinking that David would come to his senses and realize how much he loved her and their beautiful children.

After a while David and Joy began to live together again. But now David was high on drugs all the time and Joy was trying to figure out all his moods and there was no real intimacy or sharing.

Then David lost his job because he was either angry all the time or happy on drugs. So they moved to a big, fast, busy city where David found more drugs, more achievement and more women. David traveled a lot to other cities in his new job and he found women in these cities to try to make him feel better. But still there was no intimacy and Joy was still being mother and father to their children, even though David lived at home.

They were like two strangers in the same house. David's drug use got worse and Joy got help in Al-Anon. David was very angry when he was down and happy when he was high. When he was angry, he sometimes took it out by physically abusing Joy and the children. But one day Joy invited him to an AA meeting. After a while, he learned to live without drugs. But being in AA and NA and Al-Anon did not fix the lack of intimacy and communication between them.

David did not know it, but he became a love addict and he fell in love very easily with other women. Joy kept hoping that NA and AA and Al-Anon would somehow fix all the problems between them. Under the guise of detachment, she shut down to all the painful things between them. She thought that one more group, one more therapy session, or joining a church would make everything all right again. She hoped and waited and denied and triangled with work and kids and pretending and isolating.

David tried to stay out of other relationships, but he could not. He was a sex and love addict, but he didn't know it. He really loved Joy, but still there were only separation and blocks between them.

David tried to stay faithful, but he could not. And after he had nine years drug free, he began to sponsor a lady in NA. He really thought he could do that without falling in love, but he could not. He never should have been her sponsor. After a while he found that when he had no contact with his sponsee, he got depressed. He tried to stay away from her, but he was powerless.

Now Joy realized what was going on with this NA relationship and confronted David about the violation of the integrity of their marriage. David agreed to get help and entered SLAA. But Joy could not stop obsessing about David's sex and love addiction. She was very angry that David was throwing away their twenty-seven year marriage. She felt betrayed by David and betrayed by this woman who was associated with one of her work projects. Joy felt shame and depression and hopelessness. She went to COSA, but while she was obsessing, she lost her job.

So Joy went to a treatment center for co-sex and love addicts. David came to family week and they learned about their core beliefs. There, they found out about RCA and the "We Came To Believe" seminars. When Joy got out of the treatment center, it was close to Christmas time. Joy and David were so angry and shut down to each other that it took a meeting with both their sponsors to plan the Christmas season. They were both ready to call it quits and get a divorce. But they remembered what they learned about RCA, that "the only requirement for membership is a desire to be in a committed relationship."

David was sick and tired of hurting Joy and the children and Joy was sick and tired of being hurt. They decided to start an RCA meeting and found two other couples for the first RCA meeting in their area. A month later they went to their first "We Came To Believe" weekend.

A Reality Tale

Both Joy and David had a desire to be in a committed relationship. By using the tools of RCA which they learned in "We Came To Believe," they began recovery together. They learned about the baggage they each brought into their marriage and about how to recognize when they were "powerless."

They learned that David's father abandoned him with traveling jobs, controlled alcoholism and gambling. David never really had a healthy male role model. David's mother was dominating, controlling, arrogant, cold and matter-of-fact and did not show or honor feelings. She was not nurturing. David was often shamed in his family. He was never enough or as good as his brother.

Both of Joy's grandfathers died of alcoholism. Her mother was an abused ACOA who modeled the victim role, passivity, submission to anger, fear of authority figures, low self-worth, people pleasing, other-centeredness and toxic shame. ("I am not enough-I am somehow defective as a person.") Joy's father was an ACOA who brought abandonment issues (from his own father's alcoholism and death), controlling over-responsibility for others (he was the only one who could do anything "right" and "if something was worth doing at all, it was worth doing right"), perfectionism, authoritarianism, low self-worth, rage-aholism and toxic shame. ("I am defective and not enough.") Thus, Joy and David had a lot of heavy family-of-origin baggage to interfere with their fairy tale.

Joy and David learned about "coupleship" and how, as a couple, they were powerless over things which they used to blame on each other. They learned about making and taking time together in reflection and study. They learned to schedule time together. They learned about their Fourth Step as a couple and admitted it to God, to each other, and to another couple. They learned about dysfunctional intimacy and dependency and about healthy intimacy and dependency, and they learned about healthy conflict and how to fight fairly. Now they have a fighting contract and although they don't always use it, when they do, the real underlying core issues surface and can be dealt with, with understanding, compassion, validation and commitment. They took an Eighth Step listing the people they had harmed together and became willing, together, to make amends to them all.

Joy and David have learned that "living happily ever after" means living with presence in the today. They have learned that when they blame each other, that blame dynamic is really about each partner's core issues, baggage and wounded inner child. They can stop blaming and look at the real underlying issues. They have learned about the safety to feel and to express feelings. They have boundaries, express differences and negotiate comfortable compromise and agreement. They have learned to honor and respect each other. They are grateful to RCA and the spiritual awakening of their coupleship as a result of working the 12 Steps together.