Ugh! It’s Tax Season!

A couple of days ago I started getting my bills organized to prepare for 2016 taxes. As I was working through stuff, I realized how difficult this year will be. I spend a lot of time itemizing my expenses. I itemize medical, recovery, business expenses, charity, etc. The list goes on.


This year it’s going to take more work.


First, I started a side business that I need to claim income on. That means that all the equipment and miscellaneous items I‘ve purchased over the past five years needs to be itemized and depreciated. This will add a new dimension to my tax return.


But, the biggest challenge is that our divorce is not finalized.


My ex and I need to file jointly this year. Instead of what we’ve done in the past using one file in Quicken to itemize our taxes, I need to use our joint Quicken file for the first half of the year, my ex’s Quicken file, and my Mint information for the second half of the year. Three files that need to be compiled together so our taxes can be completed.



I Start to Get Angry

I start to get angry when I realize how much of our money is still co-mingled.


I’m frustrated looking at how we kept our cell phone, Netflix, Amazon Prime, PO Box, Auto Insurance, Renter’s Insurance, Umbrella Insurance, and storage fees combined. So much more chaos that we’ve added to our lives because we tried to keep our individual costs down.


Then I start to review Amazon purchases to categorize my spending. I find that my ex has purchased certain books that I find triggering. She had told me that she purchased books about sexuality, but now I’m reading the specific titles and starting to make up my own stories about why she picked the books she chose.


My youngest daughter has her own therapist and due to the issues in our marriage, both my ex and I have had trouble talking to our girls about sex. We can talk openly about addiction and pretty much anything else, but unfortunately sex is uncomfortable for both of us. Understandable, considering our history.


I hold a lot of shame and guilt due to my sexual escapades and I continue to hold most of the blame that our family is broken because of my addiction. My ex and I have never learned what healthy sexuality looks like and by going through a divorce, we aren’t anywhere near trying to figure that piece out. We haven’t even completely found ourselves yet.



Let’s Talk About Sex

Boy, my mind just went to the Salt-N-Pepa song…


Our daughter’s therapist suggested that we start conversations about sex with our girls. It’s important not to keep sexuality a secret, learn to talk to them about what’s considered healthy, and explain our values and morals around sex.


So, to learn more about sexuality, my ex purchased books to help educate her on the subject.


I understand books like the Kuma Sutra and Why Men Love Bitches (a book that’s about a woman finding her inner strength), but I don’t understand why my ex would purchase a book that teaches women how to win men over by texting sexually? Why a couple of books are geared towards teaching men how to sexually please a woman?


Just looking at the titles (although I thought the same about Why Men Love Bitches) seem, to me, more “sexualized” than learning what is “healthy”.


Of course, my mind is filtered due to my addiction. But I also wonder what would my girls think if they found these books.


I know I could call my ex and ask her why she purchased the books she did. I do realize that my mind is running rampant. And I know she would be honest with me and tell me.


Actually, that is untrue. I no longer know when my ex will be open and when she will say, “Phoenix, we’re getting a divorce and I don’t have to talk to you about everything that goes on in my life” or “it’s none of your business.”




Monitoring Texts

And then my mind goes to her accusation on Christmas.


Over Christmas my ex asked me if I was reading her texts. I was confused. Evidently the main account holder of your cell phone has access to reading the texts of everyone who’s on that account? I wasn’t even aware that was possible.


My ex explained that someone, she wouldn’t say who, had a conspiracy theory that I was doing that.


Where in the world did this come from? What behavior was I doing that would even lead her to believe I was reading her texts?


I watched her body language, and knowing that I had deceived her in the past, it felt like she didn’t believe me when I told her no. I sensed judgment and disbelief.


Well, it was also the way the question was asked. Not, I don’t believe this but someone told me. It was blunt, like she had already made this story true in her head. Therefore, it did feel more like an accusation than a question.


So, as I’m started to feel my frustrations increase with taxes and I see the book title about texting men, my mind instantly went to that Christmas morning.


Was she sexting men and didn’t want me to know? Was that why she bought that book? Was that why she wants to get her phone off the family account? Is that why she’s worried I’m reading her texts?


My ex had always been so open with me all these years, confiding in me about everything. Separation and divorce have been painful enough. But add the loss of the intimate connection we used to have, coupled with the energy of anger and disgust that permeates off her like sweat dripping of a body while doing hot yoga and the possibility that she’s already found someone else to share her life with, knocked me down to the ground.




Damn Triggers, the Stories I Make Up, and the Emotional and Physical Pain That Follows

Unbearable pain and anxiety immediately radiated in my gut and spread throughout my entire body. It’s that type of pain that feels like someone’s gutting me from the inside out; a steak knife slicing through room temperature butter.


I wanted to cry. I wanted to punch something. I wanted to scream. I wanted to call her and engage. But I resisted.


I’m finally learning how to regulate my emotions.


Ok, my emotions are not regulated at the moment. Let me rephrase…


I am finally learning how not to react to the tsunami of emotions that overwhelm me. This is an incredibly difficult thing to do when I am triggered and goes against 40+ years of habitual behavior.


“Phoenix,” Rafiki starts. “Not reacting and engaging due to those emotions, is the first step to learning how to regulate them. You’ll still have them, but the next step is to learn how to cope with them. That skill takes time.”


Not reacting and engaging to emotions is the first step to learning how to regulate them. Share on X


Months ago, I would have immediately responded to the stories I made up in my mind. I would have called, I would have assumed, I would have blamed, I would have attacked. I would have done and said anything because my belief was, that if I vocalized what I was feeling, I would rid it from my body.


If I didn’t call, I’d journal it, dig in deep to what hurt and the story I made up, then, silly ass me, would shoot out an email. Same thing, but different mode of delivery.


“Phoenix, have you ever thought that getting into that anxious state allowed you to tap into repressed anger?” Rafiki asks.


“What do you mean?”


“You avoid conflict. As your therapist said, ‘you didn’t like to rock the boat.’ Maybe you weren’t able to express yourself until you allowed yourself to get into that anxious state?”


“That doesn’t make any sense.”


“Nothing emotional and how we react makes any sense, Phoenix. That’s why we are where we are and we’re learning from it. This is for me too.”


“You struggle too?” The idea that Rafiki struggles catches me off guard.


“Hey, I may look like a monkey to you, but we got similar DNA!” Rafiki laughs. “If it was never safe to express emotions, then, when we get anxious, it’s is like shaking a champagne bottle. We pop the cork and we explode. Learn to manage that anxiety, we keep the cork on that bottle until the bubbles subside inside. This helps us learn to manage how we relate to people, especially the ones we love.”


Most of the time, my story was incorrect. Yet I seemed to always react to a made-up belief; I attacked, blamed, and shamed over something that wasn’t even true.


Thinking about how I used to react, I clearly can see why my ex no longer wants to be married to me.


Over a year ago my sponsor once said, “I wouldn’t want to be married to you either.”




Why is that the ones that we love or the ones we’re in a relationship in, are the ones we place the highest expectations on? These are the people we become the most disappointed in when they don’t meet those expectations, the ones we end up hurting because of our reactivity, and they’re also the ones whose judgment seems to hurt us the most.



When I’m Feeling Off, I Need to Take Care of Myself

I took deep breaths. I got up and closed my computer. I took a walk. I made a program call.


It wasn’t enough.


Rafiki has an uncle (that’s what I’ll call him).


To many of us in the program, we consider him God-like. His sessions at the annual retreat are always packed; standing room only. He has a psychology background with many years of recovery.


At the retreat last year, his lesson was about the stories we make up in our head. This is a similar lesson that our couple therapist was trying to teach my ex and me.


“The main emotions we have are sad, glad, mad, and fear. Once that emotion is activated our brain makes up a story that supports the emotion. Once we have a story in our head, we react to secondary emotions that the story produces in us.”

Our emotions come from a thought, a story that we make up. Share on X

Once we have a story, we react to secondary emotions that the story produces in us. Share on X


“When you are triggered it is most likely due to a story that you are making up in your mind,” the monkey’s uncle explained. “Our emotions come from the story we make up. If the story is pleasurable, we’ll feel good. If the story is negative or triggers our emotional wounds, we feel bad. You need to ask yourself three questions.


First: Is the story true? Many times, the story isn’t true. We make up something that seems like truth and we react to it.


Next: Is the story REALLY true? What proof do you have that supports your story? If you have no definite proof, you either need to investigate more thoroughly and find out if it is true or you need to let that story go.


Step three: What story is true? If you can’t verify that the story is true, then make up a story that will ease the emotional discomfort you are feeling?”


Ask yourself, is the story true? Is it really true? What story is true? Share on X


For example. Let’s say you were driving and someone ran a red light, cuts you off, and sped down the road. First thought is what a selfish bastard, endangering people’s lives just so he doesn’t have to sit at a red light.


Is it true? Of course it is. Everyone runs red lights who are in a hurry and they only think about themselves.


Is it really true? Do you have proof? Not really, but of course I know it’s true. Asshole!


What story can you make up instead? His wife’s in labor and he’s trying to get her to the hospital. He hit an animal that needs to be rushed to the vet. His house is on fire and his kids are stuck inside. He was distracted in the car because his daughter was throwing a fit and by the time he realized he was running the red light it was safer to continue than to slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the intersection? Who knows.


When we change the story, trying to understand it from a position of compassion, it reduces the emotions that rage through us. 

When we change the story to that of compassion, it reduces the emotions that rage through us. Share on X



Make Up a New Story

I was deep in my head making up stories about my ex.


The story I was making up about her sexting men was most likely not true.  I needed to change the story to ease my tension.


The first story that popped into my head was that since we were getting a divorce, what she does with her own life is hers and I’m not in it any longer. If she wants to start dating prior to the divorce being finalized, I don’t have a say.


Ok, that story didn’t help. Still painful!


My ex has said that she’s not looking for anyone else nor is she looking for me. She’s looking for her. She misses the closeness of a relationship, but she’s happy where she’s at. She’s also said that she believes it’s wrong for someone to have a boyfriend/girlfriend before a divorce is finalized. I need to accept that what she has said is her truth.


But that tiger pounces on me again (or the Velociraptor that attacks from the side)!!


What about that man she’s always hanging out with? The one that you feel replaced by?




Let’s change the story this way. We are living in a time where media floods us with sexual innuendos, images, stories, songs, etc.


I’ve mentioned it before. Andy Stanley says it better:

“Culture baits us to the edge of disaster morally and then chastises us when we step over certain lines. Every single television show you watch, every single movie, every single theme there is something sexual and it draws us up to the line the way were supposed to dress, the way we’re supposed to act, the way we are supposed to dance, the way we are supposed to drink. Everything in culture draws us up to the edge of immorality and terrible decisions morally. When we step over certain lines, then it chastises us.”

Culture baits us to the edge of disaster morally, then chastises us when we step over the line. Share on X


My ex purchased these books to educate herself to educate our daughters. Texting is already big with my teenager and my younger daughter is close behind. To understand all there is about sex, current modern day trends in sexuality, etc., from both the female and male perspective, will allow my ex to be more supportive and informative as a parent.


This story feels truer.


I still struggle with it because of my own insecurities, but I feel the emotional energy start to subside. Whew!


Changing the story does help with the obsessiveness that goes on in my head.



But the Anger Comes Back

The song popping in my head is “Hit the Road Jack”. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy to do with emotions? Tell the negative ones to hit the road and they just disappear?


Now that my emotions have been all over the place and I’m going back over the work I need to do for taxes, I feel my anger coming back. My emotions feel like an electrocardiograph machine, spiking up and down constantly.


On a positive, grateful note, at least my emotions haven’t flat-lined.


For the first time, I start to come to an acceptance about the divorce.


I want it. I want to get out of the crazy roller coaster of emotions. I want to stop allowing myself to get pulled back into my illusion of a relationship. I want out. I want to move on with my life. I want life to be simpler and not so co-mingled.




It’s All My Fault

Then I realize this is all my fault.


This is only my doing. She has been straight with me from the beginning. She never wanted everything co-mingled in the first place.


It was I who suggested doing it this way.


Why both pay for Netflix? Why both pay for Amazon Prime? Why should we finalize the divorce and force you to pay for your own medical insurance since my family policy will cost the same with you on it or off?


I was always looking at the bottom line of spending money.


Was this me being a cheap ass? Was this me trying to look at things rationally doing what was best for our daughters? Or was this me manipulating the situation hoping that the divorce would never go through?


I feel cheap ass is true.


But I also feel, I don’t want to admit this mind you, that there was manipulation involved. Well, maybe not manipulating, but trying to hold on with the hope that the inevitable would not happen. Rationalizing that if she’s not looking for someone else and I know I’m not looking for someone else, let’s separate as much as possible, but not finalize it until we find out who we are and if that’s what we really want in the future?


I guess that’s manipulating. Maybe I’m just minimizing my manipulation.


I don’t know anymore.


Most likely, (d) all of the above.



Resistance is Futile

I have resisted my divorce, denied that it was going to happen, and have been delusional that things would change. As I have done all my life, my belief was that if I worked hard enough at something and proved myself, that I could change the circumstances that I didn’t want to happen.


Of course those are my own control issues that I still need to work on.


My ex said to me, when my step-father passed away, “Until his last breath, you could never do enough to please that man.”


My childhood trauma has set me up to repeat everything I’ve done since I was a kid, continuing to prove my worth to someone who does not care.


All I do is make her angry and push her away. The harder I hold on, the farther she goes.


Like a bird, I need to let her fly.


And two days ago, when I was angry, I let her go. I envisioned a life without her. I could see me not holding on any more. I could see the simplicity of life without having our finances and lives so co-mingled.


I could picture being a single father and pursuing the dreams I’ve always had; to travel the world with my kids, to help and give back to others, to learn how to dance, to learn martial arts, to build a business, to learn how to ride a motorcycle, to learn how to sail, and to learn how to fly a helicopter…just to name a few.


I finally envisioned these dreams without her, without the stress, without the longing, without the pain.


Two days ago, I believed that I didn’t need her nor do I need anyone else in my life. I need to keep digging down and working on my inner self, heal, and become the best damn father I can be!


I want to get the taxes done. I want to separate our finances. I want the divorce finalized so I can close this chapter of my life.


For the first time, I was grounded and acceptance had finally come.


But, that was two days ago…


Tonight, I am missing her.


I talked with my girls yesterday, but tonight I long to hear about my ex’s day. I want to hear her struggles and empathize with her. I want to stand by her side when she’s angry. I want to listen to the joy she had when she spent time with friends and watched the girls have fun. I don’t want to fix (oh, I was always the fixer). I don’t want to complain about what I don’t have. I don’t want to talk about me. I want to hear about her. I miss my ex.


Why is it I can go from acceptance of divorce to longing for us to be together and back again at the drop of a dime?


Why is it, that when I think I’ve fully let go, I boomerang back to where I’ve always been?


Why does she have this hold over me that I can’t seem to shake?



Easing Loneliness

Timing with my readings never cease to amaze me. Here’s an email that just arrived from DivorceCare, Day 135. It’s about easing loneliness:

First, you must learn to be single… “People walk around with a tremendous misconception of what it means to be single. Singleness, in its basic definition, means to be separate, unique, and whole. To be single means you are separate from everyone else, and you are unique in yourself-which means you recognize there’s no one like you, and you have worth within yourself. To be single also means you are whole; you don’t depend on other people to make you somebody. Until a person is completely single in these three areas, his or her relationships will always be a problem.”

Have you come to the point where you know you are separate, unique, and whole as a person?

After you consider each of these three areas in your life, think about the longings and worries you have and the emotions you sometimes struggle with.

 Learn to recognize areas of your life that need work, and avoid new relationships with the opposite sex until you are completely single.


I Still Have Work to Do

I still need to learn to be separate, unique, and whole. I’m not there yet. It isn’t until I get there that I can successfully have any relationship work.


Seriously, if the opportunity came up, I should not go back into my marriage or even think about dating anyone until the day I realize I can stand on my own two feet.


Lisa Nichols says, “No man (woman) can complete you. It’s your job to complete yourself and it’s his (her) job to complement your completeness.” Love that quote!


Unfortunately, I keep fighting against the inevitable, the tiger, the hamster in the wheel, the EKG of emotions, the current.


Rafiki told me today, “Stop fighting the current, Phoenix. You’re getting a divorce.”


I need to learn to lie on my back with arms out stretched and float to wherever the river is going to take me.


It sounds easy. But it’s hard as fuck to Let Go and Let God!



The Moldau


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