Thursday, March 10, 2005

I Don't Want to Go

Moving to LA is looking like a bad idea. I don't think I'm going to do it.

The move is risky under the best conditions. If I were sure my wife was going to stay put; if she had a stable job and stable place to live; if she were supportive of my recovery; if she were trying to encourage and facilitate a regular and predictable relationship between me and my son -- then I would only be dealing with the stress of moving to a new city that I don't want to live in and where I don't know anyone.

This past weekend emphasized to me that I cannot count on a single one of the "ifs." (Have I ever mentioned that my wife is bipolar and takes a lot of lithium?) It also reinforced just how much I don't want to be in LA.

One thing that seems to have sunk in from AA: I make lousy decisions, and I'm better off following advice. I've discussed my planned move with my family, my sponsor, quite a few AA friends, I'll discuss it tonight with my church group, and I'm scheduling appointments with my pastor and my shrink. So far, the advice I'm getting, given the whole situation, is to stay put in the town I'm in, which is my home and where I have a lot of people who know me and care about me. My best chance of staying sober is here. In LA, I'm hoping for the best, taking a chance with odds that aren't great, and rolling the dice.

By moving to LA, I'm leaving my life in my wife's control, still trying to react to her next move. I've always operated with this crazy assumption that, once she does this and finishes that, then she'll be stable and predictable, suddenly she will meet me halfway, and everything will be fine. But it never has been stable -- it has always been chaos. Why should I believe that simply by moving to LA, I will see different behavior from her? I'll still be accomodating her, and she will have no reason or inclination not to keep taking advantage of it.

I need to stop accomodating and stop trying to appease my wife.

There is no reason for me to assume I will see my son any more frequently, or have a more predictable and stable life with him, by living in LA than by staying here. It could even be worse in LA -- proximity would give my wife more opportunity to manipulate the situation (and me) to her convenience.


So, then, I have to face the next logical issue: if I can't reach agreement with my wife -- we've been going, at best, sideways for six months -- then we need agreement imposed from outside. In my state, according to the attorney I spoke with yesterday, I need to consider filing for legal separation, which would include a binding "parenting plan" of custody, visitation schedule and support payments.

I probably will not like what's ordered, my wife may not like it, but at least it would be stable and I would have some legal recourse if she reneges. Plus, I wouldn't have to go through the constant ordeal of trying to negotiate every single time I see my son. I would know exactly what my minimum responsibilities are and exactly what my parental privileges are.

The questions I have to ask myself are: Am I, honestly, motivated by trying to provide stability and predictability for my son and myself? Or am I actually trying to exert control for the sake of being in control? Are there other options that I should consider? Should I make yet another attempt to reach an agreement directly with my wife?

The most discouraging thing about trying to work out an agreement with my wife is that I don't trust her to abide by what we agree to. In the past several months she has built up a pretty good track record of unilaterally discarding agreements and commitments, big and small, as soon as they become inconvenient to her. How do you negotiate and compromise with someone when you don't trust their intention to live up to their word?

I also am pretty sure she will go ballistic when I tell her I've decided not to move to LA. I think she's counting on it at this point, so that I can relieve her of some of the burden of taking care of our son (when it's convenient for her and/or she needs a break). I don't want to speculate about how she will want to "punish" me for it, or how she will try to get some "justice." It would not surprise me at all if she suddenly picked up and moved to yet another city, state or country. It couldn't hurt to have the court encouraging her to stay put.


I seem to be trying to talk myself into hiring an attorney and drawing up some papers. I have to be careful not to convince myself of anything. I need to seek out advice from people I trust and people who have expertise and perspective to shed light on the situation. This is too big and important, and I'm too ill-equipped right now, to try to make this decision by myself.


At 3/11/2005 09:47:00 PM, Blogger Logan Wick said...


I wish you the best Phil. I really mean that.

At 3/12/2005 02:18:00 AM, Blogger Grace said...

I'm just amazed Phil at your rational approach to this situation. I'm sure its not that easy in reality but you draft it out so well. I think, for what its worth, you are right. The move seems too unstable and you need to protect yourself. The legal route isnt pleasant but I think you do need to sort that out before you progress. It will give you more security.

At 3/12/2005 04:22:00 AM, Blogger recoveryroad said...

Seems you're getting grounded and perspective on this situation.

You can't go following your wife all over the country if she hasn't or isn't likely to put roots down for herself.

I agree whole heartedly with Grace...

You seem to have taken some big emotional and 'mental' steps over the past 10 days or so.

At 3/12/2005 09:56:00 AM, Blogger bikipatra said...

it seems that you are being very rational but at the same time realizing that your "gut" feeling about what is important to you sobriety comes first!

At 3/12/2005 02:22:00 PM, Blogger Faith said...

I think you're totally right. As long as you do what's right for you, you will be doing what's right for your son. If you move to be closer to him, but drink, you will be farther from him emotionally. If stay where you are (perhaps physically farther away) but stay sober, you can be there (in every way that matters) for him no matter what.

I'm all for the legal route. She may hate it, you may hate it, but as you say, something written down and all legal like is at least something you are both FORCED to abide by. Taking away your parental rights out of spite and childishness is the the WORST possible thing she could do to her son.

Going through what I am with Sydney's father, I love to see a man who actually WANTS to be with his child. Good for you, no matter what you decide to do.


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