School, A Quote, and Some Reflection

I’m about to finish my first semester of grad school. I took two classes – Human Behavior in the Social Environment and Social Welfare Policy. I shed some tears and felt a serious amount of stress, but overall, my experience has been amazingly worthwhile.

I forgot how to use my brain in a classroom learning capacity, so that adjustment took some time. There is an incredible amount of reading required for a graduate degree (duh) and I’m surprised at how quickly I got into a groove of getting my shit done way in advance, absorbing the content, and kicking ass on assignments. As in, getting a 100% on my second policy paper after I cried hysterically over the first.

I went through a period in the first few weeks when I would dread the start of the live session (online program-speak for ‘class’. Just picture a Skype session with 16 other people set up in a grid with live chatting capabilities and you’ve got it.) But now that I’m almost done with week 13 of 14 of live sessions, I feel comfortable before class starts, not anxious as fuck about whether or not I’ll know how to contribute to the conversation in a meaningfully appropriate and graduate level way. I’ve continually surprised myself, which is new. I’ve unknowingly pushed myself out of my comfort zone and so far, I’m doing better than I thought I would.

I don’t know how to express how unimaginable it still feels to me that I have actually begun this process. I mean, a year and a half ago I was…lost, still broken, looking for attention in destructive places and ways, not loving myself, not engaged in anything meaningful and generally depressed. I was a shadow of who I am today. I’ve woken up from my coma of self-medicating and escaping. There’s a quote by Mary Karr who wrote a memoir about her recovery experience called ‘Lit’, that I have on my laptop’s lock screen and I see it every time I fire this baby up. It says: ‘There are women succeeding beyond their wildest dreams because of their sobriety.’ It forces a tiny knowing smile onto my face every time I read it.

The word sobriety has multiple meanings for me. A year ago it meant that I had to stop drinking entirely because I was a hopeless, disgusting, and troubled addict. ‘Sobriety’ felt urgent. It felt like an emergency. It felt like my last resort. That kind of sobriety will never stick, at least for me.

Today, the word feels like a departure from the thinking and behavioral patterns that were holding me down and less like an urgent need to immediately stop every single last bad habit I have in their dirty tracks. Now, it’s more a letting go of the fear that I wasn’t good enough. It’s also an acceptance that every bad decision I made during those days do not define who I am as a person. I used to feel so disgusted with myself. So fucking fed up and angry at myself for not being able to be better. And, yes, I still feel like that as I occasionally feel the pull to say ‘fuck it’ and succumb to the waves of sadness or worry or stress that often come over me. There’s a difference between letting the feelings completely bowl me over to the point of needing to say ‘fuck it’ and, feeling the emotion, giving it the time it needs to be felt and moving on without needing to escape from that discomfort. The decisions I used to make and will sometimes make in the future are only that, decisions. They don’t in any way mean I am a terrible person. I’m a good person who had/has a few bad habits.

As I move farther away from my days of drinking to numb and escape and acting out sexually and ghosting through my existence, I marvel at how dependent I unknowingly was on those behaviors to get me through. I had a conversation with an old friend recently who is going through a tough time and is self-medicating in much the same way that I used to. I can see so much of my addictive behaviors in her. I can see the hurt. I can feel the pain. I can practically smell the self-loathing drifting off her skin. I wish I could coax her out of this process and make her heal the wounds she’s desperately and defensively licking but I can’t. I have to let this period in her life run its’ course, much as I had to let the drinking days in my life run theirs.

This addiction/sobriety thing is a tricksy asshole, isn’t it?

I’m beginning to feel grateful for it because living through and growing from my experiences is going to make me a pretty badass social worker once I’m done with school. Nothing will be able to stop me and my success will be wild.

Better late than never

I’m realizing more and more lately that I don’t know how to remain in a state of contentment. I am pretty sure I never learned how, there was always something going on, something changing, someone moving in, someone moving out, constant motion. When I look back to when I was little, the one thing that sticks out in terms of consistency was the feeling that I couldn’t settle down emotionally because the majority of my weekends (and sometimes weeknights) beyond the age of 8 or 9 were spent somewhere other than my home, in my bed. Sometimes I slept at the house of the woman who cared for my aging grandmother, or with a family friend that I didn’t really like, or at a friend’s house. I honestly can’t say how often this happened, but it was a regular enough occurrence that I vividly remember how it felt to be ‘shuffled off’ to somewhere else.

Why was I being shuffled? Because my parents had to spend their free time dealing with the ever evolving, ever emotionally draining, and ever challenging enigma that was my older brother. They drove hours to Pennsylvania to visit him while he was enrolled in ‘school’ (it was really a rehabilitation center for troubled youth). Or, they went to secret court meetings with lawyers to work out what would be the best course of action when he stole the car. Or, they were out looking for him when he ran away from home for the 15th time. It must have been so difficult for them. They were trying to care for the their troubled kid who sought their attention through vehement rebellion and utter behavioral dysfunction. That’s what they had to do. They were without a choice; he was self-destructing by the age of 11. But, in the process they were essentially forced to neglect their other kid who’s emotional hard drive was being infected with a nasty, invisible virus.

It wasn’t as if I was abused or had a terrible time while my entire family was away from me doing things I wasn’t a part of. I usually had a great time with my friends. We watched Rated R movies before I was allowed to – Silence of the Lambs when I was 12 – Yikes…no wonder I have an unnatural love for Stephen King. We ate candy until we were practically sick and wrote the names of our crushes in cursive all over any surface that could be easily concealed. We obsessed about when we would get our first period. It was a very formative time, one I remember fondly. Mostly.

While I have the good memories, I still carry the hurt of feeling left out during those years. I didn’t understand why my parents always had to be ‘away’, or why they never explained where my brother was. He would simply be gone and then he would magically reappear one day without a word of explanation. All I did know was that I couldn’t get too comfortable at home because I would have to pack a bag and sleep somewhere else in a matter of days. I know my parents were protecting me – as they should have – I just haven’t been able to shake how consistently difficult it can be for me to remain content where I am.

Is that because when I was a pre-teen I spent many, many nights in a foreign house, knowing that the following weekend I would be in a different foreign house? Is that why, to this day, I am so annoyingly unable to sleep soundly in a bed that isn’t mine? Is that why I developed a destructive coping mechanism, because I learned that being away from home meant something bad was happening behind the curtain of protection? Is it why I feel more anxious nowadays than I ever have because things in my life are actually going, dare I say, smoothly?

I’m pretty sure that’s part of it. I’ve spent years not being able to truly settle into a pattern of healthy, positive, loving behavior because I’ve either been sorting through a loss, a giant mess of my own making or I’ve been bracing for the shit to hit the fan again. Part of me is waiting for that to happen now. That’s where the anxiety comes from – the anticipation of something awful, life changing and completely out of my control barreling straight for my pretty little forehead.

And that’s fine. Things will happen. Life isn’t easy and it owes me nothing. I can breathe more freely, more deeply now. I can sit with anxiety, knowing that it is fiercely fickle and will eventually move on.

The last 7 months have been a lovely, progressive shift from some dark, dark days into the light for me. The relationship I’m in grows more complex and fulfilling with every passing week. I got accepted to graduate school and my classes start May 15th. I’m going to move in with my boyfriend in the next few months. My future seems bright, and more importantly, it feels possible. 

Everything feels so new. Everything feels so exciting. Everything feels so fragile. I don’t want to check out because I feel anxious. I don’t want to miss anything that is unfolding now, I am so very aware of how precious it is. My life is finally, finally facing in a direction that I am in love with and I deserve it. However, I’ve never, ever had this feeling before – it’s no wonder I feel nervous. Of course I’m going to feel scared to let myself curl up like a cat sleeping in a band of sunlight because I’m brand new to the areas of healthy relationships, meaningful work and self-acceptance. Brand spanking new.

But, it’s never too late to let go of the insecurities of the past and embrace the confidence of the future.

Never. Too. Late.

Some Warm Fuzzies

I had an incredibly awesome weekend. My boyfriend and I had some people over on Saturday night to celebrate our birthdays (they’re 10 days apart). We made some delicious food and had a cozy atmosphere for our friends to hang out in. We ate, talked, had a few drinks (not too many, thankyouverymuch) and played cards. It was just a nice, relaxing evening. I haven’t wanted to celebrate my birthday in quite a few years, so to have such a lovely time this year felt really great. It was a total success in my eyes.

The next day my mother and godmother drove down from New Hampshire to join my love and I at his mom’s house for a celebration of our birthdays. This was the first time our mother’s met – both of our father’s are gone – and it went really well. A lot of his family was there as well and we had delicious food, good conversation and I was embraced in a way that left me feeling fulfilled, hopeful and vulnerable all at the same time.

I was struck with how vulnerable I felt. Truly, this is the first time in my life that I have ever felt safe with the man I have chosen to be with. The relationships of my past have been, as I’ve said many times, with damaged men. The man I am with now is not damaged. He’s the polar opposite of those I used to think I deserved. This man is Strong. Aware. Prepared. Stable. Emotionally intelligent. Creative. Driven. Kind. Affectionate. He challenges me and has already helped me be a better version of myself. I have never experienced anything close to what I have with him. And we get along soooooooo well. We make each other laugh. We support each other. We actually want to build something together. That alone blows my mind….I was never able to begin that process before. But now, it’s just an organic momentum that the two of us have together. We don’t even have to think about it, it just is.

And his family has been so welcoming of me, the new kid on their block. I feel accepted whenever I see them. I also have a lot in common with his mom which is a nice little unexpected bonus. They have all been so gracious and I don’t feel undeserving of their kindness (thank GOD). I do get overwhelmed here and there when I sit and think about what a blessing and a half I have. Overwhelmed in a foreign and really warm way – my known sense of overwhelm is usually cold and chaotic. I feel luckier than I ever have. I feel grateful to my core. I am very aware of how crippling loss can be, so there’s a touch of anxiety mixed up in all this…but just a touch. I mostly feel emotional in a good way about how wonderfully this relationship has been progressing. It’s the healthiest relationship of my life. Hands down.

I felt this way – warmly overwhelmed – on Sunday while I was sitting in the crook of his arm, amidst a happy cloud of general merriment. I thought, ‘wow, this is exactly what I hoped it would be.’ And with that thought I felt very clearly how fragile this new happiness I have is. Maybe that’s because I have never really known this kind of happiness before? It needs some time and tending to feel less like it can be blown away by a light breeze and more rooted directly into the fertile soil. When I compare my past with my present I just simply can’t believe how I used to allow people to treat me. When I examine the way he values me, looks at me or just touches my hand I want to scream ‘THANK YOU!!’ at the top of my lungs because I’m so relieved. I’ve been so lonely and lost for so long. I am just overjoyed to finally, finally, finally feel found.

My God, I love him so much.

Ummm..Is this really happening?

So. I applied to grad school a few weeks ago. I found out today that I was accepted into the online MSW program at Simmons College. (!!!)

So far I feel numb, not excited. I’m a naturally slow processor anyway, so I’m not surprised. I’m also distracted by feeling incredibly burnt out. I had a majorly draining session with my therapist last night, almost cried my face completely off. Things just really caught up with me and I melted down a bit. I am unhappy at my job and small things that would normally be a minor inconvenience (i.e., one of the kids got out of school early unexpectedly and I had to drop everything to pick her up) elicit a major reaction from me. I explode and immediately choke it back. Often. It ain’t good. So, stuff has been building for a while.

I feel trapped right now – and then my thoughts begin to spin out of control, kind of like this – because I can’t afford to leave this job even though it makes me crazy and I should have gone to school sooner so that I wouldn’t be in this position now (without a worthwhile degree under my belt to pursue a meaningful career path with) and I should never have accumulated so much credit card debt because I’m absolutely stuck in trying to pay it down and until it’s gone I can’t save a dime and I have no safety net if something happens to my 10 year old car or to Mona and I don’t spend my money on anything but bills, settling my debts and food. I can barely scrape together extra money for weddings when my friends decide to get hitched. It’s sad and I hate it and I feel incredibly shitty about it. But, I am writing about it and sharing with others about it, so for me, that’s a huge step in a positive direction.

I have these financial issues (secrets) dangling over my head every single day and I pretend I don’t see them. I pretend they really don’t matter when they matter more with each passing year. I do this because when I look at the big picture of my financial life, choices, mistakes I want to curl up in a ball and sleep for a week. It overwhelms me on such a deep level that I generally choose to not see that I need help if I want to move forward. I hate asking for help. I’ve been independent – willfully so – since before I can remember. ‘I can do it myself’ has always been my mantra. My parents always let me figure things out on my own, they never pushed, never pressured. Never offered advice either. I’m not pointing fingers, just illustrating that I was never explicitly taught how to make good financial decisions. But I want to from here on out. I just need a little help to get me started.

Ugh, I even hate writing about this, but I want to get it out of me. Writing here is therapy.

So, last night I was talking about all this stuff with my therapist and came to the realization that I don’t feel deserving of any financial help from my mother because I’m adopted. I don’t feel entitled to what my therapist called ‘my birthright’ because I wasn’t actually born into it. You can say all you want about how biological connection isn’t everything and some blood related kids deserve a swift kick in the ass and how lucky I am (which I totally am) to have had the opportunities I did growing up. I definitely know. And I also know my mother always, always, always, always, sees me as nothing but her daughter but that doesn’t make me feel any less conflicted about it.

This is a core issue for me. It is a central theme to every single solitary event in my life. And despite whatever progress I make away from it I always somehow meander my way back to it. No matter what the problem is, a part of it feels attached to the belief that I don’t belong because I was given up as a baby. I can sift through my sordid and chaotic past to see if I can find something, anything that isn’t indelibly tied to ADOPTION and all the upside down feelings I have about it and I will find fuckall. I even found my birth parents hoping that would salve this aching scar somehow. That theory worked for a short time, right after we reconnected. But ultimately, finding them, learning about them and losing contact with them opened the wound wider and deeper.

I still work every day to feel secure in myself, to feel a sense of belonging. Sometimes it comes as easily as breathing – my friends and my love help with that all the time. On other days the scar tissue around my old wound cracks and breaks…the pain seeps into my pores. It hurts. It fucking kills. My response to it used to be to drink an entire bottle of wine. Or eat until I was disgustingly full. Or go to a bar and find a stranger to take home. Used. To. Be.

God, that’s freeing to write down.

I had a really bad day yesterday and I didn’t want to drink. I didn’t want to numb myself from the exquisite pain. And for that, right there, I’m grateful. Even when I feel I am crumbling, fraying at the edges and that I barely exist, I’m still the strongest I have ever been and I didn’t need to turn to alcohol, or food, or a man. I sat with it, moved through it and I’m letting it go today piece by piece.

I’ve come a long way from last June when I wrote my first post and said ‘I’m an addict’ in this Blog O’Mine. Seriously. I applied to grad school and got ACCEPTED.

I think it’s sinking in a little now….

Holy Shit.


New Books and Sitting With Some Grief

My current literary love affair is with memoirs. I find myself utterly moved by the stories, experiences and words of other people – women specifically – who mirror some of my addictive behaviors or can teach me new perspectives through the wisdom of their own journeys. My newest infatuation is with a book called Whip Smart: The True Story of a Secret Life by Melissa Febos. In it, she describes her struggle of balancing school in New York City with a heroin and cocaine addiction, a pastime she pays for from the spoils of being a professional dominatrix. This story speaks to my own sexual fascinations and my own specific needs to numb which used to rule my life.

In one scene she describes walking from the subway to her next ‘session’ with a client. She has just come from her dealer and holds her next fix in her pocket. She walks past a common room at a dorm and sees students through the windows, studying, catching up for finals, socializing. What she says next sent a needle of recognition directly into my heart — ‘A part of me belonged there, and sometimes I could feel how I was killing it; I could feel its deprivation in me like a great, sucking wind, an inverted scream. A part of me wanted to be good, to believe that I inherently was, and that everything would be okay, in warm places without secrets or the endless craving that drove me outside at night to fill a hole that was never full. But my craving was real, not only for drugs but also for things that could only exist in the limitless world outside those cozy windows. I knew I’d have to quiet some other inconsolable part of myself to live in that safe world and wasn’t at all certain that I could, even if I’d wanted to.’

This resonates with me oh, so much. I can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve felt like a worthless, dirty junkie watching any number of cozy moments from the outside. I remember my days of drinking alongside an active alcoholic, feeling like the secret of his addiction would swallow me whole just as easily as he swallowed his beers. I remember watching him stumble, sip, chuckle, sip, and stumble again on his way to the bathroom night after night. I remember sensing his cravings and wanting, wishing, willing them to stop. Of course, no amount of my energy would ever be able to console the inconsolable part of him.

I believe we all carry something in us that cry out. Parts that perpetually hurts. I think that by default or maybe some sort of emotional osmosis, he  melded with the grief stricken parts of me that fed into my addictive behaviors. Some of the habits I gleaned from my time with him remain with me now. I still have cravings of my own. I still, from time to time, feel like a nasty little miscreant, pressing my nose up against the cold glass as I covet what others have on the inside. I used to delude myself into thinking my relationship with someone as addicted as him was what I wanted, even deserved. I believed that I would find, with him, what it meant to exist on the safe, cozy side of life. I tried that for a while, but it continued to spiral out of my control. Some of the bad times still haunt me – broken furniture, spilled beers, angry words – but it wasn’t all bad all the time. Even now, some of the verbal expressions that were hilarious and so him still fall out of my mouth from time to time. Relationships leave their mark on you. The good and the bad. For me though, the bad parts of it had a hold on me for a long time.

As the years have gone by, I’ve processed all I could think to process around my relationship with him and I detached. I moved on. I got over it, little by little. But, occasionally, nostalgia would get the better of me and I would peek at his pictures on Facebook. He got married in 2016, to the woman who came into his life right after I left it. He seemed to be doing really well. I was happy for him. I hoped very much that he would have a fulfilling life with her and find some peace. I hoped that she could give him what I couldn’t, whatever that was.

I got a call two weeks ago from one of his friends who I stayed in touch with here and there over the years to tell me that my ex had died. Cause of death was liver failure. The wave of grief I felt was immediate and strong. I was so surprised with how big it felt. I hadn’t spoken to him in years. He was married to someone else, I’m in love with someone else. It didn’t make any rational sense for me to feel so consumed by learning he was dead. I didn’t think I had the right to mourn him.

But mourn him, I did. I got right into the depths of grief for a few days and sat in the muck of all the complicated stuff I didn’t realize I still carried with me. I immersed myself in memories of him – without drinking to numb the pain I might add – and looked at old photos, remembering all the laughs and honest to goodness good times we had together. I laughed and then I cried. When I cried I thought about how sad and untimely his death is. He was just 41 years old. The heartbroken places within him were never able to be soothed or quieted. I knew I couldn’t save him, but some naïve part of me prayed that he would somehow find a way to save himself. Knowing that he couldn’t and it killed him makes me so very, very sad.

I went to his wake with my supportive and emotionally stable boyfriend by my side. I faced his family who did not like me very much by the time he and I were breaking up to pay my respects. His mother was very surprised, but touched to see me and cried into my shoulder. I hugged his widow whom I had never met after hearing her say, ‘you’re that Annie’. I offered my condolences to his stepmother whom I adored and his father who stoically pushed me away towards the end of the line. I knelt in front of his smooth black coffin and cried my own private good-bye to him.

It was a terribly emotional experience and it was tough, but it was 100% worth it. The more you grieve, the better at it you get. It’s like anything else you do more than once; you get more experienced and more practiced. I, for better or worse, know this to be true. I didn’t know how to let go of grief when I was younger. But after walking through a wake for someone who played a large, dysfunctional, often fun, complicated and toxic role in my life, I am fully capable, if not eager to let go.

I left the funeral home feeling shaky and…..relieved. It felt like a fog was dissipating, not lifting, but slowly disappearing. I felt his power over me go away. It left no trace or whisper of its existence, it was beautifully and simply gone. Just as he is gone. His death, as with any other, brings an acute sense of finality. A somewhat ugly chapter finally, at long last, closed.

I’m leaving all the mucky, murky mess of that time in my life behind me. (Truth be told, I thought I had already done that…but life can always surprise you.) I’m letting go. I have so many good, warm, cozy and safe things to look forward to. I’m still adjusting to how rife with fertile potential my future is. It’s process for me, but a process I am so excited and satisfied to be a part of.



I hope you can Rest Peacefully. I will miss you and hold the good times we shared in my heart.


Feelings and Facts

I am finding myself unable to begin writing my Statement of Intent for grad school. It’s on my mind all the time that I want to (and really should) start getting what’s in my head about my intentions onto the page. I have had a plan all week to sit down on a quiet afternoon – RIGHT NOW – when I have nothing calling my attention elsewhere and start typing out what feels right. Just to see what comes of it. To see if any new ideas or revelations or truths might reveal themselves about what I want my professional path to be. I want to really think about what I want to do with a Master’s degree and how I want to go about chiseling out a place for myself in the world of my chosen discipline. I want to start. But somehow, I can’t.

Ok…for now I can’t. Fine. I can roll with that. So, I started to wonder why I can’t. Is it because I don’t feel like doing it right now? Yes (enter the petulant child). Is it because I don’t know what to say? Sure. Is it because I am still allowing an old fear of failure to sabotage what I truly know will bring meaning, depth, community, evolution and quite possibly success to my life? Of course.

I have always been able to write honestly and candidly. But I’m sitting here feeling paralyzed. I just want to get going and get it done so that I can move forward and feel more grounded in this process. I’m rushing to the finish line a little bit too; I know I can’t force the words to come and it’s always better when I don’t think about it too much – and obviously, I’m overthinking like whoa right now – but this…new challenge…. is an application for graduate school. Holy Intimidation Batman.

Ever the Good Girl Addict, I’m putting pressure on myself to be good and do good and to write a fantastic statement of intent. But what if my version of ‘good’ falls short? What if what I write feels flat? Or weak? People tell me all the time that my writing is great…but what if I can’t fucking do it in any other way? It’s been 15 years since I was in school. To say I’m rusty is quite the understatement.

And again, Good Girl Addict patterns in full swing, self-doubt is trying to convince me that being a nanny for the past 12 years will not be enough to grant me acceptance into a graduate program. I haven’t been pushing myself or trying different things or growing professionally AT ALL over the last decade and the people who evaluate my application will know and they’ll be able to smell my inadequacy a mile away.

And there it is. The word that fits exactly what I’m feeling….inadequate. I don’t feel good enough today. I don’t feel evolved. I don’t feel professionally solid. I feel young and out of touch and vulnerable.

The good news though, (I looooooove that I can find my way to good news after I spew a little bit of irrational insecurity and self-pity) is that I won’t feel like this tomorrow, or even this evening because what I’m feeling right now is only that…. a feeling. A whole bunch of feelings and – hold onto your hats kids – they are not facts. Holy shit! Feelings are not facts. Thank you al-anon for giving me that insight back in 2009 when I was trying to leave my abusive alcoholic boyfriend. It’s such a simple statement that I forget time and time again only to be reminded of its truth when I feel overwhelmed by something that I can’t control.

Because I’m feeling scared and stalled and underwhelming does not define me. The core of what I’m feeling is nervousness and apprehension about a big fat transition that I’m volunteering for. And there’s another nugget that just revealed itself as I was stream-of-consciousness-ing…I’m signing up for this. The change heading my way is my choice. How liberating is that?? I’ve sludged through almost 2 decades of change and upheaval that had nothing to do with a decision I made. It was loss or illness or grief. That shit is not easy to navigate. And I felt trapped on top of it because I was so utterly powerless. But I’m not a prisoner anymore. I’m a fucking warrior.

*Deep Cleansing Breath*

I got this.


Good Girl Addict vs. Grad School

So. I just sent an e-mail to my bosses to let them know that I have decided to apply to an MSW program. I told them without hesitation that I want to be a therapist and that I am planning on a part-time online program beginning in May. Even as I type this and really think about going through with what I told my bosses I am planning, I can hear the mean-spirited Addict voice in my head telling me that I won’t actually see it through or that something will fall through and I will have to postpone this dream again. I have a lot of self-doubt. I have a lot of pent up fear and guilt around going after a Master’s degree. A lot.

I sabotaged my chances of earning an MSW right out of undergrad back in 2002 because well, I just didn’t give a fuck about pursuing a degree in anything. I didn’t care. And when I didn’t get accepted into the master’s program that immediately followed the Bachelor’s program at Syracuse (I was probably the only one of my fellow classmates who applied and didn’t get in) I was surprisingly devastated. When I read my rejection letter I literally crumpled to the ground and started sobbing. The stone cold reality of the letter hit me fucking hard even though I knew I wasn’t going to get in. The effort I put into my application to grad school and everything that preceded it was far below what I am capable of. I was simply going through the motions of completing my college education to prove to my parents that I was ok. I wasn’t trying to build a future for myself because I didn’t care about my future and I wasn’t ok. The only things I cared about back then were not being present, partying, being young, and being irresponsible – after all, that’s what my brother did and an unconscious part of me thought if I carried on some his behavior I was keeping him alive (this would be why I got my tongue pierced Freshman year). So, not getting into that graduate program proved how irresponsible and just like my big brother I could be. It is one of my biggest regrets.

I couldn’t face that particular regret for all these long years because of all the pain I had to sift through. Can you imagine someone who hated herself as much as I used to trying to give advice and help other people mend the broken parts of themselves? I wouldn’t have been able to do any good back then. I would have burned out or worse after a few years. It just wasn’t the right time for me – most of me believes that, but the tricksy and false Addict part of me wants to berate those past decisions and failures again all in a thinly veiled attempt to coax me into drinking to numb. But that’s not going to happen. I’ve learned my hard lesson and I want a clear head as I move forward and on through my life.

I tap into my strength and wisdom to channel the energy I need to take the next step and the next. I take a lot of deep breaths to help the nervousness abate. I’m a capable, courageous, and powerful woman. I cannot let the regrets of my past dictate the trajectory my future. I will not let the Addict part of me which has so addled and deadened me for years take control again. That part of me deflected a lot of hurts that I just couldn’t handle. I used to live for the times when I could numb. But nowadays I live for more. The time for aversion is at an end. Now is the time for how I mindfully choose to live my life to begin.

I’ve pieced myself back together, guys….I really have. I want this degree for me and no one else. I want to learn again for me. I want to help others for me. I want to feel good about me for me. And I do. I do. I do.

I’m sitting here at work, still not believing I finally let my bosses know that I won’t be working for them for as long as they (and I) thought I might and I can’t quite put my finger on how I’m feeling….floored, elated, terrified, excited, certain, free.

I’m scared as fuck….but I’m going to do it anyway.

Walking Alone

Today is New Year’s Day. I took a walk with my boyfriend and his dog, and as with most things I share with him, it was lovely. We speculated on what he might want to do to improve his house and watched a hawk land on a tree branch. While walking hand in hand with him I suddenly remembered where I was last year at this time…..I was taking a walk alone and I was trying to reconcile the fact that I was about to watch/help my mother endure a stem cell transplant. Prior to the beginning of last year, she had spent 8 solid months getting her body ready for a complete restart. She had chemotherapy and bone marrow biopsies and countless doctor appointments all to help ensure the addition of a few years onto her life. My mother has multiple myeloma, which is a blood/marrow cancer. There is no cure. She will always have it. But all doctors have said that people who do well with stem cell transplants can add as many as 10 years onto their lives. Years in which they can work and travel and live.

Everyone seems to think this is great news and in many, many ways it is. Science is an amazing tool and asset. Without it, she could be gone. But I can’t help but think about and process the fact that her life has been shortened. By how much, I can’t say, but shortened just the same. I know I don’t know that for certain, her life will be as long as it’s supposed to be. But when the diagnosis of cancer comes and it’s a strong, incurable, non-remission kind of cancer, it’s incredibly difficult to not feel fucking angry and robbed of the assumed 20+ years I hoped she would have. Now you’re telling me she might be able to have 10? Go fuck yourself.

I used to drink the pain and uncertainty about my mother’s illness away. I certainly did when she was in the hospital last year for 2 weeks. She had to stay that long because they gave her a massive dose of a chemo drug to knock her immune system down to zero so that when her stem cells (yes, her stem cells, it was pretty amazing to watch actually) were implanted back into her they could start with a completely clean slate. Her entire system was starting from scratch to help her body combat the myeloma cells more efficiently.

I camped out in a hotel, alone, for a good chunk of the time she was laying in a hospital bed. She was there for almost 14 days total and I was there for 6 of them. Watching the woman who raised you, loved you, never judged you and took care of you no matter what lose her hair, throw up repeatedly, and lose her dignity all with a graceful smile on her face is heartbreaking in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. Seeing her go through that, being alone while I watched, feeling like I could do nothing to make it easier broke me open. It felt like life was poking and digging its’ greasy, ragged fingernail directly into my heart – as if it were fishing around for every extra bit of strength I had. I could barely stand it. So I drank to help salve the aches I felt. But it didn’t help. It took me away, briefly, which sadly I needed. But ultimately all the booze did was zap what precious little energy I had. I was giving everything I had either to my mom or to the bottle. It was an awful, awful time.

But that was last year. I got through it. She got through it. And she began to heal. Over the past year she started working at a little part-time gig with our dear, dear family friend who is like the sister I never had in her consignment shop. She traveled with her best friend. She celebrated another mother’s day and another birthday and another Christmas, with me. She got to meet my best friends’ sweet baby boy. She got to meet my wonderful new boyfriend. She got to read a wonderfully written and heartfelt letter from my brother’s favorite friend that brought her to tears. She got to see another year begin. She got to live, even if it was very different from what she (and I) is used to.

I’m so grateful for that. I’m grateful to see her smile, even if the smile she wears nowadays is incredibly sad. I’m grateful for the pain, even when it stops my breath. I’m grateful for my journey, even though it has exhausted me time and time again. I’m grateful for my strength and wisdom. I’m grateful that I still love to laugh as much as I do. I’m grateful that I see so much beauty in the darkness (sitting quietly next to my mother while she slept in the hospital, knowing she would be comforted to see me when she woke was fucking gorgeous). I’m grateful that I was given some perspective on my walk today. Last year I was walking alone, wondering how in the blue fuck I was going to get through what was coming toward me. This year, I was still wondering how I’m going to get through…but I wasn’t walking alone.


It’s About That Time

It’s chilly at my place right now. It’s overcast and rainy outside – a day where you can practically smell how raw the air is. I’m sitting here in the apartment I’ve known for almost 7 years and I feel a quiet ending to this phase of my life slowly approaching. What do I mean by ‘this phase’, you may ask? Well, this period of several years when I battened down the hatches and stayed hunkered in order to put one foot in front of the other to get through. A time through which I never planned for a valuable future because I never had a chance to catch my breath and take stock. I just kept going, enduring, surviving without a desire for something more. I also suppose I mean this sequence of unhealthy decisions – drinking, drinking, drinking, and drinking some more and sleeping with strangers while very inebriated in order to prove to my broken self that I am beautiful – which were driven by the false belief that I would ‘never be worth anything good’.

This was back when I would drink almost an entire bottle of wine before going to the bar alone to drink 4 more strong vodka tonics. I couldn’t flirt well enough without the lubrication and the most important thing to me in those days was disconnecting from the reality that I couldn’t sit with sober. I was lucky enough to have a job that paid me well to afford a decent apartment on my own. I didn’t love the work or care much to change my career. I only cared about getting through to the next weekend so I could get shitfaced and detach from the pain that consumed me. I needed an escape from the trail of abusive, failed relationships, from my dead brother, my dead father, from my self-loathing and utter desolation. I never learned how just exist without a little something to take the edge off. So, booze was my best friend for the last few years. It happened. I fell into that hole. I stayed there for a long time. I put myself in very, very dangerous situations. I felt awful most of the time – physically and emotionally. It became second nature to walk around in a perpetual hangover. I didn’t really give it a second thought because the high I could get from feeling buzzed was the only thing I focused on. The only thing I lived for.

I don’t do any of that shit anymore. Thank goodness. I can sit with the discomfort of the chaotic corners of my life without absolutely needing to not feel. I’ve been the woman who drank her pains away for long enough. A deep and thoughtful voice is waking up right now and I would be a fool to ignore it. It’s telling me that I can do anything, literally anything I put my strong mind to. It’s telling me that I’ve been worthy all along, I just had to start believing it (and hot damn, I am believing the shit out of it now!) I’m going to start the wheels of action turning very soon and I’m going to change my career. I’m going to focus on the dreams I’ve always had and I am going to work to make them come true. I’m determined to earn my Master’s degree and the thought of school again at 36 (or 37 or 38) has me feeling very nervous and overwhelmed but also fucking excited. I love school. I love learning. I love reading text and gaining new knowledge. I love the idea that one day I will have something that I have nursed from its’ infancy and it will be mine. It will belong to me because I chose it, not because I fell into it (as with nannying) and it seemed like enough to get me through. I’m not going to live like that anymore. I’m going to let my past go and I’m going to live my life. I’m going to fucking thrive.

And believe me when I say I know it will not be easy. I know there will be more challenges and more loss for me to navigate, but this time I won’t have to recoil and numb myself from the feelings of grief and uncertainty and loneliness because I’m not alone. I never was.

I’m mostly ok with how I used to behave, think, live. I sometimes wish I had started to wake up to being whole sooner. Speculating on the timing or regretting how long it took is pretty useless. I couldn’t see it or embrace it until I was ready. That’s the long and short of what’s held me in this holding pattern for so long. And the fucking great thing about being ready for me is, once I am in that mindset, the one that says ‘the time is now, just do it, take action’, there’s really no stopping me. I feel like a brand new woman. I feel stronger than ever. I feel fierce and poised to strike. I feel as though I have affixed my gaze onto my rich future with the sparkling eyes of a jungle cat, shining with intense knowing.

I am really going to do this. I am going to make my life into what I have always wanted. No more wondering how and why I went wrong. No more beating myself up for past transgressions and mistakes. No more giving up. Just forward momentum full of hope, belief and clarity.


Good Girl Addict vs. Where She Came From

So, this morning as I was getting ready to hop in the shower, I glanced at myself in the mirror and noticed the shape of my lips. Random, I know and seemingly innocuous. They’re soft, plump and sensual. I got blessed in that department. Why am I bringing this up? Because it made me think of my birth mother. I have her lips. I never knew that until 2 years ago, so now, sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of a feature I possess and it jerks my memory back to her. Back to the short time I spent getting to know her. Back to when I was learning about her past and accidentally reunited her with my birth father. I remember the raspy quality of her voice that I loved from our first phone conversation. I remember the angle of her chin, texture of her hair, shape of her eyes, curve of her eyebrow. All these she passed on to me. I am physically beautiful because of her.

I was struck this morning by how impactful being able to say, ‘oh yeah, my lips are shaped like this because hers are. Almost like a heart.’ This is something I was never able to do for the first 34 years of my life. And now, it’s a 2 year old habit and I’m always punched in the gut by remembering her. Am I bowled over because the memories of her are too near and raw? Or is it because I’m so eternally grateful to even have the information that she was able to give me? Or, most likely, it’s all because I’m still really hurt, confused and left wanting more about the entire scenario.

I had a wicked, whopping dream about my birth parents last week. In it, I had dinner with my mother, father (I love when my dad visits me in dreams, it’s like he’s sweetly reminding me that he’s around) and birth father. My birth father and I left in my car, with me driving. The road was pitch black, curvy as fuck, with hills as steep as a roller coaster. We were driving fast and the inclines were making my stomach flip again and again. I was terrified that we were going to crash. But, we arrived safely at my childhood friends’ house who lived a few doors down from where my mother lives now.

My birth father and I sat on the lawn, talking and that’s when my birth mother arrived. She looked a lot older than I remembered, more shriveled. She walked over to my birth father, put her arm around his waist and said, ‘you know I’ve been with him this whole time, don’t you?’

I said, ‘Yes, I know. Did you know that as soon as you guys left me my mother got sick with cancer and had to have a stem cell transplant and I became her caretaker for almost a year? I didn’t tell you because you both broke my heart when you chose each other over me.‘ She seemed surprised when I told her all this and turned to embrace my birth father. In the dream I felt triumphant – eager even – at the hope of upsetting her. I felt desperate in my need to make them (mainly her) feel as hurt, lost, confused and awful as I have over the last few years. I walked away from them without another word. That’s all I remember.

I woke up feeling triggered and a little ashamed of how much I needed to upset her in the dream. Am I really carrying my emotions about her like that? Do I really want to punish her somehow for abandoning me not once, but twice? Was it truly abandonment at all? When I was born, no. I don’t believe it was at all; she was a 15 year old kid who made a really, really difficult decision. And honestly, I didn’t feel abandoned growing up at all. I mostly felt like there was a hole inside me and that I would never find a true identity. I always felt outside. Apart. Separate.

And now that I know where my eye color and smile lines and eyebrows come from I feel less separate. I don’t walk around without identity anymore. I have far more insight into who I am because of meeting her – that whole nature vs. nurture argument is very valid. However, now I feel abandoned. It took me 34 years to muster the courage and strength to decide to find my birth parents. And once I opened the door it only took me about a month to locate them and make contact. One month versus 34 years. To say I was overwhelmed is the understatement of my life.

I fell completely in love with the idea of her (I only say ‘her’ because she held the most influence in my mind…she was the one that carried me for 9 months and was torn open to give me life. She was the one who held me for an hour and then put me into the hands of strangers, not him). The possibility I felt she offered me was more powerful than I realized. I believed she held the key to allowing me to feel whole. I got lost in the utter romantic, full circle power of that ideal and began to put her into a box that she really didn’t fit into (pattern repeated perhaps?). I also didn’t emote as clearly and efficiently as I normally do. I wanted what she represented to me so badly. Patience and purposeful perception be damned. I’m pretty sure we vomited all over each other emotionally from the first minute.

And then it got to be too much for her. She fell back in love with my birth father (I’m the one who got them back in touch, for the record) and couldn’t handle him and me at the same time. I am fairly confident that she felt I was coming between them. Again. In 1980 I was the baby that split them up. They were forced apart by their families and never spoke again until I reappeared, 34 years later. To be fair, I cannot fucking imagine how overwhelmed she must have been. I remember her constant tears and her perpetual gratitude saying, ‘my daughter, oh my God, my daughter’ over and over and over again.

We had a 5 month run where we talked almost daily and spent time together once a week. Then it all came to a head with some misunderstandings, miscommunications, hateful texts and a 4 hour in person conversation/argument that I still haven’t recovered from. That was in March of 2015…one month shy of my mother’s diagnosis…and I haven’t heard a peep from either of them. And vice versa.

I’m lucky to be able to say I met her. I’m grateful I know why my mouth is shaped the way it is. I’m entranced by knowing that my birth mother has blue eyes, my birth father has hazel and that’s why mine are more green. I’m insanely happy to know that I have 1 half sister on my birth fathers’ side and 3 half brothers on my birth mothers’ side. I’m elated to know where I came from. Finally.

But, like many things in my life (and I’m sure everyone else’s) this reality comes with a few drops of sadness. It’s never what we expect it should be, but always what it needs to be.