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.

 

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.

 

In and out goes the tide…

Yesterday was my birth mother’s birthday. I met her for the first time shortly before she turned 50. She just turned 52. For years, I would have given anything required of me to know that piece of information. Any knowledge about my birth mother held an elusive and seductive power over me for most of my life and I would have willingly paid the price. In many ways, I have.

Two years ago, my birth father and I organized a surprise lunch for her. He told her that he was taking her out to lunch, just the two of them. But, unbeknownst to her, he and I planned for me to be waiting at the restaurant. When she saw me, the look on her face was priceless and she started to cry. I was elated to be able to share a moment like that with the woman I never thought I would know. I keep the memory of that day in my heart.

Last year, when she turned 51, I texted her and said something like: ‘Happy Birthday ___. I hope all is well with you.’ And her response, hours later was: ‘Thanks, kid.’ That text was the first contact I had with her after our major falling out, 7 months prior. From surprise lunches with tears to a vague text….the tide comes in…then it goes out.

My dad used to call me ‘kid’. My heart. It aches.

This year, I didn’t reach out at all. I thought of her the day before her birthday and wondered if I would be able to gather the courage/desire to send another awkward text. Apparently not.

I think about her a lot. I wonder what she’s doing. I wonder if she thinks about me. I fantasize that one day she will reach out and apologize for disappearing and choosing my birth father over me.

I try to hang onto the good memories I have of her – the first time I met her, when she first hugged me and touched my cheek, the day she introduced me to 2 of my brothers and that elated smile when I surprised her. I move forward with the security and peace that comes with knowing (finally) that I have her eyes, her hair, her lips and that for a short time, I had her love.

As much as thinking about her these days makes me sad, I am honestly really grateful for the beautiful pain that comes with having known her. It’s spectacularly complicated but it’s light year better than wondering who she was all those years…34 to be exact. That particular ‘not knowing’ pain was fuel to the fire of my addictions. Never ending fuel.

I miss her. I miss her raspy voice and her no nonsense way of viewing people and their ways. I miss her perspective. I miss the possibility she held. I miss the connection I had with her.

Maybe next year I’ll be able to write about how she and I mended fences and were able to celebrate her 53rd birthday together. Maybe.

 

Good Girl Addict vs. Being Awake

Ever since I started this blog I have felt more awake to myself. That is to say, I’ve felt capable of listening to what the voices closest to my heart and best interest have to say. I’m really not sure if I’ve ever been able to. I walked through the last 18 years of my life in a specific mindset designed to protect, shield and keep afloat my basic needs: food, sex, job, paying bills, making it to the end of another day, etc. It’s been textbook survival mode. In many, many ways I’ve been asleep all these years. I didn’t realize the full scope of this until I sat down to start this blog and publically share my ‘stuff’.

I am finding this ability to reveal myself and put it all out there is maybe not as common as I think? When I let others who don’t know me all that well read what I have to say about my life, self and experience, they are usually amazed at how ‘brave’ they think I am. Someone once said something like, ‘you don’t hide in your writing’. When I think of it that way, I’d have to agree. Writing has swiftly become the one place where I don’t filter. I don’t retreat. I stand up and face down what is haunting me. It’s a place where I can let it all hang out and you (the reader) can take it or leave it. I drop my need to people please and be a Good Girl when I’m writing here and that is liberating as Fuck.

So, I’m waking up to my life, to my true self, to who I am. I am becoming aware to how deadened and numb I have been feeling, acting (drinking daily or sleeping with random, uninterested and undeserving men) and becoming. This shift from sleep to waking has been slow, but major. My life hasn’t belonged to me in quite a while and I can feel it coming back to me in fits and starts. I want to cry and throw a tantrum when I think about how unintentionally hard I have allowed my life to become. I lost my way in the damn dark woods. My default is to be angry with my lack of motivation or be really hard on myself for not seeing the truth sooner or for wasting so much time in the dark. I should have done this or should have realized that right away. The hectoring voice of my Addictions wants to take over……but this new awareness is too potent, too acute to allow that to happen anymore.

It’s still evolving and I am very sure that it will remain that way for a long, long time. I used to think that whatever work I did would be enough to stop the ‘problem’ in its’ tracks. I was completely sure that whatever effort I put in to getting through a traumatic life event would make pain down the road non-existent. Haaaa! What a joke. I never once put energy or thought toward the fact that I will always be learning. I will always be changing and growing. It will never stop and that’s a good thing. A state of perpetual education is something that people who live full, meaningful, delicious lives cultivate.

Now, that. That. Is something I want — A life brimming with depth and creativity and joy. A life where I see the light and fun as much as I can. A life where I check out the dark corners from time to time because I still believe that all emotion is valid and cries out for acknowledgment. But I don’t want feel the need to sit in the sadness and hurt. And honestly, I feel that need less and less. It almost doesn’t make sense to do that now. It seems silly to waste my energy on thoughts and feelings that do nothing other than hurt my already tired heart. What the fuck was I thinking all the long and lonely days I sat in my pain? Good Lord.

I’m starting to be able to recognize almost immediately when I slip back into an old thought pattern of habitual self-pity. Instead of bowing to it and succumbing like a glutton for punishment, I take a deep breath, square my shoulders and tell myself that I’m worthy of letting that shit go. I tell myself that I don’t have to torture myself. I tell myself that I deserve to be free of the beliefs and emotions that don’t serve me. And holy shit, that is actually working! I actually believe the strong, positive and loving voice that has been speaking from my heart more and more. I fucking believe her. Who would have thunk, huh?

I feel the need to reiterate: this is a process. I know this is an evolution of my self. I know I will slip back into the dark woods from time to time. I know it will happen because nothing is guaranteed in this life, not even my new sense of well-being. I know that old habits die hard. Really hard. And that’s totally ok. I can go with the pain or grief or anger or frustration or boredom or whatever I feel that threatens to deliver me back to my cave of addiction and pain. I can go with it, I can bend with it for a minute or two and then I can walk away. That’s at the core of the transition I’m going through – I can walk away. Remembering that I do not completely lack some form of control is key.

I can walk away from the pain whenever I want to. It doesn’t own me. It doesn’t control me. It doesn’t define me. I am my own imperfect person. I am the one who decides what I want my life to consist of. I am the one who lives fully, deeply and deliciously. I deserve it.

Awareness…so much awareness

Here I am. 11 days of no drinking (unless you count the margarita I had on Friday, which I mostly do not) and I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m quietly engaging with my life again. Very quietly. It’s almost like I’m observing my life as an open field; a young doe has slowly revealed herself from the cover of the forest and is gently eating some grass at the edge. This gorgeous and peaceful creature is my sobriety. She’s here, but she’s nervous and will bolt the second she feels threatened.

That’s why I’m approaching this whole thing lightly. I don’t want to upset my tentative equilibrium with a lot of big talk and half-hearted confidence. I’m gaining more self-assuredness from not drinking with each passing day. I am settling into it pretty well. And besides, I usually work better when I don’t think too much. When I just let something evolve on its’ own is when things shift into place in a positive way. When I put on my Good Girl Addict cape and try to fix and solve is when things get all messy and dirty. That’s when things can fall apart because I try to control too much. I am learning oh so very much these days.

I know it’s a serious thing I’m dealing with. Addiction is ugly. It’s complicated; full of many layers, just like ogres (if you want to get as technical as Shrek) and it waits.

I’m scared that my addiction is waiting for me to fuck up. I’m scared that it has gone into sleep mode and is waiting for the next clusterfuck of emotion to track me down so it can wake up immediately and snap back into action. It knows I’ve needed it before to protect me from whatever pain or hardship I couldn’t deal with on my own and it’s perfectly happy to wait and wait. I’m pretty sure that’s what it is doing. And for some reason, that feels ok. I have fully accepted that I went through a long stretch of years when I felt I had to use something to not feel. For whatever reason, my inability to see that has come sharply into focus and I’m ok with it. I’m not angry at myself. I don’t feel resentful about what I went through. I don’t have any angst about the drinking and eating and fucking to numb that I’ve done.

What I feel is awareness. Complete awareness. With that has come a deeply rooted need to allow myself to heal. It hurts my heart to know I still need to remain in healing mode. I mean, I thought I had healed. I thought I had done all the work I would ever have to do. HA! What a fucking delusional addictive thought that is, right? The self-work will never stop because for me, it’s about educating myself about myself. It’s about learning who I am and who I want to be and what I want my life to look like. Now, I’m going to do my damndest to walk the path that will foster the most growth to that end. Seriously. I feel like my world has opened up in a big, big way.

I almost broke down the other night and grabbed a bottle of red. I thought about it for 10 minutes or so. I felt the craving rise up from deep in my belly and I sat with it. I was minimally aware that I was scratching my beloved kitty girl under her chin while I imagined the way the wine would taste. She has no idea what an all-encompassing comfort she is to me. With every scratch on her glossy fur I could feel myself unwinding a bit more, coming down from the call to drink, turning away from it. It was tough to do. I even reasoned that I could just have one glass. Then a powerful, compassionate and true voice spoke up in my head and said, ‘you know that will never be true for you again as long as you drink wine to fill something, right?’

And just like that, I didn’t want to drink anything but water. Remembering that I used to use alcohol and food and men as shields against the holes in my life will be paramount as I move forward. Figuring out what else to fill those holes with now that I don’t want to use something will be an entirely new game I get to play. I’m thinking maybe meetings will actually serve as a huge help in that area. Couldn’t hurt, right? But for now, even though stripping down all these layers is disconcerting, uncomfortable and difficult….it feels completely worth it. Holy shit.

11 days.

Good Girl Addict vs. The Need to Help

Today I find myself filled with anxiety. Filled. To the brim. Anxious belly, tight shoulders, tension headache. The works. I know why I’m feeling this way and miraculously it has zero to do with booze (I’m now on day 6 of no alcohol. SIX!!) But it does have to do with what I’m slowly beginning to recognize as another layer of my addictive behaviors; I get consumed with other people’s ‘stuff’.

*Sigh*

I have always been this way, especially when it comes to men in my life (I choose the ones that are wrong for me. Really wrong And I secretly, fervently and unrealistically hope for them to change into exactly who I want them to be. Which we all know will never happen. Aces.)

I’ve never experienced it this intensely though – me getting mixed up and involved in someone else’s bullshit. Maybe that’s because I have a tiny, oh so tiny amount of clear headed sobriety under my belt and I’m actually beginning to feel my feelings again? Could be. All I know is, I got an alarming phone call yesterday from someone who should really be living in my past and I didn’t hesitate to say “YES” to helping him out of a jam that was 100% his own fault.

I’m not going to go into knitty gritty details. It was just your basic mess which comes from bad decision after bad decision mixed in with some serious denial and avoidance and….voila…he’s in trouble and needs someone (me) to bail him out. What alarms me is not that he found himself in trouble – again – but that I didn’t think twice to jump in and help. I didn’t have to help. I really, truly didn’t. But I just couldn’t help myself. I needed to get my hands in there and help him fix it. Fucking needed to. And, I felt like it was the right thing to do…so really it was the perfect combination of my people pleasing and helping syndrome. Good Girl to the rescue! Just another addiction to hang on my wall I suppose. Another thing I really should not fuck with anymore.

The reason said fuckery must be put on hold is this: I have been triggered and affected by what happened yesterday and I don’t have it in me to feel this way any longer. It’s way too much. I thought I would feel good about helping him and glad for my effort. But I didn’t. What I felt was exhaustion. Bone deep tiredness.

Exhaustion because, without knowing it, I give everything I’ve got emotionally and mentally when I’m in this ‘I have to help’ mode. I rush around and feel frantic. It’s not healthy for me. I completely do it to myself. All he did was ask for help. I could have easily said NO. But I didn’t and he knew I wouldn’t say no. That’s why he called me first.

I am still trying to save Tom in some way – this person and my brother are cut from the same cloth, Whoa Nelly – and if I can help the living, breathing version of Tom that I see in front of me then, in my Good Girl Addict way, I feel less guilty for being a ‘bad’ sister to my dead brother. Ugh.

At least I can see it. That’s the good news. I went ahead and fulfilled my misled Good Girl Addict need without thinking about it and now I know that it’s a need that doesn’t lead me anywhere worthwhile. Ever. I can see that I still need to be needed by people that are bad for me. I can see that I still need to help those who refuse to help themselves.

I’m ok with those needs. I will be able to recognize them the next time something pops up and I want to rush into overdrive to head into battle without thinking. I am learning myself. I am learning what I want for my life and what I don’t. That in and of itself is a miracle. Being able to say, ‘no, I just can’t help you because I need to take care of myself first’ is a tremendously large step forward for me. That’s what I will say the next time something happens….because I know it will.

 

6 Days.