Life Goes On

It’s a ride, this life of mine. I am only thirty-two, but I feel as if I have lived through a lifetime of events. College, jobs, marriage, alcoholism, recovery, relapse, home ownership, car ownership, parenthood, divorce, selling real estate, bankruptcy, and now I’m moving back home with my mother. I’m finally in a healthy relationship with a real partner that I truly love, and although finances have hit the fan, the future looks bright; building from a clean slate with many lessons learned.

Last Sunday my realtor and her family came over for dinner. We all know each other and by the end of dinner, the kiddos had ripped every pillow off the bed and engaged in one epic pillow fight. This week was stressful and physically demanding due to necessary last minute home repairs and cleaning, but somehow we managed to pull it off. The condo is officially listed today, and we already have four viewings scheduled. I’m so grateful for such a wonderful realtor and new friend, as well as a super supportive partner without whom I could not have done this.

My ex is still who he was, but I’m learning to handle his behavior in a healthier way. It is nice to not constantly be at war. I would have never thought we could sort everything out like this. To be real, I am doing everything, with much help from wonderful people, and he is just not resisting and going along with it for the most part. That is the best I could have hoped for, and I’ll be satisfied with it. With the help of my sponsor, another amazing person in my life who deals with an alcoholic ex-husband, I am learning to set healthy boundaries. I’m learning how to not be surprised by his behavior, because he has always been like that. What should I expect? I am grateful for the ability to get less rattled and be far less sensitive to his provocations. Sometimes, still, I fail myself by reacting poorly, but I am doing a hell of a lot better than I used to.

Getting back into AA was awkward at first. It didn’t come with the pink cloud it did for me like the first time. I felt like I was returning the disappointment of a potential success story. I hate feeling that way. Perhaps it is a completely self inflicted perception. I wouldn’t put it past myself to dream it up, but that’s how I feel among my old friends. So, I’ll make new friends, and keep in touch with old ones. I don’t regret coming back into the program for a second. I’m just trying to find my groove in this place again. I supposed all expectations must be left at the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work in Progress

So, on Monday I started writing a post about how overwhelmed I was with everything going on in my life. I was focusing on all the negative stuff. I got about three paragraphs in, wiping away tears, and decided writing about things wasn’t helping. Who wants to listen to me complain about my problems anyways? A novel idea hit me. Why don’t I just tell my partner I’m overwhelmed, directly, instead of indirectly pour out my feelings in a blog post?

From an analytical standpoint, reaching out and saying I need help seems like a common sense thing to do when I’m overwhelmed. That is not; however, how my mind works. For many years, be it from my mother or ex-husband, when I have reached out for help it was under the assumption of me “owing” or being indebted to that person. The scales of power shifted against my favor, and I thus tried to avoid it at all costs.

Prior to these past few years, I tried to make everything happen on my own. When things went wrong, I blamed someone else. When things went right, I thought, “see! I can do this all.” I prided myself on saying I put myself through college, and I did for two years at community college. But when scholarships and a student job didn’t cover rent and tuition at WIU, I relied on my father and my boyfriend at the time to help me pay for things.

I have always been a bit of an impatient opportunist. Once I graduated, I grabbed what I could from my apartment in Macomb, IL and never went back. I jumped from one unhealthy relationship into another; seeking greener grass and a brighter future. I pushed to get married, to buy a condo, to get a new car, and all of these things manifested. But I was not happy. I sought escape, comfort, and oblivion every day in a bottle, can or glass. Nothing made me happy, and I never asked for help.

So what is the point in saying all of this? Today, I am divorced, filing for bankruptcy, and moving back in with my mother, but I am happier than I have ever been. How is this possible? Well, I have an amazing partner working the program with me. I have learned to ask for help and not try to force everything to be how I want it. I don’t blame other people for EVERYTHING (most of the time,) and try to accept things as they are. Despite all the pain and misery of the last ten years of my life, I have the three most important things I care about; my sobriety, my partner, and my son. I have everything if I have these things. I don’t care about my car. Having to sell my condo is stressful, but doesn’t destroy my inner peace (for long.) Filing for bankruptcy I see as a new start.

The future is limitless, and I get to share it with the people I care about most. I may be broke as a joke right now, but I don’t feel poor. I am truly happy. It’s something I was never able to find on my own but am so very grateful to have today.

 

 

 

 

 

Trudging the Road

I am tired. The divorce is finalized, but my work is far from over. I have to file two years of back income taxes, file for bankruptcy, put my condo up for sale with in 30 days, and find some place to live once it sells. I am working 9.5 hour days to make up for missing work for court on Tuesday, and I’m just completely drained.

I am still making five meetings a week, talking to my sponsor daily, reading daily, praying daily, listening to speakers in my car on the way to work, and soon I will need to get to work on my second 4th step. I am not looking forward to it. The first time around, I was happy to do it. I wanted to unload all the demons of my past. This time around, I feel like I should have known better. I knew I was an alcoholic. I knew there was a solution, and I knew how to stay sober. Still, I said “I’ve got this,” and proceeded to royally screw up my life. I used and hurt people, stole, lied, and drank my way to oblivion.

After my first fuck up, I tried to go back to AA as usual. I got a new sponsor and pretended nothing happened. Every second in every meeting I felt like a fraud. I stayed sober for some time, but it was easier to fall away from AA the second time. I never felt like I really came back anyways. I wasn’t honest and was pretending to be something I was not.

I got wrapped up in a new and exciting love at the same time my entire world changed. I filed for an order of protection, bought a car, got a fulltime job, put my son in daycare, and then filed for divorce all in the span of a month or two. I got busy, and my sparse free time was completely ear marked (by me) for time with new love. I stopped going to meetings, and eventually was left, yet again, defenseless against that first drink.

A deadly dance ensued of sober periods followed by deceptive drunken excursions. If it wasn’t such a serious, life threatening disease, I would describe some of the shit I pulled as comical shenanigans. Alas, they were not.

I would quit, start again, quit, start again, and then I got back to that hellish place where I couldn’t stop. I always end up there. All self talk in my head grew very hostile. What the hell are you doing? You know this could ruin everything. You could lose everything. You idiot! What the hell is the matter with you?! All thoughts were quickly dismissed by the obsession of how I was going to get my next drink.

I had been sober since a short stint in the hospital. Then the e-mail came that the judge had set my divorce case to go to trial. I threw my hands up and set my intentions on getting obliterated that night, and I did, bringing my partner along for the ride. I drank a bit the next day too, but something had happened and my partner decided he needed to get to a meeting and it couldn’t wait. So I took him to where I knew there were good people. My birthday was very lack luster this year as it was detox day 1, but that didn’t matter to me at all. We’ve been going to meetings together ever since.

My dilemma now is clearing away the wreckage of the past. My mistake in “coming back” the first time, was not being honest and getting everything out of me. So, I have got to do this 4th/5th step with my new sponsor. But as I said, I am TIRED. Perhaps a bit of self care and a good nights sleep will help renew my zeal to really dig in to my dirt. I suppose we shall see. All I really know is that it is something I absolutely have to do if I want to stay sober and keep growing in the program. And I do want that; more than anything in the world.

Serenity

The way things work out in life are perplexing sometimes. I have carried so much hurt and rage for so long that it was just part of who I was. It took so much energy to hate; to maintain self-justified rage at the wrongs committed against me. Anyone who knows me, knows what I have gone through and that it was not all sunshine and rainbows. My rage and hurt came, perhaps, fully justified, but holding on to it was only hurting myself.

Recently, I keep hearing people talk about the difference between acceptance and approval; that accepting something, good, bad, or otherwise, does not mean I that approve of it. I will never say that the abuse I endured was okay, but I can accept that it happened, perhaps have a little perspective on it, be grateful for the lessons it taught me, and move on with my life. Doing this is easier said than done, but it enables me to take back my power.

For so long, I was powerless in the face of this adversary. I had to rely on the people I love to carry me through it, and at times, I faltered. I tripped, fell, failed, and let people, including myself, down. But today, today I get to walk with a new freedom. I have my power back. I am growing in recovery with my partner and my life has become manageable again. It really is amazing what happens when I get out of the way. When I have my priorities straight, life gets better; everything is easier.

I know that everything can change in an instant, but I am trying to live without the fear of the other shoe dropping. I am trying to live in gratitude and open-mindedness. I want to continue to grow as a person, partner, and mother. I will try to become more solid in my peace and happiness. I will live this amazing, complicated, messy and wonderful life in an ever growing appreciation of sobriety.

Perhaps tomorrow I will not feel so positive. I may be tired and impatient. I may be annoyed or just “hangry.” Whatever the case is, I know I how to get back to this place of serenity… no matter how far away from it I may go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up-side-right

It’s strange to be living this life right now without rage, anxiety, and fear. It’s not bad in it’s strangeness, but it is very unfamiliar to me. In the center of seemingly insurmountable economic destruction, I am calm and grateful not to be my “normal” self right now.

Still, it feels like I’m living in a different universe. Bizarro-Becca casually strolling, almost dancing through a minefield. Normally, I’d be crippled; crawling forward trembling, if moving at all. Instead, I shuffle and twirl sleepily, care free along an invisible path. I have no idea where I’m going, and I am fully aware it isn’t me navigating the mine field.

When did I shove my PTSD and anxiety in a trash bag and drop it in the garbage?And what the hell is it with all this being able to communicate civilly with my soon to be ex husband? Somehow those feeling are just gone; completely evaporated. How the hell did all this happen?

This isn’t me… is it? Internally, I have always been like a rag doll, torn to shreds by the ebb and flow of life on my terms. Now, I am able to separate me for everything else. It’s some crazy Matrix style stop the bullets incomprehensible power. It’s like being inside of a dream where I’m in this bubble. Cars could be exploding a flipping over my head, but I know I’m fine so I don’t even flinch. But how?

The only way this could be possible is if I have ceased fighting everything, asked for help, and learned to accept things for the way they are; Life on Life’s terms. I have a wonderful, supportive partner that I cannot imagine my life without, but until recently I was still very irritable, restless, and discontented in my life. So is the luck of any alcoholic in the throws of their torment. Being able to embark on this journey of recovery together with my partner has been completely transformative. I feel like the luckiest person alive, and I just don’t recognize myself anymore. Really, I’m amazed.

I am not trying to brag, and I certainly have bad days still. Usually, it’s because I’m trying to live life on my terms again, or because I am assuming (feeling entitled to) something of some person, place or thing. My terminal uniqueness comes back, and I start thinking “if you only knew how I felt…” or “don’t you know how rough I’ve had it today?” I heard some really great advice at a meeting last night. Well, two things.

The first, not from the speaker, but rather a share from a fellow, was that “[i]t doesn’t matter how you feel. Emotions aren’t facts. The world is unaffected by how you feel. Rather it is affected by what you do. So what are the facts, and what are you doing about them? I love this sentiment. It sounds so very harsh, but it’s true. As an alcoholic, I make my world, my days, and my entire existence miserable stewing in the steaming pot of shit that is my negative emotions, feeling and thoughts. I make myself miserable, and I’m very, VERY good at it. I have been since 8th grade. Granted, things like mental illness, depression for example, can help contribute to this negative emotion black hole. In this case, unless I treat the depression AND the alcoholism, I don’t feel any better. Steady on the right medication, it so much easier to get out of my old habits of thinking so negatively and just doing the things I should be doing.

The second thing that I heard last night that really resonated with me came from the speaker. He was an old timer who started one of the meetings I went to and frequently goes to correctional facilities to talk. His talk was about service, and he concluded his talk with (paraphrasing) “The main thing I want you get out of this tonight, is that your life isn’t about you, and if you can get that, you’re on the right path.” I love it. As a self-centered alcoholic, this is completely counterintuitive. Hell, as a human being growing up in middle-class America, this seems backwards. But it is right. So very right. I get so much more out of making my son smile, helping someone that can’t help themselves, or even by just not contributing to the negative behavior/emotions of a situation. It’s hard to explain, and even harder to understand. You’ll just have to trust me and go try it out.

So, we’re back to action.  Go do something for someone else. Get out of your head and closer to happiness. What could it hurt?

Between Life

As a human being, I still feel like a child some days. I can feel like the insecure teenager I was in high school, or the curious and slightly less insecure college student, or the pretending to be an adult “grown up.” As parent, I feel different and much more educated.

I can still remember my two best friends from HS coming to visit in the hospital after I had my son. Paraphrasing one friend, she said “[dude, can you believe you like, made a person!?]” I just smiled and laughed, but my head wasn’t wrapped around the reality of the situation yet either.

One of the most terrifying moments of my life was coming home from the hospital with that little “nugget,” as my friend would call him. I managed to get him in to the bassinet/rocker thing that he practically lived out of the first two months. My husband went out for something (probably a pack of smokes), and I passed out on the couch rocking the tiny human to sleep. I remember thinking I have no fuckng clue what I’m doing here, as I drifted off. He returned about 20 minutes later, and I don’t know why I remember this, but he said the one kind thing I can remember him saying for years before and  after that. He said, “[y]ou’re a good mom,” and he was sincere. I still didn’t have much experience in keeping that defenseless little thing alive, but I felt a whole lot better. I thought, as long as I do my best for him, everything will work out.

About a week later, I broke down in a sobbing lunacy, because I thought I was never going to sleep again. My son never slept well nor through the night until he was at least a year and a half old. It was during this sleep deprived nightmare that I found out I was an alcoholic, and with the turmoil at home (5 hour fight-a-thons), I’m not sure how I survived those first couple years. Yet here we are, and I feel all the wiser for it.  As a mom, I feel like my real age. In regards to anything else in life, this is usually not the case.

I can remember my heart beating over middle school crushes like it was yesterday. Not so long ago I snuck out every night to hang out with my friends. Only a handful of years ago I was thriving in academic glory in college. I’m certain I just got married recently, but somehow I have a 3 and a half year old and am over a year into divorce. When the hell did all this happen?

Now I’m in this weird in between space. I have a not so new partner, but we are evolving and recovering anew in sobriety. I have a young child who is dealing with grown up situations. I have a stable job that I am ready at any moment to leap from to a more enticing opportunity or more fulfilling career path. I have had a home for six and a half years, filled with both horrible and wonderful memories, that I will soon have to leave. My days with this last name are numbered, and I have so much uncertainty about the future that I’d be terrified if it weren’t for the amazing program known (or not) as AA. It is the one constant in my life that will always be there, and as long as I lean on it, I know I will be ok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually Gone

My parent’s got divorced when I was eight years old, and I was glad they did. My dad was rarely home, and when he was, there was always fighting or tension so strong you could feel the weight in the air. My father had wanted a divorce for years. He told me once he stayed married 9 years longer than he should have. Ouch.

The final straw for my mother was one night of drunken chaos. They had been fighting for hours. My mother came up from the basement, where he had built his workshop, and she was crying and covered in sawdust. She didn’t say anything, but it was obvious he had pushed her down. She finally convinced him to leave the house and locked the door behind him. He must have changed his mind and came pounding on the door to be let back in. She called the cops, but they didn’t arrive until after he had charged shoulder first through the glass side panel next to the front door. I was standing on the stairs right in his path. I was frozen staring at this craziness. Thankfully breaking through glass isn’t exactly a smooth process like it’s portrayed in the movies. I didn’t know who that person charging at the window was, but I will never forget him. So, the divorce was welcomed relief for us all.

I wasn’t, however, happy when my Dad decided to move to Iowa. It felt like abandonment, and it was. He took me out a couple times before he left. We played mini golf or went bowling, but he always seems tense and distracted.  I didn’t know he was Bipolar at the time or that he was an alcoholic. My mother waited until I was older to tell me. At the time, all that I knew was she hated when he drank, and that he had left me to go start a life somewhere else.

My father did return to the Chicago suburbs briefly when I was ten-ish. Not for me, but for his good friend’s daughter. She was ten years younger than him, but that seemed to just be my father’s taste in women as my mom is nine years younger. He lived with her for about a year, not too far from where I lived with my mom.

During this time my dad got re-married, and so did his new wife’s brother; my ex-step-uncle. I had known him for a long time as my father’s friend while my parent’s were still married. He was the first person to put an electric guitar in my lap, but it was way to big and heavy for me to find any enjoyment in it. I got to video tape his wedding, and I remember very clearly sprinkling salt into my dad’s wine when he wasn’t looking so he would stop drinking it. It didn’t matter as it was an open bar, but I thought is was funny and might ease my mom’s worries, as she had been invited as well. Somehow my mother and I became my wasted father’s early ride home. I vividly remember how he opened the back door, swaying dangerously outside the car hollering “Aunt Clarice!” He then proceeded to pass out. Thankfully we were still in the parking lot, but my mother was visibly upset.

As far as his second wife goes, it was her 5th marriage, #2 for my Dad, and they seemed happy. At least they didn’t fight. Though, she never seemed at ease around me. I felt like an unwelcome invader at her house despite loving it there. They cooked and drank a lot, listened to good music, and I got to watch movies and play video games.

Then he convinced her to move back out to Iowa with him. My father is a very charismatic person at times, and could probably convince someone they didn’t really need both of their arms. They moved out to Perry, IA. Of course I was sad, and I don’t think they lasted 6 months out there.

He dropped of the face of the planet for months in a deep depression, until he found his girlfriend in Fort Dodge that summer. He would never get married again (false) he said, but brought me along to her house when he would visit. She had a daughter my age. We became instant best friends. We’d go see Titanic, too many times, or rent Romeo & Juliet so we could fawn of Leonardo DeCaprio. We went to the “mall” in Fort Dodge, ran around in lightening laden thunder storms, bought candy and Mountain Dew that we ate/drank until we got sick, and got quite the kick out of pretending to smoke our chocolate cigarettes in the bar in Perry when they would come down to visit.

It was a fun time; highly unsupervised. Our parents were always out somewhere and always came back in way too good of a mood. I didn’t know why nor did I care. I was having too much fun.

One particularly hot summer day up in Fort Dodge, I was playing the role of water girl; bringing my dad glasses of ice water as he dug up a giant pine tree out back. I was bored to tears, because my friend was spending time with her dad. I remember handing my Dad yet another glass of ice water and mustering up the courage to ask him if he still believed in God. I was in private school at the time, and the state of his soul concerned me. He thought about it briefly and simply replied “Yes.” That was enough to quell my worries of his afterlife. We went back to Perry later that day. Shortly after, I went home to Illinois to start public school for the first time. I’d never see my Fort Dodge best friend again.

I had another friend before that. She looked like my sister, blond hair, blue eyes and skinny as a stick. I would only get to see her on summers when her mom would ship her off to live with her dad, our neighbor. Her dad was a narcissistic, German, Kiss fan to the extreme who was ALWAYS sipping on a beer. He tanned and smoked too much and was a chronic bachelor. There wasn’t much supervision going on over there either. I only visited a handful of times. She would usually come to my house. But the one time I had been over there, her dad felt the need to let me know that some day I would like the taste of beer because I was 100% German like they were. I thought that was a ridiculous thought. I had tried a sip on my dad’s non-alcoholic beer and hated it. “I’ll never like beer,” I defiantly declared. He just rolled his eyes and said “[y]ou’ll see.” I shrugged him off. I wasn’t even going to have alcohol at my wedding (false). It was my wedding after all, and us Seventh-Day Adventists didn’t drink.

One of the last times I saw her was after the divorce and after we had moved to a more affordable condo. She showed up beyond freaked out, because her dad was drunk and fighting with his girlfriend. I think she got shipped back to live with her mom in Washington state. I never saw her again either.

Everyone, it seemed, left eventually, and my earliest memories of alcohol affecting me and people around me were primarily negative. I lost my best friend in high school for a while, because she had started drinking. I was appalled. Then life happened, and I found myself in her basement sipping on my first drinks. We are still friends today, but we rarely see each other.

So what’s the point of all this? I don’t know. It’s just funny the things I remember at different times and realize how they impacted me.