Moving On

This summer has flown by. This week is the last full week I will spend in my home of six and a half years. It was never really a home until a couple years ago. I have mixed feelings about leaving. It was a place of extreme misery, fighting, terror, and some of the most traumatic moments of my life. It is also the place I started to heal, where new, real love grew, and it is where our little unconventional family solidified. I learned to strum a chord on the guitar there, watched my child grow from a helpless infant to “Megatron!” stomping out of his bedroom this morning to wake me up to make breakfast. These new memories with the ones I love most make me sad to leave, but I remember the bad memories too.

I remember my heart racing from adrenaline every single time I heard the front door to the condo building open and shut. Terror struck and panicked, I wondered “was it him?” I remember feeling trapped, wishing I wouldn’t wake up in the morning, punching a hole in the wall, denting the dishwasher as I sobbed uncontrollably. I remember knives, police reports, hours and hours of fighting. I remember not knowing how to be loved, relapsing and pushing everyone away because that’s all I knew how to do anymore. I remember that windy summer night, teetering on the edge of the railing of the balcony, wishing I lived on the third floor, because falling from that height wouldn’t kill me. It would just hurt like hell, and I was in enough pain. I remember being physical trapped and chased around the tiny one bedroom condo. I remember staring deep into my eyes in the mirror above the sink and seeing nothing but a dark abyss. I lost myself completely in the depths of a living hell, and somehow found my way back to life.

Change is almost always painful, and I have been so focused on checking things of a long, long list and making sure my son’s transition is as painless as possible; I haven’t really thought about how it is or will impact me. Financially, it is absolutely necessary, positive, and beneficial for us all.

Socially, my mother, partner, son and I get along well, we are close to the little one’s other grandparents and we can walk to his daycare in the middle of a top school district, and both my partner and I are familiar with the area. We are close to stores, highways, and everything a person could need. There are a lot of great AA meetings in the area, and although most of my former friends live nowhere near there anymore, that is probably for the best. I am moving further away from my friend Katrina, but I barely see her anymore. It is further away from former AA friends, but we haven’t kept in touch at our current distance. A few more miles won’t change anything.

Mentally and emotionally for me, this move is a mishmash of weird. When I first moved into this condo with my mother, I didn’t like it at all. We moved from a three story, four bedroom townhouse that my Dad had completely renovated, to this tiny, dark two bedroom condo. I had no friends around and didn’t know the area. I was resentful my mother couldn’t pay for our old place.  She worked all day long after all, why couldn’t she afford it? I regret feeling this way now, of course, but as a young girl I didn’t know any better. I lived in that condo through high school, started my drinking career, fought with my mom, who I felt was overbearing. What teenager doesn’t? I was developing depression and anxiety and setting myself up for dropping out of high school. Somehow, I managed to graduate and vowed to get out of there as soon as physically possible. Which I did, at 19, when I move to Macomb, IL and attended WIU. I partied and got straight A’s. An Honors Scholar, graduating Magna Cum Laude; still I was miserable. I moved home after I graduated and found “house rules” unacceptable. I’m pretty sure I had one too many drunk break up talks with my mother about her being toxic to me, and moved in with my ex-husband parent’s place ten months later. I quickly tired of living in his parent’s mansion of mental dysfunction. I wanted a place of our own. We bought the condo I now live in for the next week back in December 2012.

I am not moving back home as the same person who left. I am sober, I have a child, a loving, beyond supportive partner, and a genuine desire to make a living amends to my mother. I want to work at a strong, healthy financial future for everyone, and utilize this fresh start as a launching pad into the best part or our lives. This may sound like lofty ideals (or just corny), but honestly, I have gone through so much and learn from so many mistakes that I think we really have something good here. Moving back home, improving the condo, helping each other grow, and looking forward to the future is really the point of view I have about this move. Still, change is painful. Some of the most painful changes in my life have turned out to be the best ones. This I know by now. So, moving on…

Making Peace with the Past

I have made many bad decisions in my life and hurt a lot of people I wish I hadn’t. I have had traumatic experiences that I have used as excuses for inexcusable behavior. I have spent money I didn’t have, lied, cheated, stole, wasted time, and jumped from one bad relationship to another. Asking the question, “if you could go back, would you change anything…” is pointless from the get. The past is unchangeable; no matter how much we may wish it to be different or not.

We can try and hide from our past. I certainly don’t like who I used to be; no matter how much I thought I was a “good” person at the time. My past actions make my current self feel sick at times. I used to wake up fearing whatever had happened the previous night, and spent my days running around with anxiety of bumping into someone who knew something I didn’t want someone else to know. The dread of being exposed as a fraud, a fake “good” person only out for my own self interest, was too much to bare, and I self medicated with alcohol to “fix” that feeling. Of course, it only made it worse.

So I don’t hide from my past anymore. I am a flawed, sick, fragile human being making an honest effort to be a better person little by little; day by day. The most, perhaps, obvious use for past mistakes is to learn from them. That seems like a no brainer. However; it is a little more complicated for one plagued with the disease of alcoholism to learn from the past. I am unable to will into my mind with sufficient force the miseries of my past; self knowledge is not enough to enable me to learn from my failures. A complete psychic change is necessary for me to do this and also to continually use my past to help others like me. Though this sounds like a tall order, it really is not. The AA program has it down unarguably, when it comes to helping even the slowest, most defiant learner. The only catch is, I have to want it bad enough.

I can sit and ruminate about all the mistakes I have made, focus on the negative aspects of my life, and wallow in self pity all I want. Nobody cares if I do, and I’m only hurting myself in doing so. But, inevitably, if I do that for too long; I will fall away from my spiritual program. I will stop doing the simple things required of me to maintain my sobriety, and I will wind up drunk. That would hurt people. So I have a duty, not only to myself, but to all the people I care about not to let that happen. I face my past with acceptance and gratitude. I am candid about my horrible decisions with people who may need to hear it or can relate. It was what it was. It is what it is. It is what I do with it now that matters.

Friday, I get to go to my favorite place (in Illinois), and take part in a Japanese lantern ceremony with my two favorite people in the world. I am not focused on the fact my car might get repossessed on Monday. I am not worried how I will pay the mortgage. I have enough money to buy food, gas, pay for insurance, and have lights, water, and AC. I have wonderful people in my life, and with a past like mine, there are very few mistakes I cannot currently avoid. Been there, done that. Let’s do this the right way now. How exciting is that?

Going Home

I know I am not the only person my age finding themselves moving back home with their parent(s). With the state of our country and overwhelming student loan debt, it is not uncommon. I, at the age of thirty two years old, am moving back home with my mother. Not only that, I am moving in with my three and a half year old son and my partner. At first, the thought seems ridiculous.

Psychologically challenging initially, having to return home after over a decade of independent living, seems terrible. I have to return to the home I use to loath; the place I called a cage that I did everything in my power to break free from. The cage, however, was mostly mental. I was a teenager with an authority problem when I first left. I returned home from college to unwelcome “house” rules, and once again did whatever I could to fly the coop. In truth, I was being inconsiderate and living in a dream world in active alcoholism. My poor mother had to deal with it all; me being there and completely intolerable, or me leaving her trying to light that bridge on fire as I went. Thankfully, motherly love is flame-retardant.

Fresh back in the doors of AA, I see this coming home as an opportunity to be of service to my mother; to make a living amends to her and help take care of the home and her now that she is older. My sponsor put the words “being of service” to it, but I already felt as though I plenty of reasons for atonement. I welcome this homecoming as an opportunity to do just that, and I am beyond grateful to have such a supportive and helpful partner with whom to do this.

I get to make amends to my mother by fixing up the place, cooking, cleaning, etc., my son gets to be closer to his favorite Grandma, and as a family unit, we will all benefit. We get to save up money and take time to align ourselves properly for the next phase; whatever that may look like. I never thought the day would come where I am actually looking forward to moving back home.

While I have no desire for it to be a permanent situation, living back home will be a reprieve from the financial tornado I find myself in these days. I will take care of my debts, start saving money, and plan for a more stable financial future with all my hard learned lessons. It is a fresh start in familiar place. I can’t wait to go home.

Changing Changes Everything

It is still very hard to say that my sobriety comes first; even before the people I love most in my life. It took the lessons only relapse could teach me to realize it is absolutely necessary. A lesson if forgotten, I place those people in a position of potential harm. Being in a healthy relationship with a loving, amazing partner is this alien experience in comparison to my past. It is a wonderful change, and I want to continue to make myself a better person and a better partner.

This is not the only relationship that is changing. I am completely redefining, in my mind, what it means to unconditionally love my son. It’s true that as soon as he was born, I knew I’d do anything for him. I’d give my life for his. It was simply a new fact of life; cemented the second I held him in my arms for the first time. How could anything possibly corrupt that?

Alcoholism is an insidious disease. Cunning, baffling, and overwhelmingly powerful, I found out that this disease could even overcome my maternal instincts. That was my bottom; when I realized that. I hated myself so deeply for not knowing better. I have had to learn to forgive myself for that, because I sincerely didn’t know. I had absolutely no control over my drinking and had no clue how to fix that. Thank goodness for my first sponsor. She brought me into AA and showed me the solution.

For a year and a half I grew as a person and worked the steps, but I coddled my little boy, due to the turmoil at home. After I had kicked his father out, my sponsor wound up going back out there (drinking.) I thought I was fine, but I completely lost my way. I found myself back out there and hurting myself and the people I loved once again. I knew I needed to get back in to AA and get a sponsor. I tried, two different sponsors, in and out, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t honest from the start. I had a trust issue from my first sponsor.

I don’t know how I wound up back in the program whole-heartedly again. It was not of my own doing. I started talking to an old friend, fell in love, was open about my drinking problem. We went through some rough patches together, and somehow wound up diving in to the program together at the same time. It’s nothing short of amazing.

I am changing my behaviors toward my partner, my mother, myself, and my son. Although I still want to coddle him and make any discomfort go away, as I feel responsible for the hurt and confusion as a result of divorcing his father. But, I know it had to be done and in the end it is for the best. My son has so many people in his life that care able him. Grandparent’s, parents, teachers, friends, cousins, and even AA friends! His world is so much bigger than mine was at his age. My goal for my relationship with him right now is to maintain healthy boundaries and respect, to make sure that he feels safe and loved, and I want to make sure to take the time to be present with him in some kind of activity each week. All the drama and worry that surrounds his father is out of my control, and I will have to trust my higher power to watch over my son as it does for me.

I also want to be an example to my son of how to be happy even when things aren’t 100% how you want them to be. I want to show him how to pursue healthy goals and dreams and to teach him kindness and understanding toward all beings. The best way I know how to do any of this is to do it myself. He’s a smart little one, and pick up on everything. Although I cannot manage or control his life or who he becomes, I can show him how life can be when lived in kindness and love.

Next!

It’s hard for me to put my feelings into words right now. Life has me feeling like a pinball bouncing around the bumpers and flashing lights of a pinball machine. There are so many amazing things going on in my life. I have wonderful, supportive people helping me along. All the same, I’m bouncing around from one thing to the next like a crazy person.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the “problems” I have to deal with today, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t damn tired. We managed to get the condo cleaned up, renovated, listed and under contract to sell in like a week and a half. My bankruptcy lawyer is ready to go as soon as we close, and taxes are finally filed. My ex is slowly getting his stuff out after two and a half years (with much assistance from myself and my partner.)

We’ve sat down and made a plan for moving in with my mother. Never thought I would be feeling positive about that! We’ll be tearing up carpet on Saturday and getting flooring installed ASAP. My partner is looking into what he could do as far as getting mortgage in the future. I have to sell my son’s crib and go through all my stuff to see what I can get rid of, and during all this we are going to meetings, working a solid AA program, and seldom have down time. When we do, we are usually napping. One thing is for certain; we need a vacation soon!

But that’s just another thing on a long list of things to do. To prevent getting overwhelmed, we’ll take things one day at a time and support each other. Before we know it things will have settled down and we’ll be on a plane before we know it. At least I really hope so. Until then, strong coffee and lots of naps will have to get us through. Oh, and ice cream; lots of ice cream! So, what’s next?

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.