What’s the point?

Sometimes I feel as though the only way I am able to get things out of my head are to speak them to no one in particular. I spend so much time analyzing, dissecting, and discounting different feelings, that most get tossed away or shoved in a bottle labeled “To Be Dealt with Later.” In any given week, I can go through days of depression, anxiety, gratitude, irritation, annoyance, exhaustion, and just plain uncertainty. Each emotion, among a variety of others, are valid in their own way while also completely insignificant. It always changes. I always change, my feelings change, and life changes. Everything passes; so why hold on to and obsess over one state or another? At least this is my overarching attitude toward any discontent and life’s many dissatisfactions.

I know that not dealing with emotions can be dangerous, and it is a “skill” I am particularly good at. However, I am not sure how to go about retraining myself. Before I open my mouth I am analyzing every word. Am I being to selfish? Am I being too selfless? Is this a legitimate concern or am I overreacting? Am I projecting? Is it really that important? Most of the time I am thinking default to “this too shall pass,” or “I am going to not focus on this and try to focus on being of service to others.” The selfless serving nature of my default is mostly helpful, except in those cases where the feelings keep cropping up. I can only push my feelings aside so many times until I start getting quiet, bitter, and resentful.

What do I do then? I consider letting them out. I should talk about what’s bothering me. But again my inner voice chimes in; “your problems aren’t that bad,” or “you’ve already brought this up and wasted enough time, effort, and energy on it.” Still, I’m grappling with deep seeded emotions on a daily basis. What, then do I do? Inevitably I am forced here, writing my thoughts out for a faceless audience to whom I feel less threatened and judged by than any real person in my life.

So here goes. Lately, I have been feeling all the discomfort and violation I have accrued from all the relationships with men in my past: prompted from watching documentaries, to crappy rom-com shows, to real life objectification. Most recently, being brought back to the one traumatic moment with my partner, opened the bottle on all my other baggage in that category of my life. And there is a lot of it.

Uncomfortably objectified by my un-medicated bipolar, alcoholic father; I sought approval and validation from a very sick individual, in multiple ways, while building this wonderful emotion barrier I have today. The very first boy I ever kissed in any real sense of hormonal awkwardness, was a summer thing. We saw one movie and met for one lunch and that was it. He went on to proclaim that we had had sex, and that I was slut to the entire high school I had just started attending. I was shocked and angry, but as it wasn’t true and he was very insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I let it go. I was pressured into my first “relationship” as a tech intern in high school. The hyper sexual narcissist played to my naïve insecurities, pushing me to do things I was very clear I had no interest in doing. Finally, I put my foot down and told him to back off. This lead to a hostile work environment and me quitting that job and my interest in IT for good. I was raped of my virginity at 16 by a self-sworn good guy. He was only a monster in a mask. After that, I dove into the arms of a 21 year old, metrosexual man-child. He was also hypersexual in every sense of the word and loved to comment on my weight and brand/style of clothing. I didn’t care too much at the time as I had started drinking and he could buy me all the booze I wanted. By the time that was over, I left him for suspecting he was cheating. I’m sure he was, but had no hard proof. I learned to leave before I got too hurt.

Throughout high school I hung out with a group of guys I called my brothers. I never saw them as anything more than that; though each of them, at different times expressed their interest in me as more than a friend. One of them I would be engaged to. One of them I would marry and divorce. The one I was engaged to brought me into a world of drugs and alcohol on an entirely new level. I loved keeping pace with him. I loved getting lost, doing crazy shit, and not thinking about my problems. His lifestyle made that easy, but I was also trying to go to school and start a life for myself. So, eventually, I gave him an ultimatum to either quit the drugs, or I was gone. He quit the hard drugs, and I all but browbeat him into proposing to me. Still I wasn’t happy. I was drinking more than ever and blamed him for all the problems he had gotten me into. After graduating college by the skin of my teeth, I broke it off with him. I wasted no time trying to building a life with my now ex-husband, starting with earing my title as barfly when we were dating. I would get drunk and call my ex-fiancé. On a handful of occasions he picked me up and I would go out drinking and/or drugging with him. Once he had tried to make a move on me as I was passing out, and I asked him to take me home. Then next time was much worse in scale of the fight with my ex-husband. I drank more, drugged more, and woke up out of a blackout sore and without underwear on. I was too ashamed of my drunken behavior and my bad decisions. I never said anything about it. I had, after all, put myself in this situation. But I’ve come to learn that still doesn’t make it okay.

My ex-husband cheated on me. He pressured me into having sex before I was ready after our son was born, and complained to me for not paying enough attention to him. He blamed my inattention for his cheating and constantly asked who I was out screwing if he couldn’t get ahold of me immediately.

Stepping back a moment, my first job after my tech-intern position was at BestBuy, where my asshole of a boss hit on me relentlessly. Eventually I quit. After college I worked at Omega as a second job, where my 60 something Greek manager asked if he could kiss me. The other managers, all related, shrugged it off as him being an old man. So I quit. After being a stay at home mom for two years, I went to work as a hostess/bartender at Carlucci’s. I knew I was going to get drunk idiots flirting with me. I didn’t know two of four managers would be pursuing me like a dog with a bone. One particular bus “boy” liked to kid around that my son was his. He’d ask “How’s my boy doing?” in between invites to hang out, or lunch, or just go out back. His eyes devoured any decency. He was a salivating hyena.

So, no, I have not had a lot of positive experiences with male friends, with male colleges, or with men I placed my trust in. That’s why my most recent trauma from my current relationship was so bitter for me. It was just a drunken mistake. I am not blowing in out of proportion, and how could I given my track record, but it was the fact I and once again, thought I had found something different, something real that was once again shattered in that moment. I’ve recovered from that, but it’s there in the ever growing gallery of unpleasant life experiences with men.

It’s not surprising anymore. I try not to think about these things, because they just steal my peace and serenity. Yet try as I may, I can never really get rid of the trauma. It sickens me to the core, and yet it’s so fucking common-place. Oh well.

See, I feel like I have wasted my time an energy just saying all that. What’s the point anyways?

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…

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom

Grabbing a bottle to drown my sorrows is easy. Drinking to fuel the self destructive fire in my heart is effortless. Watching everything crumble around me is surreal yet common place. Living, feeling, and growing; that is hard.

Yet, change seems to happen easily when I am immersed in the program and fellowship of AA. Not being my first time around the rooms, I have the advantage of knowing that it works and have no trust barrier to get over or prejudices to climb free of. I didn’t even know it happened, but I found my strength again. Fear has left me, and I no longer feel like I’m being battered in the throws of life’s current. I’m at peace, sitting in a boat, letting life take me where it will.

I no longer fear my former abuser, and I have no fucking clue how that happened. Going from vomiting when I heard his voice, to being able to carry on a civil conversation about our son face to face in the matter of a month… it’s nothing short of amazing. Relief from that fear and trauma is like setting down a sack of bricks I was dragging around. No, I have not forgotten. No, what happened will never be “okay,” but I don’t have to continue to be at the mercy of that emotional torment. It no longer gets to weigh me down.

I could say I guess “[t]ime heals all things,” but it’s not just time. I have held on to grudges a clung to self righteous indignation for far longer in the past. This is time, growth, and trust in something greater that myself. I am truly amazed and grateful for the relief, freedom, and happiness I get to enjoy today.

Pauses in Between

I never know how to feel on the calm days amid the chaos right now. I’m always waiting for the next problem. I enjoy my “good” days. The good ones are days when I get to do things and spend time how and with whom I want to. On an uneventful, cloudy Monday afternoon, however, I don’t know how I feel. The highlight of my day with be getting to curl up in bed with my partner to go to sleep.

Nothing is wrong, and I am grateful for the peace. I’m grateful for many things right now, but today I’m just off. Though there is a definite benefit to having moments where you can just be and enjoy the moment, boredom and inactivity are states I’m both uncomfortable being in and have concluded are dangerous for my personality type.

If I’m not busy putting out fires,  eventually I’ll start one. I don’t know if I do it consciously or not, but I do know that I do it just to have something to fill the void. I’ll start focusing on something that I declare “wrong” in my life or find something that needs fixing and focus on it obsessively. If I don’t go that route, I start imagining problems that aren’t even real. I start worrying over potential future situations that are not even a reality and focus on that. I grab on to anything that I can keep my mind busy. It’s an exhausting way to live.

The chaos doesn’t relent for long these days. I just got an e-mail from my lawyer, and the allocation agreement is finally signed and to be submitted to the judge this Wednesday. My soon to be ex-husband will have unsupervised “parenting” time with my son for the first time in a year and a half. The order of protection will be altered for pick ups and drop offs, and my son will no longer be listed on it. So, I’ve got something new to worry over now.

My son’s father loves him, I’m sure, in his own way. The thing that scares me about him having time alone with our son is that his concept of love is very skewed and never prevented any of the emotional abuse I endured. I fear for my son, who is completely defenseless against the psychological and emotional manipulation that my husband is skilled in. I never had any intention of keeping them apart forever, but I’m lying if I say I’m anything but terrified he can take him on his own now.

After everything that has happened, he has done nothing to get help or grow as a person. I was fighting in the beginning to get him to go to counseling as a condition of having unsupervised time with our son, but he completely refused. There would have been no harm in it. It’s only a beneficial thing for everyone involved. I had to cave, though, in order to get things moving in this divorce. Now I’m scared I made the wrong decision.

Did I give in just to make my life easier? Have I subjected my son to an emotionally dangerous position just, because I couldn’t financially afford to keep fighting for him? I hate all of this.

Unwelcome

Today my soon to be ex-husband and former abuser gets to “survey” the condo to compile a list of what he believes to be his. My stomach is in knots, and all I can feel at this point is anxiety. I will not be there when he is, but just knowing he will be in my home leaves me feeling violated. There’s no other way of putting it. He is an unwelcome stranger in the place I, for now, call home.

It’s hard to wrap my head around how I used to live with his person. It was misery every single day. I feel like an idiot for being in such deep denial for so long. I don’t even know who that person was anymore. I value myself, my life, and the people I love today. That other person, the person I used to be, lived in fear and constant anxiety. I lived under the control of an abusive narcissist. Isolated by a sociopath, I was too afraid to leave and too miserable to stay. Every second around that person had me tearing myself apart inside. I hated it.

I fought harder than I ever had to get free of that. My home is now my haven. My place of safety and love. A place I share with my partner and my son. A place where we learn and love and cook and laugh. It is not a place for him to be.

Yet here we are. The day has come, and I suspect many more uncomfortable days will follow. I will have to focus on taking care of myself and the people I love. I will try my best not to let this intrusion bother me. He may be able to briefly step into my home, but he may no longer step into my heart. He was banned from there many years ago. Now, it is a fortified place, where only genuine love can dwell.

Honestly, as I am thinking about this, my condo is just a place. My home is elsewhere. I really shouldn’t worry about it, and so I think I won’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drunken Society

I can remember watching an episode of South Park where they were making fun of Stan’s Dad’s alcoholism. They were mocking people that called it a disease, and at the time a laughed along with it. Just have a little self control right? I no longer find that sentiment funny, as I have since come to find out I am an alcoholic.

Finding this out was the scariest moment in my life. Denial is strong amongst alcoholics. We like to think we have control of our drinking far, far past the point where we have lost control. I figured it out when I woke up one day, feeling like a piece of rotten meat inside a discarded trash can. I looked myself in the eyes in the mirror. In my head I said no more drinking. Immediately after saying that, as I had every day for weeks, I realized that wasn’t gong to happen. I literally couldn’t stop. Terrified, I looked into my eyes, and no longer recognized who I was looking at. The person in the mirror had dead eyes and a dead soul; slave to her master; alcohol.

That day, after a few more beers to quell my anxiety and the shakes, I decided to quit cold turkey. I lay awake all night, sweating, shaky, and completely unable to think. I could only count to ten over and over and over again. The night seemed like it would never end. I was screaming for relief in my head, and then I found myself praying to anyone/anything out there that could possible relieve me of the agony. That night, I found no relief. It was the worst night of my life.

The next day, I took 1.5 hours to get out of bed, get dressed, and go a block to grab a 6 pack. I couldn’t take it anymore. I drank half a beer that I REALLY did not want to drink, laid back down, and called my husband to take me to the ER. Detox was slow and painful, but it was in that hospital that I found AA and my first sponsor.

I have faltered since then. It’s a slow process of forgetting the pain and assuming you’re doing ok on your own. I stop going to meetings and then BAM! I’m right back in that miserable place. I know I cannot drink. I know I cannot control it. Usually when I decide to take that first drink, I have every intention of self destructing, because I have carried too much stress and bullshit for too long. I stop caring about myself. I take one drink, and it is never just one. Eventually, I go past the point of no return and have to snap out of the denial once more. It is never done without help and medical intervention.

  •  According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adult Americans are alcoholics, and approximately 623,000 adolescents (age 12-17) are alcoholics as well.
  • About 88,000 people die in the U.S. from alcohol-related causes annually. This makes it the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the America; only behind tobacco and poor diet/inactivity.
  • Globally, alcohol is the 5th leading risk factor for premature death, however; among the age group of 15 to 49 years old, it is the number one risk factor. In 2012, 3.3 million deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption world-wide.

From what I know of the pain and struggle with alcoholism, there are a whole lot of people in our world suffering horribly and dying from this disease. Yet it really isn’t talked about much. There are two dominant perceptions of alcoholics that I regularly see in society.

One of these is disdain. There is always some accident report on the news about a drunk driver, the reporter concluding with finality police report the driver was drunk, intoxicated, over the legal limit. Period. Horrible tragedy, or close call, all because the person was so careless. There is NO excuse for driving drunk, but there is also no discussion why it happens. It is accepted with certainty that irresponsibility with alcohol was to blame, and then we move one.

No one asks why. No one thinks to address the fact alcohol is sold almost everywhere these days. Liquor stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, vending machines, movie theaters, and the list goes on. I find it harder to find a store that doesn’t sell booze than it is to find one that does. What does that say about us as a society?

The other societal perception of alcoholics I frequently see is amusement and/or entertainment. “Oh that’s just Uncle Larry,” the sexy misunderstood hero of a movie with the tragic past, the drunken anti-hero you just can’t help winding up rooting for, reality TV of drunk people making a complete fool of them selves and often time getting hurt: These alcoholics are taken lightly, gawked at, or even admired in a strange way.

Bad Santa was and still is one of my favorite “Christmas” movies. Showcasing a vulgar old drunk who cons malls as a Santa each year, Billy Bob Thorton plays a character who swears, stinks, is creepy, and he is constantly drinking. I still can watch it as it does a decent job of showcasing the misery of being a chronic alcoholic; albeit with a comical twist. Billy Bob’s character wakes up to take a swig out of a half drank bottle of beer with a cigarette butt in it. We chuckle, because it’s ridiculous. However, I guarantee many alcoholics have done the same thing. “Parking” at his new mall gig and a waterfall of beer cans and empty liquor bottles pour out the door as he emerges; and again, we laugh. How ridiculous?! Again, it has happened in real life, and there’s nothing funny about it.

  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental health Administration (SAMHSA), heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking 5 or more days in the past month (it does not state days in a row).
  • Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as drinking until your blood alcohol volume (BAV) is past the legal limit (0.08) in any 2 hour timeframe.

I laughed at these definitions. I certainly don’t need two whole hours to get tipsy, and I’ve gone weeks, maybe even a couple months doing it every single day… all day. But what do those statistics mean for everyone else? What does it mean to the party animal frat boy or the sports fan that likes to “celebrate” victories and “sooth” the wounds of defeat? What about the micro beer aficionados ordering beer flights or the wine coinsure at a wine “tasting.” You know you aren’t spitting it out ever time. Beer and yoga, painting and wine, happy hour; how much are you indulging?

Heavy alcohol use doesn’t automatically mean you are an alcoholic, and that is certainly not the point I am trying to make. The concerning issue for me is how pervasive alcohol consumption is in out society and across the world. Sporting events, concerts, weddings, or just because it’s Tuesday and your favorite restaurant has a special on your favorite drink; excessive alcohol consumption is not only everywhere, I feel it is encouraged and/or expected. This leads those prone to alcoholism straight down that path under a mistaken haze of normalcy.