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.
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.
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.
I never saw myself as the motherly type. Kids always annoyed me, and they just seemed disgusting in every single way. Boogers, poop, runny noses, blood curdling crying; that’s all I thought of when I thought of kids. Never mind the fact that both my family and my husband’s family is riddled with mental health and addition issues. I had absolutely no intention of bringing another life in to this messed up world, and I never thought I would have to do it all by myself.
It is true; however, that everything changes when it is your child. I have had every bodily fluid a child can produce on me and my clothes. Not that I enjoyed being crapped on, but it’s more like it doesn’t matter when it’s your child. They are your flesh and blood, and you do anything to take care of them the best you can. Well, at least that was the effect it had on me. My husband, did not have the same transformation. He may have changed 8 diapers in my son’s entire life. He never got up in the middle of the night to help take care of him, and my son never slept through the night until he was almost 2.
Today, I have a partner who feels/felt much the same as I did before I had my son. Despite that, he has been more involved and helpful in my son’s life that his father ever was. He puts him to bed, helps enforce rules and time out, and today he took care of him all day long, and even came along to the pediatrician as my son has a fever. All just so I can go to work. He has NO obligation to this child, and yet he is a better parent than his own father. It blows my mind and makes me unbelievable grateful to have him in our lives.
Neither of us are perfect, and we both have our bad days. Hell, we each have had REALLY bad days, but we never lose each other. Love is always there in our hearts, and my son’s life is so much better for it.
Today is yet another court date. There is always a 50/50 chance whether or not opposing counsel will show up, or the judge. My attorney is always there, which is good, but it also means I get charge regardless if anything gets done or not. Every phone call, e-mail, court appearance, proposal drafted, motion created/submitted, all of it I gets charged. I absolutely think that my lawyer should be paid for her hard work. But some the charges seem like I’m being taken advantage of. What can I do though? I absolutely need her services.
So we do this slow, painful, stress inducing dance called divorce proceedings. I have broken down in to tears countless times in frustration and feeling powerless. The judge has made it clear that since there was no direct abuse by my husband to our son, he should keep his parental rights despite never exercising them. Never mind that he fought with me in front of our son as I constantly begged him not to; hours on end, almost daily. Never mind the knife he brought in the room with us. Never mind throwing my phone against the wall. Never mind trapping me in his car, or the bathroom, or the bedroom so I couldn’t move freely and was forced to engage him. Never mind threatening to kill himself in front of our son and I so we could “watch,” and then deny it to anyone else.
I have hours of phone calls with this asshole recorded so people would believe me. None of it is usable in court. His ex-girlfriend even reached out to me on Facebook, completely unsolicited, to apologize and detail how she had no idea how manipulative and dangerous he was. Again, it is not directly connected to my son. So, according to the judge, none of this matters.
I wish he would have been physically abusive instead of committing so much emotional torture. At least if he hit me, everyone could see with their own eyes what a piece of shit he is. Oh well I guess. It is what it is, and all I can do anymore is try to take the best care of myself and my son as I can.
I have an amazingly smart little boy. Yes, I know most parents say this. I got to spend the majority of the first two years of his life home with him. Now that I am working and he goes to daycare, he surprises me with new abilities every day. We are having conversations. He can understand logic. His memory is sometimes scary, as is his ability to figure out technology. Potty training is almost conquered, and he is able to do a lot independently. He has friends that give him hugs goodbye when I pick him up from daycare. He is turning into this little person, and it is all happening so fast.
He is growing up, while I am tearing down. I am trying to get through this divorce and start life anew. I want to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. I am going to have to file for bankruptcy and possibly find someplace new to live; a prospect that is not nearly as scary as it once was. I want to do a couple things dramatically different this time around. I want to find a job I don’t hate, or at least one that is remote. I want to get rid of my car and use the money I save to start investing. I want to live each day as happily as possible. I am tired of the mind numbing, soul crushing monotony of working a 9-5. Endless days spent daydreaming about the weekend, and saying “One day…” No more of that nonsense.
I have learned to live with very little. Granted, my definition of “very little” as an American is very different from most of the world, but as a lower middle class single parent in the Midwest, I do not need much to survive. I want to find a way of living in which that allows me to thrive and create a different future for my son. Really, isn’t that all anyone wants? Perhaps not. But for me, these are my goals.
After the birth of my son, I no longer had a 9-5 job to go to every day. I had a 24/7 job of keeping this tiny human alive, happy, and healthy. It’s both a terrifying and wonderful thing. After about three months, I started to feel like I had a grip on keeping the bundle of needs thriving, and I started to get stir crazy.
Longing for my old life, I started inviting old friends over. I could finally have a drink again! After all, I deserved it. Well, this is when I began down the path that would lead me to the rooms of AA. I knew I used to drink a lot. I classified myself as a “partier” in high school and college. I became a bar fly while my then boyfriend and I were dating. I was a connoisseur of fine beers. The bar we used to go to had 40 different beers on tap and a revolving door of new kinds. There was always an excuse to go. I thought it was normal to go there every day. It didn’t phase me when we weren’t able to afford the pricey micro-brews anymore and just ordered draft light beers that were cheap. None of it gave me pause.
It was only after I had my son that I started to realize it was not normal. I was home alone all day, every day. I was lonely and simultaneously dreaded my husband coming home. We fought all the time. I was exhausted from doing everything to take care of our son and home. He felt working all the time was doing his part and thought I was unappreciative. I began to drink every day. I got sick and was living off of soup, cold medicine, and beer. I realized I had a problem looking in the mirror one day. I saw a soulless, selfish person unable to stop herself. But I tried anyway and stopped cold turkey. I went through such bad withdrawal I had to go to the hospital over night. It was a wake up call.
I found two AA meetings with babysitting and never looked back. My husband resented this new part of my life. We grew farther and farther apart. My shame of being an alcoholic kept me from leaving him sooner. Every fight we had he would drag it up to sling in my face. A couple times he told me to go buy a bottle in anger. I stayed in the relationship out of shame until I finally forgave myself. I had healed, had a beautiful son, and decided to give my marriage one more truly all in chance. I let down all my guards and recommitted to being a partner to my husband.
The morning after we were intimate for the first time in a long time, I found out he was having an affair with his employee. Good ol’ Facebook Messenger tipped me off. My husband was asleep, he hardly used Facebook, and I was confused why the Messenger “ding” went off on his phone. It was a reply. “I love you too. Have a good day too,” followed by a mess of kissy faces and hearts. The words and hearts blurred, my husband woke up and snatched his phone before I could read much of it. He tried to play it off, but I’m no idiot. I was done.
I turned in to a paranoid creeper for a few weeks. Checking our phone text logs, his social media, etc. He met with her the night after I found out. He said he had to meet her in person “to end it.” That was a lie I wouldn’t find out until several months later.
Queue round two of marriage counseling. The counselor, although intelligent and compassionate, seemed hell bent on keeping us together. I was over the marriage at this point and was buying time until I could afford an attorney. I started a bartender job at a snooty Italian joint so I could save money from my tips without him knowing. He was very controlling and hated that I had a job. He eventually caught on to my motives for saving money.
I had to start recording my phone calls with him. He would threaten me with anything he could and deny it all to anyone else. I finally accepted that if I was ever going to get away from him, I had to be okay with the worst he threatened to do to me. It was a micro-step of faith in something outside of my miserable little world. Then, I was free. I was free of that horrible fear based grip, and he was pissed.