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?

Nine to Six Feet Under

I was never cut out for the corporate world. The thought of 9am-5pm jobs made me shudder. I could hardly handle 8am-3pm in high school. When I was little I would tell anyone to their face I would “NEVER” work for someone else. I was going to be my own boss. Reality really likes to kick me in the teeth.

Before I knew it, I was working for my high school as a tech intern, then Dominos for one “glorious” summer, then I started my brief job at Best Buy around 4:30am on Black Friday that year. Finally, I found myself with a 9-5pm job at the company my mom worked for, Adventist Midwest Management Services. This company was bought out several years ago, but I spent ten years there; on and off during school breaks and finally as a full time employee after graduating from college. My Bachelor of Arts degree is in English Literature. I graduated, however; at the end of 2009, and the job market was not doing well. I fell back into the world of medical billing/collections and haven’t been able to get myself out since.

I jumped to a different big medical billing company after I got married hoping for a challenge and upward mobility, but I just found more of the same monotonous boredom that tortured me all day long. So I made the decision to quit and become a personal trainer. I got certified the same night I passed another test; a pregnancy test. Back I went to the world of medical billing to save up for the bundle of responsibility now on its way.

It was hard to tell  I was pregnant until month 7 or 8. I was running right up until I got put on bed rest. One long night in the hospital with steroid injections and magnesium sulfate fun, and then I was home. But my son was impatient to get out into the world. I was back at the hospital in for a ten day stay with talks with NICU doctors as well as a surgeon in the even I started hemorrhaging after giving birth. Due to a low lying placenta, I was at risk and a hysterectomy would have been the only salvation. Three weeks prior I’m running in the fall breeze, now I was hoping my son and I made it through alive.

Blood pressure medication, of all things, kept contractions under control. As long as I took it and was on bed rest, the little bugger would keep cooking and I got the first chance I had in years not to be working full time. I knew that as soon as I went off the medication it was “go time.” So my pregnancy was kind of unique in that I could time when I was going to go into labor. It was a Saturday morning when I stopped taking the medication.  I went out with my mom to go buy a baby blanket and get some food and fresh air before the big event. My son was born at 5:43 am the next morning. Everything went fine aside from major game plan change of getting an epidural at 6cm. I wanted an all natural birth, but for all intents and purposes, I had been having contractions for a month and a half. Enough was enough and god bless that anesthesiologist!

Anyway, back to the topic of work. I found being a stay-at-home-mom to be far more work than a 9-5pm job, but it was much more rewarding and far less boring. I was fortunate enough to have almost two years at home with my son before I had to reenter the workforce full time. It was necessary as I had filed for an order of protection against my ex and (obviously) planned to file for divorce. In the span of a week and a half, I got a brand new car without a penny down or a job, found a daycare I wasn’t completely terrified to leave my son at, and found a job that started the Monday after I interviewed. Talk a bout a whirlwind; It was a crazy, stressful, and challenging time.

After the initial anxiety of leaving my son in the care of strangers for 9-10 hours a day, I found some appreciation for being back in the world of adults; working to support myself and my son. Alas, it was again in the field of medical billing, and after no more than six months I was, once again, bored to tears. A mixture of infatuation with my new love, hatred for my cubicle jail, stress from the divorce, and lack or relying on AA for support lead to a period of relapses. I missed too much work and lost my job because of that. Despite a solid month of looking for something in a different field, there was nothing that would compensate me at a rate I needed to survive. So, I wound up at my previous company’s biggest competitor; once again, in a cubicle.

Part of me thinks that I stayed with my ex as long as I did for the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom. I hated him, but I also hated working a 9-5. Eventually, I saw that if I was going to survive and do what was best for myself and my son, I had to get away from my ex. So now we are divorced, I am working a job I don’t love but need and can’t complain about, and I’m moving back in with my mother. I suppose I am hoping in the interim, I might find a way to carve out a new career path. If I stay on the course I am currently stuck in, I am certain it will eventually kill me spiritually. That may sound over dramatic, but you don’t know how much I loath the ice box rat maze in which I spend 40 hours a week.

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.

Waking Nightmares

I don’t know if dreams have any spiritual significance, or if it is simply the mind processing subconscious information. All that I do know is that when I do dream and remember it, it’s usually nightmares. And, significant or not, when I wake from these aliens worlds and impossible situations, it has a real, literal effect on my mood and even my body. In this sense, there is something real and significant about dreams, but I’m no expert and make no claims.

A common feature of my nightmares is a lack of control. I am sure most can relate to the trying to scream but can’t, or trying to run and feeling like you are stuck in sludge while dreaming. If I choose to fight an enemy in my nightmares, I am never strong enough to swing whatever “weapon” I find in my hands with sufficient force. In the midst of ever changing fluid chaos, often I have an overwhelming sense of impending doom. Anxiety by an unknown force is terrible. I prefer zombie dreams to that. Then, at least, I know what I’m running from.

I have had dreams of different worlds, alternate realities, apocalyptic scenarios, and some almost plausible ones. Last night was a cross between an alternate reality in a town I’ve never been to and relapse dream. Unlike my usual drinking dreams, instead of unwittingly taking a drink or trying to get away with just a few, I was catapulted directly into the misery of the final stages of my alcoholism. The pain and fear of trying to find the next drink and terror of having to start facing withdrawal. It was palpable. I woke up sweating and had the “jitters” all morning long. It was awful.

I have zero intentions on going out and grabbing a drink. So, if this was some sort of cosmic warning or reminder of the pain I’ve experience as the result of my drinking, message received and completely unnecessary!

I need to start working on positive visualization before falling asleep. I think it could help my subconscious not be so fearful and gloomy. Perhaps that will help or perhaps not, but I have to do something as falling asleep exhausted and waking up even more so is getting very, very old.

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?