Serenity

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up-side-right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Between Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually Gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crash and Burn

More than once, I have let all my problems weigh me down so much I have been crushed. I did this again recently. Broke, divorcing, my little one acting out constantly, losing my home, debt ever rising, credit score plunging into the depths of hell, several sleepless nights in a row, and waking from vivid nightmares in cold sweats shivering; it all crushed me. I forget about self-care, there isn’t a drop of optimism in my heart, and I slowly get closer and closer to insanity. The flame of self-destruction ignites when I can’t carry the weight anymore. Exciting at first, it burns until I think I might die. At the breaking point, I surrender; accepting help or death. Time and time again, I feel I might die. Yet I always find a helping hand.

The journey of restoration is slow and painful. I used to picture it as a phoenix rising from the ashes; a beautiful image in my mind. Now, I just feel like a zombie crawling out of the grave yet again. Broken, bruised, worse for wear; slowly picking up pieces of myself try to put it all back together. No beautiful phoenix, I’m just a Frankenstein girl/woman/mother/partner or whatever.

This cycle leaves me more dizzied and drained each time I go through it. Coming to the point of accepting death if it is fate, being pulled back from that state of surrender, it’s just painful. As said in one of my favorite shows, Altered Carbon, “…coming back from the dead is a bitch. Every single time.” Despair to renewal to complacency and back to despair; why can’t I just stay happy, healthy, and at peace? I understand life is not always wonderful, but my dreams fade further in to the blackness. I’m not thriving. I’m only surviving, barely, and I am tired of it.

The Twisted Middle

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.