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?

Work in Progress

So, on Monday I started writing a post about how overwhelmed I was with everything going on in my life. I was focusing on all the negative stuff. I got about three paragraphs in, wiping away tears, and decided writing about things wasn’t helping. Who wants to listen to me complain about my problems anyways? A novel idea hit me. Why don’t I just tell my partner I’m overwhelmed, directly, instead of indirectly pour out my feelings in a blog post?

From an analytical standpoint, reaching out and saying I need help seems like a common sense thing to do when I’m overwhelmed. That is not; however, how my mind works. For many years, be it from my mother or ex-husband, when I have reached out for help it was under the assumption of me “owing” or being indebted to that person. The scales of power shifted against my favor, and I thus tried to avoid it at all costs.

Prior to these past few years, I tried to make everything happen on my own. When things went wrong, I blamed someone else. When things went right, I thought, “see! I can do this all.” I prided myself on saying I put myself through college, and I did for two years at community college. But when scholarships and a student job didn’t cover rent and tuition at WIU, I relied on my father and my boyfriend at the time to help me pay for things.

I have always been a bit of an impatient opportunist. Once I graduated, I grabbed what I could from my apartment in Macomb, IL and never went back. I jumped from one unhealthy relationship into another; seeking greener grass and a brighter future. I pushed to get married, to buy a condo, to get a new car, and all of these things manifested. But I was not happy. I sought escape, comfort, and oblivion every day in a bottle, can or glass. Nothing made me happy, and I never asked for help.

So what is the point in saying all of this? Today, I am divorced, filing for bankruptcy, and moving back in with my mother, but I am happier than I have ever been. How is this possible? Well, I have an amazing partner working the program with me. I have learned to ask for help and not try to force everything to be how I want it. I don’t blame other people for EVERYTHING (most of the time,) and try to accept things as they are. Despite all the pain and misery of the last ten years of my life, I have the three most important things I care about; my sobriety, my partner, and my son. I have everything if I have these things. I don’t care about my car. Having to sell my condo is stressful, but doesn’t destroy my inner peace (for long.) Filing for bankruptcy I see as a new start.

The future is limitless, and I get to share it with the people I care about most. I may be broke as a joke right now, but I don’t feel poor. I am truly happy. It’s something I was never able to find on my own but am so very grateful to have today.

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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.

Bottle of Worry

I wonder how much I could have accomplished in my life if I took all that time wasted, worrying, stressed, self medicating, and actually applied myself to doing something positive. I am pretty sure my life would look pretty different. As much as that might sound appealing, I do have an amazing son, I have learned a lot of life lessons, and I have some pretty special people in my life that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Where did all the wasted time and worry come from? I learned from an early age how to worry. My grandmother and my mother were chronic worries and they showed it. This is not to say they aren’t wonderful people. My grandmother practically raised me and I miss her every day. My mother and I haven’t always gotten along, but she is definitely a good person and always there for me when I need her. With that said, there was always a tone of worry in their voices. I used to hate it. I felt like if I ever hinted that something was wrong, I would get a full inquisition. This lead to me be the kind of person who keeps things to myself. I can bottle stress up like a pro, but I also eventually explode in a blaze of mind boggling self destruction. Not healthy…haha.

It is hard now, being in a loving and supportive relationship where I can be open with my partner. I am not used to it, and sometimes I fall back on my old habits of bottling things up. I’m trying to relearn how to live happily and love without fear. It is both extremely freeing and utterly terrifying all at once.

With my ex, the abuser, nothing was discussed on any deep level. We were both very closed off, and something as small as deciding what to eat for dinner usually turned into an all out brawl.  I lived in fear of those fights, so I almost never attempted to talk to him. I learned from the few times I did try, that anything I had to say was taken immediately as a personal attack on him; even if it had NOTHING to do with him.

So, I bottled up my emotions and had many disastrous self destruction events. This did not help the dynamic of our “relationship.” I would have my melt down and then he would forever have more ammo to throw in my face at any given time. He has a file folder in his mind of every little thing I had ever done wrong. It could have happened 6 years ago, but if we fought, it was today’s mud to sling.

It was ugly. Everything about being with that person was ugly. I ignored so many red flags. I blindly trudged down the path I thought I was supposed to follow. Engagement, buying a home, marriage, having a child, etc. I lost friends, I was isolated and miserable, but worst of all, I thought I was completely trapped in this ugly world. I thought I had no choice but to remain in it.

I have a wonderful, caring, insightful counselor these days, but the marriage counselors I saw with my ex seemed to be hell bent on “fixing” the marriage no matter what. As a very skilled sociopath, my ex always seemed to have the sympathies of our counselors. I was just open and honest and came off as “harsh” according to them. Of course I was harsh! I was like a trapped animal doing anything to stay alive. They didn’t see him for what he was. No one did. The only other person to recognize just how dangerous he was is his ex-girlfriend. She contacted me after it was over (for real) and apologized for the part she played in my misery and flat out said he was a master manipulator and hurt a lot of people.

No relationship is perfect, but I am very grateful to have a truly caring, loving, amazing person to share my life with right now. It’s easy to forget how good you’ve got it when you get caught up worrying about all the stressful things going on in your life. Life isn’t ugly, and with the right person, it can be beyond beautiful.