And Then There Were None

All week I’ve been going back and forth between breaking down in tears and figuratively putting my fingers in my ears and saying “lalalalala I can’t hear you!” And then there’s these times when I’m all, “Hey! Look at me, adulting like a real person and handling things!” Of course, these moments are brief and quickly followed by riotous laughter from the cynical me and the adolescent me saying, “You shouldn’t have gone there,” as the eyes of toddler me well up  and spill over into big ugly sobs of hurt and betrayal.

Just a quick little disclaimer: This post is going to deal with dissociation and will likely feel like a great deal of blame and self-pity. However, it really is more about naming and accepting things for what they are. I lived a life and things happened and I dealt with them in the ways I was able to and these coping mechanisms have affected my life in the ways that they have. This is my truth and I have to see it for what it is so that I can identify when I fall back into unhealthy coping mechanisms today. I mean no one any malice. I simply need to speak and be recognized where I stand.

Early Monday morning my grandpa died. I feel like God has been foreshadowing this event in my life for about a year now. At the same time, I have been opened up and exposed to feel the weight of not only this, but the passing of all my grandparents as he was the last.

I was born with five grandmas and one grandpa. My dad’s father died about a year and a half before I was born, but his mother lived until I was 18. I had a great-grandma on my dad’s side that I don’t remember because she died around when I was two. Both of my maternal great-grandmothers died when I was 16 or 17. I was off at school a few hours from home when the second of them left us. It was surreal. Heavy, but far away because rather than being around family I was dealing with it among a bunch of teenagers, none of whom had ever met my grandmothers.

My dad’s mom was an interesting character. I had good, but mostly odd memories of her. She was loving, but also stern, distant, and entirely unpredictable. She died around the time I went off to, and then almost immediately dropped out of college. This was a tumultuous time in my life. I had felt too much grief and pain over the previous year that I did whatever I could to numb and escape it. I am aware that my grandma came to live with my parents around this time and then there was some sort of falling out with my aunt (which has never been rectified), but I was completely disconnected from any of that, mainly because I wasn’t physically there, but also because I had largely checked out of life emotionally. Somewhere in all that, my grandma died, but I wasn’t there. I didn’t go to her funeral.

So, for the entirety of my adult life, I’ve only had two grandparents, and they were the ones that were always “Grandma and Grandpa.” Whenever I talk about my family, I am not talking about my parents and siblings but rather my mom’s parents and siblings and all my cousins. We were a very close extended family. I lived two doors down from my grandparents’ house and my closest cousins lived next door on the other side. When I was in grade school, I thought my aunt’s family was exceptionally removed from the bunch because she lived all the way over in the next town, 4 miles away. And then they moved up into the city, a whole 15 minutes away and I was like, “OMG, does she HATE us or what?!” Still today, aside from me and my siblings, even the grown cousins live within an hour or so from my grandparents’.

We were tight. When I was young, we all got together once a month for Sunday dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s. I used to stop in to say hi whenever I was running around outside. I’d walk up the road just watch Fraggle Rock at their house because we didn’t have cable at home. I remember so well just being there with them. Grandpa would be watching one ball game while listening to another one on the radio and Grandma would be standing at the ironing board, singing along to country music or working on a jigsaw puzzle while watching soaps on the little TV right next to the big TV. There’s not a lot of my childhood I remember, but the good things mostly all happened at my grandparents’ house.

As I got older and more aware, my life at home became very stressful and dad-centric. I was much younger than I’d like to admit when absolutely everything in my life came with the thought, “How is Dad going to react to this?” I was a very sensitive and perceptive child, so I saw and felt all his anger, manipulation, and violence. We’d go through periods when he wasn’t physically violent (toward my mom when I was younger, but by the time I was in middle school he thought nothing of backhanding me across the face or lashing me all up my back with his belt whenever he felt like it), but he was always emotionally and spiritually abusive. He was exceptionally controlling and I often felt like I was his dysfunctional marionette. Anything good I did was either held up as his achievement because he had created me or criticized because it could’ve been better. And, oh my, anything bad I did – he told everybody! He told my family of all my sins. He told my friends completely inappropriate things like how my room was a mess or God knows what all. I learned to dissociate. I blocked life out.

I grew up in books. I had a novel with me everywhere I went. I didn’t trust being around people. I lived in a very small town where everybody knew everybody’s business. And growing up with a dad who tried to garner sympathy with people by telling them how awful his daughter was (I wasn’t.) meant that I quite often encountered people who teased me about something he had told them. [And this is something I catch myself doing with my kids sometimes, especially as they’re coming into adolescence and I am feeling increasingly inept at dealing with their emotions. I understand that this is a thing we do unconsciously from time to time. In me, as a child, coupled with everything else that was going on, it really affected me negatively.] I dissociated further, never telling anyone how I felt. I lived in a world of Stephen King books, movies and music, all becoming increasingly darker and darker as I grew. The only times I could let my feelings out were when I was alone. I would go down to the bridge and scream and cry at God. Today, that is still the most emotionally triggering, comforting, and melancholy place on earth. I isolated myself as best I could.

And in the midst of all this, surrounding my discomfiture, was this wonderful family. My grandma was like Jesus and Santa all rolled into one and my grandpa was stoic and wise and really kind of the embodiment of the Greatest Generation, plus he looked like Johnny Carson and laughed easily. And every month we’d get together with the whole family and eat and laugh, but my smile became more and more plastic as I grew. Yes, this was my family, but being with them felt more like a day at the zoo visiting a happy family exhibit behind glass than anything I could interact with or call my own. I desperately wanted to be a part of that world, but I had no idea how to break the glass that separated us.

Christmas Eve 1996 I was 18 years old. I had dropped out of college and had plans to leave my parents’ house. I hadn’t told my dad yet because I knew he would react badly (and yes, that night was the last time he laid hands on me, though he’s threatened it a number of times since). I wanted to leave earlier, but I had no idea when I’d get to see my family again and wanted just one last good memory with them. That year, Grandma had won at bingo so she shared her winnings with all of the grandkids. I ended up with $70 worth of ones and we joked about her wanting us to go to the strip club with all those ones. When we got back home and I grabbed my bags, things went south. My dad was hurt and surprised by my leaving and he said a lot of horrible things in his anger. One thing he said was he accused me of waiting until that night just so I could get my Christmas money before I left. And that lie broke the division I felt between me and my family wide open. I moved halfway across the country a month later and I’ve only been back there with my family a few times since.

My grandma died in 2007, about 4 months after my first husband and I split. I didn’t trust either of my parents at that time because my dad went straight left, demanding that we fix things (having absolutely no knowledge or care about what caused the split) and my mom lied to us, bringing my dad down to see us even after we specifically told them we did not want him there. I had recently started dating the guy who would become my second husband when I got the news about Grandma and it was all too much. I had so much guilt from missing out on ten years with her and the whole family, guilt about leaving my husband and kids, and all the childhood memories which had resurfaced and lead to me leaving. I couldn’t handle dealing with my dad lecturing me on how I needed to capitulate to the man who made it very clear that we needed to not be married anymore. I simply couldn’t. And so rather than go home for her funeral I smoked a lot of pot, drank a lot of booze, drove to New Orleans with the dude and did some quite possibly regrettable things. Two years later I wrote a letter of amends to my Grandpa & the rest of the family for not being there. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but this is one that I’m probably always going to feel bad for.

July 2014, Garland died a few days after he got 40 years sober. I’d known him since I first came into recovery and he was like a grandfather to me and most all the sober people my age in San Antonio. And that kicked off a whole string of deaths that lasted a year. We lost Jimmy soon after, and he always reminded me of my grandpa with his easy smile, quick wit, and stoic wisdom. He had been a navy man like Grandpa, too. The deaths piled up throughout the spring of 2015 when, at one point, we lost 6 people in as many weeks. My husband’s grandma passed away right before the end of the school year, so as soon as school got out, we packed up the kids and drove out to Arizona to settle her affairs. On the way out there, my mom called to let me know that Grandpa wasn’t doing well. That’s about when I broke. I had a little conversation with God in which I used a few four letter words to describe what I thought about His little plan of late. Grandpa got better a lot quicker than I did. I spent the rest of the summer and most of the rest of the year dissociated, pretending like I was completely unaffected by anything in life.

This sounds much worse than it actually is. Well, okay, so it’s really not good at all, but it led to something good. Eventually I became overwhelmed with life and hit an emotional bottom. I dedicated myself to work in Adult Children of Alcoholics and I have quickly become aware of a lot of behavior patterns that I want to work on getting rid of. As emotionally cut off as I became over 2015, I have now become emotionally aware. I became a bundle of raw nerve endings as I explored who I had created myself to be. So far, 34 days into 2016, I have cried at least twice as many days as not – not in a bad way, but in a way that lets me know I am feeling and I am taking care of myself. So, it is in this emotionally vulnerable place that I woke up Monday morning to a text from my dad (because of course it would have to come from my dad) saying that my grandpa was gone.

Since then, I have certainly had a few moments in the future, experiencing fear about what sort of crap my dad is going to try to pull. How is he going to try to make this all about him? How is he going to try to separate me from the rest of the family? Too, I’ve experienced my moments in the past, regretting time spent apart from the family, time missed with both of my grandparents, feeling jealous of the closeness the rest of my cousins feel with Grandpa and with everyone else. But mainly I’m here in the hurt of it. And maybe it hurts worse than it would have if I wasn’t also experiencing the pain I ignored with the passing of my grandmothers. Or maybe it hurts in a very appropriate way, just that this is the first time I’m actually feeling it.

It has been neat to be consciously aware of ACA/ACoA behaviors popping up and recognizing why they’re there and what they’re trying to protect me from. No matter the amount of denial or procrastination or dissociation, though, it isn’t going to change the hurt I feel – hurt I need to feel. So I am gentle with myself, allowing the tears to come, letting the little girl inside throw her tantrums, but also allowing the coping mechanisms to protect me during times that I feel overwhelmed or need to get things accomplished.

And I feel, finally, at least moreso than I have for a long time, like I am a part of the family. One of the things that always bothered me was that I was the only one who called him Grandpa and I didn’t understand why for the longest time. To everyone else he was Granddad and I always wondered how I missed the memo. But I understand today. And even though we never ever talked about it, I think he came to understand, too. This one seemingly minor, but glaring difference which made me feel so separate ultimately became validation and acceptance with every card signed, “Grandpa.” I wish I could’ve been there to go through all those old pictures with family, but I will be there tomorrow and I am not afraid of what anyone might say. He was my grandpa and no one can take him away from me.

Tika Tonu

IMG_20160122_111119070 (2)I don’t like the term “Inner Child.” To me, it conjures images of Wall Street executives ripping off their ties to go snowboarding or jumping through mud puddles. The concept of the “True Self,” though? That’s something I can really get behind. Somewhere under all these onion layers is that kernel of Truth which is the Real Me. From what I’ve read in Adult Children literature so far, the terms seem to be used interchangeably. It feels uncomfortable to me, but I think that is because I recognize my adult child and she is pretty much everything I hate about myself. I’ve spent my whole life trying to make everyone treat me like an adult, but I have absolutely no idea how to actually BE an adult because I keep reacting to life like I did as a child. I am stubborn and petulant and obnoxious and needy because I am ridiculously riddled with fear and self-loathing and I do NOT want you to see that part of me.

So, yesterday was a great day. I had lunch with a woman who I just adore, but hadn’t seen since before Christmas. She is like all the good and all the damaged parts of me lived unapologetically. I feel completely comfortable sitting naked with all my hurt and shame and idiocy on display in her presence. I have never been this at ease with any female ever in my life. I just want to put her in my pocket and carry her with me everywhere so that I can be naked and unapologetic all the time.

THEN, last night, another friend and I drove up to Austin to hear Glennon from Momastery speak. We got there all late so we missed a bit and had to sit near the rafters, but I think that’s how it was supposed to be. I got a lot more enjoyment out of getting to know my friend better over the course of a 3 hour car ride than I did in fangirling over a blogger. (And I so did. You know I walked up to meet her being all, “Be cool, Laurie. She’s just a person just like everyone else,” but I left that place thinking, “Why did I have to be like that? Now she thinks I’m such an idiot.”)

But that’s not the point. I ended up having the same awkward experience with both of these women in the same day. We were standing in a relatively long line, so we had a fun conversation while we waited. About halfway through each conversation, my friend turned to the person behind us who was obviously there alone and drew them into our conversation. Both times I think, “Dammit, you’re my friend, you’re here with me, you’re going to talk to me!” And both times I realize with this thought that I am an inconsiderate, insecure asshole, trying to collect friends like charms on a charm bracelet rather than to actually be a friend to someone.

But THAT isn’t even the point! The point is that I recognized this, made a mental note, and then set it aside so that I could enjoy my time with my friend instead of sitting there, beating myself up about “why can’t I be nice like her?” And bonus, I actually got to be kind to two strangers. Even though I didn’t initiate the kindness, I allowed myself to follow my friends’ lead. Both times, three people walked away smiling instead of me being pissy and introverted or the stranger getting annoyed with being stuck behind these two girls who were talking and laughing all loud in line. Yes, I still have a long way to go, but this is major progress for me.

So what does all that have to do with Tika Tonu and all the various things I have swimming around in my head right now? I don’t know. This post went in a very different direction than I was heading when I sat down. Maybe I just felt I needed to distract you with something that resembles truth before I revealed what was really bugging me. Maybe by this time you will have all gone away bored so you won’t get to the parts that are actually hard for me to say.

Last year sucked for me. It was a time of introversion and feeling overly exposed. I am not a shy person and I have never had a problem sharing my thoughts and opinions with people, but something happened that freaked me out and I went quiet. I felt horribly over-exposed. Even though I had done nothing wrong, bad things were happening in my life. I felt like all eyes were on me, judging me. I began doubting myself – even in regards to things I had been so sure about for so long. I felt like an empty shell, like the Operative at the end of Serenity: “There is nothing left to see.” And just like the Operative, I was ashamed because I had backed the wrong horse. Everything I knew was a lie and I had spouted that bullshit everywhere. I had made it my life’s work.

where-the-magic-happensBut that was not from God. And that was not True Self speaking. I had ventured outside my little comfort zone and I got burned. Things did not turn out like I had envisioned; that does not mean that I was wrong to step outside my comfort zone. Nor does it mean that I have to immortalize myself in things I’ve said. I have to speak the Truth where I stand. Tomorrow, I may stand somewhere else and that is okay. That doesn’t make today’s truth any less valid for me today. I have lived a lot of lies because it was the only way I knew how to survive. It has only been in retrospect that I have been able to identify the lie in the truth.

Just as life seemed to be conspiring to destroy me last year, it seems that life is conspiring to give me courage this year. My seemingly empty shell was rather a cocoon and I am slowly emerging – transformed, but as yet unable to fly. I feel like my Inner Child somehow woke up and has found herself disgusted by all these onion layers I’ve used to “protect” her with. I’m saying things again. I am writing and reading and thinking again. I am poking around in my psyche again. I am actually seeing my bullshit and refusing to accept it. I don’t see everything, of course, but I feel like I’m hacking away at a huge chunk of the crap that I’ve built up on myself.

And I don’t know where this is coming from. Obviously, it is somehow from God because what I am doing takes a tremendous amount of faith, but it doesn’t feel like any God I’ve ever known before. Maybe it’s just the end of my rope. Maybe I just finally saw that absolutely nothing can protect me from the hurts that life inflicts so I might as well just LIVE. Maybe I remembered walking down the street with a Reluctant Messiah and discussing the Parabola, that I chose this life specifically, with all its hills and valleys. Maybe it was Tika Tonu. Maybe I just realized that in four years it will be four years later, my kids will be four years older and I will be either in the same damned place for four years or I could be in an entirely different place altogether. Or most likely it was all of that together with God and the universe conspiring in my favor.

Whatever it was, I definitely needed last year’s mud so that I could grow lotuses this year. What that’s going to look like I have no idea, and honestly I really don’t want to know right now. I’m just going to step out naked, putting one foot in front of the other, letting the onion layers fall away and ultimately testing my wings.

And I am going to push “publish,” walk away and let this truth stand as it is in this moment in time.

How to Remove a Tick

I used to dream a lot, especially when I was a kid. I had exceptionally vivid dreams – not visually, but emotionally vivid. Over the past few years, I’d say I’ve dreamt (or at least been aware of having dreamt) only a handful of times. And those few dreams I did have were very “eh” and faded quickly. Last night, though, I had one of those dreams where you wake up swearing that they’re real. I woke up out of this dream at around 4 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep for nearly two hours because I was so troubled by it.

I dreamt that I found a tick on the crown of my head. Now, I’m a country girl and so spent the majority of my youth traipsing through the woods and dealing with animals. Ticks are not a big deal for me. When you come in from the woods, you check your hair & skin to make sure you haven’t picked one up and if you do find one, you take it off, light a match, blow it out & put the hot match on the tick to kill it and then flush it down the toilet. At least that’s what we did in my home. The most important thing, though, was to make sure that if it was already dug in that you got the head out as well or it would… something, something… I don’t remember exactly, but it was really bad.

The tick in my dream was no ordinary tick, though. It was huge, and dug in, and had obviously been there for quite a while. I was afraid that the tick removal methods I was familiar with would wouldn’t be sufficient to properly remove this thing, so I needed to get some help to make sure. I was disgusted and horrified to realize that this awful thing had to have been there for years. How had I never noticed it before and how was I going to be able to get it out? I woke up feeling all over the back of my head to try to find the dream tick again, but of course it wasn’t really there. I’ve even been casually paranoid off and on all day, double checking just to make sure.

My 4 a.m. self was not having any more sleep until the matter was resolved. I lay there somewhere between wake and sleep panicking at all layers of my consciousness. I was grabbing for my phone to look up how best to get this thing out of me before I finally pulled myself into complete awareness that it had only been a dream. Even though I knew it wasn’t real, I couldn’t shake that horrified feeling and kept reaching back to locate the tick for about an hour, trying to sleep before I realized I had to try my hand at analyzing the dream to reveal its meaning or else I was just going to remain haunted by it.

I haven’t been actively working steps for a while now – a fact that should come as a complete surprise to absolutely no one. I’ve got at least a dozen reasons excuses for why I haven’t been near as active in my program as I should be, but I’m glad at this point that I haven’t because it has allowed me to hit a different bottom completely. I went to my first Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) meeting February 1, 2015, despite the fact that there was absolutely no alcoholism in my family growing up (save for an uncle or two who likely were alcoholic, but I very rarely saw them). Just like when I first came to AA, I was very gung ho for a couple of months, but then kind of fizzled out before recognizing just how badly I needed to work the program. In AA, that translated to getting myself a sponsor & really working steps around 10 months sober. In ACA, well, last night at the meeting, I stayed after and talked to someone who is also very ready to work steps and has agreed to meet up and work together.

This past, most horrible year was really starting to come to a head in early December and I decided that I had to stop feeling guilty for missing AA meetings so I could go to ACA meetings. It just led to me not going to either one so I could sit at home and beat myself up. Then the holidays came and I hit what I recognize to be my bottom in ACA. It had absolutely nothing to do with my family of origin. Things with them were actually quite pleasant this year. There were other events that happened, though, which echoed experiences from my perceived dysfunctional childhood. Just like when I first read the “laundry list,” I recognized myself – my thoughts and behaviors – as those featured in ACA literature. And I was just sick. I said, “I can’t just be partway in this thing. I have to really, actually do the deal, just like I did when I first committed to AA.”

And it all clicked. Me finding that huge, sucking parasite, embedding itself in my head and leeching off me was just me committing to ACA and finding the emotional and spiritual parasites that have kept me from truly living. I’m not saying that this is the thing that is going to work for me, but it is the thing I need most right now. It’s going to be disgusting and horrifying to discover the character defects that await me, and it’s going to be difficult to pry them out because they’ve been sucking me dry for years and years now. But at least I know of their existence and I can begin to work them loose.

Unraveled

Years ago, I was a broke kid trying to pass myself off as an adult in my first office job. I was very insecure about everything. I had no problem picking up the actual work and I was excellent at my job. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I stood out like a sore thumb. I was the youngest in the office by far, and since I’ve always looked much younger than I really am I felt like a 15 year-old amongst 30-somethings.

One of my most stressful insecurities concerned my wardrobe. Prior to this gig, my wardrobe consisted almost entirely of jeans and t-shirts, plus a load of scrubs from a year stint working at the hospital. I did the best I could to put together a business casual wardrobe with my limited funds, which meant that the majority of the items I purchased were quite cheap & didn’t last very long.

One day, I was wearing a skirt that I had just bought, worn, and washed once. It was cute, but was incredibly frustrating as the trim at the waist had immediately begun unraveling in 3 separate spots. I secured it the best I could with safety pins, threw on a shirt that would cover the whole mess, and went in to work. At some point during the day I was back in the file room with one of my coworkers when she complimented me on my skirt. Embarrassed about how cheap the thing was, I lifted my shirt enough to show her how badly the thing had become unraveled. She said, “Oh, don’t worry about that,” and lifted her shirt enough to show me that her skirt, too, was being held together by safety pins.

Of late, I’ve been much more consciously working on creating positive inner monologues during my morning commute. This morning, I touched on fear and how I tend to create a persona to keep others from getting too close and seeing how vulnerable I really am. My visual representation of this feeling (as my inner monologues are often more visual than auditory) is always that of a little kitten puffing herself up to lash out at a big, curious dog. I recalled the story of my unraveling skirt and reminded myself that I don’t need to fear showing people my vulnerable spots because they, too, are vulnerable despite how put together they look on the outside.

I often recall this memory in an attempt to assuage my fears and allow people to get close. This morning, however, the images of the scared kitten and the unraveled skirt were met with a Biblical one. I pictured Jesus showing Thomas the scars in His hands after His resurrection. I’d never looked at this story from that perspective before, but it was so helpful! Generally, we study this story through the lens of “Doubting Thomas” needing physical proof that this was actually his Lord and Savior risen from the dead. I, too, have a desire for physical proof, so I’ve never liked the way Thomas is often derided for lacking faith. Maybe that’s not the only way we can read that story, though.

When I took another look at the interaction between Jesus and Thomas this morning, I didn’t see a man thinking he was being tricked by someone in a Jesus costume. What I saw was a man afraid of his own human failings. I saw Thomas feeling inadequate next to the Man who was once his good friend. But Jesus said “Oh no, you don’t need to worry about that,” and showed Thomas how He, too, was imperfect in the eyes of the world. I picture Thomas afraid to show his unraveling skirt, but Jesus beats him to the punch by pulling aside His shirt to show where He’s unraveling, too. This morning, I saw the action as Jesus choosing to reveal His scars so that he can connect with love instead of acting all high and mighty, pretending they’re not there so that he can save face.

I’m no theologian or Biblical scholar, so I could be radically wrong by these standards. However, it felt true to me this morning and provided me a lot of comfort, allowing me to normalize and dissipate my fears. I am unraveled in spots, but that is how I connect with love.

Sober Eating

As I mentioned previously, I am working on another project which will tie in with GD&T a bit. It is a work in progress, but y’all are welcome to check it out… and you may even get to help me out with my homework a bit. I am taking a course about “Food and Culture” and over the course of the semester we are each working on a project of our own choosing, just so long as it has to do with food and society. I said, “Hey, alcoholics in recovery make up quite a unique society AND they generally eat (or at least drink) differently from the general populace.” So, here I am, introducing Sober Eating which will hopefully be a more interactive blog than this, specifically focused on how folks in recovery eat. If you have any special resources you use – sober cookbooks, food websites, mocktail recipes, etc. – that you would like to share, let me know either here or there. Hopefully, we can work together to make this an actually functional resource for people new to sobriety.

Letting Go of Our Old Ideas

Like many AA gatherings I’ve been to, my home group starts off each meeting with “How It Works” from page 58 in the Big Book. We have one member who, when he does the reading, purposely stumbles over one word for emphasis. Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wrong, promptly admitted it.” His is not my story to tell, but I could relate the exact same sort of difficulty admitting times that I might possibly not have been 100% right. They say if you stick around the rooms long enough, you’ll hear someone tell your story. This is one of those guys who was “reading my mail,” so to speak. Like him, I was the “I know, I know, I know” person. You couldn’t tell me anything. I could never admit that there was something I didn’t know, nor that anyone may know something better than I did.

Notice how all that was written past tense? See, even when I’m telling on myself I still want you to believe that this was a problem I used to have and now I’m all better. Like, maybe once upon a time I might have been wrong-ish, but I got past that. I’ll keep coming back.

As you could probably tell from my last post, I’ve been a bit more lax with my spiritual program over the last year than I have been in years past. And, of course, that has worked out for me just as well as everyone in the meetings says when they have also rested on their laurels a bit too long. Recently, I have taken to being more mindful in praying for my thinking to be divorced of self-pity, guilt, and shame as these three have taken up temporary residence in my brain. The vicissitudes of life have been rather overwhelming for me and I have fallen back into a lot of bad habits to avoid my feelings. I’ve not been drinking or drugging, but rather bingeing on Netflix and games on my phone for hours on end. Perhaps not as physically damaging, but certainly stemming from the same spiritual deficiency.

So, of course, I’ve been feeling as if I’ve gotten nowhere over this past year. My addict brain tells me that God will be upset with me or that He’s abandoned me or whatever inane nonsense addicts like to spew. But when I actually open my eyes to who I am today, I realize that God has been working on me Big Time during my spiritual hibernation. And the changes that have been taking place in me are a lot of the reason that I’ve been trying to avoid my feelings. This year has been whittling away at my dogmatic insistence about anything and everything. I have had to question long-held beliefs about who I am and what is important in life. I have had to let go of any security in the physical world and humble myself completely. I have had to admit “I can’t do it” in regards to aspects of my character that I held in high esteem. I had to let go completely. I had to admit I was “wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wrong.”

Right around the time that things started getting super wonky, I latched onto one little bit of wisdom from pages 25-26: “[W]e had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This we did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to make the effort.” These words remained near the forefront of my mind all this time, even as I stubbornly fought tooth and nail to hold onto my old ideas of who I was supposed to be. They sat there like so many people who offered me advice in early sobriety and I kept answering them the same way, “I know, I know, I know.”

Today, though, I have to ask myself, “Do I honestly want to accept spiritual help?” and “Am I willing to make the effort?” I can’t fool myself into believing that just because so many things make me think to turn back to that page and reread those words that I am actually doing what those words say. I have a choice today to either continue attempting to hold onto my remaining old ideas or to admit that I may not be 100% correct about everything I think I know. And if I am willing to admit a minor case of wrong-ness, I have to actually make some effort to rectify matters. I can’t continue to sit in the alcoholic’s dilemma with a tiny bit of willingness and action leading to a life that’s happy, joyous, and free on one hand and blotting out my consciousness leading to the hideous four horsemen on the other.

Today I chose to speak up and take some action. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. And I most certainly don’t have all the answers.

Back in the Saddle

A couple months ago I got an email from WordPress saying that GD&T was overdue for renewal and so the domain was going to expire. I had been meaning to renew it, but felt I didn’t have anything to say so there was no immediate need to do so. It’s been a year since I’ve posted with any regularity. I never meant to take such a long hiatus. I never meant to actively take a hiatus at all. Life just got weird.

What do I mean by that? Well, there’s a whole lot of story that took place over the past year, but primarily I mean this: We alcoholics are an undisciplined lot. We (or maybe I should just say “I” as I don’t purport to speak for all of the alcoholic community) need some sort of regular schedule to keep us (me) doing what we (I) need to do. Since leaving work 15 months ago, my life has been anything but routine or disciplined. I’ve felt very disjointed and sometimes like I was floundering even trying to keep the “Beam” in sight, let alone staying on it.

I didn’t take into account how badly the shifting schedule of a college student was going to fuck with my sanity. Every few months I have to change my entire focus of study as well as my daily schedule. Then midterms and finals come and I have to change things up so I can spend more time studying or putting together big projects. Then I get a month or so with no responsibilities if I don’t want them.

Add to that all the wonderful growth opportunities that came up this year: Twice now, we’ve gone for an extended period of time (2-3 months, each) with absolutely no income and no idea how rent was going to get paid or how we were going to feed the family. (We are currently in the second such stretch now, though this one so far hasn’t been as bad as the first.) One of my classes triggered some serious issues from my childhood that I had to work through, and I began a new journey through the program of Adult Children of Alcoholics which has allowed me to look at some things from a new perspective. Meanwhile, we learned that my baby girl had suffered some physical and emotional abuse from her stepmother. So of course I was a complete and utter crazy person, doing my damnedest not to go and kill the woman (not that I would ever literally hurt her, but I certainly had some anger and resentment I had to work through). And then people started dying. Like, a lot of people. Most of them were older and/or quite ill. Some were closer than others. But we lost 6 people in 6 weeks and that was really rough.

Dude.

So, yeah, God has been working on teaching me to rely on Him more. And I have had wonderful opportunities to learn to discipline myself better and stop procrastinating so much. That is, I have had the opportunities, not necessarily that I have acted on them. Oops. This year has felt a lot more like survival than growth, and unfortunately it’s not quite over yet. There does seem to be a light on the horizon, though.

The nice thing is that I really do trust God here. I have been scared and worried about what’s going to come next, but at the end of the day I know that no matter what happens I’m going to be fine. There are a lot of rough edges I still need to work off in order to help this time go more smoothly, but I have changed a lot this year, too. I am more calm, more quick to admit I may be wrong or to let the little things go. I’ve gained a whole new level of trust that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve been gentler on myself and less proud (do not confuse pride with self-centeredness because I am as egocentric as ever). I’ve been able to take the mothering thing to a whole new level, too. I have a lot more confidence when it comes to my kids than I ever have before. And even though I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, I know a lot more things I don’t want to do with my life now.

So, yeah, I’m still here. Still sober. Still doing the thing. I don’t have a whole lot of wisdom to impart just yet, but I am crawling out from under my rock to see what the world looks like again. I don’t know exactly what is going to be happening here at GD&T, but there is going to be a new feature coming soon, thanks to one of my classes. More on that later. Right now, I just wanted to take a minute to let you know I’m alive and reasonably well, despite a little extra dirt on the tires.

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