Tag Archive | alcoholism

The truth about women and addiction.

In the early 1980’s I was working as a nurse, fresh out of college, and found myself caring for a couple of patients whose illnesses totally baffled the doctors. One day while I was caring for one of these very sick gentlemen, and doctor informed me that they thought they might “have that AIDS that everyone is talking about all over the news.” We were all terrified. I look at the years that followed the appearance of AIDS, then HIV/AIDS—first the fear and condemnation, then the research and education, and 30 years later, as a society, we view HIV/AIDS with compassion, and through totally different eyes.

And yet, in the same 30 years, while we know much more about drug and alcohol addiction, there is still an incredible stigma attached, especially for women who suffer from addictions. We still cast stones and make harsh judgments rather than working to increase public knowledge, as well as increasing funding for treatment. Instead, funding is drying up, and beds in rehabs and treatment centers are disappearing for women in need of help for drug and alcohol addiction, but who cannot afford to pay for it themselves. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction and how we view women addicts, we are still living in the Dark Ages. After all, women are supposed to be good wives and mothers, not addicts and alcoholics.

When we take a closer look at drug and alcohol abuse, we can see that women differ from men in many areas. To begin, it is estimated that 20 million girls and women in the United States abuse drugs and alcohol. Women get drunk or high faster than men, and it takes less of whatever substance is being used for a woman to get drunk or high. Also, because a woman’s body contains less water and more fat than a man’s, combined with the hormonal and psychological differences that exist between men and women, women are twice as likely than men to become addicted to drugs and alcohol and in a much shorter period of time.

Women also get sicker faster, developing things such as cirrhosis much sooner. This is a triple whammy for women who drink or use drugs. It is also estimated that 90% of women who need treatment for drugs and alcohol do not get it. In many cases, this is probably because they are afraid of how they will look if they admit they have a drug or alcohol problem. Women still want to be viewed as ladies, and a drunk or an addict is not a lady.

Women drink and use drugs for different reasons than men, too. Women drink to self medicate from depression, or psychological pain. In America, one in every four women has been a victim of sexual abuse of some sort, and most of the abuse occurs before the woman reaches the age of 30. Women who have survived sexual abuse are six time more likely to suffer from PTSD, thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. I was sexually abused at the age of 5, and again in my early teen years, and raped at age 18.

Women use substances to relieve stress, feel better about themselves, and even as a means to lose weight. Women do not drink or drug for the fun of it, and speaking very personally, once a woman is addicted to alcohol or drugs, there is absolutely no fun in the use of the drug of choice. Mine was alcohol, and it was hell, and it became a vicious cycle of guilt and shame. We drink or drug because we feel bad about ourselves, and as our addiction begins to ruins our families and our lives, we use more because of the shame of being a bad mother, or a drunken wife, or just not being a lady, in control and functioning.

Alcohol and drug addiction are fatal, progressive diseases, like diabetes, or heart disease, except there are no magic medications to take to control the progression of the disease. Annually, 80,000 people die from alcohol addiction, and another 60,000 die from drugs. It is not lack of will, or caring more about a high or a drink than family, friends, and work, that keeps women using. It is lack of treatment and support.

And while, getting clean and sober is great when it happens, staying clean and sober is not easy, and just being off of drugs and alcohol is not enough. Unless the woman addict gets to the core issue of why she drinks or drugs—gets to the bottom of that essential pain, and works to vanquish it, long-term sobriety becomes even harder. And all of this has to happen while we are raising children and having careers, and in the face of a society that views women alcoholics and addicts with little more than disdain and disgust.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have been sober for 5 years, but not without three rehab experiences, a 6 month stay in a half way house, several incarceration experiences, more relapses than can be counted, a great deal of therapy to get to essence of my pain, and the continued hard work to complete the healing process. By all rights, I should be dead many times over. I have a family that loves me deeply and friends who have stood by me and cheered me on. I almost lost all it all. I am so blessed that I did not.

At the same time, I very deeply know what the stigma of the female alcoholic or addict looks like because I have seen it first hand, and it is ugly and mean. I also know what it is like to live with the seemingly impossible-to-bear guilt and shame that goes along with being a woman alcoholic and a wife and a mother. It is the type of pain that at times feels bottomless and beyond healing. Just when you’ve peeled away a layer, and healed it, another layer of shame is just beneath, bursting forth with more pain, either to be faced and healed, or to run from.

I choose the pain and healing. But, my sobriety tomorrow is no more guaranteed for me than it is more any other alcoholic or addict. I have a disease that I will have to treat the rest of my life, and it is a disease that does not care if you are rich or poor, well-educated or not, a talented and beautiful celebrity, or an average wife and soccer mom. I treat my disease every day with what works for me, which faith and devotion to God, prayer, attentiveness to my needs and temperament, and a lot of self-care.

It’s time to come out of the Dark Ages and work towards a real understanding of drug and alcohol addiction, especially in women, and it’s time we got rid of the shame and stigma, and replaced with help and compassion. We managed to do just that with HIV/AIDS. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why we cannot do the same for women suffering and dying from drug and alcohol addiction. Perhaps it is time that we who are women alcoholic and addicts came out of the shadows and spoke our truths out loud for all to hear.

Maybe it is time to stop being anonymous, and to be visible instead—to fight for acceptance, understanding, and increased public knowledge. Maybe then the stigma will vanish. Maybe then we can do something to stop beautiful women addicts and alcoholics from hiding in shame rather than getting help. Maybe then we can stop women suffering from addiction from dying tragic deaths each and every day.

 

Helping someone newly sober…what you can do.

Last week, my friend, El, over at Running From Hell with El wrote a blog post about walking away from a gin and tonic that she saw sitting in HER kitchen on the counter.  It was a brave and honest post and I felt proud and happy for her in the end.  I say in the end, because as I read the post the single thought that kept running through my head was this: “What in the hell was a gin and tonic doing on the counter in her kitchen?”  As an alcoholic in recovery, I was angry for her, and at whoever had made the drink in HER kitchen and left it sitting there.  I was so upset that I almost called her immediately and asked her the question that would not leave me, “El, what in the hell was a gin and tonic doing on your kitchen counter?”  But, I didn’t.  I didn’t want to intrude–her house, her family, her rules.

Today I gave El a call on an unrelated topic.  We talked a lot about writing and then we hit the subject of blogs.  It was at that point that I did ask the question about the gin and tonic.  I asked because El is an alcoholic in early recovery, sitting at about six months, and I remember well what that period of time looks like and feels like.  It is a vulnerable time where sometimes it feels as if you are staying sober minute by minute.  Early sobriety looks and feels a lot different than five years of sobriety does, or ten, or twenty, I suspect.  Early sobriety is a tight wire walk where balance is continuously being reevaluated and reestablished.  It is a very selfish time in a great many respects, because in order to maintain the balance needed to stay sober, we need to ask for help from a variety of different types of people.  The people who we will need the most help and support from are those closest to us…our friends and family.

This can be very hard for many of us to do—to ask for what we need during that first year.  El told me that she didn’t want any booze in her house, but felt she might be asking too much to demand that alcohol not be present in her home.  She is not asking too much.  In fact, by not demanding that there be no alcohol in her house she is asking too much of herself, and too little of those who need to be supporting her.  Alcoholism is a disease and yet so many people see it as weakness of will, or a character defect.  It is a disease just like diabetes, or heart disease.  Most of us would never dream of sitting down and eating a big bag full of candy in front of a friend newly diagnosed with diabetes, especially not his favorite candy.  We would think that rude, lacking support, or just plain disrespectful of his battle, and his feelings.

Likewise, when a person is newly diagnosed with heart disease, the whole family makes changes.  This was certainly the case when my father was diagnosed with heart disease.  My mother kicked into high gear and changed what she cooked and how she cooked it, and she did not just make the changes for my father.  We all had to make the same  dietary changes.  We loved him and wanted him to live, so we didn’t complain.  We just did it.  We didn’t care if we ate chicken every night of the week.  We could get a hamburger somewhere else.  We could not get another father.

Just like diabetes and heart disease, alcoholism, if not treated, is a progressive, fatal disease.  People die every day from alcoholism and addiction.  Also, just like diabetes and heart disease, alcoholism in a family member affects the entire family.  Everyone will need to make changes to support the one who is working to stay well.  Giving up cake, or steak, or a nightly drink is precious little to have to give up if it mean helping to keep someone we love well and making them feel loved, and supported during a time that is stressful by its very nature.  Alcoholism is a chronic disease and anyone living and coping with a newly diagnosed chronic disease will grieve and move through many emotional phases as they find their center again.  In turn, the entire family system will need to lovingly recalculate their choices, behaviors, and roles in the now changed family.  Flexibility, understanding, and love is required of all those involved.

What can you do if you are living with someone in early sobriety?  First off, you can and should give up your nightly drink and keep alcohol out of the house.  If this is a change that you are not willing to make then you need to ask yourself if you might have a problem yourself, of if there is a rather ugly agenda underneath your unwillingness to give up your drink.  It is not uncommon for a partner to miss drinking with his loved one and may, unwittingly or not, seek to have that special bond back.  A relapse would do just that… That is selfishness and it is playing Russian roulette with your loved one’s sobriety and very life.  Certainly, you would never force them to drink, but action do speak louder than words… Oftentimes, a family member may have a hard time dealing with the raw emotions of the newly sober person and might unconsciously want them to drink again so things will go back to “normal.” Examine your own feelings honestly.  Of course, if an alcoholic really wants to drink they will find a way.  I know I sure did, but why place temptation right on the counter?

Also, if you do give up that drink and get rid of the booze in the house, please don’t act put out, as if you’ve made some sacrifice akin to giving up a kidney for them.  Do not talk about “the good times” you had drinking together, and don’t glamorize drinking, or talk about how much you miss booze.  Take the time to educate yourself about alcoholism and addiction.  Read all that you can, and if you need more help understanding, find an Al-Anon meeting and go to it.  Get family counseling, and individual counseling.  Denying this is big for the whole family is a big mistake.

Be respectful of what your loved one is going through–and this goes both ways–and forgive.  Forgive your loved one for being an alcoholic and for causing you to have to give up things that you like, and times you cherished.  Love each other.  Rediscover each other.  Move forward together, gently, respectfully, and with the greatest amount of love and understanding possible.  Be a team because that is what families do.

I know better than anyone that no one ever poured a single drink down my throat when I was drinking, and I am not implying that it is anyone’s responsibility but the alcoholics to turn away from the drink, as El did.  I am saying that if you can make changes that will make it less likely for a person new in their sobriety to have to walk away, then you should do it, and do it gladly, with no resentment.  Over time, things will change and sobriety won’t be as brittle and thread-like anymore.  When that time comes, everyone will know it, but until then, simple changes can make a huge difference, so please make them.  It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to create health for your entire family, and for generations to come.

Mother’s Day Reflections—A Quickie ;-)

“It seems odd to celebrate one’s mom is just one day. Someone so important should be celebrated every day.”  Anonymous, because he’d prefer it that way.

I have seven gorgeous children who are the light of my life.  Six are adults, and one is just 7 years old.  They are truly amazing, though I admit to a bit of bias.  To say that they are accomplished is an understatement, and that includes the 7 year old.  While their accomplishments are good for bragging rights, they are their accomplishments, not mine, and their accomplishments are not what makes them so special.   As I have always said, I wouldn’t care what they did as long as they are happy doing it.

What makes them so amazing is their personalities, and their character.  They are kind and generous.  They are loving and they are funny as can be.  They can laugh at themselves, and no one can get me laughing faster, or harder, than my children, with my sisters coming in at a close second.  They help me laugh at myself, and we have those family stories that are hilarious to us every time.   We have a secret language of movie quotes that we all understand, and can use to convey a variety of thoughts and emotions.  “Keep the change you filthy animal,” means “I love you,” or “You owe me nothing, it’s a gift.”  We’re all a little nutty, in a good way, of course.  We we are all together, the room vibrates with love, hot conversation, and tons and tons of laughter.  Individually, we are all quiet people, and true introverts, but together we are a gaggle of kindred spirits knowing we are fully home.

However, their greatest gifts lie in their ability to forgive, and to move forward, and to recalculate life, and the people in it, as needed.  This is what means the most to me, because I have required forgiveness more than most mothers.  I have required forgiveness again, and again, and again, and each time it’s been freely given.  They’ve forgiven the years of drinking, and my inability to be there for them properly.  They have forgiven the times I was physically absent due to rehab stays, or jail stays, or prison.  They have forgiven lavishly, with no lingering resentments, and they have moved forward in their view of me as I have recovered.  In many ways, we have been growing up together and they have been as patient with me as I have been with them.  They love me unconditionally, as I have loved them.

Yet, for many years, because of all of the guilt and shame I dragged around because of my perceived poor performance as a mother, I lagged behind them both in my forgiveness of myself, and my ability to recalculate who I am today, as opposed to who I was 10 years ago.   I have been forced to stop and look at myself through their eyes, and actually feel their words, not just hear them.  They did not become who they are today in some miraculous vacuum.  They remind me of this often, and of course, their father has played a role, the older kids having seen the worst, and the youngest having been spared most of that.  Because of my children, and God’s grace, which underpins all of this, I have been able to forgive myself, and I am getting up to speed in the recalculating of my view of me.   I thank God every day for these precious people that He trusted me to care for and love, flawed as I am.

My own mother died over 24 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  Although we had bumps in our relationship, by the time she died, we had reached a place of deep friendship.   She was always the first person I wanted to call when anything happened in my life, good or bad.  Now, I am blessed to have three women in my life who are both friends, and mothers to me.  One woman spoils me silly, and is a grandmother to my 7 year old, though there are no blood ties.  Another is chock full of common sense, and tells it like it is.  She loves to cook, too, like I do, so we share recipes and new food finds.  The third woman is the one to whom I can cry my eyes out, and I discover a bit more of myself every time I talk to her.  There is reciprocity in all of these relationships, which is what makes them so special.

But, the best mother that I have now is myself.  In the recalculating I have had to do—the seeing myself as all of these other very special people see me—I have come to realize that I can, and should, give every wonderful gift to myself that I give to others, and that others so richly give to me.  Knowing that God has fully forgiven me, as have all of the people who matter the most to me, I realized that it is more than a little arrogant not to forgive myself, and treat myself with the love and kindness that I deserve.  What a tremendous gift that has been, and it’s one that will remain.  I am blessed beyond words, and I wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Day’s.  Mothers come in may forms–our own mothers, our children, our friends, our sisters, ourselves.  Even if you have no children, you can celebrate and honor the mother within you today.

That quote up top came from my 20 year old son…  I am sure I’ll stop crying anytime now 😉  Happy Mother’s Day!

Addiction versus Narcissism and Sociopathy

Yesterday, I read a post on a blog where the poster was speaking of people with substance abuse issues in what I consider to be a very narrow view.  Basically, what he reduced a person with an addiction was to “an addictive personality,” nothing more, nothing less.  Taking it further, the poster went on to say that addictive personalities have life-long, deep seated character problems, blame the world for their problems, and fail to take personal responsibility for their behavior.  That these comments were made my a retired psychiatrist, not just some man off the street, is even more disturbing.  While it is true that someone deep in their addiction will generally deflect responsibility onto someone, or something else, once recovery begins, so does acceptance of one’s own personal responsibility in poor choices, bad behaviors, and so forth.

However, to reduce addiction to a character defect, and to claim all addicts and alcoholics are merely addictive personalities does a severe disservice to those living in addiction, and those who have triumphed over their addiction.  Experience has taught me, both  intensely personal, and from extensive observation of others, that addiction is never that simple.  I believe this is especially true for women, because it is most often women who are subject to childhood trauma and sexual abuse, and these women are then are left to somehow pick up the pieces from those experiences without an instruction manual.

Childhood trauma and abuse lead to PTSD and, over a lifetime, PTSD can look like many, many things.  This is well documented in psychiatric world.  PTSD can lead to eating disorders, self harm, substance abuse, and repeated poor choices in life.  PTSD at various times in life can come out as depression, anger, and anxiety.  It can look like bipolar disorder, and is often misdiagnosed and treated as such.  Until the PTSD is faced, treated, and defeated, it can look and behave like so many things that are only red herrings.  Of course, childhood trauma and abuse that leads to substance abuse, or other self defeating behaviors, does not factor in any genetic components, also so important to acknowledge.  That a child who lives in an alcoholic home is more apt to be traumatized as a child goes without saying, and certainly in this case, you have trauma mixed neatly with unfortunate genetics.

It was while I was prison that I first became acquainted with the ACES Study.  ACES is an acronym for adverse childhood experiences study.  Adverse childhood experiences are, simply, put traumatic experience which occurred before the age of 18.  What I learned was among my fellow female inmates, nearly 100% of these women had an ACES score of over 6, with 10 being the highest possible score.  Statistics on women in prison who have suffered childhood abuse and trauma are generally quoted at being of 60% to 90%.  I tend to believe the 90%.  Since women in prison are almost always there for drug and alcohol related crimes, what does this tell us?   It tell me that these women, myself included, we not born flawed, nor defective, nor are we merely addictive personalities.  We are women who have been hurt, and hurt again, and then hurt some more, and we coped with that pain the best way we knew how, as faulty and personally destructive as was that coping mechanism.  Of course, when we are drinking or drugging, we are a perfect candidate for an abuser looking for an easy target to prey on, and the cycle continues, and gets worse.

But, alcoholism, addiction, and PTSD are all very treatable.   People do get better and go on to live healthy, productive, lives.  Some people go beyond getting better.  They move on to become authentic.  That brings me to my favored personality development theory, Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration.  As much as I like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Dabrowski rings far more true for me.  Loathe as I am to use Wikipedia as a source, for this topic, I am going to do it.  So, go here and read this: Positive Disintegration.  It’s not an easy or a quick read, but it is extremely worthwhile.  The theory is far too complex for me to give you a nutshell description here.

So, how can disintegration, an ugly term, ever be positive?  In certain persons, people Dabrowski terms as those with a high developmental potential, disintegration, as messy, and painful, and ugly as it is, eventually leads to the ultimate reintegration, and that is where the authentic person is found.   Dabrowski speaks of people with inherent overexcitabilies, similar to Elaine Aron’s traits of the Highly Sensitive Person.  A HSP, or a person with these overexcitabilities will see and feel life far more intensely than the average person.  I am a HSP, and I have several children who are, too.   Actually, I think they six out of the seven are, to one degree or another.  So, for we HSPs, life just hurts.  Are we born HSPs, or with these overexcitabilities, or are they born from childhood trauma?  What does childhood trauma do to a HSP?  Well, it may lead to that all important series of disintegration experiences, which, if faced appropriately, can lead to a beautiful place called authenticity.

I know many, many, women who are doing more than recovering from addiction, and healing from childhood trauma.  They are working hard to build their disintegration experiences into a firm foundation of personal integrity and authenticity.  These women, and I am one of them, have moved beyond excuses and blame and self abuse.  They live in honesty of all that they were, what they experienced, how it affected them, and those around them. We have a gleaming personal integrity.  We make mistakes, and take responsibility, we apologize, we keep moving forward.  It’s a beautiful way to live, and a gorgeous thing to watch.

Contrast all of the above with the narcissist, or the sociopath.  These are the people who are truly flawed to the core.  They do not get better.  They are the extreme in the term “treatment resistant.”  They lie, blame, fail to take personal responsibility, but worse, they see absolutely nothing wrong with that behavior, or themselves.  They almost never seek treatment, and if they do, they almost always use it to hone their craftiness—too learn how to better fake being human. Since they believe there is nothing wrong with them, they do not seek treatment to get better. They generally do it to shut someone up, usually a partner.  In their minds, there is nothing to get better from, so they lie their way through therapy, and the therapist often gets sucked in by their charm, so he or she may actually pat the narcissist or sociopath on the back and tell him he’s just fine.  For this reason, in many ways, it is far better for a sociopath not to seek help lest he come out of it more advanced in his manipulation skills.  These people are the users and abusers in the world, and they are everywhere.

So, give me addiction and PTSD and a messy looking life any day!   I am healing, and I moving forward, and I am better, and lest I sound a tad narcissistic, I am beautiful.   I am not an addictive personality.  I am a glorious, genuine, human being with integrity, kindness, compassion.  I live a wonderful life.

On Forgiveness of Self…It’s Key

I am a writer.  I wrote this the other day and I have to put it somewhere for now.  Take good care of it 😉

I am a recovering alcoholic.  I have been sober over 8 years, and I love every day of my life now, which is some form of major miracle to my mind, both the sobriety and the sheer joy and happiness.  I love who I am today, and I believe that I am finally the woman I was meant to be all of my life.  That this has finally happened at the age of 52 carries with it certain sense of poignancy, though I try not to dwell on what life might have been like had I found myself sooner, or more to the point, never surrendered myself in the first place.  However, I intellectually know that when trauma and sexual abuse happens to a person at the age of 4 or 5, that person is in no solid position to decide what they surrender or do not.  This is especially true if there is no supportive adult to guide the child through, or someone to simply bother to acknowledge that it happened in the first place.

Did you notice that?  Did you notice that as soon as I began to talk of sexual abuse, and a person, not a child, being 4 or 5, that I switched from writing in the first person to the third person?  Amazingly, I caught it instantly, which I think means that what I know intellectually is moving ever closer to my heart.  To that place of actually feeling the pain, rather than just having the knowledge that something happened that should not have. Since tears are rolling down my cheeks, I know I am feeling, not just thinking, which I am so very good at doing.  Think, think, think… Maybe I can think the pain to death, though that has been wholly ineffective to date.

I was sexually abused repeatedly at the age of 4 or 5 by my mother’s best friend’s 16 year old son.  I have a sister that is 13 months younger than me.  It was when he began to go after her as well, that’s when I went to my mother and told her.  The abuse stopped and not another word was ever spoken about it–ever.  Through my growing up years, I had to see this man time and again, each time our families got together.  I don’t know that if my father ever even knew, and since both my parents are long dead, I will never know.  Now, this is something that I have always known–that this happened to me.  But, who is, or was, me?

Until a few months ago, I never realized that the little girl who was molested was me, and that I was only 4 or 5…a baby, a tiny, little, defenseless, child.  Little 5 year old Ann.  I see her in snapshots looking so childishly smug, as if she knows all of the secrets of the world already.  There’s a certain air of superiority there, also.   I believe that, in my mind’s eye, I saw that little girl, me, as a perfectly capable mini-adult person who should have done something to stop all of it sooner.

Because I had failed then, I gave away myself in order to take on the role of the buffer for the world.  A buffer steps in protect others from pain.  A buffer gets beat up a lot.  A buffer learns to feel no pain, because if she did, it would hurt too much.  And that is what I did.  I learned how to feel no pain in a great variety of ways.  I was the buffer for 47 long, excruciatingly painful years.  It makes me so sad to see that now.  So sad for me as a little girl, and a teenager, and a woman.  I lost a lot of life being a buffer, and that hurts in ways words simply cannot capture.

At first, dissociation was my main trick, and I was especially good at it.  There is very little in this life that I undertake that I do not do especially well, expect for life itself, maybe.  When I found alcohol, it was like an answer to a prayer.  Something that took the pain away, and was socially acceptable, up to a point.  Of course, because if I am going to do something, I am going to do it extremely well, I reached that point, and passed it by many, many miles.  And now I am flogging myself with key strokes for not knowing another way to deal with my pain, or for putting a stop to the drinking before such a huge toll was taken…on me.

Certainly, many others were hurt, my children, especially, but for the most part, they seemed to have healed, or are healing, and have moved beyond it.  It’s me that’s stuck and oh, so mad at the person I became.  I don’t even what to think about that person, or believe that she ever existed.  I have hated her for years now, and hidden her, but she is long gone, so, in truth, it has been me hiding from her—long dead, and gone.  Just like I have been hiding from my anger at my mother, who set me up for such a life of pain by her coldness, detachment, and her absolute insistence that I be strong, and never shed a tear, no matter what happened to me in my life, because somehow it was always a reflection on her.

And so, me, who is finally almost free, is still a subtle slave to these two dead women.  Had my mother been able to love me, and accept me, and care for me, in the way that I needed when I was 4 or 5, and every year after that, perhaps the second women, that part of myself that I am looking at today in the hopes of finally forgiving, well, she may have never come into existence.  She wasn’t, my mother, able to do any of those things, and I cannot change that.  She loved me very much.  I know that.  I was also a great disappointment to her, as well.  I know that, too. More than I know that she loved me.   I wasn’t smart enough, in the right way, for her, or strong enough, or whatever enough.  Or, maybe, I was too much of it all, smart, strong, talented, and pretty.  Maybe it was that she hated me for… Whatever the case, because of her, always cloaked in disappointment at her life, and some great internal misery none of us could reach, I have spent my life, both the parts prior to her death and after, trying to prove something to her.

I have been trying to prove that I am worthy, maybe, but I picked a funny way to prove that.  Or, maybe I wanted her to know that her pain had become mine, and had tripled in size and it was eating me alive, would she please come rescue and protect me now?  If it got bad enough, and it certainly did, would she finally reach out a hand to help me up?  Would she finally love me just as I was, so flawed and so in pain?  Would she hold me and comfort me and tell me it was okay.  That I was okay?  Of course, that was my 5 year old magical thinking, and it never happened.

The other day, my seven year old asked me what was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life?  How could I possibly choose, I thought?  Molestation, incest, rape, abuse, alcoholism, prison… I gave him a believable answer, and he told me that the worst thing that ever happened to him was when his Dad wouldn’t let his sister take him to Funtown, but took him himself.  I know full well when the worst part of my life was, it was a year midway through my 5 year relapse.  It was the year where the woman I do not want to look at was alive, and well, and fully running my life.  She was finally out in the open, so to speak, and it made her mad, and uncomfortable beyond words, so her actions spoke the most loudly.  She was trying to kill the pain, and her and I in the process.  That she did not is yet another miracle.

That year, I drank constantly.  I had lost my kids to their father because of my drinking, and the pain of that was unbearable. I was living alone in a strange house, having lost my house, and I was so cold all of the time.  Her, me, us, lost a baby at 9 weeks while I had been sober for 6 months, and after, we fell apart.  In some ways I wonder now if she was trying to save me from the man I was involved with at the time, who would years later become my sociopath husband.  I know now she was seeing what I did not want to see.  I have flashbacks every day from that time.

It was a horrid time when I would blackout for days at a time in the upstairs bedroom, to wake up completely naked, bedding torn off of the bed, covered in bruises and a rash, large knots all over my head.  I shook too badly to light a cigarette, or dial a phone for help.  I could not move my computer mouse smoothly enough to find out what time and day it was.  I’d find realtor’s card on the kitchen table and know that the house, which was on the market, was shown while I was blacked out.  I would find myself getting into the car with the express purpose to get drunk while driving.  I wrapped my car  around a tree in a blackout and ended up in the hospital.  Another time a friend could not reach me, and an ambulance came to my home and dragged me out of bed, again naked, and screaming, while my friend cried and watched.  I was in the hospital for days, not knowing what day it was, save for the note on the chalk board.  I didn’t eat.  I could not walk normally.  My arms would not swing by themselves, I had to force them to do it.  I was weak and spent hour upon day upon month sitting at the kitchen table just staring, even when my kids were over.  My hair was falling out.

I was back in the hospital again, days before I was to enter a rehab, having fallen and broken my nose in a blackout.  For three weeks after that, they, the hospital, the detox, and then the rehab, wondered if my brain would come back enough for me to live a normal life.  Amazingly, it did.  Amazingly, after another rehab, and two jail stays, and a 6 month half way house, I finally got sober, but she, the one who was trying to kill us, lived on, this time, feeding on shame.  She had plenty to eat, even when the rest of us didn’t.  I was getting stronger, and her far, far, weaker.  What finally killed her, the protector, and the queen of dissociation?  I believe in was the arrest that led me to spend six months of the last year in prison.

That was the last straw, and I woke up and looked around at the abuse I was suffering through yet again, and I took control, finally.  I got mad.  I said enough is enough, and I remember every single day since that day.  That’s a real first for me who has entire years in my life completely missing.  It was in prison that I finally knocked down the walls to the bunker that had held me, the 5 year old me, prisoner for 47 years.  That child is a part of me now, and I can feel her pain, and love her properly.  But what of this extremely strong, extremely angry, extremely protective, and extremely self destructive, woman who is dead, but not buried?

I look at her and see that she was the exterior wall of the fortress that protected me from a lifetime of pain.  She was the buffer.  She’s the one who stepped in and took all of the hits, and absorbed all of the shocks and insults.  She’s the one who stepped onto the plane and flew across the country to take care of whichever loved one was dying. She always found a way even when a way seemed impossible.  She not only took care of me, but the entire world she knew.  She’d gotten oh so very tired.  It’s an exhaustion that I still feel.  It was a terribly thankless job.  She carried all of the pain and kept me smiling a fake smile, and moving through life in the best, muddled, way that I could.

What human could endure such an enormous amount of pain and responsibility without help from anyone?  Not me.  I never would have made it without her, and her beauty, and her strength, and her tenacity, for as much as she wanted to die, she wanted me to live.  She gave me the time I needed to grow up, and grow strong on my own, and then she just disappeared when I was ready to take over the reigns.  She is me.  She was the very best of me crying to get out, and she was the very worst, most devastated, part of me, dying inside.   I have been hating myself for weakness that was really strength, ugliness that was really pain, and behaviors that were really just attempts to get love from a woman who just didn’t have it in her to give, alive or dead.

We are one now.  Me, and that tiny, little girl, and that tough as nails woman with a heart so big that she was willing to take on the pain of the world.  That person is me, and I am beautiful, and happy, and passionate, and talented, more than smart enough, and certainly good enough.  Forgiveness I give to you now, because you are me, and I love me, and I thank you.  We made it through to the other side, and on this side is healing and happiness.   It’s going to be okay.  I am okay, just the way that I am.

 

So, here I go…

I’ve tried to blog before and it didn’t last, probably because I was doing it for a reason that was not something that was in sync with what my heart knows that it wants to accomplish.  So, I plugged away, and plugged away, and what do you know…it became a bore and a chore.  This is going to be different.  This blog is going to be all about me.  The essential me, who I’ve just come to know at the age of 52 years old.

To say that I have lived a life of extremes would be a gross understatement.  I have lived a life where I never had to worry about money, and I’ve lived in abject poverty.  I have survived childhood sexual abuse, incest, rape, and two abusive marriages, the first mostly emotional, and verbal, though I guess those two black eyes and being held captive in my home for a week when I wanted out do take it to a higher level, and the second to a sociopath.  You could say that I do not pick ’em particularly well, but I am thinking that I won’t make those mistakes ever again 😉

I am a recovering alcoholic, 8 years sober.  I have a college education, and have been on many boards and committees, and all of that good stuff.  I have also been to two rehabs, and one halfway house, and I have been in jail twice, and just got out of prison six months ago, after a 6 months stay paying for sins of the past.  While, it was not on my prison “to-do” list, I made many lifetime friends there, and found myself, as well. I have seven of the most beautiful, caring, generous, forgiving, and accomplished children on the planet.  I like to say that they turned out quite well despite me, but when I am honest with myself, I know that it is because of me to a great extent.

I believe in God, and I love Jesus Christ.  I am devoutly faithful but not religious.   I think that most of the time it is Christians who give Christians a bad name.  I work very hard to walk the talk.  To that end, I am fixin’ to start and ministry and mentorship program for women coming out of incarceration situations. I am a true introvert who does an exceptionally good extravert imitation 😉

Most people, when hearing of my life experiences say, “Oh my, what a tragic life!”  I do not see it that way at all.  I am the eternal optimist, and idealist to the core.  I love my life, and finally knowing who I am, I love myself.  I spent a lifetime trying like crazy, until it made me crazy, to conform to some elusive standard of normalcy, or perfection, or success, and I never quite got it.  Now, I honor myself, and my heart and soul.  And suddenly, because of that one big change, I find that I am no longer just surviving, I am thriving!

The world is a beautiful place and I love life!  Most day, I feel like the most blessed woman on the planet, but this wasn’t always the way that I saw things.  It’s not easy getting from pain and blame and negativity to a place of peace and radical acceptance, but I know that if I can do it, anyone can.  So, let’s saddle up and ride and get to the other side, because the other side is a glorious place!

I typed this while eating toast and jam, which I highly recommend.  I must now go get something to clean my keyboard!  Onward!