Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflections of a haunted past...Day 12

I forgot my books at my office last week. The past week has been somewhat of a whirlwind. Hell, everyday feels like a whirlwind. Needless to say, 9 days passed before I opened up my Al-Anon books again. I woke up for no reason at 3:45am yesterday and laid there for about 30 minutes before I decided to finally get up and get going. I opened One Day At A Time in Al-Anon for November 29 and my breath caught as I read. It never ceases to amaze me how real this disease is. Just when I begin to feel alone and as if no one understands, I open one of my books and it's as if that page on that day was written just for me. However, this is a program that has been around for quite some time. Therefore, no one has written this book just for lonely, ole' me. However, there have been enough people who have felt the exact same way, that someone, somewhere, put it in writing. It gives me hope. I may not be surrounded by people who understand the insanity completely, but somewhere out there others understand my plight, my pain, and what a struggle this journey has been and will continue to be.
That being said...
From "One Day At A Time in Al-Anon"

November 29
     "In one of the Al-Anon leaflets, the following hard-to-believe statement is made: 'A drinking problem in the home can often be more easily recognized by the wife's behavior than by that of the drinker.'
     Isn't this an inevitable consequence of our turbulent emotions, our despair and uncertainty? Isn't it proved by our futile efforts to outwit the alcoholic, to compel him to stop drinking and meet his responsibilities? This self-imposed struggle to control the uncontrollable is certainly not rational!
     Once we experience the efforts of applying the Al-Anon program, and observe the miraculous changes that take place in the attitudes of our Al-Anon friends, we can look back thankfully that we, too, are improving our relationships.

Today's Reminder:
     As I see the progress I have made, it becomes clear to me that many of my earlier habitual reactions needed to be transformed into normal mature behavior. The only possible way to improve the conditions of one's life is to improve one's emotional condition.
     'Most of the things I did, in anger and frustration, only made matters worse. Now I am  
      learning to let go.' "

     This reading damn near knocked my off my seat! The first line really hit home to me. Much like I when I heard someone quote (in response to being asked what she thought her neighbors thought about her behavior towards her alcoholic husband), "I know what the neighbors think: poor guy; look at his wife. No wonder he drinks!"
     This was a picture perfect reflection of me. While I crumbled, drowned, and flipped the fuck out, he sat there calmly and bewildered right alongside our families. Now, don't get me wrong, I was in fact behaving like a complete lunatic. Ranting, raving, violent outburst that involved throwing things at him or hitting him during arguments. Followed by deep, deep, depression, suicidal thoughts and gestures. Followed by overwhelming anxiety (my chest still gets tight thinking about it) in regards to not understanding my behavior. Fearing what others thought and appearing invalid in my statements even when I was being rational. On top of the already overwhelming demands of two boys (5 and 18 months at the time), an alcoholic and unreliable husband, a demanding and unpredictable job, and my own issues w/ what became debilitating ADD, anxiety, and depression. This was the cycle I was stuck in for what seemed like forever. However, when I hear people talk of being married 25 years to an active alcoholic; my 3 years seem like nothing. But I just couldn't do it anymore.
     When I walked into Al-Anon almost a year ago, I felt so helpless and hopeless. I felt completely out of control and insane. I was suffering and struggling in every area of my life. When I opened my mouth to talk, I could barely breathe a word because I couldn't stop crying. I opened my mouth and the tears just started flowing. Heavy sobs of despair turned into relief. Sweet, sweet, relief. The relief to know someone else understood. The relief of being able to tell others about my irrational, embarrassing, and shameful outbursts and not feel judged. When I walked into those doors for the first time, I wasn't ready to leave my husband. I wasn't looking for anything until I heard someone say it. The program is about improving your quality of life regardless of what the other person is doing. "Quality of life"...a chance to improve my quality of life is what hooked me. My quality of life had gone down the tubes. Along with the quality of life of my two precious babies and those family and friends who felt compelled to do something, but completely helpless. People who loved me watched in horror, fear, and despair, my painful descent into the hell of this disease and my own mental health crises.
     What no one saw and no one knew until now, was the number of times I held a knife to my wrist, put a handful of anti-depressants in my mouth, or kneeling on the floor of the closet with a suitcase strap looped around the clothes bar and the other end around my neck. Except him. He witnessed these moments time and time again. In the throws of our arguments; when the rage would finally subside and the suffocating depression would set in, I would think that everyone, especially my two babies would be better off without me. Not only did I not want to live like this, I didn't think they deserved it either. They deserved better. No one saw, in response to me shoving a handful of pills in my mouth, my husband saying, "go ahead, you won't do it". No one saw him take pictures of me sitting on the floor with a knife pressed to my wrists as proof of my insanity and his innocence should something have happened to me. No one saw him turn his back and walk away from me as I kneeled on the floor of the nursery closet with the suitcase strap around my neck begging God for the strength to lean forward just long enough to lose consciousness. Tears streaming down my face as I stared at the crib in which my infant peacefully slept. Yearning to feel the same peace. Wanting to provide the best I could for these two precious miracles given to me. Thinking at that time, my children couldn't possibly know peace if they continued to know me. He stood there and watched me struggle with the decision. He turned his back and he walked away. I don't know how long I kneeled in that closet begging God for the balls to just do it and get it over with. It seemed like an eternity. What I do know is this: when I finally got the balls to get up off the floor and save myself, there he sat in the recliner, watching TV and drinking a beer. These were my cries for help and the one person who entered this covenant with me could have cared less if I lived or died. The psychological ramifications of my husband leaving me in my darkest moments are inexplicable. To be at your bottom; to want nothing more than the sweet surrender of death and be taunted is beyond words. If my own husband, father of my children, cared less whether I lived or died, why would anyone else?
     Now, by this point you may be thinking, "wow, what a fucking lunatic". To that thought, I have two things to say. One, you would be correct in your assessment of my behavior at that time. Two, I could really give two shits what anyone thinks anymore. I have been working in the human services field for close to 10 years, with a focus on mental health and now substance abuse (anyone else noticing the irony here?). I thought I understood the maddening thoughts and overwhelming urge to feed into them no matter how irrational. I thought I was gaining a much better understanding of addiction. However, NOTHING could have prepared me for this. Until I experienced, first hand, a mental breakdown of my own (my fall from grace, as I like to call it), I had no idea. Until I experienced, first hand, living with an alcoholic/addict, I had no idea its  ability to eat someone alive. When two sick people get together and in turn exacerbate each other's illnesses, you have NO IDEA. Not that friends and loved ones don't mean well when they give you the age old, "well, you should...". However, until you experience an already broken mind get mind-fucked into oblivion by the disease of addiction, you have no idea...
     I opened up my notebook tonight to an entry dated October 24, 2010. Here is what I had written just over a year ago. Right around the time, I hit my bottom and separated from my husband for the first time:
     I cringe as I lower my bruised and aching body into the hot bath. Senses heightened. I am more aware of my bumps and bruises than before. It's as if the warmth goes straight to the places that need healing. The bruises are a constant reminder of the pain within. Every time I wince in pain, my heart feels a tug as well. The physical pain is no match for the pain in my heart. Deeply saddened and grief-stricken about recent events. Saddened and somewhat relieved to be away. He is the only one who matters some days. I yearn for his acceptance and love. I yearn for his closeness. He is the only man who has had the ability to send me over the edge again and again. The way he looks at me. With such anger in his eyes. As if I am the most despicable person in the world. The things he says to me. It's as if he takes my deepest fears and uses them against me. He has the ability to break my heart, and he has. With each look, each taunting remark - they're like a hammer and chisel breaking the stone of my heart piece by piece. I don't know why I allow this to happen. Probably because I am not sure of myself and haven't been for a long time. I constantly question my purpose here and frequently find myself waiting for God to remove me and with my life, the pain will go as well. The rage I feel is a response to my pain. I have such deep-seeded pain. It comes out in rageful fits in which I say and do things I mercilessly regret. My regret becomes a deep sadness, a depression; and then I become paralyzed. So ashamed, I am afraid to move. Uncertain of my next step. Afraid it's too late; I've gone too far. Paralyzed by shame because I hate to see the pain in my loved ones eyes. Pain that I caused. Scars forever carved into their hearts. I am also paralyzed by fear. Fear of it happening again. After the dust settles and it looks as if we have a future, it attacks again. It sometimes seems it is due to something small. Something so minuscule, most don't even see it. But, it feeds that spot. That smoldering spot in my heart burning a hole right through. Like oxygen to a flame, it grows bigger and bigger until I am completely consumed. Unable to be reached for fear of being burned. Unable to help myself because I am overcome. Like a forest fire raging out of control; I am consumed. Like trying to put that forest fire out with a squirt gun - I am no match. Watching and witnessing the destruction but powerless to stop it. Weakened and saddened by it's ultimate demise. Sifting through the charred rubble. Smoldering and still hot to the touch. Attempting to find some piece. One piece, that on the outside may appear ruined, but once the black soot is wiped away you find color. Hope. Refuge. The thing is, unless the remains are handled with care; unless the hot spots are all located and put out, a little breeze could set it off again. And once a fire burns the same space again, less is left to repair. And as this cycle repeats itself, one fire after another - less and less remains intact. Less to sift through because it turns to dust when touched. The things you attempt to save may only look charred from a distance, but when you attempt to pick it up, it turns to dust. Falling at your feet. A vague memory of what once was.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two Steps Forward. One Step Back...Day 2

After last night's revelation, I really started today off with a feeling of peace. I did my daily readings, went for a hike, and wrote a letter to my friend. I had many moments of insecurity. However, I refused to let my neuroses win. It felt good to not give into the temptation as maddening as it became at times. Part of today's reading from "Courage to Change" stated: "I quit fighting the God of other people's understanding and found a God who honored the long forgotten spirit in me. That's the God who can restore me to my true self...Today I make a sincere effort to roll in the clover, kick up my heels and celebrate being alive...I will set my problems to the side for a little while and appreciate what it means to be vitally alive".
How true this is. Over the years, I have completely lost focus. I lost sight of who I am and I became a person, I not only didn't recognize, but that I despised. I remember saying time and time again while in my marriage, that I didn't even know who I was anymore. I hated the fact that I had become somebody I truly resented while with my husband.
So, when I found someone who I thought truly understood me, accepted me, and who would do anything to help me, I was over the moon ecstatic. I understand why the brakes have been put on and I really am trying to be OK with it. For the most part, I am OK with it. What I hate the most is how much I truly miss him. I miss my best friend; my confidant. I miss the banter of the person in which it seemed there was ageless symmetry. The intense connection has been replaced by vast space; a solar system between us. He lives across town, but it seems he moved to the moon. Most days I hate that I am held captive by that little red light on my phone indicating I have a message. What I find deeply saddening and heartbreaking is the thought that he may not feel the same way anymore. The fear that I have lost him.
There's that word: FEAR. I learned yesterday, fear is the absence of faith. Ain't that the truth. I lack faith and trust. It's has what led me here. I lack faith and trust in God. I lack faith and trust in myself. I lack faith in trust in those around me. I have looked in all the wrong places to have it filled, but it is fleeting at best. Until I put my faith and trust in God, I will continue on the same cycle - the same roller coaster. I have to continue to have faith that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have to trust God that He knows what he is doing and I most certainly, do not. As long as I am held captive by others, I am not living. I am merely surviving and not doing a bang up job it would seem. I need to quit focusing on others and focus on my God and myself. If I can do that, everything else will fall into place. Things will happen, regardless of whether I want them to or not. I have no control. The sooner I learn that the better. I need to stop distracting myself and/or expecting others to carry the load. I need to give it all to God and LET GO...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Beginning Again - Recovery Day 1

     It has been a long time coming. The day I choose to focus on myself. The day I realize I am unable to completely help others if I can't help myself. I can't forgive others if I can't forgive myself. And lastly, I can't get better if I continue to lose focus of what is important and who is important.
     I am not an addict or an alcoholic. However, I lived with one and I work with them daily. How can I call this journey recovery one may ask? Co-dependency is my disease and all the complications that go along with it: anxiety, depression, debilitating ADHD, hair loss, weight loss, chest pains, mood swings, severe neuroses, near job loss, broken relationships, isolation, martyrdom, the list goes on and on (some days). Much like an addict has to overcome the compulsion to use and admit they are powerless over their addiction, I have to overcome the compulsion to engage in old behavior and admit I am powerless over all that surrounds me. I go to Al-Anon and the occasional NA or AA meeting. I have "serenity, courage, wisdom" tattooed on my forearm. It doesn't mean I read it, let alone internalize it. It doesn't mean I haven't completely lost sight of what needs to be done. In fact, I have done the complete opposite.
     I have two young children and my divorce to their alcoholic, drug abusing father will be final in less than 48 hours. I became involved in another relationship way too soon. In my defense (or so I thought), this one was different because I didn't see someone who needed rescued. However, my co-dependency manifested in other ways. I became so dependant on this person to guide me; to be my rock; my stability; that I completely lost my mind. For my neuroses got the best of me and I started behaving like a lunatic. This well-meaning man wanted to help so bad, but couldn't. It wasn't until he ended the romantic part of our relationship until I got better, that I opened one eye (or squinted, I should say). Reality and truth carry blinding lights and when you open your eyes wide to see it, it is quite disorienting. I vacillated between being grateful for the role he decided to play in my life as strictly a friend and being so angry because he told me he would always be there for me. He told me he would not allow me to push him away. I was extremely angered and deeply hurt for being lied to AGAIN! However, when I forced myself to stop reading between the lines and read what was right in front of me, I realized that isn't what he is doing. He loves me, wants to be with me, but realized he was hindering my progress and me working on myself. He wants me to be better for me and my boys. So, he did the one thing neither of us had the self control to do in the beginning and told me to get better. He isn't going anywhere.
     So, tonight I went to a meeting. And God, did I need it! Parts of both readings today really resonated with me. The first, coming from "One Day At A Time in Al-Anon", which stated: "I had gone overboard trying to distract my mind from concentrating on the alcoholic problem" along with Today's Reminder, which stated: "Suddenly I awoke to the fact that Al-Anon asks a lot more of us than just to cope with the problem of alcoholism. We need to apply it to all departments of living - and in the order of importance." And finally, "I pray to remember to attend to first things first". The second reading from "Courage to Change", stated: "The goal I'm striving for in Al-Anon is an overall sense of wellness. My pursuit of this goal began by seeking recovery from the way a loved one's alcoholism has affected my life. But today Al-Anon offers me even more. As I heal and grow, I find that it is no longer enough simply to survive. Today, when I say I'm a grateful member of Al-Anon, I'm not zeroing in on one particular problem but rather participating in a whole host of solutions that can lead to emotional, physical, and spiritual health."
     One of the things that resonated with me in the very beginning of this program was the possibility of improving one's quality of life whether or not the alcoholic kept drinking or not. The promise and hope of the program kept me coming back. Most of all, I realized I wasn't alone. When I started applying the principles and noticed a difference in my life, I really knew I was on to something! Unfortunately, when in a marriage, if only one person recognizes the need to change their behavior while the other does whatever, you can only progress so far. Not to mean, my mental health was waning, to say the least, and my violent outbursts and deep-seeded resentments weren't healthy for me or my children. So, when I found the Fentanyl patch (next high powered opiate under heroin) in his coat pocket, I started planning my exit. So here I am wondering when I will get out of survival mode and be permitted to live again. The answer is: whenever I feel like completing the first step and admitting I am powerless and my life had become unmanageable. Once I give it all to God, I am giving up my control (or illusion of control, I should say). Hence the Serenity Prayer I have strategically placed on my forearm. "God, grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference". Can I get an AMEN!?!
     All this time, in the depths of my co-dependency, I was completely distracting myself from addressing my issues by delving into everyone elses. I couldn't fix myself, so I attempted to rescue others. And then, I look to someone else to save me, as if it is a possibility. Talk about insanity and setting oneself up to fail! I just run, run, run. When in moments of complete exhaustion and despair, I slip into self-loathing and martyrdom. And the only person I have to blame is me. This way of thinking and this neurotic behavior have led me on a downward spiral for quite some time. If I want off the roller coaster I have now created for myself, then I must first change my thinking and my behavior. I must look at the way my thinking and behavior contributes to situations. I must stop feeling sorry for myself and make the changes that need to be made. If I am ever going to get better, I have to "Give it all to God" and move on. Period.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

At the end of the day...

At the end of the day, as I am driving home completely exhausted (physically and emotionally), I am consumed by absent thought. My body hurts. I can feel the aches from working out yesterday; the tenderness from the chiropractor pressing on things. I would like nothing more than to go home and have someone take care of me. The mere presence of this thought haunts me; causing me to feel completely selfish and prima donna. I was raised to rely on no one. Period. Especially a man. I take care of others. I do not and will not allow anyone to take care of me. I will run myself ragged in the name of all those around me and banish help when offered. "I am woman. Hear me roar!!" However, pseudo-Irish twins; an estranged husband in need of a 12-step program (but in extreme denial); several mental health diagnoses later (of my own); an insane job; and a divorce in the balance; has led me to believe one really can't do it all. I have realized the hard way that sometimes you just have to ask for help; one person cannot do it on their own. That being said (and I really mean saying that was like pulling teeth because I would rather die trying than admit I cannot do it on my own...), am I admitting my own defeat? That is how I feel some times (most times) - defeated. In addition to feelings of defeat, I feel depleted and strained. I'm flat out, fucking tired. Period. My body aches, my chest hurts, my hair is falling out. What more can a person ask for?
Today, I drove by my empty parking spot and panicked that I had parked in a 2-hour spot, forgot to move my car, and would inevitably have a ticket. I then realized I was driving my car.
A few weeks ago, I called my cell phone from my office phone to check my voicemail and answered my cell phone when it rang! Seriously?!? I am losing whatever fragments of a mind are left!!
At the end of the day, I continue to ask myself when enough is enough?? If I manage to lose my job, maybe it will be a blessing in disguise. A human being can only take so much emotionally and physically. What I would give for a partner to share this burden. I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and let's face it, it's really heavy. However, I refuse help. Part of it has to do with the inability to trust in anyone. I fully trust no one; including God (my apologies to G-O-D). But, let's face it...he already knows, right?? He knows what bounces around in my FUBAR mind every second of every day. I hate to admit it, but my faith is waning. My strength faltering. My stamina, diminishing by the second. All I want to do is have someone hold me while I just cry. They don't need to say a word; just hold on tight and don't let go. As sobs cause my body to shake, just keep holding on. As tight as humanly possible. I want the ability to just let go; and I mean LET GO. Let all the angst, worry, regret, resentment, debilitating pain, completely drain out of me until there is nothing left. I spend all day taking care of others; and to be quite honest, I am OK with it, mainly because it affords me the opportunity to be distracted from my own dysfunction. However, many a day, I find myself driving home yearning for someone to take care of me. I yearn for someone to share the burden  of the weight of the world. At the end of the day, I can't carry it all on my own. I need help.