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"
"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.
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.