The choice is yours

My sister had a baby girl one week ago. I am so excited to be an auntie again and my new niece is absolutely beautiful 🙂

Of course my parents are also very happy and have been spending a lot of time at my sister’s house. However, my father has been really upsetting and annoying both my sister and me. My mother swears up and down that he is sober. I have my doubts. But even if he is, he definitely has some of the characteristics of a dry drunk. He has a tendency to snap in anger, he calls us derogatory names, he says inappropriate things and he talks INCESSANTLY. Like a full minute cannot go by without him hearing his own voice. It is incredibly irritating.

When my first niece was born, my mother would come down almost every day alone. My father was drinking heavily at the time so he would stay home. It was such a wonderful time for my sister and mother and me. We really bonded and enjoyed every minute with the baby. This time, my mother brings my father every time she visits or babysits my niece. I understand why she does- he doesn’t want to be alone and she is afraid he will drink.

My sister is feeling very vulnerable after just giving birth. Her fiancé is at work all day and she is breastfeeding the baby. She confided in me that she feels uncomfortable doing so around my dad and wishes that my mom would just come visit on her own sometimes. It is not that we don’t ever want to see our father, but I know we both miss the time we used to have alone with my mom.

I mentioned this to my mother the other day and her reaction was kind of surprising. She basically stated that she can’t come down without inviting him (yet she goes shopping every Saturday with her friend while my father stays home alone). She basically said that they are a package deal.

I talked to my therapist about it and she suggested the reason this is so upsetting is because all throughout our childhood, my mother always “chose” my father over us. His needs always came first. And now she is doing that again. I understand that my sister is grown up, but she is still a girl who just wants her mom and my father cannot be adult enough to accept that. Instead, he would take it personally and be offended. Everything is always about him and revolves around his feelings.

Growing up, I never viewed my mom as part of the problem. I always thought about her as “one of us”…a victim of my father’s alcoholism and abuse. And although it is true she was, she was also the adult and we were just small children. We did not ever have a choice. Even if it would have been incredibly difficult, she did. And she still does, but now so do we. Last week my father called me a scumbag. Today he angrily called my mother a “bitch” in front of my three year old niece. My sister finally said to him that if he is going to get angry and use language like that, he shouldn’t come down anymore.

My sister and I are on the same page. We both do not trust my father. His sobriety is too new, too fragile. His past behavior proves that he cannot he trusted alone with a child. That makes me cringe just writing it, but it is true. Even if he physically does no harm, verbally he is constantly insulting people, mostly women. He is sexist and perverted and rude and misogynistic. My mother failed to protect us from him and although I do not carry the resentment I probably should for her, I will be damned before I let him repeat that cycle with my two innocent, precious nieces.

Breaking the cycle

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My soul and my heart have been CRAVING to write a blog entry…my brain on the other hand, has been getting in the way.  Every time I sit down to begin writing, I just feel so overwhelmed.

Ironically, leading up to the one year “anniversary” (can’t there be a different word for acknowledging a date that is bad???!!) of my ex-boyfriend being put into a coma, I was doing pretty okay.  March 15th loomed, but I felt like I was in a good place.  I decided rather than allowing myself to wallow in nostalgia, that I instead would try remind myself of how far I had come during the past 365 days.  And I really have come so far.  I currently have virtually no contact with him.  Even better, since my father has been released from the hospital, he has maintained sobriety.  It is crazy to think that I have no active alcoholics in my day to day life, and although I know that can change when it comes to my dad, I am enjoying it while I can.

I am also so in love.  It is still really hard for me to write about him…I don’t feel ready to share him with the “virtual world”, especially since our relationship is pretty private in “real life”.  I know as time goes on, I will write about him more and more, but for now all I can say is he is absolutely wonderful and treats me so amazingly well.  I am so happy with him being a part of my life.  I was fully prepared to be single for a very, very long time after going through what I did with my ex, but I guess it is true what people say about finding love when you are not looking for it and least expect it.

What did make March 15th a sad day for me was knowing how much my ex is still suffering and struggling.  After everything he went through, he is still not doing well.  I last heard from him a couple of months ago via text and he is dealing with a lot of mental health issues, as well as continuing to drink.  I honestly can say I do not feel any responsibility for him at all, but that does not mean I do not want him to be okay.  I will always worry about him and I truly want the best for him.  Looking back, his hospitalization, infidelity and alcoholism was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, but the fact of the matter is that I did get through it.  I did and finally broke the cycle of codependency in my life.  I won’t turn out like my mother and although it took me eight years to do it, I am proud of myself that I did.

So, things were pretty calm…and then this virus and quarantine happened.  Luckily, everyone I know is healthy, which I am so thankful for considering my sister is twelve weeks pregnant and my father’s health is very compromised.  The high school school where I work has shut down for two weeks (and I assume it will end up being longer), and I am doing distance teaching with my 11th grade English students.  It has only been a couple of days, but so far so good.  I am trying to be very optimistic for them, because this is such a scary time for all of us.  I worry that being quarantined and not really being able to go anywhere is going to trigger an agoraphobic episode for me, especially living alone.  I am trying to be proactive by staying busy around the house, walking, and doing schoolwork.  The only place I go is my sister’s house, which is two miles away.  This makes me feel like kind of a bad person in a way, but I am so relieved not to be stuck in the house with my ex-boyfriend during this time.  It is hard at times being alone, but I cannot imagine how stressful it would have been still living with him, confined to the house, with him drinking and behaving the way he was.

This is just so unprecedented and frightening, I keep thinking I am going to wake up tomorrow and will be able to go back to school and teach like normal. I am just going to do what everyone else is doing and take things as they come.  It is not easy to live that way when you struggle with an anxiety disorder, but this is a good lesson for me about not being able to control everything.  In fact, I think that is what this year taught me the most…that no matter how hard I try, most things are out of my control.

Holiday Spirits <—-pun intended

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I have so many different things to write about, I do not know where to begin.  One of the topics, I am not ready to delve into, so for now I will stick to the one I know best: dealing with alcoholics.  So, here is a special holiday edition of Thanksgiving updates on the three drunks in my life, who coincidentally ALL drink vodka…

  1. The ex-boyfriend. Thanksgiving was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I had one 45 minute breakdown.  I know it is not healthy, but I would occasionally “unblock” my ex-boyfriend’s Instagram page to see if he was okay.  It felt like the only last tiny connection I had to him.  When I went to check it on Thanksgiving, I realize that he made his page private.  I was already upset because this was always ‘our” holiday and it was the first one without him, but I felt like him doing that was unexpected.  Maybe he knew I was checking on him.  Maybe he met someone.  Maybe he wants privacy.  I feel so far away from him now.  In nine years, this is the longest I have gone without seeing or speaking to him.  But, I suppose that is what happens in a break up.  And I have to remind myself that I was the one who said I could not be in contact with him anymore.  I don’t know how to ever stop worrying if he is alright, but I know there is nothing I can do if he is not.
  2. The father. My dad was good on Thanksgiving, very well-behaved.  I actually took a selfie with him and at one point leaned up against him on the couch.  We took family pictures.  It was nice.  Friday, he was terrible…leaving mean voicemails and sending shitty text messages.  Saturday, my sister and I had already agreed to go to my parent’s house to help them with some things and he was totally fine again.  It is was like a sober-drunk-sober sandwich over the course of three days.  He is truly a Jekyll and Hyde. 
  3. The friend’s boyfriend. My good friend, practically my sister, is in a terrible and abusive relationship with an alcoholic.  She is 18 weeks pregnant and he just got his third DWI over the previous weekend.  I felt so badly for her- they were supposed to do the gender reveal for the baby on Thanksgiving.  But, I also do not understand why she stays with him.  I try not to think about it too much, because after 30+ years, I still do not understand why my mother has never left my dad.  Today, my friend’s boyfriend put his hands around her neck and pushed her against a wall.  He threatened her and then pushed her outside into the snow, refusing to let her back in.  My sister (her best friend) called her brother and he ran over to the apartment.  My friend’s boyfriend then assaulted him, was arrested and the brother is pressing charges, although my friend still will not.  I realized while all of this was going on, I was feeling such anxiety.  It is hard for me to be a good friend to her and support her while separating my own experiences and it brings back a lot of my own traumatic memories.  She is safe now and that is all that matters in the moment.

I am so thankful that I do not live with an alcoholic anymore.  My house is so calm and peaceful.  I feel such a sense of independence and freedom.  However, I also know that had my ex not gotten so sick and also cheated, I may not have ever left him.  That is a hard pill to swallow.  So, it makes me less judgmental of other women going through this.  I got an “out” and I took it and for that, I am so grateful.  I may not have shown strength throughout the bad parts of our relationship and I know I should have ended things with him years ago, but at least I put myself first when I got the chance.

Holidays can be so stressful and sad and sentimental.  I am trying to be positive, but I also know I need to allow myself to experience my emotions.  I have been through so much and I do not feel healed, but I know that I am in a much better place than I was a year ago, so if there is any silver lining, it is that.  But I am really tired of alcoholics…

How?

MCH, I don’t even know how to start…but I guess it doesn’t really matter how eloquent this is, since I am really writing it for myself.  Who knows if you will ever read this- or any of my other writing about you- but it does help me to get “it all out”.  I have been telling everyone that I have started to focus on myself and moving on.  That is a lie.  People marvel at my strength, compliment my ability to push through…it is all a facade.  I am destroyed inside- I feel broken in a way that there will never be a way to put it all back together.  I think I have accepted that, the same way I have had to just accept my dad.  Accepting it just makes it easier than trying to fight it.  I know I have lost you, probably forever.  The truth is that I haven’t moved on because I don’t want to- I don’t feel ready.

On my last day of school, when every other teacher was cheering for the summer, I received a message from someone who is virtually a stranger to me telling me that you went to rehab.  You and I had not spoken for one week and two days.  I told you to leave me alone- you were pushing me and provoking me.  I figured you would give me space and then in time, we could communicate on a level that wasn’t so intense.  When I found out you were already gone for a week, I cried until I hyperventilated.  In class.  In front of my students.  And then I walked out.  I did not say goodbye to anyone- I simply gave my ID and keys to another teacher and got in my car and drove home, two hours before dismissal.  I don’t even know if someone knew to cover my last class.  I got home and threw up so hard I broke blood vessels on my face.  How?  How could no one have told me? How did you not tell me? I guess you took it very literally when I said to leave me alone.  Even if your friend and parents hate my guts, I still deserved to know.

I am so sad.  So empty.  Just the day before I drove past your apartment, looking for your car and there it was, parked in your spot.  I wondered if you were sleeping or drinking or worse.  I cried as I drove away, knowing you needed this time apart, too, that it was for both of us.  And yet, as I stared at your apartment, worried sick about you, unbeknownst to me you were already across the country in rehab.

Your mother told me I should “be happy for you”.  I can’t believe she had the audacity to actually tell me that.  Happy feels like a foreign emotion right now.  I suppose it was better than your “best friend” who yelled at me and then hung up on me when I asked him why no one had the common decency to tell me you went.

I am so angry.  I want to punch someone.  I want to stand on the edge of a cliff and scream until my voice is gone. I am so mad at you, but I also miss you so much.  I am so mad at you, but I am so relieved that you are safe and getting help.  I am so mad at you, but I know I have to find a way to not let it eat me up inside.  Mad, sad, mad, sad…those are my two emotions.  But I smile and tell everyone I am ok.  I shrug and say “what can I do?”.  And inside, I am shaking with anger and holding back tears.

I read article after article about learning how to forgive, how holding on to trauma only hurts yourself.  I know you felt bad about everything that happened, but you would say you were “sorry”, like it was a blanket I could cover myself with.  That I could tuck every hurt and betrayal and all of the pain under it and the one “sorry” would apply to it all.

I want you to get better.  I say that it is the only important thing…your recovery.  That if you are sober, then at least all of this wasn’t in vain.  But those are empty words.  The price was too high and the suffering was too much.  Your recovery IS so important, but so am I.  I felt like the right thing to do was to put you first and I honestly do not have any regrets.  I would not change a thing I did.

My love, my soul mate- you are practically a stranger to me now.  I thought we would get through it, I thought there really was a chance you would get better.  Now I see how naive I was, how much I lied to myself because the thought of losing you seemed more painful than enduring your addiction.

I don’t know how to get through this.  So I will keep pretending- fake it til you make it, right?  I will just be “happy for you”, knowing that you are currently experiencing the most painful, difficult process of your life.  I will just be “happy for you”, knowing I will never put my arms around you and kiss your neck ever again.

If you become sober, I truly WILL be happy for you.  I will, I promise.

However, your mom is an asshole.

Nature v. Nurture

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During my therapy appointment on Monday, we discussed the concept of nature versus nurture.  I was curious about where she stood professionally on the topic.  She believes that it is a 60/40 split (60% nature/40% nurture), although she emphasized that an individual’s personality is a makeup of multiple factors.  I agree with this, but I think I have been affected more by “nurture” in my life, rather than “nature”.

My family moved to NJ from TX when I was in the 6th grade.  Shortly after settling into our new home, it quickly became apparent that something was different about my father.  My dad actually moved almost a year before we did so that he could begin his new job and supervise our home being built.  During that time alone, my father’s social drinking became full-blown alcoholism.  Once our family was reunited, things seemed to change overnight…for the worse.  My fun, easygoing dad had turned into a monster.  I would get into bed at night and wish that we never moved.  In my mind, if we had stayed in Texas, nothing would have changed.

I have wondered a few times in my adult years what my life would be like if we had not moved.  Would my dad be an alcoholic? Would my sister and I be as close as we are now? Would my parents be happily married? These are questions I will never have answers to.  I do believe I would probably be a very different person, though, had we not moved.  I am a type A personality.  I like things organized.  I am task-oriented.  I prefer things to be done a certain way (aka my way).  Those aspects of my personality, the “nature”, would most likely remain the same.  But my anxiety, my desire to please people, my need for control, my inability to make decisions…I know that is all “nurture”.  I am a pretty textbook case of a child of an alcoholic.  I have never wanted to blame things on the fact that I was raised in an alcoholic family, but there is no way to deny that it affected me very deeply.

Where do you stand when it comes to Nature versus Nurture??