Sixty seconds

Recently, I saw a post on Reddit that asked the question: if you could go back in time and had ONE MINUTE to give advice to your past self, what would you say?

I have to admit that I have spent way, way more than a minute thinking about this question. Part of me rejects doing this because I know everything I have gone through made me who I am today. But then I think, fuck that cliche…why not tell myself all the things that will help “past me” be able to avoid pain, heartbreak, rejection, loss, and negative experiences???

So, here is what I would tell my younger self in sixty seconds:

“Listen to your gut. When your gut is telling you to run, run. When it tells you, don’t marry him: DON’T. MARRY. HIM. Don’t lie to cover other people’s mistakes or behavior. You think that you are protecting them, but you are really just hiding the truth, from the world and yourself.

Don’t settle. EVER. Forget having to kiss frogs and all that dumb shit. Kiss the frogs for fun, but when it comes to relationships, don’t settle for less than you deserve. Please, please do not be with someone who drinks. Promise yourself this and then DO NOT BREAK that promise. You cannot save anyone who doesn’t want to be saved. Don’t ever put yourself in a situation where you put someone else’s needs above your own. Don’t lose yourself in someone else. And always, always have an exit strategy.

Be nice to everyone. It isn’t a weakness. You never know what someone else is going through. When you think to yourself that you should call or text someone to check on them or see if they are okay, don’t assume you will always have the time or chance to do it.

No one has a perfect family or perfect life. Make the best of what you have. If you focus all your energy on the bad things, you will miss out on enjoying the good things. Forgive people, especially your dad, who don’t deserve it, even if they never apologized. Try to be the bigger person as often as possible.” *

*Okay, I literally timed myself reading that aloud. And I did not go back and edit it because I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. At first, this seemed really easy to do, but it much more difficult than I thought it would be, because how do you sum up twenty years of advice and lessons learned into one little minute? It is an impossible task. And really, how much do young people really listen to anyway? Lol! I teach 11th grade (so mostly kids that are 16 and 17 years old) and as much as I would like to think they hang on my pearls of wisdom, I know that they will have go out into the world and learn life lessons the hard way, just like all of us did- I guess that is a rite of passage. But really, why didn’t anyone stress to 16 year old me the importance of not settling…that would have been REALLY helpful ūüėČ

Everything’s going my way…not.

maxresdefault

I feel like sometimes I get really (and easily) overwhelmed and then I get upset with myself for getting upset.¬† I have been working on trying not to overreact to problems, but sometimes I just can’t help it.¬† When I stop and think logically, I know everything is okay and that I will be fine and that the problem at hand is probably not as big of a deal as I am making it, but in the moment sometimes it feels so burdensome.¬† I am a super responsible person (a blessing and a curse), so when something goes wrong, my OCD kicks in and I immediately feel like the problem has to be solved.¬† Lately, it seems like I am having one thing break after another, both with my car and with my house.¬† It just seems like there is ALWAYS something wrong or broken.¬† And because I have the need to fix things as soon as they break, I put a lot of pressure on myself unnecessarily.¬† My boyfriend, who lives with me, has been offering to help more, which is appreciated, but I also have a problem with control and it is hard to relinquish “jobs” to someone else.¬† So, I feel like I am doing this to myself, but I don’t know how to break this habit.¬† I really have been trying to take things as they come and handle them with logic in order to reduce my anxiety, but sometimes it is just too much and the dam bursts.¬† Which is what happened today.¬† I had expensive car problems recently, then I was getting water in my basement, then my TV just randomly broke, then my boyfriend accidentally shattered a window…and with each thing I tried to just handle it without freaking out, but today it all just came to a head and I broke down a little.¬† Then I feel bad about myself that I let it get to me, when I know there are people dealing with bigger and more important problems than a stupid broken window.¬† I just don’t know how to not care or overly worry about things.¬† I wish I could snap my fingers and just change that about myself(amongst other things!) My sister has the ability to be so nonchalant about things and I wish I was more like that.¬† Some of the things that bother me so much that I obsess over in my mind would not even faze her.¬† I know everyone is different and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but it is just so much easier to get stuck on what make me feel weak.

Is ignorance really bliss?

img-thing

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better- or easier- if my father did not get sober for two years.  He has been an alcoholic since 1990, with the exception of the 24 months after he had a stroke in 2013.  He stopped drinking virtually overnight and stayed sober for a full two years. In 2015, almost to the day of his stroke, he started drinking again.   It was a great two years and during that time I felt like I had a “normal” family and I made a lot of effort to reestablish a relationship with him.  I enjoyed talking to him and even began to look forward to previously dreaded holidays.  Just as suddenly as he stopped, he started drinking again and my psychotic, belligerent dad returned with a vengeance.

I’m not sure what is worse…having my old, sober dad I remembered from when I was ten years old back and then losing him again or having him have never stopped drinking at all.  I am grateful to have had that time when he was sober.  I’m glad that my boyfriend got to see the good qualities in my dad that I still remembered from when I was little.  I’m relieved that my mother had a break from his craziness during that time.

On the other hand, it feels like I was given a gift and then it was snatched away from me.  I was so numb to him and his behavior before his stroke…I could so easily ignore his insults and nasty emails and screaming voicemails.  I developed a pretty thick skin over the years of him being drunk.  Or perhaps it was more that I just got used to it (sadly).  Now, when I talk to him on the phone, I feel so much more affected by it.  It’s not as easy to shrug off as it was a few years ago.

I try to act like it isn’t a big shock that he started drinking again.  It was just a matter of time, right?  But deep in my heart, I did let myself believe that my mother and sister and I had all suffered enough and that we deserved his sobriety (I know that isn’t the way it works, but I desperately wanted it to be true).  The famous saying is: “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”.  Am I suffering more now because I have been reminded about the family and the life I could have had if my father didn’t become an alcoholic when I was twelve years old?

So what’s worse…losing my dad to the bottle a second time or never experiencing those two years of him not drinking?  I honestly don’t know.

“Just like me”

apple-tree-

One thing that my father often says to me is that I am “just like him”. ¬†He will often slip it into emails or phone conversations. ¬†We will be talking about my sister being financially irresponsible and he will say something like “you have always saved money…you’re just like me”. ¬†I usually just roll my eyes when he says it. ¬†I think for him, he knows he has not been the world’s greatest father (huge understatement!) and he likes to think that I inherited some of his better habits and traits. ¬†I can¬†acknowledge that some aspects of my personality definitely did come from him- I like to learn how to fix things myself, I am financially conservative, I like to plan ahead and I tend to be obsessive about certain things.¬†In other words, when he says this, I take it with a grain of salt. I understand when he says it that it is coming from a place of pride (and probably redemption) that he instilled some good traits in me.

What I hate, however, is when OTHER people say this to me. ¬†My boyfriend has a tendency to start criticism with, “You’re like your father…” or my sister will say,”You sound like dad”. ¬†This bothers me because when they are saying it, it is clearly an insult. ¬†I don’t want to be like my father. ¬†In fact, I can’t really think of many things that would be more offensive than being compared to him because he is widely disliked by mostly everyone who knows him. ¬†I don’t know if it bothers me more because it hurts my feelings (it is an easy low blow for them to use against me) or because deep down I know that the comparison is sometimes true.

Fall Back

8e0f79558539ff0683548ff6c9e52cfe

I think my dad is drinking again. ¬†A few weeks ago, I talked to him on the phone in the morning and then again in the afternoon and when I hung up the second time, I literally said out loud to my boyfriend, “I think he sounded drunk”. ¬†I pretty much dismissed the idea because he had a stroke two years ago (which led to his miraculous and unexpected sobriety) and so he does slur a little bit still. ¬†But I also dismissed it because- to be honest- after two years of him not drinking, I got used to him being sober. ¬†For the first year of his sobriety, I answered each call from him with that slight feeling of anticipated dread that it would be the time he would be drunk. ¬†By the end of two years of sobriety, it shocked me how quickly I took for granted that he would be sober. ¬†I guess what made it easier to acclimate was his complete and very abrupt stopping. ¬†He was a horrible alcoholic one day…had a stroke…and from that day forward did not drink. ¬†It was like a light switch was turned off. ¬†Just like that…sober.

Now a little over two years later, that phone call that I stopped dreading finally happened. ¬†There wasn’t anything obvious…just a slight difference in tone. ¬†Really just something I can’t put my finger on that only the child of an alcoholic would even notice or know to listen for. ¬†What was more worrisome was a couple of days later, my sister sent me a text with a screenshot of one of my dad’s emails. ¬†She wrote, “do you think he’s drinking again?!?!?” ¬†I immediately called her and told her my suspicion from the previous phone conversation with him. ¬†We saw my mother that weekend and questioned her. ¬†She just retired and is home all day with him and would certainly be the first to see the red flags. ¬†She right away denied it and said she “would know” if he was drinking. ¬†I decided to let it go- it was only a brief suspicion- and I wasn’t ready to confront the possibility that he could have fallen off the wagon.

Today, I got an email early this morning from my father. ¬†In it, he included that my mother was mad at him because she found “a bottle of vodka under a cabinet” and that it was “several years old”. ¬†My heart sunk. ¬†Memories flooded back of being 13 years old and frantically searching for bottles of vodka in my dad’s various hiding spots. ¬†I remember pouring part of one down the sink, the liquid burning my nostrils, and replacing the vodka with water…hoping it was diluted enough to prevent him from getting¬†drunk. ¬†My sister and I both called my mom and both told her the same thing- if he is drinking and she stays, she is on her own this time.

I can’t go through this again. ¬†I can’t relive the horrible events from my childhood. I can’t stand by and watch and listen to him abuse us and my mother. ¬†When I was 12 and he became an alcoholic, I had no choice. ¬†I do now. ¬†I just can’t do it. ¬†Even just thinking about how he used to act- the horrible screaming on voicemails, the nasty, degrading emails, the ruined (and often frightening) family holidays- causes me to feel anxious. ¬†I have made such an effort to become closer to him over these past two years. ¬†But if he chooses alcohol over his family for a second time, it is going to undo all of that and I will cut him out of my life. ¬†I just can’t do it.

November

Falling-Leaves

I had a difficult time sleeping a few nights ago and as I lay awake in bed (ALL night), I thought about the month of November. ¬†I have a love/hate relationship with the month. ¬†I love it because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and as a teacher, there are a lot of days “off” in November, so it is an easy month. ¬†The air is crisp enough to leave the windows open during the day and yet chilly enough to snuggle under blankets at night. ¬†It is still light out early in the morning when I leave for work and stays bright enough to walk my dog in the evening.

But November has a dark side for me. ¬†Several years ago, I had a HORRIBLE November…it was the month I filed for divorce, that I lost my grandparents, that my sister had a health emergency. ¬†All of these things happening at the same time was completely overwhelming. ¬†In a way, I was so numb…my divorce was incredibly painful and very drawn out. ¬†My beloved grandmother passed away and within about a month, my grandfather followed. ¬†There was just so much trauma that I almost had to separate myself from it. ¬†I feel like I prepare myself at the end of every October to be ready for November…for the flood of emotions and memories to hit me.

Things in my life could not be more different now than they were that November six years ago.  First and foremost, my family has way less drama due to my father becoming sober.  I can truly look forward to the holidays coming up in a way that I was never able to just a couple short years ago.  My parents are getting along and my mom seems more content. My sister is in a relationship and has a challenging, fulfilling job.  I have a wonderful boyfriend who is caring and supportive and successful and my divorce is hardly even a passing thought these days.  I can think about my amazing grandparents and all that they taught me without becoming teary-eyed.  And yet, there is still that dull anxiety that November brings.  I just hope that as years continue to pass that the negative memories associated with this month get replaced by new, happier ones!

Which leaves me…?

question-mark

Lately I have been having a hard time with labels. ¬†I know theoretically, people are not “supposed” to have labels, but when I was in 8th grade I was slapped with the label: “Child of an Alcoholic”. ¬†This label became a part of who I was, how others saw me…it became a part of my identity. ¬†However, in my case, this label was not a bad thing. ¬†After I was given this label, I knew I wasn’t alone. ¬†I was a part of a bigger group. ¬†I could check out books in the library that could help me understand myself and my father better. ¬†Once I got older, there were online groups I could join. ¬†That label lead me to write this blog. ¬†Over the years, I accepted and even embraced having the label “Child of an Alcoholic” or a COA (now a ACOA). ¬†That label made me feel like a victim, but also gave me strength. ¬†It made me feel like a survivor. ¬†I never used being a COA as an excuse for my behavior or treatment of others, but it helped me analyze myself, my relationships, my family.

I have a lot of roles in my life that can be labeled: sister, friend, teacher.  Up until a year and a half or so ago, I would have added child of an alcoholic to that list.  I never really saw it as a bad thing, rather just a fundamental part of who I was.  It was one of those things that if I met another COA, we had an immediate bond.

Almost a year and a half ago, my father had a stroke. ¬†After drinking every day for over 20 years, he stopped. ¬†Just like that. ¬†One day he was a drunk and the next day he wasn’t. ¬†It sounds ridiculous and impossible. ¬†It seems too easy. ¬†He is not a perfect father now, but he is no longer belligerent or unpredictable. ¬†He does not verbally abuse me through email, voice mail or in person. ¬†I’m not afraid of him anymore. ¬†Trust me, it is so much better, but it is also confusing. ¬†If my father isn’t an alcoholic anymore, am I still a COA? ¬†I talked to my therapist about it, knowing what her answer would be…of course I am. ¬†Him changing now does not erase the two decades of abuse that I suffered through. ¬†It doesn’t just magically repair all of the damage he did to me and to my family. ¬†I guess I am just having a hard time reconciling the before and after of who I am if he’s no longer an alcoholic. ¬†I know fundamentally I did not change, but things do feel different. ¬†I suppose that is the dangerous part about having labels- what happens when they change? ¬†I mean, at one point in my life I was a wife. ¬†Then I got divorced and the next day I wasn’t one anymore. ¬† But that situation seems different to me. ¬†I guess the breakdown of my marriage happened over time and I knew it was coming. ¬†My father becoming sober was so unexpected, it happened so fast. ¬†And although I was a wife for several years, I was (am?) a COA for the majority of my life.

There has been a part of me throughout this past year and a half that has just been waiting…waiting for my dad to drink again, to have another stroke, or even to die. ¬†And now that some time has passed, I’m beginning to trust that this is the new image of my family. ¬†I guess that I¬†am still figuring out with what to do with the old one…

Thankful…

images

Things have been a little crazy lately.  My boyfriend and I definitely hit a rough patch and the holidays are always a little stressful.  On top of that, I am traveling to D.C. next week, which is triggering A LOT of travel anxiety.  It is so easy to get disheartened by the negative things, but I am really making an effort to look at the positive things in life.  My friend is having a baby girl, my dad is still doing pretty well, I have really nice students this year, things with my boyfriend are looking up.  I do have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Over this past weekend, I met a girl at a party. ¬†We had talked very briefly once before, we are about the same age and¬†I knew she was a teacher, so I figured we had some things in common. ¬†We ended up talking in the corner for over an hour and I confided things in her that I normally would never tell a stranger- she also is divorced, so she understood things that many other people do not in my life. ¬†She was so sweet and easy to talk to and we had a very similar history as far as the timeline of our marriages and divorces go. ¬†This girl is now engaged (her fianc√© is actually my boyfriend’s best friend’s good friend, which is how I happened to meet her). ¬†It really surprised me how open I was with her. ¬†I guess at this point I don’t have anything to hide and I am not ashamed by anything that I have experienced. ¬†It was just really nice to talk to someone with a different perspective, who could still really relate to my life. ¬†The only thing that made me kind of upset was how excited she is to get married again and how happy she kept saying she is. ¬†I don’t know if I really feel that way…I mean, I don’t know if I would ever want to get married again and the fact that she is so eager to marry her fianc√© made me question whether I would want to get married if I was with “the right person”. ¬†I’m not saying my boyfriend isn’t that person- he is so supportive of me, but we definitely have problems and her relationship just seems…easy. ¬†Now I have definitely learned not to take other people’s lives and relationships at face value, but she genuinely seemed so happy and in love and kept saying what a nice guy her fianc√© is. ¬†I feel like I was so traumatized by my divorce that I don’t know if I would ever risk having to go through that again. ¬†But one thing we both said is that we both saw red flags going into our first marriages (and ignored them, obviously). ¬†She clearly sees no red flags now with her new husband, but I feel like I see some in my relationship now that would make me a little hesitant to make that commitment again. ¬†Meeting her just made me think about how much my life has changed in the past ten years and how I really don’t know what is going to happen and maybe I just have to be okay with that right now. ¬†I mean, I never, ever thought my father would go this long without drinking, so it just goes to show you that life has a way of throwing curveballs.

So, I am going focus on being thankful this Thanksgiving.  Instead of being too scared to travel, I am going to try to remember how lucky I am to be able to go to D.C. with my boyfriend (who I know will help me get through my anxiety to get there) and his family, who has embraced me in so many ways.

Wondering…do some people just deserve more?

I’m at a cross-roads in my current relationship and it has me thinking about all of my prior relationships in general. I have written previously about my (bad) habit of comparing myself to other people and I do this a lot when it comes to couples. I have two really good girlfriends who are very happily married- both for the second time. Both of them have husbands who treat them wonderfully. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have a guy that looks at me and treats me the way their husbands do. I do know that no relationship is what it necessarily appears to be from an outsider’s perspective and that every couple has their issues and problems.

I was talking to an older, male, happily married coworker who I have become close with. He is father-figurely…and he knows my two girlfriends mentioned above well, too. I said something to him today that kind of took me by surprise. I said something along the lines of “maybe I don’t deserve what they have.” I didn’t say it with intent or in a “poor me” kind of way…I literally said it without thinking, which is why it is bothering me.

I intrinsically know that I am a good person who deserves to be treated well (and I am not saying that my current boyfriend is not good to me- we are just having a lot of problems at the moment and he can be mean at times). But there is a little, damaged part of me that does believe that I am not 100% worthy. I do not like to blame my behaviors or issues on other people, but I know that these feelings about myself stem from my alcoholic father and mentally abusive ex-husband.

But, I also know that a lot of how I feel comes from my own choices and I could have made better ones throughout my life so far. This blog is more of a stream of consciousness, so excuse my musings, but sometimes I just wonder why I feel that way about myself, yet I think that my sister and my friends deserve to be treated like queens???

Ps- I wasn’t going to post this bc I usually edit what I write a lot more, but the whole reason I started this blog was to be honest- with others and myself.

“Moms are better than dads”

Let me preface this blog by saying that this clearly does not apply to all dads (or all moms, for that matter). I have been fortunate to know many good fathers- my friend has a pretty great dad, my boyfriend’s dad is amazing and my own grandfather was a wonderful father to my mother and my aunt. It is just that in my case, the title of this blog is true (which is why I have a tshirt that also says it lol… which I only break out on Mother’s Day because who will argue with me then?)

My mom is amazing and even though I do not agree with all of her life choices, she has been nothing but caring and supportive of her two daughters. She is generous with money, time, advice and love. She asks for nothing in return and I know, unequivocally, that she lives for my sister and me. What makes her happy is us being happy, which is a characteristic very common in good moms. Because of this, my sister and I try to show her how special she is, especially on Mother’s Day and her birthday. It is not about lavish, expensive gifts- my mother has very simple taste and treats a Vera Bradley bag she receives as if it was Gucci. My sister and I put a lot of thought into the gifts we get my mother and that is obvious.

I have to admit, though, that I do feel a little guilty that the scales are so tipped when it comes to celebrating my mother versus my father. Many would argue (and do) that he is not deserving of anything. If you read my last blog, you will remember that he actually returns almost everything we give him. He also criticizes gifts- my favorite Father’s Day story of all time was when I bought him two polo shirts from Macys and they accidentally charged my credit card for $.50 instead of $50. I was excited about the “perfect crime” at first, but then my father started sending emails that my sister and I wouldn’t even spend $5.00 on a gift for him. Ahhh…the irony!

I know my dad does not deserve the same treatment we give my mother because he does not treat us the way my mother does. But I do feel that little twinge of discomfort when he clearly sees the things we do for her. I just have to remind myself that no matter what we did for him, he would find something to complain about. See, my mother is the “Oh my! A macaroni necklace! You MADE this all by yourself? It’s BEAUTIFUL!” type and my dad is the “I am going to say thank you when I open the gift, return it asap and then send several days worth of emails complaining about my do nothing taker daughters” type.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there ūüôā