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

un(girl)friended

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So much has happened, it almost seems like a blur…I almost need a calendar or timeline to remember what happened when.

February 28- my boyfriend was fired and started drinking more heavily

March 15- he was admitted to the ER and then transferred to ICU and put into a medically induced coma with a breathing tube and ventilator (on life support) due to withdrawal from alcohol…that same night, I discovered he had been cheating on me

March 16- I moved his belongings out of my house into a storage unit, so he had no alternative besides going to rehab…from this day on I stayed at the hospital every single day (taking FMLA at work)

April 12- he was discharged from the hospital after 28 days (17 of them in the coma) while he was there, he contracted pneumonia and c.Diff and his kidneys were almost shut down

April 13- he left to go south with his parents, rather than rehab

April 25- he returned and rented an apartment a mile and a half from my house and the first night back, our dog died

May 2- I rushed him back to the ER, where he was diagnosed with c.Diff again and was admitted to the hospital for 20 days

June 18- we got into an argument via text and I told him to not contact me anymore

June 27- I found out that he had relapsed badly and was sent to a rehab in CA on June 21…no one told me

July 2- he called me from the rehab center and explained that he had spent the first week at a detox center…he gave me the name and address so I could send him cards…that night I googled the rehab and found out it was a horrible place, with no medical doctors or therapist, and immediately emailed my concerns to his family…his sister wrote me back that I was crazy and to leave their family alone

July 3- his father called me at night to say they were “getting him out of that place”…that he had called and told his parents all of the information I had corroborated in my email

July 4- he returned to his parents house

July 17- he came back to his apartment…I had previously told him that if he did not have a solid sobriety plan, then I was not going to be able to offer my support and that I needed space. He landed at 4 pm and within an hour and a half, a neighbor called to say she saw him driving back and forth on the main road by my house

I have had SUCH a hard time disconnecting from him.  I have not been able to completely let go.  Him not getting real help for his alcoholism and relapsing so quickly makes it easier for me to not talk to him.  I also have had more of a chance to express to him my anger about his communication with the other woman, which I am still rightfully mad about.  My sister and friends were REALLY concerned about him “stalking” me, whereas I think it is harmless and he was feeling nostalgic.  We haven’t spoken at all since he came home.  My best friend’s sister’s best friend was just murdered by her husband and so she was very upset about him being around my house.

I just feel like nothing has changed.  It is a repeat of before…hospital/detox, go to his parents’ house for two weeks and return with no plan.  He has no dog, no best friend (he moved to another state), no me, no job, no other friends.  What is going to stop him from drinking again???  I know I cannot control him, but it is really hard to detach and not worry.  I want to get to a place where I can care about him, but not have it affect my everyday life.  My cousin has struggled with sobriety her whole life and I spoke with her and she made me understand more…she said that NOTHING stopped her from doing drugs- not losing her job or her kids or her money or her marriage.  I truly think I understand now that I cannot save him.  My loving him and supporting him is enabling him and doing more harm than good for both of us.  I took a major step today and defriended him on Facebook, which seems petty, but it was still a way to stay connected.  I am getting the courage to also delete him off of Instagram.  I know I need a clean break, but this whole thing has been so messy and damaging and emotional and heartbreaking.

I think I need to find a way to start forgiving him.  Not even for him, but for myself.

Need vs. Want

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I have always had a hard time putting my own needs first and I am also too much of a people pleaser.  When my exboyfriend left a little over a week ago to stay with his parents, I was so devastated to say goodbye, but I have to admit that I felt a little relief.  Relief that the ordeal in the hospital was over and relief that I no longer had to live with an alcoholic.  Once he was gone, I thought that I would be able to start dealing with everything that happened- the endless hours in the hospital, fearing he would die, learning about another woman, adjusting to living alone again.  Yet, once he was gone, I continued talking and texting with him.  Part of it was that I missed him.  Even though things were not good with us for a while and his alcoholism had taken over, I still truly loved him and we were together for almost nine years.  But the other part of it was that I felt a sense of responsibility for him and I was invested in his health and his recovery process.  Looking back on it, I probably should have cut off or limited our communication when he left.  I realize now that all I was doing was continuing to dwell in the trauma of what happened.  As long as I focused on him, I did not have to address my own feelings of sadness and anger and loneliness. I assumed as long as he was 750 miles away, it was “safe” to continue talking to him.

He just told me a couple of days ago that he is already coming back this week and rented an apartment about two miles from my house.  I am anxious about this for so many different reasons.  Obviously, I feel like he made this decision with me in mind.  I have not given him any false hope that we will be together again.  In fact, I have expressed my concerns that he hasn’t done anything related to recovery since he left the hospital and it is too soon for him to come back and to live alone.  I am nervous and paranoid that I am going to run into him every time I leave my house.  That is not a comfortable feeling for someone who suffers from anxiety.

I thought about it overnight and called him back and told him that we need to stop communicating.  He needs to focus on himself and I need to start focusing on myself and dealing with everything that happened.  The key word is “need”.  I keep trying to make him understand that this is what I truly NEED.  Of course I WANT to support him and help him and be there for him and even spend time with him…but I know if that happens, I will get sucked back into his problems and continue to enable him.  He basically told me that he understands what I am telling him, but that he doesn’t know if he can not speak to me or have me be a part of his life.  I realized I have to be much more firm and told him that if he does not give me the space I NEED, that I will end up resenting him.  The more he tries to force and push himself into my life, the more I feel scared and anxious. He just does not seem to be accepting the fact that our relationship is over.  It is not what I wanted…I never wanted ANY of this.  But I know, without a doubt, that I have to put myself first and that I am not ready to forgive him for the way he hurt me and affected our relationship.  I cannot revolve my life around his recovery journey.  Our relationship has been about him for so long.  I just need space and time to figure things out for myself and work through everything that happened.  I just wish I didn’t have to do that with him living down the street.

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(un)happy birthday

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Today is my dad’s birthday. ¬†Growing up, his birthday was always a day my sister and I dreaded because it seemed like he was extra nasty on “his day”. ¬†During the two years my father was sober, I actually enjoyed celebrating his birthday- we would BBQ or go out to brunch and he was pleasant and grateful for whatever gifts we gave him.

About 8 months ago, I found my dad the most perfect birthday card.  My family has a joke about chihuahuas and I found a card in the shape of that dog.  Even though it was so many months before his birthday, I bought the card anyway and saved it until now.  (Side note: I LOVE cards and have several card boxes full of cards for any occasion!!)

Now that my father is drinking again, I don’t even want to give the card to him. ¬†I know that sounds very silly and petty, but it is not really about the card at all. ¬†It is about the fact that for the past couple of years I enjoyed having a relationship with my father and throughout that time, I enjoyed family holidays again and looked forward to other occasions to celebrate. ¬†I guess when I look back on myself buying that card eight months ago, I feel dumb for how naive I was. ¬†His sobriety (following a stroke) was so abrupt and so absolute (pun intended) that I just blindly believed it was going to last. ¬†I took that card out of the box today and just felt sad. ¬†The dad that I bought that card for is gone…once again replaced by the alcoholic I am all too familiar with. ¬†And that’s really nothing to celebrate.

Is ignorance really bliss?

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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.

Not listening.

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My father has been sober for over a year now, since his stroke last October. ¬† This has made holidays and family occasions SO much better, now that there is no longer a real threat of him being drunk, violent and belligerent. ¬†I never in a million years imagined my dad not drinking, so I never allowed myself to fantasize what it would even be like if that ever happened. ¬†Even though it is obviously better, one thing I didn’t take into consideration was¬†him having memory loss. ¬†I have so many vivid, unbelievable memories of things he did while he was drunk over the past 20 years. ¬†Whether it is from the stroke itself or just being wasted, he really does not remember doing the things he did.

Case and point…I grew up in a very big house, throughout which was an intercom system in each room. ¬†The main intercom was in the kitchen, but you could press a button in any room and your voice would be projected throughout the entire house. ¬†Unfortunately, one of the intercoms was located in my bedroom, as well as my sister’s bedroom next door to mine. ¬†My father also had one in his office in the basement, which is where he would sit and drink all day long. ¬†I have so many memories of being in my bedroom, doing my homework or talking to a friend on the phone and hearing the intercom click on with him yelling my mother’s name into it over and over or just being obnoxious. ¬†Even worse, he would yell into it while we were sleeping…on school nights. ¬†So even if we were able to get away from him physically when he was drunk, we could never escape his voice. ¬†It was constant and it was horrible. ¬†Even if the volume of the unit in my bedroom was turned all the way down, you could still hear it resonate throughout the house and there was no “off” button, so the volume would always be on, just very low. ¬†It is truly one of the most vivid things I remember about my dad being drunk and acting like a lunatic. ¬†I have blocked out so many memories from my childhood, but I could never forget that damn intercom system. ¬†It was like a torture device when I was a teenager.

Fastforward to this past week….my sister and I and our boyfriends were all at my parents’ house for Christmas and I called out something to my sister who was in another room. ¬†My dad nonchalantly mentioned I should use the intercom system, but he wasn’t sure if it even worked anymore. ¬†Then he said something like, “I don’t remember ever using it anyway”. ¬†I literally just stood and stared at him open-mouthed. ¬†I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. ¬†My sister came in the room and I said to her, “dad says he never used to use the intercom”. ¬†We both looked at each other for like ten seconds and then started hysterically laughing. ¬†My dad truly didn’t understand what was so funny. ¬†On the drive back home and in the days since, it has REALLY bothered me. ¬†I mentioned it to my boyfriend and tried to explain why it was upsetting me so much. ¬†How could my father forget something he did day in and day out for years? It is so hard to make someone who didn’t experience it understand. ¬†I am not 100% sure why it is bothering me so much that he said that. ¬†Maybe it’s the whole “forgive but don’t forget” concept? ¬†Not to sound like a baby, but it’s not fair…it’s not fair that he got to act the way he did and do the damage he inflicted on all of us that affected our lives in so many ways that we still have to live with and then he just gets to forget. ¬†I want my dad to be sober, but I also want him to be sorry. ¬†He has never apologized for things he did or tried to atone for them because he doesn’t remember them. ¬†But that’s not fair!! ¬†My mom told me that she will sometimes tell him things he did throughout the past two decades when he was drunk every day and he looks at her like she is crazy…like how could she invent these horrible things??!! ¬†I know he used to black out a lot (like the time he head butted me in the face and then told the police that I attacked HIM), but I can’t believe he would forget something that he did every day, like using the intercom. ¬†It blows my mind. ¬†I can’t stop thinking about him saying that.