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

What is love?

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I have always believed that people show love in different ways.¬† I love mailing greeting cards for every occasion possible…it is one way I let the people I care about know that I am thinking of them.

During the 41 days my father was in the hospital and nursing home and ever since he got home a week ago, my mother has been glued to his side.¬† Without knowing it, both my sister and I spoke to our respective therapists about my mother’s weird devotion to him.¬† He has treated her so badly for so many years, it is hard to understand why she even cares about what happens to him.

However, my sister and I were at the hospital and nursing home all the time, too- even when he had psychosis and was acting so horribly.¬† We brought him milkshakes and food he liked.¬† My sister brought her toddler to visit “Papa”.¬† We basically all put our lives on hold to take care of him.¬† Clearly this is learned behavior because I did the same thing when my exboyfriend was in the hospital for 28 days…I sat by his side, putting my life on hold.

I have never doubted that my father loved me (and my mother or sister).  I never doubted my exboyfriend loved me either.  They both just had such a hard time showing it because of their addictions to alcohol.

My dad showed me love by providing for our family, for making sure my sister and I had every opportunity possible, including going to college.¬† He showed love by making sure we had a beautiful home.¬† He showed love by buying my mother, sister and me matching bracelets for Christmas one year.¬† He showed love by building me a dollhouse that I can pass down to my niece. He showed love by crying when I told him I was miserable and getting divorced. He showed love by helping me with my mortgage for the summer so I wouldn’t have to worry about money after my boyfriend moved out abruptly.

My exboyfriend showed me love by supporting me working through my anxiety.¬† He showed me love by convincing me to give up a summer job that made me unhappy.¬† He showed me love by getting me “just because” flowers.¬† He showed me love by sending me cards, because he knows I love getting mail.¬† He showed me love by embracing my sister and loving our niece.¬† He showed me love by caring about my mother.

Neither of these two men loved me in the ways that I necessarily wanted or needed, but they showed me love in the way THEY knew how and I try to be appreciate of that.  I am very happy right now to be with someone who is able to show me love in the way that I need (physical affection, open communication, security) and who accepts my love in the way I give it.

“It’s not FAIR.”

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How? Why? Already? What the actual fuck? IT’S NOT FAIR.

These were my first thoughts after hearing that my ex-boyfriend has a new girlfriend.  Then I hysterically cried and vomited.  Afterwards, I took time to really think about it and why I had the reaction I did.  I made it very clear to him that we were over.  I have started to move on and have been feeling better lately.  I know he does not have friends or family near him and is probably very lonely.  I know that for him, staying sober includes having to stay busy.  But…a girlfriend? It has only been a few months.  It makes me feel very replaceable.  Yet, that is not what bothered me.  The idea of him being intimate with another woman…that stings for sure, but also I do not think that was the real source of me being upset.  What it finally boiled down to was: it’s not fair.  I just kept saying that over and over.  He literally broke my heart, he destroyed our relationship, he lied and cheated.  I saved his life and he ruined mine.  And he moved on first??? And so soon??? And he is supposed to be focusing on his sobriety?? It’s not fair.

I am rolling my eyes at myself writing that.  I KNOW life is not fair.  And in the bigger scheme of life, my problems with him were minuscule with what other people around the world deal with.  I am not dismissing my pain or heartbreak, but I think saying he “ruined” my life is a little dramatic.  What happened was the most traumatic thing I have ever been through in MY life, but I know by comparison many people struggle with so much more.

A coworker of mine has two adorable little girls.  She is so sweet and kind to everyone.  Her 40 year old husband was just diagnosed with terminal cancer and this will most likely be his last Christmas.  THAT is not fair.

My best friend’s sister suffered a loss this year.  A good friend of hers was estranged from her soon-to-be ex-husband.  He went to her house late at night and shot and killed her…in front of their children.  THAT is not fair.

My friend, former lover, and colleague jumped off the tallest bridge in NYC to his death a few months ago.  He was an amazing person, teacher, friend…the funniest person I have ever known.  No one really knew just how bad his depression was.  When he jumped, he did not hit the water, but the concrete footer of the bridge.  THAT is not fair.

Life isn’t fair.  So many horrible things happen and even though it is upsetting and it hurts and I am surprised, my ex moving on is not really one of them.  I do not begrudge him happiness- I want him to be sober and be in a healthy relationship…someday.  I just don’t feel like he deserves it yet.  It is all still so fresh and painful.  And I think about dumb things, like is he “really” sober and what does he tell this new girl about me and everything that happened with us and his health and his family?  But then I remind myself that absolutely none of that has any effect on my life, except feeling a little emotional about it.

So, as the end of 2019 nears (thank goodness), I am really going to try to put everything that happened behind me.  I cannot dwell and feel indignant and hold on to the pain anymore- it is only hurting myself.  I am not ready to forgive him and I am not sure if I will be ready when he wants to make amends, but I know that I cannot move forward if I am always thinking about the past.  Some things are not fair and everyone feels that way about something in their life.

Steve Maraboli, an inspirational speaker, stated that, “the only thing that makes life unfair is the delusion that it should be fair.” I am not going to say that “it’s not fair” anymore about this situation.  What really is happening actually IS completely fair- that life is going on…for him and for me.

The girl…

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I came across a website recently, http://www.lisaoliveratherapy.com, and I have found it to be SO inspirational.  She is a therapist who writes so elegantly, but also her messages are so relatable.  I am still having a very difficult time “letting go”, not only of my exboyfriend, but also of the entire traumatic experience I went through with him.

In this blog, she writes about how we sometimes identity with our hurt to the point where we “become” it and begin to over-identify with it.  I definitely have a tendency to do this.  During my childhood and teenage years, I was the “girl with the crazy abusive alcoholic father”.  I started having problems with anxiety when I was in my 20s (which I am still dealing with) and I took on the identity of the “girl with anxiety who couldn’t get on a plane or drive far”.  After my marriage ended at age 31, I became the “girl who went through a terrible divorced’.  And now I have become the “girl whose sat at the bedside of her alcoholic boyfriend of eight years while he was in a coma for 17 days, even after she found out he was lying and cheating on her, and even though she saved his life, his parents still treated her as a scapegoat.”

I go down these rabbit holes where I become the tragedy…it defines my life, my identity, my day to day routine.  I have an obsessive tendency and I must have said, “I don’t understand why his parents treated me the way they did” like 2,000 times over the past six months. It is like I can’t get over it…I don’t know HOW to get over it and there’s a weird tiny part of me that doesn’t want to get over it.  I am not saying that I like to feel like a victim, I truly don’t, but I desperately want some kind of acknowledgment from his parents for the sacrifices I made for their son.  My friends advise me that I need to let it go, that not every situation ends with closure and I know they are right.  My exboyfriend tells me all the time that he knows how much I did for him (and the fact that we are still in contact will be the subject of my next blog…still really struggling with enforcing boundaries), but I feel like I deserve more.

Unbeknownst to me, he contacted his parents and told them that the rift between them and me was negatively affecting his recovery and he threatened to cease contact with them if they did not try to rectify things with me.  This is the complete opposite of what I want and I was very upset when he told me this.  But of course, I got an email from his father a couple of days later saying that he told them I think they hate me and they don’t and they also don’t “hold a grudge against me” (what the actual fuck? what possible grudge could they even HAVE against me????).  His dad proceeded to write that all they care about is their son’s recovery and that the day he walked into the ICU and saw him in the coma was the worst day of his life.  All the email did was make me more angry.  There was no mention of me at all (and I do truly understand all they care about is him, but COME ON…throw me a bone).  Does his father think it wasn’t the worst day of my life?? At first, they were not even going to travel to come here and then it took them two days to get to the hospital.

I know for myself that I have to find a way to stop making my whole life and identity about this and him.  I am preventing myself from moving on, but there is something safe about that…like that expression, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”.  I am terrified about dating or meeting someone new.  I cannot imagine being in a relationship with anyone but him.  And if I am honest with myself (which is why I started this blog), part of me feels unlovable and fears no one else will want me.  I feel so broken, so damaged.  On the surface, I look like I have it all together, but inside I am a freaking mess.  Who would want that? And even if I found someone, how will I ever trust them? I am holding on to all of this because I am scared to move on and as long as I can wrap myself in trauma and continue identifying as “the girl”…, no one else can hurt me.

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.

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.

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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Loving and letting go

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Throughout this past month, I kept updating my opinion on what was the “hardest part”.¬† First it was when you were in the coma, then it was when I found those text messages, then it was all the medical complications, then it was the week you woke up and struggled with sedation, then it was the day I had to tell you I knew the truth and our relationship was over, then it was the days afterward when I did not hear from you or see you.¬† But now that it is “over”, I know without a doubt the past 24 hours were the hardest part.

I knew when you were discharged from the hospital you would be coming to the house, both to see the dog and to get your belongings I packed for you.¬† I was so anxious…I had no idea what was going to happen.¬† You could have literally picked everything up and left in ten minutes.¬† The minute you walked in the door, all my anxiety melted away.¬† You looked so feeble and weak, moving so slowly.¬† You hugged me and my face pressed against your neck, just like it did the other day, except this time it was your skin and not your central line I felt.¬† All I wanted was to be with you and take care of you.¬† I know those feelings were supposed to be “wrong”, but throughout this whole nightmare, I have followed my heart with no regrets.¬† I knew you needed me more than I needed to be angry with you.¬† I can say it is the first time in my life that I know I had to be and was completely selfless.¬† Nothing mattered more than you surviving and getting better.

You staying overnight just felt natural.¬† I thought it would be awkward, but it wasn’t.¬† Even though it was maybe not the smartest move in the world for us, it just felt right.¬† I think we held each other more in 24 hours than we did in the entire previous year.¬† We have both always wanted our space in bed when sleeping, but I don’t think there was a time the entire night that we didn’t touch each other.¬† It was not sexual at all, it was just so comforting.¬† I woke up before you and just stared at your face.¬† I wanted to memorize every single thing, to burn the image into my brain.¬† I have always loved your nose and the shape of your lips.¬† My favorite part of your face is under you eyes by the bridge of your nose.

My heart sank when your parents arrived an hour early- I felt robbed of 60 more minutes of being with you, of us being together.¬† That last hour was so rushed.¬† I made sure to take some time to take the dog into the other room alone so I could say goodbye to her.¬† Every time I walk into the house now, it feels so weird to not have her there by the door.¬† I kept thinking today I needed to run home to let her out and then would remember with a sinking heart that she was no longer there.¬† I don’t know how I managed to say goodbye to you without collapsing.¬† I had to lie on the bed after I came back inside the house.¬† Your car was still in front of the house.¬† My tears were silent so I could hear the exact moment you drove away.¬† It reminded me of when we were dating long distance and you would leave at the end of the weekend and I would feel my heart sink knowing I would not see you for a full week.¬† This was that times one million.

I am aware of the fact that I am mourning our relationship and focusing only on the things I will miss.¬† I will miss you so much.¬† I start to feel normal, forget for one split second, and then it is like a wave washes over me and I remember you are gone.¬† Really, really gone.¬† I realize right now that I am only thinking about the good parts of our relationship and the fact that you are a truly a good person with a very bad problem. I know that I am going to have to go through all the different emotions at some point.¬† I deserve to feel the anger about your betrayal.¬† There’s a part of me that is relieved that my life will not be affected every day by your drinking.¬† I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future- to see if you are going to be sober, to find out if you will be a part of my life again.¬† However, I know with complete certainty that I love you, and yet I also know with equal confidence that I had to let you go.¬† For you and for me.

I haven’t even begun to process the trauma, the hurt, the heartbreak, the loss from this past month.¬† I tried to stay busy all day so I didn’t think about how every minute, you were another mile farther away.¬† We talked on the phone and at the end of the conversation you said “I love you” and I said “I love you, too”.¬† It did not feel like simply habit, although we always said that when we hung up the phone.¬† I know the love we have for each other is genuine and I am not going to deny my feelings for you because of the negative things that have happened.¬† I just know that love is not enough and some things are just not meant to be.¬† I am letting you go because this is a journey you have to take yourself and I need to carve a new path for myself, too.¬† I spend too much time wishing that none of this ever happened and torturing myself about what I could have done differently.¬† But deep down, I knew that my love would never be enough and that you have to learn to love yourself first.¬† And I have to start putting myself first and that begins with letting you go.

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.