Through my eyes

download

One of my early childhood memories from before my dad started drinking was standing with my feet on top of his.  I was seven or eight years old, he would hold my hands and I would stand on his feet and hold on as he walked around the room.  We were not really dancing, but it was fun and my sister and I would take turns.  I think a lot of little girls do this with their daddies and it is a sweet memory I have of him.

When I was in college studying literature, I was very drawn to a particular poem:

My Papa’s Waltz 

by Theodore Roethke

 

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

 

There are a lot of different opinions and interpretations about what this poem is describing.  Some readers interpret it as the happy childhood memory of a young boy playfully dancing with his father in their kitchen, while his mother gazes on.  Other readers believe that the dance is a metaphor for physical abuse by a drunk father.  The first time I ever read this poem, I instantly believed it depicted abuse.  However, I wonder if that is because my father became an abusive alcoholic (while my mother helplessly watched on).  I always tell my students that this is the beauty of literature- the reader is able to interpret what they read in their own personal way.  We all (sometimes subconsciously) are influenced by our own life experiences and as a child of an alcoholic, that was the lens I saw the world through.  Yet, I got a feeling that this boy still loved his father, which was another part of the poem I could relate to, because I still love mine.

I know without a doubt that if my father was not an alcoholic, he would have been an awesome dad.  Just like I know that if my exboyfriend did not suffer from the same addiction, he would have been a wonderful life partner.  When I went to an Al-Anon meeting recently, someone used the phrase “detachment with love”.  I realized that I unknowingly started doing this with my father years ago.  I have his nasty emails blocked, his ringtone on my phone is “silent”, I immediately erase his toxic voicemails and I speak to him as minimally as possible, especially if I know he is drunk.  When I see him, if he is sober, I chat with him, but I stopped letting him “in”…I try to no longer let his behavior negatively affect me.  I accepted that I was not going to be able to change him, so I stopped trying to.

I am currently detaching with love from my exboyfriend.  While I never felt responsible for my father, I did feel VERY responsible for my ex.  By protecting him and enabling him, I was actually hurting us both, which I am able to see now that I have some space from the situation.  I cannot protect him from the consequences of his choices and I do not want to continue to suffer because of his actions.  By releasing those feelings of responsibility for him, I was able to start focusing on myself and my needs.

I love my father and I love my exboyfriend, but I hate their alcoholism.  My father, the man who should be the one to protect me, physically hurt me and still verbally abuses me. My exboyfriend, the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, lied to my face and cheated on me, violating my trust.

I think I will always see the world as the child of an alcoholic and as someone who deeply loved and was in an eight year long romantic relationship with an alcoholic.  It is just a part of who I am, woven into the essence of my being.  However, I know that they both made their own choices, but that I also had the ability to make a choice for myself.

And my choice was to detach (with love) from both of them.

Hiding in plain sight

64419783_368906000434651_5877571720587379614_n

I went to an Al-Anon meeting tonight.  I have not been to one in probably almost 20 years.  At that time, I went because of my father’s alcoholism.  This time, it is about my ex-boyfriend.  I guess technically I am killing two birds with one stone.

The topic the speaker chose could not have been more perfect for me.  It was about feeling responsible for other people and not focusing on yourself.  For SO LONG I felt responsible for my boyfriend, especially at the end of our relationship when he was hospitalized and so ill.  I put him and his health and his alcoholism first and I knew he really needed me.  It was all about him, but really most of our relationship was that way.  He said something to me right after our dog died…he said, “I knew I wasn’t taking the best care of her, but I also knew that you would.”  I thought I was helping him, but really all I was doing was taking away any responsibilities or consequences.  In reality, I was making it very easy for him to drink, because he knew I would hold everything else together.

Someone in the meeting said that they often get lost in other people because it feels makes them feel safe.  I recognized that is exactly what I have been doing these past few months, since everything in my life became complete chaos.  My sister bought a house at the end of June and ALL I have done this summer is help her pack, move, decorate, etc her house.  I also have been helping her with her two year old daughter.  I obviously love spending time with my niece, but I know I have been hiding in their lives and their new home as a way of avoiding my own.  I also realize that I have been trying to do EVERYTHING for my sister, whether it be at her house or helping with the baby.  Another member of the Al-Anon group spoke tonight and said that they always want to be needed because if they are not doing things for other people, they feel worthless, like they have nothing else to offer.  That is how I feel about myself right now and I am aware that I have transferred a lot of my codependent tendencies from my exboyfriend to my sister.

So, here are my takeaways from tonight’s meeting…

  1. I am not responsible for anyone else’s behavior.  I should not feel guilty that I can’t be supportive of someone who is harmful to my emotional well being. I am only responsible for myself.
  2. I cannot save anyone, especially those who do not want to save themselves; people need to face the consequences of their actions. 
  3. I have to stop trying to do everything for other people and start realizing I have more to offer.  People will still care about me and want to spend time with me, even if I am not “doing” things for them.  I have to stop needing to constantly feel needed.
  4. No. More. Hiding.  As much as I love my sister, my niece and their new lovely home, I must have my own life and enjoy the time I spend at my own house.

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.

Goodbye, old friend

download

Up until recently, my life has only been affected by suicide through other people’s losses.  In high school, a good friend’s mother took her own life.  I was young enough to understand the tragic impact, but was far enough removed from the long lasting effects.  As a teacher, I have had students whose parents or siblings have committed suicide. That is very difficult because I always want to be sensitive to their emotions with the literature I teach.  All of these untimely deaths affected me in that I felt sympathy for the families and tried to support my friend and students the best I could at the time.
A good friend of mine, who was also a colleague, recently committed suicide.  He and I were VERY close about ten years ago.  I considered him one of my best friends at that time and we joked that I was his “work wife”.  After my divorce, we had a very short-lived romantic affair, but ultimately decided we were better off as friends.  Over the years, he got married and I got involved in a long-term relationship.  He was moved to another classroom on the other side of the school and we just gradually grew apart.  But, it was always fun to run into him in the hallway from time to time (we have a VERY large school building).  We always maintained a funny, flirty friendship.  He was the most self-deprecating person I ever met.  He was by far the most hilarious person I have ever known.  He also had a very sweet side.  After getting divorced, I was crying to him about never going on a date again because I didn’t know “how” to date.  He said, “I will pick you up tomorrow at 7:00pm”.  He arrived at my house, all dressed up, with flowers, and took me out to dinner.  He opened the car door for me, he treated me to a meal and then he drove me home.  Afterwards, he walked me to my front door, kissed my cheek like a gentleman and said, “now you don’t need to be nervous because you know what a date is like.”  This will always be my favorite memory of him.
A few months ago he was out of work for several weeks.  At first I didn’t even know because I do not see him at school regularly.  Then other teachers started asking me if he was okay.  I texted him and got no response.  Overlapping his absence, I was out for three weeks on FMLA when my boyfriend was in ICU.  During my last week out of work, he returned to school and texted me.  He said he heard I was out and asked if I needed anything.  This led to a lengthy text conversation about what we both had been going through.  Looking back on it now, I realize he was lying to me about why the reason he was out, but it doesn’t matter because I will always be grateful for that last communication we had.  Once I returned to work, I was so busy getting caught up, I never had an opportunity to go see him in his classroom.
I awoke on a Sunday morning to a mass email to all of the teachers from our principal.  He stated we had suddenly and tragically lost a member of our staff and I had to read it over and over to make sure that I was seeing the name correctly.  I immediately felt sick to my stomach.  How? How could he be gone? The email was very vague and did not mention the cause of death, but I just instinctively knew it was suicide.  I contacted his best friend, another colleague, who confirmed this to be true.
The loss was overwhelming.  He was so full of life.  But he was always a sad clown…he used humor to cover up anything that hurt him.  When he got divorced years after I did, he even acted like it was a joke.  I tried to get him to talk seriously about it, but it was his form of a coping mechanism.
I think when someone commits suicide, the first thing people do is think about what they “could have done”.  I know that there was probably nothing I could have done to save him.  I didn’t even really know how bad things were for him.  I just wish I had seen him one more time.  One more hug.  One more joke.
Something weird has been happening to me.  I will be walking in the hall and I will think I see him out of the corner of my eye.  I will jerk my head to look and instead it is a tall, lanky student.  Or I will be pulling out of the parking lot and will see a small, white car and will glance at the driver to see if it’s him.  I am just so heartbroken- for myself and his other friends and colleagues, for his family, for his exwife and current fiancee, and for his students.  We had a memorial at school and it was so nice to hear former students explain how much he impacted their lives.  I wish there was a way for him to have known how much he would be missed and how many people would grieve for him.  I know he must have been in so much pain- that’s the most heartbreaking part of it.  His particular method of suicide was so devastating…I just cannot imagine how hopeless and helpless he must have felt.
I still feel frightened that my exboyfriend could make the same tragic, horrible decision.  My world was turned upside down when my friend died- I did not see it coming at all.  Everyone, including my therapist, tells me that I am not responsible for what my ex does, but that is easy for people to say.  If he ever did something to hurt himself, I don’t know what I would do.

Here I go again on my own…sort of.

images

The boundary between my exboyfriend and me is blurry at best.  I fluctuate between feeling so sad for him, being really concerned about his health and resenting the fact that I can’t just simply move on and focus on how I feel about everything that has happened these past two months.
Throughout the week after he moved back and our dog died, he kept telling me how sick he felt.  He claimed he couldn’t even drive himself to the doctor.  I initially dismissed it a little because I didn’t know if he was depressed or just weak from the coma or (worst case scenario) drinking.  He called me Thursday afternoon (which was May 2) and told me that the doctor called and said his white blood cell count was quadruple was it is supposed to be, indicating a serious infection.  He said his mother was flying in to take him back to the hospital the next morning.  I feared he had sepsis and told him I was going to come and get him and take him right away to the ER.  He finally agreed.  I went to his new apartment, something I never wanted to do, to help him pack a bag.  He looked AWFUL.  He was so skinny and weak, it took over an hour to get him to my car and I had to use a wheelchair to get him into the ER.  I stayed with him until 3 am and he was admitted into a room.  They diagnosed him with the same infection he had when he was in the coma.  He stayed in the hospital for another 20 days.  His mother only stayed for the first week.
I was so torn.  I felt terrible he was so sick and so alone.  But for 28 days, my life revolved around his health and I simply could not do that again.  I went to see him that first weekend, mostly out of concern and also obligation, and then did not visit again.  However, we texted and spoke on the phone every day.  He was finally discharged and his friend drove him home.
He has spent a total of 48 days in the hospital since March 15.  I feel like my life has been on hold for most of that time.  I “do” things, mostly around my house (redecorating the basement was a good, but expensive distraction) and hang out with my sister and niece, but I always feel an underlying sadness and guilt.
It occurred to me that he hasn’t lived with me for over two months now.  It is still an adjustment in so many big and small ways.  This morning when I woke up for work, I felt pressure on my waist and for a split second I thought it was his arm slung over my body.  It was my cat sleeping on top of me.  This has happened several times.  Yet, ironically, we didn’t cuddle a lot in bed.  Yet, I find myself in the middle of the night reaching my arm out to his side of the bed to touch his back and feel nothing but the cold sheets when his body used to be.
I know I need to not focus on just the things I miss about him.  I feel resentful that I never got to be a “regular girl” in that when I found out he was cheating on me by texting another woman very explicitly, I did not get a chance to yell at him and throw him out…because he was in a coma.  I never got the chance to be angry about all of the alcohol hidden in the basement…because he was in a coma.  Everything was about his health, but now it has been so long and his health is still a major concern.
I obviously still care about him.  I know we can’t be together.  He has to focus on his health and also his sobriety (which he hasn’t really done anything about)  and I need time to heal.  Yet, over the weekend, I was talking to him and he sounded SO lonely.  I was about to go to the dog park with my niece, my sister and her friend (who has two dogs) and I invited him to come, sort of expecting him to say no.  He said yes and I went and picked him up.  His appearance was startling.  Within two months, he has lost over 50 pounds and looks so gaunt and pale.  He was always so muscular and had thick, strong legs.  Now he can put his two hands around his thigh and they touch.  He walks slowly, like an old man.  I felt so many different emotions when I saw him.  My sister and her friend both hugged him when we met them at the park and I realized when I entered his apartment, I did not.  In some ways, I feel detached.  In other ways, I feel OVER involved.
On Memorial Day, I went to my friend’s pool.  It was the first really nice day, warm and sunny.  He texted me in the afternoon saying how nice it was out and reluctantly, I invited him over, since my sister and niece were there too.  He did not respond and it instantly affected my mood.  I was not able to enjoy myself anymore, because I felt guilty and worried.  Ironically, I was reading a book while laying on a lounge chair about how to overcome being a codependent and the chapter was on “detachment”.  I am having a really hard time with that process, obviously.  I can’t help but still feel responsible for him, knowing he really has nobody else.  I picture him sitting alone in his apartment and I feel SO bad.
But then I think, HE should be the one suffering the consequences of his actions and choices.  He was the one who drank, he was the one who betrayed my trust, he was the one who neglected his health…I feel like if he had not almost died, I would feel differently because I would allow myself to be mad.  Good- he should be lonely and miserable.  I don’t know how to get there.  I keep telling my friends “once he is better, I can move on and stop talking to him and checking on him.”  I need to, but it is so hard to let go completely.

Need vs. Want

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 7.48.24 PM.png

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.

ba0751f0a1b0073d0c1ee527354dfd2b.jpg

 

My codependency

86baa35fff785d70a2054b3439794394--to-draw-determination

Throughout the entire month my boyfriend was in ICU, I focused pretty much all of my energy, time and attention on him and his recovery.  Now that he is at his parent’s house, I am realizing that it was easier for me to do that than to look at myself in the mirror and reflect on my own behavior.  I feel like such a cliche…the daughter of an alcoholic who ends up dating an alcoholic.  As a child, I felt like I had no control over my father and his drinking problem, yet there was always that part of me that felt like if I was “good” or did not give him a reason, he would stop.  I knew deep down it was not my fault, but I consistently found myself playing the role of peacekeeper in my family and I was always the only one to try to placate him, hoping it would calm him down or avoid an altercation.  I did not feel during my relationship with my boyfriend that I was enabling him, but I have started to realize that I was definitely codependent.  Below I listed the top ten signs of codependency and they literally describe me to a T.  My boyfriend (I guess I should be writing ex-boyfriend, really) and I have been having a lot of heart-to-heart, honest conversations and he recently said something that really made me think.  He said that in some ways drinking was easy for him because he knew that I was responsible and would take care of everything.  It is really so true.  He knew that he could drink and pass out and I would feed the dog and let her out.  I catered to him so much, did so many things for him that my sister would joke that I was his secretary.  I know that was fulfilling some kind of void in my life, some desire to please other people, to feel needed and in control.  I constantly had expectations and was mostly always disappointed.  I would create scenarios in my head of us both getting off work and going to the mall and then out to dinner and then coming home and watching a movie.  And more often than not, he would be drunk or sleeping.  I would be upset and make excuses for him…he was stressed at work, his depression was kicking in, the dog was sick.

I knew deep down that he loved me- truly loved me.  I think he still does.  However, I felt unloved and unwanted and lonely a lot.  I was deprived of affection and of intimacy for so long.  I think that is why finding out he was unfaithful by texting another woman was so hurtful.  The attention and interest that I so desperately wanted from him for years he so easily bestowed on someone else.

It is really difficult to objectively look at our relationship since it just ended and the heartache is still so fresh.  He has a lot of work to do in order to get healthy and sober and I accept the fact that I cannot be responsible for him anymore.  It is time to focus on myself so I can become a stronger person.  I also know that I cannot hide behind him and his problems anymore as a way of avoiding my own.

TEN SIGNS OF CODEPENDENCY

From: https://www.recoveryconnection.com/top-ten-indicators-suffer-codependency/

  1. Feeling responsible for solving others’ problems. The codependent feels the need to solve another’s problems. They feel that the person in need cannot manage to make the right decisions or take the right actions to solve his or her own problem.
  2. Offering advice to others whether it is asked for or not. The codependent jumps at the opportunity to provide “much-needed” advice. 
  3. Expecting others to do what the codependent says.  Codependents often do not understand boundaries.
  4. The codependent feels used and underappreciated. The codependent will expend enormous amounts of energy to take charge of another’s life. This is all under the guise of sincerely wanting to help. When the help or advice is ignored or rejected, the codependent feels angry, abused, and unappreciated.
  5. Trying to please people so others will like or love the codependent. Codependents will go out of their way to please another person. They hope to receive love, approval or be accepted and liked. If the approval is not given, the codependent will feel victimized.
  6. Taking everything personally. Because there are little to no boundaries, any remark, comment or action is a reflection back upon the codependent. This makes the need to feel in control paramount.
  7. Feeling like a victim. Everything that happens either to the codependent or the loved one is a reflection on the codependent. Such people usually feel victimized and powerless and do not understand their role in creating their own reality.
  8. Using manipulation, shame, or guilt to control others’ behavior. Codependents will respond in a fashion that will force compliance by others. These tactics may be unconscious and it is important that the codependent feel in control.
  9. Lying to themselves and making excuses for others’ bad behavior. Because codependents do not deal directly with their feelings, they develop techniques to lie to themselves about others’ behaviors. Because they feel responsible for others’ behaviors, they will rationalize and blame others for their loved one’s poor behavior, seeking to maintain control.
  10. Fearing rejection and being unlovable. The codependent fears that if he or she is not successful at everything, or indeed expresses his/her feelings or needs, they will be rejected. In a codependent’s way of thinking, he or she will be unlovable. 

keep f**king going…

780D88E2-38BD-47AF-8410-997EE7907BF4

I am here, my love.  I am sitting next to you as you lie motionless in your hospital bed.  Tomorrow will officially be two weeks that you have been in a medically induced coma on a breathing tube.  I keep thinking to myself, “but we were supposed to go to the mall and get dinner.”  You always hear about people’s lives changing overnight, you just never expect it to happen to you.  I am listening to the steady breathing coming from your lungs, but I know it is a machine doing the work for you.  I am wearing a plastic gown that has become a part of my daily wardrobe.  The sounds of the ICU has become just background noise.  The first few days I would jump every time an alarm went off.  Now, I can identify which IV drip is running low and I know medical terms that are 15 letters long (and can pronounce them).  I have a newfound respect for nurses, who have treated your body with such respect and have treated my broken heart with such kindness.

An hour ago, you opened your eyes, staring at nothing.  I tried to make eye contact, but you are so sedated, I doubt you are seeing anything.  I put on a latex glove and held your hand.  I asked you to squeeze it and you did.  But like a baby who smiles when they have gas, I wonder if it was just a reflex or if you could really feel me touching you.  I hate not being able to touch your skin without plastic between us.

I miss you so much, but you are right here.  I go through so many emotions every day, I feel like a crazy person sometimes.  When I am home, I feel guilty that I am not with you.  When I leave the hospital, I feel guilty to feel relief.  Why do I feel so much guilt? I didn’t do anything wrong.  I have always tried not to play the victim card when it came to my dad’s alcoholism, but I was a victim of it, just like I was a victim of yours.  I have to take responsibility, though, because I didn’t have a choice with my father.  I did have a choice when it came to you.  But, honestly, given another chance, I would still choose you.  You were worth the risk.  I saw all the good in you…so much good.  People always say they have no regrets and wouldn’t change things in their lives because they learned from mistakes.  I have regrets- I regret marrying my exhusband…I would have preferred to miss those hard lessons.  I will never regret you, though, my love.

I tried to pour my heart out to your mother.  I’m sure you can guess how that went.  One thing I tried to explain to her is that when all of this is over, she will still have you as her son.  When this is all over, I lose you.  I will have to start picking up the pieces and find a new life for myself.  I know it is the right thing to do, though.  We could not have continued living the way we were.  Well, I couldn’t.  I just would not be able to see you do this to yourself again.  Please don’t let this be in vain.  I wish I believed in god so I could pray for you to survive, to get better, to get sober, to be happy.  Other people who are religious are praying for you- that makes me grateful.  I have asked my Mama for help.  I talk to her and ask her to watch over you and to protect you.  She was the toughest woman I know, but she had the biggest heart.  She would say to you, “oh phooey- you wake up and get off those machines!”.

I wonder how long it will be before I stop loving you?  Maybe never.  Maybe it will just be a part of who I am.  Right now it is hard to be angry with you for your lies and your betrayal because you look so weak, so helpless.  But it’s not fair- I have a right to be angry with you.  It has to wait.  I feel like all I have been doing for the past two weeks is waiting (and you know I am not the most patient person).  But I need to see this through- for you and for myself.  Jess bought me a bangle bracelet as a gift that is just silver on the outside but on the inside it says, “keep fucking going…” And that is what I am going to do.

You may never know…

heart-316845_1280

My love,

It’s been ten days that you have been in a coma.  Ten days that I haven’t heard your voice, that we haven’t slept together in our bed.  Ten days that I have had a broken heart with so many unanswered questions.  The doctors keep telling me YOU won’t remember this.  I am glad for that, there has been so much suffering.  However, I will not ever forget this and it has changed me permanently and forever.

Let me start from the beginning.  I knew since you got laid off, you have been drinking more.  I know you gave yourself permission to do so and I really tried to understand how hard it was for you.  I also knew the problems you have had with alcohol that have affected our relationship were going on far before you lost your job.  I gave you time.  I tried to give you space.  Finally, it became too much for me.  I never knew what I was coming home to…would you be drunk? sleeping all day? going to a meeting? I was scared to come home, anxious all the time.

Once I told you I couldn’t do it anymore, you made more promises.  I asked you about rehab.  You said no.  You could do it on your own.  I told you that you couldn’t.  You said you would go to more meetings.  I know you wanted to stop, I believed you, I believed IN you.  You did start going to more meetings.  I encouraged them and the relationships you created there.  I felt the more sober people in your network, the better.  You had met Mary and she became your unofficial sponsor.  You would pick her up and take her to meetings.  I thought that was a good thing- it gave you someone else to be responsible for getting to them.

I know you were drunk Tuesday, but I do believe you that you stopped on Wednesday.  But you started acting so strangely- you were disoriented, shaking.  I told you it was withdrawal.  You said no, something else had to be wrong.  You had a physical appointment on Friday.  I was so relieved you were finally going to the doctor for a check up.

Friday, 8th period. I got a call from the doctor’s office.  I stepped out of my classroom to answer it.  They said you were VERY ill and that they tried to convince you to go to the emergency room in an ambulance.  You pushed the doctor out of the way and ran out of the office barefoot.  I panicked.  I called you and you answered as if nothing was wrong. I told you if you didn’t go to the emergency room, we were finished forever.  You finally agreed, reluctantly.

When we got to the ER, you were confused, sweating, couldn’t follow directions.  They right away knew it was withdrawal.  You told the doctor you drank up to two pints of vodka a day.  You told him you would try to drink in the morning and vomit.  How did I not know how bad it was? Was I in denial? Did I not want to know? Were you just that good of a liar?  You started to become incoherent.  You began hallucinating.  I was so scared.

They got you admitted into a room.  They said it would be a couple of days and they would help you go through withdrawal safely.  At first you did not want to stay, thank god you did.  Within an hour, you were trying to pull out the IVs they put in your arms.  You were talking and making no sense.  An alarm would go off in the hospital and you thought you were at a high school sports game.  Once in a while you would seem normal, but then the hallucinations would begin again.  They tried to get you to stop touching your IVs, you started to shake uncontrollably and the nurse yelled you were having a seizure.  The rapid response team was called and within minutes 15 nurses and doctors were crammed into your small hospital room.  In the hall, I watched with disbelief that this was happening.  I was so terrified.

They rushed you to ICU, just down the hall.  I ran after you, but the doctor said to wait in the waiting room.  Thankfully, your best friend was there and my sister was about to arrive. I felt so helpless.  The doctor finally called me out into the hall.  He said they gauge alcohol withdrawal on a scale called CIWA.  6 is uncomfortable, 12 needs medical attention, 20 can be life threatening.  You were a 45.  The doctor looked at me and said that I saved your life.  I broke down.  He said you would have most likely had a major seizure if they didn’t start you on the medications when they did.  Then, we heard security being paged and guards running to your room.  You had to be strapped down, restrained so they could put the IVs in to save your life.  The doctor said he would be back to talk to us.

He did.  He said they put you in a medically induced coma.  No other patient had ever needed more sedatives before.  The inserted a breathing tube and you were on a ventilator.  Life support one doctor called it.  The first time I saw you strapped down with all of those machines, my heart broke into 100 pieces.  I couldn’t stop crying, we called your parents.  At first it didn’t seem like they were going to come.  I wanted to scream, “YOUR SON IS IN A COMA”. I let your friend talk to them.  They said they would “decide” in the morning.

I sat next to you and cried and cried.  How could it have gotten this bad? We were supposed to go to the mall and get dinner.  How could you be in a coma?  Finally, after being at the hospital for nine hours, the nurses told us to all go home.  You were sedated and I had to come home and take care of the dog.  You had accidentally left her outside.  You’ve never done that before.

At 1 am, I got into the guest room bed.  I couldn’t sleep without you in our bed.  I still haven’t.  I took your phone to look up some phone numbers of people to contact in the morning.  The first person I though of was Mary.  You two had become so close and she was such a support system for you, almost like a mother figure, considering she was almost 20 years older than you.

NOTHING could have prepared me for the texts I saw.  I read them over and over.  I felt like vomiting.  I was shaking so hard, I could hardly hold the phone.  I called my sister and read them all to her.  She said she was going to be sick.  I kept saying, “how could he do this to me? how could he do this to me?” I never ever suspected you of being unfaithful.  I never doubted you.  I trusted you with every fiber of my being.  I thought we were in love, even with the problems we have been having.  I devoted almost 10 years of my life to our relationship.  Besides all of the very sexually explicit texts, you told her SHE was the reason you were staying sober (which you weren’t), that SHE was the most interesting person you ever met, that HER support was helping you, that you thought about her A LOT.  I felt my already broken heart splinter into 1,000 more pieces.  I felt like a fool.  I encouraged you to see her, thinking she was helping you.  You told me Wednesday night you would go to a meeting with her and then come get in bed with me.  You never did- you slept in the basement.  How could I have been so blind.  I was texting you that I loved you and believed in you and on the same day you were texting her about wanting to fuck her.  I will never know if you did.  It doesn’t even matter.

The next morning I went to see you in the hospital with my sister.  I kissed you 20 times.  I held your hand for an hour.  I told you I loved you over and over and over. I cried and cried and cried.  I left the hospital and went directly to a storage unit and rented one.  By the end of the day Saturday, all of your belongings were in it.  While taking your furniture out of the basement, we found 21 pints of vodka.  I told your parents the truth.  That regardless of what happened to you in the hospital, you no longer lived with me.  Part of that was pure betrayal and if you were not sick, our relationship would have ended anyway due to your infidelity.  The other, bigger, part was that I could not have you come back here and act like you didn’t almost die and just continue drinking.  I did it for me, but for you too.  Rehab had to be the only option.

For the past ten days, I have woken up and gone to the hospital.  I have kissed your face next to your breathing tube.  I have held your hand, still bound to the bed.  When you have opened your eyes, I have reassured you I am there and I love you.  I hung up a collage of pictures of the dog and our nieces and nephew.  I made a playlist on my phone of your favorite songs and I sit next to you and play them.  When your parents arrived, I still was the one who had to tell the doctors everything about you.  In some ways, I know you inside and out.  In other ways, I feel like you have lied about everything. I spoke with your therapist and meeting facilitator, both of whom thought you were maintaining sobriety with “occasional” relapses.  You even lied to them.  You must have been lying to yourself.  I did your unemployment paperwork, your COBRA, paid your bills.  You will probably never even know these things.  I have done everything I can to help you and support you and love you and take care of you during this time.

I get home late at night and I get in bed and I read, over and over, the text messages you sent to her.  I cry myself to sleep, wiping my eyes on your sweatshirt.  I sleep with your deodorant open on the pillow next to me to smell you.  I feel so alone.

But then the next day I wake up, and I go to the hospital and do it all again.  The nurses tell me I am strong.  They are shocked at your parent’s disconnect.  You will most likely never know, or believe, how truly and deeply I love you.  You are still in a coma, there have been a lot of setbacks.  Your kidneys weren’t working, to the point they were talking about dialysis.  You had a 103 fever for 60 hours.  You have pneumonia and two other infections.  I thought at one point you would die.  I agonize over the last thing I said to you.  Did we sleep together on Thursday night?  Did I kiss you goodbye when I left for work on Friday?

I took FMLA at work- I have missed more day of school in these two weeks than I did the whole school year last year.  Your dad introduced me at first as your girlfriend to each new doctor who came in to see you.  I was the only one who could answer their questions about your history and your health.  By midweek, he casually nodded towards me and said we “live together”…I was downgraded to just being your roommate.  Today, he didn’t even bother to even introduce me.  I sat on the couch by myself, huddled in the corner, feeling like I didn’t belong there.  But I refuse to leave.  I don’t care how awkward it is.  While you are in the coma, you still feel like mine.  Once you wake up, everything is going to change.  I don’t know how you will react.  I don’t know if you will agree to rehab or if you will refuse.  Your parents want you to go down by them.  My body physically aches when I think of what you will go through and knowing I will most likely not be a part of it.

I feel like I have lost so much.  Sometimes I am so angry, other times I feel so sad it’s overwhelming.  I have lost weight because I can’t eat.  I do laundry and organize closets at 3 am because I can’t sleep.  My friends and family and coworkers and students have all been so incredibly supportive.  I appreciate it more than I will ever be able to express to them.

But right now, all I want is you,

and I will always love you,

and you may never know any of this.

 

Love you more.

44822-broken-heart-1200.1200w.tn

I love my boyfriend.  I can’t imagine life without him.  But I will have to because I just broke up with him.  I love the movie, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and there’s a scene where Kristen Bell is explaining to her ex why she ended things and she says, “Oh, I tried. You have no idea how hard I tried. I talked to a therapist, I talked to my mother, I read every book possible…None of it worked. None of it made a difference to you and I couldn’t drown in you anymore.”  That’s how I feel.  My boyfriend’s problem with alcohol was drowning me.  I was nervous to come home from work at 2:45 in the afternoon because I knew he would most likely be sleeping or drunk.  For SO long, I justified his behavior by telling myself, “he isn’t mean.”  That became my only criteria.  My dad is a VERY mean drunk.  My exhusband was a mean person.  My boyfriend is not mean- sober or drunk.  But that doesn’t make living with him any easier and it doesn’t make his alcoholism any more tolerable.  What finally broke me was the lying.  The constant lies about not drinking, when all I ever asked of him was to be honest.  If he drank and told me the truth, I would not get mad or reprimand him- I would talk to him about what made him do it and why he did.  I don’t understand why he just. kept. lying.  I found bottles of half empty vodka in his car, crumpled bags from the liquor store in his filing cabinet and he so, so often smelled of alcohol, but would deny drinking.

I love my boyfriend.  Right now (and probably our whole eight years together), I loved him more than he loved himself.  He has a very low self-worth, which is probably part of the reason he drinks.  I wish he could see himself the way I see him.  If I made a pro/con list about him, there would be two pages of “pros”.  But under “cons”, in thick Sharpie marker, would simply be the word “alcoholic”.  And all the positive qualities in the world cannot cancel out an addition.  I love him so much that I cannot stand to watch him self-destruct before my eyes.  He sinks lower and lower and I feel like he is quicksand and I only have a short window to step out of it before I get sucked down forever.  I love him, but I love myself, too.  I had no choice in who my father was- I had to live with an abusive alcoholic for my childhood and teenage years.  I am an adult now and I do have a choice in this.

I love my boyfriend, but I honestly can say that I have done everything I can to support him in his desire for sobriety.  I have made sacrifices and protected him and probably enabled him, too.  I have felt like his caretaker for so long, I don’t even feel like a girlfriend.  I feel so alone, so often.  I thought because he wanted to change, he would.  And I truly believe he doesn’t want to be the way he is, but I also know that he cannot stop on his own and he refuses to get the help he needs.

I love my boyfriend, but there isn’t enough love in the world to love him out of this addiction.  He will have to learn to love himself first and I am scared for what is going to happen to him.  I feel responsible for him, but I also know I cannot change him.  I have always still loved my father, but it’s never been enough.

I love my boyfriend and I am heartbroken and we are living together still and it is awful and awkward and depressing and I get a stomachache every day and my anxiety is off the charts and he is angry and drinking more and I just need it all to stop.  And the only way I can do that is to stay committed to making him my ex-boyfriend.