Hiding in plain sight

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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.

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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keep f**king going…

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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.

‘Tis the season

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Normally, my boyfriend and I do not go to my parent’s house on Christmas Eve, because they come to our house on Christmas Day.  The past couple of years, my sister, her fiancee and now their baby still go up there…I think a lot of it is out of obligation on my sister’s part and so my mom is not alone with my dad on a holiday.  Over the years, I have opted out, mostly because my boyfriend doesn’t enjoy going there and because my dad is a wildcard when it comes to his drinking, although he usually stays sober on holidays and if he knows he is seeing family.

For the past few weeks, my boyfriend has had a tough time dealing with his depression and my mother has been very understanding and supportive of him.  I think to show his appreciation, he surprised me by suggesting we go to my parent’s house to surprise them on Christmas Eve.  I told my sister we would be there about an hour after them (we both live about 45 min away from my hometown) and to keep it a secret.  My boyfriend bought my mother a beautiful plant and I picked out a couple of special gifts to have my family open early.  I was actually looking forward to it- my parents have a beautiful home with a big fireplace and I knew how happy it would make my mom to have us all there together.

As my boyfriend and I were getting ready to walk out the door, my sister called me in tears. “Don’t come. Dad’s drunk.” I hung up with her and burst into tears.  I should not have been surprised, but I was really disappointed.  And I felt so bad for my sister, who tries so hard around the holidays to make everything festive (and we were supposed to celebrate her birthday, too- my sister said there was a homemade birthday cake for her on the counter). What made it 1,000 times worse was my mother was crying as my sister left (she literally walked in the house, my dad was yelling, she saw he was drunk and immediately left.)  My mother NEVER cries.  To know that she got everything all ready, made appetizers, baked my sister a birthday cake and waited anxiously to see her granddaughter, just to have my dad ruin it by drinking is so sad.  Even though I am sure she was heartbroken, she told my sister to leave and go home.  I called my mom to see what was going on and she kept choking back tears during our conversation.  But she also told me not to come- that my dad didn’t deserve to have his family around him if he was going to act the way he does.

My sister sat in her car in their neighborhood, unsure of what to do- she felt too guilty to leave my mom alone on Christmas Eve, but didn’t want her 18 month old daughter exposed to my father if he was belligerent.  After I finally called my dad and assessed that he did, in fact, drink, but was not “that” drunk, my sister decided to ignore my mother’s pleading and went back.  My boyfriend and I jumped in the car and got there as fast as we could.  I was definitely anxious on the ride there, imagining the possible outcomes in my head.  I guess we figured if my dad started acting up, we could all just leave.  Luckily, he behaved himself for the most part and the night was salvaged.

It just sucks.  I just wish I had more normal family and a dad that wasn’t an alcoholic and holidays could just be less drama-filled.  I know everyone has issues with their families and no one’s is perfect, but when I talk to my friends or look on social media, most people appear to have relatively normal families and holiday celebrations.  I am so grateful it turned out okay and that my mom was happy in the end, but I know in the back of my mind that night could have ended very differently and it definitely put a bit of a damper on Christmas.

My Guilt Trip

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It is SO easy to make me feel guilty…most people don’t even have to try! It really does not take much. I really hate the feeling of feeling guilt and oftentimes I can’t avoid it, even when I know that I did not do anything wrong. For example, my sister’s boyfriend works long hours and often is not around to spend time with her on the weekends. When I know she is alone, I feel bad. This past weekend, she asked me to go shopping but I already had plans to go out to dinner with my boyfriend. At first, it was hard to enjoy myself knowing that she was lonely. She told me it was fine and she is an adult and has plenty of friends to hang out with, but I sometimes wish I could be two places at once. I worry that I am letting people down or disappointing them. In addition to feeling guilt, I have an issue with excessive worrying…fun! fun!

I am not sure where this guilt comes from or how to stop feeling it.