Breaking the cycle

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My soul and my heart have been CRAVING to write a blog entry…my brain on the other hand, has been getting in the way.  Every time I sit down to begin writing, I just feel so overwhelmed.

Ironically, leading up to the one year “anniversary” (can’t there be a different word for acknowledging a date that is bad???!!) of my ex-boyfriend being put into a coma, I was doing pretty okay.  March 15th loomed, but I felt like I was in a good place.  I decided rather than allowing myself to wallow in nostalgia, that I instead would try remind myself of how far I had come during the past 365 days.  And I really have come so far.  I currently have virtually no contact with him.  Even better, since my father has been released from the hospital, he has maintained sobriety.  It is crazy to think that I have no active alcoholics in my day to day life, and although I know that can change when it comes to my dad, I am enjoying it while I can.

I am also so in love.  It is still really hard for me to write about him…I don’t feel ready to share him with the “virtual world”, especially since our relationship is pretty private in “real life”.  I know as time goes on, I will write about him more and more, but for now all I can say is he is absolutely wonderful and treats me so amazingly well.  I am so happy with him being a part of my life.  I was fully prepared to be single for a very, very long time after going through what I did with my ex, but I guess it is true what people say about finding love when you are not looking for it and least expect it.

What did make March 15th a sad day for me was knowing how much my ex is still suffering and struggling.  After everything he went through, he is still not doing well.  I last heard from him a couple of months ago via text and he is dealing with a lot of mental health issues, as well as continuing to drink.  I honestly can say I do not feel any responsibility for him at all, but that does not mean I do not want him to be okay.  I will always worry about him and I truly want the best for him.  Looking back, his hospitalization, infidelity and alcoholism was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, but the fact of the matter is that I did get through it.  I did and finally broke the cycle of codependency in my life.  I won’t turn out like my mother and although it took me eight years to do it, I am proud of myself that I did.

So, things were pretty calm…and then this virus and quarantine happened.  Luckily, everyone I know is healthy, which I am so thankful for considering my sister is twelve weeks pregnant and my father’s health is very compromised.  The high school school where I work has shut down for two weeks (and I assume it will end up being longer), and I am doing distance teaching with my 11th grade English students.  It has only been a couple of days, but so far so good.  I am trying to be very optimistic for them, because this is such a scary time for all of us.  I worry that being quarantined and not really being able to go anywhere is going to trigger an agoraphobic episode for me, especially living alone.  I am trying to be proactive by staying busy around the house, walking, and doing schoolwork.  The only place I go is my sister’s house, which is two miles away.  This makes me feel like kind of a bad person in a way, but I am so relieved not to be stuck in the house with my ex-boyfriend during this time.  It is hard at times being alone, but I cannot imagine how stressful it would have been still living with him, confined to the house, with him drinking and behaving the way he was.

This is just so unprecedented and frightening, I keep thinking I am going to wake up tomorrow and will be able to go back to school and teach like normal. I am just going to do what everyone else is doing and take things as they come.  It is not easy to live that way when you struggle with an anxiety disorder, but this is a good lesson for me about not being able to control everything.  In fact, I think that is what this year taught me the most…that no matter how hard I try, most things are out of my control.

The more things change, the more they are the same

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I got a notification from WordPress that it was my seven year anniversary of when I began this blog.  I decided to go back to my very first post, which was on January 17, 2013.

I am not really sure where to begin, so I will just start writing and see where it takes me…

I am in my 30s and have read pretty much everything ever published about being the child of an alcoholic.  I know all about the roles (I am a hero), the shame, the dysfunction, the warnings…

 

Well, not much, yet EVERYTHING has changed…I am now in my 40s, my dad is still a drunk and I can now add a very long, very dysfunctional relationship with an alcoholic to my resume.  I became the dreaded cliche- the daughter of an alcoholic who ends up dating an alcoholic.  The only silver lining to that was that I did not marry him.

My father has been in the hospital or a rehabilitation/nursing home since Christmas Eve.  He suffered through a coma and once he was well enough to be moved physically, he went through a mental psychosis, caused by withdrawal or the sedatives.  He was irate, hateful, violent, and confused.  He thought he was at McDonald’s, he flicked off my two year old niece and said “fuck you” to her when she said goodbye to him, he thought another patient was my mother and yelled at her all day for ignoring him, he believed everything was a conspiracy against him, he blamed my mother, sister and me for “doing this to him”, he asked what plane I took to get there when I live ten miles away, he refused to eat..I could go on and on- his behavior was incredibly disturbing and upsetting.

He seems to be doing a little better with his mental facilities, but physically is very weak and will be moving to a rehab center again tonight.  So, now we are up to two different hospitals, two different rehabilitation centers, at least a dozen different doctors and more nurses than I can count.  It is exhausting.

My therapist AND my sister’s therapist asked why we go visit him so often, especially when he is being so nasty and verbally abusive towards us.  I honestly do not have an answer for that.  We have tolerated his behavior for so long.  I think a lot of it is feeling like we need to be there for my mother, but I cannot and will not ever understand her loyalty or sense of responsibility towards him.  It has just been a very stressful beginning to the new year, after what was arguably the worst year of my life.

Speaking of which, my ex (the above mentioned alcoholic and subject of MANY of my blogs) decided this would be the opportune time to try to reinsert himself back into my life.  After not hearing from him for months (at my request), he texted me asking about my father.  I contemplated for a while how to handle it and then decided maybe he was just being nice.  I gave him some details about my dad and nothing about myself.  He basically took the opportunity to fill me in on his life (which only made me pity him) and then proceeded to keep texting me until I had to kindly ask him to stop.

SO much has happened during the past seven years- it is impossible to sum up. Yet, that famous quote is eerily accurate: “the more things change, the more they are the same.”

“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.

Beyond repair

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After I got divorced, the only communication I ever had with my exhusband was one email he sent a few days after we went to court.  In it, he wrote, “I’m sorry I couldn’t fix you.”  To this day, I think it is the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.  However, if I really take all of the emotion out of what happened between us, I can kind of understand what he meant (granted it has been ten years since we got divorced, so it is easier to look at things more objectively now).  I had a really bad anxiety disorder, bordering on agoraphobia, and I now I think he did not know how to help me.  He took an entirely “tough love” approach, which was the opposite of what I really needed.  In his mind, he felt like he tried everything to help me (not true AT ALL), but I think he honestly believed that.  Perhaps what he was trying to say is that he was sorry that he was not able to HELP me (or I am giving him too much credit and he really was just that much of a dick).

In my current situation with my exboyfriend, I can sort of relate a little more to the notion of wanting to fix someone.  I can honestly say, and I truly believe most people would agree with me, that I tried everything to help him.  I learned the hard way that you cannot help someone who does not want to be helped and you get very hurt loving someone who does not love themself.  I was still speaking to him until he made the final decision to not go to an inpatient rehab.  It was solely his decision, but I strongly disagreed with him.  I told him that he made his choice and that I had to make the choice that was best for me, which was entirely cutting off all communication, for good this time.  I just knew I could not support him anymore if he wasn’t 100% committed to getting help, I couldn’t just stand by and watch him slowly kill himself, and that I was greatly hindering my own well-being by keeping an olive branch constantly extended to him.  He also told me that I was a “trigger” for his drinking, which might be true, but I was not comfortable with feeling like he was using me as an excuse to drink.  Tomorrow will be one full week that I have not spoken or responded to him.  He has tried to reach out a few times, but I literally just ignore him and have him blocked on social media.

It is really hard.  The part of me that loves him and has always taken care of him wants to talk to him.  I miss the good parts of our relationship, I miss him.  I don’t miss his drinking or walking on eggshells in my own house.  In some ways, it is a relief to not speak with him, because it lessens the responsibility that I feel for him (I know I shouldn’t feel ANY responsibility for him, but I just do…he’s completely alone).  He insists in his voicemails and when he occasionally texts with my sister that he is staying sober and attending AA meetings.  I just don’t believe anything he says.  My sister and he were very close and she basically told him she could only support him and text with him if he is sober.

Today on her way home from work, my sister saw him walking into a liquor store.  She waited a few minutes and then went in.  She stood silently behind him as he paid for his vodka and when he turned around, she asked him if he wanted to talk.  They sat on a bench for a half hour together.  My sister is such a caring person and she has been very worried about him dying (they were very close, he is the godfather to her two year old daughter).  She told me most of their conversation and it just made me really sad.  I feel like I can’t get MORE sad, but I somehow do.  He told her how lonely he is, but she caught him in several lies about his drinking.  He told her that he misses me and drives by my house several times a day.  He told her that he knows how badly he hurt me, especially over the past two years and the recent events in the past six months.

I doubt that.  One of the last things I said to him before I cut him off was that when he felt the urge to drink he should look at the photos of himself in the hospital when he was in the coma.  I figured seeing himself so close to death, on life support with a breathing tube, with his arms restrained and tied down to the bed, would deter him from drinking.  He responded that the photos didn’t really affect him, that he couldn’t remember any of it and that when he sees himself like that, he feels disconnected and it doesn’t seem like it is really him.  Meanwhile, I look at the photos and feel like I am going to vomit.  The memories instantly come flooding back: the image of the giant green succulent mural painted above his bed, the bitter smell of the hospital disinfectant, the swishing sound every time I moved in the mandatory plastic gown, the endless beeping of all the machines hooked up to his body, constantly glancing at his blood pressure numbers and temperature on the monitor.  I will NEVER forget a second of those 28 days.

I feel so much loss and pain.  It seems so deep inside of me and so permanent.  I am forever changed.  I can’t help or “fix” him.  I used to believe if I cared about him enough, he would start to care about himself. I used to believe all of his good qualities outweighed the bad.

I used to love succulents.

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Here I go again on my own…sort of.

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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.

Parent Therapy

I called my father this morning just to say hi. He told me that he was very upset because he and my mother got into a giant argument last night. Apparently, things got very heated and he said he was afraid my mom was going to hit him. This is absolutely mind-boggling if you know anything about my family (long story short, my father abused my mother for many years during drunken rages, but had stroke last year and stopped drinking and is pretty calm now and my mom would literally never hurt a fly). I tried to explain to him that my mother has A LOT of hostility towards him (rightfully so) and that he has to be more patient and less critical of her.

Then I called my mom to hear “her side”. She said that she just lost it during the argument and felt like she snapped. She said she finally walked out of the room and went to bed because she felt like she couldn’t breathe. This has been a recurring health problem of hers lately that I am thinking might be attributed to stress. I talked to her for quite some time and told her my opinion, which is this…

For whatever her reasons were, she decided to stay with him through all those years of abuse. No one, least of all me, thought my father would EVER stop drinking, but he did. Now, he is not currently going to win any father of the year or husband of the year awards, but things are much better than they were before. As far as I see it, my mom has three choices: 1) leave him now, which I know she won’t do 2) continue their relationship like it currently is and continue having health problems that are stress induced 3) learn to communicate with him and develop a civil relationship that ultimately is beneficial for her, for him and for our entire family. This is definitely “practice what you preach” advice because I had to make that choice in regards to my own relationship with my father. After the stroke when he became sober, I had to decide if I wanted the years of disappointment and bitterness towards my dad to continue or if I wanted to try to move past it and develop a relationship with him. I am a realist and know that I can’t just forget the terrible things he did when I was growing up, but I am grateful to have the chance to make some new, happier memories with him now. I have also had years and years (15!) of therapy, which I think has helped immensely when it comes to this.

I just worry about my mom ALL the time. I am scared something is going to happen to her because of the constant confrontation with my father. Stress affects your body in so many ways and it is really starting to cause noticeable health problems for my mother. I hate that the tide has turned and that I now worry about my parents the way they have always worried about me…it’s really hard.

Falling from grace

My paternal grandmother (my last surviving grandparent) has been ill lately and I just found out yesterday that she fell on Tuesday evening and was not found until yesterday afternoon. She lives six hours away from me and I feel very helpless. I have a very small family. On my dad’s side, there is only my grandma, uncle (dad’s brother), aunt (his wife) and two cousins (their children). They live in Maine, my grandmother in Cape Cod and my family is all in NJ.

For many, many years, my family has been distant- literally and figuratively- from my uncle’s family due to my father’s behavior. I resent him for this because I care about them a lot and feel like I am missing out on seeing my cousins grow up. I was very close with my aunt especially growing up. In fact, for the past few years, even my contact with my grandma has been limited because she has a clear preference for my uncle’s family and I don’t blame her. My father has ruined many occasions and his behavior must be very upsetting for my grandmother and uncle (my grandfather was a raging alcoholic before he died in 1990, so my father must be a great disappointment to them).

Throughout these past few months that my grandmother has been falling, ill and in and out of the hospital, there have been email chains going including all members of the family, including my dad and uncle’s first cousin, who thankfully lives by my grandma and has been instrumental in her care. Whereas everyone else’s emails have centered on my grandmother and what can be done to best assist her, my father’s emails have been batshit crazy insane. He writes nasty things, talks about irrelevant topics and focuses on himself and his problems predominantly. Finally my mother had to call my uncle to apologize and explain that my father’s alcoholism has increasingly become worse since the two brothers last saw each other.

My mother has always been the heart of our family and it is unfortunate that so many other relationships had to suffer because of my father. People didn’t want to be bothered with him, and that trickled down to include my mother, my sister and me. I don’t take it personally because if I was in their position, I would feel the same way. But it makes me very angry with my father, not only for destroying family ties, but also because he is not doing anything to help his own mother. When my maternal grandparents both passed away a couple of years ago, my mom was back and forth from NJ to FL constantly and we all got involved in helping them and being there for them in anyway.

So when my mother tried calling my grandma to check on her (my grandma adores my mom), she got no answer and was worried. She called my dad’s aunt who rushed over and found her on the floor, completely disoriented and she was rushed to the hospital, where she still is now. Most of the communication of all this was on email and between my mom, the cousin and my uncle. My father was specifially left off of the email and was the last to know that his mother had fallen. This makes me so sad and angry and left wondering why my family is so freaking dysfunctional. Most of my friends have normal families with normal relationships (not perfect, obviously, but in the norm). It upsets me so much that because of my father, I have limited contact with his whole side of the family (and my family all around is extremely small…on my mom’s side there is only my aunt, cousin and her kids). I just feel sad today. Sad for my grandma, who will most likely die without seeing her eldest son again (my dad) and who must feel heartbroken that he turned out the way he did.