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.

Remembering…

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This is going to sound incredibly weird and very morose and a little disturbing, but I created this blog to be completely honest with myself and with anyone who happens to read it.  Sometimes when I am in bed at night and I am having trouble falling asleep, I imagine writing and delivering my father’s eulogy.  My father is still alive, yet I have been doing this for years.  I just realized that I have never even told my therapist that I do this!

I picture myself looking out among the mourners who have gathered in a funeral home to say goodbye to my dad, with my mother and sister sitting in the front row.  I imagine that I am up at a podium, dressed in all black.  Every single time I picture this scenario, I begin by saying, “My father was not a very good man…”   I envision that the already quiet room goes completely still.  Some people who are there do not know the whole truth about my father.  The rest of the eulogy changes from time to time…different stories, different memories, but for the most part it goes like this:

“My father was not a very good man.  As many of you know, my father struggled with alcoholism for the majority of his adult life.  This impacted and complicated many of the relationships he had with those of you here, but mostly this had a horrible effect on our family.  My father did a lot of terrible, hurtful, unspeakable things to us.  But I can stand here and tell you one thing with 100% certainty.  My father loved me.  He loved my mother and he loved my sister.  He would have done anything in the world for us.  I never have questioned this fact.  And I- we- loved him, too.  I know the irony of this statement, but I also remember the man my father was before he started drinking.  So many of my happy childhood memories included him.  He was the ‘fun’ dad…the one who would pile all the neighborhood kids into the wagon of his tractor and pull us up and down the street.  He was the dad who would do an amazing cannonball into the pool and then would spend countless hours throwing my sister and I up into the air so we would splash into the water.  He was the dad who impulsively bought a Porsche, but got the model with the tiny backseat, so my sister and I could squeeze in and go for rides with him.  I have so many memories of being in that car, him blasting “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer and steering the wheel with his knee…”

This is about how far I normally get before I fall asleep.  I have often wondered why I do this, but maybe it is just to remind myself that for all of the bad, there has been some good.  I have a poor memory and often cannot remember my early childhood memories.  Over the years, I have stopped trying to do so because so many of them are painful.  Perhaps this is my way of recalling that life with my father has not been all bad…and that some of it is worth remembering.

Wait…what?

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Lately I have have been having difficulty thinking of certain words I want to say. I’m speaking and get halfway through a sentence and I know the word I want to say, but it just won’t come out. It is very frustrating, especially considering the fact that I am a teacher (and currently working as an adjunct at a university during the summer). I do think that I am much more aware of it happening than anyone else. Once I pointed it out to my boyfriend, he does notice it now, but he didn’t really before.

I spoke to my therapist about it because we have talked often throughout the years about my “fuzzy” memory (that is putting it nicely and mildly!!) She thinks that this particular problem could be attributed to stress…story of my life! I have been worrying excessively lately as well (just about dumb, silly things) and I’m hoping that is the cause.

Has this happened to anyone else before? I am hoping it is a passing phase, but I am going to the doctor for a physical anyway and I am going to mention it to him (and I have started taking ginkgo biloba…I figure it can’t hurt!). I wish with all these memory problems I have that I could forget to worry and stress out about stuff!!