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Lesson in amends

13 May

10:33 am

Saturday.  I have to say, before I start ranting about anything, I am grateful.  Every morning, of every day, I am grateful–relieved, joyful, content–to wake up sober.  To a life I sort of think I deserve, but probably not.  (haha)  I have my fiance, my dogs, the blaring tropical sun bleating off the blue ocean below; I have a freelance career that I’ve somehow made work for 5 years; I have a past that I don’t have to live anymore, but that I get to consider, and to think about, and to dwell on, only as much as I want or need.  I am here, and not there.  Why?  How did I deserve this?

Because I worked my ASS off.  (There she is!  Good morning, ego.)

All that being said, I still have trouble dealing with people from my past, relationships gone sour or become nonexistent (maybe not directly because of my drinking, but related to it on one level or another).  And, while I’m eager to “forgive and forget,” it’s not easy.  And mostly, I’m still sort of angry, I guess, at people who have written me off!  It’s not that I’m angry all day, every day; it’s that, when I think about attempting to rekindle our friendship, I think, Eh, it’s been too long.  Eh, I have other relationships that I’ve cultivated here, where I live now, that make more sense to put energy into.  Eh, you sort of wrote me off, or didn’t take my “getting sober” that seriously; why would I want to relate now?  The problem with all this thinking is that, you just don’t know if people need an amends, or if they just need a phone call or an email–have you hurt them or has the relationship simply moved on?  I have to say, every relationship is unique, and has a unique past; so it’s hard to generalize what I would or could or should do.

I received a couple emails recently that made me start thinking more about all this again.  One was from a friend, someone I’ve known since undergrad–needless to say, we’ve been through a lot.  I mean, I consider her my sister (or, sistah, as it were).  However, while we were friends, there were a few key things I really hated about her  personality–one was her grudge-holding.  My hatred eventually came out, when I got drunk.  As you can imagine, when my drinking got bad and our friendship dissolved, she wrote me off.  (At least, that’s how I remember it; who knows, maybe she thought I wrote her off?)  When I got sober, I sent her a few emails (this was years ago)–nice emails, reaching-out emails.  I never heard from her, so imagined that I never would.  BAM!  About two months ago, I got an email from her, wanting to reconnect.  It was short and sweet, but in the end, I truly appreciated it.

It took me a few months to reply, though.  I couldn’t believe or want to accept that she had held a grudge for so many years (I believe it’s been 7 years)!?  On the flip, that’s one thing I really disliked about her, and watched her do over the years to many other people, so I’m not sure why it surprised me.  In any case, I just wasn’t sure she “deserved” a reply.  Then, I got another email (see below) and realized that my hesitation to reach back to her was because of my own sore ego.  Let it go, I said to myself.  The real question is not, Should I forgive her and let her back into my life?, it’s, Do I really want a relationship with her, going forward?  I’m pretty sure she’s changed, and grown; and so have I, and I think she probably assumes that about me–yet, I’m scared to find out.  I did eventually reply, so we’ll see where it goes from here.

And then there is the case of my brother’s email.  Yes, that brother.  Yes, the one who has been forgiving and “unforgiving” me for the past 5 years.  Yes, the one with the girlfriend who takes “angry and bitter” to incredible heights.  Inhale, Drunky Drunk Girl.

Exhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaale.

I’m not sure I ever really understood making amends–the concept, really, and how to do it right.  I’m not sure I ever really did it right, but, I did it, and sometimes, it backfired.  Frankly, I always had this niggling sense that raking up the past was worse than just letting shit be.  Of course, if I truly wanted that person in my real life, then I would attempt to rekindle a broken relationship; but this almost always did NOT involve apologizing again for my bad behavior while drunk.  In those cases, it was never received well.  I didn’t know how to make up for my bad behavior except to say I was sorry, and to let them know I was sober.  Beyond that, if they refused to accept, then what else could I do?  I just always felt like I left them angrier than if I hadn’t said anything at all!

I think for most of us, we focus on the shit we did wrong, and who has NOT forgiven us, in our amends; instead of focusing on the other person’s perspective, how they feel, how we’ve affected them, and their choice in the matter.  That’s a lesson for the ages, though, and for everyone–how to let go of your ego when you say you’re sorry.  I have to say, the hardest lesson, by far, I’ve had to learn in both sobriety, and be extension, normal life is the one where you tell yourself “it doesn’t matter what they think of me” and actually believe it.  Actually embrace it.  Actually, move on, if you have to.  And do it all in empathy, with nothing but good will and honest compassion for their choice, even if that choice is to stay angry.

Oof, our egos do not like that.  Which is ironic, because most of the time, we’re not fighting for the relationships, we’re fighting for our ego–we want to know that we are loved, that we’ve been given a chance at redemption, that we are worthy of that.  If I’m honest, most of the relationships I tried to amend–make up for my wrongdoing–I actually didn’t want to continue to have, after getting sober.  There were huge flaws, cracks, and those cracks sucked me into them when I got drunk–hence, the raging blackouts directed at people who were, in reality, frenemies.  (My problem was, having so many frenemies in the first place.)

So it goes with my brother.  He’s forgiven me and then taken it back numerous times these past 5 years, and he just did it again.  (And, via an unexpected email, which, by the way, I consider a form of bullying.)  I see things so much more clearly now, and suffice it to say, I know that there is nothing I can or need to do at this point.  The “incident” where I went bat-shit crazy on their asses while blacked out happened over 5 years ago, and in that time, we’ve all gone back and forth with the mean notes and apologies, and more mean notes and more apologies.  This time, I got another email saying he has not forgiven me–and will not consider it–until I apologize to his girlfriend.

Um, OK.  At first I thought maybe he wrote it while blacked out (or she did; she’s drunk to blackout and sent me mean notes–oh, the irony), because it certainly exudes some kind of delusion, some kind of altered reality.  It sounds like HER words written in his hand, which it could very well be.  She’s the one who refused every single attempt at my amends, and viciously so, not him.

I started shaking when I got it, which I hate to admit; so I immediately called my mom.  I didn’t know what else to do.  She gave me some perspective–there is nothing I need to do; this is their drama, don’t get dragged into it again; it’s time for you to move on, because sometimes in life, we don’t get closure–and I’m grateful for that, and for her.  (And, it makes me remember how wise and present and loving my mom has always been, through all of our and her own struggles–I need to see her more!?)

I wanted to reply with a litany of “I did this, see this email; she sent that, see this crazy Facebook message or that bizarro email sent from your email account, btw;” but, I didn’t.  And, I see now that I should not.  Because, there is one thing that I know for sure to be true in this situation:  what they think of me is none of my business.  I cannot change what they choose to believe, and how they choose to feel, and how they choose to behave.  NO email in the world is going to change those things, because those things are theirs.  It’s not my business what other people think of me.  End of story.

Exhale.

It’s not easy seeing the forest through the trees when it comes to amends, and forgiveness–and, what it all means on a practical level.  For me, a true people-pleaser, it’s hard to not be forgiven!  And, as a persistent-as-fuck person, it’s really hard for me to stop trying (remember:  I want to win!).  Once I remove my ego from the equation,  though, I am left asking myself:  Do you actually want a relationship with that person, if they do forgive me?  Often the answer is, no.  I have good relationships now, with people who are real, and honor my sober person.  The thing is, I’ve always tried to maintain friendships over the years, even in spite of the recognition that we’ve both changed…beyond the point of no return, so to speak.  It’ just something I’ve done, been brought up to do.  Maybe it’s time to try something new.

Five years later, and I’m still learning fundamental lessons about sobriety!  Believe me, friends, it gets better, and the work gets harder, but the well never runs dry.  This is our path, as we get sober:  toward truth, toward enlightenment, toward peace.  As my fiance and I were sitting on the beach the other day, and as I was just floating in the water, embracing the big blue; as we drove home over the hill and came into our ridiculous view of rolling green hills and ocean to horizon–it dawned on me that my brother does not have peace.  Whether he’s angry, or jealous, or just unwilling to address negative emotions, he does not have peace.

I have peace.  Some of the time.  I might not have closure, and I might not have HIM in my life, but I have peace.  And, I am grateful for that.  In fact, I have the sense that not only is it the cornerstone of my sobriety, and sober life–it’s probably the most I can hope for…to just be, in peace.

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Lessons in letting go

5 Apr

1:57 am

Well, yet another “lesson” in forgiveness? That is surely the plus-side of this week’s equation. As my mom says, let it go. You’ve apologized once, now let it go. Easier said than done, like many things in sobriety.

I have to say, I’ve been wanting to drink over this; but, I’m glad I haven’t, mainly because getting through the upset, getting over the anxiety around how to deal with an upcoming confrontation (in May), and grappling with what’s really bothering me–how do I accept that someone actually hates me–these are obstacles that have to be surmounted. I wish I could avoid this confrontation, but I know that I will never move on–and grow toward a MUCH stronger me–if I don’t have it.

As many of you know, I offended my brother’s girlfriend two-and-a-half years ago, and there has been an unhealthy (to say the least) back-and-forth between all of us since then: first he forgives me, then he checks back in with his grudge-holding girlfriend, and then he seemingly changes his mind and nothing is forgiven; or, he engages in a passive-aggressive thing, where he says one thing to me, and then when he gets home, he has to hang up the phone and listen to his girlfriend tell him what a bad sister I am. And on and on and on.

Well, I’ve laid low the past year (i.e., haven’t had much contact with my brother except, well, friendly phone chats about once a month), but she got drunk and contacted me the other day with a vicious Facebook mail. Ugh. Just when I thought it was over. I left them a voicemail message a few weeks ago–once again saying I was sorry–and the latest is, I received an angry, nasty “you hurt me/us and I will never forgive you for as long as I live” email from the girlfriend the other day (sent from HIS account no less, which makes me wonder if I should ever send him anything again to that email if she’s checking it, too).

Needless to say, it put me into a tailspin. Why? I don’t know. Why do I give two shits about what some crazy woman thinks of me? Eventually, I’ll come around and be able to make fun of just how ridiculous this has become (trying to explain all the Facebook’ing and emailing to my mother made me realize how fourth-grade it seems). But for now, it’s draining and almost maddening to be somewhat forced to re-visit the horror of that night because the girlfriend decides that she wants to play.

Really, though, why do I care so much? What bothers me to the point where my voice trembles talking about it and my stomach feels bloated from the loads of adrenaline? Mainly, I think I just feel extremely uncomfortable knowing that someone hates me so much, however irrational she may be. And, it makes me feel ill that I have to see her and somehow interact with her when we are forced to hang out at the wedding we’re both going to in May. I have never dreaded an event so much. And that really, really sucks.

But, I’ll get over it. Talking it out with my mom helped me to accept that her email was bullshit; and the way she is treating me is a choice, one that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with her, and her reliance on her number-one tool: resentment. THEY might believe that their grudge–their hurt, their anger, their persistent hate–is mine to keep, too; but I know that it is all theirs.

I realize that she has actually given ME a lot of power here–like, could I really have had that much of an influence on her life? Wow, I feel sorry for her that her life is THAT boring. The irony that in her attempt to insult me, she laid ALL her cards on the table is, of course, completely lost on her. She may never forgive me, but at the end of the day, when I see her and my brother, I’ll probably feel nothing but pity.

What I have realized is that I have to let them go. Believe them when they say they don’t want anything to do with me. (For this week, at least.) And, hold them to it. You know, not having anything to do with me means also, not getting to send me drunk hate-mail in the middle of the night.

I wish she’d stay home. There’s the slight possibility, seeing how she’s backed out of engagements before because too many people she “hates” are going to be there. But, in a way, I NEED this confrontation. And, I know that after the first awkward encounter, I will have mastered her, and her hate, and letting go of the entire sordid affair. It’s going to suck, but this will eventually all be over.

And now I am boring myself, because there are SO many good things to think about, like the “key” lime pie I’m going to make tomorrow, for instance. Or the friends I’ve made in my life, and the people I’ve met in my moves and travels–the full array of which is hard to even grasp, there are so many amazing ones. Or my sweet dog, who is my protectress.

(As you can imagine, the girlfriend also tried to disparage my sobriety–as being somehow fake, as alcoholism being a foolish choice and not a disease. I laughed at that, mainly because it’s SO ill-informed and simply not true. BUT, I have to say, it’ll probably get me through the next few months of sobriety. Just to prove her wrong in person will be so very satisfying: I AM sober, I can stay sober, and I am doing better and more awesome each and every day. I can’t WAIT to stand my ground–in my 4-inch heels, and sparkly-unicorn gown, looking fabulous–and say loud and proud, I am a sober fucking alcoholic, and I feel AMAZING. Tell me what’s fake about that…BITCH!)

Epilogue; prologue–ONE YEAR SOBER!

19 Mar

11:44 am

Some of you were like, Hey, how come you saved the best for last? Well, of course, I wasn’t going to gloss over my ONE YEAR SOBER “BIRTHDAY” today!

First of all, WOWIE, thank you ALL for your awesome, supportive comments. Second, I must clarify: I have two brothers; the one with the girlfriend is NOT the same as the one who is getting married in May. So, I am not the photog at her wedding…

Anyway, the epilogue to yesterday’s “drama in my club” is this:

When midnight came, I admit, I was still exorcising my anger and bitterness by journaling. I did actually get to some good points–great points–about how I feel now and what I get from being sober. I re-read an entry I wrote last year, on this very day, when I was sitting on my couch, passed-out-ish, throwing up onto the towel strategically placed (by my boyfriend) on my chest, before stumbling into bed in a blackout. That day last March, I had nearly six months of continuous sobriety. I have not drunk since then–a full, continuous year. It took me almost two years of trying, but I got here. (Mind you, and this is important, I started trying to control my drinking all the way back in, oh, 2004! I was blacking out then, things got really bad in grad school–I even tried AA in 2006–and I began consciously trying to go for days in a row without drinking starting in 2007–I made it 30 days once, back in the summer of 2008, but more often, I’d only go for 3 to 5 days before going back to my bottle.)

What triggered me?, I wondered, which is why I went back to re-read. Well, it was stuff that would probably not trigger me today, stuff that would not carry as much emotional weight: feeling isolated, feeling attacked for being a “hermit,” which I admit I had become (like, hey, does ANYONE think outside their own asses these days; my landlady literally physically jumped me when I got home that day, scolding me about how I ignore her and I can’t get away this time–needless to say, that woman has CODA issues, and I have rightfully decided to keep my distance), feeling stressed (I was running every day, almost 6 miles one day, 3 miles the next–too much). I had to baby myself then, which makes sense–in early sobriety, everything hurts your raw nerves; nothing makes sense. While my mind is still a buzz of thoughts, back then, everything triggered me to anxious and obsessive thinking.

But, we get through this shit, our minds calm down, and the obsession to drink leaves. Not entirely, but there was this shift that happened for me around 15 or 16 months (I started my journey, a first attempt at getting sober, in June 2012, so this was August of last summer), where I just stopped wanting to drink around every turn. Stopped automatically always assuming/believing that drinking equals relief, escape, fun. Now? Well, that has died down even more, and I see that it’s a real improvement; the thinking goes away. You learn how to live without the reward of alcohol. In short, your mind bounces back. And from what I’m seeing now, your mind not only bounces back, but it keeps going higher and higher!

The epilogue to yesterday’s message from the one brother’s girlfriend is this:

I DID call him, and we DID talk. I was nervous, and upset, but I got through it. And, it left me feeling VERY ambivalent. He basically insinuated I was lying about any message having been sent–she denied it (she probably forgot because she was blacked out when she sent it), and he believed/defended her–which pissed me off to no end. We are NOT that kind of family; there has never been this kind of “he said/she said” drama. That comes from her. Anyway, it bummed me out, and I expressed my frustration, that I cannot do more than I’ve done. And, he continued to keep his list, you know, the one with all the reasons on it to hate me, to hold up his (her?) grudge. And I was like, Dude, I’m not saying you can’t hate me, what I’m saying is, your girlfriend can’t bully me. I get to choose that. Period. (Plus, no one needs a reason to hate someone; hate is irrational, and no matter how many lists you make, hate is a choice, not a must, or a rationalized “to do.”)

On the one hand, he was like, I don’t know why it took you so long to call; on the other, he was like, Well, why do you have to go dredging up the past? I was confused, obviously, mostly at his utter lack of self-observation–you do realize, I wanted to say, that you’re saying two different and opposite things and that both allow you to maintain your grudge, no matter what I say or do, right? He said something about, Well, there’s nothing we can do then. And I was like, YES, brother, there IS something we can do here, and it’s what we do, as humans: we can work together toward forgiving one another, and we can work together toward reconciliation. (I actually said that; I felt proud!)

Honestly, I realize the elephant in the room is his toxic, 15-year-old relationship with cray-cray. And, I see how messed up she is, and how IF he wants to change the situation, he’s going to have to confront her, call her out on her act, and stand up for himself. One, he’s never done that in 15 years; and two, I assume that he knows that IF he does that, he’s going to unleash her beast (she’s threatened to kill herself if he leaves her; which, in my opinion, is part of her act, but which I don’t think my brother is so sure).

GAH. Talk about Relationships 101. And, I realize now that it’s none of my business anymore; I don’t need and never did need to keep this shit live. That’s my problem, wanting and expecting people to align with how I see the world, to forgive and/or like me. Lesson learned: What other people think of me is none of my business; and let it go, let it go, let it go.

However, I was proud of myself! Once I got over my fear and pounding heart, I was pretty good at explaining myself. I know I did wrong, and MY crazy while blacked out can put off anyone for good. But, what more can I do? If they want to continue to buttress their grudge just to hide from reality, well, at least I don’t have to live in that place. I did send him the email she sent, and then we “chatted” about life, and then I hung up. And then, I called my other brother–we’re much closer–and he basically talked me down for the next hour and a half. All in all, it was cathartic, if not healing. I’m still not looking forward to the wedding, but at least now I KNOW I can stand up for myself–I won’t fall down and die.

The prologue is this:

THIS is just the beginning, this sober thing here. I feel like now, (my) sobriety is taking on a shape of its own, starting to live outside myself, direct me when I’m lost, prop me up when I’m weak and scared. I know it’s me, doing this, but it’s somehow more than me. Maybe it’s simply an accumulation of this constancy of self–I can rely on myself. I can rely not only on remaining sober but also on…this Truth inside to guide me, to steer me, to fill me up, to make me righteous when I need to be, to help me–allow me–to make the right choices, and not just the superficial ones that I “should” make.

It’s growing, and building, and I’m becoming more and more sure of myself, of this path as being the right one, of sobriety as being the right choice, and not just the good choice. It’s right because it’s allowed me so much growth this year, emotional and professional. It’s right because it helps me to really see my relationships in action, and to identify problems on my end. It’s right because, I don’t know, I’ve talked about this nebulous idea before, but protecting The Body is so much bigger than just not trashing my own temple. It’s about this connection to heaven, as it were, which is here on Earth–the body, this body that I’m in, this mind and body, is a holy ground. It is where I stand; it is the only place I can be, which means, feel safe, be connected to…the Truth. A calm. Something that says, it will all be OK. There is nothing too big or scary; nothing is big or scary, actually. It’s all good, baby.

Even more, I don’t have to rely on anything outside myself to connect to this truth anymore; it is right here, and it is growing. Sure, I want to drink sometimes, but I know I can do well without. And this truth, it gets bigger now with every day sober. I can’t tell you what a strange thing this is to say, because up until about a few weeks ago, I was still struggling with Not Drinking. Sobriety is about me not drinking, big deal, no one cares, it’s just alcohol anyway. Somehow, that has morphed. Maybe it’s as simple as momentum: my sober car is rolling, still picking up speed, and I’m finally able to look back and see just how far it’s come!

So, one year is a prologue, it seems. The best is yet to come. Sounds SO preachy and AA-y, but…it’s real. I think it helps to confront your shit–I am learning to do that as it happens, and not wait (um, two years). But hey, the things I’ve learned and what’s helped me become more empathetic toward myself and others is this: we all make mistakes in our lives, but we all evolve (if we try). And strangely, as you’re fighting to evolve, sometimes it’s YOU who has to help someone else learn this about themselves. Like, to tell them, You can change, you can evolve, you are bigger than you know.

Another one is, I forgive you. I mean, getting sober has taught me that I must (not should) be prepping to forgive all the time, because I DO want to be that person who is READY to forgive when someone who’s hurt me comes with a sincere apology. Forgiveness is hard, and you really do have to be prepared to offer it to someone; I don’t want to not be able to give that. People deserve it. I deserve it. So, in addition to not being hung over all the time, I’ve been able to learn the value of cultivating forgiveness in myself–for others’ health, for my own. DEEP THOUGHTS, people. 😉

Tonight is the wine bar event–well, we’re gathering at a wine bar/resto. On the one hand, it’s just another day sober. On the other, I feel better and more hopeful and less burdened than I have ever felt. And, I feel like I am more confident and settled–this isn’t going to go away with a mood swing because this is real, I made this. I built this. And, I think the struggle is what makes it worthwhile, because without that constant fighting against the wolfie in your head, there would be no…reference point. The whole process of building your new statue–becoming sober–is what helps it stick.

Thank you, friends. I would NEVER have gotten this far without your support here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart–your comments were touching and some brought tears to my eyes.

Now, another 90 days? Another 100-day challenge? Onward for this “user bitch cunt!” (I hate to tell her, but it’s no secret I can be a cunt; and, I still love me. So, GOTCHA, bitch! Of course, I’m not above resentment yet, my friends. LOL)

(Btw, I think my present to myself for a year sober might be a trip back to Mexico–I loved Mexico City when I went a few years ago, so…I don’t know why, but it sounds like a good idea!)

Deep breath, I can deal with this

18 Mar

12:40 pm

I HATE CONFRONTATION. I mean, it sends my heart rate to the moon, and turns my stomach to knots. It has always been a problem for me. I mean, I can’t really convey to you how much I hate confrontation; some people thrive on it, whereas I avoid it like…death. It made being a “beat reporter” really hard, which is why I am not doing that job (duh). If I could, I’d never piss anyone off, never rock anyone’s boat. But, sometimes–a LOT of times–it has GOT to be done. People’s boats need to be rocked. That, I know, will be a lifelong learning process for me, but I’m up for it. I have to be.

I received yet another nasty Facebook message from my brother’s girlfriend–a whole two years after the incident (long story very short: I blacked out and yelled some really nasty things at her, probably threatened her with physical violence, rolled around on the floor and came to in a heap of tears). Deep breath, I can deal with this. I am sober, and even though I am shaking right now, I know this much to be true (for me, to MY story): she will not bully me anymore.

Her message was mean, hateful, and took me totally by surprise. I do not like emotional surprises–I’ve had enough of them to last my poor little heart a lifetime. And, I do not like being bullied–I can see this now. I think I’ve been bullied a lot in my life, but never really accepted it and dealt with it. It sucks that I have to deal with this, because I really dislike standing up for myself. It’s like, I wish the world just stood up FOR me, you know? I can see that now. I can totally see that now.

Anyway, I wrote her back, told her that if she wanted to engage in meaningful conversation about this, she has my cell phone number. I told her that I will not let her bully me with random, hateful messages on Facebook, and I told her that I think we should at least attempt to resolve this. Then, I texted and left a voicemail for my brother–apparently, he didn’t know about the message. I will follow through and call him later–it’s been six weeks since I left him/her my “I’m sorry” voicemail, and the only peep I heard from my brother OR her about that was a text from my brother, a week later no doubt, thanking me for being thoughtful.

I feel good about telling her that I refuse to be bullied, for the most part. I know that could (will) be twisted into a “confrontational” remark, but it’s just HOW it has to be, in my mind. I will no longer be bullied by anyone. That is what she is trying to do. I am not afraid of her (yes, I am, but I’m not going to let anyone but you guys know that). I figured, if I don’t do anything, this will just keep going on and on. So, the best approach is to draw my line, confront both of them (well, be aggressive and not passive aggressive), and at least try to resolve this before the wedding in May. I will call my brother until he and I actually talk–if she wants in on the conversation, all the better. It will suck talking to her, but I welcome the confrontation now, and not at the wedding.

I am shaking right now. I hate confrontation. My voice shakes, my stomach lurches, and my heart rate literally goes up to like, 150 beats a minute. But, it has got to be done, and I am going to do it. My brother is getting married at a relatively grand ceremony in May, and I simply refuse to go into that situation with blinders on. I am his photographer, for fuck’s sake–I can’t be tiptoe’ing around the guests, looking over my shoulder, wondering when my brother’s girlfriend is going to get too drunk and lash out verbally or God forbid, physically. I know I WILL be wondering that the whole time, but at least I can dissipate the dread a little beforehand.

THIS is why I don’t want to relate to them after this wedding. How can you have a relationship with people who act this way? YES, I hurt her feelings; but, it’s been two years, and she’s getting drunk (I could tell she was drunk) and sending me Facebook messages telling me that I’m a lying bitch, my life is fake, and that I am a “user bitch cunt?” Who does this? Who holds onto this brand of anger–without EVER having acknowledged my letters, emails, and phone call saying I was sorry? A crazy person, that’s who. A person with a personality disorder, that’s who. A person who is so crippled by mental problems, so fixated on fueling her life with hate and resentment, that she literally can’t move.

I am proud of the life I’ve lived so far; it is not fake, it is real. My sobriety is real. My relationship is real. My attempt to make a freelance career is really fucking real. My travels and volunteer work abroad, that’s real. My friends–you guys, my real-life ones–are real. Yet…I am letting this one person make me doubt all this? Ugh.

It is not easy to stand your ground, but you must. And, I’m simply glad at the moment that I have my sober buttress to lean against here. I can’t really explain it except, it is my rock-solid wall, and I am gripping it with all my might right now. It’s strong, unbending, and both cool and warm at the same time.

Deep breath. I can deal with this.

Now, time to celebrate today–not me, just today–which is Day 365! Go, me. Go, us. Go, all of us, struggling with things, big and small. Just stay sober; if for no other reason than, you will need that sober wall to lean against one day, and it will be there for you.

A little empathy goes a long way

7 Feb

10:53 pm

The other day, someone reached out to me with a simple apology, and, in a split second, I “forgave” him. I put it in quotes because while I was sitting here thinking that I did all the wrong, he was sitting there thinking that he did. We had some fucked up drinking times, and we both said and did erratic, hostile things. All that being said, it took ONE second, and I zipped up all the jagged pieces, threaded the necklace together, and tied it whole. ONE SECOND.

We’ve been friends for years, so it makes sense. I mean, how could you throw away years of friendship over a bruised ego? Can’t you see through the armor to the person you know? I’ve often thought about this when it comes to other friends, some lifelong, who have since “written me off” because my drinking became offensive enough to hurt them, but not inconvenient enough for them to help me, tell me to get help, or tell me to fuck off and then, get help. I’ve often wondered why hardly anyone in my life–colleagues, close friends and family, I mean–told me to get help when I so obviously needed it! No one ever mentioned my drinking to blackout in front of them at family gatherings, for instance, the one sure sign that I was drinking too much. They talked behind my back, sure. But, why didn’t anyone ever say anything to me? It was too easy for them to write me off, to fire me, to “un-family member” me. Wasn’t I worth at least a shred of concern?

I’m glad this person reminded me that not everyone is like that. There are friends who have empathy, who show concern, who trade in their ego for the bigger picture.

I have self-awareness. I have empathy. It’s probably because I know what childhood trauma, depression, and addiction can do–and how you are NOT defined by these life obstacles. You grow, you change, you heal. In the process, you do and say some fucked up shit. It’s OK, we all do. It’s called life, and life is a process.

Also, this guy is what I would call “normal,” in terms of the way I operate, and how I normalize things. You know, one email suffices to say, we’re both sorry, can we move on? That is normal to me. Constantly playing games with people, dodging them in anger, resentment, and bitterness–this is ill. This is, in fact, how my brother’s girlfriend, and by default, my brother, operates. This is her normal.

Sigh. When it comes to amends and people like her, I have written off most of them to be honest. I mean, if you’ve been a friend for over a decade, if I’ve helped you every step of the way through your own debilitating depression, if I’ve gone to your father’s funeral–and you choose to never speak to me again because…I’m guessing my drinking was a problem, but you never told me exactly why, or what I did that was apparently the last straw for you? OK. I can let you go. It takes two people to be in a relationship, and to reconcile, and to choose–together–to move forward.

BUT, if you’re pulling that same nonsense AND you’re my brother’s girlfriend? Ugh. I kind of can’t write you off. In fact, I’ll be seeing this woman at my other brother’s wedding in May, which is why I finally broke down and made the phone call apology. No heroine here, just desperate to make amends so that the level of awkward won’t be debilitating when we finally do meet face-to-face! Now, I had already engaged her via a letter and numerous calls and emails to my brother, but that’s beside the point, according to them.

Why do I have to keep revisiting this? It’s like, there are a handful of things that still linger, mistakes made while drunk that continue to haunt me. Things that I just have to get through sober so that I won’t drink before I do. Fears and resentments to conquer before I can FINALLY…rest easy into my “new life.”

One of them is working a full-time job again. And, I made a huge step in that direction this week by starting a part-time one! Lo and behold, I can talk to people and socialize and pretend to be happy at work. LOL. Anyway: check.

Another is working AND continuing to maintain my freelance writing business. While the end result remains to be seen, I got a good feeling for it this week. While I’ll probably have to use my time a little bit differently, this week was a good test run to prove to myself that all will not be lost–I can keep up the mindset of pitching science stories AND work for someone else. (It also goes a long way toward providing some relief; I mean, while I’m subsisting, financially, it really is touch-and-go. Every month, I have NO IDEA if I’m going to earn my keep, and where that money is going to come from. Having a job will, um, ease that mental stress a lot.)

And, I’d say, the biggest thing that “makes me want to drink again” is having my brother’s girlfriend still hating on me, and lying in wait. I mean, I literally have no idea how they took the voicemail message I left on Sunday night. (I wonder if they’re listening to the message over and over again, making fun of it; or maybe, she deleted it and my brother never found out I left it? I should call him this weekend to make sure–I wouldn’t put it past her, I really wouldn’t. This is someone who lives on grudges and feeds off hate and anger and resentment. I hate having her in my life, in my head, but for now, it’s like, I have no choice.) Did it make things better or worse? And, even though it made me feel a bit relieved–I said some nasty-ass shit when I was blacked out, but this is going on TWO-PLUS YEARS ago now–it also made me feel angry again. Why do I have to keep apologizing? The thing is, I know she’s messing around, and I’m not. Her ego’s been bruised, but her “normal” is anything but. Anyone with even an ounce of empathy would have shown it by now; she has none.

All that being said, I still have to play this out, and wait until the wedding in May to see how she chooses to act toward me. She could do a number of things, none of which would surprise me: she could “play nice;” she could ignore me; she could mumble mean things under her breath the whole time (my guess this is what she’ll do); she could get shitfaced herself at the ceremony dinner and verbally and/or physically assault me. I honestly have no idea. And, the fact that my voicemail was not acknowledged doesn’t offend me, it simply leaves me hanging. Again. I have felt left hanging, worrying about this for over TWO freaking years. I just can’t wait for it to be over.

So, anger and resentment. I’m not sure why, exactly, I fear I won’t be safe from drinking again until these matters are finally dealt with, but I do. But, it sure does make me appreciate the people who have come back, arms open, hearts already having forgotten the mistakes–the bad–in favor of the aces–the good. Life is too short to remember the bad, and I’m too imperfect to hold grudges.

Yet…once this wedding arrives and I finally do see my brother and his girlfriend again, I honestly think my choice will be one of total separation. How a family member could play such games, for so long, in the face of honest attempts at reconciliation? I just don’t see how that person would or could be a welcome, healthy part of my life now.

Oh, and btw, fuck you, Wolfie! (I’m about 5.5 weeks away from a whole year sober!)

Tired but sober

3 Feb

5:18 pm

I just wanted to check in and say, all is well, if not busy. I’ve been so 100 percent focused on that whole making-a-living thing, that it’s literally been non-stop this week. I haven’t thought much about drinking, and even confronted the worst of the worst, which saw me leave (yet another) amends apology to my bro’s girlfriend, this time via a voicemail message. I didn’t feel one way or the other afterward, even though it’s been bugging me for 2 whole years. It needed to be done, but frankly, I don’t want anything from her. Maybe that’s not the correct way to think, but after everything, I just don’t feel like I care anymore–this isn’t about righting a wrong anymore, it’s about her playing games. Making the amends to her (again) left me feeling if not utterly unaffected, then hollow and angry all over again. I don’t know. At this point, I’m beginning to realize that some people NEED to be let go.

On that note, I’m exhausted and heading into a disastrous cooking experiment: I was going to slow cook a chicken, but ended up trying to cut it up instead. Ugh–barbaric. And, kind of like, WAY gross. I think I might go back to being a vegetarian after this.

More soon! Hope everyone is letting it go/not caring. Don’t let your recovery define you, and don’t take your “amends” too seriously–what will be, will be. You can’t change the past, and it takes two to reconcile and decide, together, to move forward in a relationship.

Letting others take responsibility for…

7 Oct

11:38 pm

Their anger.

Their sadness.

Their confusion.

Their lack of sense of purpose, of self.

Their lack of trust, or faith.

Their joy.

Their “luck.”

Their change, or growth.

Their happiness.

I have been working on an “amends” with my brother for almost two years. Two years over ONE incident in which I blacked out and screamed mean things at him and his girlfriend, mainly at his girlfriend.

The other night, we finally talked. After months, maybe close to a year.

I got the impression that my brother was drunk. It made me smile (in an “oh, the irony” sort of way), and cringe a little. He finally asked a question about my boyfriend, which rubbed me the wrong way anyway (mind you, he’s never before, in the near-two years we’ve been dating, even acknowledge him as being in my life). And, he’s never ONCE asked me about my sobriety, how any of that is going. Not once. Ever. It’s relevant here because, if it was such a big deal, isn’t my getting sober part of that big deal now, too? Or, shouldn’t it be?

I don’t feel that pissed anymore, just sorry. Sorry about what happened, sure, of course. But sorry, too, for them. Sorry that he can’t forge the courage to call his own sister because his girlfriend is telling him he can’t. Sorry that she and he are in a relationship where she fans the flames of his anger and resentments–to match her own, many of which are based in her early-life trauma (psychological problems, incest, rape). Sorry that they don’t have any friends. Sorry that they don’t want any friends. Sorry that they might not see any of this; sorry that they seem to feel the pain that it causes anyway. Is it I who is in pain here, though? Am I unhappy because they seem unhappy to me? (Some of it is that they ARE unhappy; some of it is that I am projecting my own goals and values on them, for better or for worse.)

What I realized in all this is, everyone is responsible for their own happiness. And to grant people that responsibility is you telling them that you have faith in their ability to tackle what I would consider life’s hardest challenge–to live without resistance, i.e., be happy. Me saying I’m sorry a million times, and worrying about whether two “co-dependent” people are going to forgive me–this does me no good. This is meaningless, actually. I don’t have to care about this outcome, and I don’t have to make them happy. I don’t have to worry about whether they’re happy or not.

See, I think I’ve spent a LOT of time in my life not only caring what others think about me, but shouldering–internalizing–their responsibility for their own happiness. For some reason, I feel guilty that my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my boyfriend, or my friend is unhappy. I drank over it, in one way or another. It’s taken a lot of work, actually, to see this tendency to want to please taken to the extreme: the need to solve everyone else’s unhappiness!

Sigh. Deep breath. Like I said, I carry this around, like a burden. It’s so deeply ingrained in me that I’m barely conscious of it–this “ability” to see others’ pain and lack, and then, my habit of not letting that go and leaving them to tend their own gardens. However, when I quit drinking, it was staring me in the face, and there was no way around dealing with it. And, once I started learning how to let go, even forcing myself to “not care,” I became MUCH happier–more balanced, had more time and space to focus on my own self, my healing, tackling of cravings, even probing into deeper mental realms.

Some people don’t like it when you leave them alone, though. They don’t like it when you hand them back their issues and say, Here, this shit is YOURS, bitch (Breaking Bad reference!). It’s a rejection, and an abandonment. I’ve felt that way, actually, when certain friends (and even my brother) have told me to get a handle on my drinking…and then literally disappeared, walked away. I felt abandoned; it was unfair, I felt, and it hurt.

It was the catalyst, though, for me learning to finally stand alone, and take charge. Whether there is anyone to lean on or not. And, I could do it. I CAN do it.

So, this handing back responsibility is also a way for them to say, And, I know you can do it. I have faith in you; I know you can take responsibility for your own happiness. It’s a way for them to say, I can’t do this for you, and you can’t do mine for me–but, hey, that’s life, kiddo. We are ALL responsible for our own happiness.

This is not to say that amends aren’t important. I have to say that I don’t think I would stir the pot in the case of most of the people I’ve hurt and/or offended; it’s over, and revisiting the hurts would cause more damage. I do, however, believe that continual effort on my part to conduct my relationships well, to handle my end of the deal, is key to dissolving any and all remaining bad karma. I guess.

I wasn’t pissed at my brother after hanging up. I wasn’t dubious, or sad, or emotionally changed in any one direction. In fact, I just kind of let it go. So be it, I thought. If they’re still pissed, that’s their problem. Literally. And, problems can be solved. Just with this one, it’s not going to be by me.

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