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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!)

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God in my garden

21 Jul

3:47 pm

I am growing things. I have what some urbanites might call an “urban farm,” but what this farmer’s daughter (yes, I grew up on a dairy farm) calls a garden.

Actually, all my plants and herbs are in pots, and I’ve now got about ten going! Three of them are massive Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-sized tomato plants that I’ve had to re-pot three times already! I staked rods in them this time so that they have something to lean into as they continue to shoot up. I cannot WAIT to see some actual tomatoes on the vines, too–the produce down here leaves a lot to be desired.

I’ve felt very quiet of mind lately. Well, this morning. For a few hours. LOL. It was nice to be alone, in the sun, gardening. It’s cool to see my plants actually coming along; I don’t even care, really, if the tomato plants bear fruit.

I think I’ve had enough time and space to “recover” from my friend’s visit to have come to a few hard conclusions: she and I likely won’t continue in the same kind of friendship we’ve been having, and, I need to actively speak in a more positive way.

Our relationship was a co-dependent one. In a nutshell, she needed me to be a drunk in order to diss on me to make herself, who is very insecure, feel better; and I needed her to diss on me because I felt afraid, I guess, of shining. There’s a long trail of “hiding your light under a bushel” behavior in my life, but with this friend, it’s clearly a defense mechanism for me. I couldn’t confront her feeling jealous and expressing it by hating on me; I wanted to assuage her feelings of self-loathing by bringing myself down to her level. We commiserated a lot together, but deep down (and this came out in my blackouts), I hated myself for participating and I hated her for trying to bring me down to make herself feel better. I wish this didn’t sound so harsh because underneath it all, she’s a good person–aren’t we all?

Fast forward to now. Cut the bullshit, basically. The weekend was me being strong, present, direct, and apparently invested in an actual life here. A life that you all know about, but that she could only imagine until she got here…and saw it for herself. It threw her for a loop, to put it mildly. And, I have to say, I don’t think either of us knew how to interact with one another in these new “roles.” It seemed like she noticed that I had not only changed, but grown up, taken hold of my life, and moved forward–not to make her feel bad, but because this is me now and this is what I do now. It was apparent to me just how insecure she feels about herself–her job, her relationship status, and especially her looks (which may never change, and which I simply don’t play into). We performed a balancing act the whole weekend, and while it was nice to see her and get caught up, I was relieved when she left.

As for me, I noticed that when unsure what to talk about, I would often hear a stream of negativities come tumbling out of my mouth. Literally, it was like I was listening to someone else. These were not so much direct complaints, but rambling monologues that tended toward why this doesn’t work, and why that’s not for me, and why I don’t like this or that. YUCK. I couldn’t wait to get home sometimes and lapse into the fun–and for lack of a better word, “ego-relieving”–“cartoon” voice I use with the dogs.

I don’t know why, but it kept happening/I kept doing it! Maybe I’m still trying to downplay my happiness (or at least, contentedness) because I’m afraid of success, or because I still care too much about what others think, striving for their approval, i.e., I better talk badly about my cooking or my car or my apartment before SHE does, just in case she doesn’t approve. UGH. DOUBLE-YUCK. The point is, I want to change this as much as possible and immediately; it affects everything, and not in a good way. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind going back to the uber-quiet girl I was growing up–maybe there was a lot to be gained from being “too quiet” all the time?

Again, it was nice to be alone this morning, without my thoughts, in the “garden.” A lovely morning, literally. Maybe love is transcending all the bullshit and just being quiet, aware, and absorbed in growing things? Maybe that’s a metaphor for life? If I believed, I would say, possibly that’s even one for God…

What day is it? I’ve got my eyes set on 180 days, which is September 14th. No point in even thinking about drinking until that day comes. (In fact, is that my Unicorn with Sparkly Teeth over there, kicking the grass? Isn’t that where the remains of wolfie-boy are decomposing? Get it, GIRL.)

Getting through, over, or past it…sober

17 Jul

3:06 pm

Just checking in. So tired. Sad, happy, confused, relieved. I’ve been entertaining an old classmate/friend/drinking buddy for the past five days–and I’m so. Very. Tired. And sad. I don’t know, maybe just drained.

This was a hurdle, and I guess I did good. I think I’ve hit a new place in my sobriety where the cravings are secondary (practically nonexistent) compared to my desire to move through things sober in order to learn what I know I need to learn.

Like, how to make small talk with someone whom I just can’t reach…the way I want to/the way that makes me feel safe and good and good about myself. Yeesh. I felt like the entire weekend was trying to make contact through bubble film between our two ENTIRELY SEPARATE UNIVERSES. Sometimes I wonder if I’m unique, if this is my own personal dragon to slay–always in my head and worrying what someone is thinking about me, whether they’re having a good time, whether they’re feeling a connection to me or feeling like I’m a cartoon character who projects my thoughts into clouds above my head.

I didn’t react to these feelings of discomfort and disconnection by wanting to drink, though. I know I can’t, I know I shouldn’t, and that’s that. It’s that easy now. Plus, she’s seen me at my worst, and neither of us want to go there again (she didn’t drink the whole time either, so that made it even easier). However, getting me through it was this newfound sense of knowing that it’s these moments, and events, and people that I NEED to “do” and “get through” sober. I can’t drink to avoid the reality that, connecting with other people is hard. It’s a big deal-thing for me, it’s something I’m constantly worrying about: is it me who can’t seem to feel anything but trepidation and lack of familiarity around people I don’t know? I mean, it’s a visceral relief–and always has been–when I can finally be alone again. Do others feel this way? Sigh. I drank a lot over this, and now I can’t. So, I do my best and hopefully, is it good enough.

This was hard to learn about myself, though. Re-learn, I should say. I mean, I really SAW it this weekend with my friend in town. I never would have had to face it and accept it if I had allowed myself the option of going around it by getting drunk.

My friend and I were drinking buddies in graduate school, and we never hung out much outside the bar. I’ve changed a lot, and I don’t want to say that she hasn’t; but what I noticed was how much chaos she was holding onto (for protection?); chaos in the form of bad relationships, a job that doesn’t pay her what she’s worth, a disrespectful roommate, comparing herself constantly to others, passive aggressiveness.

Let’s face it, though: getting sober has not only made me see these things more clearly, but allowed me to see that I deserve better in a friend AND, that I can and will (uncomfortably and clumsily) stand up for myself. Anyway, the point is, I see these things in other, non-sober people, and am somewhat astounded that getting sober has offered me a way out. By no means am I free and pure and enlightened, but at the very least, I NOTICE the chaos and I make attempts at not living in it anymore.

I think it was Day 120 for me yesterday! The cravings have subsided, that’s for sure. I no longer really fantasize about that “glass” of wine because, well, it’s sort of getting pointless/boring to do so. Yes, at times I felt bored, agitated, and exhausted this weekend, but I knew in my gut that THIS was the only way, getting through it all sober. And, I have the feeling that sobriety is going to start resembling this more; the cravings seem small-fry compared to the “real work” that lies ahead. And, the rewards of this supposed “real work” are bound to be much more substantial–a true high–than resisting the cravings. I can feel it.

Onward…

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