Grief · Uncategorized

No Title Will Do This Justice

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Thanks for that reminder, Starbucks.

He died 3 years ago.

Grief is a funny thing and not so much in the haha funny sort of way but more so the oh, isn’t that just so ironic and sad sort of way.

3 years and 4 months ago my life started to spiral out of control, but of course I didn’t know that then. It’s unfortunate that we can’t quite piece together everything until much later when we look back, but it is what it is.

This is when my drinking started to become less fun and more coping mechanism. Each newly discovered tumor, each new doctor’s appointment with more bad news, each day watching him shrink and lose more energy and life became another reason to drink just one more.

My grandparents died before I was born. I had never really experienced a major loss in my life.  But there I was, 31 years old with two young babies, a full-time job and the weight of the world on my shoulders as I watched my father die a little each day.

There are many types of men in this world. My father was an independent spirit, far from perfect as he battled his own alcoholic demons long ago, but nevertheless, a good man. He prided himself on his ability to take care of and provide for himself and his family after growing up with his own alcoholic, dirt poor parents who divorced during a time when divorce was frowned upon.

Yet here he was, at first angry and frustrated as daily he lost his ability to take care of himself let alone anyone else. He died with a grace and acceptance that I can only dream of having when my time comes, but watching the man who picked you up with you fell and tried to give you the world he was never given need his diaper changed and his mouth swabbed with a wet sponge for comfort could break a person.  It surely broke me.

Imbibing a beer or three each night as I returned home from helping my mom and family care for him seemed a small price to pay at the time.  Relief came in the way my muscles relaxed and senses dulled as the alcohol worked it’s magic the way it’s known to do. My mind stopped racing with the “What if’s” and “when he dies” and anxiety over the unknown for just that short time as I drank my feelings away.

This became more of a habit as the end approached. It was easier to drink and forget than feel.  The problem was, I would remember in the morning.

Then one morning, he didn’t wake up.  I thanked God because by this time he was simply a skeleton in that hospital bed in the living room who no long spoke or laughed or hugged me.

So I drank. I didn’t know how else to handle feelings of that magnitude.  Ignoring them and numbing them with alcohol when they became too much to ignore (which was nearly always) was easier and hurt less than acknowledging them and sitting in them. Until it didn’t.

2 and a half years I spent in a fog.  The first few months I didn’t think too much of the drinking, but by the first anniversary of his death, I knew I was getting in too deep. That didn’t stop me though.  Nothing could convince me that truly feeling his absence was worth it. So I kept drinking.

I wasn’t drinking before or during work.  I was high-functioning.  From the outside I’m sure it looked as though I’d dealt with my loss fairly quickly and without much destruction. In fact, someone recently told me just that – “You always seemed so okay.” I was anything but okay but I wouldn’t risk my job so I supplemented my avoidance with men. If I could distract myself with alcohol and male attention, I didn’t have to deal with my truth.

The next year passed and I knew I’d crossed a point of no return.  My brokenness was manifesting itself in every way possible so that others would begin to notice except for the one person who needed to – me. By the end of this year, blacking out was becoming a normal part of my drinking sessions. Drink until you can’t remember. Drink until you can’t feel.

I had attempted the typical relief tactics by this point – moderation, short bouts of sobriety, therapy with a counselor who spent more time judging me than listening to me. Nothing helped. On top of the grief I never dealt with I was filled with shame, guilt and humiliation on a daily basis. So I kept drinking so I could numb it all. It was too much.

Relationships with friends and relatives had been destroyed.  My marriage, while in jeopardy long before this period of my life, was so clearly over. While drunk I lashed out at anyone who was within 50 feet of me. If I had to hurt, I wanted everyone to hurt.

pain
From Pema Chodron’s “Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings”

When the second anniversary of his death rolled around, I knew something had to give and soon. I laid low through the summer but by fall I was back at it.  I was tired of blacking out and feeling like shit all the time so I started having longer periods of sobriety and I found a therapist I actually connected with, one who gets me. I found other ways to avoid my feelings but in the end, for one reason or another, I would end up back with the booze.

On December 17, 2016 I blacked out for the final time. My recovery journey began on December 18.  I could no longer deny or ignore the fact that my life had become unmanageable.

So here I am. Sober for the 153rd day, on the third anniversary of his death and for the first time, finally feeling this grief. Oh, how it hurts. It’s a pain I would wish upon no one, not even an enemy. I understand now though. This pain is so deep, so raw, that I understand why I drank and chased attention to avoid feeling it.  Because it hurts like no other pain I’ve ever experienced. I see now that I did the best I could at that time and for today at least, I forgive myself, because I get it now. I get how much it hurts.

 My heart is broken in a way that it’s never been broken before.  There is an emptiness that I suspect will never fully be filled but that I must somehow learn to accept and live with.  So I take this life, this grief, one day at a time. I pause and breathe and read and write and practice yoga and ask for what I need because I don’t ever want to go back.  For as much as this pain is breaking me, it’s not destroying me the way alcohol did.

I miss you Dad.

Uncategorized

Looking for Peace

peace

I’m fucking exhausted. Mostly of myself. I cannot get my mind to shut off and I’m just so over it.

So I’m sitting here in my dad’s chair (which is now my chair) with my chai tea listening to my kids play a video game with my estranged husband (oh there’s a story I still need to tell about that one!) and trying to figure out how I dump out everything in my brain so it will just be quiet.

I was thinking today about how my head is always hyper focused on shit and I just can’t shut it off.  Sometimes it’s work…sometimes it’s marriage….sometimes it’s alcohol….sometimes it’s recovery…but it’s always something and right now I just want to tell my brain to shut the fuck up.

It’s a difficult part of recovery for me – having to feel and face everything with a clear head. Before if there was something I wanted to avoid (and there was plenty) I could just drink it away.

The part I miss most and has been on my mind a lot is that first hour or so. When the effects just start to hit, my muscles relax, the tension leaves my body, I feel a little lightheaded but giggly.  I smile easily then and my mind clears. That overall fuzziness that blurred reality in just the slightest way and made me feel like everything was okay.  I miss that feeling…

Ahhhh…if only the tape stopped playing there. But it doesn’t.  That hour of rose-colored warm and fuzzies doesn’t last very long and turns into a black out complete with boat loads of shame and guilt without much memory of why other than being told by others how I embarrassed myself yet again and ruined even more relationships.  I sure as fuck don’t miss those feelings…

I need some peace.  I need some quiet time in my own head. I’ve attempted meditation and I think it could be beneficial if I gave it more time and practice but that’s damn near impossible with two little kids. There’s always noise – if not in my head then outside of it.

I write to try to quiet the chaos but even that has it’s limitations. New to this public blog thing, I don’t know what’s too much to share, what’s not enough. Early in m recovery at 118 days I question if I can handle the judgment that would come with just word vomiting my entire story in a single shot…because it’s ugly.

So here I am with a mind that never shuts off, a life that never slows down and a soul that is begging for a break.  I just need a break.

Self-Talk · Uncategorized

I Am Enough

iamenough

Merriam-Webster defines mantra as “a mystical formula of invocation or incantation” which I find totally appropriate considering I’d always thought of a mantra as being something whimsical that yogis or hippies invoked during a meditation or while smoking pot.  Had someone told me years ago that I’d be using mantras as a tool to work through my recovery from alcohol addiction and manage my anxiety I probably would have laughed and rolled my eyes. Yet, here I am.

My therapist actually introduced me to the idea of utilizing a mantra.  I struggled in the moment to come up with one and when I left that session, I didn’t think much about the idea of using the power of words to change my thoughts and beliefs.  Days passed and the negative self-talk continued – my thoughts were consumed with all the bad decisions I’d made while drinking, things I thought for sure made me an awful mother, a horrific wife, a terrible human being.  Then one night as I lay exhausted but unable to sleep, once again beating myself up over and over again in my mind, I consciously stopped myself and thought, “I am enough.” Despite my past, despite who I once was, despite my flaws and imperfections…I. AM. ENOUGH. I repeated those words, without believing them, drowning out all the hateful thoughts I typically had about myself, until I fell asleep.

The next day I acknowledged to myself that it had actually helped to tell myself that I am enough just the way I am, no more, no less. All these experiences, all this life I’ve lived, both good and bad, have made me enough.  So that day I once again fell asleep while telling myself, “I am enough.”

At some point it occurred to me that I had given myself a mantra. I began to recite these words that once had no meaning but now held much power when I felt my anxiety take hold.  As my heart raced and my hands shook and my eyes welled with tears, I would tell myself over and over, “I am enough” until the anxiety subsided. When caught off guard with a snide comment from a coworker or realizing I mixed up some event date, I paused and thought, “I am enough.”  As it turns out, in my humble experience at the very least, just like you will believe the lies you tell yourself, the same occurs when you begin telling yourself the truth.

I’d be lying if I told you that I believe that I am enough every day, all day. I’m not there yet and I’m not even sure if that’s possible, anyway. I still have those moments that my anxiety overwhelms me and the awful noise from my brain telling me what a fuck up I am for all I’ve messed up is just so loud and the tears come and I just want it to all stop, stop, stop stop stop stop stop….and so I take a deep breath and tell myself quietly that I am indeed enough. Then again and again and again. As many times as it takes to calm my spirit. Because I am enough, I really am.