What I Cannot Do For Myself

I twisted my hands together, fighting the urge to pick at my cuticles as I watched my therapist’s eyes widen. She put down her pen; I bit my bottom lip to the point of pain, waiting for her to continue.

“That just doesn’t happen, Harmony.”

“I know.”

“No, I don’t think you do. I mean, I think you’re grateful for the people you have in your life. I think you know that you wouldn’t be sober today without them, but Jesus – you are incredibly, incredibly lucky.”

“I know.”

She picks up her pen; I exhale. I want to feel lucky: I’m a recovering addict and alcoholic who is still alive. I have not lost my husband or my kids. My friends still speak to me. I love and I am loved, even though a loud, persistent voice tells me every day that I am unworthy. The other shoe will drop soon, says the voice, and no one can be trusted except for my best friends, alcohol and uppers. Figuring out how to acknowledge that voice and then actively choose not to listen to it is an invisible, exhausting task that is hard to explain to people who have never had to battle with an almost constant feeling that everyone would be better off if they were dead.

I want to feel brave and fortunate and strong. People call me those things all the time – someone from my past recently called me “courageous” – but all I feel is a heaviness that never leaves, no matter how many hours of sleep I get or how many lattes I drink. Some people call it depression, but for me, it’s simply darkness. For years and years, I took uppers to snap me out of the sadness that wouldn’t leave.

It worked. No one noticed how messed up I was.

When that person called me courageous, I wanted to yell the following proclamation:

“I AM NOT COURAGEOUS. I AM EXHAUSTED AND WANT NOTHING MORE THAN AN ENORMOUS BOTTLE OF VODKA TO WASH AWAY THE PERSISTENT PAIN AND DISCOMFORT THAT I CARRY WITH ME ALL THE TIME. I AM DESPERATE TO FEEL BETTER.”

Is bravery the same thing as desperation?

***

On January 9, 2018, my dad had surgery. It was supposed to be minor – my mother couldn’t bring him, because she has virtually no immune system and is almost always narrowly avoiding hospitalization herself. I was happy to do it, especially because I knew this would be the first January 9th I faced in recovery and I needed a distraction.

January 9, 1999 is the day my life imploded. Now that I’m no longer drinking to avoid thinking about it, I’m thinking about it a lot. Here’s where I am: when those people made the decision to cross the multiple lines that were crossed, I was forced to make a series of decisions. First, I pressed charges. Second, I broke up with the man I was planning to marry and spend the rest of my life with, because I could no longer fathom a happy future with him. It wasn’t because of anything that was lacking in him as a person, or in our relationship. It was purely because he happened to be related to the kind of people who thought it was acceptable to slam me, choke me, kick me, punch me, and lick my face. I just … I couldn’t. I was done.

Maybe walking away from that relationship means they won. Maybe becoming an alcoholic means they won. If they wanted to destroy me, they were successful. Not one of them ever acknowledged what they did. Not one of them ever uttered an apology for smashing their brother’s relationship into pieces. They did what they did and pretended it never even happened, and we were left to figure out the rest. I chose to walk away from the relationship, and that is something I drank over for a very, very long time.

When I got sober, it was like awakening from a deep sleep. Like, oh! Okay. I made that decision and now my life is this. That choice led me to point A and then to point B where I seriously screwed up, but how did I get here? It’s a super involved process of turning over every rock and analyzing the how and why of my current situation. Was I sober when I met Robbie? Was I sober when we married? What about when we decided to have kids – was I sober then?

***

This year, I spent January 9 in a hospital waiting room working really hard not to self-destruct. I made it through the day – my dad went home, and so did I – but then I had to rush him back to the Emergency Room two days later.

The E.R. is a terrible place, something I can say with certainty because we spent 16 hours there before he was finally admitted. I was awake for 36 hours straight. My dad was hooked up to morphine. At a few different points, he and I both thought he was going to die.

I’m very good in emergency situations. I fold into myself, feeling nothing until it’s safe to do so. It wasn’t until I’d pitched a fit while holding a barf bag full of my daddy’s vomit in the middle of a flu-infested E.R. with a crazy man sitting in the corner yelling about how he was going to kill us all and they finally found a room for us that I allowed myself to cry.

Recovery feels like that for me. It didn’t feel safe to feel until it was safe to feel.

***

I don’t know how long I was at the hospital before my friend Kate flew in from Virginia. She was there to take care of the kids so I could be with my dad, but she admitted later on that she was mostly there to make sure I was able to take care of myself so I could take care of everyone else.

She came so I could remain sober.

My girlfriends sent food to my house and to my parents. Kate grocery shopped for my kids, bought them balloons, and assured them that their real mom would be home soon. My mother-in-law did all of the laundry, and then, Kate did it again.

“All you have to do is press the button on the coffee maker,” she told me before I fell into bed one night. “The coffee is ready to go.”

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She taught my children ballet poses.

Kate mothered me. She cooked food and encouraged me to eat it. She sent me to my 12-step meetings. For almost a week, she reminded me that it was okay to need and accept help. Her presence made me remember to keep doing the things that keep me sober.

Robbie bought a desk for my office and had it assembled when I got home. He did everything he could think of to make my life easier while I was preoccupied with getting my dad better. And really, that’s the part that touches me the most – how everyone in my life just SHOWED UP. Maybe before now, I was so walled off that I wouldn’t allow people to truly help me or love me. Maybe now I can learn how to do a better job of that, even though the voice still whispers that I don’t deserve love because I’m not good enough.

***

My 50-minute therapy session is drawing to an end, and I kind of don’t ever want to leave but I also kind of want to make a run for it and never come back. Getting better is hard work, something my therapist acknowledges and encourages me to talk about. Owning my issues will help me get better, and I really am proud of my progress, even though right now I’m pretty much constantly in a state of discomfort, shame, or self-loathing.

“Let me sum it up for you like this, Harmony,” she said, snapping her notebook shut and leaning forward. “God is doing for you what you cannot do for yourself.”

Yeah. No kidding.

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This is Kate. She is my sister.

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Bad Poetry From College.

One of my very best friends, Kate, has always encouraged my writing. I love her for it … except that she is also a pack rat and saves everything.

This means that I occasionally receive text messages from her that contain cringe-worthy notes, essays, or newspaper clippings from our college paper accompanied by: “Look what I found!” Or, “Did you write this? It looks like your handwriting.”

YES … I wrote that terrible essay linking fruit flies to the church service requirements at our private, Christian university. Let’s never speak of it again.

YES … I also wrote that opinion piece about Oatmeal Creme Pies. Can you just burn that one?

YES … I wrote that shit, and that shit, and that shit. It’s bad — all of it is so bad — proof that even if you’re born with a talent YOU STILL HAVE TO WORK REALLY HARD AT IT TO GET BETTER.

Most recently, I texted her back and admitted that yes, this trippy poem with the mispelled title was also written by me.

Funny, I don’t recall doing drugs at Bible college. Maybe I was high on life or religion or something. Maybe I wrote this as a joke, or someone dared me to write something that rhymed in under a minute and I scribbled this out as they timed me.

bad poetryMaybe I was just super weird.

It’s probably that.

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Gird Your Loins.

11427727_10153418022654181_4659712762345068075_nHobbs & Hayworth: coming soon to a beach near you!

Or … maybe not at all near you. Either way, you definitely need to head to the beach this weekend.

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The Gaggle.

On Sunday, I had one of those experiences that is going to be challenging to explain because it involved me driving to a town 3 hours away to hang out with a gaggle of women who I’d never met in real life.

Yeah, that.

I had more than one person tell me how “brave” it was for me to just hop in the car and GO, not knowing if I was heading into a situation where everyone would be bitchy and obnoxious (and not in a fun, snarky way) and I might end up feeling like an outsider and regret putting myself in the situation. I took a chance, hoping that the connections I’d built with these women over the past year-and-a-half were based on something real, and believing that my gut instincts are always on point.

My instincts were right. The gaggle was amazing.

Maybe it was brave, or maybe it was stupid. Robbie kept tabs on me, but he never asked me not to go. He just lets me be my quirky self, and I love him for it.

This year, I’m forging ahead. I’m making connections. I’m building my “tribe,” as my friend Sarah would say. I don’t care if the members are spread far and wide, because that is what technology is for. I am going to continue to trust my gut even when my mother says, “Is this someone you met ON THE INTERNET?!”

Yes. It is. She’s a lot like me, and she’s fantastic.

This is the picture I sent Robbie when he texted to verify I hadn't been kidnapped.

This is the picture I sent Robbie when he texted to verify I hadn’t been kidnapped.

Locked Out.

Yesterday afternoon, I was home with Asher and the baby. All was well; they played happily while I spaced out.

I said, “Hey Asher, let’s go check the mail!” And we walked out the back door, leaving Pepper to play alone for a few moments while we went to the mailbox.

I shut the door behind us and realized too late Asher had turned the lock on the doorknob before I shut it, locking us outside and the baby inside. I know you’re probably all wondering why I don’t just keep a phone tied to my hand, or at the very least, AN EXTRA KEY OUTSIDE OF MY HOUSE. I have wondered these exact things myself, friends. But as I stated earlier this week, I can’t even think straight to ask for help or answer the question “What can I do to help you?” So no, there was no extra key. I’m lucky I had proper clothes on.

Yet again, we walked next door to the sweet neighbor’s house, where Mrs. Jo let me use her phone and phone book to call for help. But this time, she kindly said “You know … I’d be happy to keep a copy of your house key here.”

And I said, “Yes … I think you should.”

Thankfully, my mother-in-law was home and answered the phone, drove right over and let us sit in her air-conditioned car as we kept a watchful eye through the window to make sure Pepper stayed safe while we waited for Robbie to arrive with his house key. She also proactively made copies of our house keys to prevent this absurdity from happening again. What would I do without these capable people in my life?! I really don’t know. This morning I lost and found my wallet twice in the span of 10 minutes, then lost it again in line at the coffee place.

I need school to start.

Now.

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Technology, Schmechnology.

I’m one of those people who can’t do math, like, at all. I also do not understand satellites or radio waves. I have just now, after several years of owning a smart phone, begun to understand how to use it for real. As in, how to download an app without help.

I’m seriously challenged when it comes to all things technology. This includes all of our TV sets which I always seem to mash the wrong button on, resulting in a phone call to Robbie where I yell “HOW DO I MAKE THE STUPID TV WORK?!” Because if it’s technological and I can’t seem to operate it, it’s always his fault. I yell and he answers and then I hang up. No goodbye, no thank you for helping. I just. hang. up.

So, a few weeks ago my friend Laure totally revamped my blog.  As you can see, she did an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G job. Every time I look at it, I get a little giddy.

If you have been with me for awhile, I’m sure you recall the weird grandma’s-wallpaper thing I had going on over at Blogger for (ahem) 4 years. If you don’t remember, allow me to jog your memory:

modern mommy madness

Laure kindly suggested once or twice that a redesign might be fun, but I’m sort of always overwhelmed with my life and I had to table that idea until I felt ready to deal with the realities of moving four year’s worth of my writing, photos, and links from Blogger to WordPress. There was also an issue with my domain name, which I can’t say I completely understand, mostly because I am disorganized and never have a complete handle on anything that is going on in my life. I just keep moving forward with the assumption that it will all work out. The signs say CARRY ON and that is what I do. I IGNORE AND CARRY ON.

Anyway, one day I was trying to add a widget to my Blogger blog and it wouldn’t let me and I just … snapped. THIS, I decided, THIS was the day I was moving over to WordPress. So, I did what made sense and Googled, “How do I move my blog from Blogger to WordPress?” Pretty quickly, I realized I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Robbie was no help — he’s a gadget guy but he doesn’t know the first thing about what I was trying to do. So I texted Laure. Once she figured out what was going down, she probably gasped aloud and said “OH NO! SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL SHE’S DOING!” But who can say for sure, she lives in Thibodeaux and I live in Baton Rouge.

What I do know is that she immediately offered to help me, and she somehow saved my domain name from being sucked into the black hole of the internet. She took stock of everything she knew about me and created an awesome design that makes me happy just to look at it. I can’t praise her enough; she is amazing. So if you’re like me and need help with your website and don’t know what the hell you’re doing — even after you’ve seen a ton of YouTube videos on how to do this or that — get help.

If I were you, I’d get Laure. You can find her here.

She also has a fun blog about finding local, fresh food and every time I read it I feel both embarrassed about the Totino’s pizzas in my freezer, and inspired to get my butt in gear and make it to the produce stand more often. Baby steps. A girl can only handle so much in a day.

Kate.

This weekend my dear friend and soul sister Kate came to visit. 

One of the major disadvantages of attending an out-of-state university (and high school as well, but that’s another story) is that you meet these amazing people and form tight bonds with them, and then several years later you are scattered all over the country like sparkly confetti. I mean, it’s pretty much our duty as interesting people to jazz up America, and we can’t really do that if we all cluster together. So I get it. But still — it doesn’t feel right.

Kate and I have remained friends through medical school (her), three childbirths (me), marriage (both), and life. I only have a few people who get me to the degree that she gets me. When she came to my house and sat on my floor and played with my children, rummaged around in my kitchen, seasoned the asparagus I had no clue what to do with, and whipped up fresh guacamole like she’d been living just across town this entire time … it made me want to beg her not to go back to Atlanta and continue to jazz up the world of Sports Medicine. 

JUST STAY HERE AND HELP ME RE-LEARN HOW TO COOK VEGETABLES.

She washed and dried the dishes and when I told her to stop she shushed me and said she really wishes she could do it more often. So I shut up, sat down, and let her.

Soul sisters take care of each other. I never thought I would be the mom who got so wrapped up in caring for everyone else that she forgot herself, but I AM. I’m at the service and feet of everyone else all the time, because that is what happens when you are a mother and a wife. But my friends still know and remember me, the person. 

And I love them so much for that.

A lifetime ago.