Dealing With Feelings Is A Real Drag

Recently, I took a major risk and wrote about how my issues with addiction are directly linked to a traumatic event in my past. Everyone has been amazingly supportive, and for that I want to say thank you.

Living through an emotionally and physically traumatic event affected me in ways I still don’t quite understand. It wasn’t just that four people I knew physically attacked me in my own bedroom — the emotional pain is my problem. The multiple levels of betrayal, the shame of being involved with something so appalling, and the grief that comes from a terrible breakup all rolled into one big ball of horrible feelings that I didn’t know how to deal with.

Because I was living in a Conservative Christian bubble, I first tried praying it away. I tried ignoring it. I tried throwing myself into religion, and when that didn’t work, I threw myself into the world.

Even though what happened to me wasn’t my fault, there is a big part of me that still wonders if I somehow deserved it — mostly because I chose to ignore major red flags during the course of my relationship with the boy. I wanted to fit in with his family. I wanted them to like me, and they did, at first. I was a sweet, friendly, smart girl — unassuming, eager to please, nonjudgmental, and mostly, I loved the boy.

They liked me, but they underestimated me.

Sometimes, really stupid people mistake kindness for weakness. They think that because I smile a lot, I’m easily manipulated, but actually I am just too polite to speak up and say, “Hey asshole, I know what you’re doing.”

Rather than be rude, I nod and smile. Or, I used to.

The boy’s family eventually realized that I have limits to how far I’ll allow other people to push me. Even at 18 and 19 years old, no one was going to dictate my life, and I encouraged the boy to do the same. My encouragement of his independence is what sealed my fate, and the rest is what I’m dealing with in therapy.

The point of sharing my story is this: my past trauma infects every relationship in my life. I have walls up in my marriage that I didn’t even realize were there. I freak out over stupid things my kids say or do because it reminds me of people who hurt me in the past. I don’t trust ANYONE. I am terrified of people turning on me. And while I have a ton of friends and acquaintances in my life that I could call for anything, I almost never do; vulnerability scares the shit out of me.

I have a guilt complex. My self worth is nonexistent. People call me courageous, but I’m not. I’m terrified. Being sober scares me, the truth scares me, and thinking about the future and the unknown paralyzes me with fear. Things I cannot control are what scare me the most, and guess what? LIFE IS BEYOND MY CONTROL.

So I stay afraid, unless I practice the things that have kept me sober for the past 6 months. I go to exercise classes, even when I don’t feel like it. I cut out junk and eat more protein. I sleep a lot. I meditate. Today, I went to yoga and breathed a lot of deep breaths and then I cried, because that’s what happens when people sober up. They yoga and they cry.

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Yoga helps.

I’m putting one foot in front of the other, and re-learning how to take care of myself. I’ve accepted that I’ll be in therapy for probably a very long time, and I continue to mourn the loss of alcohol because dealing with feelings is a real drag.

People keep telling me I’m worth it. Maybe one day, I’ll actually believe them. Until then, I’ll just keep writing.

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Progress Report

It probably means something that the intake form I printed and filled out in preparation for my therapy appointment has a big ol’ wine ring on it.

This was something I wrote last year, when I was floundering in depression and didn’t know how to get better. The intake paperwork sent to me from a potential therapist in town overwhelmed me, because everything overwhelmed me: the laundry, my kids, money, unforeseen circumstances, forms sent home to me in my children’s backpacks.

I found life overwhelming.

So, I tried therapy. But the thing about therapy — and self-help in general — is that if you aren’t completely honest about what’s really going on, how is anyone supposed to be able to truly help you? I sat in several different, very nice offices in town and spoke about my difficulties; those sitting across from me were kind, albeit confused, about why I was struggling so hard to cope.

No one asked me if I was an alcoholic. Why would they? I clearly have my shit together. (Sidenote: I clearly do not have my shit together.)

I kept the truth about the scale of my drinking to myself — after all, the thought of giving up alcohol was more overwhelming that anything life was throwing at me. It simply was not an option.

The biggest lesson I’m learning in recovery is that when people are in addiction of any kind, they don’t know how to stop doing that thing that they’ve been doing for so long. Asking an addict to stop drinking or using is a lot like asking someone to stop breathing or eating or sleeping. How is that done? How will we survive?

My last drink was on February 28, 2017, and I still have to talk myself through taking a shower, blow drying my hair, and putting on clothes every day. Some days are worse that others. Sometimes, I require a nap in the afternoon or a good cry mid-day. I have gained 12 pounds from eating my feelings. THERE ARE SO MANY FEELINGS.

I started exercising because I need the endorphins, and then it occurred to me that I haven’t fed myself normally, meaning in a non-disordered way, since high school. It’s time for me to re-learn how to care for myself: the care and feeding of a 37-year-old woman. It’s amazing how eating the right things at the right time can pep a person right up.

Amazing.

We — and I’m talking about myself as well as other people who struggle with substance abuse — are brain-damaged people. We’ve re-wired our brains in our addiction, and reversing brain damage is no easy task, but the miracle is that it can be done.

Today is day 138.

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Liberation Feels A Lot Like Newly-Done Nails.

Liberation feels damn good.Today was typical, and by “typical” I mean that I was ready to pour myself a glass of wine at 3 p.m.

I resisted.

Today I took all three children to a sporting goods store to buy a floatation device and new Crocs — for my kids, not for me, just to be clear.

The sky was almost black when we pulled into the parking lot, and as I sat there staring out the window, muttering why does it rain every effing time I leave the house, Maverick yelled “WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY, MOMMY? WHY DOES IT RAIN? BECAUSE THE CLOUDS ARE FULL FROM EVAPORATED WATER, MOMMY. HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT?!” as he unbuckled himself and climbed into the second row of the van, stepping on his little brother … who was pulling on his little sister’s leg and making her cry.

Lightning struck in the distance, and I made the decision to just go for it, hurrying them all inside before the rain began to fall. I hit the checkout stands first for snacks — Mini Oreos, of course, because oh how far the uptight health freak hath fallen.

So, so far.

My day was typical until Robbie walked through the door at 5:45 p.m. and I said, I know it reeks of wine in here, but it’s not because I drank it, it’s because I spilled it all over the place. It’s a long story. I’ll be back in an hour. Dinner’s on the stove. Love you.

And I left.

I drove to the nearest nail salon and spent the next hour getting my toenails and fingernails painted and my tired arms and legs massaged. I haven’t had a manicure in 18 months.

I paid for this luxury out of an account holding money that I have earned by selling essays and copies of I Still Just Want To Pee Alone. For the first time since I quit my job almost 4 years ago to stay at home with the kids, I feel like I can maybe get my nails done sometimes without first looking at the family budget.

And that is why this day is so momentous for me.

I earned the money by doing what I love. I love being a wife and a mother. I love being lots of things. But I am driven to write, and I have continued to feed that drive by staying up late, waking up early, and carrying a notebook around with me to jot down things like “CAT scan of lungs” that will jog my memory later.

One day I will look back on this day and remember what liberation felt like.

It feels like Pink Flamenco OPI Nail Lacquer.

It feels like giddy pride.

It feels like if anyone messes up my nails, I’m going to inflict bodily harm.

It feels like I worked really hard and I am actually making progress towards an unknown goal with really pretty fingers.

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That’s right.

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