Friday, November 25, 2016

Uncle James - My first experience with an alcoholic

The first memory of  alcoholism was when I was around four.  My Uncle James who lived with my grandmother had passed out on the kitchen floor and because of his size she couldn't get him up. She was preparing for some kind of family dinner and there he was in the middle of the kitchen floor.

My grandmother was a true un-treated Al-Anon nothing phased her.  She ask me to fetch a stack of news papers from the back porch. Then she promptly covered him up and we continued to cook stepping over him as if this is what everyone does.

I loved my Uncle James he was a three war veteran and the kindest person when he wasn't drinking. He had a lot of physical ailments from the wars not to mention emotional problems so he got a big check at the first of the month from the government this helped my grandmother get by. He was my favorite uncle because he told me stories and actually talked to me like I was an adult.

He was what I would call now a binge drinker.  He would sometimes go six months sober start working with a family friend who owned house painting business and then we would have a family event and the drinking would begin again. The days before the event my grandmother would be especially relieved that he wasn't drinking and she could count on him to help her get things ready. Without fail he would leave the house the morning of and come back just as things were underway completely trashed and would stay that way for months.

I remember one party in particular where he showed up with a present for me. A little cross necklace he picked me up and put me in his lap. I could smell the booze and it felt weird my grandmother was furious and won't let me accept the gift.  She then made him go to his apartment next door.

I remember sometimes my grandmother would pretend that someone important was coming over if he had passed out on the couch or something.  She would grab him by his hair and shake his whole head. She would yell "so and so will be here any minute" He was unconscious and never moved.

My grandmother was his biggest enabler. She let him live in a small apartment on the first floor of her house.  They had a door between them and when he was sober the door was open and when he wasn't it was bolted from her side.  She had to keep her food hidden around the house in case he got drunk and started cooking. When he got started he would stop until there was nothing left.

My grandmother would drag everyone into the drama.  She would get the help of my other uncle during the binges. He was a long time deputy sheriff in our town and his fellow officers would call him when they found my uncle passed out in bars or sometimes in alleyways where he had been robbed after he got that check. My uncle would by-pass the system and deliver him home to sleep it off.

Overall it was better for us when my grandmother knew where he was my mother would get less calls and there was overall less drama. I know there was AA back then but I don't think my family knew about that. We were more the type to rely on Jesus and keep our family problems to ourselves.

After my mother died my aunt moved my grandmother and uncle to the town I live in now.  I came here because I was alone and thought having them here would be a safety net.  I knew I couldn't live with them because I couldn't deal with their drama.  They didn't live together anymore so I stayed with my uncle for a month until he hocked some of my stuff to get money for booze. Nothing changes.

I was there about a month and moved out after he stole my stuff. Shortly after that he destroyed the house after a cooking spree where he passed out and left a pot on the stove. He was fine but the house was un livable. My aunt moved him back in with my grandmother and my grandmother put a deadbolt on the bedroom where she hid her food.

We never really spoke after that.  The weather here wasn't great for his health and he ended up in a VA hospital in Arizona where they were treating veterans with emphysema. My aunt said he seemed at peace out there not having to live up to any one's expectations. Everyone wanted him to succeed he was so lovable when sober and had such potential.

I started this post thinking I would write about why I didn't see my own husbands alcoholism. I do think that I thought all alcoholics were like my uncle. I didn't know that there was functioning alcoholics. I thought my husband and his Irish Catholic family just like to have fun.

I realize now that the drama of alcoholism was there from the very beginning for me and I know the heartbreak my grandmother felt seeing someone you love someone with such potential throw it all away.

My ex husband has gone on to create a new life for himself and I don't know if he is still drinking or not but I can now wish him well.  I am happy that he has already had a better life than my uncle did. I am grateful that AA and Al-Anon are more mainstream today and that families don't have to just live with their secrets.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

When people leave

It is the eve of Thanksgiving and I wondered whether I should write about the past.  Does writing about it give it more power over me or show me that there is more work for me to do? I am not sure we shall see what comes out here on this page.

I have had two major adult relationships the first lasting almost a decade and the other over a decade. Both of these relationships ended abruptly on Thanksgiving.  Technically not on Thanksgiving one the day before and the other the day after.  I think it is safe to lump them under the overall heading of "Thanksgiving" either way.

Your never prepared for the moment when the person you expect to spend the rest of your life says "I don't love you anymore" together with "I love someone else".  The world stops at that moment and something else begins.  The we ends and the me begins and the question of who I might be without this person. Somehow getting ready for 20 people coming for dinner the next day seems like a cruel joke. Just for the record I canceled the dinner and never cleaned that kitchen again.

What timing both my ex's had for their departure or in the second incidence my own departure. The second time I didn't go quietly into the night and I didn't beg like I did the first time. I knew more I knew the look that you can see is some one's eyes that they have moved on and that you are standing between them and a lifetime of happiness. The first time I was only told "I don't love you anymore" so I believed there was hope. (seriously)  If I had heard the second part "I love someone else" I would have moved on more quickly.  The truth might have set me free.

The good news is that I have gotten over it and even though this holiday will never be one I am really thankful for it isn't one that triggers the side of me that blames me for what happened in both cases.

People leave.  They start leaving way before they pack there bags or make you pack your bags.  At least that is my experience. I always thought that couples had problems and when you did you would sit down and talk about them and then get professional help. That seems like the mature thing to do. Right?

They were both brilliant people but not too emotionally mature and honestly neither was I.  I picked them because they fit me for that time in my life and frankly I can't imagine still being with them. I have worked hard to address my own immature thinking and I have stopped looking for another person to determine my worth.

This wasn't an easy post to write but it is the truth about Thanksgiving for me.  I am more me than I have ever been.  I have found the strength to be myself even if right now that means I am alone.  I am thankful tonight that I am not where I use to be and I am grateful to the people that have left.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Introverts - The devil - Safety pins

Every where I go it seems people are still in shock about the direction it seems our country is going. I attended an art event last night and it was no surprise that there was a lot of talk about "T" among the artist and patrons attending.  I saw a few safety pins being worn something that started in Britain after their vote to leave the European union.

Just as I mentioned before that when you travel in the same circles with people like yourself you have a sense that your on the right side and that most people agree with you. As a democrat who was raised in a devoutly conservative fundamentalist home it has taken me a long time to find my place in the spiritual as well as the political world.

There was never hate in my home my mother instilled the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"  this was really our creed. I never heard my parents criticize each other or anyone else.  It was clear that we were republican because the democrats were godless and we just needed to pray for them.

It was the south and the 60's and 70's and in our religion we believed that we had the only ticket to heaven.  When I married a catholic I might as well have married the devil himself. He did turn out to be the devil. But it turned out that living with  devil  forced me to stand up for myself and grow spiritually in ways I couldn't imagine.  I can thank him for being the person I am today.  A last note about my mother she single handily rallied the church wives to get out and vote. This was was pretty radical for the housewives of her time.

After speaking with my sister this week it is clear our parents gave us the ability to step away from our emotions and try to understand where other people might be coming from.  It isn't easy when it seems they are so wrong and we are so right.  She felt that the democrats should have come up with a less polarizing candidate.  I said that train left the station a long time ago when she lost to Obama.

I have a eastern sense of belief about life in general but I understand the fear that motivates a lot of people.  The fear that if we are inclusive and that if we accept people that are different from us we don't have the same clear sense that we are absolutely right in our own personal beliefs.

I also think that democrats just like republicans and want to dismiss the other half of the country as nuts. I think the election was driven by fear and the country was ripe for someone who was willing to bi-pass the usual status quo of both sides and just be his own outrageous self. Reality TV.

I do think this is a wake up call for us democrats it is my experience that as individuals we aren't that visible.  In general we are introverts and don't put bumper stickers on our cars or even signs in our yards.  Maybe it is time to get more involved maybe this will motivate us to do something different.

I know from my own personal experience that the worst things in my life (the devil) can actually get me moving in a more self-empowered way.  Instead of sitting around in shock wondering how we got here.  Moments of reflection are good but then the next step is action.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Signs - Covering all the bases

I spent the day alone yesterday after a full work week and then a preparing a dinner on Friday night for my best friends birthday I was exhausted.  I am glad thatI am busy at work and it hasn't given me too much time to think about the election but last night YouTube queued up a video of a preacher talking about the moon event tomorrow night.

The moon will be the closest it has been to the earth in seventy years.  About the predictions in the Bible and I have to admit this really took me back to my childhood and my grandmothers stories about the end of times. I turned it off as soon as I heard where he was going.  I woke up fearful this morning and haven't really been able to shake it.

When I was about five I would regularly go outside and look for the coming of Jesus.  We talked about it all the time and to a five year old it was a pretty big deal.  One night I went out and there was a bright light in the sky bigger than I had ever seen. I ran back in the house told my dad that I thought Jesus was coming that night.  He followed me out and we looked at the light together and he explained to me that it was just a spot light from a local grand opening.

I was disappointed but still kept up my nightly vigil wanting to be first to see him coming. We moved shortly after that to the suburbs where there was a lot of other things to distract me. As I grew older I realized that people have been waiting a long time for him to come again and it was doubtful he would show up just for me.

Over the years I have merged my fundamentalist beliefs with what I have learned through my own spiritual quest.  I discarded God all together in my twenties figuring I couldn't every live up to the perfection that was required to make it to heaven. We don't believe once saved always saved.  We believe if you sin and your life ends then you are headed to the lake of fire.

This is a lot of pressure and after seeing my family for the wedding I realized that no one today seems worried about that anymore.  It is all too much really to live in that state. I remember as a child praying "God forgive me of any sin that I might have committed even if I didn't know it was a sin"  I thought that this covered all the bases.  This was probably around the same time I was looking for Jesus every night.

Today I am forgiven by a loving  God that is there to guide me.  I have done my best and I am not worried about the things that might be sins that I don't know about.  I try to be loving and compassionate and know everyone is doing there best even if it isn't good enough for me. It is all they have at that moment.

When the big moon comes and goes I will have to trust that life will go on and we will have to make our way through this time of division in our country.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Grief - Forward Motion

I am experiencing grief today.  It is a familiar feeling to me it is when you lose someone or something that you really thought had a lot of possibilities.  You spend a lot of time imagining how reality will match this dream in your head and everyone will live happily ever after.  You surround yourself only with people that agree with you to protect you from the idea that there was any other outcome.

I have done this many times. When I was really sick I couldn't accept the reality and lived in denial until the pain of reality was so excruciating that I was down on the ground.  This took time sometimes months sometimes year.  I would just there until I just couldn't stand it anymore and accepted my loss and moved on.

I gave myself permission to grieve just for today.  Tomorrow I will take the wait and see attitude because ultimately things work out even if it isn't the way I imagined it would. I can trust that there is always forward motion even if I have to accept three steps forward and two steps back.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Addiction - Lack of control - Detachment

I was going to write the details of what is going on with me but it was too depressing.  I am dealing with a person who is an addict and just got out of jail.  Luckily for him the doctors there continued to supply him with his usual pain killers. I am not sure why no one in the medical world understands that this is problem. Phantom pain created by the mind to feed the addiction.

This is my cousin and we do not have daily relationship but I am in charge of his financial welfare through a trust set up by his grandmother. Ten years now and with my program skills I have handled the many crisis pretty well but as we know this is a progressive disease.

I am not interested in repeating the sorted details here but lets just say I was dreading him being released after six months.  The day of the release he sounded the most normal he has ever sounded but within hours he was spiraling out of control. I know I can do nothing about this he claims he is going to NA but who knows.

He is emotionally is about 12 and has anger problems which he gets from his father.  My aunt raised him and she was very strict and didn't let him pour his own milk until he was ten. She treated everyone in her house like this even keeping her husband's shirts behind locked doors. Her daughter with developmental problems didn't have a chance and turned her child over to my aunt and chose to live on the streets. Occasionally coming home for a few months and then one night putting her clothes in a trash bag and climbing out the window at age 35.

They had money and money rules when it comes to these kinds of things. I am surprised that he has managed to keep things together this long.  He is 38 and truthfully I am not sure if mentally he is capable of getting better even without the drugs. His wife filed divorce papers during the six months he was in jail and taking their two kids. She is equally as messed up as he is and they have lost their kids to the state twice.

I said I wasn't going to get into the details but there they are but believe me there are more.  I keep my distance and as a trustee make my decisions about helping them as detached as possible. With the kids in the house we have paid for rent and electricity directly so the money isn't spent on drugs.

I am glad I am back to meetings and feel strong enough to deal with this almost daily.  Today my phone is on "do not disturb" and I am celebrating peace.  I will do my best and with the help of my own higher power all will be well.