Snags on the Way to Home Again (my story continued)

125It was right before the start of my daughter’s kindergarten that my ex decided to leave me.  We had just bought a house, and I’m still a bit bitter about all that.  It’s a joke with people who know me.  I am not spontaneous.  I am the opposite of spontaneous, and so I planned to move back to my home town in a little less than a year, or over the next summer.  It’s not ideal to me that Erika had to start school in a place she was leaving, but that’s what is was.  Over the year, I went to school to begin a master’s, I bought a new car, I found a place to live and enrolled Erika in school, myself in school, and Nicholas in day care.

I don’t remember the exact timing of these things, but one thing is worth recording.  As I have written about, I drank through most of college and I was not one of those people who could function just fine while drinking. I failed classes, I dropped classes, and I nearly died.  I didn’t graduate on time, and I finally achieved a sobriety that was to last just before my final two classes.  I graduated with a 2.3.  I understand that people have different intellectual abilities and different abilities to do “school,” but this was an extremely poor result for me.

When I applied to begin my master’s at my school, they wouldn’t take me.  My GPA was too low to be allowed in.  Now this was a moderately priced university and I was a paying customer, but I had done so poorly in the past that they said no.  That was I think the first and maybe only huge, tangible   price I almost paid for my drinking behavior.

I had taken a few classes where I lived at the time, and finally based on my good grades with those, and along with some begging and pleading, they agreed to let me in on probation, and I needed a B or better in my first three classes to continue.  The very nice dean who finally agreed to give me a second chance asked what had been up with my undergratuate grades.  I told her truthfully that I had been a partier.  Only thing was, I was the only guest at most of my parties.

I found a place to rent for me and my kids in my old hometown and actually right next door to the church of my childhood.  Just as that was to take place, they told me the renovations would not be finished on time for me and Erika to start school.  They said I could use the address, and live elsewhere but start Erika in school that way.  The school was actually the one I had attended for second, third and fourth grade.  I could have moved in with my mother, in a nearby town, and tried it that way, but I was afraid it wouldn’t all work out, and I wanted stability for her in school.  So at the last minute I went out searching for something to rent.

I was 30 that year, I think.  The real estate agent who took me around to look for a place had been a very good friend of mine in fifth and sixth grade.  Just then, when we were 30, she was working in a real estate office (obviously) and struggling with infertility.  Fertility issues have always given me pause, because I wanted children more than anything, and because my mother and her sisters had been so infertile as to only produce me between the three of them.  My world wasn’t stellar at that point, that’s for sure, but I was always aware how very lucky I was to have those children.  Luckier even at that time, since if my ex and I had waited to have children, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

I did find a house in time, and I stayed there with the kids for seven years.  Erika and I started school, and Nicholas started limited day care.  I had not wanted that for him, but it turned out as well as it could have.  He did fine with it, and I remain grateful that I got to stay home with him as long as I did.

There were scary and frantic moments in all of those adjustments, and program principles are what got me through.  One saving notion was the understanding I had that I could not control my ex or his actions, and I steadfastly tried not to even attempt it.  I see lots of misery resulting from that scenario and I’m so glad that didn’t happen to me.

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Too Much Going On! (This Day at This Time)

I want to write about teeth, and no doubt I will at some point.  I had an extraction and dental implant last Monday, and I still feel much more ill than I should.  I’ve been mostly going to work and going to bed without doing much else.

To add excitement to that grim scenario, my daughter is moving out of my house TODAY.  She has an apartment and a truck and that’s what I’ll be doing today.  If I can.  I’m going to try.  Yesterday walking the dog up a hill made me so dizzy I went to bed.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me except to think that the drugs and pain and disturbance to my system are making me ill.  Tuesday, I felt OK but I was flushed. Carole called the doctor (I wouldn’t have) and they said I was having a reaction to the antibiotic.  I’ve never had a bad reaction to a drug before, although I don’t take many.  So I got another antibiotic and I keep trying to wear the invisiline fake tooth, or not wear it.  I’m miserable.

I can’t feel right when this feels so wrong.  Perhaps it is working as a distraction so I don’t have a breakdown that my favorite daughter is moving out, and may never live with me again.  She’s been here with me (wherever here is, and it’s varied widely) for half of my life.  The better half.

More soon ……

Isolating and Introversion

thanksgiving08-007I reflect from time to time on the fact that I am naturally shy and introverted.  I really don’t like attention, even the attention of someone cutting my hair or someone watching me do something.  Even just prolonged glances from someone.  And I don’t enjoy meeting people.  In fact, I hate it.  I don’t like making small talk, especially in a group of people.

This is not a good quality for someone in AA, not good at all.  By it’s nature it’s social.  And considering how many years I’ve been at it, and how many meetings I’ve attended, and how many times I’ve moved in sobriety and been new, you’d think I’d be better at it and more comfortable than I am.

But I’ve buckled down through all of the social things AA has made me do, and I’ve called people and asked them for help and I’ve told the gory details to strangers and asked people to lead meetings and all those things.

And for all my introversion, I don’t think I’ve ever really isolated.  In trouble I tend to reach out more, which is good for me.  The usual thoughts about isolating being bad and dangerous attest to the fact that for me, on my own, I dwell in the problem, usually, while others will try and guide me toward the solution.  I’ve heard the phrase, “Your best thinking got you here,” meaning if I had it all figured out, I wouldn’t have ended up in AA.  Also that it was truly my very best thinking that lead to me AA and on toward the solution.

While I don’t isolate, I do know that I should reach out more, and cut through that introversion, especially in AA.  It was a fairly recent revelation for me to realize that my shyness can actually make other people uncomfortable.  And I really don’t want to do that.

Right Here We Need to Fetch Ourselves Up Sharply (Step Eight continued)

Right here we need to fetch ourselves up sharply.  It doesn’t make much sense when a real tosspot calls a kettle black.  Let’s remember that alcoholics are not the only ones bedeviled be sick emotions.  Moreover, it is usually a fact that our behavior when drinking has aggravated the defects of others.  We’ve repeatedly strained the patience of our best friends to a snapping point, and have brought out the very worst in those who didn’t think much of us to begin with.  In many instances we are really dealing with fellow sufferers, people whose woes we have increased.  If we are now about to ask forgiveness for ourselves, why shouldn’t we start out by forgiving them, one and all?

There’s no one in my daily life anymore who ever saw me drink.  The people who are living and I’m still in touch with are my mother, my best childhood friend, and someone I knew in sobriety.  Others, like my aunts and uncles, weren’t untouched by my drinking, but they weren’t touched closely or often by it.  I don’t know how to write about without being arrogant or proud (as in not humble), but I truly hope and believe that my sober behavior has not aggravated the defects of others like my drinking did.

However.

In my troubled work relationships there is no question that my character defects have been at play in a huge way.  I also usually see everyone as a fellow sufferer in one way or another, and I know I have increased their woes and the woes of innocent bystanders.

Every time I read it/hear it/practice it again, I think I understand a little bit better the concept that yes I am asking for forgiveness from individuals and groups and God and the universe, and by doing that I can someone edge closer to forgiving others.

And what of my scary work situation, where I am clearly in the wrong?  What do I mean by wanting foregiveness?  If I’m punished, I deserve it.  Do I want someone to say it’s OK?  It’s not OK.  Do I want to be sorry?  I am sorry.

The Daily Word had a message the other day about foregiveness.  It said, in part “….. I give thanks for us all and for the lessons we have learned through our experiences together.  In prayer, I release all people, all situations into God’s care.”

Questions and Search Terms

thanksgiving08-004Someone I know in real life who also reads this blog asked me two things.  She asked me how I’m doing with my dog walking.  I’m up to 22 minutes a day, or two walks of 11 minutes each, and I’ve stuck to that until today, which is just too darn cold.

Lots of days I do more because Carole  has been coming with me.  On these walks we have been rushed and confronted by loose dogs more than once, and at least once it was very scary.  I know that if I continue walking, chances are good I’ll be confronted by loose dogs, and that my dog will get into a fight, and hurt another dog or be hurt or both.  Still, I feel the risk is worth it and that I should continue.  I still haven’t written the whole dog walking story here, but I will I think when I get to that part of “my story.”  I’m afraid to do it, but I do it, and I plan to continue.  I had started a few weeks ago with the two ten minute walks and I added a minute to each December first.  I don’t know that I’ll add any time in January, since it’s very very cold.  But my long term goal is to walk the dog as much as she needs (probably over an hour a day) without fear.  Meanwhile my unhealthy obsession with her expresses itself in other ways.

My friend also asked where I find the time to write all this.  I have lots of time, really.  I work five days a week, and leave the house around 7 and get home around 4.  I have holidays and vacation days and sick days.  I go to bed between 10 and 11.  I go to at least one and often two AA meetings a week.  I often go to church once a week.  I’m a reluctant and not very good house keeper, but I do some of that, unless Carole isn’t working, then sometimes I do none of that.  The other critter care besides walking takes probably half an hour, depending again on how much Carole has done.  I do some work at home.  But really I find that all that usually leaves lots of time.  Carole pointed out to me that someone might wonder how I can write this much.  I can because I don’t edit much, I mostly just write it.  And I really like to do it, which makes me do lots of it.  I know I write lots more than most of the blogs I read, and I’m sure some people don’t read me because it’s not short and sweet.  But mostly I’m doing this for myself, and I like to do it, so I do.

Search Terms – Sometimes they are just so funny or strange, I want to share!

  • Is AA a Cult? No, no it isn’t.  And if you join AA, then decide to leave, your misery is fully refunded.
  • The Man on the Bed I find it interesting that people search for this so often, and I wonder why.
  • The Thirteenth Step – Again, this is a popular search, which I think is a shame.  I hope that those who read what I say about it know that it is wrong, and I hope it doesn’t hurt their sobriety.  People also search for Thirteenth Step, Alcoholics Anonymous Sponsor, and that is even worse.
  • Disney – These searchers are probably disappointed with my Disney writings.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Anniversaries – I don’t think I’ve written about that.  The places I’ve attended AA have varied a little in their customs, but mostly it’s a coin, applause and a few words.  There’s also all the feelings that anniversaries bring up and how people feel and act around anniversaries.  One thing I really liked and that I try to remember and repeat is one place where I lived that they always said “in order to show that it works.”  That’s why we celebrate.  Not to congratulate ourselves (well mostly not to).
  • Hitting a High Bottom – I didn’t really have a high bottom, although how quickly I fell to the bottom meant I was very young, and that I hadn’t lost many things.  I’ve heard that the bottom is where you stop digging.  Also that it occurs when you give up hope of ever drinking normally again.  Every day in the program people prove that you don’t have to lose everything and half kill yourself or anyone else to come in and be successful.
  • AA Meeting Greeting – Again, this varies from place to place and meeting to meeting.
  • Should Children go to AA Meetings? I wrote about this is a few places sprinkled throughout my story so far.  For babies and toddlers, I think that’s fine, as long as they aren’t disruptive.  And if they are disruptive, I hope someone will step forward and help the parent who brought the child so that the parent can listen to part of the meeting.  When they’re older, I’d say avoid it if you can.  If you can’t, bring something to occupy the children and keep them out of earshot if you can.
  • Don’t Drink Angry – Don’t drink happy, either.  In fact, just don’t drink!
  • Pass Out SnowI hope this means giving snow to everyone in the class.  But if it means being terribly drunk, and passing out in the snow, and flirting with death in that way, I did it.
  • Hungry Angry Lonely Tired HALT – These things are to be avoided.
  • Forced AA Meetings – I hope that it’s the courts forcing this, if anyone is forcing it, and then because of illegal behavior.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something else, since I was forced to be confirmed in church.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous+Newcomer+No Relationships in the First Year – That is a suggestion, and I think it’s a good one.  It doesn’t mean leave your family, it means if you’re not in a relationship, don’t start one until after your first year.  I’ve also heard it said that nothing fires up your character defects like being in love.
  • Is Al-Anon Evil? No.
  • How to Control My Drinking – For me, that’s by not taking the first drink.

Another Crisis in Sobriety (my story continued)

My ex and I bought another house after having moved six times in seven years.  The kids were approximately six and three years old, and I was about seven years sober.

Fear of financial insecurity had been something that was always with me.  Looking back at my story, I see that it was probably human to be afraid when I was a mother of babies and toddlers, and my ex had lost a few jobs and at times we’d lived on savings.  During at least one of those times, I had read a book about homelessness and, selfishly, realized with relief that people such as myself, educated with family ties intact, seldom ended up homeless.  The young families I saw on TV who were in a shelter were the exception, chosen by the reporter for that reason.  Their family ties had broken down and they didn’t have help or support.  I had a mother and inlaws who would help and support me if I needed them to.

I guess I also have to be easy on myself looking back and remember that I was young, a young mother, and some anxiety in these situations was normal.

All that is to explain that I felt more secure financially when I owned a house rather than paid rent.  And it was at this point that I got to fulfill that again.  My ex had gotten promotions and of course the paid for move of a huge distance was enormous.  I was about three hours by car from my hometown and family, and that was a good distance.

Within a few months of that move and that purchase, he left me.

I won’t recount details because all of the people involved are still very much alive, though I hope on some level they don’t read this.  But they might.  He wasn’t a bad person and neither was I.  I don’t know what I would have done had he not left me.  It wasn’t a healthy marriage, though it wasn’t awful, and the children were very young.

The young children were the first source of my anxiety.  I felt very strongly that I didn’t want them in day care.

I asked my ex to reconsider for a very short time.  Then I got on with it.

I took some of the many meditation books I had a placed them around the house, and read them when I was near them.  I made a list of people I could call, and I went down the list and called them.  I often did that right after I put the kids to bed, since that was a particularly anxious time for me.  Some were program people, some were friends, and some were relatives.  Some knew what was going on in my life, and some didn’t.  I called two of my aunts, for example.  One was an English teacher, and I talked to her about the English classes I was taking.  My other aunt had a kitten my kitten’s age, and I talked to her about that.  Neither one knew for a long time that I was having difficulties, but it passed the time and connected me to them.

I kept my meetings, and once a month I traveled for an hour to the meeting I had attended two moves previously.  I kept up with the AA folks from home from before I had moved away.

I made practical plans.  I bought a new car with money from our savings, because the car I was driving wouldn’t support lap/shoulder belts in the back, and the kids were getting bigger.  I made plans to move back near my family and to work on a Master’s degree there.  I got all this written into the seperation agreement and my plan was to move back, get a Master’s, and go work when the kids were schoolage.

Sometimes, in my most panicky moments, I considered drinking briefly.  A few things kept me sober through this.  Mostly, I believed and had experienced that if I went back to drinking, it would be as bad as it had been before, and then get worse.  I understand that I couldn’t get or stay sober for someone else, but I also knew that if I drank, I couldn’t function as a mother.  I “thought it through” in a big way, picturing my daughter, at six, trying to get up and get ready for school on her own or while trying to take care of her brother.  I knew she would do this, and the image was unacceptable to me.  It still chokes me up to think about it, even though I know it will never happen.

I had known a woman who attended a meeting I attended several years before that.  She had a daughter my daughter’s age.  This woman was out of jail while waiting to be sentenced for driving drunk and causing someone’s death.  She had to make arrangements for someone to take care of her daughter, maybe for years.  I knew and believed that this also could and would happen to me, along with every other awful thing I had ever heard about.

In the relationship breakup that I had suffered through before, my choice was drink or die.  This time it was more like drink or live.  I pictured my kids telling their “story” when they were grown (the result of listening to thousands of stories through the years).  I saw them say, “And then my father left, and then my mother fell apart.”  Again, not acceptable to me at that time.

I don’t know why I was blessed then with the ability to still believe in the program and the people, to really know that drinking would make things worse, and to believe that I would get through the hard parts and that they wouldn’t last forever.  I understand that these things are impossibly hard for some other to believe and that I, like them, had often found the world to be intolerable and had taken refuge in a chemically altered mind.  The gift of that ability to believe is something I often wish I could give to others when I care about them and see them reject all or part of the program.  Just last night someone I care about said that she had been out drinking, and that it was OK, that AA had taught her moderation.  I guess that works sometimes, but I don’t think it would work for me.  Just the fact that somone says that screams to me that they are alcoholic.  I also wouldn’t do it now, even if I could.  I wouldn’t, not hardly ever.

December 5, 2008 (This Day at This Time)

deerIt was all going so well until Carole checked the phone messages.

I had a good day and a good week.  At work today, we had our annual holiday open house.  We invite anyone who will come to see our building and buy crafty type things we’ve made, and the money goes toward a Christmas party.  We had a huge turn out.  People who work in our agency at other buildings came, and lots of families came.  Two of the families in particular are of people who are special to me, and it was so nice to see them.  They are some of the best people in the world, and sometimes they show their appreciation for us, which is awesome.

I helped people get around and shop who needed help, and that was nice.  I ate about 20 cookies and they were very nice.  A few times, I went back to my office and checked my phone and email.  At one point, I saw that I had missed a call from my daughter Erika.

Seeing that she called me triggers an instant fear response in me.  I usually get over it quickly, but a few times in her life something has been seriously wrong, and many others times something has been mildly wrong.  I called her back and didn’t get her.  I did some soothing self talk about the fact that she’s said she’ll leave a message if it’s an emergency.  If I see I missed a call, and there’s no message, all is well.  I then called Carole and didn’t get her either, and again I know that if Erika has an emergency and can’t get me, she’ll call Carole, and Carole will call me, so again, I had to figure all is well.

A few minutes later, Erika called.  She had gone to a concert some distance away the night before, and was taking her first day off work since she started.  She was calling to tell me that she was home, at the bank, and that in 15 minutes she was going to sign a lease.

She graduated college in May, got a job in September, and has been looking at apartments for a week or two.  I don’t want her to move out for many reasons, not the least of which is that I want her to save her money.  She’s been very responsible with money, and has bought a car she was able to pay cash for, and saved money, and gone to work, etc etc.  A very responsible young person.

There were times when she was growing up that I didn’t think I’d see this day, that she wouldn’t make it here in one piece.  So my anxiety is was overwhelmed by my gratitude.  Way.

The rest of the night has been fine.  Erika went away again for the night to see friends, and we’ve been hanging out at home.  Then Carole checked the phone messages.

I don’t want to write it all out, it would be very tedious to write and to read.  But on Monday, I’m having my first dental implant bone graft thingy.  I’ve never had good teeth, and I know this will be the first of many.  Among other bad things, I’ll have to wear those invisible braces with a fake tooth for six to nine months, and take the thing out when I eat, and I just can’t picture doing this around anyone.  I guess it could be God doing for me what I can’t do for myself by way of dieting.

Anyway the process has not been fun, and it’s expensive, and it has involved many calls and much inconvenience, and the appointment is for Monday.  And the voice message said Oh wait!  You need to get something from your dentist, something expensive that you must pay for, before your appointment on Monday.  I’m hoping my dentist is open tomorrow and able to give me this thing.  I hope I don’t end up paying too much interest since I’ll have to put all this on a credit card, because the implant office didn’t get it together regarding my complicated insurance situation.

But.  Of course.  Yes, grateful, yes, gratitude.  Trouble with my dental implant is a luxury problem, in spades.