Can I be put back together or am I like Humpty Dumpty?
I almost screwed up last night. There's been too much crap about death and dying. I felt so much pain and grief that I thought I could not stand it. So I went to the ER and told them I had a migraine. While I was waiting to be seen I recognized what I was doing and I left.
Had a thought. By being around mom, am I emotionally self-mutilating? The perfect laceration--all internal. That's interesting. I never thought of it that way before, but it makes sense. I don't know why but last night all I could do was beat myself up. I couldn't find one good thing to say about myself. More self mutilation I guess. I want so much for this to end. What do I have to do to gain control of my life?
Do you think you know what hell is? Do you think you know hell? OCD is hell. You don't know hell until you know my hell.
The light of God surrounds and fills me.
The love of God protects me.
The humility of God humbles me.
The mercy of God inspires me.
The presence of God guides me.
The power of God awes me.
The grace of God sustains me.
I am trying my darnedest to work on this house, I've got it all torn apart. And it occurred to me that while this is a nice thing to do, it's also VERY passive aggressive. Mom will get a clear message that she can't keep house. She will be VERY pissed off. So it's also self defeating because the last thing I need is mom pissed off. Why do I do this?
I feel like crap because that is the way mom brought me up to feel. I feel like crap because I agreed with her when I didn't know any better, and now that I do, I can't rewrite the definition of who I am and what I am supposed to think and feel and do. I do horrible things to prove to myself (and anyone else who's watching) that I am exactly what she thought I was. So how do I change this? All I have to do is change everything. I have to do things that make me feel good about being me. If I want to improve my self esteem, I must do esteem-able acts.
Somewhere I read that folks with OCD count in order to avoid feeling something deeper and very painful. To distance themselves from what bothers them the most they substitute something meaningless and benign and seemingly under their control. Busywork for the mind that winds up making them feel out of control and hopeless. So how do I stop counting? I do it all the time without even thinking about it, without realizing that I am doing it. How do I get past this? What is it that hurts me the worst, that I need to avoid the most? What have I done that was that awful that I have spent decades trying to push it out of my mind? What did someone else do to me? Is it me? Mom? Something else? I try wrapping my mind around it being mom or my response to mom but my brain just won't go there. What is it that I can't allow myself to feel? Being molested? Being a slut? Mom's drinking? Dad's absence? What? What thought do I need to take to bed tonight?
Perfection also keeps me from trying and doing things. If I can't do it perfectly why bother to even try?
I continue to shovel out my parents house. Now my son is helping. I am mortified by all the crap we are throwing out. My son on the other hand is calling his friends to come and see, like we are some circus act. A freak show! Someone should charge admission. Surely between us there is some kind of balance. Like eating a Hershey's while drinking Diet Coke.
Today my OCD is making me crazy. On top of all the counting, I am in constant motion, wiggling, tapping my hand or foot, just about anything to avoid being still. And of course nothing will shut off to let me sleep. Laying in bed last night I remembered when I was about 10 years old, I desperately wanted attention and I thought that being sick like my sister would get me attention. But, I could not lie. So, I used to bang my head into the wall to give myself a headache. (Might explain some of my brain damage) Then I was legit. They didn't give a crap. May be I was into self mutilation long before I recognized it.
I am a slow learner. I think that I even challenge God as I am sure He has been trying to teach me about enabling for a very long time. What I got from God last night was that He will not enable me. What am I talking about? When my son was arrested, I wanted to bail him out and that was enabling. My parents got him an attorney, because we all know if you have a court appointed attorney, you're going down. That was enabling. When I screw up, God will not cover over and make nice for me. I am sure that as a parent even His gut reaction is to fix things. But enabling allows me to continue in the same horrid behavior. God forgives me my screw ups but He does not take away the consequences. If He did, I would have no reason to change. God is not interested in fixing my screw ups. He is interested in a personal relationship with me. For so long I prayed, "please God don't let me be pregnant" or "please God this one last fix." God was not interested in those self serving prayers, which were not a request for mercy but a plea for escape from negative consequences. That is not a deep, personal, committed relationship. That is a conditional relationship and I already have plenty of those. Am I making any sense? God does not want to fix me. He wants to experience every thing good, bad and ugly with me. And He wants me to change my behaviors so to have more of the good in my life.
Few people know how truly ugly I am. I don't want to hurt anyone with my words or ever have them used against me. I heard today in church that we are all ugly without Christ. Just had a shouting match with mom, real Christian-like of me. I'm leaving before any thing else happens.
I went to Borders the other day while I was in the city. Came across a spiritual journal. Listed topics to journal about, Bible passages to read, and more. I thought it looked cool, so I bought it and brought it home. I got it out this morning, excited to start my own spiritual journaling journey. The first chapter covered anger. So, I put it away. Would have been so much better to start with guilt.
I understand hatred. My mother never draws a sober breath. But she doesn't live for the beer, she lives to hate my son. Her sole mission in life is to make him pay for my sisters death.
I screwed up yesterday. I "overdosed" and had another seizure. That was not my intention, I just wanted some sleep. The ER doc had to staple and glue my head back together, and there's not a spot on me that doesn't ache today. I cannot believe that I completely forgot that I had a seizure before and took that stuff again. I'll remember next time and won't take as much. I promise.
It was my father who pulled my long hair into a high tight ponytail. It's not that my mother never fixed my hair, surely she must have, I just don't remember her doing it. It was also my father who took me to confession every Saturday evening and mass and Sunday school the following morning. The only time I remember mom ever being at church was a day when I saw a black lady with a really large Afro and I pointed and commented on what big hair she had. My mother yanked my arm out of the air and told me I was the rudest child in the world. When I was 13 my dad was in Thailand and I had a part time job after school. I brought home my paycheck every Friday and gave it to mom. She would buy me, us, Rum and cigarettes with my earnings. My sister and I were dating two men who were almost 30. I do not think that mom and dad are the reason I continue to make bad choices, I said it was a familiar pattern. When my daughters father, my first true love, left me fat, dumb and pregnant, something broke inside of me that I have always known could never be fixed. I have always wanted to care about my appearance, wear make up and do up my hair, but I have never thought it would make a difference. And in part that is very true. I am not a beauty queen and I know it. If someone can only love me when I am looking my best, I don't want their love. My baby sister has the opposite problem. She is so beautiful she won a state beauty pageant one year. But, she will not even take out the garbage without putting on her face first. I have always wanted to give more of myself. My mother has always said that if I had a penny then "everybody's got a penny." I simply don't know how to not share or care.
My mom was very beautiful when she was young. She was 5'5" and 120 lbs or there-a-bouts. Now she is barely 4'11" because she is so crippled by osteoporosis and only about 90lbs. She ambulates with the use of a walker rolling in and out of the bars. But even more crippling and more damning is her refusal to ever have a nice thing to say. She hurts me every time I see her; yet I keep coming back for one more round. I wish she would TKO me.
One year when we were living overseas, mom got me up in the middle of the night to listen to the OU-Texas game on the radio. She was probably drunk, but I remember feeling so special because she didn't get anybody else up. Just me and her.
When I was young all I wanted to be able to do was to write a book. I just could have lived on the smell of ink and paper. But, I think that is buried pretty deep now, and I don't know if it can be uncovered.
I think I have read so many autobiographies because I stand in awe of people who know themselves well enough to write about themselves. And biographies for much the same reason but also because those people left some kind of mark that interests others. I, on the other hand, have done nothing except live under the rule of my mother too scared to have a dream of my own. She told me that she had wanted to be a nurse, so what did I do? I became a nurse. Easy to see why that plane crashed and burned. I have no idea of who I am. I am sure that I was a burden to her when I was born. There is 3 year difference in everyone's birthday except mine and Jeri's. We were just a year apart. She was sick and needed mom. I was... I was what I was. And I needed mom too.
I left the house for lunch today. It was the first time I've left the house in 3 days. Hadn't even bothered to get out of my pajamas. I haven't even showered. I've been sending in resumes online. As usual, I feel like crap, in part because I have done nothing productive but also because I haven't slept.
I used to think that gratification was just around the corner. It would come with the right job, the right boyfriend, more money etc. Now I know that gratification comes from the accumulation of doing the right thing over and over again. Can't do that when I'm using or sitting like a lump. It's the difference between getting through difficult times and getting away from or avoiding the inevitable--at least temporarily. It's the difference between making excuses and making a difference. I get gratification from being with people I enjoy, my work, church, AA meetings. All things I haven't done this week.
I feel like a pseudo-adult. I forget that I have any real value. Being around other people makes me feel like I'm a child wearing my mothers high heels and lipstick. I learned very early on that children should be seen and not heard; I've never emotionally outgrown being a child. Maybe I am making some progress because last month I actually took up wearing lipstick for the first time in my life. It always felt like I was playing dress up before. And besides that I did not want my lips to be of any special attention because when my mom kissed me her lips were always ice cold from the beer she was drinking.
I am comfortable in my pain and unable to see beyond it to some thing better.
I am not looking forward to Valentine's Day. I have never gotten a valentine from a man who loved me. I was engaged once and was supposed to get married on Valentine's Day, but we broke up before that happened. I had bought the most beautiful wedding dress. Never got to wear it. But both my little sisters thought it was the most beautiful wedding dress they had ever seen, and they both wore it on their wedding day.
The pain is the price of admission to paradise. It's only thus that we know and appreciate God. The purest spirit is the product of the harshest fire. He knew every hair on your head (and tear on your cheek) even before you had a name. And he wrote your name down where it matters most as one sealed by the Spirit and His forever. He was sitting next to the kid on the playground alone on a mound of grass. And next to the kid who had no friends and sat motionless on the swings. And the one who hid in the jungle gym pretending it was a rocket-ship that would fly him away from the beatings.
I asked my dad if I could borrow $20 to buy a yoga DVD, and he said yes. My mom bitched at him for 10 minutes for giving me the money and then turned on me and said it will be like every thing else I've ever done in my life, I won't stick with it. And that I'm going to end up looking like a 10 ton beached whale anyway. It times like this that I want most to die, to vanish, to just stop feeling. Doesn't she know how much it hurts to hear those things? Of course she does. That's why she says them.
Dreams? Nightmares. Since my sister died I have had many, many dreams that vary in the details but the central theme is always the same. In my dream I forget that she is sick and that I am responsible for taking care of her. She dies alone. I usually wake up in a panic trying to figure out where she is. Then I remember that she is gone. And there is nothing that I can do.
What is the best explanation for OCD? I have concluded that it is an adaptation. Like a shield and sword, it protects me when I am must vulnerable from that which most threatens me. It purposefully serves to keep my mind from exploring things I don't want to explore, things that I know are out there and in here, waiting for me to let my guard down, to step casually where I don't belong, to act like they don't matter any more, like they can no longer hurt me. That is when they will strike. But the OCD is itself maladaptive. It devours me. It requires constant attention. Practice does indeed make perfect. What is it that I'm so dead set on avoiding that ruining my life seems preferable, that driving me insane seems like a better alternative? Is it the stuff from my past, or is today's crap? Have I been in this mode for so long that I don't know or comprehend any other way to function. Where do I begin? How do I address the crap that is making me crazy? Do I start with current crap and go backwards or start with childhood crap and go forward? I really want to work on this. I am so tired of living this way.
of failure, and of success,
of acceptance and rejection,
of not surrendering my will to God,
and of surrendering my will to God
(He may not do what I want after all),
of being loved and being unlovable,
of the truth and of denial,
of forgiveness and of being unforgivable,
of growing up and of never growing up,
of not being good enough and of being a perfectionist.
I could do this all day long.
I have to get that job in the city and get myself and my son out of this house. My mom is a lunatic!! She is filled with hatred and contempt for everyone especially my son. I told him to leave and not come home tonight. When he was six months old, my sister decided she needed a break from motherhood, so she dropped him off with me for four months. When my mom found out that I had him, she was outraged and tried to take my daughter away from me. She said she couldn't believe that I would expose my daughter to him not knowing whether he had hepatitis or AIDS or something. Mom would not let it rest until I had him tested. When my sister was dying and asked me if I would take him to raise, I vowed that I would move away from here, from mom and all her madness. I am ashamed of myself for bringing him back into all of this and angry at myself for not keeping that vow and for allowing her to emotionally and spiritually poison my son.
My mom just came in and chewed me out for eating yogurt. She said that eating at night is making me fat (probably true) and that she can't afford to feed me at night. Now this is the woman who has two refrigerators FULL of food. So full that the doors some times have to be duct tapped shut. A freezer in the same state. A pantry larger than many closets. And still there is food in every closet in the house and on every horizontal surface. She even has 3 ice chests with food in them on the back patio. I'm not kidding. She stockpiles food like she stockpiles her beer. That should pretty much say it all. I am only allowed to have two cans of diet coke in the refrigerator. But I am fortunate you see, because my dad and my son aren't allowed to keep anything at all in the fridge.
Do you know what the punishment is for writing your own scripts in this state? Up to 20 years in the penitentiary!. I could still be in prison for my stupidity 7 years ago.
I don't know if you know Bob Smith and or his family. Bob was a young guy, 30 something, member of my NA group. He went to the city and got himself killed. I heard that his car broke down on the highway, and he was walking to get help when he got hit. He had a heart for God but couldn't stay off the crap. Just another day in the life of an addict.
I lost my job in the Big City on March 31st last year, got back here in early April. I have done nothing for a year. I could easily do nothing for another year. I don't know why I decided to put mission work on the back burner for the time being, but I think I need to put it back on the front burner. Even without a job, had I spent this last year raising the funds to support my mission work, I could have been gone by now. My son went to see his attorney yesterday. I discovered that I am a blooming idiot. Parents always are. I have been trying for years to get him interested in Vo-tech. I offered to pay for it. His grandparents offered to pay for it. Nothing. School's not his thing. He called me yesterday from the Vo-tech all excited. He told me they offer a welding class and auto mechanics. I just acted surprised. He's enrolled in the welding class! You know what beat's that?. Tomorrow night he wants me to go to an AA meeting with him. Just to check it out, of course. Turns out somebody else got through to him. Or maybe it was just his turn to listen.
I wish I had the courage to talk to other women who are considering abortion about alternatives.
I can tell you exactly what I've had for dinner on my birthday every year for the past 30 years. Blood rare roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. As prepared by my mom, my favorite meal. The leftovers reappearing two days later in a bowl of beef and noodles, the best this side of heaven, my second favorite meal.
When I was a kid my mom could draw the best looking, realistic picture of Bugs Bunny. She even fooled Elmer a time or two.
If I was sick, I mean genuinely sick not just having a bad day I could depend on mom. I knew my recovery would be hastened by a bowl of her homemade potato soup. Hands down, as Walt would say, the best potato soup in the world.
Mom was right. I never finish any thing I start. I haven't done my Yoga exercises in three months. Not that it matters. Mom's not here to keep score any more.
Unless a kernel drops to the ground, dead to itself it cannot bring forth new life. I have received encouragement to write that book I use to dream about. That dream was buried a long time ago. I've been looking at my dream thinking it could never be uncovered. It was never meant to be uncovered but fed and watered. Fed and watered to bring about new life to fulfill my dream.
There are so many things I want to tell you about, so many painful things. I don't know where to begin though and I can't conceive the pain will ever end.
I have cried over this pain, I have used to cover this pain. I have shared this pain, I have prayed about this pain. I have lied about this pain, I have fantasized being free of this pain. I have given my entire life to this pain.
My dad leaves tomorrow for MN. to see my baby sister. She had to arrange for him to be out there this week I'm guessing so that I could spend a week at home by myself before going to treatment for a year where I'll see no one. My brother and sisters can go fuck themselves. I don't care to have a relationship with any of them ever. FUCK THEM TWICE! Thought about using. Have the money to get some thing. But I think I will buy myself some thing nice to wear instead. It'll last longer.
I have listened to the lub dub of my anxious heartbeat all night.
After a few rounds of chemotherapy for lung cancer my sister elected to stop all treatments. She had been a severe asthmatic all her life and said she was tired. I believe she was tired. Not so much tired of fighting for air but of fighting for some kind of peace and dignity. My sister and I shared many of the same horrors. I think her death was socially acceptable suicide. Sometimes I understand. Sometimes it makes me angry. Sometimes I wonder why I cannot be as fortunate. Is that wrong?
I was in the bathroom
When recovery called
Puking up yesterday's resolve.
I am so fucking scared that I will go to treatment for a year come home and still not know how to stay clean and sober. I am so fucking scared that I will lose my daughter forever.
I was with some friends last night who have traveled some of the same highways and byways that I have. One of them remarked that he wished he had never gotten a tattoo, that every time he sees his tattoos he is reminded of whom he is and what he has done. My other friend agreed. I don't have a tattoo to remind me who I am and what I have done.
I have me.
It was November. The weather outside was bitter cold. The weather inside just as bitter. I was bitter with mom. Mom was bitter with me. My bitterness stemmed from all the years mom chose alcohol over me. Mom was bitter because I moved in with her and dad in what should have been the twilight of their years together, children not included. That was one of the many ramifications of my own addiction.
I was trying though, damn it. I looked for work. I attended worship services. I prayed for mom to change. To give up her alcohol. She wasn't even making an attempt. I had spent an entire day and I do mean an entire day at the church baking cobblers for our annual fund raiser. The money we brought in would be used to buy Christmas presents for children who would otherwise not have a Christmas. The cobblers should have been a matter of hours not an entire day. But, Judy an elderly lady who "helped" sprinkled all the cobblers with salt instead of sugar. What a disaster!
I was tired when I left the church. I was dreading coming home to the bitterness and I began to pray. "God, please change mom. Please show her how hard I am trying." I heard God speak very clearly to me. Mom was not the problem.
The house was dark by the time I got home. I walked into mom's room. She was in bed reading a book. Her nightstand adorned with a lamp and a beer. I lifted the covers and slid into the bed. I shivered a little. I was both frightened and cold. I drew myself closer to her for the warmth. And I began to tell her about the disaster. I spoke though with a heart warmed by God and a sense of humor provided by God. We laughed as I retold the story of removing the crusts from the cobblers and attempting to wash off the salt. We laughed again when I told her we were trying to live up to a standard. A tradition that our cobblers were hands down the best cobblers. We laughed when I told her about sprinkling the crusts with extra cinnamon and sugar to disguise the salt. That there was no disguising the salt. Our cobblers would go down in the church annals as the worst cobblers.
Mom died two months later. I was OK. I had a memory I could cherish. Those were the best cobblers in the world. Thank you God.
I used four weeks ago. I drove over an hour to a town where the doctors and pharmacists don't know me.
I used three weeks ago. I picked up somebody else's prescription.
I used three days ago. My son got a piece of glass in his eye and I took him to the emergency room. The entire time I was waiting I knew. I knew that they would give him narcotics and that I would take those narcotics. It was not a test in response to my earlier entry. It was the answer to the test question, "Will I use again?" In my thinking if I was not supposed to use again those pills would not have appeared.
I am the same person who has cried when she used. There have been times when I had six or more refills on a prescription and I would cry. I would cry because I knew that I would use all the refills. I did not want the misery but I did not know how to live without the misery.
In my book I have used for the last time, I have had my farewell.
After tonight I will be by myself for five days before I go to treatment. I don't do well by myself. I know though that if I arrive to the treatment center with any thing in my system I'll be making the trip home that same day.
Years ago I was a shop-aholic. I loved clothes, beautiful clothes. My addiction took all my money so I quit buying clothes. Then I put on weight, lots of weight and shopping was misery. I have managed to take off most of that weight over this last year. Tomorrow I am going shopping. I am going to buy myself some nice clothes, just one or two items. My plan is to stretch my dollar out to last those five days. Buy myself a little something every day so that I get that instant gratification kick. In the end I will have something that will last longer than a fix.
The bathroom smelled of concentrated urine and feces. The floor was sticky beneath my feet. I cleaned the bathroom more for dad than me. More for me than mom. Hell, it was her mess. Why should I have to clean up her mess? And the damn dogs always in there, licking the floor, the toilet or dragging soiled underwear from the laundry hamper. God, what a mess! Disease or choice? The debate about alcoholism, any addiction, as old as any debate. Didn't matter. The result was the same. Mom was dying. And if her alcoholism made me miserable, she must been been living in hell itself.
The second time I was in the puzzle house aka nut hut my psychiatrist decided it would be a good idea to meet my family. My family. Ha! What on God's green earth made this man think that my mom was about to drive two hours for a family session? My mother had never attended a single church program, school play, graduation or any other event in my life. Including when I crossed over from being a Brownie into a Girl Scout. A strictly mother daughter event. My dad attended in her stead.
It was dad who pulled my long hair back into a ponytail every morning. Dad checked my homework, made sure I got to where I was supposed to be, he taught me how to read and how to sew. Dad marched us to confession every Saturday evening before mass on Sunday morning. Not that he or mom ever attended mass. I knew better than to even ask mom to join us for a family session. I would ask dad and hope my mom would tag along. Hope. That's an odd word to use in the same sentence with the words, my mom.
Dad was a proud man. He had right to be by most standards. I had grown up in a nice house with two cars in the driveway, food to eat, we had clothes on our backs and a small emergency fund in the bank. He did not take well to the implication that something was amiss in his family.
There are two things I remember from that family session. After I introduced dad to Dr. Miller and we were seated dad announced, "Lets get something straight from the beginning. I will not tolerate, Sue bashing." Just a little defensive. Why would I bash mom? Let me count the whys. Following our family session I walked dad to the elevator. "So dad," I asked, "What did you think of Dr. Miller?" "I wasn't impressed. He reminded me of someone who had to run to his books to search for the significance of my every word." There you had it. Not only was every man I ever dated in his eyes a loser, so was my doctor.
I have to shift my weight to keep my ribs from pushing against my bloated liver. My bloated liver. Very uncomfortable. How in the name of God had this happened to me? I had promised myself and no one else in particular I would not become my mom. May be in a small way I succeeded. I didn't drink. I learned early on that I was a sloppy, boo-hooing, snot slinging, suicidal, slut. I mean drunk. I got pregnant while I was still a teen being "comforted" by a man during one of those boo-hooing rampages. Prescription pills were my thing. Smaller bottle to manage and no odor on my breath. Didn't matter. The result was the same.
Mom's gone now. Dad, my brother and sisters had made sure she had a nice funeral. Everyone who didn't know her was there. They knew bar stool Sue. Jovial Sue. Not mom. Me jealous? Goddamn right I was jealous. Everyone had a better relationship with my mom than I did.
How is it that my siblings weep so for her? Denial? Of course though they had all moved a thousand plus miles away from home. Denial? Maybe that was me. I was the only one who stayed, who knew mom. The only one who begged to be loved. The woman they had all welcomed into their homes for the past thirty years was "vacation" mom. And they had the photos to prove it. Mom at the cheese factory, mom sampling chocolates, mom at the winery, mom at their favorite restaurant. I wish I had known and had photos of vacation mom.
Everyone knows what you drink away from home doesn't count. It's alright to get shit faced every night while on vacation. Other wise where would the fun be? What would the point of being on vacation be if you couldn't get shit faced? Not that mom needed an excuse at home or away.
Where, God, had I fallen apart? Twenty years ago I had been in a lucrative career as an RN. I was well respected by most of the medical community in this God forsaken town. A year ago having lost everything very slowly, very painfully I had to move back in the house with mom and dad. Mom resented me for moving back in. God, how she resented me. Was I a reflection of her?
Mom bashed and belittled me every opportunity she had. "Stay out of my goddamn expensive hairspray. If you want hairspray I will buy you some of the cheap stuff, " mom yelled in her cagey voice. Clearly, for the first time in my life I could see I was not good enough for mom. I wasn't even worthy of her, "expensive hairspray." What chance did I ever have on being a whole person if I wasn't even good enough for my own mom?
Why had I not wept at her funeral? Why would I weep? God had removed the thorn from my heart. Why no tears of relief then? Perhaps because now that mom was gone I would never have her love. Mom, dead or alive, I couldn't win.
Had mom ever known that all I ever wanted was her love? Her affection? Every trophy, every victory, every accomplishment for mom. None of it mattered. None of it was good enough. Did mom withhold her love to be cruel? Fifty years of my life were gone. Wasted.
I am tired and broken. I am weighted down, buried in pain. Fifty years of tears gone. I see no future. What now, God? What now? God, who will ever love me?
Come to me, all of you who are tired of carrying your heavy loads and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. The yoke I will give you is easy and the load I will put on you is light." Matthew 11:28-30
Mom hoarded things, mostly food, but also newspapers, magazines and coupons, the list is endless. The house had become a dumping ground. My son and I had cleaned the house out while mom was on vacation six months earlier. It did not take her long to re-establish her territory. Mom did not appreciate our effort. She bitched non-stop about the things she could not find. She never said thank you. She wasn't thankful. She resented us.
My own room was a dump too, my dump, my responsibility. I had as few possessions with me as possible. Mine coupled with my sons. There was no place other than the floor to put our possessions. Mom was not about to make room for me. I was not supposed to be there. I was there though.
When my brother and sisters came home to say good-bye to mom they were shocked by the condition of the house. Not because they did not know she hoarded things, they knew. They had assumed though I would pick up after her. What they did not know was picking up after mom was not an option. I was never allowed to rearrange or throw away anything. All hell broke loose if I tried. Not momentary hell, I would catch hell all day for something I tried to accomplish in the morning. Dad had long since resigned himself to loving mom meant living in such conditions.
When my siblings left here I was charged with getting the house clean. From a distance they told me what I was allowed to touch and clean and what I was to stay away from. They gave me the impression they feared I would pawn something. When I told my sisters that I had cleaned out the book case I caught more hell. "Why was I trying to rid the house of mom?" They had expectations, expectations that I would fail. I have to admit I by far exceeded their wildest expectation.
I was overwhelmed and depressed. Then an ice storm hit and left me without electricity for eight days. I say me because when the storm hit my sister flew my dad out to be with her. I agree he did not need to be home under such circumstances.
I spent the days at the church cooking for the FEMA teams. The first meal I prepared for them was mom's potato soup. Her potato soup was a big hit. Most of the team came back for a second bowl. Chalk one up for mom.
Dad stayed gone after the electricity came back on. I cleaned out the freezer and the two refrigerators, still no dad.
It was like every other low point our family faced. I faced it alone. Everyone else had someone to lean on.
Valentines Day came and I placed roses on moms' grave for dad. Dad stayed gone.
I don't even remember the date. Dad still was not home. I was overwhelmed with depression. I had spent Christmas by myself and couldn't stand being with myself one more minute. Nights are the worst for me. I have chronic insomnia and I decided that I needed sleeping pills. Not a problem for most people, chaos for me. I can never take just one. I take one, black out and take the entire bottle. Then I do stupid things, like drive my car and have a wreck or empty my banking account or turn all the furniture in the house upside down, just to name a few.
Things did not go well. I apparently called a number of people including my dad and threatened suicide. This was just the sort of crap my siblings had been waiting for me to do. They consider me mentally unstable and have asked dad to leave here and move to be near one of them. They don't know anything about me except the bullshit that mom had apparently been feeding them for some time.
My daughter has given me the ultimatum, go for long term treatment or never be a part of her life or the lives of my grandchildren.
I have agreed and I leave in five days for a thirteen month treatment program. I will not be allowed to correspond with anyone except immediate family members while I am there.
My sister flew my dad out today to spend the next week with her. She could not leave him here with me so that I could be with the only member of my family who is talking with me until I leave. She had to leave me alone for the next five days. My heart is broken, not because she flew dad out, I would have expected nothing less of her. My heart is broken because dad could not see that I needed him here for five more days.
I am a stupid, fat, dumb, ugly pig. Don't believe me? I would refer you to the fount of all knowledge, my mom, but, she died two months ago just to prove her point. Every thing I ever did could have and should have been done better. Even my failures did not meet her standards for failing.
I remember the first, perhaps the only, compliment she ever gave me. I was in fifth grade. I dressed myself in a sweater and a skirt and came downstairs for breakfast. Mom told me the outfit looked nice. That not even she had thought of pairing that sweater with that skirt. In my fifty years of life, not living just existing that is my fondest memory of my mom. The number of let downs, disappointments are far too numerous to detail.
Mom smoked and drank beer. Ice cold beer. I hated for her to kiss me on the cheek. Her lipstick left a red ring frosted by the beer and her breath could have intoxicated innocent bystanders. Generally when I think of mom the memory of her playing bumper cars off the hallway walls as she made her way to bed each night stands out clearly.
Before she could go any where or do any thing she had to have one more swig of beer and that last drag off her cigarette. That last swig and drag off her cigarette was worth missing my graduation when I finished nursing school.
Every day she hated me. And every day that hatred spewed forth from her ice cold, beer breath lips.
There had to be three cases of beer in the house at all times. That doesn't mean an opened case with one missing and two full cases. It meant three full cases of beer. There was also the storm cellar beer. There had to be two cases of beer in the storm cellar. Just in case a natural disaster occurred and she was unable to reach her normal stash. Occasionally we rotated the beer from the storm cellar to the supply stash because she did not want her beer to get stale.
I believe that people are not born failures. Failures are created by people at home, at school and even in the church. Location doesn't matter. Where ever there are hurting people they are hurting people. And it doesn't happen over night. It took years and years of demeaning to become the successful failure I am today. Or should that be years and years to be an unsuccessful failure?
Mom was not a happy drunk. She was cruel. She knew exactly when, where and how deep to thrust the knife. She was a miserable drunk. The only thing that brought her any joy was another beer so she could enhance her misery.
The only time mom ever checked herself into a hospital except to have children I knew it would also be her last. I knew she wouldn't be coming home. She had been sick for years and never sought any kind of medical intervention. She weighed 90lbs and her osteoporosis took her from 5'5" to 4'11". I don't know exactly what I saw when she laid down in that hospital bed. Resignation? Perhaps. I just know I saw this tiny frail woman melt in to a yellow spot on an otherwise white sheet. What ever had kept her placing one foot in front of the other and moving on was gone. She knew she would never again have to do any thing for herself. And she was right. Dad and I took care of her for the first two days. After that my brother and sisters arrived and took over her care. I saw them giving her exactly the same care I had provided. But, I saw something else too. Love, compassion and grief. I envied them. I envied them because they had a mom they could love. I had to fail, couldn't prove mom wrong on her death bed.
If I sound angry, resentful, and unforgiving, it's because I am. Perhaps that's more about me than about mom. If I forgave mom, there must be a way to forgive myself. Or, like mom, will I take my self-loathing to the grave?
Sent to every physician, dentist, and pharmacist in the surrounding area.
Dear Sir or Madam,
My name is Kim Shaw. I am well known to many of you for reasons I'd rather not be. Things are as they are though. I am addicted to prescription medications. I am especially fond of sleeping pills and Stadol nasal spray, but honestly would use most anything. I am asking for your help. Should I call you or see you for an appointment, please do not prescribe any of the many choices that I might abuse. I am attempting to work a program of recovery. I do not expect you to do the work for me. I am asking for your help to help me help myself to make my recovery more successful. I have belatedly come to the realization that my recovery depends on my choices. Sending this letter, as frightening as I find it, is one of those choices.
When I was living in one of America's largest sunbelt cities, I was the loneliest I have ever been in my life. Despite the crowds, the traffic, the proverbial hustle and bustle, I never made a single friend there. I went to AA meetings, NA meetings, Celebrate Recovery and to church. And I never made a single friend. I ran from all those places just as fast as I could run after it ended. I could not bring myself to come early and meet and greet people and I couldn't force myself to stay after to meet and greet people.
I worked in a two person office with a man named Rob. Rob did groups in the mornings and individuals in the afternoon. I did individuals in the mornings and groups in the afternoon. No social interaction there. I have some co-workers here in OK whom I refer to as friends because they are the closest thing to a friend I have with the exception of Darlene who is indeed a friend. But all these people are married and have a life.
While I lived my life in the big city, I was happy to be with my daughter, her husband and my grand baby. But of course for the sake of their marriage once a week was usually all I ever went over there. I stayed in my bed and cried for four days straight one time. I didn't eat, the phone never rang. I hated weekends. I loved my job they were the only people I could talk to. And I was even the person in control which made it all the better.
I tried a few years ago to attend the adult Sunday school class here. Well, they decided to introduce themselves to me which was nice. But, they were all married; I was the only unmarried person in the group. And the more people talked the more I cried and then I spilled my coffee all over their brand new carpet. I cried and left the class room never to return.
I think I am back home failing miserably at being a human being because being with mom and dad is painful, but they love me and nobody else out there does. And even if their love is painful at least its love. I feel guilty not being around mom and dad. They are older and I want to be here if they need help. I am so shy and awkward on a personal level, so frightened. But on a professional level I am an entirely different person.
The best year of my life was my daughter's senior year in high school. She was involved in so many wonderful things. Things she was able to share with me. Things I never had the opportunity to experience myself.
My daughter and I were so close for so many years she has never understood why I said the single most special moment in my life was the moment my sister died. It was not the moment my daughter was born.
God blessed me with just enough insight to know that the birth of my daughter was not the cause of my loneliness but rather the result of my loneliness. I was so young I did not have a clue about the blessings and joys to come.
I held my sister in my lap and rocked her all night. When daylight broke and her last breath escaped from her lips I felt her spirit pass through me as it left its earthly tomb. I knew that her pain, much the same as mine had ended. I knew she would never be molested, brutalized or lonely again.
Today I say the most special moment of my life was the moment my granddaughter was born. With the birth of my granddaughter a new life for me was born, the life of being a grandmother.
When my daughter was pregnant with my granddaughter, she followed the stages of her pregnancy on an internet site. She called me very excited one afternoon and reported to me that according to the site, her baby was the size of a bay shrimp. She has in her belly another bay shrimp, and in a few months I will be blessed with another of life's most special moments. God, life is good.
Waiting. That is what I am doing. Waiting for the treatment facility to call and tell me they have an available bed. Any day now.
I am terrified. Not terrified of treatment. I will excel in treatment. I always do. Not terrified of being clean and sober. Though I am certain I will face that at some point.
Twenty years ago I became the primary care giver of my sister Jeri. She had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. I made it my business as a nurse to save her life. Had I concerned myself with being her sister things might of turned out differently. Jeri and her young son moved in with my daughter and I. You see, I was going to cure her. Save Jeri's life. If that doesn't sound like a surgeon with a God complex the condition doesn't exist.
I became unable to separate myself from what I did for a profession. A savior unto myself. No longer a sister, mother or daughter. When I failed to save Jeri in a very real sense I also died.
It would be easy to blame my addiction onto Jeri's death. That however is not fair or accurate. Her death however did become my excuse to remain dead myself.
Mom died two months ago. I have become the primary care giver for my father. Not that he is unable, he is very able. I am not able to separate myself though. I have stepped into the shoes of a wife. This is my terror. To become so enmeshed with my father that I will be unable to know where he ends and I begin. I cannot survive that again. Treatment provides me an excuse to be gone. Being a care giver an excuse to stay. Terror because if I leave and some thing does happen to dad I will hold myself just as accountable.
Unmedicated. Interesting concept--don't you agree? I've been "medicated" on some kind of antidepressant for most of the last 30 years. The treatment center I am preparing to enter requires that I be stable on NO medication. So, I've been weaning myself off.
I like their perspective. Their perspective places more faith in God and less faith in the American pharmaceutical industry. A perspective that believes once I recognize the demons that are the causes of my emotional and mental undoing I will be able to confront them and they will disappear. I will be in a safe, structured environment with lots of support. I am not inclined to believe that I will spiral out of control--crashing and burning. I am concerned with how nightmares that wake me up screaming will affect the ladies around me.
Also of concern--possible relapse. I am horrified to know that my recovery is dependent upon my choices. I will excel in treatment. What if, though, after an entire year of sobriety, I choose to use? What if I cannot stay clean left to my own devices? Take away my will and my life oh, Lord Divine and make me wholly thine. No reservations. No cop outs. No holding back.
I thought my fellow NA groupies were going to string me up last night. We had several newcomers at the meeting. So new that they are unable to legally drive a car. Their parents dropped them off at the meeting.
My comrades in arms proceeded to tell these "youngsters" how fortunate they are to have an opportunity to recover while still so young. I cannot disagree. Anybody, regardless of age, is fortunate to have an opportunity to get clean and sober. Maybe it's just me. I deplore being singled out for any reason, no matter how good. Age is relative. I was "young" when I first started attending meetings. A mere 30 years old. I was a "youngster" sitting in the room with "old timers," men and women who were in their 70s. I was pissed off when they singled me out as a "youngster." I was pissed if for no other reason than they "got to use and have fun" for most of their lives. Why couldn't I--why shouldn't I--be allowed the same? They had great stories to tell about their using days. I needed that kind of experience, those kinds of stories. Quitting so young would leave me with a boring recovery story.
It's 20 years later. I'm not so sure I improved my story.
Nine More Days.
What I said previously about not being afraid of sobriety – not so true any more. I have a report to treatment date now – just nine days away. What if the last time I used is just that, the last time? I have it in my head that I need a farewell. To use one more time for the last time, it would be different this time. I would know from the get go that it would be my last use.
What if I go to treatment without a send off and really do get clean and sober? It doesn’t seem fair. I have to have some thing to remember all the good times by.
When I first started using I had two very close friends that I occasionally used with. Then I went to my first treatment center. I broke off a tooth while I was there and was sent to see a dentist. I had the dentist pull the tooth. The dentist wrote orders for a narcotic pain killer. That night I complained about my pain and received my medication as prescribed. It wasn’t the same though. There was no party, not even in my own head. I had no one to call and tell I scored. It was the first time my addiction let me down.
At this moment I am just as certain that I will find a way to use one more time for the last time as I am certain of my next breath. I’ll have to be smart about it though.
I like sleeping pills. Sleeping pills offer complete obliteration in just minutes. My problem though is that I always blackout when I take a sleeping pill. I take one then blackout and take the entire bottle.
I picked up a prescription for sleeping pills the morning of December 23rd. I woke up the morning of the 26th still thinking it was the 23rd. Missed Christmas entirely. There had been a blizzard on Christmas day I knew nothing about. I am told I called all the appropriate people and wished them a Merry Christmas. Or maybe they called me. I don’t remember.
Some time in February I used sleeping pills again, this time with some disastrous results. My mom had died just a few weeks earlier. My dad was out of town visiting my sister. I took my one pill to be followed some time later by the entire bottle. I remember nothing after taking that first pill. I am told that I called dad and threatened to kill myself. Dad called the police and had them conduct a welfare check. I apparently convinced the police I was fine. I then proceeded to call my psychiatrists office demanding to speak with Dr. Miller. When I was told I could not I again threatened suicide. The police were sent to conduct a welfare check for the second time. I had by this time completely blacked out and was unable to wake up and answer the door. An ambulance was called and while it was in route the police broke down the door to gain access.
The following day was the last time my daughter spoke to me. She was more than fed up, she was hurt. She gave me an ultimatum go to long term treatment, get clean and sober or never see or be part of her life again. Never see my grandchildren again.
Nine more days.
I'm crashing fast. No meds in awhile now. Called the treatment center and they prayed for me. I guess feeling the effects of prayer can take as long as getting a working level of meds in your body.
I left a voice mail for my daughter. I hope she calls me back. I told her I need a word of encouragement.
It's been three hours, guess she's not going to call back.
My sister, Julie took my daughter to Dallas eight years ago when I got busted for writing my own prescription. My daughter found the love of her life in Dallas, married him and has been there ever since.
Even with all my faults I knew my daughter had a fierce love for me. Julie tried to come between my daughter and me a number of times. Julie has hated me for a long time. I told Julie I knew my daughter loved her but not to make my daughter choose between the two of us. I knew she would loose. In the end Julie hasn't make my daughter choose, I have.
I have decided that I am not going to treatment to get recovery. Recovery is what I do between relapses. I am going to be transformed. Transformed into the likeness of my savior. I am right when I say I am afraid that I will not be able to stay clean and sober. I never could. With the help of God all things are possible, even for me.
In the past I have wondered how people have managed to put their entire life on hold to attend treatment for a year. Tonight I recognize that I have put my entire life on hold to avoid living.
Tonight is my last night on the outside of the treatment center looking in at change. God, make it my last night of being on the outside of life looking forward to more numb living.
Tonight I am not scared. I do not wish I had one more. I leave you eight days clean and sober. I leave you with peace and the assurance that I have made the right choice.
Self mutilation. Yeah, I know something of self-mutilation. Just a thing or two that I've picked up along my way to hell. Some people are so overwhelmed with emotions they feel numb, so they mutilate themselves (or should I say their selves?) to feel something. Pain. Pain to know they are still alive. Others, like me mutilate to rid myself of the pain. I cut myself and watch each drop fall to the floor and count a sorrow.
I self mutilated for years. I was a nurse and had access to scalpes and suture materials. Cutting myself was nothing. I'm not talking about the superficial hesitation marks people make with a safety pin or a paperclip. I cut through the ugly fat to the muscle. I would have cut the muscle too but I wasn't sure I could properly suture muscle.
It boggles the mind to think of one pain alleviating another. Remember being a kid with a loose tooth that hurt if you wiggled it? You wiggled it anyway because you knew there was a pay off. And my anger, my pain wasn't for show and tell either. I cut myself up high on my thighs so no one could see my pain. Not unlike the emotional pain I hid every day.
After I cut myself and cleaned up the mess there was relief. I would lie back on my bed and blend into the bedding becoming one with the bed itself. Perhaps the relief was seeing my blood, my pain flow out of me. Perhaps it was from the exhausting ritual itself or it could have simply been from blood loss. It was not uncommon to use an entire roll of paper towels to sop up the mess.
The first time I cut myself, I cut my foot. Also concealed from the public. Each step I took was a pleasant reminder of a pain I could identify. It wasn't that huge mass of nothingness. I could run my fingers across each suture and name my pain, molestation, alcoholism and the list goes on.
Like a good junkie, like I would later become, I always had my tool box of scalpels and suture materials near by. I learned that lesson the hard way. I cut myself and sewed myself back together with household needles and thread. It took three needles; two broke off, and I had to use pliers to push the needle through to pierce my skin.
My thighs became a massive scar. I had to find another form of release. I started by popping pills. Nice little buzz, but timing was every thing. First thing in the morning worked best. On an empty stomach accompanied with a hot cup of coffee. It was shear bliss. But if you're looking for bliss in a pill you might as well give up eating. I would try taking an extra couple of pills to counteract the food. I ended up puking my guts out. I learned to puke into a bowl instead of the porcelain throne so I could fish out any pills that had not dissolved and take them again. Hind site 20/20? Wrong. Every time I puked I prayed to God to don't ever let me do this to myself again. Please God, never again. I suppose the misery of my life was greater than the misery of puking.
Shooting up. Shooting up had to be the answer. Didn't matter if I had eaten or not. I was so very ignorant about shooting up. It's not like going to the street corner and saying, "Hey man, mind showing me your technique?" Technique wasn't my problem anyway. Stupidity was.
I was an emergency room nurse. Early in emergency nurse training 101 you learn to start a large bore IV on anyone who might need fluids rapidly, like blood. I used large needles to shoot up out of habit. I'd been shooting up for years before I learned I could use an insulin needle. Stupid.
After a period of time trying to find a vein was the name of the game. Under my tongue, between my toes. Anywhere there was a vein. The thrill of finding a vein was almost as exciting as the drug. Very intoxicating to see that blood flash back. I found a vein one day when I wasn't even looking. I was so excited I rushed to get my rig. I jabbed the needle into the vein and then realized I had no juice in my syringe. Like a hunter who seeks the thrill of a kill and has no ammo in his rifle when that perfect buck crosses his path.
Then abscesses became an issue. I had once thought my legs were my nicest feature. I am guessing that is also why I mutilated my legs. There could be nothing nice about me. I was a dirty person. The abscesses ran up and down both legs. I was hospitalized because my ankle abscess became so serious the doctor was concerned I would develop osteomylitis. An infection deep in the bone that never clears up. My doctor attempted to help me. I stubbornly insisted though that the abscesses were the result of spider bites. The story I provided my family. My father paid an exterminator to debug my house.
Of course there were dozens and dozens of emergency room visits. By this time I no longer had a nursing license or a home. Those weren't my problems though. My problem was getting a fix. I appeared in emergency rooms with a "migraine headache" all over the southern part of this state. It wasn't too long before they caught on though and I was back to square one.
My poor son got to suffer right along with me. He was may be 7 or 8 years old and he had real migraines, killer migraines. Turn green and puke up your guts migraines. He wanted just to sleep them off. I wouldn't hear of it though. I'd carry him to the emergency room and tell them exactly what he needed. I know the emergency room staff figured I had discovered away to suck the stuff right out of his butt cheek once they left the room. If I couldn't get high I wanted to at least see someone feel good. May be by some source of osmosis I could absorb the medication they gave him.
I'm told there is a different way to live. A way to hold my head up high and walk through the pain without looking for the loop holes. My daughter has excommunicated me from herself and my grandchildren. I can't not be a part of my children and grandchildren's lives. She gave me a "choice." I could continue to live my life on a one way ticket to hell without her and the grandkids or I could go to residential treatment. Long term, thirteen months. God, I can't remember the last time I went thirteen days without a fix of some kind. Thirteen hours is a chore.
Do I love my children and my grandchildren more than I love my misery? I want to say yes, but everything I've ever done says something else. Can I change the pattern, the cycle, the story of my life? Can I change me? Can anything change me?
I think I'm about to find out.
Alcoholism and addiction the age old debate--disease or choice? I am whole heartedly for whatever choice allows you the pursuit of happiness. As for myself, I have decided that you can't have it both ways. That if recovery is a choice addiction to whatever must also be a choice. It cannot be a disease.
Hear me out on this. After all I have spent the last 20 years adhering to the disease concept. I bought the disease concept hook, line and sinker. I was provided with the definition of disease being, chronic, progressive, treatable and fatal. Chronic being on going, progressive being that it gets worse, treatable in that there is another way to live and fatal in that in the end it will kill us. I can make anything fit that definition, even life. Life is A) Chronic--I've been alive my entire life. B) Progressive--I'm a day older today than I was yesterday. C) Treatable--We live longer today than ever before in the history of man. D) Fatal--I've never known anyone to get out of this life alive.
Choice is a more difficult concept because it holds us accountable. I don't believe that it is any more or any less a moral issue than any other sin. Don't like the word, sin? Substitute any other unhealthy behavior in its place.
I am now Pro-Choice.
I choose recovery.
In sports as in every arena of my life I root for the underdog. That is of course unless I am the underdog.
My step-grandfathers orange tweed recliner sat facing the TV. His back was to the kitchen and adjoining dinning room where I sat finishing a snack. Snacks were never allowed out of the dinning room.
I crossed the distance between the dinning room and the recliner. I could feel the heat from the large rock fireplace that warmed the house. I saw my older sister, Jeri in my grandpa's lap. I wanted to sit in grandpa's lap.
"Go away! You're not old enough for this, " was Jeri's response to my plea. But, I wasn't asking her. I glanced at the TV, cartoons. "Not old enough for what," was my thought?Before I had a chance to ask the question though grandpa shifted Jeri from the center of his lap onto his right knee and welcomed me onto his left knee. "Oh, I think she's old enough," grandpa said. I scrambled onto grandpa's knee while making a face at Jeri.
In one swoop grandpa rocked the orange tweed recliner back, lifted our dresses and slipped his right hand down Jeri's panties and his left down mine as we rocked forward.
I don't remember what grandpa said to make this OK. As I look back on what would become years of competition I have one thought. How happy that bastard must have been to have two little girls on his lap to molest simultaneously. What perverse pleasure and gratification that must have provided him. Then my thinking stops and I am eight years old again.
I used to say that I was just seven years old when grandpa started teaching my sister and I how to, "One day be good wives." It seemed like I should have known better at eight. I was ashamed of myself for being so stupid.
Competition? Jeri and I became rival competitors - who could most please grandpa, who would win grandpa's favor for the day, who would stop at nothing?
The attention was nice. I'd never felt so special and so grown-up. Dad was active duty military so he was gone from home a lot. That's why we were currently living with my grandparents. During that time mom spent a lot of time with grandma at the local establishment, The Pines. I supposed the bar was named for all the pine trees on that mountain.
The competition between Jeri and I continued for another 23 years after we left that mountain. Jeri with her small frame and perfect hour glass figure took the lead early. I was a few inches taller than Jeri but I had the figure of a pear. We both had blue eyes but Jeri's were set against her porcelain skin and platinum blond hair. I was a stringy brunette. My most noticeable feature was also my most unattractive feature. A mass of dark hair that resembled shag carpeting on my forearms.
The summer of my 14th year rolled around and mom took us shopping for swim suits. Jeri got a bikini. There was no hiding her figure anyway. I could find nothing that fit and mom was becoming inpatient and irate. Mom pulled a swim suit from the rack and shoved it in my hands. "But, mom," I began to protest. It was obvious though she had made up my mind. The swim suit had built in cups for about a 36D. Mom did not care, that was my swim suit.
I was quite the joke around the swimming hole. Showering after a swim meant walking into the shower room full busted and reappearing in my street clothes as flat as Kansas. Just to drive the point home my brother bought me a T-shirt. It was light blue with a large green pear on it and it read, "What a pair." I felt humiliated and demeaned. I shoved the T-shirt in a bottom dresser drawer.
That same summer Jeri and I spent almost every night camping out. Along with two friends we pitched a tent in a large field behind our houses. We had no parental supervision. We did however have adult supervision. Adult male supervision.
I could describe the summer as one big, "Wham-bam thank you mam, " but Jeri and I or our friends were hardly mams. I did not even have pubic hair. Some thing men found amusing since my forearms were covered in hair.
Maybe I was angry. One afternoon I was by myself in a park. A red headed boy about my own age riding a green bicycle appeared from nowhere. I began the walk up a steep embankment to make my way out of the park. A chill passed through me and a since of urgency to get out of the park. Before I could make my way up the embankment the boy was on my back. He pulled me to the ground and began tearing at my clothes. Again and again I attempted to call for help - only air would escape from my mouth. I pounded him unmercifully until I was able to free myself. I ran in one direction, the bloodied red headed boy in another.
A normalcy developed to the insanity of our lives. One undisturbed by several more moves. Jeri and I had a stream of men, alcohol and marijuana in our lives. None of it sustained our hunger. A hunger to be daddy's little girls. Hunger for a sober mom. Hunger for boundaries. Hunger for self-respect that never was a possibility. We were hungry to be loved.
In our eyes every man we met was an opportunity to have our hunger filled. Just as our step grandfather had taught us we equated being in bed with a man being loved. We had no idea we were destroying ourselves.
The score card will show Jeri "won" - she dropped out of high school her senior year and married an abusive man. Her marriage lasted two years and Jeri was back in the game. I dropped out my junior year, pregnant. The insanity ensued.
Roe V. Wade had just been signed into law the same year. Had anyone asked me I would have protested abortion. No one asked me. Just as no one asked me how old I was when I had my first abortion, 16. I was terrified. Not so much about the abortion itself— that was just some thing that had to be done. I was terrified of the news coverage showing women entering and leaving the clinic. I could not be caught on TV entering or leaving an abortion clinic. I never intended for abortion to be my means of birth control. Three more pregnancies spoke differently.
Is it true that your entire life passes before you before you die? That would certainly explain why it took Jeri a full 15 months to die after she received the diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer. Her mind sorting through all the men in and out of her life while she was still a baby.
Game, set, match. Jeri had pulled off another win in my book.
If you are without sin throw throw first rock. Please, throw the first rock.
I want intimacy and fear it at the same time. Alcohol and drugs used to allow me the illusion of intimacy usually through sex but I always ended with me feeling deeply ashamed and without a shred of dignity left. I felt unequipped to participate in an intimate relationship and drugs and alcohol made me feel I could handle anything. I belonged, I was attractive and it gave me a sense of connection to my own body and to others. At least in the beginning it did. After awhile it even destroyed the illusion. I don't think I have ever had an honest intimate relationship, the idea terrifies me. I have no idea of who I really am.
I feel like I was born with a hole in my soul and I tried to fill that hole with sex, relationships, alcohol, drugs, work, school, being a mom etc. all band aids. None of those things ever filled that hole. Sometimes I have glimpses of it being a God sized hole and that God fills the void perfectly. But, I can't stay there. I know that sounds like a cliche, but if it's just a cliche, then why does it feel so damn real? All my crap from the past and all my fear of who I really am and of who and where I will be in the future pushes Him out. And without a thought of the consequences I am back to participating in unhealthy behaviors.
I never drank or used to get high it was always to obliterate. From my very first drink to the last. I have no idea of how to connect with people on an honest level. I can't even be honest with myself. I've no idea of what I need to feel comforted and calm, at peace with myself and the world. I say I have no idea, but I kind of do. I just don't like where those thoughts go. I don't want to deal with it. I want my answers, my terms, my way, even if none of it has ever worked longer than overnight, even if I finally see that and can say it too. Alcohol, drugs, self-mutilation, and other unhealthy behaviors offer protection from self-discovery. But it's all wrong because while it all feels like a cocoon of protection it's utterly false, a pseudo solution that feels very real and very necessary. It's self defeating. The more I do it, the more nothing ever really changes.
We’d been to lots of churches, so many I thought we’d seen it all. I thought we had the routine down pat. We’d seen big beautiful churches with parking lots so full they needed volunteers in orange vests directing traffic, like at a stadium on game day. We’d seen churches with so much going on, a ministry for every demographic, a pastor for every cause, they needed a sign listing today’s events like at a conference or a convention. We’d seen churches bustling with greeters possessing bright smiles and hurried handshakes. We’d seen churches so dead they could have been confused for the city morgue. We’d seen churches in dilapidated buildings, full of dilapidated people. We’d seen churches that were out of the way altogether of a different sort. We’d seen churches that fell everywhere in between.
I believed we represented a special segment, an otherwise forgotten, overlooked, never openly talked about group seldom visible in most churches. I believed we had a story to tell—one you needed to hear. God loves drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes and others who society has no use for and has discarded. By the power of God, our lives had been forever changed and we’d been healed, reborn and given a second chance. So, onward marching like good Christian soldiers we traveled from church to church telling our stories to raise the funds to help others like us.
But the gig in this church completely blew my mind.
This wasn’t some down on its luck forgotten church where seediness had replaced the former glory of better days gone by. This one didn’t start out as a church at all. Once it was a shoe store, or sold auto parts, or a laundromat, or something. The building itself was in a small strip mall in an area of the city that politicians call "blighted" and realtors call “distressed—the next up and coming”, where the the police don’t use words like “sir” and “ma’am” at traffic stops, preferring to protect and serve places and things that had more value.
We parked our van in between the craters in the parking lot and watched the heads of people on a church bus bounce as the driver took the more direct route through the craters to the store front, I mean, to the front doors of the church.
I watched the people pile off the bus, pretending to fall over one another, some of them laughing still mimicking the bouncing motion created by the ride through the craters. I thought to myself, “Who on God’s green earth dressed these people?”
Some of the women looked like they had applied their make-up with a spade. It would take a hammer and a chisel to free their faces from the caked on foundation, blush, eye shadow and mascara. Their bright red lipstick highlighted their rotting teeth. Behind me someone said, “She needs to take her make-up to the cross.” Men and women alike had worn-out, tired faces creased by time, cigarette smoke, and worry. Their clothes reminded me of what appears in piles outside the drop box run by Salvation Army, Goodwill, or the DAV.
We moved quickly from the make shift foyer into the sanctuary and took our seats. I felt relieved we didn’t have to make conversation. Our director quietly reviewed with us what songs we would sing and who would give his or her testimony.
We’d visited churches where the budget for the sound system and worship team exceeded the salary of most pastors. They tripped the light fantastic as they led the congregation from upbeat worship into solemn praise. We’d visited churches where the droning of the worship team put us to sleep and others where the only music was made by the chirping of crickets. Nothing prepared me for what happened next.
I watched as the worship team leader panted as he took center stage. “Wasn’t gluttony still a sin?” He welcomed everyone to join in worshiping the Lord. Before long the crowd was on its feet, and there was dancing and singing in the aisles. I’m not talking about good old fashioned moved-by-the-Spirit Pentecostal dancing and singing. That had become routine in our travels. These people were singing, dancing and having fun as they worshiped God. This was the moment they had waited for all week, and they were not going to miss out by holding back, pretending not to feel what was busting through their hearts.
At first I thought the enthusiasm was confined to the group of people I saw get off the bus. But as I looked around, it was obvious that the entire congregation was made up of people like those we saw earlier. Its not like I never saw them before or didn’t know who they were. These were the folks who stood outside the liquor store or the day labor agency or the waiting room of the ER in which I used to work, men who pushed shopping carts full of cans, women who pushed strollers full of laundry, kids who hustled change washing windshields while the light was red before the city passed an ordinance making it a crime. These were the folks I always hurried by, flashing a fake smile as my eyes quickly turned away, while clutching my purse a little tighter.
After a time the worship leader settled everyone in their seats and, doubling as their pastor, began the service. He invited prayer requests, and my heart broke a little as I listened in.
Someone requested prayer for a hurt foot. Another asked for “the nurses to be nice and not talk so mean.” Someone shouted excitedly something about his sister, but I couldn’t understand his garbled speech. The pastor reassured the man that God was taking care of her and always would. Someone voiced his disappointment that his family had not visited as promised, again. One woman shared how she had forgiven the man who hurt her when she was a little girl.
The pastor skillfully loved on each person as he lifted them and their requests up in prayer to God. He gave a short and simple—but not watered down—message. Then he introduced us.
Our director made a short statement about the organization and its purpose. I don’t remember what songs we sang, but I do remember our audience went wild with applause. I felt like a member of Hillsong. Carrie was first up to give her testimony. She told about coming from a broken home, how she had no dad, and how she ended up abusing speed. Linda testified about her involvement in one abusive relationship after another and her need to have a man in her life to feel worthy. Heather recounted years of depression, addiction, and failed suicide attempts that landed her in psych wards, Child abuse of every kind was covered in our testimonies. Alcoholism, abortion, casinos, prison, losing children to DHS—every misery imaginable, every trauma, every scar. The monotony of having heard these same testimonies every Sunday for almost a year had numbed me to their power, when suddenly a man from the back shouted, “Its OK. Jesus loves you, and so do I.” The audience went wild with applause and shouts of “Hallelujah.” We took our seats, and the pastor came forward again. I lowered my head less in reverence than in shame as he asked for the ushers to come forward to take up a collection for us.
Following the service we chatted with members of the congregation on a variety of subjects. Soon, buses pulled up to the church doors, and the men and women waved good-bye as they were carted off, bouncing their way through the craters. The pastor and a few men quickly set up tables and chairs in the foyer while his wife and some women produced crock pots that contained a meal for us. He asked for a blessing, and as we began eating, he shared his own testimony.
For years he had worked as a CNA in a nursing home. He had a heart for the people that everyone else overlooked, the ones deemed unacceptable by the more privileged and powerful who make the rules and run the show. When he was introduced to the love of Jesus Christ, he knew exactly who to share that love with. He knew where the soil was fertile and the seed would take root, because he knew people who desperately needed what Jesus offers—love and hope, faith and forgiveness. It turned out that most of his congregation came from nursing homes and group homes and subsidized housing around the city. A few from the missions and shelters. The rest were family members and a handful of others who believed in reaching the world in their own backyard with the love of God.
The meal finished, we left after a while, but that place and those people still haven’t left me. It is said that God never fails to provide what we need. I guess I needed an eye opener, or something to help me swallow my pride. How had I described our cause? I insisted we were “a special segment, an otherwise forgotten, overlooked, never openly talked about group seldom visible in most churches...who society has no use for and has discarded.” I believed we had “a story to tell—one you needed to hear.” Truth be told, I was on more of a mission of my own making than a ministry to others. I was there to teach others. I had something to say. I had something to prove. I needed others to listen to me. They had to change to get my approval. Its not that my message was wrong or even the method, just my motivation. I needed reminded of something I once knew but apparently forgot, seduced by thinking that I was an authority on the sin of substance abuse... and gluttony too. I needed the very rebuke I had perfected for others. He delivered it in the form of a bouncing bus filled with humility and modesty, free of conceit and ambition. He reminded me what truly constitutes the key to His kingdom.
May God forgive me, and may we—with the hearts of little children just as it is written—sing His praise for ever and ever.
I struggled to keep the anger I felt tucked away. The customer service rep went through her script. "Yes." "No." "Tried that." "Didn’t work." Did my one word answers mask the anger or let her know just how angry I really was? I had switched to speaker phone the moment the tedium started. I couldn't just sit there; there was so much to be done. Online homework. Let the dog out. Prepare dad’s lunch. All while trying to reset the satellite receiver connected to the TV.
My frustration intensified when the customer service rep asked if I had the remote control to the TV. Not the universal remote, but the TV remote itself. The less than two months old TV remote control. I was losing control. I looked around frantically for the TV remote. I hadn't thought to keep track of it. Why should I? We have this new high tech universal control?
Dad was in his usual spot—his recliner, feet elevated, iPad in hand, playing solitaire. “Dad, have you seen the TV remote?” I was all but begging him to put down the iPad and help me search for the TV remote. With a wave of his hand he dismissed my question, “Looked for it. Can’t find it.”
My mind was racing. “No, dad, you haven’t looked for it. You have done exactly what you have been doing for the last 4 years. Waiting for me. Waiting for me to fix it, find it, buy it, prepare it, and clean it Waiting for me to wash your clothes, iron your clothes, lay out your clothes." My daily schedule included mopping the bathroom floor twice a day because dad has cataracts and can’t seem to hit the toilet bowl. I shared this with a friend who told me she put Cheerios in the toilet while potty training her son. The object of the game was to sink the Cheerio. I could put donuts in the toilet and dad would not see them.
The racing in my mind stopped and the shouting in my head started. “Get up! Help me look for the TV remote. This is your TV! You want to watch your game shows 24/7. Get up and look for your TV control!" Even if he could have heard the shouting in my head, it would have made no difference. He would not have moved out of his recliner or laid aside his iPad.
It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, and he is still in his pajamas. He has not shaved or showered. Sponge baths are a way of life. “Love me. Love my dog.” What happened to the dad who put on a uniform every morning and went to work? I remember that. Tall. Handsome. Strong. Certain. What happened to that man?
When we travel together, even 30 minutes or an hour down the road, I have learned to pack dad a bottle of water and a bottle of Sprite and a Diet Coke for myself. Dad hates Diet Coke. I am addicted to it. It matters not what I pack for him, he always wants a swig of my Diet Coke. I have to be honest; it turns my stomach to share my Diet Coke with him. Dad no longer brushes his teeth. He smokes ten to twelve cigars a day. He believes a little mouth wash is all he needs. Despite my misgivings, I have suffered no ill effects from sharing my Diet Coke with my dad. Many blessings have come my way. Remember when you were young and shared backwash with your parents? And then your kids shared their backwash with you? And if you are as blessed as I am, you are also sharing backwash with your grandkids. I looked on the internet. There are no documented cases of serious illnesses or death as the result of backwash. The backwash has come full circle.
That iPad has long since made me crazy. When my sister first loaded solitaire on his iPad I thought it was wonderful. It would help dad maintain a skill set, help keep his mind sharp. The iPad with its solitaire game has done no such thing. It has become a world he can escape into, leaving reality behind. Dungeons and Dragons for senior citizens. The tap, tap, tapping of dad’s finger on the screen was like the co-worker who constantly clicks his pen. Or the one who cannot chew a piece of gum without bursting bubbles all the while looking like a cow chewing cud. It didn't help him maintain a skill set. It contributed in its own way to his decline.
Am I ahead of myself in telling you this story or behind? Are you caught up? Does any of this make sense to you? Do you know what I am trying to tell you, or have I lost you as I have lost my dad?
Meeting after meeting this morning left me two hours late getting home from work to prepare dad a lunch I knew he would not eat. This is our dance. When I walk into the house, I shout from the front door to the back TV room. “How are you doing, dad?” He responds, short and curt, “Frustrated.” I make my way to the TV room where he is in the recliner, feet in air, iPad in hand, playing solitaire. “Why are you frustrated?” “The TV's not working.” We had ordered satellite put in just seven months earlier.
This was my fourth call to the customer service line. It was always the same TV. No other TV in the house had a single issue. We even bought a new TV in an effort to resolve the problem.
I dialed customer support, put the phone on speaker, opened my laptop, put the dog outside. Punching in the corresponding numbers on the key pad to answer the automated questions, the frustration mounted as I asked myself whatever happened to speaking to someone live? I admit there have been days I shouted into the receiver repeatedly, “customer service, customer service, just get me customer service!" It never works that way. You have to answer all the automated questions by punching the corresponding number on your key pad. Learning to respond to the automated system to get to the live customer service agent with as few punches as necessary was a skill set in and of itself. I mastered it in the last seven months.
Something different started stirring inside of me. The anger began to dissolve. I could see something, hear something, but it wasn't the TV. It was obvious. I was not angry with the customer service rep. I was not angry with the service provider. I was angry with the imposter in my dad’s recliner, playing solitaire on his iPad.
Look up the word superhero in the dictionary. You will see a picture of my dad. I knew this man sitting in dad’s recliner was an imposter. My dad had spent his life working as an electrician. This imposter knew nothing about computer software or hardware. He couldn’t even turn his computer on or log into his email. He remembers none of dad’s passwords.
This imposter has peripheral neuropathy in his feet. I learned to dance standing on my dad’s feet. There was no peripheral neuropathy. My dad is up at 5 AM every morning. This imposter often stays in bed until well after nine. My dad is a news buff. Channel surfing from headline to headline. This imposter watches game shows 24/7. And when he can’t find a game show he wants to watch, he somehow manages to find the game shows I have recorded for him on that universal remote. And he knows not that he is watching the same game show day after day. He just thinks he is finally getting better at Jeopardy.
I suppose I could go on telling you stories about this imposter. If it hasn't happened to you, hasn't happened yet that is, more stories won't matter. If your superhero has disappeared and an imposter has taken his place, then you know the heart break all too well, and I need not share another story. If you are blessed as I am blessed, you too recall your superhero, and are praying that today you may be blessed to be his superhero.
Dementia is a thief, a thief who comes quietly, slowly, repeatedly, stealing a little more each day, destroying everything that once worked and didn't, everything that was, leaving nothing recognizable in its place. Rubble. A vast empty space. Tears. This thief robbed my dad of his mind, the strength of his body, and me of my dad.
The issue was never with the TV or the satellite or customer support or puddles on the bathroom floor or solitaire. The issue is how to accept the unacceptable, to come to terms with the unjust, to make the best of what is frankly one of the worst things that can happen to someone. In the meantime, perhaps I can find what button or combination of buttons dad is pushing that disconnects the satellite on his TV and give that poor customer service rep a break.