I’m trying to do the work…you know; think about all the feelings I numbed with alcohol. Because I am still tempted to try that numbing technique again, even though I know it doesn’t work. I know the “numbness” I was feeling was really just me tolerating a feeling of constant, low-grade sadness. I guess I confused sadness with numbness.
So, the work.
The fourth step for codependents/alcoholics is “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Searching AND fearless.
I feel the need to approach this work gently and cautiously. Any inventory, small or large feels overwhelming and like dangerous territory. This probably means it is necessary for any kind of real change or growth. But, where do I begin? Childhood? Yikes, that’s really jumping to the heart of the issues. I’m not quite ready to deep dive everything there. Career? Well, I’ve had many. I feel lost when I even start to think about this. Relationships? I suspect an inventory of all of the types (family, friends, lovers) would illuminate the bright neon line back to the childhood issues. Still not ready.
I am thinking about how I finally made the decision to stop drinking this past April. I keep wondering if this is “just a break” even though I know in my heart of hearts that I want this to be a forever break. I didn’t have a “rock bottom” moment in April. I’ve had hundreds of moments over the years that should have qualified as “rock bottom” but I’ve ignored those – I always bounced back, brushed it off, sunk imperceptibly lower, kept my head above water, sort of. I’ve had a lot of near misses. I doubt I can keep bouncing and brushing and avoiding consequences forever if I go back to drinking. I need to remind myself why I needed to quit.
Thinking back to April, and the months before April, it is almost hard to remember anything that happened. I’ve started to realize that I spent 2017 and early 2018 looking only at the bottom of my boozy glass because I didn’t want to look up and deal with anything that was happening around me. Or within me. I knew then that I wanted to stop drinking – I made it one of my goals for 2017 – but I couldn’t seem to give it up. I wanted to hide from all the shit and I thought (and occasionally still kinda think) the booze helped me hide.
So, let’s review those 16 months and learn some lessons.
January, 2017: Everyone in the United States was pissed off and sad at the start of the new year. I live in the middle of the country where there are lots of people who voted for that disgraceful clown who is now the president. Those voters are happy he won the election, but they are also angry and fearful for a million reasons too. So everyone is pissed off for some reason. I only mention this because it was/is REAL and it was an atmosphere of negativity and hopelessness I was hoping I could drink away. At this time, my husband and I stopped discussing politics and news generally amongst ourselves and with our friends because what was the point? We were all too angry to talk about any of it.
Personally and professionally I started off 2017 with a “win”…! At this point, I was still working as a real estate agent – a job in which I felt inauthentic and like I was doing some bizarre emotional high wire act where I was pinning my professional and financial success on deals where I was working with family and friends, new and old. The work always seemed to be a dangerous mix of personal and professional.
So, in January I listed a home owned by close family friends. I once lived with these family friends, during high school, after my mother passed away. The father of the family was my mother’s best friend. It’s a long story, but I was unhappy living with them and I have spent a lot of time working on my feelings towards them. Basically, we grew estranged through my twenties because I was hurt and angry about those high school years. I hoped/felt that I had mostly put those painful feelings to bed in those relationships (I am now 34) because there’s been some time for healing. Also, I think they want a gracious, yet distant relationship with me to absolve any of their feelings of guilt. I don’t believe that they have any real love for me, though, which I’ve become more comfortable with, I think. Regardless, they wanted me to sell their house! A great opportunity for a new real estate agent like me (like I said, I’ve had many careers) and a chance to do a good job for this family who once tried to do a good job for me. And I did a great job – the house sold for cash in less than 30 days in a depressed area of the state. They were happy. I was happy. My boss was happy. But, a little fearful voice had been in my mind the whole time. What if I fail and suddenly we are all back in the bad old days? Those days where they used to say things like “See, I knew you couldn’t do it.” But I drank my wine, sold the house, and celebrated with more wine.
At the end of January, my husband and I went to California to visit my newly single father-in-law. The in-laws split up after 30 years of marriage and are embarking on a new era, separately, yet somehow in remarkably similar ways. In a nutshell, they behave like large, naive children on a campaign to have everyone forgive them for getting divorced (they are devout Christians). This divorce has dredged up a lot for both my husband and his parents and most of it isn’t pretty. On this trip, I attempted to be Switzerland, wine in hand. We struggled through a couple nights, hanging out with him in his new and very awkward living situation. Shit was weird. It rained the entire time we were there. I felt like we couldn’t get home fast enough.
February and March, 2017. I continue to sell real estate even though I feel like a fraud and can’t believe that I put myself in these awkward situations with my neighbors and new friends. People say rude and frankly stupid shit to their realtors.
I work on leasing a commercial space my husband and I own together. This is very much a joint venture but I always would credit him when I discuss it in public. I automatically dismissed all of my contributions, for insecure reasons.
I drink because it’s cold, it’s Valentine’s Day, it’s my birthday, it’s my best friend’s bachelorette party, it’s Wednesday…etc.
April, 2017. I find out another family friend of my parents’ generation was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This was scary news and I distanced myself emotionally from it with some wine.
Also that month, my close friend gives birth to her third child in four years. She asked me to come to the hospital at 7 a.m. the day after the baby was born to keep her company in her room. This delightful baby girl looks like a mix of Chris Farley and a joyful potato. I held her and we bonded while my friend took a shower.
My father-in-law makes a surprise visit and insisted that he was “absolutely sure” he’d told us he’d be in our area when we visited him in California back in January. My husband and I don’t recall this conversation and grimly accommodate our unexpected visitor. I drank liquor during that visit because wine was not enough.
May, 2017. My sister was very pregnant with her third child (her third in eleven years) and my aunt and I drove to the city where she lives, through pouring rain, to attend her baby shower. The shower was hosted by her heavy drinking friends at an Irish pub. My judgmental and passive aggressive aunt was crawling out of her skin amidst the din of the women’s drunken cackles. It’s fair to say some of the attendees got shitfaced. I have no idea what it means to have a normal relationship with a sister, but I do know that what we have is not normal. The dynamic between my sister, my aunt and I is particularly dysfunctional – the void where my mother should be is ever present.
I drink two glasses of wine at this nightmare baby shower because our plan was to stay at my sister’s house that night. I had done all of the four hours of driving to get us there. We are forced to stay for the duration of this shitshow because my sister informed my aunt that she (my aunt) was paying for the party and was considered “the host.” It is almost funny to think back on how many times over the years my sister has put my aunt and I in these idiotic situations. Almost. Anyway, we were both crazed by the end of it and my aunt demanded that we drive back the four hours to my house from whence we came. I must drive the entire way again because it was still raining and dark and she’s 70+ and can’t see and blah blah. I roll over and submit – I feel like I have no choice.
This next thing that happened was really the thing that rattled my cage.
At the end of May, 2017 that friend with stage IV lung cancer passed away. There are a lot of feelings here. This friend was very kind to me when my father passed away in May, 1994 and his passing definitely dredged up some very raw feelings about my father’s passing. Also, I am still shocked by the similarities of the situations for me. My father was in a coma the last time I saw him alive. He had had a stroke earlier in the day and would pass away the next day in the hospital. I was ten years old and alone with him in his hospital room because the hospital personnel told my mother that “only one person was allowed to see him at a time” (WHAT THE FUCK?). Anyway, it is one of the most pivotal and powerful moments of my life.
For my friend, I was there in the room with him too. His partner texted me early that morning asking if I would come to the hospital to be with him. This was the same hospital where I had held the joyful potato baby one month earlier. My friend was in a coma. This time, his partner and my husband (an unsuspecting bystander in this tragedy) were in the room with me to bear witness. This time I actually saw this friend pass away. The family of this friend were mysteriously absent even though his partner had called them and asked them to come to the hospital. A couple hours later they finally appeared and immediately started looking to me for some sort of guidance on the matter. I was wondering where the fuck they had been – for him and for me, ever. These people are in their 70s. I am the youngest of the children of all of my parents’ friends. They asked me to “coordinate” a potluck for this friend’s memorial service. Apparently they thought I needed another job. Why didn’t I say no? I felt like I couldn’t. I felt weak. I felt fucked up with all the memories.
The memorial service was a shitshow too. There was food – I worried and fussed. I spent money and time and tears trying to make sure there was some kind of food. I put a Facebook message out there to reach all the drag queens and social workers that were my friend’s friends. I prayed there would be food. There was food, no thanks to this family. Also, the LGBTQ crowd at the service didn’t seem to appreciate the heavily loaded religious sermon delivered by a minister the family had chosen. What the fuck.
I wanted to dig a tunnel to Australia and never see any of these people ever again.