how I stopped worrying and learned to love the bombshell within

Active Addiction, or the Death of Everything You Love: An Open Letter

How’s that for a dramatic entrance back to my blog?

My blog has been coming up in conversation, and I could feel my writing bug flying around in my brain, buzzing for attention. The avoidance has come mostly from fear, of the how the flame of passion in my soul to help others becomes a wildfire that I cannot control once I set her free. My heart and soul start bypassing my brain and I say things… true, deep, sometimes horrible feelings and thoughts – and then I put it on the damn internet!

It is thrilling and terrifying to throw my guts out on the world’s table, hoping no one reads it, hoping everyone reads it, hoping even just one person will identify and feel a little better because they’re not the only one. When I think of the times I have been approached after sharing my story, posting on Facebook, or even on this blog, by people that thank me for saying what they feel they could never say, it only makes me want to do it more.

Telling my story in the hopes that it will help someone – is why I’m still alive.

And you all have Jeff to blame! Jeff, you made me write a blog post. I know you probably didn’t mean to do it, with your innocuous and friendly message:

Hey, I know you’ve been through a lot, but not the particulars. And, honestly, I don’t need or want to know. But, that said, if you ever need a semi-objective ear, I’d be happy to listen.

Apparently I had a lot to say on this subject, and I thought it ended up being the best description of “what happened” to me, to my now ex-husband, and to our friendship and marriage. It’s not clear when his secret drinking (and heaven only knows what else) began. He said he wasn’t sure exactly when he had restarted, gave one estimate the first night I discovered him shitfaced drunk, and another one when he sobered up the next day. I heard from others what he told them, which was nowhere near either “estimate” he gave me. But that is par for the course with active addiction, lying to the ones you love is a necessity – how else to keep from hurting them… or to keep them from trying to help you get help?

Maybe someday I’ll write about how epic our story is. We met in August 2000, and right from the start he was my favorite person. We were friends for about 3 years, had a falling out that lasted about 10 months, and then reconciled, started dating and eventually married. There are the bare bones of it.

There is one detail that I must give, because it was the foundation of our relationship right from the first day we met. We were both ex-drinkers, and as far as I knew, I was a sober friend, a sober lover, and a sober wife to a sober husband. But as I mentioned above, that was a big NOPE.

Here’s the response that I was going to send Jeff. I was using voice to text on my phone, and I’m just gonna copy and paste it here (I did blank out my ex’s name, for what it’s worth). It may not be the best writing I’ve ever done (technically it was talking, just sayin’) but it is perhaps the most clearly I have been able to see, understand, and convey my experience. Again, just to be clear, this is my experience, thoughts, and feelings. They may seem dramatic but the grief I feel is very real, and I don’t think there are any words that could be dramatic enough. See with your eyes, but maybe read with your heart.

Thank you Jeff. It’s really nice to see and hear you via Facebook. Even though we are in different places, people like us will always be Burbank group to me. 

It’s just a sad story, told thousands of times before. Someone gets loaded, and the person that you knew dies. What is left is only disease, and all of the behavior, fear, paranoia, and destruction of everything they love. 

I miss **** so much, so few people in my life today got to see how tight we were as friends and then when we finally got together. So it’s hard for them to understand the difficulty of the situation. But you’ve been around long enough to know that even though his body is still walking around, and his voice sounds the same, he is no longer who we knew. And the amount of abuse I suffered , For years was impossible for even me to believe, until recently. I’m grieving the death of my best friend, and the death of my marriage, and all of the potential he and I had. 

I have been through a lot of shit in my life, but this is the worst. I don’t know how I’ve made it, I didn’t think that I would. Tammy told me last week that It was the first time she heard me sound like myself in years, and that was a relief to hear but it was also very painful. 

I finally had to explain to the professionals in my life that I wasn’t just crying because I was going through a break up, but because I am a widow – I lost my husband and my best friend and my favorite person to alcoholism. And so did everybody knew him. 

The person who confirmed my fears today was a lawyer. **** left me, told me it was my fault, and is now in his house on the hill he always wanted. My heart breaks thinking about how lonely he must be there. 

I stopped there, mostly because I was crying too hard for stupid Siri to understand me, and because it seemed like a lot of response for someone who was just reaching out to show they care.

 

It’s Going Around

There seems to be a lot of death going on in my spiritual community right now. In a 2 week span we lost 3 people to suicide or drug overdose (arguably the same thing). Because of the nature of addiction, I can come across as cold hearted when I hear about an alcoholic or drug related death. I’ve seen too much of it to be shocked when it happens.

But Thursday, all my well placed defenses got ambushed when I heard that an old friend of mine had OD’d and died. I got nervous when I saw a post vaguely alluding to a “loss” on Facebook and so I reached out to my bestie and she confirmed that what I feared was true.

The name of my old friend was (is?) Claudio. We met in 2001, when he decided to try to kick his heroin habit and turn his life around. We started dating when he was newly clean, but after 10 months I broke it off pretty abruptly. That was in November 2002. About a month and a half later, on New Year’s Eve, Claudio attempted suicide via intentional heroin overdose.

That really shook up our community, and I certainly felt (imagined?)  that some people felt I was at least partially to blame. Eventually I spoke with Claudio, and we cleared the air. After that, I didn’t worry what other people thought. He didn’t blame me and that was enough.

Recently, I saw Claudio had gotten engaged, then married, via mutual friends on social media. He really did deserve happiness and it genuinely warmed my heart to see him smiling with his bride.

Less than a month later, he’s gone. And that’s a shame. Claudio was a very sweet and sensitive man. He was always quick to share a laugh, and to forgive. The outpouring of love I am seeing for him is very touching, but it’s difficult to think of the loved ones that were closest to him – how much they must be hurting.

Whenever someone takes their own life, it brings up my own issues with depression, and the finality of suicide. It takes that option away from me. I don’t think I could ever do that to all the people around me that love me. It is such a shitty feeling to leave others with.

And of course, there’s still a part of me that wonders if things would have been different if I’d played by the “rules” and not dated Claudio because he was so new to recovery. Maybe he would have focused more on building a program and taking care of himself, his physical and mental health, and he wouldn’t have tried to kill himself so long ago. I seriously doubt I have anything to do with his recent and final decision to/mistake of overdose, but these are the things that go through my head when I grieve.

I don’t know what my main theme of this post is, except that alcoholism/addiction is a serious and deadly disease, that death is hard to deal with, and that if you want to commit suicide and you think no one will notice when you’re gone – you’re wrong. Those of us left behind suffer. I can only hope Claudio is in a better place now, and that his hurting has ended.

Where to Start?

Hello again. It’s always mind blowing to me the way the universe conspires to direct my life in such beautiful and sustaining ways. 

It seems every little thing is like a pebble in the stream of life, directing the flow in increments until I ride the tide to the source. 

Ok, enough of the flowery stuff. I meant what I said but there’s no way I can sustain that kind of writing! I’m not a poet of any type. 

It’s been something like 570 days since my last blog post, and so much has happened that there’s no way I can update you… So I’m just going to dive back in – I swear. 

But first, this is my toe dip back to my blog before I find a topic and dig in deep. I missed you and I hope to help/move/inspire you very, very soon. 

Joyful April

Once upon a time, I tried a radical experiment. It was inspired by a conversation I had with some one I don’t think I knew particularly well. I have no idea what I was saying but they cut me off mid-sentence to observe, in a very gentle way, that all I ever seemed to do was complain. Because I didn’t speak to this person very often, I had a moment of “you don’t know me!” but it quickly passed when I mentally ran our conversation back in my head. Yep. I had whined my way through the whole thing. I conceded their point and later solemnly vowed to myself to cease the negativity for a period of time. It wasn’t long, maybe a week or a month. You wouldn’t think that would be that big of a deal: just find positive, happy things to talk about… since I am an upbeat, optimistic type that should be a snap – right?

WRONG! Very quickly I found that I literally had nothing to say that wasn’t a grouse, lament or gripe. Entire conversations would happen in my presence without me uttering a peep. If you have ever met me, even for 5 minutes, you know that it’s impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. I can’t help it, I have a comment – witty or otherwise – for everything! But at that point I was totally stumped for what to say.

A few days in to my unexpected silence, I realized that I had been unintentionally putting a lot of negativity out in the world. This was a rude awakening as I’d started thinking of myself as a Pollyanna, with a tendency to look on the bright side and inject a can-do spirit into situations. Yet there was the evidence before me, as I could not even come up with neutral topics. A change was definitely in order. I took a solid month off from complaints, and took a good look at my conversational style.

Turns out, I was always looking to make people laugh. The easiest way to do that is to complain about a universal topic in a unique or witty way. (It’s true! Listen to your favorite comedian and you’ll see what I mean.) Making people laugh is an admirable pastime – but for me, the amount of gloom and doom I spread was not worth the chuckles I got for my running commentary of depressive thoughts. The subject of conversation didn’t have to change as much as the angle from which I approached it. I set an intention to be more positive in my speech patterns, to talk of things from a place of encouraged expectation as opposed to voicing doubt that anything could possibly go my way. More Tigger, less Eeyore.

Over the years I can tell I’ve picked up the bad habit of complaining again. I am going to set another intention to be mindful of my words. It’s not that I can’t speak of problems in my life, fears, insecurities or even worries I am having. I just have to come from a place of hope that it’s nowhere but up from here. I’m doing this for a few reasons:

1. I am dedicated to be a person that is a positive influence on the planet.

2. Words are powerful. What we say out loud is more powerful than even our thoughts, because they have an effect on other people as well as ourselves. Our words shape our reality, and I want my reality to be full of joy. And if we meet and I speak of hope and happiness, maybe it will give your reality some joy too, which increase my joy even more. Everybody wins!

3. Honestly, I care how I am perceived by others. I don’t want to be seen as a Debbie Downer! I have had such a blessed life, with far more peace than I ever thought possible. I want other people to see what miracles can occur in their lives if they put their faith in the (capital U) Universe and approach their fellows with love and compassion.

4. I am hoping you’ll join me! Let’s start a movement… What should we call it? Bliss Bunch? Serenity Society? Team Gratitude? I can’t wait to hear your name nominations! Go out and recruit others. Let’s make April a complaint free zone. Who’s with me?

Are You a Normal?

I want to love and forgive as I imagine my higher power loves and forgives – in my belief that means everyone deserves both love and forgiveness in equal amounts. My biggest struggle in that goal is loving and forgiving the people in the world that have hateful or naive ideas about the safety, respect and freedom of others. I don’t have a lot of interest in politics or the religious debate. I avoid discussion on those topics, as I don’t believe most (myself included) have enough real information to form a cogent argument. Heartfelt and logical discussion? Possibly. Informed and educated exchange? Most likely no. When these topics come up I usually find something else to do, to avoid being drawn into negativity when I hear hatred or regurgitated dogma.

The point of this topic is that lately I have been finding myself concerned that I will run across hatred on my personal Facebook page. I have close to 500 FB friends, obviously I am not close to all of them and therefore do not necessarily know if their beliefs align in Universal love and forgiveness. I try to be truly open-minded and not dismiss out of hand anything that has a logical or heartfelt basis – I even understand the “my religion is the only right one” stance or the “my lifestyle is the only proper lifestyle” idea. It makes sense that one would choose the ideals that embody goodness in one’s mind. There are a lot of philosophies out there but rarely do I meet people embracing hypocrisy as a way of life.

There is a certain topic in particular that I have been fearful of seeing under fire on my personal FB feed, but I’d like to avoid moral, political or religious specifics here and just talk about my personal struggle with executing my own belief system in the light of other people’s hatred or naively formed opinion.

Let’s say that I have a personal affinity and an affection for men and women that, for vital nutritional reasons, must eat raw onions – we’ll them “Raw’rs”. If they don’t eat raw onions, they can become very ill to the point of hospitalization or perhaps death. I grew up around quite a few Raw’rs, and they weren’t seen as special or different – they were just people. They would eat raw onions right in front of my family without any apology or hesitation! In public they were more hesitant to eat their raw onions, because some people would get upset about it. I was taught that those upset people were special and different in a negative way, but that they weren’t necessarily bad people either.

The people that got upset about public raw onion eating thought that the Raw’rs were different, perhaps a lesser type of human since they had a different nutritional needs than “normal people.” Since “Normals” found the smell and sight of raw onion eating offensive and wrong, they expected Raw’rs to do it in private or utilize nutritional alternatives that science had found. The Normals thought the Raw’rs were making a choice, that they liked eating raw onions all the time and ignored the alternatives because they were morally or mentally ill. Soon there was political involvement regarding the rights of Raw’rs to be able to eat in public. Some states had to actually create a law allowing Raw’rs to eat in public!

When I was younger I hung with a Raw’r crowd. I even tried a raw onion diet for a while, but realized I didn’t have those nutritional needs and went back to Normal eating after a few years. During those few years I saw firsthand the treatment that Raw’rs received, the looks, the stigma – the embarrassment they felt for being themselves in public. Because of the hatred directed at them, most Raw’rs learned to be open-minded. I found that attractive. I also found that the Raw’rs from my childhood were some of the physically and emotionally safest people to be around. Normals in my life hurt me, but a Raw’r never did. Quite the opposite! Even with their differences in behavior, they were role models in how to live love and be family, because they had felt the hatred of strangers their whole lives and realized the vital importance of the acceptance of family and friends.

I think this is a good way to illustrate the weirdness surrounding bigotry and hatred. There’s an argument that the smell of raw onions can be a bit strong outside of a kitchen. The thought of someone biting into a raw onion like an apple literally nauseates me! Ugh! So couldn’t we make a point that Raw’rs should be treated differently in order to not offend the Normals? I think it’s ridiculous to put humans into pigeonholes that limit or expand their freedoms, but I invite you to use this example to explore your own ideas about race, religion, sexual orientation, politics, breastfeeding in public, vegans, hunters…  sub yourself in as a Normal and ponder what you’d fill in for the Raw’rs. This has been a good exercise for me in exploring where my close-mindedness and fear manifest in relation to different cultures and lifestyles. I want to be 100% open-minded, even to those that don’t want to be – or can’t be.

I wish I always behaved like everyone is equal, deserving of love and respect in the same amounts as everyone else – in the same amounts I yearn for in my heart. I’m a work in progress, and I hope you are too.

Terminal Uniqueness

In my experience, we humans tend to think we are extremely unique in our thoughts and feelings: “no one thinks these crazy thoughts like I do” or “no one has this much hurt/shame/guilt/fear in their hearts” or “it’s hard for others to understand me because I am so much more intelligent than almost everyone else ever” etc.

While I’ll agree that everyone has something to offer this world, and every person is a child of (enter deity here), worthy of love and respect… I’m convinced that we are having a collective experience that becomes meaningful only when it’s shared among us. What that has to mean then, is that we have to be having the same experiences or no one would be able to exercise their empathy and emotional understanding. In other words, no one could relate to anyone else.

There is a phrase I have heard tossed around called “terminal uniqueness” which refers to people that are in a place where they’d rather literally die than be willing to accept help or guidance. Having once suffered from this condition myself, I can definitively say two things: 1. it is absolutely the most awful feeling when you believe you’re experiencing stuff no one else has ever felt or done –  anywhere you go, anything you do, no one can help you, understand you or even forgive you for your thoughts, feelings, actions. 2. THERE IS A CURE.

Because the illness exists solely in your head, as soon as you are ready to be cured – poof! – you are miraculously able to begin the healing, grow, and most importantly help other people do the same. My experience with overcoming terminal uniqueness is the same as everyone else’s experience. (See what I did there?!) I needed loving guidance toward the new idea that I while I may be very special in my own way like my momma told me I am – I am not, in fact, experiencing my life differently than any human that has ever existed on the planet. I’m not a new breed of human and therefore my limitations are within the realm of human experience. In other words I was basically told, “Sweetie, get over yourself” and then comforted as the shock of realization hit me. They were indeed correct in what only moments ago I had thought obnoxious, presumptuous and downright rude.

The most painful part in this epiphany for me was the torrential rush of hope I felt as this new reality sank in. If I am understandable, if I am one among many, if my thoughts, feelings and actions aren’t despicably inhuman or inexplicably disgusting then some one, somewhere can help me. If I can be helped, then life might not be so isolated and painful. If life isn’t so isolated, so painful – then, just maybe, I can be free. I didn’t dare hope too hard right away. I had had hope before, only to have it be crushed by people in just as much pain and ill circumstance… so I was still afraid that this relief was fleeting. Freedom seems impossible when our captor appears invincible. Realizing that what is holding you back are your old ideas and thoughts (either fed to you or made up by you to survive your environment) and not any outside force, can give you courage to fight for that freedom, for inner peace, for a chance for true happiness.

Since discovering I am just like everyone else, I have found other people walking around with that same horrible mix of grandiosity and utter shame of terminal uniqueness. I’ve seen people die from it. It’s a terrible tragedy to see life end for no other reason than we couldn’t help them see how ordinary their problems are. Sometimes people have had their hope crushed so many times they simply can’t allow themselves any hope at all.

I hope this post encourages you to either ask for help, or offer it, depending where you are on your journey. Here are some of the phrases that helped me to become one among many, though they may seem harsh they were all delivered in pure love:

“Get over yourself sweetie”
“You can’t tell me anything I haven’t heard before, but I encourage you to try.”
“You haven’t done anything we didn’t already do… Twice. While naked.”
“Sorry, you’re just not that special.”
“Of course you punched her/pooped your pants/cried for three days/etc. I would have done the same thing in your shoes.”
“We will love you til you can love yourself. Go ahead and act a fool. We’ll still be here when you wear yourself out.”
“Don’t leave before the miracle happens.”

What they didn’t tell me is that the miracle was me feeling like I belonged somewhere – right here, on Earth, with you. My spot was reserved at birth, and no actions I took or thoughts I had could remove it. The same is true for every single person. Sorry, you’re just not that special…

Be Your Own Best Valentine

Finally, I hauled myself to a yoga class. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away since the class is given at my local gym, and I often feel that the yoga classes at gyms are only about physical fitness – the inner journey is bleached out in order to not offend or repel anyone. Which is fine, since it’s at a place where people aren’t necessarily looking for spiritual enlightenment, just a good workout! The class was a delight, however. A spirit of non-judgement and encouragement to “not look like your neighbor” pervaded.

During that class, I was rooted in my practice and in my body. Because of my concerns for my physical condition, I am careful to only hold poses when I can maintain alignment, and then release out of them when I start to tense or strain. I don’t get to practice asana with a mirror very often, so being able to check myself out was a treat too! I didn’t want to stare but one time, I just did. We were in a warrior variation and, looking to check my knees, hips, and shoulders, I saw the beauty of my body… Not the outside, curvy stuff but the internal workings. My muscles and bones holding me in the posture, my lungs taking in air, all my organs just quietly doing their business – secreting and excreting and filtering and distributing.

I thought “Wow that’s so beautiful!” I thought, “Wow I’m so freaking strong.” I thought “Thank you for this moment.” And then I didn’t need the mirror anymore. Shutting my eyes and following my breath, I cultivated that awe and wonder. After class I shared it with the gals I had taken the class with (including teacher herself, a good friend) and they knew exactly what I meant.

Many of us spend a lot of time wishing things were different with our physical condition, and very little time celebrating all the proper functions. Today is Valentine’s Day, and often the focus is on candies and hearts and flowers, high expectations and romantic pressures abound. I suggest a moment – maybe before you really get out there and start throwing cards at people – to send a little mental Valentine to your body’s functions that you ignore all other times, since they work so well and are so humble they never even draw your attention to the fact that they are, you know… keeping you alive.

Regardless of your shape (which typically you have some control over), your body is beautiful. It’s a vessel for your soul, your essence. It’s an intricate machine that totes your consciousness. Even if you’re not a fan of your size, or your poor eyesight, or your IBS, or your aching feet… it’s all a part of you and it helps to shape your reality. Even if it frequently disappoints you, until science can manage otherwise your body is the only one you’re going to have. Even if you feel betrayed by it, like I sometimes do (like we all sometimes do!), it is still the only thing keeping you rooted in this world. So give it some props today. Stop wishing it was some other, better body.

If we want to get even more advanced, let’s take a day to listen to it, to give it what it wants instead of wrestling it to the ground and making it our bitch all the time. Let’s let it be the boss for once. Who knows what could happen? If you try this and it works (or doesn’t), please let me know. I’d love to hear how you cultivated your practice of listening to your body, and what you discovered in that process.

True love encourages growth

True love encourages growth


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