Take Only What You Need But No Matter What Keep Going

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Dear ~K,

It has been quite a year! Too many days stuck inside and a life without our normal everyday movements. So much hatred and sadness, so many people hurting, struggling and suffering. It is a lot to take in everyday, often with no escape, and no place to go, like so many of us stuck at home with everyday pressures feeling more like a pressure cooker. On top of all the crazy outside I am dealing with a marriage that is failing, my world feels extremely small, smothering and so overwhelming and vast with loneliness all at the same time.

If I could summarize my days for the vast majority of the past year has felt stuck on repeat.  Things go smoothly for a while then they explode in front of me, like bombs going off in every direction and no place to run or hide.  My husband and I argue all the time, in front of our kids, which I hate but even if I try to hide or end the argument he persists and it escalates until one of us leaves the house or finally just stops answering.  The depth of the cracks in our marriage are deep, I am not sure they can be mended and I don’t believe my husband has the maturity, emotional or other wise, to make counseling work.  I also know I have work of my own to do to be more caring and show empathy and understanding. 

Although, it may appear this summary of the state of our relationship is cold or unfeeling it is not.  There is no need to say more here about that topic. I will have to make decisions in the new year that may be difficult but also owe it to myself, my husband and my kids to work on myself and my sobriety before I go making huge changes that have consequences on others I care about deeply. 

Looking back on 2020 the “major” events that happened, many have to do with my boys and the outside world. To start, I am proud of my kids they have done a very good job, during this pandemic, trying to manage their studies, grades and sports all while being quite isolated from their friends and normal life. I had an awesome review at work and proud of my accomplishments, I also applied for a new role which I will be in throws of interviewing for as we return in the new year. My younger son made a great lacrosse team and my older son was on fire for basketball over the summer and made his high school freshmen team as well.  My dad made it through two surgeries and is healthy! My father-in-law also made it through a minor surgery and still doing well in light of the onset of some memory issues.  Both my children got awesome grades even during a pandemic. I feel fortunate that our boys could go back to school with masks and have some normal days and be around other kids and learn in a classroom setting. My husband has been interviewing and will hopefully find a job in 2021.

I feel disproportionately lucky about the state we live in and the fact our boat club stayed open this summer.  We have been lucky in the sense that we are not locked down like others are but at the same time it is scary as you watch the numbers rise and the people around really not caring about others when they refuse to wear a mask.  My family and I were so lucky that we could go out on the boat, be on the lake and away from it all for hours. It was a wonderful escape for the kids and our family. Although not free of the fighting still a good escape for all of us from the boredom of the everyday of COVID life.

As I think back on 2020, I have learned many lessons, a few I would like to share include 1) I have matured a great deal over the past two years alone and I am proud of myself. I react differently in so many situations, I have the clarity to not tell myself stories, I am not drunk or hungover all the time and I don’t wake up not know what the hell I might have said or done the night before 3) I have grown in my sobriety, realizing that my journey may not always be a straight line and when my sobriety was meant to stick and I was ready for it to stick it would and has 4) I know everything is not my fault and recognize I need therapy and that I has many things I need to work through to support my personal and emotional growth, not to mention my sobriety 5) I am leaving space and time to let my emotions and understanding of situations unfold, not running from one fire to the next, that usually set myself to divert from the real things I need to sit with and give time to 6) I don’t need to be codependent and others can figure it out for themselves (this one is a work in progress) 7) Other peoples’ reactions and choices really don’t have much to do with me and I can just them go 8) I am a strong woman who is smart and learning more about myself everyday 9) Being sober is not just a label for me it is the pursuit of my best life 10) It is real life to feel all your feelings and have real authentic relationships 11) Sometimes things fall apart so you can rise again from the rubble even stronger. 

To move forward we often have to move through the unknown or dark places.  I feel like I have discovered quite a few things about myself this year and I know there is much I want to leave behind.  Though somehow I struggle to put my thoughts together in a cohesive manner about what to leave behind in 2020.  Not because I don’t have baggage or instances that I want to leave there – maybe I just have too much that I don’t want to take forward and that is the scarier part of what to leave behind, without leaving everything.  I am going to take a crack at the major things I can think I want to leave here in this year and not take with me in 2021 or any year moving forward for that matter.

I will leave my guilt and shame over things I did or did not do while drinking over the years.  I also want to leave my anger and resentments towards those people who have made choices to harm or send ill will toward my family.  I want to move through co-dependency and leave my resentments behind against my husband. No longer will I give so much weight to what others think.  Leaving all self-doubt and guilt behind about taking time to sit with myself and discover more about myself in order to grow. I am leaving the need to disappear for the benefit of others and giving others so much power over me and my life.

There are things I also need to start doing in 2021 like looking at my own shit, getting help from a therapist to understand why I am the way I am and why I choose to drink so much.  I want to explore more about myself, learn how to write, do more outside, not be held down by others and to know how and what to fight for in order to be the best me.  I need to start recognize when I am behaving badly, even when it is for a good purpose or point and change my behavior. I need to believe more in myself and find my strength without making others feel stupid. I need to reach out and put myself out there to make friends and more connections regardless of what I believe others think.  I will stop being everyone’s keeper and start encouraging and empowering my family to do things for themselves so I don’t get resentful.

Minutes, hours, days, months and years continue to click by we can make use of them, embrace them as they come or sit on the sideline and curse them out but they will keep coming – the choose is mine what I do with my time, my days, and my life.  Starting today I choose me and all the mess, brilliance and wonder that comes with my life.  I get to take back the wheel, steer my direction but still let things unfold before me. My wish for myself and my life as I move into 2021 is to love myself more, be true to myself and be open to path that begins to show itself in this new year.

I love you and always will. You are not a lost soul, you are bright burning star that brings light to many.  Keep searching for your spark, it belongs to you and you alone!

Love you always and forever,

~K from the Hill Country 

You were dying and I still could not get over myself

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As your were fighting for your life I was drinking mine away.  I am still ashamed I did not see you enough or visit you more. I left you alone when I should have been there the most.  You were the person I could have told, should have told about my struggles but the timing was not right.  How selfish would it have been to sit and talk about myself and my problems when you were fighting for your life?  You were the person who would not judge, you would have told no one.  You would have reached out and supported me, this I know as a fact.  I was in a selfish place, embarrassed of what I was doing to myself and my family, drinking and smoking while you were going through chemo, surgeries, and radiation, fighting everyday to stay, stay with us, with your family. 

My guilt and shame overwhelms me even to this day.  I need to put this out into the world to free you and free me.  Addiction makes us so selfish, afraid and ashamed.  We can’t see or feel past our own guilt and greedy desire for the next drink.  We are so numb there is no room for other feelings and compassion for others.  

You were dying, fighting and pushing forward regardless of how awful you felt, while I could not handle the reality of losing you. You were the true friend, who told others the truth about themselves, who was supportive no matter what, who did not judge others, that person who helped everyone.  You knew the value of service to others, you were also flitting from thing to thing to help others, serve the community.  

You were strong when I was not, I watched from the sideline never really telling you how much you meant to me, never having the space or guts to have an honest conversation about how much I hated what was happening to you. Why you? Never going too far into conversations that would be honest and painful because I was not able to.

I showered you with flowers, surprise visits that were of course planned around my drinking for that day.  I visited you in the hospital and watched your kids for you, brought food and fruit baskets.  I did nice things but never got too deep or sat with you for too long as I was too immature for what was happening. Too selfish and worried about myself and my needs about losing you, my dear friend. 

The day we had the conversation, where you told me how angry and sad you were that your boys would grow up without a mother, I finally stopped being a coward for just a tiny moment of time, holding your hand, listening and crying with you as I knew how very much your boys meant to you and how different their life would be without you. No applause please, that this was me actually was making progress, I went home that night and drank a bottle or more of wine, pushing every feeling I had so far down it would never see the light of day again.

I am not a total monster, I did think often about why you? Why did God want you but I already knew the answer.  You were angel here on earth for so many, and your husband needed to rise up and bring up your boys.  But it still did not make sense and it was so damn hard.  So I drank, I drank more, I withdrew from friends, my family and sometimes life in general.  Never able to just sit with these very difficult feelings, drowning them was so much easier.

The confusion and sadness of your loss also stirred questions about my own mortality. My place and space on this earth. I began to think I needed to do better, I still think that and try to do better but it is hard as I am not you. You had a drive, a mission of sorts to be better and do more, trying to make my tiny impression, trying to wear your huge shoes and fill in the void your imprint had made. I know that your drive in life was somewhat fueled by the distance and loss of your father due to drinking. Yet another reason I know I could have told you what I was going through and that I had a drinking problem. You would have understood and been supportive because that is what you did always.  But at the same time, I did not want to tell you , thinking you would be mad or it would bring up feelings for you about your Dad.  Honestly, there is always an excuse, I was full of them.  The fact of the matter is I should have told you, even in your own despair you would have prayed for me and you would have known the deep value of our friendship. 

Read the above paragraph again, it is not about her, my dying friend, it is about me.  My drinking made everything about me, always. I am not sure I can ever forgive myself for the lack of depth and emotional maturity as my friend was dying.  What I can do is take what I have learned from her about her strength, honesty, and belief in others and God to help me be and do better.  Whether you believe in God or angels, is not relevant here. What is real are the traits and love that others show us while they are here, and how we carry that with us always and how those actions and love shows up in so many wonderful small ways if we accept them.  All you have to do is watch for the signs and receive them as they come. Take those small moments, signs and reflect, remember and just feel however you feel.  Don’t shy away, don’t disappear behind a drink, just let those feelings in and teach us how to grow.

I lost my friend and it still hurts, even now after all the years gone by. So many things I should have said and done differently, but I need to realize I did not have emotional maturity back then to be fully present for her.  I am learning to open up more to close friends, just a few, maybe not about my drinking but about how I feel and what hurts me deeply in life these days.  I am recognizing and learning to be more present for my children as well, which I am proud of and I know she would be too.

If I leave you with anything from this post it is that life is short, we make mistakes and drinking keeps us stuck.  Don’t be stuck, push through, be uncomfortable and say the things that make your squirm, you may never know how much those words mean to someone else and how it can break down barriers for both of you.  

As for our drinking, be vulnerable – say something, tell someone so they realize what is really going on below the surface, don’t wait – just do it.  Once you say it out loud, you can breathe again. Then you give the power of the drink less space and you can open space to be there for someone else who may really need you to be present and do nothing but be a good friend and listener. You can make the space to sit with feelings versus drinking at them, this I promise you.

~K from the Hill Country 

One thing won’t fix it all

We are always looking for the quick fix, the instant gratification, but we know it really does n’t really exist.  Most things, almost everything takes work, most of the time hard work.  Fixing things is not always easy and can be messy, frustrating and challenging.  If you are like me you avoid those things by looking for the quick fix or just sweeping it under the rug.  I am speaking to emotional things here not the overflowing toilet or the broken toy for my son.  The stuff we try to fix about ourselves or within ourselves. 

For me that is drinking, to start anyway.  I kept telling myself if I fix that everything, else will fix it’s self.  Really? How could I be so naive to believe that if I stopped drinking my marriage would magically get better or my relationship with my children would just instantly be perfect like Leave it to Beaver?

The things I drank over were vast, motherhood, relationships, shame, inability to be perfect, worrying about how other people would treat me or my family, sports, childhood disagreements for my kids, the list goes on and on. But these things to drink at and my feelings were so much deeper I just never took the time to look at them, I would just observe them and then drink them away.  Well, at these that is what I thought. These feelings and worries never went away in fact they began to amplify, and over time become overwhelming to the point I would have so much anxiety It was hard to breathe and I shifted to a shell of myself and a dark place that just kept getting smaller and smaller with what felt like no escape. 

I never really realized that I was drinking to avoid, numb or just live in denial about how things were transpiring in my life and how things were becoming messier and messier due to my drinking and checking out.  I did not really fix things.  I denied they existed, got defensive about them and when asked or confronted I would fly into a rage. I often cried in secret when it all became too much and about what a failure and fuck up I was as a professional, wife, mother and friend. I would drive home from work in the dark and scream at the top of my lungs because I had no outlet accept to drink. Those primal screams were terrifying, crazy and I seriously believed I was starting to loose my mind.  My reality was slipping away and I knew the curtain was coming down on my reality, soon I would truly be found out or I was going to go some place very dark that I was not sure I would be able to come back from.  

When I finally realized that drinking too much was going ruin me and that I was using drinking as way to not really address anything I was terrified of. By that time it was getting out of control and manifesting in very bad ways. Resentment, shame, anger, fear, and failure, worry and most important I think a lack of love or caring about myself or some of those close to me.  The resentment and shame made me more anger, which in turn meant many outbursts, lashing out, blaming others, being mean and hateful. 

My ability to love my boys and husband was getting further and further away from me and I was both terrified and ambivalent at the same time.  Who had I become or should I say who have I always been, this scared little girl who hid from everyone and everything, never letting anyone in so they could not hurt me.  There were moments in time I would have been happy to walk away, free myself from all of their shit and lack of respect for me.  But there was the other side that I knew if I turned my back, I would lose myself forever and devastate the people I loved.  

I stopped drinking twice now for good stretches of time, not years but 3 and 4 months chunks of time and many things changed for the better but new things emerged or became more clear which also terrified me.  

In these periods of time, I became more engaged with my boys and talked with them vs. yelling at them and being impatient.  I could rationalize with them and discuss things to work through them versus huge blowouts and long stretches of hatred and shame.  I would listen to them, most importantly vs. talking at them.  I spent more time with them and was more available. 

Those were the good things.  The other things that emerged were how much I was resentful of my husband and how much I very much hated the way he talked to me and treated me at times.  The verbal noise and disrespect was blurred and far away when I was drinking or caused reactions that were not healthy but when I was not drinking I was able to see things clearly and my responses were not combative or childish.  They were mature, thoughtful and came from a place of clarity and strength.  I would shut down arguments and call him out when he was creating stories or future tripping where before I would spiraled with him and been overly anxious and always worried about why people did not like me, why I was the problem, why I was weak etc.

When I stopped drinking I would be able to shut down unproductive conversations.  I would simply walk away after it had started calling out the fact my husband was telling himself stories or calling him out on his behavior, including a rationale explanation for why it was not right and I wouldn’t stand for it anymore.

I started questioning what I was doing with my life.  What I really wanted to do, who I wanted to be with and how or if I should make different decisions for the future.  I was starting to dive into how I go to this place, how I was not the mother or in the relationship I wanted to be.  You see it all stems back to the things we don’t want to fix or take the time to learn how to fix.  We just look for the quick fix which in my case became drinking. When I was younger I would just pick up and move so I did not have deal with the mess I made in my currently world. I would run away from everything and everyone.  I would blame everyone else and never examine myself.  In all honesty, I did not even know how to look at myself or my behaviors or that learning to love yourself was a thing.  I was what everyone else wanted me to be.  I would move, I would switch jobs, friend groups, anything I could to escape myself but you know the old saying “no matter where you go, there your are looking back at yourself in the mirror.”

I would try to change myself, want I liked, who I liked so that I could move forward.  Never stopping to do the work to fix what was really going within me.  I kept jumping into new relationships and looking for those relationships to take everything away, the fantasy of finding “the one”.  

I would go back to drinking during these two stretches only to realize very quickly things would go right back to the same place, no progress to the me I wanted to become. I would go right back to isolation, just not engaging, checking out completely.  Disappearing quite honestly. And that shook me to my core!

Now that I have sober AGAIN for a good stretch of time, I am trying to do the right work with the right tools.  Even if it leads to hard discussions, choices I am facing them.  I will not rush, or move fast but make very solid and investigated decisions.  I will take the time and re-engage, work my way back to who I want to become and how I want relationships to be, healthy, mature, nurturing, loving and open/honest. 

There are no quick fixes, there are no magic spells, there is only the work that makes us stronger, smarter and more alive.  I am in this for long haul and time is important but this is not a race and I am not looking for instant gratification.  Only love and admiration.