Friday, August 27, 2010

Partner Wanted

Today is "move" day, meaning the rental truck will arrive at 4:00.  Things are more or less ready for loading, but I'll be leaving shortly to head over to the Hell Hole to take care of other stuff.  

I woke up this morning to a phone conversation Roi was having a few feet away.  He was making lunch plans with a friend. 

Lunch plans. LUNCH plans. A get together to leisurely chat with a friend. 

On move day. 

What am I missing? Am I wrong to think that this is kind of inappropriate? Am I wrong to expect that partners share the burdens equally?

His reasoning for such things run along the lines of, "well I have to eat anyway", "I haven't hung out with this guy for a while", and "I've helped a lot and I'm paying for a lot". 

So let me just take a moment and thank Roi for all that he's done so far. Let me let it be known that I acknowledge all that he has done and that I am indeed grateful. It's taken me a few days to figure out what is bothering me about the "non-helpy" parts.

It's that he's still acting like all of this is a favor. He doesn't see that, but I do -- to which he would respond that I was only seeing the negative, which is partly true because I'm DEPRESSED. He sees that he's doing "a lot" like making me smoothies in the morning (which he makes anyway, so it's not like this is an extra in his life), and he cleaned out an office space to be converted to a bedroom, and he's carried a few things, and he's driven the van over a couple of times for loading. That he cleaned the extra bathroom for his use so that Lexi and I could have the big bathroom to ourselves. 

These are all nice and helpful things, and I'm not ungrateful for them, but if I bring up that it doesn't feel like he's really helping, he brings up those things as proof that he is. 

And I'm depressed, and still sick, and definitely exhausted, and I'm probably PMSing too. So it's hard for me to sort this out. 

But these things don't feel right to me. 

  • Last weekend he went to an NA camping event.  Not because he's in danger of using (at least not that he's expressed) but because his friend needed him. His friend who ended up being high when he went to pick him up and Roi ended up coming home early because it was raining and left his friend there. The one who needed him so badly that he couldn't help me for two days -- one for packing, one for driving to and from.
  • A few days ago while I was at the Hell Hole by myself, sick and moving heavy things around, he called to give me a "pep" talk. "Just power through it. I've just come back from the gym, going to the farm stand to pick up some fruit, and now I'm going to take a nap because I'm tired."
  • Yesterday he went to the beach to swim. His hip is bad and swimming helps it. But this is also the same beach frequented by college students and I've been right there to see him staring so long and hard that he's not even aware I've just said something to him. He tells me I'm exaggerating and I need to get over my resentment about his frequent trips to this beach because he's not going to stop. Swimming is important to the health of his hip. Never mind that 80% of the time he goes there he doesn't actually swim. Or that there are pools he could go to that would take far less time.
There are more examples, but I don't need to beat this horse to death and I've got to wrap this up and get back to work. All I know is that this doesn't feel like two partners sharing a burden. This feels like me carrying the brunt of the hardest parts, him taking care of himself, and with what time and energy he's got left he'll do me some favors that render any resentments or complaints I have as silly, overblown, and selfish.

So last night when I went upstairs to have a good cry, he just didn't understand why.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

She's Gonna Blow!

There are so many complicated things going on that I have neither time nor energy to explain, but the anxiety is rising to dangerous levels. 

Today when I was cleaning the basement of the 'Ole Hell Hole (this is what the house I'm moving out of shall be forever referred to as from now on) I started to weep. I hated that house, and cleaning it out is only a reminder of how I lived in it for far too long. Every swish of the mop a reminder of how I got depressed there, how Kyd really lost his shit there, how Lexi got anxious there because I was a moping shadow moving around taking care of what I could, which was not enough.

How the landlord mistreated me but I couldn't see it because every core person in my life was mistreating me. How I learned of Roi's addictions one by one in my time there. How everything that happened was another crushing blow pummeling me further and further into depression. How there was no single room in that house to retreat to for silence and relaxation because the walls were paper thin. How the walk-in basement always smelled musty no matter what I cleaned it with and it permeated the rest of the house. How everything was always just shy of non-functional. How things got broken in one of many of Kyd's drunken tirades. 

How I came to hate the neighbors for just being there and witness to Kyd's antics. I was embarrassed and ashamed all the time. 

How much I paid to live there leaving me nothing left to pay off my student debt. How the space was just so uninspiring. How Kyd moved from room to room claiming an empty space as his own so he could trash it to the point he felt he needed to "switch rooms".  

How my lawn-mower broke last year so I couldn't mow the lawn and had to pay someone to do it with money I didn't have, and not often enough. 

How my new space with Roi has so much potential for beauty and I love that, but can't see how I'm going to live with him long-term and not wanting to invest blood and tears and sweat into something that I just can't conceive as permanent.

How the mustiness in the basement was probably a sign of mold and that would explain why we got so many chest colds and sinus infections while we were there.

How that Hell Hole is so much a reflection of my state of mind, and my state of mind was reflected in that Hell Hole. 

Not a Drop to Spare

I am exhausted beyond belief, and yet have 2-3 more days of work to complete this move. I've no idea from where I'm going to summon the energy for it.

I am way too tired to write the post I want to write. So for now, just send me a little energy if you've got a drop to spare.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Ball of Mess

Since I wrote last much has happened.  Let me see...

A few days into packing and freaking and packing, we had a major storm which caused some flash-flooding. Got some water in the basement and garage where most of the boxes to pack were being stored. FUN. 

Kyd came home to pack up his stuff and promptly came down with a nasty cold. Still playing the you-don't-want-me-but-I'm-entitled game he acted as though asking me to go get him some medicine was going to result in a smack-down but then two days later was a total schmuck about helping with anything that wasn't his. "Maybe if I still lived here...", he shot.  

Makes my head hurt. 

But on that first night he was sick, he slept on the couch and watched kids' movies. I lay there in my bed listening to the upbeat musical score and silently wept. My heart was aching to go back, to just rewind time so I could have my sweet Kyd back. The one who chased butterflies, who looked after his little sister, who made us laugh, and who was so so so so sweet you just wanted to put him on a pink cloud wrapped in bubble wrap so nothing could ever ever hurt him.

Only there's no bubble wrap in the world that can protect someone from themselves. He's crashing, and fast. I heard through the grapevine that he's been calling around looking for E in its purest and most powerful form (I'm not "savvy" enough to remember the name), and he forgot his court appearance on Friday and instead was heading to a party in New York. He didn't "remember" until he was halfway to New York. In other words, he didn't remember until his lawyer called. 

And I...I am alternately terrified of what's next, worried sick about him, but terribly angry too. His recent attitude gets right under my skin in less than 5 seconds. He calls only when he wants/needs something, acts put out when anyone else wants/needs anything in return, is playing the trod-upon victim whose mother "doesn't want him" and who's backed into a corner without options because life has been so cruel. He's doing next to nothing to improve his situation or relationships, unable to own his own stuff, and instead is focusing all of his energy on finding the next Rave, his latest kick.

When I talk to him it is hard to feel sympathy. It is nigh impossible to detach. And it only makes me more frantic because I know that attitude. It is the attitude of an acting addict. 

It is crazy, nonsensical, and unreachable. 

I'm trying in the best feeble way I know how to detach from all of this with love, but no matter what I do or say in regards to Kyd it never feels right. If I get angry I feel awful that I'm not more understanding. If I'm more understanding I feel awful that it goes unnoticed, changes nothing, and is met with attitude and then I just feel walked-on and weak.

How do you do this? HOW? How do you watch your beloved child, your only son, methodically destroy their lives while nothing you do or say saves them? HOW do you sort the difference between enabling and supporting? How do you not get angry at the awful ugly selfishness? 

This is killing me. This is killing him. This disease is killing us both.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back in a Few

I'll be back in a day or so.  Just been packing, freaking out (I mean SERIOUSLY freaking out) about this move, and then got knocked flat with a killer sinus infection.

FYI, the neti pot is the secret enemy of sinus infections.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Boxes and the Buzz in My Head

As I pack the boxes, seal them with tape, and write their contents on the outside with a large black marker, there is a constant buzz in my head. 

I mostly try to ignore it. I know what it is. 

It's all the worries I've got up there, buzzing around like an angry wasp infestation. 

The many worries about Kyd. 

The worries about all the things I've let go for too long. Lack of resources is enough to bring most people to their knees, but add to that crises and the truth is I should've toppled long ago. 

And then there are the worries about my next move. I'm backed into a corner now and the only sane thing to do is to move in with Roi, but I can't say that I like this option. There are a lot of what ifs involved, and a whole lot of history to back it up. 

Roi is delighted at the prospect. I am less so. He see's a bright future. I see the past. He is optimistic that THIS is the change that will change "us". I already see the signs that not one thing is different enough to rest my hat upon. He's envisioning our future. I'm envisioning an opportunity to get on my feet enough to...escape. And I'm not even sure anymore that I can get better. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Give Me Strength

Universe, please give me the strength to do the next right thing. 

Please give me the strength to call my landlord tomorrow and tell her that I've no choice at this point but to move out. 

I can't sleep here, and because I can't sleep I can't work, and because I can't work I'm not getting paid, and well, you know where that leaves me. 

Please give me the strength to bear her angry words and accusations. You know how she is. 

Please give me the strength to deal with the unholy mess my son created in the basement and garage. 

Please give me the strength to actually get all this done in the little time I'll be given to do it. 

But seriously, most of all, just give me the damned strength I need to talk to that toxic woman because the most saintly landlord would have a hard time with me waiting 'til this late to inform them that my miracle didn't come.

So just that one thing tomorrow. Please.

Inevitable Horrors

I was working at my computer when Kyd walked in the door.  We had spoken earlier on the phone because he needed money, but he didn't tell me he was going to stop by.  

"You scared me!" I said. 


I got my wallet, pulled out a twenty and handed it to him. 

Is this enabling?  He has to eat. 

"Do I have any clean laundry here?", he asked.  

I went and got him a small pile of clean clothes that he had not yet taken with him.  He chose one t-shirt out of the pile and left the rest.  

"Is that all you need?", I asked. 

"Yeah, I just need a different shirt.  This one's too tight.", and he grabbed the front of his t-shirt to illustrate.

We walked back to the kitchen and toward the door.  Things were awkward.  I could tell he was feeling unwelcome at the same time he was feeling entitled -- neither was true.  Both are common errors in the thinking of addicts, or those who are mentally ill. Despite my years of experience, I still cannot find magic words that will correct this thinking, flip it on it's head.  

"Have you talked to your Dad?", I asked...tentatively.  Kyd's father recently had a minor heart attack.  He's 41. 

"No, but I need to talk to probation."  


"I'm thinking about going up to work for Dad."  

Oh god, oh god, please no.  

"I'm not sure that's a good idea", I said. 

Kyd got angry. His flat affect immediately switched to agitation.  His voice rose and the cursing started.  I tried to calmly reason with him, remind him of all that had gone wrong the last time he went to stay with his father.  He shot the reason down with a string of circumstantial excuses that wouldn't be a problem this time. 

I took him outside. Lexi was home and I didn't want to expose her to anymore of Kyd's anger, and I didn't want her to start butting in -- it would only cause a more rapid escalation.  

Divert. Protect. Diffuse. Intervene. 

Nothing I said helped. He walked away loudly proclaiming, "I try to do the ONE thing I can! I have NO other options! I'm trying and do I get any support from you?! NO!!"  

The urge to yell back was strong. The urge to point out all I had done, the money I had just given him, the place to sleep two days ago when he had nowhere else to go...

I stood on the porch and watched him go, again. 

Inevitable horrors.  If he goes to live with his father, each of them a ticking time-bomb.  

I didn't sleep until 4:00 a.m.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I don't sleep much these days.  Did I mention that?  

I had finally fallen into a fitful sleep close to dawn when my body felt a noise, a slight vibration in the house like when our front door slams. A jolt of adrenaline and I'm awake in the dark, heart knocking in my chest and that familiar vice-grip clamped all the way down on my stomach.  

I lay there, every cell awake and rigid and waiting for another clue. Had I dreamed it? Were there footsteps? Is it Kyd come home to throw a drunken temper tantrum because his life isn't what he planned and it must somehow be my fault? Or some new threat? A stranger?

It was Lexi getting up to use the bathroom.  

She went back to her room, but I still needed to check.  

Turn the lights on one by one, check each room, check the lock, peek out into the driveway, the front yard, and listen. 

Finally I was satisfied enough that my rational mind could get in a word edgewise and tell me to go back to bed. It was nothing. It was Lexi. Even though it felt like the front door, it couldn't have been.

Then it dawned on me. THIS is why when my anxiety or depression is peaking I sleep on the couch. I had been beating myself over the head for this while simultaneously coming up with good reason to do so -- I fell asleep while reading or it was too hot in my room. Secretly I thought I was just being a bit of a depressed bum who couldn't get up off the couch and sleep in her bed like a normal person.

But as I stood there in the living room listening I realized that this room was the best vantage point for maximum awareness of what was going on in my house. From the living room I can hear the front door and the side door, I can hear what's going on downstairs, and down the hall. I can see the road, the side drive, and the back driveway and yard. And suddenly I was outside myself, seeing myself standing there in the dark and how I resembled an animal who's just heard a twig snap, or caught the slightest hint of scent and freezes -- listening, watching, sniffing the air.

Night is when the trauma had always come to my house.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Ever since my Dooce binge the day before yesterday, I can't shake some feeling in the pit of my stomach that I think is (gasp) jealousy.

At first blush, who wouldn't be jealous?  She's semi-famous!  And she has Chuck.

But I'm not prone to coveting after other people's lives.  No really.  Don't ask me why not, I SHOULD be considering the mess mine is in, but I just don't.

Not my city-dwelling artist friends.  Sure, the thought crossed my mind, "that would be a cool life", but it was pushed out by the realization that I would HATE living in the city and hanging out with artistes. I don't like noise and I'm kind of allergic to pretentiousness.

Not the hippies who hang out in the local cafes sporting dreadlocks and patchwork clothing.  They seem carefree enough and I admire their mobile communities, their ideals, and their commitment.  But no, I like to comb my hair and have no interest in raising hula-hooping to a fine art.

Not the cookie-cutter upper middle-class families who surround me on every side. They've got SUVs and pure-bred large dogs and housecleaners and memberships to the gym. Their kids all have braces when they need them, tutors when they need them, after school sports and fridges full of Whole Foods.  They have r o u t i n e.  What I feel for their lives is not jealousy because just the IDEA of living like that makes me break out in a cold sweat and instinctively reach for the nearest vessel I can hurl into in case the room doesn't stop swimming.  But the wish for wanting, that makes me ache.  A deep, deep ache that if only the Universe had used the same cookie-cutter to create me, my kids would be much better off right now.

Not the super-wealthy.  I've seen their eyes, and that's no place I want to go.

But Dooce?  She's living my dream. To be quirky and creative and just a little fucked up enough to need meds, but still get the house, the dogs, the adoring soul-mate, the beautiful kids, a close-knit family, all topped off with the opportunity to create on a daily basis.  That's like, my utopia.

Yes, I know what you're going to say. "I'm sure things aren't perfect over there," and I KNOW that.  I'm not imagining she's got a perfect life, just the kind I want.

Except Utah. She can have Utah.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More Props to Roi

Together Lexi, Roi and I have managed to clean out all the cupboards in the kitchen, find all my scattered tools, fill up at least three bags of stuff to go to the Goodwill, threw out three more bags of stuff, cut down an errant tree and right now Roi is out in the yard wrestling with the bushes.  

Two days in a row he's done exactly what he said he was going to do, and mostly he's being really nice about it. He's just finished repairing a hole in the wall that Kyd made during one of his crazy-drunk episodes.  

He's not being perfect.  I can see the judgy look in his eyes as he assesses the task he's about to tackle because the universal personal defect of addicts is lighting on any hint of personal defect in others so they can have a moment of relief from their own self-hatred.  

Sound familiar?

Here's the Part Where I Fell on the Floor

October 8, 2008. 


That date is branded onto the inside of my skull.  Sometimes it glows red and keeps me up at night.  

It's not the memory of the two traumas that came at me, one from the left, and one from the right in a 1-2 punch to the temples.  They were pretty awful.  The call in the middle of the night, the rush to the hospital, the needing my partner more than I had ever needed anyone only to discover a heinous betrayal wrapped up in a package of lies and topped with a one-big-mind-fuck bow.  

Imagine...never mind, I can't even think of an analogy that comes close.  

But it's not the memories, it's what came after that haunts me.  

My mind packed it's bags in the middle of the night and left me.  No "Dear Jane" letter to be found in the morning -- just an empty closet, a couple of wire hangers, and one lonely cobweb with a rather menacing spider lying in wait.  

I spent the next two weeks in the same spot, wearing the same clothes, and having the same recurring urge to break a window and chew the glass.  That part's not a metaphor, except I think I did actually manage to change my clothes two or three time -- painfully, and I did move a few times to take care of things that were urgent.  Then my hair started falling out in great big tufts. Maybe it was pissed at me for not brushing it, or maybe like my mind it just decided that my skull was uninhabitable.  I just don't know why it thought the floor was better. 

If I had experienced any emotion at all, I would have been terrified for my life.  And I probably wouldn't have been too pleased with the prospect of being bald.    

I should tell you, I didn't chew on any glass, but I did rub half of my left eyebrow clean off.  It took me a year to stop that habit.  

It was Lexi that saved my life then.  She has no idea that she did, but the one pesky neuron I had left firing had one message, "you can't leave her".  

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Just for Today

Fine idea that "Just for Today".  But what happens when you want to punch today in the face?

Just wondering.

Personal Defect #1

I come from a family of hoarders, though it didn't set in with my parents until we finally bought our own house when I was 17.  After that, it took several years for them to fill up almost every room, the attic, and the extra attic with boxes of stuff.  My grandmother, bless her heart, lives in a small little house and while she keeps it clean, she hoards.

It's not as bad as, you know, that show, but it's bad enough.

In October 2008 I had a nervous breakdown (more on that later) and since then I've been in a limbo that would probably be diagnosed as depression if I would only get myself to pick up the phone and make an appointment to see somebody.

Since that time, little by little, stuff has been taking over my house.

Today I let Roi come over and help me start the process of hurling stuff out.  And it's hard.  It's hard to let him in on this process.  Because the universal personal defect of codependents is that they like everyone else to be wrong so they can get some relief from their own self-hatred.

But even if I wasn't codependent and he wasn't an addict who I can't trust, it would still be hard because I'm embarrassed that I let depression take me this far down.

Meet Roi

So, first of all I spent the better part of an hour catching up on Dooce this morning.  I probably could've spent my time better by chewing on some glass.  At least then I could've multi-tasked and gotten the dishes done too.  Chewing glass is a hands free, eyes free activity.  

If you don't know Dooce, first of all you've been living under a rock for the last several years.  Here's the short version.  She starts blogging way back when blogging was new, gets fired from her job, drinks a lot, finds and marries her soul-mate, has a kid, checks into the psych ward with a nasty bout of post-partum, tells the world about every detail, and ascends like a skyrocket into the heavens of professional blogging fame.  Published book, photo shoots, major sponsor deals etc etc.  

Now Dooce and her little family have moved into a giant, gorgeous house, all funded by writing about her crazy life.  And it's not that I'm not jealous about that.  I am.  It's that shit went all kinds of wrong in her life, but everything that DID go wrong was just a test leading her to all kinds of awesomeness.  


I had a nervous breakdown too.  I just ended up in the poor house with everyone around me angry and disappointed in me.  As my sister would say, "fuck that noise".  

But where was I?  

Oh yes.  Meet Roi.  

Last night I broke down in tears in front of Roi, my partner.  And he was all, "I had no idea things were this bad!", and I was all, "then you must be blind".  So this morning he called me all cheery-cheeked and full of plans about how he is going to be the best boyfriend EVER starting RIGHT NOW.  

Props to him for trying so hard.  Just too bad that he doesn't remember how he said this last year.  And six months before that, and six months before that.

And if that seems bitchy and pessimistic, then you haven't tried loving an addict before.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Where I Am

Personal history is both brief and infinite.  Each moment a butterfly effect.

Today I am in Program recovery though I don't go to enough meetings, nor consistently enough.  Somewhere along the path of trauma, desperation for hope gave way to a folded-in numbness.  To get oneself to a meeting does seem to require a felt sense of need.  That will to survive that kicks in whereby we drag ourselves across the desert with parched lips to find that drink of cool water instead of just laying down to wait for death.  

I am in the latter category.  Mind paralysis.  Limbo.  Waiting for death but perhaps secretly somewhere deep and buried within, the wish for water to come to me.  I have dragged myself across that desert one too many times only to find there was no water.  

Spending years trying to save a child, the extended torture of watching their self-destruction and feeling powerless to stop it, it leaves a primal tear in the will to live.  Nearly the whole woman is designed and wired to carry out the care of her off-spring and in failing to do successfully, what is there left?  

That concept may rankle some women (maybe men too, who knows).  We are, after all, an evolved species aren't we?  With as much desire for independence and purpose and personal creation as to make babies?  Don't women who choose to not have children find fulfillment?  I don't know that I want to wrestle with the argument of life's purpose.  What I know and believe is that what we are biologically wired for is inherent with tension in opposition to personal happiness. In other words, our happiness is often in opposition to the function of the species. We start out life being driven by our primal needs -- needs that are not meant to ultimately serve the individual, but rather the survival of the species.  We continue to be driven by them into adolescence and adulthood, largely at an unconscious level.  

Eventually, for some, not being satisfied with the results, if we're lucky we find ways to transcend the wiring.  

Sorry for the clumsy lesson in anthropology/biology.  Where was I? 

Oh yes, lying in the desert somewhere.

I don't think I'm literally waiting to die, that's just a metaphor.  But in some ways that's also the truth.  I've been helpless to reverse my automatic response to trauma after trauma, which is a gradual shutting down and shutting out.  The allowance of thought, any thought, can too easily lead to anxious thoughts.  

It's not that there isn't plenty of life out there beyond these dunes.  And since this is a metaphor and not real life, I do actually do some stuff.  I'm writing this blog, I take photographs, on a good day I might go for a swim, and I drag myself despite myself to social events if I've been expressly invited.

It's just that with this hole in my heart the size of Texas, the primal tear in the fabric of my purpose, I haven't yet figured out how to derive joy from other things.  Everything has gone flat - like I was dropped through a worm-hole and landed in a 2-dimensional cardboard universe.  Few things cause the scenery to flesh-out.

I figure my only way back is by learning how to grieve with grace.   Or possibly medication.

One of those.

Where I've Been

I've come to the conclusion that little can be gained from rehashing the past over and over to try to pinpoint where a life went astray.  After all, we don't get a redo.  I think therapy works more as a function of having that one person we can trust to not go away because we pay them not to.

Nevertheless, uncovering destructive patterns is the first step to healing.  After that I really only have faith in behavioral focused therapies.  You can't change thinking patterns, literal neuronal pathways in the brain, by reactivating them over and over again.  

But for this to work, this blog, this story-telling, it seems like it would be useful to start at the beginning, wherever that is.  

Unlike many codependents there was no addiction or abuse present in my family of origin.  My mother was preoccupied with her crafts and her work, she made some mistakes, but she was also a pretty sane mother who looked after my health and well-being and was neither lax or too tight with her discipline.  My step-father was a strong and present presence in my life from very early on, and while aloof and stoic by nature, I never doubted his fierce love for me and his family.  

My mother and biological father divorced when I was only two, and because of their irreconcilable differences, he was gone.  Poof.  Vanished.  Until I was 18 and the spotty and rare contact between the divorce and our reunion.

Unquestionably that divorce and my father's absence was a source of pain.  I remember longing for him, imagining a life full of unicorns and rainbows and no pain if only he would show up on my doorstep to reclaim me and his role as loving father.  

But when I have to trace back to the source of pain that would lead me to marry a binge-drinker and rager - I can't find that source in my father's absence or the largely innocuous mistakes of my well-meaning parents.  

It was a series of unfortunate events and circumstance that bled me out.  

There was the physical defect that lack of expertise medical care left me with.  I had a mostly undetectable lazy eye at birth and the doctors didn't take my mother seriously.  Then when I started walking into things in my left field of vision -- doors, tables, various other obstacles -- my mother returned me to the doctors who were baffled that the optic nerve in my left eye was deteriorating, and rapidly.  

The lazy eye became a blind eye, and noticeable enough for fodder of the cruelty of children.  I was teased, ostracized, picked last for games, and bullied.  This would not change from elementary school to high school except that the rejection from boys during adolescence was added.  

There was the heinous emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of childcare providers that my mother entrusted my care to when she was a single mother working nights.  In her defense, she had no idea.  I never peeped one word about what was going on.  How one woman who my mother paid extra to feed me dinner was secretly feeding me only cereal, leaving me to sit alone in a darkened kitchen at the table.  How I had to sleep in a top bunk at three years old and was so scared of falling in the dark I would wet the bed and have to sleep in it all night long, only to be shamed in the morning and be forced to hand wash the bedding.  I remind you, I was three.

How another woman paid to look after me took the money to go play cards next door while I was left to the care of her cruel daughters who delighted in finding ways to torture me.  Forcing me to watch horror movies, threatening to have their boyfriends tie me up in the basement and beat me up, cooking the one food I couldn't bring myself to swallow and not allowing me to leave the table until I ate it.

I was the opposite of a tough child.  I was a tow-headed, thoughtful and sensitive virgo child who refused to ride my big-wheel because I couldn't bear the carnage of crushed ants underneath the fat tires, and who gave dead animals a proper and dignified burial under the Willow Tree where my mother planted bulbs in the Spring.  I was imaginative and bright and adventurous, but I was not tough.

My spirit had no defense against such cruelties.

Expanding the View

I haven't written much here. It's not writer's block, I have plenty to say that's been building and building until I feel like my brain and heart are going to bust from the pressure.  If only it were as simple as writer's block.  I could pace the floor with my hair in a mess searching my brain for the right words.  Lock myself in a room and tell people to go away in a surly tone.  Don't disturb the tortured artist please.

No, instead it's a complex mix of shame.  

Shame is the devil in codependency.  Shame twists things up so you blame yourself, setting the ground for all kinds of fun stuff like enabling and feeling responsible for other people's problems so that you play an endless losing battle of trying to fix them.  

Shame is pretty common for codependents, and as such is pretty well-known among folks outside of addiction and codependence.  The "lucky" ones.  Yet, I think few understand just how complex it is.  After all, I live it every day and still can't pull the throbbing decaying mass apart enough to see if the thing has a heart I can stab.  

I've taken my first steps against the beast by getting into Program (12-steps), and that has helped even though I can't shake the nagging feeling that the whole Program for codependents is still somehow wrapped up in shame.  Often we're told how we're doing things wrong.  If we have expectations, shame on us.  If we enable, shame on us.  What I haven't decided if this is built into the Program itself, or merely a construct of the people.   They/we bring it to the table because we came in with it and it's one of our primary problems. 

So writing about this stuff is terrifying to me.  Yes, there is the fear of being judged by some reader who comes along and thinks they know how to fix my problem, but that's not really it.  That happens in real life on the daily.  Everyone has an answer and every answer is different.  Huh. 

So, no, it's not that.  

Amidst all the chaos of addicts in my life past and present (I have three) I have to try and be a competent adult who pays bills, cleans the house, does good work on time, brings something to the friendship table, and is a good enough parent to my two children.  And all the mess of being locked into the interplay of addiction and codependence often gets in the way of these things.  

The theory is that if I let people in my life in on this secret they would be able to understand and offer support.  My experience is the opposite.  I've had friends instead gossip about the mess of my life, or worse, get angry when I don't heed their advice and abandon ship. 

If it was cancer things would be different.  But letting people know I'm struggling with something that can't be clearly defined as disease (even though it has been) and can too easily be judged as lack of character, maturity, will power, or wisdom opens the door for people to trust me less.  To worry that I may NOT be able to get that job done, or to decide that I'm an unfit mother, or to generally think less of me.

The tricky part of that is that they are right -- the pain and the practical reality of chaos control DOES get in the way of e v e r y t h i n g.  I have let people down over and over again.  I have missed three weddings, and am about to miss a fourth, because addiction in my life somehow got in the way of me going.  My work has faltered.  I have less physical and emotional energy for every aspect of my life.

But if I had cancer, even if it was because of a poor lifestyle choice I had made, no one would be expecting me to get up and act normal.  No one would feel disappointed or pissed off that I couldn't work full time or didn't make it to that dinner, or couldn't muster up the energy to decorate the house for Christmas.

No one would think less of me, expect the unreasonable, trust me less if only I had cancer instead.  No one would say "no" to that business loan, or unconsciously have less confidence in my expertise.  Unless maybe it was brain cancer.  Because while the chaos of addiction in my life is a practical reality, the codependence, the fear, the shame, the pain -- that's in the head, and people rightly predict if my head is full of that there's probably little room for anything else.

Trouble is, there's no goddamned hope for a better life if I can't integrate this stuff with the rest of who I am.

It's sad when you wish you had cancer instead of the complex fucked-upness of codependence.

Letting people in on this part of my life has so far not elicited sympathy, nor support except from those fighting the same war under a different roof.  I am grateful for those people every day.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hole in My Heart the Size of Texas

I don't sleep much anymore, so when Kyd came home at 2 a.m. last week, I was wide awake.  He stood there, inside the door, swaying.   

I don't know how long ago my body became entrained to alcoholism.  I was married to an alcoholic after all, so it's been a long while.  It took my brain about 1.4 seconds to assess that Kyd was plastered and for all systems in my body and mind to "switch over".  Operation lock-down.  

The next two hours were hell.  Kyd is not the kind of addict you see in after-school specials.  He doesn't use or drink on the daily.  He's a binger.  My theory is that it's all part of the greater psyche-cycle he's riding.  He starts getting those anxious thoughts, so he sleeps less.  Less sleep equals more bad feelings, and the best way to remedy that for him is to seek an escape.  

Trouble is, for Kyd, one of those escapes is a red-faced demon with rusty blades for hands.  It's name is "Hard Liquor".  Kyd's brain on hard liquor turns into a pit of snakes and it makes him act crazy.  Not just belligerent.  Not just non-sensical.  Down-right batshit insane.  And despite the alcohol induced stupor, Kyd's mind moves fast when he's drunk.  I am no longer surprised by a crying, laughing, raging episode all within a span of 3 minutes.  Rinse and repeat for hours.  

I won't bother filling in the details.  They are ugly and heartbreaking and frankly I can't bring myself to write them down...anywhere.  It ended with him in an ambulance weeping and hopeless and with what we thought was a badly shattered hand.  

None of that was the really hard part.  The heart-shredding part was sitting him down the next day to remind him that he and I had an agreement.  If he came home like that again he was going to have to move out, immediately.  I did NOT want to do this.  Every motherous cell in my body wanted to forget our agreement.  My somewhat rational recovery mind knew I had better stick to my boundary.  

So it's done.  Kyd is out there, bouncing from couch to couch, looking for a job.  I try talking to him on the phone but his voice is flat and he no longer says, "I love you" back before we hang up.  

"Yup", he says.  And the line is severed.