As a former trainwreck of society, I dumped my share of toxic damage on many loved ones and even a few strangers while sifting through my twenty year ‘it’s not me, it’s you’ phase. It was something I was ashamed of after a sober realization in the middle of the night when I sat up in bed screaming, “I am a monster bound for a sweltering hell!” But after successful and even a few unsuccessful amends to those tied to my ‘train tracks of redemption’ I see my part in all of it. When I was still actively using, I wore a mask of self-righteous indignation, and I destroyed anyone who didn’t cosign my bullshit.
Fast-forward eleven years, and through hard work, determination and a lot of ‘for fuck’s sake’ moments, I have seen the error of my behavior and have now crossed the bridge to unwillingly watching non-sober people try to live their non-sober lives.
I am not talking about people who drink casually or have wine with dinner a couple of times a week. Drowning in addiction is a terrifying thought… and it isn’t something that becomes apparent immediately, which is more terrifying. Most times, we have no idea there is a problem until it is too late. Although every knock on the door is a storm of chaos and turmoil saying “What’s the worst that could happen?” we do not possess the ability to recognize we are the eye of that storm until it literally destroys our life.
“But for the Grace of God, there go I.”
I am currently working on a memoir because my story is important; it is important for me to write as much as it is important for people to read. Hell, it is possible as you read this you know someone who just cannot get their shit together – maybe they hide bottles in the house and car – or maybe it is you. I share my story to help those who are still sick and suffering.
When I run into a new version of the old me, I have to stay and deal because honestly, these people are put in my path for a reason. While my initial thought is to get this person in a sober headlock and bombard them with catch phrases, famous quotes, and literature, I am confident this will just scare the shit out of them, so I have to resort to stern subtlety.
Stern subtlety: Not cosigning their bullshit but not making them feel inhuman.
I have someone in my life right now who refuses to understand that while bad things don’t happen every time they drink, every time something bad does happen, they were drinking. And I want to grab this person and shake them and somehow get footage and lowlight reels from when I was their age and in a whirlwind of chaos, but I can’t do that.
I can’t save her.
I have to remind myself I cannot save anyone… salvation lies within, my friends. Instead, I have to sit and listen… really listen… and yeah, maybe throw a few slogans their way if the opportunity arises, but mostly I just sit and listen… and hope like hell they get it sooner than later.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” J.K. Rowling
If you think you have a problem with drinking, please visit:
Chaos was my sidekick since I was about four years old. I was always pushing the envelope in disturbing ways from shoving an eraser up my nose when I was seven to putting toothpaste on my eyelids when I was nine… I was one of those “What would happen if…” kids.
Later, it was me coasting down my grandmother’s driveway and into the garage on roller skates. There was a half-inch lip where the concrete floor of the garage raised above the driveway. I coasted down; watching the lip draw closer I thought, “I’m not lifting my feet. I want to see what happens when my skates hit that lip.” (Even as I write this over thirty years later, I am shaking my head – what the hell is wrong with you, girl) Needless to say, I hit the lip, went airborne and landed on my knees and face – and I had boo-boo’s to prove it.
I cried and wailed… my grandmother came running. “What happened?” I told her my story of pain and even at ten years old, I embellished it, peppering in imaginary details to make it sound more dramatic.
My grandmother was not buying any of it. “Well, what did you think was going to happen, you stupid ass? Get up. Brush yourself off and go get a Popsicle.” I did just that and when I saw my friends later, I told them my embellished Daredevil story of self-inflicted boo-boo’s and how I must have been cruising down the driveway doing at least twenty miles an hour!
It was the last time I cried over physical pain, but it was not the last time I intentionally created chaos to get attention. Later in life, I found emotional ways to create chaos and keep the drama flowing in my life. “Hey, over here! I am a human trainwreck but I’m cute so come and love me!”
I created chaos because I had to compartmentalize all the weird, icky and dangerous feelings I had inside that didn’t sit well with me. Being an ACOA besides an alcoholic/addict, I had a double whammy of stunted emotional growth. So when things got chaotic in a way I didn’t understand, I would make them more chaotic by inserting my own melodrama, thereby making sure that all that weird inner shit really did have something to do with me instead of me just being a victim of circumstance.
It took me a long time to realize that most of my chaos was self-created, even after I got sober in 2006. I had a real case of the ‘woe is me’ sniffles until I finally stopped self-sabotaging and realized I truly can be my own worst enemy.
So if you are anything like the old me (who still tries to poke her train wrecked head into my life from time to time) and you are surrounded by chaos more than peace, maybe take a long hard look at the center of it all.
Tapering off… I did it in 2006 when I locked myself in a basement with water, coffee, and cigarettes for seven days. I tapered myself off of pills and booze. I had to do it or I was going to die. Dying wasn’t on my agenda that day or any other day since.
There is no easy way to quit using drugs and alcohol… Sure, I could have just stopped… but if I did that, I would need a facility… and in a facility, they’d get me off the shit, and get me on something else. My whole mission was to not need anything.
I am working on a gritty, dirty memoir filled with painful truth. Stuff like this needs NOT be sugar coated. Sharing my story is a small way that I can give back.
If you are struggling with drugs and alcohol, get help. I am not putting my way here as the ‘be all end all’ of ways to quit fucking up your life. This is just what worked for me.
You’ll figure it out if you want a clean and sober life bad enough.
I love music… once; when I was a baby, I would not stop crying. My mother and grandmother tried everything. They changed me, rocked me, fed me, burped me, took me for a walk, and gave me toys. None of it made me happy… out of ideas and in pure frustration; my grandmother wound up a music box and threw it in my crib where I lay.
It was a miracle. As soon as I heard music chiming out of that little plastic box, I stopped crying. I do not remember this, but I do remember the music box because it was difficult for me to part with even as I got older.
Later on, when I was about four… I discovered an electric organ in the back bedroom of my grandmother’s apartment. Eventually, that got me to let go of the music box – now I had a much bigger music box! I would play the songs in the book (the keys were numbered – sadly, I am still not able to read music well – I am learning now), memorizing the numbers and more importantly, the sound. Later on, despite not being able to read music still, I would sit on the floor under the organ and reach up to play the notes from sound memory.
My grandmother would drive us places in her ’76 Chevy Malibu, and I was always the radio captain. She never minded me cranking up tunes by Led Zeppelin, Joe Jackson or Devo. I think she loved music also because she never gave me any grief when the volume was cranked.
To this day, when I hear music, I refocus my energy. Whether the volume is loud or soft; if the song is heavy or light, music gets me through any day or night.
I don’t get people who don’t love music; I don’t get people who listen to talk radio all the time. I feel like they are really missing out!
Do you love music? Do you play an instrument? What are some of your favorite bands/groups/singers?
We all have a place we like to go when things get unbearable… or maybe we go there when things get great. Maybe we go there for no reason other than we just want to be there.
If I could live in any season for the rest of my days, it would be autumn. The crisp, cool air coupled with bright, crunchy leaves hanging off of tired trees as the Earth prepares for a winter slumber reminds me of a true fantasy world.
Even the air smells better in autumn… could it be pumpkin patches and corn fields? Bright, blooming mums? Or maybe freshly baked apple pies with a touch of cinnamon perched on windowsills to cool in the crisp, autumn air? Or maybe it is just the air itself as it waves through forests, fields, and meadows lassoing the earthly scents and taking them on a journey to make us smile.
I take a week vacation at the end of every October to drive the back roads of Pennsylvania because nothing is more humbling than to see the natural, morphing beauty of my home state.
What is your favorite season? Do you like road trips?