Archive for the From My Past Category

Ancient History

Posted in Family, From My Past on March 16, 2008 by TodaysAddiction

History… either you have it, or you don’t.

I received a message at the shop last month… someone was looking for me. Nope, not another bill collector… it was family. More family. An uncle (in his late 80’s) asked his son to help him find me… my Dad’s brothers had wondered what happened to The Girl.

When I was moved into foster care (age 10) I was swallowed up by a system meant to protect. A side effect of protection and privacy is sometimes getting lost. Mostly, I don’t think getting lost is entirely bad and really, and how does one possibly miss what one doesn’t know anyway?

When I met my Mom, I was off on a new life… A few years later when my Dad passed away, I was all but lost in a series of moves, name changes and then sheer time from my Father’s side of the family. I had not seen anyone from this side since well before entering the foster system and really thought that at this late date that perhaps no one would really remember me if I went in search of them.

So a call came, an elderly shaky voice looking for Emmy. I was enchanted to talk with 2 uncles. One with an incredible sense of humor (whom I barely remember), the other a self styled historian. There is so much I don’t know about my Dad, his family history, his life. So much I don’t know about my own childhood (I was quite young 😉 and had no one to pass on the stories).

Historian Uncle (whom I do not remember at all) put together some pictures and had written a short book about his family history back to the early 1800’s. I’ll be sharing some of his stories here… because you listen and because some of them are pretty damn good.

great-grandparents.jpg

Speaking of family… meet my great grandparents, Charles (July 20, 1850-1907) and Mary Jane (Dec 8, 1852-June 4, 1947). My Father’s, father’s parents.

Anyway… the part about history that I talked about earlier… embrace that. Even the embarrassing stories and goofy pictures if you’re fortunate enough to have them. If you have history, perhaps you have no idea of the treasure you hold… but perhaps you do.

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A picture and a thousand words…

Posted in Addiction/Mental Health, From My Past on January 29, 2007 by TodaysAddiction

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Daughter #5 went to Newport Oregon today… she sent this picture from her phone, not bad eh?

If this bridge could talk, it would have a story to tell… one from “the good ‘ol days”.
This bridge would tell you a story about a very stupid and drunk girl who bit off more than she could chew one night and nearly ate shit on that bridge.

I was on this very bridge, oh about 18-20 years ago late one night (early one morning). I had been drinking for the better part of the day… not a beer here and there for me, oh no… I’d already polished of the better part of a 5th of tequila and if I remember correctly a fair amount of peppermint schnapps.
The funny thing is that normally I am very afraid of heights, I generally avoid even standing on a chair to change a light. Ladders terrify me… anyway, I digress (twice in one week). But part of the charm of drinking for me (back in those days) was that I was fearless. At least for a little while.

A “friend” and I had driven to the coast late one night in hopes of spending the weekend. If I remember correctly, we found a place near the bridge in the wee hours. After securing a bed and whetting a whistle, we decided to go for an adventure. We decided at some 3:00am to walk across the bridge. Being as neither of us was walking very well at the time, it seemed like a hearty adventure.

We got about a third of the way across the bridge (see the large arch in the middle?) and my friend decided it would be fun to freak me out a little. He began to scurry up that arch and went up it several feet before coming back down. Feeling fearless and seeing this as a challenge (in my furry state of mind) I took that challenge and upped it a notch. With my back to the arch, I began to back-walk up the arch on my butt, using my feet to push me higher and higher while my hands clung to the edges of the metal for balance. It felt like I was near the top, but likely I was close to half way before I looked down and realized there was nothing but ocean and highway, very very far below me.
I froze.
The friend was trying to talk me down, but I was sure I would fall, coming back down looked very steep (and it was). My feet kept slipping as I tried to support my weight to come back down. For a moment I contemplated jumping as I was certain I would fall if I tried to slide back the way I had come and I had almost convinced myself that jumping would kill me less than falling would. I was stuck and couldn’t go forward or back.

We must have screamed at each other for a half an hour…
“Turn around so you’re facing it”.
“I can’t”.
“You have to”.
“I can’t”.
“Just let go with one hand and turn”.
“I can’t”.
“You have to”.
“I can’t”.

Eventually, my friend coaxed me into turning around on that narrow ledge so that I was facing the arch and get a little better footing (and I would no longer be looking directly at how steep the incline and how high I was on the arch). At last I made it back to terra-firma.
I remember we laughed our asses off about that for months.
Years later, when I had sobered up, I was horrified.
This was but one of the incredibly stupid things I did when I was drinking.

I’d forgotten all about it until I saw #5’s picture.
huh…

Don’t say a thing…

Posted in Addiction/Mental Health, From My Past, From The Girl on January 17, 2007 by TodaysAddiction

The girl is now 15.
She was recently reunited with her Mother… a savior in the girl’s eyes, she’d been rescued from foster care after all.
Unless one was lucky enough to score a good family, on your 18th birthday, you are “released” from care. A thrill when you have the safety net of a family, terrifying when it looms like a deadline.
The girl had developed a phobia of her 18th birthday while in the state’s care, even though she still had three more years to prepare for it.

Having a home and a family, a real family, was such a relief. The girl knew that her remaining teen years would be happy and carefree, now that she had her Mother and her Step-Father.
Mother and daughter were getting to know each other, the transition was easy for the girl as she had become accustom to new homes and changes in guardianship. This was even better though, she belonged here, she finally belonged to someone.
Life was going to be “normal” now that she had met her Mother.
Sadly, no one thought to see that the transition was smooth for the parents.

Meeting her Mother just a few months earlier was like a dream come true. Very quickly the two settled into a routine such that it seemed so natural that sometimes she actually forgot it had not always been this way. Life was good. The girl liked school, she made some friends. She had even met a boy she liked… a group of her new friends went to do something most every weekend and he was always there, happy to show her the in’s and out’s of her new town.
The girl hoped he would ask her out on a date someday.
Yes, for the first time, the girl felt like just another kid.
And that was all she had ever wanted.

One Saturday, the boy asked the girl out for a burger and a movie. Just the two of them, this was a real date. Her first ever.

The night was fantastic and the girl’s head was still swimming as he walked her to the front door. After a wonderfully awkward moment or two, he told her good-night.

The living room was dark when she entered the house. Dark and quiet. A survival skill she’d developed early on was to listen to the feeling. The feeling you got when you knew something was wrong. Except for the feeling, if it were any other night, she might have thought her parents had gone out for the evening. It was just a dark room after all.

She stood still, near the door. Listening.
She found a single clue that she was not alone, the red-orange glow of a cigarette tip in a far corner. The glow was all she could see, even as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.
The glow slowly moved and she heard her Step-Father’s voice a long moment later.

“She never wanted you, yah know. But yoouuu just had to come here anyway.
You ruined her life. Again.

She was desperate to get rid of you, yah know.
She tried to kill herself tonight to get away from you, and damn near did…”

~There was a long silence before he spoke again.
The cigarette tip glowed bright as he inhaled.~
“She’s in the hospital.
And you… Yoouuu were on a fucking date.”

The girl felt like a bad penny… something unlucky that just kept turning up again and again.
Make a purchase, get it back as change.
Just a penny, the coin with the least value. Garbage in the bottom of your purse.
Even though the situation quickly changed for the better, the feeling stuck for sometime.

The next day, he made her promise to never tell anyone that her Mother was so desperate to rid herself of the girl. People would think poorly of her, and of him.
He feared people would think she was a ‘bad Mother’ to do that.

But she wasn’t a bad Mother, or a bad person.
She just needed help and lived in a time and place where it could not be asked for.
Help wasn’t something you asked for, it was taken only when something unspeakable happened, help was imposed upon you. It was the only acceptable way to get help then.
Often any help received was scant and inaccurate, at best it was merely palliative.
The Mother bravely held it all in. The transition, the feelings… until she cracked.
Luckily, she did not break.
But the girl developed a new crack that night too.

At first the girl feared he was telling her the truth.
Later, she held a white-hot hate for him for saying that.

Now she knows that deep inside of every adult is a small and sometimes frightened child, the child can live quite close to the surface under certain circumstances.
The little boy inside of the man was terrified that night.
So terrified that he showed that fear without any regard.

Nothing that happened that night was ever mentioned again. No questions. No answers.

~

We all seek some place to lay blame when we are in pain,
each of the characters in this story did. We all do.
But often times there is no such place. That’s reality. And it’s OK.

My lesson in all of this?
I try to listen to my small child, and when she wants to speak,
she borrows my fingertips and types it all out.

Have you?

Posted in Family, From My Past, From The Girl on January 16, 2007 by TodaysAddiction

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Have you ever promised not to tell?
Have you ever wanted to say it once, just to break the promise?

I was told something once, something that I promised not to repeat.
I was told something that completely stripped me of any self worth that I had built upon a very tenuous foundation.
At first I didn’t tell because I feared it might be true… Eventually I learned that it was something said from anger, fear and ignorance.
Be careful with your words, they are the most powerful weapon you own.
The people who hear your words may not be as impervious to them as you’d think.

~

There are so many things that we have an understanding of today that was not heard of a generation ago. Depression. Addiction. Family dynamics. Healing.
Even as we began to understand these things, they were still kept in the dark, never talked about directly.
Oh sure, you could discuss the problem the neighbor has, or the woman at the PTA meeting whose dress is a bit too low cut… but heaven forbid we ever discuss our own problems… our own history… the things that happened to us that helped to form who we are today.
The goal was to achieve perfection in the eyes of everyone who is looking.
Peace was to sit in the back seat… sometimes it was locked in the trunk.
Society says:
No matter how distraught you are, asking for help is a sign of weakenss. Never seek help. It shatters the illusion of perfection. Rather… wait until you crack and break.

But the aftermath is like an earthquake, those closest to the break are the most damaged.
Damage can be repaired if you are willing to pick up the tools and fix it.
If you’re willing to invest the time in yourself.

We generally talk about the good stuff, rarely the real stuff. The fear is that we will be judged for that, even if it’s not our fault… even if it’s no one’s fault at all.
And although we seek to place blame, often there is no legitimate place to put it.

I come from a long line of fearlessness, complex, strong women who (I think) were rarely understood (and sometimes afraid dispite their ability to leap forward anyway).
So that they (we) would not be mis-understood, often we stoically keep our secrets.
There is far less to try to explain to a world that does not understand.
But I am here to tell it and to let it go.
The world ~does~ understand because they are keeping secrets too.
Interesting family dynamics are just that… interesting. Not good, not bad.
A generation ago (and still today), everyone was pressured to be the same, to be perfect.
Well I want to tell you it’s not perfect and we are not the same… no one is, no matter how things look. And that is OK.

A chapter about the girl is coming soon.

How do you know, when you have a secret, if you should tell? You tell it someplace safe and see what happens. This is my safe place and we’ll see what happens.

Oh how the mind does wander…

Posted in Family, From My Brain, From My Past on December 26, 2006 by TodaysAddiction

For me, Christmas has always been a time to reflect. A time to take stock, not just of the previous year, but of all things past. I don’t know why I do that, I never plan it that way, but it seems that every year I find some bit of my past to pick apart and then I examine the pieces.

This year, just for a few hours, we had all of the kids together. It has been years since one or the other of them wasn’t off on an adventure somewhere. The last time they were all together, the twins (now 25) were high school seniors.

I am so blessed in the “kid department”. Our three oldest belong to husb and my wife-in-law (Patti). They were raised to be amazing young women, each quite strong in different ways… all successful. From birth, the girls had a wonderful and loving foundation. Through lifes ups and downs, they always remained first… and loved, by all of their parents. I have two children as well. When husb and I married, the seven of us blended quite well and amazingly smoothly into a family unit. All of the kids accepted each other as sibling right away.
My reflection this year is about my son (#4) and the realization that occasionally the thing we view as being our greatest failure can turn into a huge success… leaving one with conflicting feelings of both joy and regret. My son was 11, turning 12 when we married, a difficult enough age without adding the stress of an entire family change. #4 had the most difficult time adjusting. He was used to being “the man of the household” and adding a new Dad and 3 sisters was difficult for him, too many changes to fast for the quiet kid. He tried to go with the flow in beginning, as did everyone. But after a year or so the going got kind of rough for him.
#4 and I have always been extremely close… we had a bond. When the kids were younger, I always felt a bit guilty because he and I were so much closer than his sister (#5) and I were.
About a year after the wedding, #4 began to rebel and my young gentle son became a monster. He had been arrested a couple of times, was using drugs and became impossible to manage. I was devistated and heart broken. I was also exhausted as I had 4 other very good and active teens to take care of… in addition to having a full time job. I wanted to be there for him, I wanted to love him through this, I wanted to believe the things he told me, on those rare instances I could get time to talk.
Eventually a decision had to be made. At the rate he was going, he was headed for prison or an early grave.
After much negotation, I bought a plane ticket and sent him to his father’s house. His father lived in Utah at the time and was attending college. He was also single and an assistant pastor of a community church. In his free time, father had nothing better to do than give his son some much needed one-on-one time. He and his father had never been close… #4 cried and begged to not go, but with much pain, I loaded him on a plane. On the way home, Shawn Mullens sang Lullaby on the radio and I cannot hear that song today without crying.
8 months later, #4 came home, free of drugs and ready to begin to piece together his life. There were strict rules he had to meet to come home… and he was threatenend with being kicked out unless he adhered to them. The #4 who came home however was forever changed from the boy who left. He didn’t trust me to “keep” him, he was angry at husb and sisters, but he complied. I didn’t trust him either. Every police car I saw, I couldn’t help but look in the back to see if #4 had gotten into trouble again. I questioned his every movement. While he stuck with the program, I mourned because we were never again as close as we had been previously. Something broke in our relationship when I sent him away, something that has never quite returned.
The girls (all 4 of them) and I have become very close… almost unnaturally so considering that they are all grown. Sometimes I feel regret that #4 seems to live at the edge of that, even today.

I was quite surprised that he never did return to the life he once had, but I felt I could never let my guard drop either. After he graduated high school and was working full-time, he was pushed out of the nest, probably earlier than he was ready for… but we were ready, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This Christmas, I sat looking at the 5 of them together… they interacted with one another as though they had been doing this their entire lives. All happy to be home and together and in one room, even if only for a while.
I spent some time really looking at the man that #4 has become. He is an amazing man. He has been married now for 2 years to a wonderful young lady. He attends college full time and work full time in the summer. He has become everything I ever hoped for in a son. And yet, I still miss the little boy to clung to the backs of my legs when in unfamiliar surroundings, knowing I would protect him from anything that crossed his path.
#4’s teen years have become one of my greatest regrets as I often feel that I could have saved him much of the pain he experienced by doing something differently along the way… occasionally, I wonder if I did the right thing by sacrificing our close bond, to save him. And yet on Christmas day I look at the man and I realize that regret has somehow blossomed into one of my greatest successes… this year, both the regret and the pride have learned to co-exist peacefully in that special part of my heart that is reserved for my son.

The rise and fall of an alcoholic part 3… Breaking the myth

Posted in Addiction/Mental Health, From My Past on January 28, 2006 by TodaysAddiction


By now, most of the decade that was my 20’s lie in the bottom of a bottle; the kids are getting older and more aware. I can see them taking on the same parental role I took with my Father… something has got to give; I can’t drag them through the same stuff I’d gone through… I didn’t realize it at the time, but I already had.
I did go back and see the counselor, if for no other reason than to prove their assessment wrong. But like an accident waiting to happen, I could already see what lie ahead; I challenged myself to quit drinking for 24 hours, just to see if I could. I could not. I needed inpatient treatment but because I was a single parent and was unwilling to make other arrangements for the kids, we did daily outpatient treatment instead, followed up by daily AA meetings.
There is a myth that when a drunk stops drinking the sun begins to shine, birds sing and all is right with the world. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While I was drinking, life was good; I knew how to manage it. I had no idea how to live without it. I left the guy (again) because all we had in common was drinking. I was always the person who left, yet I always resented being alone.
I had no social skills, no coping skills and no support. Creditors called daily for unpaid bills, I’d written a string of bad checks to make ends meet. I was running out of employment options because I’d routinely changed jobs every 6 months or so. Sober people did not trust me because I’d already lied to and used most of the ones I knew; the drunken ones didn’t think I was much fun anymore.
I had a huge mess to clean up and now CPS was taking an interest in my parenting skills so I didn’t dare drink. Life was much worse once the party ended; all I wanted to do was drink just to make life “normal” again. Without any numbing agents I routinely beat myself as I became more aware of what my life had become, my self esteem was at an all time low. For the first time, I had no escape.
Once treatment was over I thought I was equipped to handle the outside world, I was so sadly mistaken. I needed a sense of security so despite the advice of those who had successfully gone down this path before me; I turned the other direction and attached myself to yet another guy. He was sober and within a month I’d married him… I was desperate and could not bear the thought of turning 30 without some sense of having support. In another month we were separated, I was on the run actually. He was crazy. That marriage was soon annulled. He was extremely delusional and thought the police were following him everywhere, he thought the neighbors were spying on us and that our apartment was bugged. I panicked and fled one day while he was at work. He gave chase and I ended up coming back to Oregon to hide in a round about way.
I finally broke down and realized that while I was not drinking, I had created a mess I could not get out of, I was being chased by a crazy man, my car had finally been repossessed, the bills caught up to me. 6 months after I quit drinking, I finally hit bottom. I was broken. I started going back to meetings and this time I listened…
My biggest challenge was in giving up the idea that I was not a complete person myself, I thought I needed someone to complete me. I had to learn to trust myself. I need to learn to become a parent to the kids. I had to relearn everything I’d previously done as a drunk.
The kids and I spent the next 18 months or so bonding, just the three of us, no men, no drink. Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel. Finally we began to heal as a family and I slowly became a whole person.
Once my spirit began to heal, once I could trust myself again… I began to make different choices.
It has been a long up hill walk, and I am still climbing, it’s been nearly 14 years now and yet it feels as though this was written about someone else… like it could not have possibly been me. I did have one “slip”, such a cute word for an impending disaster. I just couldn’t let my life slip away so easily now, I finally had something to lose.
It feels like a bad dream.
It feels so good to finally be awake
I have come to realize that some of us are born with holes in our souls, often we plug them with what ever is handy; sex, drink, drug. I’ve had to work hard at finding other ways to plug the holes. I’ve poured myself into my family and my business. I’ve worked hard these last years to make up for the first years and although nothing can give back some of the things I have taken, on an initially shakey foundation, a fine sturdy home has been built.
At last, I have something to offer…

I know this sounds cliche` but changing your life begins by changing your mind…
*

The rise and fall of an alcoholic part 2

Posted in Addiction/Mental Health, From My Past on January 27, 2006 by TodaysAddiction


Taking up from where we left off… I am 23, I’ve got two small children. I started college a couple of months before the divorce, mostly because husband #1 was against it. I mean what a waste of money if I was going to stay home and raise babies, right?
I was alone, none of my family lived in the state, I had no friends since most of them were church related and sided with the husband. I was unemployed. I lived in low income housing. Except for college, I was one step away from spitting out a few more kids and becoming a welfare statistic. I had made myself quite a mess in a very short time. Perpetually seeking the father figure, I was always attached to one guy or another, right off the bat. Being a bargain shopper, I seemed to always choose the guy right off the discount sale rack. At this time in my life I was an odd combination of attributes, independent yet clingy, insecure yet stubborn, free floating yet with some sense of direction. My self esteem was horrible and worse yet, I was too dumb to know it at the time. If I were a weather pattern, it would always be storming from the conflicting temperatures.
In college I found myself once again trying to find acceptance. The first guy I found lived in my apartment complex, life with him was a party, all the time. We went out every weekend and often hosted week day parties at one of our apartments. Between parties, weekends and school, the kids were always with one sitter or another, usually a teenager, which ever one I could find at any given moment. I rarely saw them unless the party was at my place. I was completely mystified when this first guy broke it off with me because he soon became tired of taking care of me once the party was over. I had no ability to drink and stop, once the drinking started I could not stop until I’d passed out, often leaving my date to find the sitter and my kids and tuck all of us into bed. The next boy was a paramedic student… I was a nursing student, it seemed perfect. He gave up on me after staying up with me all night after a party. I blacked out part way through the night and he took me home. He went door to door in my apartments looking for the kids and when he got to the apartment of the previous guy I’d dated, he got a sympathetic pep talk… after finding the kids and bringing them home, I was passed out and choking on vomit… he kept me alive that night, but left in the morning, never to return. I just didn’t get it. It didn’t even dawn on me that this was not good. Through out the rest of school, I had Adele, my best friend. I decided it was time to take a break from guys and just have some fun and Adele was the ticket. She was a cop’s wife of all things. He worked every weekend so we took my car out to the clubs so he wouldn’t spot her and we played into the wee hours every weekend. Life was a series of phone numbers never called and of one night stands. We were having a blast and yet I was not with any one person long enough for anyone to be too concerned. I drank myself pretty, I drank myself funny, and I drank myself smart…
Adele was the first person I’d ever done drugs with (other than pot) and we actually made a game of trying new things… while studying we would chose one drug and see how our weekly test scores faired on Friday. We tried it all, my first time skiing we were drinking and high on crank, I actually thought I could ski and went down the “black run” on my first time up. Everything was a competition and that was the only reason I think I made it through school at all. Safety never occurred to either of us, I became so accustomed to driving drunk that I thought I drove better after drinking than I drove when I was sober and often drove the kids home at 3:00am after a night out.
Towards the end of school I hooked up with a wonderful guy who dealt coke from work. I can’t even begin to tell you how badly that went. I graduated from school and soon started work at an area hospital where I routinely stole halcion and valium just so I could catch some sleep every couple of days. I finally walked out with a gun pointed at me after my daughter (then 3) asked my best friend if she could live with her after mommy was dead. The kids saw it, but I did not…
I continued to drink, but was pretty burnt out on drugs and violence. Rather than drinking till I passed out, I had perfected a technique of drinking all day, every day. By this time I was non-functional unless I was drinking.
I met the next guy in a bar, I thought it would be another “pick up” but he called back… we spend a couple of years and moved through a couple of states together. His drinking habits were much like mine, mandatory for a “relationship” with me. Beer was like soda and really didn’t count as “drinking” at all. At a 7-11 one night a clerk mentioned the amount of alcohol I bought, so I started stopping at different stores on my way home from work every night. We felt OK about our drinking because we never drank hard alcohol until after 5:00pm except for weekends. We frequented several bars on a regular basis and again never thought twice about driving home afterwards. I remember running a red light at a major intersection and we just thought it was funnier than hell… thankfully the kids were not with me that night. Thankfully God watches out for drunks.
Because the kids were now older (5 and 8), babysitting was not so much a problem, we just tucked them in bed and after they were asleep, we went out. The thought now strikes terror in my heart, but I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.
We were close friends with another couple; we saw them every day, had dinner and drank every night… One day, out of the blue I asked my friend: Do you ever wonder if you have a drinking problem? She laughed at me. But my mind set was beginning to change. I was feeling guilty; feeling like there must me something more. Drinking at home was no problem, but I was calling in to work a lot, I was on my last warning. One day at work a nurse offered me gum, I declined, but she insisted… she could see I was still somewhat drunk from the night before. My secret was getting out and rumors were starting. I was growing uncomfortable, even a little paranoid. I decided this discomfort was not from drinking itself, nor from my need to stop. I decided that I was growing uncomfortable due to some childhood issues I was carrying around and perhaps some counseling would soothe my spirit while allowing me to continue the lifestyle I’d become accustomed to. I made an appointment.
At my first appointment I was asked to fill out some paperwork and included in that is a questionnaire. I answered the questions honestly except for the drinking part. Writing it down, it did seem like a lot of alcohol, and I could no longer remember the last day I didn’t have anything to drink, if you counted beer, which I did not. I deleted much of the beer and cut the hard alcohol in half when answering questions… I knew I wasn’t an alcoholic, I had a job, I had a relationship, I didn’t beat the kids and I’d never been arrested.
They declined to work with me unless I was in treatment.
I was pissed.

Herein lies hundreds of detailed posts, this is just the “quick” overview.
It looks like there will be one more part…