I am trying to sort out my experiences and thoughts to better understand how to move forward and not stay stuck in the past.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


There is a woman I think about a lot, especially when I am waivering in my faith.  Well, I don't waiver in my faith of God.  I know that is true.  I waiver in my faith with the feeling that 'I'm not in the family' so to speak.  You know, the 'it works for everyone but me' whine that I know I can get into when I'm feeling frustrated or when I get too caught up in what's not working out instead of all that is working well.

Her name was Shirley.  When we moved to Alabama, she lived across the street from us.  She was one of the first people to welcome us into the neighborhood.  Her wide, enthusiastic smile is always the first part of her face that materialized in my memory of her.  She would leave secret presents for my children on Christmas and Easter.  Little trinkets that were like gold to them.  Mysterious, generous, gifts.  She always had a wave across the street when she saw me in the yard.  There was never an uncomfortable, awkwardness about conversation with her.  She was always direct but sincere. 

When we decided on a church to start attending regularly, I was pleasantly surprised that Shirley was a member.  She was a greeter the first Sunday we went.  Her bright smile and warm embrace on the steps of the church solidified in my mind that I had chosen the right place.  I made some very good and lasting friends there.  It was through those friends that I learned Shirley's story.

At one time she had been married.  She had two sons.  One had muscular dystrophy and one was a track star in high school.  The boys were two years apart.  Because of his illness, her younger son eventually died.  Two years after his death, her older son, the handsome, athlete with a promising future, was killed in a car accident.  Some time after that, her husband left her.  None of this horrific past was evident in Shirley's attitude toward life.  She was always among friends.  Was always positive.  Was always putting God first.  I never heard a grumble or complaint from her. 

After we moved a friend of mine called me to tell me that Shirley had contracted breast cancer.  During her fight, she was never critical or complaining.  In fact, on several occasions, she spoke at church confessing to everyone how blessed she was and how good God had been to her.  Until her last breath, she was faithful to her place with God. 

I so admire that strong confidence in a relationship with God. Not arrogant or cocky, but someone who is secure in the knowledge that God is a loving god.  That when the imperfections of life create such huge and gaping wholes, God is wanting and able to mend the hurt and hold us close.  I find that when I stop fighting God, and just let go of my fears, I begin to feel that closeness.  It's hard, though, letting go of anger and resentment and the, 'why me' attitude.  So, I think of Shirley.  Her kindness, her enthusiasm.  Her sincere love of God. Her forgiveness. 

Merry Christmas and a Joyful New Year to everyone.  My prayer is that we all can find the same kind of relationship and comfort in our lives that allows us to forgive and move forward into a wonderfully blessed future.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Tragedy

We have a little over 1000 students at our school.  They are grades 4, 5, and 6.  We had a faculty meeting on Thursday where our vice principal spoke, and in lieu of the tragedy that occurred on Friday, what he said was kind of prophetic. 

We have been having trouble with some of the students.  Because they are such 'squeeky wheels' they are always getting attention.  Our principal put it into perspective.  He said that out of 1000 plus students only around 40 are the frequent fliers (always in his office) and out of those 40 only about 10 are really hard core (we're talking fourth, fifth and sixth graders).  That leaves over 900 other students that are great and doing what they need to do--being decent, kind, involved students, but we tend to focus on those 40.  There are 40 buses that are involved with taking the students home.  Of those 40 buses, there are two where most of the trouble occurs on the way to and from school.  And as before the problem students on those buses account for around 10-20 students.  But we focus on the problem students because they cause the most noise. 

I believe that the majority of people in the United States, as well as around the world, are good and decent people.  I believe they love their families and work hard to make life better for themselves and others.  But, there are a few who make the choice to do evil.  Their actions scream their indifference to others.  Life has no value to them--they have become desensitized to its worth. 

I am not debating gun regulation. In China a man entered an elementary school and stabbed several children to death.  I'm not debating knife regulation.  I have a picture of my mother in high school with several other students posing with rifles because they were part of the rifle club.  The rifles were kept at school, and at the end of the day, the students learned about them and then had target practice.  No one was killed.  Something other than weapons has happened to our society. I don't think it is one issue but many; like all puzzles, several pieces work together to make the big picture. 

Serious discussion and action needs to start taking place to resolve this, but in the mean time,  I have learned two lessons from this tragedy.  One is that my focus is not going to be on the 'squeeky wheel'.  Instead I want pay homage to the tender lives that were so selfishly ended.  I watched the news today and said a prayer for each name that scrolled by:  Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, and Allison. And the adults, Dawn, Anne Marie, Lauren, Mary, and Victoria.  I don't even remember the name of the shooter, and I'm okay with that.

The second lesson is that life is unpredictable. Sadly, death is woven into life's fabric.  So, appreciate those you love and who are in your lives, daily.  Don't take anyone, any second, for granted because it could be gone in an instant.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Conditioning.  As with everything else, depending on how you use it determines whether it's going to be helpful or hurtful.  For me, conditioning has made me feel like Scrooge, stuck with his ghosts of Christmas pasts and present.  Conditioning is my third stage.  I am conditioned by certain smells, sounds, and sights, that can resurrect such gut retching feelings that I have to make a forced and conscious effort to drag my thinking away from the memory. 

At home, there are certain routines that, when I notice them either in progress or see that they have been done, the dread inside me begins to swirl: addiction is in the room, like a phantom, hovering in a corner manipulating her thinking and behaviors.  Some of these behaviors don't always signal its arrival, but most of them do.  Crazy as this sounds, there is a chowder that my daughter likes to cook.  On most of the occasions she's cooked it, she has been drinking.  So, when I come home, and the house smells like that delicious soup, my conditioning overrides that initial joy and the spirit of darkness  begins to shadow the room. 

There are various places around where I live that when I'm driving on roads that take me to places I love to go, those same roads are now a little darker for me with the ghosts of behaviors past looming and gawking at me as I drive by.  "There was where she was drunk, waiting for me to pick her up."  "Over there was where I saw her coming out of a liquor store before class."  "Here is where she almost jumped out of the car as I was driving."  I hear whispered in my head.  Even the college she attended, which is beautiful, holds spectres of drunken memories. I can feel myself grip the steering wheel harder.  My jaw tightens as these conditioned responses become so nauseating to me, that I have to force myself to look straight ahead while I drive, and concentrate on my destination rather than the drive because I can feel a whole new level of anger and resentment bubbling inside me like some witch's black cauldron. 

I do try to over come these conditioned responses.  I try to force myself to look at these places, smell the scents and listen to the sounds that, before the alcohol, where harmless and enjoyable.  I try to resurrect those memories or, if I can't, I try to lay the new ones to rest. Dead and buried memories that should never have been given  life in the first place.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Heightened Senses

I've read and heard that once you lose one of your sense, the others kick in and become more heightened.  Well, I've lost my sense of security and now my other senses: smell, taste, touch, hearing, seeing, and insecurity are heightened.  That is my second stage heightened senses.  I used to feel secure.  I don't mean locking my doors at night or making sure I don't park next to a van when I'm out.  I mean security as in a security of not being on high alert in my home or around my daughter. 

I used to be able to come home kind of mindlessly.  Walk through the door, leave the chaos of the day behind me outside, and then relax my thinking.  If something was out of place, it was because it was accidentally bumped, or I didn't even notice.  If my daughter was sleeping on the couch it was because she had had a hard day, too, and was taking a nap.  Normal behaviors that people do in the security and comfort of their homes.  Not anymore.  Well, not long term, anyway.  For several years now, I've walked through the door, not anticipating the security and protection of my home, but gearing up for a mental and emotional sweep of my surroundings.  Is something out of place?  If she's napping on the couch, has she been drinking?  Is there a scent that is out of place?  I enter my house like an undercover psychic detective, quickly taking in my surroundings and mentally assessing, "Is there anything wrong with this picture?"  I am living the Waldo books, only instead of looking for Waldo, I'm looking for the signs of addiction.

When I talk with her, I'm studying her with the agility and scrutiny of Sherlock Holmes.  Her words.  Her actions.  Her temperament.  Even the way she carries herself.  It is a quick analysis. I have been able to refine my technique over the years.  It used to take a lot longer, and I would have to follow her around (which I'm sure was annoying to her) talking with her, waiting for her response so that I could make my mental assessment.  When she is in cahoots with her addiction now, I can tell within seconds.

When she decides to stop drinking, and it lasts for more than two weeks, I begin to let my guard down.  My drive home isn't as anxiety filled.  When I come through the door, it starts to feel like it used to, like home in the days before addiction.  But, and this is the honest truth, I can be at work, and all of a sudden, I feel a queasiness in my stomach and the thought that she's bought alcohol comes into my mind, and when I get home, and begin my mental sweep, the signs are clear and it is confirmed.  When that happens, I can feel the rest of  my senses flick on,  and I'm in high gear; that fleeting sense of security being robbed from me, again, by a most cunning and persistent nemesis--addiction. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Foggy Thinking

Ever since I blew up at my daughter, I have been trying to sort out how my brain is coping with this experience with addiction.  What are my stages of recovery.  I know there is a public list some where, but in between those lines and wrapped around those words are additional experiences that are individually felt and lived.  I think I've come up with five of my own stages, though I haven't put them into words, yet, at this point I've listed them as feelings.  I am going to try to work them out here.  The most prominent for me is feeling like I'm in a fog.  I'm going to explain it as a picture. I work best with similes and metaphors.

I mentioned here before, how after my divorce, there were still a lot of issues to work out at home with my son and daughter.  Divorce is a process that unfolds way before and far past signing papers.  My one friend, who was a counselor, told me it was like we had all been in a car accident where one walked away with a few scratches and the remaining three (my children and myself) were left bleeding and broken, trying to help each other up at the same time we were trying to patch our own injuries.  That vision of stumbling around a dark, accident scene, three figures crawling toward each other, fit.  It's mentally what I felt like.  That feeling was more clear, though.  It was focused on one source and that source I knew I could (and would) eventually be able to move away from. I did help cause this accident. I wanted the divorce and that caused the life we were on to wreck, so I do take some responsibility--I just forgot to put on our seat belts.  It took a while, but I eventually bandaged everyone, left the scene of the accident, and we went on with our lives.  At least I did.  I wanted normal back so badly, I didn't pay close attention to the scars that were developing on my children.

Fast forward.  Leaving the divorce accident, I decided to drive the family train and put everyone on board.  I could drive this train and steer it in the right direction for all of us, while we were getting back to our 'normal.'  At some point, I let go of the controls and pushed the automatic button.  The direction we were in looked good, the scenery outside the window was beautiful.   We were back on track.  I was starting to feel good.  At one point, though, during a stop, we took on an unseen passenger, and as I was enjoying the ride, I didn't notice when the track clicked, and our train was guided to another track.  Outside the windows began to look foggy.  The direction was grayer and less focused.  In the midst of the ride, going at full speed, we jumped the tracks, and I found myself and my children, once more, sprawled and bleeding at the scene of an accident, though this accident has left me in a fog.  I'm still in a fog that I couldn't leave.  I carry it around with me.  I tried to help my children this time, too, but as it turned out, my son figured out how to help himself.  He gave us a rope, said he was going to get help, and told us to hold on, while he walked away, into and out of the fog.  He got the help he needed.  He has never let go of the rope, but he was able to get clear of the accident and has moved on to a good life for himself.  I am so proud of him.

Though on the outside, I have moved on. I have a good job. A home. Friends. My mind is still in the fog of the accident. I'm mentally still stumbling around.  There are moments of clarity were I can look around me and see how far I've come, but then I turn back to find my daughter still sitting in the haze and fog, berating herself and her life, and it breaks my heart so, I sit down with her and the fog envelops us.  We are huddled in the fog.  There are times when she takes hold of the rope and I tell her not to let go so she doesn't get lost on the way through the fog, and she does for awhile, but then I feel the slack on the rope, and look behind me and she's lost, again.  I do try to trudge forward, alone, but I get worried because the rope she should be holding onto feels much too loose, so I follow it back to find her huddled, again, afraid to move forward, finding (I'm afraid) a kind of comfort in the fog, so I stand with her, watching her.  Looking back toward the path out of the fog, but not able to leave because of all of the ties I have to her.  I love her so much. My heart hurts for her so much.  My sadness anchors me in the fog. 

It is in this fog that I am living.  Going through life, wanting to appreciate fully what I have, but stopping just in time and I'm not sure why.  If I leave the fog, will I lose her?  Will she not be able to follow the rope?  So, that is my first personal stage: Living in a Mental Fog.