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

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Road

Living with a person who has not overcome their addiction is like taking a drive on a long country road. When things are good, you can feel the breeze on your face and smell the sweet air.  Everything looks so green and fresh. You're going at a steady speed. The sun is shinning and warm.  The road is open before you, straight into a future that is getting clearer and clearer on the horizon.  And then, BAM! another car comes flying out from a side street and hits you broadside.  You go spinning and whirling. Your head bumps around and the once beautiful road is now a blur until you come to a crashing stop in a ditch.  You sit for awhile, making sure you're okay, that nothing but your heart is really broken.  Slowly, you inch yourself out of the car as you notice that same headache starting in the middle of your temples.  You lean against the car as your mind recovers from the shock of the hit.  Slowly, you look around and notice where once there was sunshine dark clouds are forming on the horizon.  All that is left of the car that hit you is the grey smoke from it's exhaust as it zooms away down the road. You take a deep breath knowing what is coming. You go to the trunk of the car,  and pull out a good pair of walking shoes and a raincoat and begin the journey on foot.  More tiring that way.  Longer.  But, you have learned that just sitting around wondering and worrying never helped.  So, now you're walking on the road, as it gets darker and a cooler breeze takes over.  Fortunately, way in the distance, on the side of the road you can see the light of a telephone booth. It's comforting that warm, golden light in the growing darkness.  You keep that in your focus as you trudge ahead, knowing that once you get there, you'll be able to call for help. 

That is what living with an alcoholic is like for me. 

Why do the have to sell alcohol on Sundays, too?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Over the Limit

We were watching the movie, "Flight," last night. It didn't make me anymore comfortable about flying.  I like to be in control of the steering wheel because I know my mindset.  Anyway, the story is about a pilot with alcoholism and drug addiction.  I won't go into the whole movie, but at the end, he is in front of a group of people and makes the statement, "It was as if I had reached my life-long limit of lies...I just couldn't tell one more lie." 

Sometimes lying isn't bad. During times when life is in danger, as it was in WWII when people were hiding Jewish people and other potential prisoners of war, lying may be necessary. 

Lying as a way of life, lying to hide a bad habit, lying to manipulate isn't healthy. In those cases,
lying is like a slow poison.  Lying corrupts your character.  It is a lethal injection to trust.  Lying debilitates your soul.  Addiction and lying are a couple.  They travel together, scheme together, contaminate together. Lying is the fuel for addiction. 

But his statement made me think about that concept of 'life-long limit of lying.' We all lie.  I've lied.  Small lies, surprise party lies, "I love that gift" lies.  I don't like how I feel, even with those types of lies.  I like honesty.  Hard as it may be to hear at times, it gives me a cleaner feel on the inside than lying does.  Lying creates a dark film on the inside.  It makes situations harder to understand and mange.  The more lying you do,  the more layers of that dark, internal film are wrapped around your conscience and the more tied up your conscience gets, the less consequences bother you.  Perhaps, lying becomes its own drug in some cases. 

I think it is dangerous to lie, even when it's necessary.  I think each time you tell a lie, your 'life filter' becomes more clogged. It becomes harder to determine right from wrong.  Good from bad.  Your sense of trust gets diverted and I think it begins to detach you from humanity.  One lie, here or there, and your conscience has an opportunity to reset its self.  Lying all or most of the time as a way of life holds your conscience captive. 

The students I work with lie.  To some, lying has become embedded so deeply into their character that the truth is rarely spoken.  I have watched a child take another child's pencil.  I'll ask them, "Why did you take their pencil?"  "I didn't take it."  "I watched you."  "I didn't do it."  "Yes, you did."  "No, I never took it.  I found it on my desk."    They don't appreciate or understand how the lying is bad for them.  They use lying to manipulate their circumstances at all times, until the circumstance becomes so convoluted that you have to walk away because they just either refuse or can't see the truth.  It's scary to me that this young generation has such little respect for the truth.

If we do have a 'lying limit' I believe it is different for all of us.  As with everything else, we all tolerate things differently at different levels.  Lying is tricky, though.  Because it does distort reality so subtly, it is hard to see when you've crossed that line into believing your own lies. 

"You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."  Lying holds a person captive. It binds them to a false way of thinking and living.  Lying stunts inner growth, ruins reputations and breaks relationships. You really are as sick as your secrets, and that's the truth. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Talking Less

                             There once was an owl who lived in an oak.
                             The more he heard the less he spoke.
                             The less he spoke the more he heard.
                             Why can't we be like that wise, old bird?

Funny what your brain remembers.  That is a poem I memorized way back in elementary school.  I remember reading it in a book and for whatever reason, I must have liked it because I took the time to learn it.  I still, every once in a while, recite it in my head. Maybe it has been kind of foreshadowing and practice for this moment.

We are developing a routine of health, here.  Healthy eating.  More exercise. Attitude shifting.  It's a slow process (I like that) and it feels good.  The shadows that seemed to permeate the house aren't as numerous.  Some still linger, but most are packing and moving on.  I am grateful.  I am proud of my daughter who is taking each day at a time.  Who, without announcing anything or complaining, has moved through each day with a better attitude.  I do not know the dialogue going on in her head.  But seeing the positive changes in here I can only think that she is finding power over the negative thoughts.  Any power, even power the size of a mustard seed, is a start.  I am hopeful, again. Each day pushes me further away from the past and closer into the future I've hoped for my daughter.  One of good health, happiness, contentment and prosperity. That is what I'm seeing.  That is what I'm feeling.  Tell that to my mouth, though, because I don't always express it that way. 

Yesterday morning, for reasons unknown to me, I started thinking and my mouth started moving and words were coming out that were not expressing the thoughts I was having in my mind.  My daughter was in the kitchen with me as I was getting ready for work.  She makes these delicious berry protein shakes for me to take to work.  Anyway, I started saying things like, "You should get a good routine going."  "Just remember, it's one day at a time."  "I don't think it's good to get addicted to meetings.  Some people do, it's better to find the core to your addiction than to just shift one addiction for another."  Statements like that. I could hear myself talking but what was coming out had nothing to do with what I was meaning to say.  She took offense.  She started getting upset.  From the words that she heard, she interpreted it as I wasn't noticing the progress.  That I didn't appreciate that she was still in a struggle.  That she could buy alcohol but has not.  She didn't think I thought it was enough.  She didn't think that, by what I was saying, I was supporting her. 

I felt that old twist starting in the pit of my stomach.  Did I just ruin everything by talking?  I understood where she was coming from.  Why had I said all of that?  What started it?  I apologized and the tension eased a bit, but I could feel the old worry dusting itself off, ready to take action.

All the way to work I thought, "What on earth made me talk about that?  What was my core for bringing those words to the surface?"   And then, that old nemesis revealed it's name:  Fear.  I started feeding fear with short memories of the past.  Though it is getting easy to leave them behind, sometimes the do pop up at unexpected moments and the lights and gears of that old worry machine begins and old behaviors and thoughts begin to move like a rusty robot.  I think that's why the words were not expressing what I was intending.  They were coming from a place inside that has been dormant--turned off.  They were outdated for the time we are in, now.  I need words and ideas that are new.  That are in tune with the future not dragging pieces from the past with them.

So, I decided that the next time I'm feeling that medley of ideas, those motivated from the past, I will just listen and speak less.  Or, not at all. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Marble Stairs

I had such a good weekend.  First, the temperature finally went above 30 to an actual 70. What a difference sunshine and warmth makes.  Not only are the flowers starting to push through the hard earth, but feeling that warm sun on your face and smelling that fresh breeze starts to energize all of those dormant emotions, like hope and happiness and just being satisfied with life.

My daughter and I went to this place called the Strip District (I've mentioned it here, before).  The name does not do it justice.  It is a strip or section of town that is unlike anywhere else in the city.  There are street vendors selling clothing, jewelry and food.  There are musicians who set up and sing and play guitars, trumpets and drums.  There are little shops and restaurants.  It is the most diverse and friendly place I've ever visited.  There are people from multiple cultures. America, Mexico, Asia, Poland, Russia, Italy. It's crowded, loud and with all of the different foods cooking, the smells are amazing.  We usually have breakfast, but because of this detox eating, we arrived a little later than usual and just walked around, waiting for the fish store to open, then the spice store, vegetable stands, and last the fun shops. 

There is a church there.  It sits quietly off to the side.  I didn't even know it was there until a friend of mine, when we had gone there one Saturday, made it her mission to, 'find the church with the marble steps.'  When we finally found it, we realized we had been walking past it for years, but since it sits tucked up on a small hill, not far from the main street, it gets passed by.  Anyway, the church has marble stairs that you can not climb by walking.  You have to kneel and move up the stairs that way.  On each step is a pray to say.  When you reach the top, you are in the sanctuary, and can walk through and down the side steps. Of course, the first time I did it, I didn't read the instructions posted clearly on the wall, and went up and back down on my knees.  I walked like an unhealthy 90 year old for about an hour after that.   It is a small, old catholic church. There are beautiful old paintings on the walls, candles burning, Gregorian chants playing on some old stereo system, creaky wooden pews to sit in and the smell of burning incense.  It opens at 9:00 and anyone can go inside to light a candle, sit, meditate, pray, be still.  My daughter and I went there.  In fact, she mentioned that she wanted to go there.  She had never been but I had told her about it.  The church is never crowded.  In fact, in all of the times I've been there generally, it has been just me and my friend.  Once someone was leaving the church and this time, with my daughter, it looked to be the custodian and his wife were there quietly and diligently making the church ready for visitors like us.  We entered the church, stepping into it's small foyer where there are various statues of Mary, Jesus, St. Patrick (name sake of the church).  Candles are lit and waiting to be lit.  The stairs are the first thing you see when your enter.  Beautiful white marble, warn down in spots from the years of people faithfully seeking God.  We whisper.  "What do you think?" "Wow. Are those the steps?"  "Yep."  "What are you going to do?"  "Light some candles. Are you going to climb the stairs?"  "Yes."  

While she climbed the stairs, I lit the two candles, one for her and one for my son, wrote in the prayer book they have and sat quietly.  When she was finished, we walked back up to the sanctuary and sat.  I held her hand and voiced a prayer.  In the sanctuary, sitting alone, even a whispered prayer echos audibly as the serene faces in the paintings quietly seem to be looking on in encouragement and understanding.  We sat a little longer and then left.  Sitting in the quiet and then returning to the crowds makes me realize how important it is to find time to be still.  It does give your inner self refreshment. 

On Sunday, we went to church.  An amazing message, again, from the pastor who I believe is gifted at speaking.  We spent the rest of the weekend running errands and just enjoying...everything. 

How wonderful it feels to have time that is so relaxed.  The conversation was easy.  Even when we talked about addiction issues, a topic that pops up on occasion, it was calm.  I didn't get that queasy feeling and she didn't seem defensive.  We just talked.  It was so nice.

I am praying for more and more days like that.  I am praying for all of us to have those days.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Titanic

I don't know why I thought of it, but once this idea popped into my head, I have been thinking about it a lot. 

I have watched the movie Titanic several times.  I was going through the divorce when I saw it the first time.  Emotions help you to remember events, so maybe that's why this movie impressed me so much. I was a passengar on my own Titanic, at the time.  I have watched it when it comes on TV and I have the video of it.  It's not even one of my favorite movies, but when the opportunity arises, I watch it.  Now, though, I only watch it until they hit the iceberg.  How horrible it would have been to be in that dark, icy water. How awful the panic would have been once they realized what was going to happen.  Anyway, when I watch it, I know it's a movie.  I know what's going to happen.  Having said all of that, for just a second in my mind, right before they spot the iceberg, my mind thinks, "Turn sooner this time."  Silly, I know, but just for a second I hope that the ending will change, but it doesn't.  It's a movie.  It's history.

I realized I do that a lot when I think about past events.  I think about it. Relive the feelings and emotions.  Think of how I could have done things differently. Wonder what it would have been like with a different outcome. But in the end, the past stays the same.  Thinking about it, wishing for a different outcome, just gets me back swirling in those feelings, reliving the emotions, then finding myself floating back here in real time feeling worse about life in general. 

If I don't visit the past, my present and future don't seem so scary.  It's when I decide to let my mind wander back to the land of, 'What if?" that I begin to not appreciate what I have, or to resent, or regret what's happened. Even though I've learned a lot and have grown, diving back into those memories only makes me shiver and feel alone. When I'm active in my present, I don't really think the same way. I am more positive when I don't turn back to see what has been left behind. 

I don't think we are supposed to keep turning back to the past.  It's not going to change, ever, and it deprives us of moving forward.  Isn't that what happened to Lot's wife in the bible?  The angel commanded them not to look back, but she did and turned into a pillar of salt.  Don't look back.  Learn from past mistakes, but don't take up residency there.  It's over. Done. You've been rescued from your past, move forward to the future.  In Titanic, Rose, once she's rescued, changes her name. How symbolic. Move into the future as a new you.

We are doing a detox, here.  Two weeks (if I can maybe four) of eating only certain foods.  Staying away from the bad ones (sugar, dairy, pop, processed foods).  This is day two for me and the only thing I'm really missing right now is coffee in the morning. I'm drinking the strongest herbal tea I could find.  Sadly, nothing has the same taste.  But, I'm making the change. A good change.  Cleansing the inside. Starting new. My daughter is trying her hand at making protein shakes for breakfast. New experiences. New beginnings. One day at a time, one step at a time, walking away from the past and into a brighter future. Finally, hearing that voice of help in the fog and having enough courage and hope to blow my whistle.