Tag Archives: empathy

Epilogue; prologue–ONE YEAR SOBER!

19 Mar

11:44 am

Some of you were like, Hey, how come you saved the best for last? Well, of course, I wasn’t going to gloss over my ONE YEAR SOBER “BIRTHDAY” today!

First of all, WOWIE, thank you ALL for your awesome, supportive comments. Second, I must clarify: I have two brothers; the one with the girlfriend is NOT the same as the one who is getting married in May. So, I am not the photog at her wedding…

Anyway, the epilogue to yesterday’s “drama in my club” is this:

When midnight came, I admit, I was still exorcising my anger and bitterness by journaling. I did actually get to some good points–great points–about how I feel now and what I get from being sober. I re-read an entry I wrote last year, on this very day, when I was sitting on my couch, passed-out-ish, throwing up onto the towel strategically placed (by my boyfriend) on my chest, before stumbling into bed in a blackout. That day last March, I had nearly six months of continuous sobriety. I have not drunk since then–a full, continuous year. It took me almost two years of trying, but I got here. (Mind you, and this is important, I started trying to control my drinking all the way back in, oh, 2004! I was blacking out then, things got really bad in grad school–I even tried AA in 2006–and I began consciously trying to go for days in a row without drinking starting in 2007–I made it 30 days once, back in the summer of 2008, but more often, I’d only go for 3 to 5 days before going back to my bottle.)

What triggered me?, I wondered, which is why I went back to re-read. Well, it was stuff that would probably not trigger me today, stuff that would not carry as much emotional weight: feeling isolated, feeling attacked for being a “hermit,” which I admit I had become (like, hey, does ANYONE think outside their own asses these days; my landlady literally physically jumped me when I got home that day, scolding me about how I ignore her and I can’t get away this time–needless to say, that woman has CODA issues, and I have rightfully decided to keep my distance), feeling stressed (I was running every day, almost 6 miles one day, 3 miles the next–too much). I had to baby myself then, which makes sense–in early sobriety, everything hurts your raw nerves; nothing makes sense. While my mind is still a buzz of thoughts, back then, everything triggered me to anxious and obsessive thinking.

But, we get through this shit, our minds calm down, and the obsession to drink leaves. Not entirely, but there was this shift that happened for me around 15 or 16 months (I started my journey, a first attempt at getting sober, in June 2012, so this was August of last summer), where I just stopped wanting to drink around every turn. Stopped automatically always assuming/believing that drinking equals relief, escape, fun. Now? Well, that has died down even more, and I see that it’s a real improvement; the thinking goes away. You learn how to live without the reward of alcohol. In short, your mind bounces back. And from what I’m seeing now, your mind not only bounces back, but it keeps going higher and higher!

The epilogue to yesterday’s message from the one brother’s girlfriend is this:

I DID call him, and we DID talk. I was nervous, and upset, but I got through it. And, it left me feeling VERY ambivalent. He basically insinuated I was lying about any message having been sent–she denied it (she probably forgot because she was blacked out when she sent it), and he believed/defended her–which pissed me off to no end. We are NOT that kind of family; there has never been this kind of “he said/she said” drama. That comes from her. Anyway, it bummed me out, and I expressed my frustration, that I cannot do more than I’ve done. And, he continued to keep his list, you know, the one with all the reasons on it to hate me, to hold up his (her?) grudge. And I was like, Dude, I’m not saying you can’t hate me, what I’m saying is, your girlfriend can’t bully me. I get to choose that. Period. (Plus, no one needs a reason to hate someone; hate is irrational, and no matter how many lists you make, hate is a choice, not a must, or a rationalized “to do.”)

On the one hand, he was like, I don’t know why it took you so long to call; on the other, he was like, Well, why do you have to go dredging up the past? I was confused, obviously, mostly at his utter lack of self-observation–you do realize, I wanted to say, that you’re saying two different and opposite things and that both allow you to maintain your grudge, no matter what I say or do, right? He said something about, Well, there’s nothing we can do then. And I was like, YES, brother, there IS something we can do here, and it’s what we do, as humans: we can work together toward forgiving one another, and we can work together toward reconciliation. (I actually said that; I felt proud!)

Honestly, I realize the elephant in the room is his toxic, 15-year-old relationship with cray-cray. And, I see how messed up she is, and how IF he wants to change the situation, he’s going to have to confront her, call her out on her act, and stand up for himself. One, he’s never done that in 15 years; and two, I assume that he knows that IF he does that, he’s going to unleash her beast (she’s threatened to kill herself if he leaves her; which, in my opinion, is part of her act, but which I don’t think my brother is so sure).

GAH. Talk about Relationships 101. And, I realize now that it’s none of my business anymore; I don’t need and never did need to keep this shit live. That’s my problem, wanting and expecting people to align with how I see the world, to forgive and/or like me. Lesson learned: What other people think of me is none of my business; and let it go, let it go, let it go.

However, I was proud of myself! Once I got over my fear and pounding heart, I was pretty good at explaining myself. I know I did wrong, and MY crazy while blacked out can put off anyone for good. But, what more can I do? If they want to continue to buttress their grudge just to hide from reality, well, at least I don’t have to live in that place. I did send him the email she sent, and then we “chatted” about life, and then I hung up. And then, I called my other brother–we’re much closer–and he basically talked me down for the next hour and a half. All in all, it was cathartic, if not healing. I’m still not looking forward to the wedding, but at least now I KNOW I can stand up for myself–I won’t fall down and die.

The prologue is this:

THIS is just the beginning, this sober thing here. I feel like now, (my) sobriety is taking on a shape of its own, starting to live outside myself, direct me when I’m lost, prop me up when I’m weak and scared. I know it’s me, doing this, but it’s somehow more than me. Maybe it’s simply an accumulation of this constancy of self–I can rely on myself. I can rely not only on remaining sober but also on…this Truth inside to guide me, to steer me, to fill me up, to make me righteous when I need to be, to help me–allow me–to make the right choices, and not just the superficial ones that I “should” make.

It’s growing, and building, and I’m becoming more and more sure of myself, of this path as being the right one, of sobriety as being the right choice, and not just the good choice. It’s right because it’s allowed me so much growth this year, emotional and professional. It’s right because it helps me to really see my relationships in action, and to identify problems on my end. It’s right because, I don’t know, I’ve talked about this nebulous idea before, but protecting The Body is so much bigger than just not trashing my own temple. It’s about this connection to heaven, as it were, which is here on Earth–the body, this body that I’m in, this mind and body, is a holy ground. It is where I stand; it is the only place I can be, which means, feel safe, be connected to…the Truth. A calm. Something that says, it will all be OK. There is nothing too big or scary; nothing is big or scary, actually. It’s all good, baby.

Even more, I don’t have to rely on anything outside myself to connect to this truth anymore; it is right here, and it is growing. Sure, I want to drink sometimes, but I know I can do well without. And this truth, it gets bigger now with every day sober. I can’t tell you what a strange thing this is to say, because up until about a few weeks ago, I was still struggling with Not Drinking. Sobriety is about me not drinking, big deal, no one cares, it’s just alcohol anyway. Somehow, that has morphed. Maybe it’s as simple as momentum: my sober car is rolling, still picking up speed, and I’m finally able to look back and see just how far it’s come!

So, one year is a prologue, it seems. The best is yet to come. Sounds SO preachy and AA-y, but…it’s real. I think it helps to confront your shit–I am learning to do that as it happens, and not wait (um, two years). But hey, the things I’ve learned and what’s helped me become more empathetic toward myself and others is this: we all make mistakes in our lives, but we all evolve (if we try). And strangely, as you’re fighting to evolve, sometimes it’s YOU who has to help someone else learn this about themselves. Like, to tell them, You can change, you can evolve, you are bigger than you know.

Another one is, I forgive you. I mean, getting sober has taught me that I must (not should) be prepping to forgive all the time, because I DO want to be that person who is READY to forgive when someone who’s hurt me comes with a sincere apology. Forgiveness is hard, and you really do have to be prepared to offer it to someone; I don’t want to not be able to give that. People deserve it. I deserve it. So, in addition to not being hung over all the time, I’ve been able to learn the value of cultivating forgiveness in myself–for others’ health, for my own. DEEP THOUGHTS, people. 😉

Tonight is the wine bar event–well, we’re gathering at a wine bar/resto. On the one hand, it’s just another day sober. On the other, I feel better and more hopeful and less burdened than I have ever felt. And, I feel like I am more confident and settled–this isn’t going to go away with a mood swing because this is real, I made this. I built this. And, I think the struggle is what makes it worthwhile, because without that constant fighting against the wolfie in your head, there would be no…reference point. The whole process of building your new statue–becoming sober–is what helps it stick.

Thank you, friends. I would NEVER have gotten this far without your support here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart–your comments were touching and some brought tears to my eyes.

Now, another 90 days? Another 100-day challenge? Onward for this “user bitch cunt!” (I hate to tell her, but it’s no secret I can be a cunt; and, I still love me. So, GOTCHA, bitch! Of course, I’m not above resentment yet, my friends. LOL)

(Btw, I think my present to myself for a year sober might be a trip back to Mexico–I loved Mexico City when I went a few years ago, so…I don’t know why, but it sounds like a good idea!)

A little empathy goes a long way

7 Feb

10:53 pm

The other day, someone reached out to me with a simple apology, and, in a split second, I “forgave” him. I put it in quotes because while I was sitting here thinking that I did all the wrong, he was sitting there thinking that he did. We had some fucked up drinking times, and we both said and did erratic, hostile things. All that being said, it took ONE second, and I zipped up all the jagged pieces, threaded the necklace together, and tied it whole. ONE SECOND.

We’ve been friends for years, so it makes sense. I mean, how could you throw away years of friendship over a bruised ego? Can’t you see through the armor to the person you know? I’ve often thought about this when it comes to other friends, some lifelong, who have since “written me off” because my drinking became offensive enough to hurt them, but not inconvenient enough for them to help me, tell me to get help, or tell me to fuck off and then, get help. I’ve often wondered why hardly anyone in my life–colleagues, close friends and family, I mean–told me to get help when I so obviously needed it! No one ever mentioned my drinking to blackout in front of them at family gatherings, for instance, the one sure sign that I was drinking too much. They talked behind my back, sure. But, why didn’t anyone ever say anything to me? It was too easy for them to write me off, to fire me, to “un-family member” me. Wasn’t I worth at least a shred of concern?

I’m glad this person reminded me that not everyone is like that. There are friends who have empathy, who show concern, who trade in their ego for the bigger picture.

I have self-awareness. I have empathy. It’s probably because I know what childhood trauma, depression, and addiction can do–and how you are NOT defined by these life obstacles. You grow, you change, you heal. In the process, you do and say some fucked up shit. It’s OK, we all do. It’s called life, and life is a process.

Also, this guy is what I would call “normal,” in terms of the way I operate, and how I normalize things. You know, one email suffices to say, we’re both sorry, can we move on? That is normal to me. Constantly playing games with people, dodging them in anger, resentment, and bitterness–this is ill. This is, in fact, how my brother’s girlfriend, and by default, my brother, operates. This is her normal.

Sigh. When it comes to amends and people like her, I have written off most of them to be honest. I mean, if you’ve been a friend for over a decade, if I’ve helped you every step of the way through your own debilitating depression, if I’ve gone to your father’s funeral–and you choose to never speak to me again because…I’m guessing my drinking was a problem, but you never told me exactly why, or what I did that was apparently the last straw for you? OK. I can let you go. It takes two people to be in a relationship, and to reconcile, and to choose–together–to move forward.

BUT, if you’re pulling that same nonsense AND you’re my brother’s girlfriend? Ugh. I kind of can’t write you off. In fact, I’ll be seeing this woman at my other brother’s wedding in May, which is why I finally broke down and made the phone call apology. No heroine here, just desperate to make amends so that the level of awkward won’t be debilitating when we finally do meet face-to-face! Now, I had already engaged her via a letter and numerous calls and emails to my brother, but that’s beside the point, according to them.

Why do I have to keep revisiting this? It’s like, there are a handful of things that still linger, mistakes made while drunk that continue to haunt me. Things that I just have to get through sober so that I won’t drink before I do. Fears and resentments to conquer before I can FINALLY…rest easy into my “new life.”

One of them is working a full-time job again. And, I made a huge step in that direction this week by starting a part-time one! Lo and behold, I can talk to people and socialize and pretend to be happy at work. LOL. Anyway: check.

Another is working AND continuing to maintain my freelance writing business. While the end result remains to be seen, I got a good feeling for it this week. While I’ll probably have to use my time a little bit differently, this week was a good test run to prove to myself that all will not be lost–I can keep up the mindset of pitching science stories AND work for someone else. (It also goes a long way toward providing some relief; I mean, while I’m subsisting, financially, it really is touch-and-go. Every month, I have NO IDEA if I’m going to earn my keep, and where that money is going to come from. Having a job will, um, ease that mental stress a lot.)

And, I’d say, the biggest thing that “makes me want to drink again” is having my brother’s girlfriend still hating on me, and lying in wait. I mean, I literally have no idea how they took the voicemail message I left on Sunday night. (I wonder if they’re listening to the message over and over again, making fun of it; or maybe, she deleted it and my brother never found out I left it? I should call him this weekend to make sure–I wouldn’t put it past her, I really wouldn’t. This is someone who lives on grudges and feeds off hate and anger and resentment. I hate having her in my life, in my head, but for now, it’s like, I have no choice.) Did it make things better or worse? And, even though it made me feel a bit relieved–I said some nasty-ass shit when I was blacked out, but this is going on TWO-PLUS YEARS ago now–it also made me feel angry again. Why do I have to keep apologizing? The thing is, I know she’s messing around, and I’m not. Her ego’s been bruised, but her “normal” is anything but. Anyone with even an ounce of empathy would have shown it by now; she has none.

All that being said, I still have to play this out, and wait until the wedding in May to see how she chooses to act toward me. She could do a number of things, none of which would surprise me: she could “play nice;” she could ignore me; she could mumble mean things under her breath the whole time (my guess this is what she’ll do); she could get shitfaced herself at the ceremony dinner and verbally and/or physically assault me. I honestly have no idea. And, the fact that my voicemail was not acknowledged doesn’t offend me, it simply leaves me hanging. Again. I have felt left hanging, worrying about this for over TWO freaking years. I just can’t wait for it to be over.

So, anger and resentment. I’m not sure why, exactly, I fear I won’t be safe from drinking again until these matters are finally dealt with, but I do. But, it sure does make me appreciate the people who have come back, arms open, hearts already having forgotten the mistakes–the bad–in favor of the aces–the good. Life is too short to remember the bad, and I’m too imperfect to hold grudges.

Yet…once this wedding arrives and I finally do see my brother and his girlfriend again, I honestly think my choice will be one of total separation. How a family member could play such games, for so long, in the face of honest attempts at reconciliation? I just don’t see how that person would or could be a welcome, healthy part of my life now.

Oh, and btw, fuck you, Wolfie! (I’m about 5.5 weeks away from a whole year sober!)

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