Category: Relationships

Dear Daughter

Lullaby-Logo

Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s going to buy you a mocking bird…

Dear Daughter,

I know it’s hard to understand why I couldn’t stay, but somewhere along the path, your daddy lost his way; then a little birdie came to me with good advice to say; I listened hard and held on tight, then up and flew away; that’s how it had to be, so away I had to fly – so very, very far from you, up, up into the sky. Now in California, I could only think of you, but to be a better daddy meant a mission to renew.  The daddy that you need, a man that isn’t scared; undeniably reliable and no longer impaired.  Wherever we may lay our heads, no count how far apart, I see you in my reflection and keep you safe inside my heart.  Somehow, someday you will have to learn that life’s not always fair; press on my dear, and never fear, I promise I’ll be there – then there are the ones who choose to never understand; this disease left daddy ostracized and banished from the land; but it cannot break our bond, nor ever empty my affection; it fuels my fire to inspire the remedy to their rejection.

And if that mocking bird don’t sing, Papa’s going to buy you a diamond ring…

Dear Daughter,

1604375_10155340130775055_4152994143614805638_n
(Dancing with my Daughter, St. Patrick’s Day 2015)

A diamond is forever, and you’re my diamond in the rough, so no matter what else happens, you’ll forever be enough.  We live, we laugh, we learn, but the time comes when we fail, get back up and try again, that’s how you will prevail.  And when you get distraught; or disgruntled; or disgraced, you can know that I have been there too with mud upon my face.  I’ll never offer judgement when you’re not winning the race, just an understanding; just a warm embrace.  So my dearest daughter, please hear these words I speak, I’ll advocate to bear the weight as we’re climbing towards the peak.  But if your daddy stumbles; if I should tumble down the drop, promise me to carry on and make it to the top.  Your destiny is way up high, just work at it and take it, I have no doubt you’ll knock it out and ultimately make it. Your definition of success will be revealed – go along, and what you’ve known as set it stone, might always have been wrong – I challenge you, sweet baby girl, to forge yourself a dream; the highs and lows are how it goes, revel in the in between.

 

And if that diamond ring turns brass, Papa’s going to buy you a looking glass…

Dear Daughter,

I wish I could undo so many things that I have done, not taken us for granted; but made us number one. I regret it every day, that I couldn’t see it coming; I was wrapped up in escaping, indulging in life numbing.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you or you made any mistakes; I made a choice and lost it all – sometimes that’s what it takes.  But I have started to lose sight of that dark and stormy cloud, forever hanging over me, so I can make you proud; and the time that we have lost, isn’t time that’s lost forever – you are my heart and soul, baby girl, my shiny little treasure.

And if that looking glass….ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Yoda Theory & the Dragon Slayer

aa357854089925b5d93bed6be6c3692a


FEAR

  1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
  2. be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.

In the spirit of everything Star Wars now-a-days, I’ll lead in with this:

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” -Yoda

In one way or another, I would conclude that the fear of something, situation, person, etc., has impacted most of the major decisions I’ve made in my thirty years of visiting earth. It’s an unconscious part of my mental checklist while weighing out the possible outcomes, and I instinctually make those decisions based purely on a desire to survive. I’m not talking about the decision to choose McDonald’s over Burger King for lunch by the way, although I’m sure I could come up with a scenario where that could be pretty frightening…

…imagine terrorists started targeting our cow population; sleeper cells all over the farmlands and pastures of middle America. Nobody knew they were there because nobody really wants to live in middle America. They pump the cows full of whatever terrorist concoction terrorists come up with and then start flooding the market with the murderous beef. Or maybe they have become so technologically advanced that they figured out how to put mini-bombs inside each and every hamburger patty with detonation occurring upon the first, scrumptious bite, blowing your head off. You, who “forgot” to pack your lunch, again, unknowingly strolls into the joint, free from whatever mediocre, lamentable job you’re forced into doing because you want to at least be able to afford yourself a cheeseburger from time to time – it’s the little things that get us through. Your mouth waters as the burger approaches and then blammo, off with your head – cheeseburger bomb. Next time you eat a fast food burger; there might be a little fear in the mix until you get past that first bite, or maybe you’ll just go with the chicken sandwich.

That’s a pretty ridiculous and far-fetched scenario, but fear can be a tough subject to embrace; especially as a man. We’re told we need to be leaders and warriors; fear nothing; slay dragons or fulfill some other absurd conquest to save the day or rescue a damsel in distress. Now that’s all well and good – in fairy tales – and I’d undoubtedly love to grow up to be a dragon slayer, but in reality, I’ll never grow up and that’s most likely a dead-end career path anyway. So instead, I got educated out of the fear of being un-employable or self-insufficient; got married because I feared being forever alone; had children because I feared ending the family bloodline; stayed in my career because I was afraid of financial insecurity; woke up this morning because I fear not existing; numbed myself for years because I feared being alive – had a chicken sandwich at lunch for fear of a cheeseburger bomb. I made all those decisions based on, you guessed it, fear, and what my best option was for survival.

If Yoda is correct, and fear leads to anger, I must be a rather raging human – I must really know how to break some random household items or smash up a few watermelons like Gallagher. No, for me that’s not the case; my anger is seldom expressed outwardly; it’s turned inward and directed solely at myself – even if it’s something or somebody else that is causing me the irritation or angst. I don’t enjoy confrontation and I’ll do virtually anything to avoid it. Dare I say, I fear confrontation – it’s uncomfortably awkward and I’d rather take skiing lessons from Sonny Bono. I was angry because I didn’t accept things for what they were; I didn’t accept people for who they were. I wanted to be accepted, but I could never see things from the other side of the fence or place myself in somebody else’s shoes. If all the players in the game didn’t comply to my needs or act as I wanted them to, it made me upset and my life inconvenienced. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous paints a very good picture of what I mean and can be found on pages sixty to sixty-three.

V2-3Gremlins

As my anger internally escalated, it started brewing into forms of hate. I had no outlet to express how I felt because I was too afraid to explore one; I didn’t want to be judged – I just wanted to fly under the radar; be liked by everyone and seen as a calm, peaceful guy – a guy that has his shit together and is effortlessly conquering the world. I continued to stuff it all down and “act like a man”. I started to hate the world and everything in it, viewing it as an entity that was forever against me. Day in and day out, I ingested bottle after bottle of whiskey to make it all go away; a temporary relief from the nightmare I felt trapped in. Dealing with the consequences at the pinnacle moment of an urge to cease existing seemed overwhelmingly reasonable compared to dealing with the hatred, thoughts and imagery floating around and infesting my psyche. That’s the power of the mind.

Everything I had in my life was a front for my alcohol abuse. I desperately wanted to project the image of a happy home and functioning family because I hoped it would take the focus away from my alcoholism. I wanted it both ways; stay comfortable; never sleep in the gutter or on the streets while continuing to drink how I wanted and attempt to hold a fabricated life altogether. The amount of time and effort I put into this is unfathomable for those who don’t understand my affliction or that the disease in my brain will go to ANY lengths to protect itself from being stomped down and sent into remission. The resulting conundrum I have found myself in is the suffering Yoda speaks of. I love my little girl and my little boy, I love their mother, I love my whiskey and the freeing feeling of the nothingness it gives me. Yet, at this moment I have none of them anymore, I haven’t for some time now – and it’s the worst part of recovery by far; but – getting through that suffering and coming out on the other side without resorting to the bottle is hands down the best part – a genuine feeling of personal accomplishment. My kids are healthy and alive; I know they are okay and in my heart I know they love me like I love them. I’m building my foundation so I can be the best father I can be, present and alert – the kind they deserve. I love their mother and I always will in one form or another, but her well-being and happiness is more important than all the hurt feelings and broken dreams of the past. I know she’s out there living and breathing life, sharing it with our children, and that’s all I want for her; true, authentic happiness and peace. Next to getting and staying sober, letting go of the love and being okay with what’s leftover is the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in this life, but I forgive just as I wish to be forgiven – and flip to the next chapter as I continue on my journey.

As for the whiskey, it’s best kept on the shelf at the liquor store.

PhD Free: No Lab Coat Required

cbse-ncert-textbooks

It’s been said there is no manual; not a book nor a guideline to prepare a person to travel through this world of chaotic beauty.  The best we can do is learn from our mistakes and bask in the glory of our successes while they last; to savor even the smallest of victories.  When I sat in the operating room and held my daughter for the very first time, I finally felt I had done something successful and good; something righteous that I could be proud of – I experienced a genuine, authentic love – one I’ve never known, understood, or could make reasonable sense of really; the kind every parent has for their child I would like to believe – its powerful and life-changing; I realized what I was truly capable of as a human being in that moment – the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I envisioned a future full of joy and I knew that little girl had found a permanent, irreplaceable home in my heart.  I knew I could take a life if it meant keeping her safe and protected from evil and its relentless attempts to divert us from knowing the extraordinary.  I would easily sell my soul to the devil if it guaranteed the dregs of society’s un-pleasantries would pass her by.  Seriously, where do I sign?   I can’t stand the thought of her dealing with the daily struggle to see the glass half-full or the heartbreaks and pain of well-intentioned, yet chronic failure; the kind I’m all too familiar with; the kind I never cease to bring upon myself.  I wish I could take on all the pain so she never has to, but I know that’s not realistic; I know she’ll have to make mistakes and determine her own path. 

I plead and cry out to the heavens every day that my major malfunctions never surface in her – the dark side I can’t seem to fully shake; the type that births immense fear: dirty, gritty, bone-chilling fear with a heaping side of guilt for bringing such a beautiful, innocent life into what can be a terribly deranged and fucked up world.  It’s a fear I don’t see ever leaving my side, plus none of this is her fault in the first place; I tend to feel ownership and take responsibility for the things she has been or might be exposed to.  It’s not like she was given the option to exist or not.  She couldn’t stand inside a voting booth, make a decision and pull down the lever for life.  She was tossed into this thing, kicking and screaming, because the stars aligned for a moment in time; two people met and attempted to create the fairy tale that so many of us often hopelessly desire – the ones we were seemingly falsely promised in the books we read as children; the knight on a white horse and the love of his life riding off into the sunset – planting the seed that we’re all entitled to live happily ever after.

I haunt myself – it’s torture really, but as people we also torment the ones we love the most.  That’s a commonly agreed upon theory from what I know and my life features no shortage of supporting evidence on the matter.  Those we love are constantly circled around us, which means they’re always potential victims; collateral damage merely by association.  I loathe having to admit the logical truth over what my false reality of the situation has manifested itself as inside my head.  I would like to believe I’m only hurting myself – I could handle that without too much shame and guilt, but it’s not the case and it never will be.  I’m not the only one going down with the ship when it gets thrown off course.  Yes, I was supposed to be the captain; the leader assigned the honor of protecting and guiding my little girl through life the minute she drew her first breath, but I wasn’t aware that the largest immediate threat to her was me, her own father; that realization threw me for a loop when I finally came to terms with it.  I don’t even totally understand how to protect myself from me, let alone a child that is dependent upon it for survival.  Still, none of these things can stop the earth from spinning on its axis; time doesn’t cease, and I’m in a race against it to pick up the pieces and put back together what I so carelessly deconstructed.

gavel1

It seems the right course of action is to punish myself; serve my justified time for the heartache and harm I have caused while accepting responsibility for what’s transpired.  While I’m not physically sitting in a prison cell, being isolated from everything I once knew can start to feel like I am.  Even the bright and warm sunny climate of Southern California, with its magnificent coastlines, palm trees, and beautiful women can’t eliminate the dark cloud that I sense constantly looming over my head; following me where ever I go ready to rain on my parade or strike me down with a well-deserved, fierce bolt of lightning.  But against all odds I’m still breathing life into my lungs and somehow I’ve managed to survive my twenties.  Terrible two’s step aside; I think my terrible twenties has you beat.  There have been countless times and situations where one more bad decision or wrong move would have put me six feet under, but for whatever reason I’m still here – and it’s my duty to discover what that reason is.

I never thought I would be a writer or at least try it on for size, consider it a hobby, and put myself in the mix.  I assumed I had nothing to share and I honestly don’t know much about the writing world or what outlets are even somewhat available – a blog seemed to be a good place to start out.  I haven’t even been formally trained to write, but maybe it’s not an art that can really be taught – just throw a keyboard and Meriam-Webster my way; I’ll figure out the rest – I can’t justify dropping fifty-grand for some stiff in a stadium seated room to tell me my use of semi-colons or hyphens aren’t entirely accurate.  Get over it.  Contrarily, I can’t say my life has been boring or devoid of troubling as well as enlightening occurrences either.  The battle of addiction alone has no shortage of tragic or triumphant situations and it does affect a ton of people and families throughout humanity.  Maybe all the brilliant story tellers out there have required personal experiences with complex emotions to make sense of before they could construct their story or say what they needed to say; like it started as therapy for their own personal maturity and growth; you can feel what they feel as you read the words because it’s real and genuine; it’s raw – not written by some PhD draped in a lab coat sitting behind mahogany doors with a zillion certificates on the wall because he read some text books once upon a time and conducted a “study”.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what health professionals do is fascinating, important and necessary, but enough with the flashy titles, letters after their names, insurance companies, forty-five minutes in the waiting room, and whatever other rigmarole comes along with it.  My experience is free of charge and degree or not, everybody’s shit smells like shit – close the door, leave the fan on, open a window, and spray some damn air freshener.  Maybe I am here to tell a story or be an inspiration for those that may be headed down the same blackened road I unknowingly chose – even if it’s just one lone person that stumbles across the experience I’ve had and turns around to head back into the light – is that not worth my time?  I certainly believe it is – any life is one that can be valued.  I could just be writing what’s in my head to get it out – maybe this is just an outlet for myself and becomes another working part of my process to recover.  Either way, I don’t see the harm in it. 

My higher power doesn’t have a direct line into my head; I don’t consider myself that much of a lunatic – the clouds don’t part, bursting with rays of sunlight casting upon me divine intervention, but I do think he speaks to me through other people – the people that have been placed in my life whether it be through somebody in the rooms, individuals in my family, the Barista at Starbuck’s, or someone else’s blog as that person embraces the vulnerability to share their story with me.  As people reveal things about themselves, I can potentially start to identify the same feelings – that’s my higher power showing me what I cannot see for myself.  It’s only then I can make rational decisions, weigh out the options or consequences, live with integrity, and start to improve who I am as a person without repeating my mistakes or traumatizing those that are orbiting around my potentially dangerous gravitational pull.

              

Is This Really My Bathroom?

messy bathroom

Faint, unnatural light flutters around me within confined white walls.  I’ve stumbled upon the inexorable circumstances I must endure from day to day with no revisions in sight.  Unbound drawers feature an array of draped wires providing no outward, plausible signs for rhyme or reason; all attached to superfluous heating devices.  Flesh colored powder is bestrewed all over the counter tops in between a kaleidoscope of towers containing glamour products.  Bottles of body spray and perfume are scattered about whereas toothpaste intermingled with long strands of dark hair lathers the lining of the sink; the room still exhibiting a combined minty, floral aroma.  A heap of dirty clothes has become mushed into a corner, modestly conveying to me they belong somewhere else – somewhere more appropriate for recently worn attire.  Shades of red collaboratively streak about the countertop while the mirror accentuates a chaotic collection of smudges yielded from a combination of warm breath and greasy hands.  Below, the tiny wastebasket vigorously stands, boiling over the remnants of refuse it can no longer physically contain; spilling out like lava and sluggishly settling on the surface beneath; conceding to gravity as it bears witness to the conclusion of its balancing act.  On and on the scene unfolds – and it’s undeniably making me more deranged and ballistic with each and every passing second.  I hate this bathroom.

As I continue to forge ahead in my recovery and as a member of various twelve-step groups, I as well as others in my community quite often recite these words: “God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  This is commonly known as the serenity prayer and although it’s not the prayer in its entirety, the point and purpose adequately come across in the opening sentences.  Pretty powerful stuff when its broken down into what the words truly mean as a whole and we avoid becoming desensitized to the constant repetition of saying them over and over again.  For me, it’s important to remember this because, not long ago, I wasn’t so accepting of anything unless me, myself, and I were directly satisfied or the primary beneficiary.  What I didn’t know then, I’m starting to clearly see now.  Through acceptance of people, places and situations for what they are, rather than for what I want or think I want them to be, everybody benefits.  It’s taken me thirty years to come to this conclusion for myself.

I’ll revert back to the scene in the bathroom that I shared with my wife in our former home.  Whether or not I got worked up or deranged or even homicidal (kidding) about the state or condition of our bathroom, it was never going to change how she treated it; I could not change her just as equally as she could not change me; that’s how she was whether or not I believed it to be right or wrong.  Those types of character changes can only come from within oneself – generally when things or situations reach the point where change is incumbent for survival, not merely for personal preference or comfort.

let go

Accept the Things I Cannot Change:  As for me, the wiser, more mature handling of the situation would have been accepting it for what it was, processing it in a proper and fair context, then moving on with my day without acting snarky, distant, or bitter.  At least we had a bathroom to make a mess in because I can’t honestly say everyone in the world is so fortunate.  Running tap water is a luxury in and of itself and one that we so often take for granted.  My stress level would have most likely gone way down if I could have just accepted the situation for what it was and the tension between my wife and I may have been greatly reduced.  Add up a bunch of similar situations and quite possibly there would have been little to no tension at all.

Courage to Change the Things I Can:  What I always have control over is how I react to any given person or situation.  My expectations were always set far too high and for all intents and purposes, became unreasonable and unrealistic.  If I spent more time generating what was in the best interest of the entire family, rather than focusing on what I expected of everybody, our lives could have been relatively calm, cool, and collective; at least as calm as running a home with two small children could be, of course.  Expectations are taxing and arduous while modeling reasonable reactions and temperaments can be motivating.  It would have shown I could walk the walk, not just talk the talk – and that’s leading by example – not the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality.

Wisdom to Know the Difference:  The difference, for me, is always in how I react – it’s pretty much that simple, not easy, but simple.

Personal growth is derived from living outside of our comfort zone.  Nestled in my own living space, isolated from people and the outside world with bottle in hand was always my safe zone; now I share living space with a group of people that also search for new life and it’s helped me to form meaningful connections that are vital to thrive, not wither away alone in some dark corner of space and time.  Giving up the unwinnable fight for control has been the key to accepting things for what they are and not as I would have them.  It’s broadened the view of a man once suffering from extreme tunnel vision.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.  You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S.Lewis

I’m Not a Player, I Just Crush A Lot

cartoon-farm-tool-farmer-bear-clothes-pitchfork.jpg

There is no denying that I have not done everything perfectly in my departure from the life of active alcoholism.  On the softer side, I classify as supporting evidence for the expression, “He put down the bottle, but picked up the fork”.  I’ll probably spend the next six months re-losing the weight I’ve gained since I signed myself into treatment back in March of 2015.  It’s time to turn this ship around; I really can’t handle going through another wardrobe change.   I’m relatively certain this stems from still experiencing that emotional hole from time to time; that void I’ve always tried to fill with things or people outside of myself.  This is a long process and its hard work to permanently change a lifetime of bad habits, but as the old saying goes – “its progress, not perfection”.  I’m still working the steps and I haven’t yet had a distinct “spiritual awakening”.  I’ve had a few moments of clarity, but step twelve irrefutably states: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a RESULT of these steps…”.  I do look forward to what that experience will be like for me when the time comes.  In the meantime, it’s nice being free from the shackles and obsession of the drink.  Unfortunately, though, indulging in food has not been my major malfunction in these attempts to keep filling the void.

I have been married for a while (now separated/divorcing) and in a long relationship before that with a couple short flings in between.  The world of dating or now as it seems, casual encounters, has changed a bit while I was out of the mix.  I really didn’t know what to expect re-entering the world of meeting new people and putting myself back out there.  I can’t safely go to bars and I already tried the church girl thing so I decided to explore a path I’ve never traveled before.  Enter sites like Tinder, MeetMe, and a myriad of others out there on the internet and in an app store near you.  I can scroll through hundreds of women from a device in my pocket and based merely off a profile picture, decide whether I would or would not give them a chance.  It’s highly addictive, especially for somebody with a pre-disposition to such an affliction like myself.  It also seems rather shallow to me, but in the current state of my life, it became surprisingly appealing.  Get in, fulfill my needs, and get out.  No attachment; no obligation to build trust; no worry or jealousy – no feelings involved.  Period.  But in my experience so far, that’s not always how it goes down, and relations aren’t sustainable thanks to my actual lack of desire for romantic connection.

disconnected-plug2

I’ve never considered myself as being of “player” status.  I’m not the “hit and quit it” type of guy, but lately, I’ve been teetering on the fence of that realm, in my own way, and I’m not exactly sure where this behavior is coming from; although I have a few hypotheses.  I find myself leading women on with false intentions – stating my desire for a relationship so I can get what I want, then abruptly cutting them out of my life with no real valid explanation as to why.  These women had started to developed feelings for me, yet I can’t seem to ever feel anything significant for them – except for lust.  It’s practically effortless to be whoever I want on the internet.  It’s easy to come across as appealing and genuine, smart and charming.  I never use fake profile pictures or write anything untrue about myself, but I can embellish a little in the way I come across in conversation; transforming into a chameleon and blending into whatever they’re looking for in a man.  After all, when you boil it down, I am still a combined addict, master manipulator – and I know how to get what I want.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that this is unhealthy behavior for a guy in my situation; a guy that wants to incorporate integrity, morality, and class into a life mostly devoid of such things.  Although I don’t always feel the effects when leading these women on, I understand that I have compromised a few on my quest to perpetrate selfish desires.  The most recent woman opened my eyes to the innocence I was taking full advantage of.  She was fairly younger than me and naïve and I finally started to feel guilty about what I had been doing – so I stopped myself before things went too far; before I caused too much damage in yet another life that unsuspectingly crossed my poor-intentioned path.

man-surrounded-by-women

Let’s explore my hypotheses of why I have been acting this way.  I’m going through a lot of change right now which is ultimately out of my comfort zone.  Almost instinctually, I want to grasp onto anything that temporarily gets me out of myself and with alcohol not being an option, women are the next best avenue.  For the most part, I have kept the focus on my recovery and sidelined my need for female attention or validation.  However, I have not totally been able to control it just yet.  My marriage fell apart most likely due to my alcoholism and distant behavior.  I pushed my wife away into the arms of another man, and even though it was presumably a result of not providing her with what she needed, it inevitably took its toll on me and my view of women altogether.  I lack trust.  I have major rejection and abandonment issues circulating in my head.  I feel temporarily better when I am the one with the authority to dictate how things are going to play out; to have the power to reject or abandon somebody else, instead of being on the receiving end of such situations.  The problem is, once again it’s just a temporary fix with no long-lasting implications.  It’s not right for me to feel better about myself at the expense of someone else.  It’s not the life I want for myself and it’s not the model I want to set for my children as they grow up.  Identifying this new problem is the first step in righting the wrong; taking personal ownership and knowing that I will have to make amends to those I have hurt along the way – and, most importantly, not continue the trend.

Not Foes or Enemies, Just Strangers With Memories

fam

The musty, stale air fills my lungs; it’s less than desirable and mixed with the aroma of laundry detergent and full litter boxes. Pesky little flies buzz around me and periodically touch down on my head – a real nuisance in an already miserable, lonely environment; yet in the moment they are my only living companions. I stare coldly up at the pipes, wires, and vents on the ceiling that serve as the cardiovascular system of my once happy home. I’m wide awake on a mattress stuffed in the corner of my basement like a dog that couldn’t behave; the defiant and untrainable type. Sleep is out of the question once again as my mind races with the thoughts of what’s unfolding here before my very eyes; no one to blame but myself although thoroughly convinced I am within my rights to start pointing fingers – as any professional, self-centered alcoholic should. If things weren’t bad enough, I once again smuggled in airplane sized bottles of booze to comfort me in my time of distress – you know, because it’s still all about me and what I’m going through. Why should I go through this without my ever-loving, always there for me sidekick? I can see no reason why not and eventually the drinks take over as the world fades out. Before I know it, the maddening sound of my alarm clock is screaming about how it’s time wake up and head off to work.

Approximately two years earlier, my wife and I had worked hard to purchase a home of our own and provide an environment suitable for our children to thrive in – a play room with all their toys, bedrooms of their own, and a backyard with plenty of room to run around in, complete with a swing set and trampoline. We had great neighbors and things appeared to be falling into place as we were growing as a family and moving forward into the next phase of our lives. Taking on the responsibility of home ownership would change the dynamics and responsibility a bit, as now my salary alone would not keep us afloat; but we knew this ahead of time and agreed that we would make it work.   After all, we really were a good team as long as my alcoholism was in check. Problem was – I couldn’t keep it in check. Essentially, I was living a double life; splitting the love between my wife and kids with the love for my bottle. I wanted the best of both worlds and it turned into a love affair that would ultimately lead to the destruction of a family that had great potential for everlasting love, joy, and happiness.

Hindsight is 20/20. I hate being the Monday morning quarterback, but I’ve had to come to terms and take ownership of my part in the series of events that took place. It’s the only way to learn from it and pick myself up to move forward. Being sober for a time and removing the blindfold has enabled me to see things in a very different light. Although it has been a long, daunting road full of personal heartache and struggle, I have worked diligently at putting myself in the position of what it must have been like living with…well…me. I imagine it went a little something like this:

  1. UNPREDICTABILITY: Because of the battle constantly fought in my head and a complete lack of emotional regulation, it was merely impossible to speculate which Chris was going to show up on any given day. A result of my choice to continue living in untreated active addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders. With stability being non-existent, I had created the, “walk on eggshells”, environment and rocking the boat always led to me getting defensive or shutting down altogether. I didn’t have the ability to let my wife into my world or my struggle which led to the breakdown of our connection on that deeper level we once shared. With no reliable communication, our growth as a couple and a family became stagnant, disheartening and imminently lifeless.
  2. UNTRUSTWORTHY: Trust was out of the question. I became so entangled in my lies that I even started to believe them myself. My reality was so far out of whack. I would say or do anything to preserve my ability to drink undetected – or so I thought. The biggest hurdle to this was coming up with untraceable money. To solve this problem, I would ask my grandmother for money to “buy breakfast” at work, steal a dollar or two out of my wife’s purse in the morning, get cash back from the convenient store, pawn items from my house, and even take coins out of my children’s piggy banks. There was no level I wouldn’t stoop to in order to feed my habit. I’m sickened and disgusted to even think about how I could behave in such a manner. It absolutely supports the idea of this disease being cunning, baffling, and powerful – it’s no joke or something that should be taken lightly.
  3. MANIPULATION: In my case, this is probably where most of the long-lasting damage was caused. By and large, the people in my life became mere objects or pawns in my twisted game; turning them against each other to protect myself and my agenda. I manipulated my parents, complaining about how bad it was being stuck in my home situation. I manipulated my wife by telling her the things my parents did were out of line. I consistently played both sides to appear like I was the good guy in a tough spot. The relationship between them is strained to this day, likely because of my selfish desires. This same pattern played out with friends, other family members, in-laws, and co-workers; all to coerce people to feel bad for me and be on my side when it came time to choose, and more importantly, take the focus off the real problem at hand – my undeniable lack of self-control.
  4. IMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR: Simply – I acted before thinking of effects or consequences of said action. This was most prevalent when it came to money management and our financial situation. As an addict, when I want something, I want it now. I can’t wait, that would be silly. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and die so I might as well live today. And I’m certainly not going to run the idea by my wife, because I know she would not be in agreement with what I want. I’ll just do it and deal with the consequences later. Not the healthiest of mentalities – especially when the bills don’t get paid on time or we struggle to even put gas in the car as a result.
  5. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: I used up all my, “I’m sorry, I’ll stop that – I promise”, talk. The well ran dry. It meant nothing; I never changed. After a while, the words I spoke were meaningless because there was always false hope tied to them. I know my wife, family, and in-law’s wanted to believe what I was saying, that I would change and become the man I needed to be, but I took the validity out of those promises because although I loved talking the talk, I just couldn’t walk the walk. The grasp of my alcoholism was wrapped around me too tight.

Broken-Families

So what is the best thing for families to do when dealing with a person who exhibits these behaviors? First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself; try to understand the three C’s of addiction: You didn’t CAUSE the addiction, you can’t CONTROL the addiction, and you can’t CURE the addiction. If warranted, seek professional help for yourself such as therapy or twelve step groups like Al-Anon. There is only so much a family member can do for the addict or alcoholic. You also need time and space to recover – the family is sick too. Remove yourself from any abusive situations – mental, emotional, or physical. If at all possible, try and stand by in support of the addict or alcoholic – even if that needs to be done from a safe distance. In the event that kids are involved, it is virtually necessary to remove them and yourself from the situation, but still state your support. Alcohol and drugs have made the addict feel inadequate and valueless already so any support for recovery will increase the chances of growth. There is a difference between helping and enabling. Support your loved one, but don’t bail them out of situations they end up in. It’s important that people like me understand the consequences of our decisions; it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, catapulting us into the overwhelming desire to change and seek a better life.

I know these things not by studying statistics, researching, or taking a college course on the topic. I know this because it’s what happened to me. This is what addiction is capable of; what it has the power to do and how it affects families in such a destructive and negative way – but all that can be reversed in time. It takes a lot of work, open-mindedness, and willingness – but I don’t think anything is unfixable. I’m sober today and the obsession to continue on in active alcoholism has been lifted. I spend my days working towards recovery instead of working towards yet another relapse. These are things I thought were impossible and I truly believed I was the rare case of the un-helpable; destined for a dark and miserable existence. I don’t think that anymore. The struggle is real, don’t get me wrong – it’s the most difficult battle I’ll ever face, but a new solution to my problems is also just as real, and it’s playing itself out in my life one day at a time.

A family is fragile – it truly needs constant nurturing and attention to flourish.

untitled