Saturday, November 26, 2011

When The Tryptophan Wears Off

I feel strange today. Way too full of fat food and alcohol from the past few days, tired from a day and a half of cooking, and a little sad to see my out-of-town families head back out of town. It's been a good Thanksgiving weekend so far. I got to see my two little nephews from Minnesota, and also Kitty and her husband. Today I'm going to work on laundry and straighten the house. I have no desire to shop any after Thanksgiving sales, or start putting out Christmas decorations. I just want to be quiet today, I think. There are no sports practices or games today. No dinners or obligations, and that's perfectly fine with me.

My brain is having those flurries of activity that can sometimes drive me nuts. Replaying the events of the past few days--wondering if I said and did things the right way. Wondering if the food I prepared was good enough, wondering if I opened my mouth a couple of times when I should have kept it shut. Wondering if the time I spent with the people I care about had enough "quality" to it. Worrying about worrying so much, and analyzing everything. Kate, my counselor, tells me not to over think things. I do it anyway....a lot. Too much.

Anyway, I'm going to try to let these thoughts go today; at least for a few hours. I'm going to try to enjoy my family, and relax. I'm going to try to live in the moment, and not worry about what I did the past few days, or try to predict what will happen tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Three Years Later

The three year anniversary of "Detach" recently came and went without any fanfare. But as this milestone has passed, I have to wonder if I've really made any progress in my journey. Have I really learned anything? Am I better off now than three years ago?

Have I learned anything? Yes, definitely. It's been three years of self discovery and learning how I got where I'm at right now. Learning about the behaviors that have been so crippling to me during much of my life.

My favorite parts of the journal have been writing about my mother and remembering stories from way back when that helped build the foundation for my codependence. But I think my favorite part of the three year journey has been writing the "Kiss and Tell" series; thinking about all my past loves, especially Chris W. Those were probably the entries that commanded the most emotion from me.

Have I made any progress? Honestly, not much. I'm still desperately codependent, and have a very hard time being pleased with just myself for more than a very short period of time. I'm still hopelessly looking to others for my happiness. Will this stop me from trying? No. At least I recognize it more than ever now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Mom

When I write about my mom, I try to remember funny or happy stories. But the fact of the matter is, my mother was an addict. She spent a couple of years battling alcohol; something she was ultimately able to walk away from. But the one drug my mother could never kick--the drug that robbed her of the last 20 years of her life--the drug that ultimately killed her, was nicotine.

My mother started smoking when she was a kid. 12, maybe 13 years old. In those days everyone did it. Through the 1950's, even our heroes like Sheriff Andy Taylor had his evening cigarette. It's just what people of their generation did. Especially if you grew up in rural Eastern Kentucky.

I'm certain my mother smoked throughout both her pregnancies. It didn't seem like a bad thing to do in those days. When I was little, I can remember both my parents smoking in the house and even in the car. I cannot begin to tell you how badly I detested it; especially in the car. It nearly choked me to death. At some point in time my Dad took pity on me and decreed there would be no more smoking while I was in the car. To this day I feel my throat close up when I see adults smoking in the car with children. But something good came of all that childhood second hand smoke. I hated cigarettes so terribly bad that I knew I would never, EVER smoke. I could never understand the appeal of it, and still don't to this day. So if nothing else, it turned me against ever wanting to try them.

My dad quit smoking sometime around 1980, but my mom was a different story. When my mother was in her early 50's, she suffered a brain aneurysm. Then a few years later, a heart attack. After that, a second brain aneurysm, and about a year before she died a second heart attack. One year after that, a blood clot to the brain took her life. Cigarette smoking caused all of these cardiovascular diseases. Her blood was thickened to the point it could not flow properly. The walls of her arteries and vessels were weakened and compromised. She had developed COPD, and often had frightening spells where she couldn't catch her breath. In the mornings, she coughed and choked, and spit up for at least an hour. To the day she died, she called it "allergies".

While he had success giving her an ultimatum about her drinking, my dad was never able to stop my mother from smoking. One of the saddest things I ever heard my dad say was when we were sitting at the hospital during one of my mom's extended illnesses, and he told me how he'd worked so hard his whole life, and how he'd hoped that during retirement he and my mom could travel and see the world. But instead, he spent a good many years sitting vigil in hospital rooms for weeks on end, then providing weeks or months of home health care, driving her to doctors appointments, changing her bandages, and making sure she got her medicine. At one point he got so fed up he told her if she didn't stop smoking he would leave her. He felt her illnesses were preventable, and that she'd brought it all on herself because she wouldn't put the cigarettes down. From that point on my mother had to sneak smoke. I'm sure my dad knew it. We all knew it. But at least if we pretended not to know it would make it more difficult for her to score her fix. Any smoker who came to my house knew my mom would be hitting them up. Ironically, they sometimes tell me with great fondness, and a big smile, stories of how my mom would corner them for a cigarette. This seems to harken happy memories for them. It just pisses me off.

A couple of weeks ago I was getting a pedicure from the nice Vietnamese lady who has lived next door to my parents for the past 6 years. She told me how my mother would come knock on her door when my dad was away, and beg her to take her to the store so she could get smokes. The neighbor said she knew my mom wasn't supposed to be smoking, but she didn't know what to do. She felt she would be disrespecting her by turning her away. She told me how uncomfortable this made her. Talk about uncomfortable!!! I was squirming in my massage chair, fighting back tears. Have you seen Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino"? My parents were mortified when Vietnamese people moved next door. Yet my mother wanted or needed her drug so desperately that she begged these people to help her get it. It hurt my heart terribly to think of my mother being that desperate. And it hurt even more for the kind neighbors who were put in the position to unwillingly enable her.

When I think of the addictive part of my mother's life, and when I think about my dad, I see so many parallels. This isn't an epiphany, I've pointed that out before. But what must we sacrifice when we love and live with an addict? It's a lot to give up. Our dreams for retirement? Our freedom? Many people don't see cigarettes the same as alcohol or other drugs, but I do. Tobacco took my mother away from me and I hate it. It just took sitting there getting my toes done by a sweet little Vietnamese woman to remind me just how much.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Rarely do I have problems sleeping, but tonight I cannot sleep. When I went to bed at 10:30 I felt very sleepy. As usual, I fell asleep within a few minutes, but woke up a short time later feeling too hot. After that I tossed and turned until I finally decided to open up the laptop. I have too much on my mind. I don't even feel like writing about it all. Just overwhelmed with obligations, responsibilities, and lots of feelings and emotions.

It's nearly 2:00 a.m. and I need some sleep. Maybe I will sleep now. Everything will work out. It will.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ready Or Not....Here I Come!

When I was a kid, I absolutely, positively LOVED the holiday season! On Thanksgiving I would eat until I was miserable. One time I thought I may have actually caused myself bodily harm. I ate so much I seriously feared my stomach would explode. Then it was four weeks of thumbing through the Service Merchandise catalog to decide what I wanted for Christmas! I always had a list of record albums I wanted. Wasn't it fun to see a record album wrapped under the tree? No brainer on that gift! I can remember laying on my back for hours under the Christmas tree, watching the colored lights blink on and off, listening to Charlie Brown Christmas or some other wonderful Christmas show on the big console television. I had all the gifts memorized. The shape, the feel, the sound they made when you shook them. Yes, I loved the holidays.

I'm not really sure what changed, but for me the magic of that season is now gone. Maybe it's because I now spend a day and a half actually preparing the Thanksgiving dinner. The half day beginning on Wednesday evening after a full day at work. And I now know those pretty gifts don't just magically appear under the tree, which doesn't magically become decorated with those pretty lights! Someone has to risk their life to actually drive about town, spending hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars to buy and wrap the gifts, then an entire day decorating the 9' Christmas tree to place them under. Stuff has to be packed away in boxes to make room for all the decorations we must set out. There are Christmas cards to address. And I always feel obligated to write a nice note to those I don't see often. And I feel I should include a photo of the family; at least the kids. Last year I got so overwhelmed I just gave up on the cards. Oh and for the record...if you ever send me one of those mass produced Christmas letters written to update everyone on all the events of the year....please know that people (myself included) don't like those, and often make fun of them later. If you've never seen the episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" where they write the Christmas letter, you're missing out.

Up until maybe five years ago, my parents' living room was overflowing with packages on Christmas Eve. Especially after my two kids came along. We would carry in armloads of gifts from our car. So would my sister, and so would her daughter. Add all that with the things my Mom bought, and it took two hours to open everything. We always opened them one at a time so we didn't miss anything. Mom would buy everyone in the family underwear. She called them "Santa Helpers". The label would always say "To Mary From Santa". I didn't have to buy underwear until I was in my 40's! But the past few years it became a gift card exchange. Everyone gets Christmas cards with gift cards inside. No one even needs to be in charge of the trash bag because there isn't any discarded wrapping paper. My kids no longer believe in Santa Claus and are starting to ask for money for birthdays and Christmas. Last year was the first year in my entire life that I didn't spend Christmas Eve at my parents' house. My sister wasn't able to make it in town and neither was her daughter and their family. So it was just us and my Dad. He came to our house and we had an awkward new tradition. I felt like crying more than once that night.

I know gifts and lights and turkey aren't the "reason for the season". I get that. But the enchantment I felt for Christmas as a child is gone. I'm not ashamed to say I dread it this year. I dread cooking, I dread making out Christmas cards, shopping, and mostly...putting up the tree and decorating the house. I don't really even do the decorating anymore; my husband does most of it. I still dread it.

But like it or not, Christmas is just a few weeks away. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. So fasten your seat belts cause here we go!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Reflections

While everyone in my house is taking advantage of their extra hour of sleep, I'm going to sit quietly and have my coffee, and write about a few things.

Madison is on my mind heavily this morning. She had a week that would make most people retreat to a corner and assume the fetal position. But Madison seems stronger than ever, and very focused. Keep doing what you are doing Madison. And as you told me, no matter the outcome later, you won't regret the kindness you have been giving.

Still sending love and support to Kitty who is working so hard in South Florida. Another week is in your pocket Kitty. Just keep going!

I am wishing luck to Scarlet in her business endeavor. I know from experience it's very rewarding to put yourself out there and see what you can do. You have a great product and I think you are going to be very successful.

Thinking of Sally as she is preparing for a life change in the months ahead. I know you probably feel scared sometimes. One day at a time.

Thinking of Miss Pamela, who has stood by my side for many, many years. Thank you for always listening, and for being such a good friend. Thank you also for caring about my kids.

I have two new employees starting tomorrow. We have such a tight knit little office, and I am hoping these two people will fit in and we can continue to work in harmony and peace! Also, I am looking forward to spending a couple of days with Mystical, as she helps one of the new hires get adjusted this week.

Mostly today I am thinking about my husband. He is leaving tonight to visit Kitty and her husband in South Florida for several days. I hope this will be a time of reflection for us both, and that we will see things much more clearly when he returns. I am going to pray for this every single day. All I've ever wanted was for us to have a happy, peaceful life together. Not a roller coaster, not a life of drama and sadness. Just closeness and peace. I'm not entirely sure this dream is possible, and I'm now seeing that clearer than ever. But after all that has happened, this is STILL all I want.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How About Now

Once in awhile I write a journal entry, and feel that years down the road, if someone should piece together the most pivotal parts of this journal, this entry would have to be included. Usually it's an entry that was written when I had a revelation--an "ah ha!" moment--a truly large step in my recovery. This is one of those entries.

Maya Angelou once said "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them". In the past several days, this saying has come to be very important, I will even go as far as to say life changing to me. Let me explain.

The last time my husband went to counseling with me he said "This is who I am. I'm not going to change. You can either accept that, or get out". It was a pretty powerful statement, and after it was spoken, there was a thick cloud of tension in the room. Finally Kate said "I really don't think there's anything else that needs to be said. Mary, you need to think about what your husband just said and decide if you choose to accept what he is telling you, or go". I sat there frozen. Frozen, but thinking to myself "What are you thinking, Kate? There's plenty to talk about! We need to talk about why that is an unacceptable statement! Is everyone in this room (except me) an idiot?". Then Kate said "Mary, how are you feeling about what your husband just said?" My frustrated response...."This is not the first time I've heard that. He doesn't really mean it. Tonight he will tell me he was angry when he said it, and he doesn't really mean it".

But in the days and weeks since that session, a very strange thing happened. For the first time since we met...I got it. I realized that my husband had been trying to tell me this for almost two decades, and in my ongoing, tireless, 20 year battle to change him, I simply refused to listen.

When I shared this discovery with Sally, she immediately shared the quote from Maya Angelou, and told me to think about it. "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them". Wow! What a revelation! Now this all seems very clear to me. How could I possibly have heard someone say something to me over and over and over again, and never listened? Never believed them? That is what codependent people do. We feel if we just try hard enough, we have the power to change people. We can't get it through our thick skulls, that most of the time, people are who they are, and they have no desire to change.

Tonight, after yet another incorrect assumption I made about what someone was "really thinking", I sent a text message to Sally saying "When will I ever start to believe people when they show me who they really are?" Sally's response: "How about now?"