Thursday, October 31, 2013

Working the Book, Step 3, Part 1

How has Step 3 helped me find a Great Divine I can trust?
I have held a grudge against the first God I knew.  There are too many false starts, bad memories, and horrible tastes associated with the Holy Trinity.  That God failed me as a child, and i'm reluctant to give Him another chance.
Trusting something, anything, beyond myself was anathema.  God obviously didn't care or hear my pleas, so why bother?  Slowly, I realized that there must be something out there keeping an eye on me.  I'm not dead and I'm not in a hospital.  Something is watching out for me.  I could accept a loving being that wanted to help me, but not necessarily a divine hand.  I still have too much distaste for authority for that.  Over and over, I told this deity what needed to happen.  Over and over, I was told "no."   Over and over, I prayed (I detest that word, but it's the truth of what it was) for answers and said "no, not that answer."
Eventually, something in me kicked.  Maybe the way forward was not the way I thought I wanted. From there, all the dominoes toppled.  If the way forward I wanted wasn't right, what was the right way?  Maybe the 'Verse had greater plans than what I aimed for.  Maybe the 'Verse had a better idea.  Maybe, just maybe, I could listen for the next step in the plan as opposed to telling the Great Divine my next step and finding a wall.
Ok, I believed in the Great Divine, and trusted that the 'Verse had better ideas than I did, but I still didn't wholly trust this God.  Deities had failed me.  There came a point where I realized that listening for those next steps and trusting them didn't mean worship.  BAM!  The door flew open.  "Thou art God.  I am God."  Robert Heinlein and Michael Valentine Smith had it right.  God wasn't something to worship from afar via lip service.  God is in all of us.  Trusting God meant trusting myself, trusting that little voice that says "Maybe, just maybe...", and trusting that things would turn out in the end.  I could handle that.  Thou art God.  I can handle that.
How do I distinguish God's will from my own?
It's hard hearing that little voice, when my head is clamoring over with brilliant (and not so brilliant) ideas.  I wish I could say "you just know because of the peace."  That's not true.  Sometimes the truth come like a thunderclap, and sometimes it "comes like a butterfly and quietly lands on your shoulder."
You know it's God's will when the brick wall vanishes.  You know it's God's will when things quietly start falling in your favor.  You know it's God's will when, even though it's not the easy way out, it's the RIGHT way.  You know it's God's will when, even as your heart beats out of your chest in anxiety, that small center of you that is God is a quiet candle burning steadily in the darkness. You know it's God's will when you're not afraid of what comes next, not out of depression, but out of the comfort that you ARE on the right path, wherever the hell it leads.  Even if you fear the next step like it could kill you, you do it anyways, because there's a hurricane lantern beckoning you forward.

Al- Anon Speaker meeting 1

Yesterday, I went to an Al- Anon meeting with my sponsor.  It was a speaker meeting.  The speaker had a thoroughly different story and background than me, yet I heard, over and over, my words, my phrases, my thoughts come out of her mouth.  As ungracious as it sounds, I'm glad to hear someone I've never seen in my life, someone from a different world in a way, say those things I've thought.  It was one of those "Fight Club" moments: "You are not a special snowflake.  You are not thoroughly unique." Knowing that my sponsor and others I know had been through some similar stuff helped, but not in the way that hearing it from someone I've never met did.
She mentioned her faults, running down the alphabet.  It was almost an echo of what I've chastised myself for.
What broke a chink in my armor of shyness and introversion was the kindness people showed me after the meeting.  They sought me out to welcome me. They didn't seem to mind my cloak of near hostile shyness.  They seemed to understand without my saying a word.  I nearly cried when a woman I just met offered me a hug. It struck me as Right and yet alien. It flew in the face of what I knew.  You Don't just open up that way to new people. 
As my sponsor introduced me to people and kept saying how far I've come in such a short period,  I kept trying to accept the compliment, trying not to brush it away.  I'm still not sure I've succeeded there.  It's hard to see how far I've come when I can see the miles I have yet to go.  A wise woman once told me "there is a difference between humility and devaluing yourself.  That difference is accepting the truth, even when it doesn't make much sense."  I think I'm still trying to figure out how to not devalue myself and my emotions.
Knowing I'm not alone, knowing I'm not a special snowflake, knowing that there is a place of acceptance by people who've never met me... it's scary, in a way.  But in the same way, it's releasing and cathartic.
At the end of the meeting, I felt wrung out and tired, but in a good way, a way I've felt very little.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working the Book, Step 2, Part 3

Which words in Step 2 do I find especially meaningful?
First, a reminder of the wording of Step 2:
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
I think the strongest part of that phrase is "Power greater than ourselves."  For so long, I've denied the existence of a helping deity.  I have claimed that "there is a God, but it's closer to a scientist/ petri dish relationship.  He's just watching, not messing with it."  I'm still not sure the Great Divine really has an interest in my day to day life, but I know that if things really get bad, it'll intervene.  The Great Divine has a vested interest in keeping me alive and sane, and can handle all that I ask it to help with.
"To sanity" is also powerful. It is a reminder of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results.  I've been doing the same thing, in one form or another, my whole life, and expecting different results.  I've tried going it alone for 15 years and expected something different.  Sanity is waking up from the nightmare, not just reaching for another knife and staying asleep.
"Restore" gives me hope.  It means I haven't always been crazy and won't always be crazy.  It means there is still some spark in me that wants things to be healed.  Even a scar is no longer a gaping, oozing wound.
"Believe."  A simple word that has always been my way forward.  Believe in a better tomorrow.  Believe that things and people can change.  Believe that things must get saner,  because the Great Divine won't let it get worse.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Working the Book, Step 2, Part 2

In what ways has my thinking disturbed my peace?
I think a more accurate version of this is "in what ways hasn't your thinking disturbed your peace?" The list is far shorter, almost nonexistent.
I have a nasty tendency of taking innocuous things personally.  Even if it was meant as a joke or had nothing whatsoever to do with me, I take it personally.  I would better keep my peace with a healthy reaction.
I get sad and angry over things that I have no control over. Like when middle sister went to jail, I blamed myself for not raising her correctly  (yeah, because that 2.5 years means I can mother her well.)  Or when my mother needs a med change and won't ask the doc about it. Or idiots in traffic.
I am very hard on myself.  If it's not perfect, it's something to stew on and worry over or rage over.
I get anxious and worry over things that don't deserve my time or energy or that I can't fix.  (This has gotten better by cutting sulfites from my diet.)   I worry over my mother, when she's been doing well.  I worry over my car, and that cosmetic damage.  I worry over money, even when there's enough coming in (it's especially hard when I'm unemployed.)  I'm anxious in traffic, because I can't control the idiots around me.  On especially bad days, I worry about my husband, his entire family, all my friends, my sponsor, just up and abandoning me.

I know my fears of abandonment come from actually being temporarily abandoned, repeatedly, by my mother.  She'd decide life is too hard or her emotions were too complicated or something, and just drive off.  Yes, I'd be safe with someone (as a kid, as a teenager, I was the safe one for my sisters), but to see my mother just walk or drive off, without saying good bye or even saying she'd be back, scared (and scarred) me.  We never even knew where she was going or if she'd be back. One minute she was there, the next, she was crying and walking out the door.  After she attempted suicide on one of those outings, I worried all the more.  There were times I wished she wouldn't come back, then I'd heap blame and shame on myself for those thoughts.  "She is my mother!" I'd chide myself, "I hafta love her and want her."  There are times that I wonder if her taking us storm chasing was actually self destructive behavior that endangered us kids or if it was a form of running away.  I know the winter in Pennsylvania with her pen pal was running away.  I later found out that she didn't tell Dad until either we were gone or until we got back.  There are some memories there I need to uncover.

How does Step 2 help me find peace in stressful situations?
Just reminding myself that I don't hafta face this alone helps.  Knowing that there is someone out there who knows all of my past, all of my secrets, and all of everything, and still loves me and won't leave me (well, it hasn't yet) is a scary and empowering thought.  Just the idea of, even if everything goes to hell, I have something to fall back on, helps me stay sane.  There is an image of myself in an exoskeleton, where the exoskeleton is the Great Divine, that helps me realize that even if I don't have the strength, the Great Divine does.

Emotions, Part 2

Earlier today, I went to retrieve batteries to replace the ones dying in my mouse.  I felt shame and anxiety and got a flash of getting batteries from the battery box as a kid.  I got a sense of "if I hadn't used up those batteries so fast, I wouldn't need more."  There was shame attached to a feeling of being a bother, of imposing.
As kids, we were always told that when the batteries ran out in our toys, that was it, no more batteries.  We were always shamed for asking for more batteries, because "batteries are expensive."  Dad hastily tried to correct that when I started needing them for calculators for school, but I guess the damage was done.
There was a sense of sneaking the batteries, like I should for some reason ask my husband for a battery.  It was a holdover.  I often snuck the batteries that I needed for school, afraid I'd get in trouble for using them up too fast.
I think Dad just thought I was being adult and replacing them on my own.  He had to notice them going missing, as they were refilled every once in a while.  And that may've been how it seemed to every other person.  To me, it seemed something shameful and sneaky, like I didn't deserve those batteries, but I needed them to be a perfect kid and help keep the chaos to a minimum.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Working the Book, Step Two, Part 2

In what ways have I felt like a victim?
When it would fall to me to talk my mother out of suicide. I felt, and rightly so, like it was something I shouldn't have had to do.  I felt like I was being singled out because I was the responsible one.
When criticized.  Even if someone is only trying to help, I feel like they're saying I'm the world's greatest failure.
When dealing with my middle sister's drama.  Any good in my life falls by the wayside because she got in trouble.  I was actively worried about people missing my college graduation because she was in jail and having issues.  I felt I was a victim of her need for drama because people bow and scrape for her.  I was the good kid.  I didn't need the attention the special kid needed.  There are times it still feels like that is the general consensus.
When I lose a friend.  I don't make friends easily or well, so losing one, especially through actions that could have been avoided on either end, makes me feel like I'm being punished for even trying.
When Dad would single me out for punishment when things weren't clean enough or my sisters were misbehaving.  Even though we'd all been told to clean [the dishes, our room, whatever mess] or behave, it always fell to me to clean whatever it was and I could never be quick enough to make it clean enough or make my sisters be quiet and vanish.  I felt like a victim, a scapegoat, because I took all the blame and got none of the happy.  Even if one of my sisters took the blame and punishment, I still felt victimized, because I knew it was my fault they were being punished.
What changes have I seen in my life that I attribute to a Power greater than myself restoring me to sanity?
I passed college.  With all the drama passing in and out of life during that time frame, and with that hellacious last semester, something kept me sane enough to get out alive and with a degree.
I never completed or retried that suicide attempt. There must have been something out there keeping an eye on me and giving me that last ditch effort to live.
I survived my darkest days, when all I could think about was how nice death would be and how much the world hated me.
I remembered Al- Anon and came to the conclusion I couldn't face my past alone.  I'm still not sure how much of my past I'll remember.  My past is like a giant fog, with things occasionally surfacing or coming out of the mist.
I came to peace with my father and his drinking, or a form of peace.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Emotions, Part 1

Last night, a friend caused me to have some emotional issues and I lost my serenity for a bit.
Every Saturday, we have a few friends over to play video games or watch anime or just hang out.  Last night was an MMORPG that we've been playing quite frequently.  We did several dungeons in game, then the friend that joins us online bowed out.  The friend that caused the irritation then runs off and does something with his guild in game.  No notification, no asking what the group plan was. Just drops the group he was physically with to go play with someone else.
It wouldn't have bothered me near as much if he had said something prior to dropping us. "Hey, I'm gonna go do a guild bounty and I'll be right back." I would've been cool with that, because it's quick and only can happen once a week.  Instead, he drops us like a sack of rotten potatoes for his cool guildies.
I felt irritated that he didn't bother telling anyone until he did it.  I felt frustrated that we apparently ranked second.  I felt abandoned. I felt anger that he couldn't exhibit good manners.  I felt shame, like it was somehow my fault he had ditched us.  When my husband pulled inward and ignored everyone for a bit to deal with his frustration and anger, I felt alone.
To deal with it in a healthy way, I examined the emotions, one by one, and meditated.  I took out the anger on things in game. I found my serenity, not by rationalizing away what he did, but by realizing it wasn't something I could control.  It wasn't the first time this person had been a dick and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

Step 2, Working the Book, Part 2

What behaviors do I continue, expecting different outcomes?
I keep pushing people away, making them leap hurdles and pass acid tests to get close to me.  I want friends, but I don't give them a chance to be my friend. I now see this as a defense mechanism gone astray: if people can't get close to me, they can't run away from me.
I keep procrastinating, expecting to magically come up with the perfect solution for my projects at work. Fear of failure drives perfection.  Knowing I cannot be perfect drives procrastination.
I keep trying to "mother" my siblings into perfect human beings, even though they're both grown and going to  make their own decisions.  I now realize that ignoring my middle sister and pretending like she doesn't exist, only to mourn her bad or "bad" choices, is like my mother running away when we were bad or like Granny ignoring everything that doesn't fit in her perfect world. I still need to avoid and ignore her, but not to punish her.  I need to avoid her to get myself healthy.

How do I define sanity?
Sanity is realizing that I can't survive alone in this world.  Not just in terms of physical survival, but emotionally. Humans have always lived in social groups, both to make food easier and because humans need to be loved.  I can live alone (much as I'd rather not lose my husband and families) physically, but even in my most introverted days, I go stir crazy without some form of human contact, even just saying hello to my neighbor.  I need to know I'm not alone.  I need to know I haven't been abandoned by everything I ever loved.
Sanity is knowing where to draw the line on what I can change.  I can't change that the sun comes up in the east. I can't change that wars are fought over stupid things.  I can't change the moon.  I can't change my mother.  I can't change anyone except myself and my reactions.  Someone with schizophrenia once said "I can't change that I hear the voices, but I can change that I listen to them."  That's kinda how I see my life.  I can't change my past, but I can change the reactions I learned in my past.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Working the Book, Step 2, Part 1

What has led me to believe in a Power greater than myself?
The fact I am still alive.  If I am still alive, after what happened as a kid, the inexplicable healed broken ribs and scars, and the false choices I have made, something is watching me, keeping an eye on me.  Something has a vested interest in keeping me alive.  I ascribe to that as the great Divine.  If it wants me alive that badly, and can move heaven and earth to keep me here, it's not my call to tell it no.  I do not know if it hears or cares about prayers.  I just know the Great Divine knows what's best for me.  If I fuck up, it's always there, waiting for me to turn around and remember or ask for help.  There have been times I have felt the physical presence of the Great Divine, barring me from harm.
How do I describe that Power?
Not the Judeochristian God/ LORD, that's for sure.  I have a grudge against that aspect of the Great Divine. I believe that the closest the human mind can come to comprehending the Great Divine is to picture a great and giant faceted diamond, sparkling and shining as from a light within itself.  Every face is a face a past present, or future faith sees as a god(dess) or god (desse)s.  Every faith has gotten part of it right and part of it wrong. God is a reflection of human nature, good or bad, angelic or demonic.  We see in the Great Divine what we want to see or what we need to see. If we need a father figure that day, that is the facet we see.  If we just need to be loved, the facet with an ocean of love is there.  It is difficult, possibly impossible, for humans to grasp and see all the facets at once. Certain faiths deny the existence of all the other faces, others embrace as many as possible.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fresh Memory 1: The Yelling

I was young. Very young. Young enough that I was either an only child or my middle sister was somewhere else. I don't remember much.  I was standing in something, either a crib or a playpen and crying because I'd thrown my doll over the rail and I couldn't get to it. My mother walked into my field of view and starts yelling and screaming at me. (My adult mind superimposes "Shut up, be quiet, why can't you just be quiet and leave me alone.")  Confused, because all I wanted was my doll, and afraid, I cried more. She grabs the doll roughly, throws it into where I was, and walks away.
I have never remembered this before. I am so young in my memory (a toddler), I'm half inclined to believe I made it up. It seems like something that would happen, though.  I have no one to ask whether it happened.  I don't dare ask my mother.
The memory is fleeting. It's mostly emotion. Fear. Confusion. Shame. A feeling that is was my fault Mom was so angry, because I wanted my doll  (Blame.)  I felt the wave of emotion before the memory hit. I saw the nightgown I was wearing and felt the itchiness before the rest of it came back. Mostly fear and confusion.
I don't like those emotions.
I wonder if this was why I started fearing her leaving me and abandoning us. I wonder if this was the beginning.  I wonder if this was the beginning of tiptoeing around Mom.
I just know I need to feel and examine this confusion and fear, and extract it from the blame and shame.

Working the Book, Step 1, Part 3

What situations in my life have returned me to Step One?
Dealing with my parents and my middle sister. I am reminded that I have no power over them much as I may wish otherwise.  I am reminded to be patient and try not to get frustrated because they won't do as I want them to.  I am reminded to find my serenity and not get drawn into the old roles I played.
Dealing with coworkers and managers who have the power to criticize my work.  I need to keep my serenity.  I need to hear the comments and not the shame I attach to criticism.  I need to find a way out of the rage and terror/ anxiety those situations create.
What tools of the Al- Anon proram do I use to find serenity when my life becomes unmanageable?
Meditating on "one day, one hour, one moment" at a time.  If I can remind myself that "this, too, shall pass" and shorten it into breath sized chunks of time where "just for  this breath, it'll all be ok," I can survive for a minute, then an hour, then years.
I remind myself that I don't hafta go it alone. Even if the Great Divine opts out of doing something about it, even just telling Scler or someone about it helps lift the pain. Humans are social creatures.  We need the help of the pack every once in a while.
I tell myself "this is not my burden."  When I find myself trying to fix something for someone, I remind myself that their battle is not my battle.  My battle is my battle.
I use the Serenity Prayer, and listen for the nudge. If I cannot change it, I ask the Great Divine to fill me with serenity.  If I can, I silence the yammer with purpose and do what needs be done.  If I don't get a nudge, I try to hear my inner wisdom.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A A Open Meeting 1

I went to an AA open meeting today, out of curiosity and for the benefit I knew it would have.  It had the "right" structure for a Family Group meeting, and I wanted to see it from the other side of the coin.
The topic was the daily meditation of working in faith. Hearing how their God helps them, and how some of them have felt abandoned by their God before, made me feel better about my struggles with the concept of an all loving deity.
I talked, albeit briefly for me, about my faith issues. About how I dropped the Judeochristian god because of the grudge I had against him.  I prayed time and again, as a kid, to fix what was wrong with our family.  He decided not to.  What kind of all loving God lets people suffer for things that aren't their fault?  So I held that grudge.  I still hold it.  I still refuse to do anything with that God. That face of the Great Divine can go jump off a cliff.  I still struggle with the issue of faith.  If I attack it square on with that word ("faith"), it all vanishes and I'm left with empty words and no Divine.  I hafta kinda sidle up to it and dance around it, with other words and other ideas to believe that the Divine can help me.  I can believe, but I hafta look at facts and "facts," just making a jump and saying (in my best Gospel voice) "I BUHLEEV!!!" doesn't work.  I have faith in what has been proven or "proven."  "I BUHLEEV!" has no proof and falls like a bowling pin.  I believe the Great Divine can help, if I let scler (yes, that's a Futurama reference).  I think I can trust the Great Divine, but I need to be aware to what I want and think I need may not in fact be what I need.  Kinda like the alcoholic "needs" a drink, but it's the worst thing in the world for him or her.
There will be more on this topic later, I promise you.  This topic is kinda like faith itself: I hafta sidle up to it or it vanishes in a puff of logic.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Step 1, Working the Book 2

How does Step One change my perspective about the disease of alcoholism?
I realize now that my parents can only be helped when they're good and ready.  Their problems are not mine.  That juxtaposition of love and hatred I've felt for them for so long is actually natural, it's loving my parents, but not hating their problems of booze and martyrdom. I can love my parents without guilt, because loving them doesn't mean I love their diseases.  I can love my mother without fear I'll push her over the edge, because her problems are her own, not mine.  I can love my father without fear of retribution, because the demon booze is not my father.
How do I determine I am powerless over someone else's behavior?
Each adult has the right to free will.  For good or bad, they have the right to do as they see fit.  My mother will continue to do what she does, because it works for her; however harmful it may be.  My father will continue to drink, until something stops him.  That something can not be me, it must be internal.  As much as I may want to turn them from their self destruction, I cannot. I determine my powerlessness over someone else's behavior by determining whether I am trying to impinge on their free will.  If I am, I am trying to control them, and controlling others is impossible.  Trying to control someone else is like trying to stop water: Eventually, it will make it's way where it wants to go, dam be damned.

In what ways do I continue to struggle with powerlessness?
I still want control.  Control means less chaos, to the kid in my head.  While I rationally know that to be untrue, and that it is in fact opposite that, control means less chaos to my emotions.  If I can't control it, then I'm relying on others, others that could fuck it up or hurt me with it.  I've said time and again "I hate people."  I now no longer think that's true. I hate not having control over people, because not having control over them allows them to impact my life, causing chaos.  I rebel against powerlessness, even unintentionally.  Feeling powerless goes back to when I was young.  I was powerless against the chaos.  I had to either embrace the chaos or try to control things that might make the chaos go away. I chose control.  Whether or not that has to do with being the eldest and Mamasita, I don't know. To admit powerlessness would be to admit imperfection. No one would or could love something imperfect. To admit powerlessness and imperfection would drive everyone I love and rely on away. I've been told over and over that isn't true, but my mother and father showed me it was. The people who should have loved me unconditionally made me earn their love with pretty smiles and perfection.  I'm sitting here crying because there has been a realization that real love is given freely and maybe, just maybe, people actually mean when they say they're there for me. There's a little will o' the wisp light for me.
How does Step One help me to let go of misplaced blame and undeserved shame?
Oh, what I wouldn't give just to parrot back the "right" answer on this one. 
Step One helps me realize that Mom's depression isn't my fault. I am not to blame for her mistakes.  I am not to blame for what she does. "If guilt trips actually took you anywhere, my mother would be a travel agent."  It is not my fault she was suicidal. I should not be ashamed of her depression. Guilt trips were her perverse way of trying to control her world, of exerting power when she was/ is powerless against all else. After the suicide show on the bridge, I internalized it as all my fault.  I had handed her the note, I had somehow failed her in getting her friend to love her, I had failed to keep my sisters happy and calm around her.  I now know that it isn't my fault. She would have found some other excuse to try and jump off that bridge if I didn't exist. Her mental imbalance is not my fault.
Step One helps me realize that Dad's drinking isn't my fault. He doesn't drink because of a dirty house or loud kids or even my mother. He drinks because he drinks. He'd drink even in completely different circumstances, and will keep drinking until he finds out how to heal. Step One helps me heal from the shame of never being good enough to keep him from drinking.  There should be no shame there. Even if I'd kept things absolutely perfect, and kept Cassie out of trouble, he still would have drank. It helps me heal from the shame of having CPS called on us and having to lie my way out of the interview ("We're just fine, thanks!") and the darker shame of knowing we could have gotten out of that house had I told the truth, but the fear of them breaking the 3 of us apart kept me lying. It helped me heal from the shame of such a fucked up family, because, while the family dynamic was definitely off, it wasn't Mom and Dad fucking it all up.  It was Depression and Alcohol.
What benefits have I experienced in applying Step One?
I realize that not everything that goes wrong is my fault, or even has anything to do with me. I was the perfect scapegoat: blame me and I'd probably believe you.
Not every issue requires panic mode.  Panic mode stems from trying to exert power over something where I have no power.
I can accept, and in certain cases, even ask for help.
I can identify when I have no power and when I am using old evasion techniques to try to force power or avoid powerlessness. If I notice I am using old evasion techniques, I can use my power to control myself and stop using them.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Step 1, Working the Book 1

Why is it difficult to admit my powerlessness?
Giving up power means admitting that I am imperfect, have made mistakes, and need help. Power over even the inconsequential was a way of wresting control of my chaotic life.  I needed power; I needed control to show that my whole life wasn't chaos, just most of it, but this part right here wasn't because I controlled it.  Admitting I am powerless means that I can not control or manipulate others into a happier version of life, and that I hafta look at life as it is, chaos and all.

How do the effects of alcoholism and mental illness make my life unmanageable?
See "Step 1, Part 2."

What keeps me hanging on to the illusion that I have the power to change someone else?
A happy, serene, calm life, the flipside of my childhood.  If I could get Dad to stop drinking, we could be a happy family.  If I could get Mom sane, we would be a happy family.  If people would just do as they're told, life would be good.  If I controlled it all, things would be happy, peaceful, and calm.  Except me.  I'd be a stressed mess and always waiting for a control to fail.  (Oh wait, that's what's going on right now.)

In what ways does denial hamper my ability to let go of people, places, and situations?
I have deep trouble trusting others.  Superficial trust, yeah, sure, you can have that.  Trust you to help me, be there, or love me? Yeah fucking right. I am in denial over many things.  I cannot allow myself to be truly loved.  To open myself up to love is to open myself up to abandonment.  Everyone leaves, in time.  I can't let go of people because I can't be sure they won't hurt me further.  So, when they do leave me, or vice versa, I self flagellate emotionally.  They can't hurt me, so I hurt myself.  I can't let go of them, because that would mean I hafta feel the pain of letting go.  Part of me would rather take the emotional whip than that raw pain.
Certain places evoke memories, memories that until recently I was perfectly happy to leave buried, for fear of actually feeling the emotions of the time. That's the corner I took the beating when I spilled the milk.  That's the door I cowered against when I shielded my sisters from a beating for not cleaning our room.  That's the bridge where I had to calmly talk Mom down in my teens, ignoring my own emotions. That's the corner where I almost committed suicide. I'd almost rather deny having emotions, deny that any of that happened, than feel those emotions.  Feeling those emotions means I didn't do it right the first time around and fucked up.  I can't fuck up.  Everything must be perfect so I don't provoke Mom and Dad.
There are situations where I deny my true emotions, out of propriety and a learned fear of negative emotions.  You don't cry, even in grief.  You show no anger. Too much happiness brings down wrath from above. So I bottle it up, stow it away.  Certain situations cause fear, but fear is bad, so you stand there with gritted teeth and take it. Certain others mean a guaranteed fight, but if you aren't there, the fight doesn't happen, right?  Yet others are too close to painful childhood memories, and could bring up those emotions.  Rather than handle those emotions, I ran away from it in my mind, and denied those memories, those feelings.
Denial means I can't trust or love without  suspicion, I can't walk into a room without searching out exits and weapons, I can't witness a fight without emotionally cowering.  Denial means I act tough and like a total bitch when I'm confused. Maybe if I deny that there's anything wrong, we can all act normal and the pain will go away.
I always joke that my mother lives in Egypt, but I failed to realize I had/ have my own little summer home there.
I want to see. Denial is a set of blinders. I want to take them off.  If that means temporary pain, I can handle it. One step at a time. Kinda like the old Claymation Christmas song, "Just put one foot in front of the other, and soon you'll be walking out the door."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Step 1, Part 2

Tonight, with my sponsor, I explored Step 1.  She recommended I write out the ways alcohol/ alcoholics have impacted my life.
-I have trouble with true conversation. I do not listen to hear, I listen out of a need to have a better answer or the correct/ wanted answer.  I practiced active conversation with true listening with her (she was unaware, to my knowledge) and it was infinitely more helpful.
-I am often more concerned with having the correct emotion than feeling the emotion that is there.  I believe this stems from having to know when it was safe to show emotion.  If my mother was having a bad day or my father was drinking the wrong booze, it was safest to vanish and pretend you aren't there.
- As a flipside of that token, I have issues with showing or feeling emotion.  Any rage or sadness seems exponentially multiplied and like it should be bitten back. Any happiness or positive emotion seems exponentially smaller.
-I have a driving need to be "good" and perfect.  This probably stems from a childhood of having to be "good" so I wouldn't set off Mom and maybe Dad wouldn't drink.  Obviously, that's an untrue assumption, Mom would have had her issues and Dad would have drank no matter how "good" and perfect I was.
-I am on a constant hunt for approval and feel like I can never be good enough, for reasons listed above.
- I have issues with criticism, as they are taken to mean disapproval and maybe the person will abandon me. Criticism, even constructive criticism, provokes inexplicable rage, hatred, and a need to justify not just what is being criticized, but my entire existence.
- I have trouble recognizing and accepting my accomplishments.  I don't know how alcohol caused this one. I saw it in action earlier this evening.  Mentor pointed out how far I've come, even before the Twelve Steps, and how much I've done to better myself.  I automatically thanked her for the compliment and started looking for a way to give someone else the credit.  I think she knew what I was doing, because she pressed on, making sure I had to take at least some of the credit for what I've done.
- I can care for others easily enough, but caring for myself in the way I care for them is difficult to impossible. As a child, I was too busy making sure everyone else stayed on an even keel to worry too much about myself.
- I find it difficult to cry.  Tears are a sign of weakness and vulnerability, signs you don't show when they can push someone towards suicide or cause someone to "give you a reason to cry."
- I cannot relax when things are going calmly and smoothly.  When things are calm, it's the calm before the storm.  When things are calm, it's because you haven't figured out who's angry or sad and who to hide from.  I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it hasn't failed me yet.
- I still feel responsible for others, far beyond what is necessary or healthy.  I was responsible as a child for keeping my sisters safe from Mom and Dad and Mom and Dad safe from the 3 of us.  It was a delicate dance.
- I have a nasty tendency to pull away from everyone and everything if something is wrong.  I need to be alone with my thoughts.  Growing up, I could only trust me with my emotions, with my problems. Trusting someone else meant they could be thrown in my face as a flaw in the next war.
- I have very little trust and plenty of anger towards authority figures.  That fear and distrust of authority figures kept me from applying to the Air Force Academy.  Why should I trust an authority figure?  They'll turn on me anyways, just like my first authority figures did.
- I cannot trust my own emotions. Hell, half the time, I don't even know what emotion I'm feeling, or if I should show it, so I tuck it down to examine later, then I never examine it.  A childhood of never being sure if my emotion would drive Mom away or cause Dad to turn into a raging beast was kind enough to do that to me.
- I take on far too much responsibility, because I can't trust others.
- I fear showing emotion would cause those I love to run away and abandon me or make them "give me a reason to cry."
- I self sabotage, unknowingly.  Paralysis by analysis and procrastination are two very old friends.  You can't fuck it up if you don't start it. This has led my career to go down the toilet.
- Anxiety, panic, and I are old friends.  Anything unknown, anything different, anything wrong can send me into paroxysms of anxiousness, worry, and flat out panic.  I have driven myself into asthma attacks through worry.
- I tend to try to blend in to the crowd, knowingly or not, as a chameleon reflex.  If you aren't noticed, you cannot be acted upon or cause problems.
- I hide my emotions, but not well if it is a negative emotion.  Most negative emotions, like what  assume are grief, jealousy, pain, and such, show up as one of three extremes: abject red rage, dingy white numbness, or black depression.
-I don't feel like things are calm unless there is a crisis.  In a crisis, I can put down everything and go to fix it. Fixing a  crisis feels natural and right, calm  causes fear and confusion.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Step1, Part 1

As of a week ago, I moved through the First Step of Al- Anon:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Admitting I had no control was painful, heartrending, and required no small amount of swallowing false pride.  Letting go of control seemed tantamount to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.  It took a harsh look at my job issues and what they all had in common (me) to make me realize that the airplane was not perfectly good.  Matter of fact, it was on fire and and screaming towards the earth.  I would have a better chance to survive and thrive if I were to jump than if I were to keep trying to fly a plane I have no control over.
The traditional view of Al Anon on the First Step is the replace "alcohol" with "alcoholic" in the wording.  Pfft.  That's easy.  I don't have any control over my father or my now deceased grandfather.  I don't have any control over my mother or now deceased grandmother (children and spouses of alcoholics.)  Except when I really thought about it, I was still trying to control them from a distance, just not in any effectual way.  I was still dropping hints to Dad that maybe he shouldn't drink as much.  I was still kowtowing to my mother's (and grandmother's) martyring suicidal ways, trying not to provoke her.  I was still trying to bail out a sinking boat that I wasn't even on.
I needed to realize that Dad and Grandpa wanted/ needed the drink, both to tolerate the world and to love my mother/ grandmother during her martyrdom.  He didn't necessarily love the drink more than us kids, but he needed the drink because it filled a hole we kids (and Mom) didn't.  He doesn't see the monster it turns him into on occasion.  I need to accept that I have no power over his life, that all the hints and tactics I've used mean nothing until he is willing to change his life.  Does it hurt, knowing that I can't make him drop the bottle through sheer willpower?  Yeah, kinda, but it's more of a weight off my shoulders knowing that he is not my burden.
My mother fell into a typical role of an Adult Child: she unwittingly married her father and became her mother.  My father and grandfather look nothing alike; however, they both drink/ drank in a way that, while it didn't impact their jobs, was still heavily out of control.  My mother fell into my grandmother's role: blaming herself, playing the martyr, and guilt tripping everyone as a way of coping. She was/ is heavily depressed and has been suicidal in the past.  My parents rarely fought, to my knowledge. I think that was mostly from Dad trying not to aggravate Mom's suicidal tendencies and Mom trying to not push Dad further into the bottle.  It fell to me, most times, to figuratively and literally talk my mother off the bridge.
I cannot control my mother.  I cannot control her depression or her suicide attempts.  I cannot control her martyrdom or her thoughts.  It is not to me to be her therapist. I may have tried to in the past, but I cannot control another human being, no matter how bad the path they're on is.
She texted me last night, asking me what of her effects I wanted.  Knowing this to be a sign of planning suicide, I flipped into damage control mode. Didn't even think about it, didn't try and find a better method, just fell into my childhood patterns.  She told me a text or two later that she was being told to draw up her will.  Oh. By this time, I was trying to pull myself out of damage control mode and back to my center, my peace.
I needed to admit that my sisters were/ are not my responsibility. Their lives are their own. What mistakes they do or don't make do not reflect on me.  I admit that my middle sister's incarceration was nothing I could control, that it was not a failure of me bringing her up.  Those were her choices. While I helped raise my sisters, by virtue of being the eldest in an alcoholic house, their mistakes are not mine.  I cannot control them, much as I could wish otherwise.  I cannot place hints and subpsychic brainwaves in their heads and expect them to follow them.  My sisters are not my burdens, nor should they ever have been my burdens.
I needed to admit that my life had been impacted by the alcohol I didn't drink.  I needed to admit that my defense mechanisms and certain aspects of learned behaviors were hindering me more than helping me.  I had to admit that I had no control over the impetus behind those behaviors.  I could; however, control my outward reaction to those impetuses. I could admit that what I had wasn't working, and I needed a new tack. I could admit that my defenses were/ are, in effect, self sabotage.
I needed to admit that, for all my self control, I can not control some of my actions.  Those actions are so deeply ingrained, they will always be there.  I can reroute the impetus and brain patterns that causes them though.  I can heal.
I can heal.
One day, one moment, one instant at a time.