Today is day 3, and it really felt like I had to push to get through it, but I think I had a breakthrough in figuring out one of my hangups about this whole, “am I or aren’t I” question. I was so happy to wake up today feeling sober, after a real sleep. Wow, mornings are really the best. Waking up clear and rested, without having beat myself up and sweated through hours of anxiety… what a concept!! Anyway, I woke up and felt good, worked most of the day, and when I needed a break I headed over to my family’s house to see a friend and do a workout with her.
On my way out, I ran into my brother who showed up just as I was leaving. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll remember that he is an alcoholic and a meth addict, and we have basically a non-existent relationship. However, he’s been sober now for about seven months, and for the first time, his recovery seems to be going well. I never trust it though, because he never makes it very long and when he’s active in his addiction, he’s really bad. Near death, in jail or hospital bad. My parents are raising his 4 year old son, who has cerebral palsy and developmental delays, and the whole situation is extremely stressful for me. I try to stay out of it as much as possible, because historically it’s been a crazy co-dependent cycle between my brother and my parents, which has forced me out to a certain degree. At least if I want to maintain my sanity.
So on my way out, we ended up talking on the porch for about 15 minutes (more words than we’ve spoken to each other since a year ago, when I spent a couple days with him in the hospital after he almost died from withdrawal seizures from being in jail). He looked healthier than I’ve seen him in years. He was there to take care of his son, which he’s apparently been doing more of lately. I was surprised, because even though I’d heard he was doing well, I never really believe it because it never lasts. I find that when I have hope, it’s a waste of energy because it’s always dashed and that’s more painful than just keeping my distance. But we ended up having a decent conversation and he told me about his recovery, the positive steps he’s taking, and that he loved me and missed me.
When I left, I felt gross all over. It’s so hard to explain how I feel about my brother. I am beyond angry and disgusted with him, and at the same time, when I think about his sweet, sensitive nature as a child, I can’t bring myself to express anger toward him for fear of pushing him over the edge. As I drove away I immediately found myself hearing the Wolife voice: “That’s what a REAL addict looks like.” “That’s the kind of person that’s at an AA meeting.” “You are NOTHING like him and Dad.” “You have your shit together.” “You can totally have a glass of wine and be fine; it’s not YOU who threw your life away, abandoned your son, went to jail.” “Your problem is nothing.” “Even if you need help, you can’t ask anyone. No one like THEM can know this about you.” “You are such a drama queen, thinking that a bottle of wine too often is a problem.” “In fact, a bottle of wine sounds like just the thing.”
I listened to these thoughts all the way home, and all the while I cooked dinner. I really wanted wine. I rode the wave of thinking that I was being ridiculous for wanting to stop. Then I reminded myself. I have been here COUNTLESS TIMES over the past year. I cannot stop thinking about it. I feel HORRIBLE after drinking wine. I am trying to get pregnant and haven’t been able to. I NEED to quit.
So I chose to sit through the discomfort, but I did find it really interesting that the encounter with my brother made me want to drink so badly. I realized that what I really wanted was to build the barrier between us back up. There is NO WAY that I can have this in common with my brother. His addiction is SO much different than mine. SO much worse. I have been seriously traumatized by the entire scenario with my family for the past 15 plus years, and I hate to admit this, but drinking for me had turned into a coping mechanism. I could not possibly have a problem because theirs is so much worse, and I am nothing like them. (He and my dad both are in recovery, but my dad is much more solid at 9 years.) It helped me drown out the pain of it all, but also, who in my family has the energy for me to have a problem? No one. They are too consumed with my brother’s problems for that. I’m the good child, the successful one, the reliable one. I can’t ask for help from them, they don’t have the time or energy for that and they all look to me as the one who is strong.
Even as I write this, thinking about my family has me wanting to throw in the towel in order to separate myself from the exhausting cycle of failed recovery, dashed hope, the sickening lies, and the heavy weight that “sobriety” seems to represent in my family. I have never envisioned sobriety being anything other than heavy, hard, wrought with drama. No wonder I haven’t wanted to embrace it!!!
I do have another picture in my head, if I bring it back to ME. That picture is light and airy. It’s energetic mornings and organized rooms. It’s freedom to read in the evenings with a clear head. It’s self-respect and love. It’s leaving the tragic actions of my past behind me and embracing my bright future. It’s learning who I truly am, rather than relying on the buzzed version of myself. It’s safety and calm. It’s no more yelling. It’s the ability to bring a child into the world. It’s noticing the little moments. It’s meeting friends for exercise rather than drinks. It’s moving forward.
Focusing on this picture is where I need to stay. I’ll need to figure out how to push through the feelings that come up around my family, and protect myself from that environment for a while if I’m going to stay here. But I am willing to do whatever it takes!!