Thursday, April 30, 2009

Empathy


Alcoholics do not have empathy in my opinion. When we were about to bring over a 15-year old exchange student from France, my in-laws were outraged. I remember my father-in-law's wife screaming at me, "What are you exchanging?" Keep in mind we were at my grandfather's funeral.

It's always tit for tat. I don' think that way. I looked at this kid and I knew I wanted to have him in our home. My in-laws spent all the months he was with us kicking and screaming about it. One reason they gave is they felt that his presence would take away from our own children. I felt like he added to our lives in numerous ways, and I was sad to see him go.

I grew up volunteering. Delivering turkey dinners during the holidays made me grateful for what we had. It humbled me.

My husband never seems that interested in helping out. I don't think he ever grew up that way - how could he have? There was always too much chaos.

My family had its own problems and dysfunctions. Volunteering showed me that the world was bigger than me. That there was more out there than my family and whatever problems we may be having.

One of the reasons I chose the church that I did for our family is that they are very active in our community. They build houses for Habitat for Humanity, and work with the local Food Bank and do international outreach.
I want my children to look beyond themselves.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I remember I was a point, I was a circle

I remember
I was
a point, I was a circle,
I walked
The swords are porous green.
I fell, to the edge of a whitened eyelash,
I laughed, to the edge of death I laughed.
I remember I was a glass that breaks the water, stretched out across a cloud,
I remember I was a butterfly,
despair began to spread like darkness, bullets began to make shadows, pointed shadows.

He is your blue-colored shirt, my cup and fork, my
balcony, the din of silence in the void, my closed eyelids,
the bird that shall bear me to the grave, he is the grave.

How often they have wrangled with mountains on my lips. Hands
that burn are extinguished in wine, rivers that run dry are pinned
to the walls, parched earth tries to imprison
your voice,
your voice.

Have you the courage to dance on a mirror? have you more
strength than the brilliance of a bee upon its knees, than
the kiss of pearls shoulder to shoulder?

Do you spell out tears as I set forth a tree?
From the ledge of each well, pots of hyacinth fly
in all directions. As though temples exploding, they
cross the marble to the final star, like the grasses
that glitter in a pebble. I watch her veiling herself,

On my clothes I write God, I write heaven.
This is me. And this is you.

Like one who lives on a seesaw, I live in the pupil of your eye.
Come morning you destroy me like an arrow, come evening
I yield to you, without a struggle I turn to dust. I say he is a mountain that bears a city, I say he is a horse that gallops in the sun.

Like one who lives in deceit, I stone myselfand call for help
Is there a terror greater than veiled fear, than
a deserted evening, than feet that tread on heaven,
than waves sketched like rainfall, than signs of thunder,than a cage without a bird, a bird without wings, wings
without love, without love?

From your two hands I gather tenderness at night,
from your two hands I grant a smile to each star, from your two hands I bury my head on your breast, from your two hands I search for my prayer.

I draw halos around you, as if you are the foe, as
if you are the Messiah. If you were alone, I tell you, I would
prostrate myself you you. If just ten, I would hide you in my lungs.
Since you are a thousand, I shall give you to drink from my blood. Your wound grows and grows.
it slits my throat from vein to vein. I put sand in your
wound. I put your wound in a giant, and around myself I
light the fire.

Who are you, that I should love you in the space I love you, in
the wound?
The stones are whispering:
There is no myth save in a wrestling goddess, a moon fragmenting. The statues are countless, beyond all computation. The poison is a singledose placed in a cup.
I pluck suns from between your eyes, I pluck thorns

-Orbits, be scattered beyond time, beyond weapons, beyond vipers, Bein harmony with the strength of gods, with mercy like the gods, with optimism like the gods, Upon the trackless sand each teardrop has a garden, the birds a small handful of honey.

Here am I bending down to drink and I lose my memory.

I have not let my face leap like a bat, I have not kicked my foot, I did not move like phantoms over the rooftops, I did not steal the sea's wings,I did not break glass over a breast, I have not withdrawn into despair, I did not go mad in gathering honey,

I did not go mad, I did not go mad, I did not go mad.

No need for the flanks of suffering, for my armor

A ship carries us to the end of the world.
Rivers push us seaward. A destiny in which I dress. Nets by which I am woven. Statues I destroy. A debt I pay. Flocks of birds.

A disaster. An earthquake. Travel. Return.

Return. Return. Return.

Forgive me O Lord!

a shore gathering pearls, a white horse enfolding me and taking wing, a bird that immolates me as I am warmed by its eyes, eyes in which I pray and weep, my ribs that are translucent, trees of emerald, the rose of compassion above unity,the dissension of daybreak's crown, the willfulness of nightly grandeur,the sanctity of pain, roses raining down,

him, him, him

I grasp the wave and I tumble

A divine vigilance in my eyes?

I leave at your door the burnt moments of time, the sunset, the harvestof error, and endless slipping, the grasp of truth, ingots of gold, faces of those who have died, faces of those who will die, footsteps of the prophets, shadows of the priests, the thinness of words, the misfortuneof the world, the secrets of the fields,

my love for you, your hatred for me,
and the white lilies
and the white lilies.

I grasp the wave and I tumble...
I remember I was a point, I was a circle.

Hoda Al-Namani
partially translated from the Arabic by Tim Mitchell

(The full poem was not reprinted here - because of the layout of the blog, the poem may not be layed out properly either. If you can find it online, I highly recommend reading the entire poem. It's a favorite.)

Yes, Alcohol and Running do mix!


I liken living with alcoholism to living in a war-zone.

My first husband is Lebanese and after years with him and visiting that beautiful war-torn country, I actually related better to his experience years later while living with an alcoholic.
When I read I remember I was a Point, I was a Circle by Hoda Al-Namani (and if you have not read that poem in its entirety, you should), I thought, this is me. This is my life. And I am not living in Beirut, Lebabon.

Like one who lives in deceit, I stone myself and call for help
Your wound grows and grows,
It slits my throat from vein to vein.
I put sand in you wound,
I put in your wound a giant, and around myself I light the fire.

If you are an addict, I am sorry. This story is not for you. There are hundreds of stories and resources for addicts. What seems to be forgotten is the families of those addicts, who largely suffer in silence.

There will always be another excuse, another mistake, another relapse, another addiction or anger about a parents’ addiction that they need their lifetime and yours to get over.
With addicts there is just always something.

And if you're reading this and you feel yourself getting angry perhaps you probably know that someone is finally telling the truth.

Of course I have empathy for the addicts too. So much that I belittled myself for 7 years.

When my husband first relapsed after his mother died, my well-meaning Christian father told me to just love him. But that's the problem with the addict: the more you love, the more they take of you and everything else, until there's nothing left to give.

And then there are the definitions that will drive you mad. What exactly is an alcoholic? I remember the first time my husband went through rehab, my dad's wife said, "Well, he can still drink wine, right!?"

There seems to be so much confusion around this issue. No one wants to label another as an alcoholic because it might mean that they are as well. My own definition has become more simplistic over the years. If your drinking harms you or your family in any way, and you can not stop, you are an alcoholic.
I have looked at other families with envy when I know they are the real thing. You can always tell. It’s not me, always overcompensating, trying to be two parents at once without appearing to be or that there is any problem, which is really the equivalent of being three. It wears you out, wears you thin.

I was living on 10 Excederines a day to get by between stress, lack of sleep and extreme headaches. I had dropped more than 11 pounds from my wedding day weight, which was already low. My sister told me, now that you've cut your hair short, you look like that boy from the Jungle Book! While many women would like to be a size Zero, I know for me, it wasn’t healthy.

Where would my husband be if I got sick? In the end I thought about that a lot those nights he didn't come home. If I got sick he'd be with his bottle somewhere and I'd still be alone raising these little kids.

I remember the night I decided to stop walking on tip-toes. I realized all these years I had become less of myself. I was worried about his anger, or that he would relapse, or be too stressed out, or our actions would cause something bad to happen. Suddenly I realized how ridiculous this all was. One strong parent was better than two half- assed-pussys. I decided then I would be me. I would let my children be themselves. We would suffer the consequences - whatever they were. And God help me, he would not hurt us - no matter what. I would stand strong. It was his turn to learn how to deal with the reality of our existence instead of us having to shrink because of the reality of his.

I remember before the first rehab, a very good friend looked me in the eyes and said, "Run". His mother had been an alcoholic and it had stunted his life. His comment affected our friendship for years. Three years later, when I found out about the relapse, I thought about this friend often and the courage it took him to say this and acknowledge my reality. I don’t know that I have ever even thanked him for it.
Thank you J.

But it was the best advice I received and it is the advice I would give my daughter if she ever became involved with an addict (past or present). Run. Run like hell.

The reason I think it hurt me so much at the time is that it would have forced me to see my part in things. And when you are with an alcoholic, you are used to suffering in silence as the martyr, wondering why the alcoholic does what he does.

I wasted 6 years of my life wondering why.

I've come to realize it doesn't matter.

He didn't love me or himself enough to change and he never probably will.

Running would have taken action, and courage. It would have said he can not do this to me. I am stronger than this. I can do better. Instead, I stayed.

Now I must wonder what my why's where that kept me and two, young, innocent children trapped there for so long. It wasn't love. I know that now.

The other part is that it would have forced me and others to acknowledge the truth.

Alcoholism is still hidden in the shadows. No one talks about it. We go to all lengths to avoid the subject altogether. Both the addict and the co-dependent will do anything to hide their sense of inadequacy. No one says maybe you shouldn't have that next drink, or maybe you shouldn’t drive your car just now, or any of those gray-area things that alcoholics are so good at lurking in.

By running I would have to tell the truth. He drinks. All the time. It is not pleasant. My life is out of control. And the hardest one, I need help.

If you know someone who is married to or in a relationship with an alcoholic the best thing you can do is to acknowledge it. If they say, "I think he's drinking", more than likely, that means he his. Tell them to trust their instincts. Addicts are master manipulators. Do not believe their words. Believe their actions. Tell them if you see shady behavior. It may be the link they need to prove to themselves they are really not crazy after all.

When I finally left my husband, I was only able to do so after taking weeks to compose a list of facts. At my office, I began to put together a black and white list of the things in our relationship that I could not accept. He did not go to my grandfathers’ funeral, he did not come home all night long, and he brought cocaine into our home. After 4 and ½ pages of undeniable facts that I could not argue the validity of, I realized that there was no longer any question of whether or not I could stay with him anymore. As I wrote to him, the list made that impossible, even laughable.

When you live with an addict, you are never quite certain what reality is. Everything becomes blurred. By writing down the facts as they happened, he could not come back to me later with his own version of the truth.

In my case, there were months of lying about his sobriety when I just couldn’t be sure whether he was drinking or not. Had I begun writing down his actions sooner, instead of listening to the words that I so wanted to believe, I would have saved myself at least a year of heartbreak. If you know someone who is with an addict, give them the encouragement they need to know they are strong and that they will make it.

Often times, you are so alone in your relationship with an addict. You feel you will never make it. There is no one who offers to help. Be the one who offers a loan, offers to baby-sits, and offers a place to stay - without judgment. They may not take it - but it is comforting to know that it is there. The worst thing is to pretend that everything is OK when it is not. The worst thing is to say nothing.

This is my story, and this is for you, for any of you who are in relationships with addicts. You are strong. You can leave. You can run. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. But when you are ready, you will know, and the strength you need to do it will be waiting for you there.

Before I left my husband, a dear friend from Jr. High sent me a quote from Maya Angelou. She says, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them!" As women, we must remember to trust our instincts and not wait for the men in our lives (especially the alcoholics) to change into butterflies.

The truth was I knew what I thought the first time I met my husband, but I gave him chance after chance despite it.

While I have seen some wonderful transformations in AA, the statistics are not promising and I would not place any bets for my future on another addict. These days, I have everything placed on myself.




The heartbreaking thing about this essay, is that I wrote it months after leaving my husband. I was feeling pretty strong, and very empowered. Then he went to Betty Ford for 90 days, and I really thought everything would change, again. Things were very good for a while. Then a few months later, he relapsed. Not for a long time, but long enough. It has been another 4 months of misery, even after him getting sober again. The trust is just not there. It breaks my heart that I actually gave my husband the list, told him I was leaving (again), and here we are AGAIN! I think what I have learned is that the list doesn’t matter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Poem about the Blog

I received a touching surprise in my email this morning - a poem!! I was very honored, so I will share it here.


When I read Sula's blog I am touched and inspired

by the honesty and the desire
to live in peacefulness
to live in harmony

to heal her life

to live deliberately
with love and truth

I am touched by her ability
to be open
to be vunerable
to empty herself
and try so beautifully
so tenderly

to heal her world.

-by April

A Card in the Mail


I just got a Mothers Day card in the mail. It is addressed from my father-in-law's wife (sticker) but it was in his handwriting, signed for both of them.

I was very pleasantly surprised.

It seems that some of the air is clearing. My husband has also been very nice.

We went to see my sons counselor again about parenting. It went well.

Who are you?

Did you ever for one minute consider me -
For one god-dammed minute?
Did you ever think about all the nights I spend hours slaving over magnificent masterpieces of meals
Or were you too consumed with your dysfunctional mothers' boxed-up macaroni and cheese -
that she maybe made you one or two times
when she was a happy drunk?
Did you ever consider the cost to me carrying your children?
My stomach burning
My eyes on fire
My head fumbling to understand your "disease"
Did you ever think when you had your dick in someone else that my breast was lodged in your daughters’ mouth,
giving her substance
Something you have never had or ever known.
Did you ever wonder if I would leave you--
other hands caressing me and comforting me and loving me through the chaos you created
This fucking life that just won't stop
That never stops
That just keeps ramming me in the head over and over and over again
Driving me completely mad.

Did you ever consider that I am dying inside and out
That I wish the world would stop.
Trees would stop blooming
Bees would stop stinging
Children would stop singing
Everyone would stop asking me
Are you ok?

NO

This is not the life I planned or dreamed or thought up or imagined
You are not the love
You are not the boy with big green eyes
You are an animal
A maniac
A menace
A torturer
A disease
A tick
A dick
An asshole
Why?
Why!
Why?

If I could remove your every gene from my children I would.
I would bleach you out and remove your stain.
I would forget you.
I would kill you.
I would not let you destroy me like I am nothing.
I would not let you see me cry.
I would not let you know that I am suffering.
Who are you that I should love you in the space that I love you in?
In the wound?
In the wound the will not heal?
That will never heal?
That breads like rabbits?

You are your mothers’ son.
You are your fathers’ son.
I just have to watch now -
So that your son will not be your son
And, your daughter -
She will never be your daughter.


I wrote that on a bad day in the rush of emotions of several minutes. Not the worst of days, but one of many bad days in my 7+ year relationship with an alcoholic.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Acceptance

About 6 months ago, a AA member spoke at my Al-Anon meeting about acceptance. He said something that has stayed with me. He said, whenever he has a problem in his life, it is about acceptance - and he quoted page 448 in the Big Book. When I got home, I asked my husband to get it for me so I could read it myself.

It is so true.

"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could no stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes. "

Forgiveness and Acceptance


Forgiveness comes in waves.

"I don't want to make someone else. I want to make myself."

I could get pregnant with another daughter like I planned and thought I had always wanted. Grace. The Lebanese always seem to fix the lulls in their marriages with another baby and it usually works. Most of the time. But the truth is I have always taken care of everyone else - even H. in my first marriage - and I have resented it. It is time to take care of me.

There is a reason I always loved that quote.

I never stopped getting my massage and acupuncture, even when our finances were in ruin. I never believed his disease was more important than me. That was one thing I could do for myself, and I did. And I think it was the one thing that saved me from total and complete insanity. I could have gone to Al-Anon, but I was not ready.

Heal your life.

I have always wanted people to be something other than what they were. I wanted my mother not to be fat. I wanted my dad to dote on me and tell me I was pretty. I wanted first husband to be like my second husband and my second husband to be like my first. I wanted my in-laws to be like my former in-laws, but they were Shia Muslim farmers in the South of Lebanon. My current in-laws are wealthy and like to play golf and tennis. They could not be more different.

I chose to divorce H, and therefore I chose to divorce his parents. But in many ways I wanted to keep his parents and I held on to them tightly, even though they already had a new daughter in-law that I had helped pick out.

When I told my husband I was leaving him, he told me, I hope your third husband loves you as much as your first and second ones did.

I replied when you compare yourself to H, you make God cry.

I felt the same way about the parents. I felt they were morally superior because they had embraced me. They loved me. They did not constantly criticize me. They would have helped me. I would not be in this pickle because they are Muslim.

But that was my choice. I chose not to marry a Muslim, so who could I really be mad at besides myself?

Louise Hay says the person that it is hardest for you to forgive is probably the person you need to forgive the most. I find this to be strikingly true.

Despite everything I went through with J, it seems much easier to get through that. Even though I have decided that I am willing for forgive my in-laws, I still find myself constantly blaming them. Constantly angry. Maybe it’s because they have not apologized. Maybe it’s because I expect more from them. Maybe I'm just still really hurt.

Despite everything with J, I still never feel like he was mean-hearted. I can't say this with them. No matter how I try to justify their behavior, nothing seems to fit, and their email responses only seem to have made it worse. The 8-month silence only seems to have made things worse. I took the block off my email but I have heard nothing. The truth is that if my father-in-law had really wanted to apologize to me, he could have wrote and sent me a letter. But he didn't.

Felony Conviction


The stress of trying to rebuild our lives has been overwhelming. My husband was sentenced to a Felony for the cocaine possession.

He’s still so angry at me for turning him in, and wants me to apologize. I’m still angry at him for not getting it.

He has to do 24 hours of community service in 3 day stints. Digging ditches or something in our community. He’s pissed about that too. And being a felon. Having his DNA tested. All the stigma. Not being able to travel. Having to report to his parole officer.

I just keep thinking that he’s lucky.


He could have gone to prison for 5 years. Our daughter could be dead. I could have left him. He could still be an alcoholic and drug addict – or I guess he is, and will be forever, but he could be active in his addiction.

He sees the bad, and I see the good. And some days I feel like we will never be able to reconnect. It seems like we only see the bad in each other anymore. Some days I hate him. Sometimes I wonder how I got here and how I can live this way for the rest of my life.

But it seems that what’s good for me is bad for the kids, and vice versa. They need their dad. And I need him too in some ways.

Our finances are a mess. And I blame him as much as I rely on him to fix it. I can not dig us out of this hole. It seems it is his responsibility, but still my problem that I have to endure every day. I don’t sleep. I am stressed. I am having headaches nearly every day. I had a hot flash this morning. I think about all the stress of these last 7 years and I hope I just don’t keel over and die someday.

Some days it seems impossible that we will ever get out of this mess, especially in this economy. But I think about all the money his dad is sitting on and it literally makes me sick. The kids suffer while he sits there like a stingy SOB. His wife plays golf and tennis all day and talks about my husband’s lack of work ethic, while she has never worked.
It makes me sick.

But it is his money and he can do what ever he wants. I shouldn’t expect him to care. He has helped in some ways. Someone told my sister that he probably won’t ever help a lot because he’s worried I will divorce my husband and he wants to make sure I don’t get anything.

It makes me mad that my husband and his family seem to think I have no other options. That they think that I should take the brunt of all of this again and again.

So many questions....


Things seem to be going really well since we saw the counselor. There have been no fights and no yelling. I have to remind myself that this is not how things usually are. I wonder what is at the root of it?

Did the counselor’s words scare my husband? I know in his heart, he wants to be a good father. He doesn’t want the life he had for his kids.

But then I wonder, when will the yelling and the tenseness start up again?

I just want to have a normal life. I just want things to be peaceful. I want my children to be happy. I want to be happy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Letters from Prison


My dear friend D. sent this to me today, and I really liked it.

Prayer from Dietrick Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison

"God, sometimes we wish for easy choices and care free lives. O give us better desires! By your Spirit make us long not for what is easy, but for the strength to do the hard things that need to be done. And by your Spirit may we seek out not just the tasks equal to our powers, but may we discover powers equal to the great tasks that lay before us."

Paralyzed by Fear


I had nightmares all night and woke up at 2am with another familiar one. Something was happening to me and I couldn't move or scream. When I lived in Tampa during my Freshman year of college, I was mugged in the middle of the night while on a date. I was completely paralyzed. I was unable to move or even scream for help. If my date hadn't locked my door for me while he was being beat up by 2 men, the other 2 men that were coming for me would have easily gotten to me next. Luckily the police came soon after and they all took off.

Anyway I have been having this dream a lot lately and I realized that it has a lot to do with feeling powerless growing up around my step dad, who was also an alcoholic. And now I have that same feeling again.

I have been on the fence about what to do because my kids are so young but I realized I have to get my finances back into my own hands as quickly as possible, regardless of what I do with my marriage.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Poem for my Son

He left us.

And what he stole from you was so profound
I tried to yank it from my own soul and give it to you
But it was not enough;
Not male enough
Not what you yearned so deeply for-
Your dad
Your longing for him now is so painful
Like a slap in my half-assed soul
that was not enough for you-
Even as much as I tried

And I wonder
Will he leave us again?
Will he leave you again?
This half-assed man who calls himself a father?
A two-timed reformed drunkard?

But I do not tell you this.
I tell no one this.

I just smile
And pretend its all working for me
Again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

When Hope Can Kill


Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-Emily Dickinson


This has been a favorite poem of mine for years, and one that I often read to my children.

However, when I was in counseling, my counselor often reminded me that I was too hopeful. She often talked about the book, When Hope can Kill, which I have yet to read.

Hope?


I went to the counselor with my husband this morning. It is the first time he has gone with me to an appointment and it turns out to be a very positive experience.

The counselor tells my husband what our son has said. He seems open and receptive to doing anything that will make things better for our son.

She tells us that our son can come to her and talk things out and learn how to express things better but ultimately it will be us that provide a cure for him.

She says that we need to discover his triggers - and brings up my husband yelling again - and try to avoid those around our son. She says ultimately, with time, he will get better.

We set another appointment with her the following week to discuss getting our parenting methods more on the same page. He thinks I'm too permissive. I think he's too strict. She tells him when one parent has been absent for a while, the kids will tend to go to the other more stable parent to get a second opinion on discipline. He says he feels like he was always a parent, but he doesn’t seem to be offended by anything.

I feel like on many levels my husband wants to be a good husband and father but he was never given the tools by his own parents. There were no good examples around him.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is Alcoholism Genetic?


I'm not sure I buy the whole genetics thing. I think it may play a part but I think the family environment is much more important.

Not that this is statistically relevant but let's say we look at my husband’s and my family.

I have 3 sisters. 2 are half sisters. My mother’s side is primarily alcoholic. If you go with the genetics theory, my one half sister should definitely be an alcoholic because of my mom’s side of the family and her dad (my step dad).

My "full" sister and I should have a high probability of being alcoholic because of my mom’s side of the family.

My other half sister should have a high probability because of her own mother's alcoholism.

But none of the four of us are alcoholics. None of us are addicted to drugs or ever even tried hard drugs to my knowledge.

Then look at my husband’s side. Both he and his younger brother are alcoholics. (The older brother is in a mental institution). Nearly everyone in their family on both sides is an alcoholic.

Is it genetics or is it the way the family behaves? Perhaps a little of both?

I have often said if I had grown up on my husband’s family I would be an alcoholic myself. Even being around my father-in-law for 5-minutes makes me want to have a drink!

My father-in-law is a difficult person to be around. He is always quizzing you on everything. In our case, mostly our finances.

He walks around our house and says, Is that new? No, we've had that for years. He asks about 7 more things.

When he interacts with my son, he is always telling him how he could do everything better.

He tells me where I could go grocery shopping to save more money. He tells me about things that I obviously already know – repeatedly.

After a laid back day with my dad about a month ago, my husband commented on how much he likes my dad. He's so easy to be around.

I relay the compliment to my dad. I tell him we could never have that same sort of day with my father-in-law. If we were to play basketball, it would not be just about enjoying the game. Every time my husband or my son missed a basket, he would have criticized them or made a joke. He would be telling them how they could play better.

There is never any rest or enjoyment. It is always about money and business and one-upping someone.

That's no way to live.

And that's my sober father in law.

My husband’s childhood is his story to tell. But whenever I think about it, my heart feels like it will explode with anger. It was hardly a childhood. I will leave it at that.

I believe most problems have a root to them. You can pretend that they sprung from no where, but when you have a child you plant a seed, water it and help it to grow.

You can forget to water the seed and instead a weed will grow up strong and stubborn in its place.

If you wait too long, the seed will never be rehabilitated and only the weed will remain.

But the weed is still your responsibility. Getting mad that a weed sprung up in the plants place makes no sense. You caused that to happen by your own neglect and abuse.

Pluck out the weed and see if the plant doesn't come back.

A weed can grow in almost any environment.

When you water your children and nourish them, they grow up into glorious, flowering plants, or perhaps a tall and steady tree.

They may falter, but ultimately they come back into the glorious creations that God intended.

Children Learn What They Live


By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thank You!

Just a quick note to thank everyone for all the love and support I have received over the last week. Your responses have been overwhelming.

My heart already feels lighter, so thank you!

My Former In-Laws


Well, a decade later, some of my former in-laws have gotten back in touch with me. I had kept in touch through my ex-husband, and his current wife, who is a dear friend of mine. But I was absolutely thrilled to get a "friend request" on Facebook from my former sister-in-law yesterday, (who lives in Liberia!), and I went through all her pictures and friends with glee.

It was one of the happiest days I have had in a long time.

I went back to some of my earlier journal entries from when I was in Lebanon. You can learn a lot about people when you stay in their house for a month. But I have to say they were so gracious, welcoming and loving.

Going to Lebanon changed my life in so many ways. It changed my perspectives. It changed my values. It eventually changed my religion.

I have often looked back and thought about my former in-laws, and today and yesterday have been flush with emotion.

Here is what I wrote in 1995.

I can find no fault with H's immediate family. They are as they are - which is very different from me - but they are good people. When I look at H's dad, I want to cry. I never look long because if he meets my glance and looks too long, my entire life will flash in tears of thunder. He is kind, like Pappa used to be in the period after a few drinks and before the too many. When the words "I hate you all" would surely come from resentment mixed with strong whiskey without ice or water to cool it. Come eat, he says gently, brokenly, and I remember Pappa with the ice cream sundaes after school or the Ding Dongs or the something extra sweet that finally raised his cholesterol too high for him to function. I didn't come here to grieve, but when I think of myself crying on that bed and him bringing me a basket of oranges or sitting with his glasses looking over scrawled Arabic business records, I cry. I cry.

I wonder when I look at H's mom why he married me. Her face is old but lovely. She brings life and happiness to any room, empty or full. The Arabic slides off her lips, as full as her body has become. She is the moon, nurturing. She is the sun, strong. Back home, I used to stare at her one crumpled picture and wonder. Hers was in a collage frame, but after glancing at all the others, I always came back to her, and looked. She seemed serious, solemn, Holy. I watch her pray here in robes of white, unable to kneel, with a chair to sit on instead. She believes in something. Christmas Eve she place white candles outside her home in hopes that some prophet would return. Unlike her, I cannot remember which one. I have no faith in anything, even myself.

While H's dad was eating, I went to kiss him. We were alone in the kitchen. I kissed him more that day than my own father in this entire year. I kissed his forehead, his cheeks, the top of his head. "You like me", he asked. Yes. "Too much?" Yes. Too much. I love you. "Me too," he said. "Don't go. Don't go back to America. Stay here," he said, biting my hand playfully as he kissed it. We'll come back, said. I kissed him more and started to walk away sad but he held me and sort of groaned sadly. He kissed my cheeks and his eyes started to water.


I wrote these poems for them, but never got the courage to give them to someone to translate for them. Maybe I will send them now.

Papa
I consider you more
than a father
for you planted the seed
of all my happiness.


Mama
I consider you
more than a mother
for you watered that seed
and made him grow.


I have really been grieving the relationship I have with my current in-laws and the fact that it will probably never be different. For so many years I have tried. I have tried to be kind. I have tried to be firm. I have tried to look the other way. I have tried just not talking to them all together.

It doesn't matter what I do because they are the same people they have always been.
I am also grieving the loss of my former in-laws. They were so kind. My ex-husband's wife, bless her heart, told me last week she would share them with me.

I told her I'd take her up on that!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Baseball with my Dad


My dad visits on most Sunday afternoons. This Sunday, he offered to take my son down to the park to play baseball, but my daughter doesn’t want to be left out, so we all decided to go.

All is fine while we are at the park. My dad seems tired. He works a lot, and he worked all day Saturday. Earlier in the day, he had volunteered at church for about 4 hours, and then had gone to help my 92-year-old grandma run errands before he came here. I am extremely grateful to him for still taking the time to come over. I can tell he is beat.

Months ago, I had asked him to start spending more time with my son. I had been concerned that he wasn’t getting what he needed from his dad, and that there wouldn’t be a strong enough male presence in his life to really grow up to be a good man.

I have so much admiration for my dad. He is quiet, a man of faith. He never says anything bad about anyone. He is always there for me.

He also writes and sings music. This is one of the songs he wrote, and I think it gives real insight into the kind of man he is.

Hero

When I was just a boy I watched my heroes on TV
Superman, Roy Rodgers and Sky King could always be
at the right place at the right time
They'd have the bad guys on the run
And I knew when I grew up I'd become

A brave and mighty hero
And everyone would say
How wonderful it was when I would come and save the day
I'd be a heroIt was meant to me
I knew I had a heroes heart in me

When I got a little older, well my heroes they all changed...
They played guitars and they were stars and in their songs they sang
And if we came together
A better world we'd find
And I could see it all inside my mind

I'd be a hero
And everyone would say how everything had changed when they had listened to me play
My songs of peace and love and hope would change the world I knew some day
and I would be a hero sure to stay.

I was always certain everyone would see
If anyone should anyone should ever be a hero it was me
But now that I am older its all so clear to see
The world is full of heroes just like me-

That go to work each morning and come home every night
And try to teach our children what is wrong and what is right
And maybe someday if we're lucky they'll look up at us and say,
"Dad you are my hero today."

It’s harder than it looks to be a hero
And heroes are not always what they seem
We all have a chance to be a hero
Even if its not as we had dreamed.

When I was just a boy I watched my heroes on TV....



My dad has always been, and always will be my hero.

So, in my situation, there is probably no one better to go to for help with my son.

On our way back from the park, my son started back in on his tirade. Usually he only does this around me, so I was surprised that he was saying all of this in front of my dad.

He started hitting himself with the bat. He said he wanted to make himself go away.

He wanted to pick a neighbors flower. I told him they were not ours and that we would pick some of our own. He said, “But we don’t have wishing flowers. And, I want to wish not to be alive anymore.”

It was interesting to hear my dad’s response because he was saying the same things to my son that I had been saying to him, even though I hadn’t told him about any of this yet.

It made me feel like I must be doing something right, because I know my dad was and is a good father to me.

The Counselor

I wish I had never been born.

I never want to see you again.

You didn't do a good job of protecting me from daddy.

You're not a good mom.

I don't want to eat.

I hate my life.

I wish I was still in your stomach.

I never wanted to see anyone ever again except for you.

I wish was dead.

I just want to be buried under the dirt like Pappa.

I don't want to eat ever again.

I don't want to live with you.

I didn't ask to be born.

I am never going to be happy again.

I didn't want to be born.

I didn’t want to have a mom and dad.

I don't even want to see grandma again.

These are the things my son tells me when I pick him up from school and take him and his sister for lunch. He has slid into what seems to be a horrible depression.

He says all those things again and again and again for an hour until I am crying and finally decide to give up on him eating lunch.

When we get in the car and I turn on the ignition, I ask him again if he wants a hug. He runs up to me from the very back seat of our giant Suburban and gives me a giant hug.

I ask him what that was all about and he says he does not know.

I say you just feel really sad? He says yes and starts crying again.

I offer him his lunch again and this time he takes it, eating it up in the back seat.

Suddenly his mood is cheerful a d he begins to talk about his friends at school.

Hours later he is happy and talks about wanting to go camping. But I am still deeply saddened and upset. I can't bounce back that fast. I feel nauseous. I could cry at any minute. I want to go lie down and stay in bed but I have too much to do. My children need me and I need to somehow wake my brain up.

I call his counselor when I am alone and repeat what I can of the conversation back to her. By this time, I am sobbing and can barely repeat some of his statements. Such terrible things to come out of the mouth of a 6-year-old.

She tells me she wants me to come in with him to his appointment tomorrow, and asks if I can get a babysitter for my daughter, who is 3 and too disruptive to bring with us.

My mom, bless her, is always available when I need her to help with the kids. She meets us at the school the next day and we all go to lunch. When we are walking to the car, my son tells me that I am doing a better job of being his mom today. I ask him what he means by that and he says that I am protecting him better from his dad. He tells my mom and me that he is scared of his dad.
When we walk into the counselor’s office, my son has a very hard time sitting still. She says she is going to ask him some questions because his mom had called her very concerned about him. She asks him if he knows why.

He squirms around and forms a little ball on her couch.

Finally he says that he wants me to tell her what he said yesterday. And so I start repeating some of the statements he made.

He tells the counselor that he is scared of his dad and she asks him why.

At first he says it is because he chews tobacco and he is scared that it is going to hurt him.

Then he talks about me protecting him from his dad, but he won’t say from what, or what he is scared of.

He fidgets terribly. He goes to her desk and starts to play with something on it. We have to ask him repeatedly to sit down.

He says, “these are just really hard questions you’re asking me.”

He tells her that he likes me to protect him from his dad and for me to make him feel better.

She asks, “Does your dad ever do anything to make you feel better?” and he says No.

He tells her that his dad is always yelling at me.

I feel like I can’t breathe and I wonder what I have done to this little boy by staying.

All this time, I have felt like if I left his dad, I would be destroying his little life.
Now I’m wondering which is worse?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Secrets


Sometimes I wonder if the secrecy around alcoholism doesn't make it worse.

If it is supposed to be a disease like cancer, why do those who have it have to be anonymous? You don’t have anonymous cancer victims. They tell people they have cancer, and they get help.

When my son talks about his dad being an alcoholic, my husband is uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure my father-in-law is outright angry.

And yet if it is truly a disease, why does it have to be shrouded in secrecy? I wonder if our lives would be easier if all of this were out in the open. If we could say we are struggling.

AA was founded in 1935 and not a lot of the program has changed as far as I know. What has changed about what we know about alcoholism?

Is there still such a stigma associated with it? Is it still necessary for the families of the alcoholic and even the alcoholic to suffer in silence?

It seems like there are two completely separate aspects of my life. The "perfect" life that I have portrayed primarily in the past and on our family blog. And the one I am talking about here on this one, that I mostly kept to myself until last week.

And yet they are all inter-related. They are all one life, woven together, the good and the bad, and the really, really ugly.

If alcoholism were not a big secret, could we find better answers? Could we protect our children better? Could we ensure their own sobriety? Are there ever such assurances?

I think the time has come for us to demand better answers. I am not willing to stand by and wait to see if my children become addicts. I want to know that I am doing the right things now, or at least doing the best I can.

If everything were out in the open, would the alcoholic still treat his or her family the same? I have to wonder. I don't really think so.

I know my husband is almost a completely different person at home than he is out in public. He is happy. Everyone likes him. He is the life of the party.

At home, he is angry, moody, jumpy.

If all were out on the table for everyone to see, would the alcoholic be forced to make better decisions? Would his or her behavior be rendered unacceptable?

When the behavior is unknown, what can really be done about it?

What if we all rose up and refused to be treated this way?

People don't usually understand. They envision a "drunk" on the street - or they make light of it and think he's not that bad - because they are unaware of his true behavior.

People use the term dry drunk as if that explains his behavior or that's some sort of excuse. Who says "dry drunk" behavior should ever be excusable or acceptable?



When we are honest about our own lives, perhaps we give others the opportunity to be honest about their own.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

That could have been me...

I met a woman in Al-Anon last week who has stayed in my head. She brought her 2-year-old with her. He sat quietly on her lap the entire time. She came late, even after me. She was from California, and had fake breasts that peaked out under her dress. She sat next to me, and I comforted her several times during the meeting when she cried. Afterward, I spoke with her, and she began to cry again. She told me her husband was out of control and on drugs. He had hawked her diamonds, which from looking at her must have been large. They had 4 homes going into foreclosure next week. She said she thought she had this dream life, with a big house up on the hill, and it was all going very fast. She could be on welfare next week. She had 2 other children. The oldest boy was 11 and giving her a hard time. She had just walked in on her husband with a call girl. She told me she had no boundaries, and she was just OK with it. She started crying more. I looked down at her son, who I felt, should not have had to hear all this, but then where else would he have gone? Another man was there listening as well, trying to give her annoying advice. Trying to fuck her, as far as I was concerned. He was a real loser in a purple shirt. A real fruit loop. He didn't stand a chance, but she was much nicer with him than I would have been. I suppose I held my annoyance pretty well too. She told me that they were at least going to put their house on the market and that everything would be OK then. Wow - this market is terrible, I thought. It's not going to be OK. Then she had to go. I told her to keep coming back. It was hard not to give advice. I wanted to tell her to leave him. I wanted to offer to babysit. I wanted to give her my phone number. But I didn't. I told her to come back, and I have been thinking about her ever since.

That could have been me. That could have been me.

Life is getting better for me, but in many ways I still feel very stuck. I am withholding with almost everyone except for my children. My sister has commented on this before - that they are the only ones that I am able to truly lavish love on. I told her that I would rather they have it, as if my love had limits, and I would run out. I often want to be nicer than I am, but I can't. I hold on to the words that could make someone's day better. The sad thing is that I know this and I still do it. Maybe that is progress, but it makes me feel bad.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some thoughts...

I've been having terrible migraines. I think a lot of it has to do with not being able to forgive my in-laws. I re-read their emails yesterday and my blood boiled all over again. I still feel I am right and they are so fucking wrong.

Why does my father-in-law get to mess up my husband's life and then mess up mine because his son doesn't know how to husband or father - and then turn around and expect to get to be a grandfather?

He thinks he can step over all the steps, all the apologies, all the amends and just be here - as if I don't matter. As if I haven't been here the whole time filling in the gaps for all of them.

In case you forgot, you drank away your son's childhood, and since your grandchildren were born you have been playing golf and tennis while your son drinks away theirs.

No one in their family seems to remotely understand cause and effect.

You vowed to support our marriage, but you have never supported it. You have criticized and judged, but never supported it.

I can not understand this family I married into. I can't understand it at all.

I also read all the Al-Anon brochures yesterday. I can't believe I never got those or read those before. I have done everything completely wrong with my husband. No wonder his relapse lasted so long. I know now that I need that program and that I am perhaps even partially responsible for these last few years. I knew Al-Anon was there. I just thought I was right and he was wrong and why should I have to do one more thing?

I think I have lived my whole life trying to be perfect and then getting mad at everyone else for not doing the same thing. Getting irritated when people are lazy or no good at their jobs. The truth is no one is good at everything and life ends up being a compromise in one way or another. Motherhood has taught me that. I had to give up my good salary - one bit of my pride - because at least I had sense enough to know I couldn't be a perfect mother and a perfect career woman. And now I am realizing I was never perfect at either.

But I have always tried. Perhaps I have tried too hard.

The Sermon on Abuse


The Gospel of Buddha - The Sermon on Abuse

And the Blessed One observed the ways of society and noticed how much misery came from malignity and foolish offences done only to gratify vanity and self-seeking pride. [1]

And the Buddha said: "If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall go from me; the fragrance of goodness always comes to me, and the harmful air of evil goes to him." [2]

A foolish man learning that the Buddha observed the principle of great love which commends the return of good for evil, came and abused him. The Buddha was silent, pitying his folly. [3]

When the man had finished his abuse, the Buddha asked him, saying:"Son, if a man declined to accept a present made to him, to whom would it belong?" And he answered: "In that case it would belong to the man who offered it." [4]

"My son," said the Buddha, "thou hast railed at me, but I decline to accept thy abuse, and request thee to keep it thyself. Will it not be a source of misery to thee? As the echo belongs to the sound, and the shadow to the substance, so misery will overtake the evil-doer without fail." [5]

The abuser made no reply, and Buddha continued: [6] "A wicked man who reproaches a virtuous one is like one who loods up and spits at heaven; the spittle soils not the heaven, but comes back and defiles his own person. [7]

"The slanderer is like one who flings dust at another when the wind is contrary; the dust does not but return on him who threw it. The virtuous man cannot be hurt and the misery that the other would inflict comes back on himself." [8]

The abuser went away ashamed, but he came again and took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. [9]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eating Books

Now that my youngest is a little older, I'm back to reading a lot again. My first husband used to say that I liked to eat books because I was always devouring books.

Beautiful Boy, by David Sheff, was especially touching. It's about a father who's son is addicted to Meth, among other things. "...this is a disease that affects families too...they don't sleep, don't eat, they become ill. They blame themselves. They feel rage, overwhelming worry, shame. Many people keep their suffering to themselves. If your had cancer, the support from your friends and family would flood in. because of the stigma of addiction, people often keep it quiet. Their friends and family may try to be supportive, but they may also communicate a subtle or unsubtle judgement."

This was really just a beautiful book. It was insightful and helpful, but also just so well-written and heart-wrenching at times. His son also has a book out called Tweak about his perspective, which is also very interesting and well-written. I read his book right after, and both were difficult to put down.

Sheff references another book that I also read - The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25-Year Landmark Study by Judith Wallerstein that I would also highly recommend. This is one of the most interesting books I've read in a very long time - and one I think anyone who comes from a divorced home, has been divorced or is contemplating a divorce should read. It is an eye-opener, for sure!I think that all of us make mistakes as parents, but since there is so much out there in terms of information now, I feel like we should try to learn as much as we can to be better and do better.

Another of Sheff's quotes that I really liked says, "No matter what we do, no matter how we agonize or obsess, we cannot choose for our children whether they live or die. It is a devastating realization, but also liberating. I finally chose life for myself. I chose the perilous but essential path that allows me to accept that Nic will decide for himself how and whether - he will live his life."

It reminded me of my favorite verse about children from The Prophet - and I like that Gibran ends with "For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable."

Inhumane

Inhumane.

That is what I told my friend being a single mother is when my husband left our house and that is how it still feels to me.

Dr Suess says alone is something you'll be quite a lot - and that is something I feel all the time now. I am alone. I am exhausted. I am fuming inside all the time and occasionally this spills over onto these two small children that I absolutely adore.

Unfair. That is how it feels. My two-year-old runs around saying "I am angry. I am sad. I am not OK". My five-year-old kicks her in the gut hard. He says it is because he is angry his dad is gone.

Sometimes I feel we live like animals. Mostly I feel he is an animal for leaving us this way. For his fucking booze and the cocaine he still won't admit to after all this time.

Addicts are animals. My father-in-law who told me I was stupid the last time I talked to him. When I had called him sobbing after I found the cocaine and later wrote him a poem about him making me feel like a nobody. He said he didn't understand "this commentary". It was a poem you animal, you nobody, you stupid, terrible man.

Inhumane.

No one offering to help me with these children other than my mother. The exhaustion that creeps in every day. The chores that don't stop. The bills that don't stop. My to-do-list that only seems to grow.

Inhumane

My friends' girlfriend tells me 'sometimes I just say yes because they just keep asking and asking and asking and I am just too tired to say anything else and I just cannot take it anymore.'. Her kids are 10 and 7 and I think - this is what I have to look forward to. Life just getting more and more out of control and making sacrifices with future boyfriends because I have children while he is out doing whatever he wants - like it has always been. Because we are the mothers. That is what we are supposed to do.

I see a mother at the doctor’s office speaking to her children in that mother voice that isn't real and I think at least, I hope, I am always real with my children. At least I have not come to that. But then I think, isn't it sad that I even have to ask now? I am not sure of anything anymore.

Inhumane.

The looks I get from people when I am with my children when I don't wear my six-carats of wedding ring. Yes, it changes things. Substantially.

Inhumane.

I am now wearing a size Zero. I have become a Zero. This wasn't supposed to happen to me - I look like Catherine Zeta-Jones for God's sake - at least that's what everyone is always telling me - or did before I started disappearing. I don't know who I am anymore or where I am going or especially how the fuck I got here. I have an MBA. I was making a good salary. This wasn't the plan. This wasn't the life I thought I would have. But here I am. A single mother. And it just feels inhumane and wrong.

The sad thing is that I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I am privileged. I at least have some money. I could make the difficult choice to go back to work to support my children. And things are not as rocky as they could be.

But whenever I think of my situation, or what is happening to my children now, only one word comes to mind….

Inhumane.



* I wrote this last year while separated from my husband.

The Poem

This is the poem that I sent to my father-in-law, after I found my husband's cocaine in our home.

If my daughter-in-law called me to tell me my son was using cocaine
I would listen to her
Embrace her
Ask how I could help
Empathize
Be there
Immediately
Fly out on the next flight if I had to
(In the middle of the night.)
I would hug my son until he started sobbing
He would know that I love him
He would know it, damn it.
I would just hold him
Until he felt it
Until he told the truth
Even if it took all night
Even if it took all week
Even if it took the rest of my life
To make up for what I hadn't done.

If my daughter in law called me, sobbing, shaking, desperate;
I wouldn't make her feel like a nobody.
I would tell her
I'm sorry
I'm sorry
I am sorry.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The rest of the story...

So, I didn't finish my story...

When my father-in-law sent me the email, my husband sent him a very nice email back. I sent him a curt reply back about how I thought this might be the case after some of our previous dealings so I had made alternative arrangements at the Muslim School.

One of the things I have not mentioned previously is that I am of mixed religions. I was born into a Christian family, and then my first marriage was to a Muslim man. After many years of atheism and giving up on my faith altogether, I converted to Islam several years into our marriage. (More on this later).

But then as time progressed, I felt myself drawn back into the Christian fold, albeit the more liberal one. So, I have made peace with my odd religious "classifications" and have ties to both the Christian and Muslim communities.

In any case, the Muslim school in our city is in my opinion, one of the finer schools. The issue is that there are still so many stereotypes with the Muslim religion and that many people are still scared of it. Especially after 911. Including my father-in-law.

I think he is one of the many people who are uncomfortable with my lack of religious classification. Not that he is particularly religious himself. It would just make him feel a lot better if I were something more "safe" like a Christian, Catholic or Jew.

I get that sentiment a lot.

So I digress....

That was weeks ago, and I did not receive any sort of reply back from my father-in-law, which is fairly typical.

One morning, we both receive another email stating that he just wants to check in about schools, following up on my last email about the Muslim School.

He basically says he is still willing to pay for another Christian School as long as he chooses it.

I tell him, "No thank you."

He responds back that it looks like I have a new iPhone and that we shouldn't forget our other obligations when we have extra money.

This statement is ludicrous to me!

First of all, we don't have any extra money. Second of all, my blackberry, which I need for work, died. I took over my husband's old iPhone, which I happen to hate, so I don't have to buy a new phone.

Lastly, it is really none of his business.

He and my husband have an arrangement. I am not in that arrangement. My husband chose not to work for a year. I have been working my ass off pretty much since I was 8-years-old. I certainly have been working over-time since my son was born 6 years ago. I have been working and taking care of two children, at the expense of his grandchildren and more than anyone else, myself. I have headaches every day, and migraines at least 10 days out of the month. How he can live with that fact, I do not know.

My father-in-law and my husband have a secret arrangement that they will not discuss with me. I am always left out of their private financial details. Whenever I do press, I am always given different information, and it is often conflicting.

I have never asked my father-in-law for a dime, and I certainly have never received any money directly from him.

As far as I know, he would be happy to let me sit out on the street and prostitute myself out.

This is the last communication I have had with my father-in-law for a while now. This is sorta how our relationship goes. You get the gist.

But after thinking about it, my husband and I decided to stick with our decision and send him to OES on our own dime. It will be a stretch for us, but at least it will be in our hands in not up to the whims of my father-in-law.

The Big Blow to the Head


Several years ago, my father-in-law went to my husband about schooling for our kids. He said that their family had never placed an emphasis on education and he thought it was important for our kids to get a good education. My husband and his brother never finished college, and I’m not sure about my father-in-law. That always seemed crazy to me with their money. My dad scrimped and saved so I could go to school, and I have always been so grateful to him for that experience.

In any case, my father-in-law put the offer out there for two of the best schools in our town. At first I was very excited about it. Then, after spending time with him, and seeing how he was about money, I started having doubts about it. We applied for preschool at one school when he made the offer, but my son didn’t get in. The experience was pretty traumatic for me. Basically anyone telling me my son is not good enough – at 4-years-old – makes me pretty upset!

So in many ways, the school idea was out of my mind for a while. Besides that, my husband relapsed in the midst of everything, so schools weren’t exactly first-and-foremost on my mind. Every day survival was hard enough. Just getting out of bed and taking care of everything in our family that was suddenly on my plate alone was all I could do.

But as my husband got sober again, the topic came up again, and I thought, if our children have this sort of opportunity, who am I to stand in their way?

So, I did everything.

The application process took about 3 months. I had to get teacher evaluations. I interviewed at the schools. My son interviewed for half a day at both schools. I wrote 10-point essays about every aspect of my son’s life. And then I waited by the mail box for a month.

It was a very hard process because we had missed the window. One school let most of their kids in at preschool. The other was kindergarten. We had a child who wanted a slot in first grade, and this was already a very tight competition.

But, my son did get into one school, actually my favorite of the two. He was wait-listed at the other because they did not have room for him. I was beyond ecstatic.

Honestly it felt to me that nothing had been going right in our lives for a very, very long time. At least now there was one thing that we could really be proud of and excited for.

My relationship with my father-in-law had been extremely strained. I had completely stopped talking to him for almost a year. Gradually, we had started talking, little by little. He had even come for dinner twice. I felt like things were perhaps moving in the right direction. My husband told me that he wanted things to be better. I wanted things to be better too.

I made the following post to our family blog:

We got an acceptance letter from "the school" today for J. I am so proud of our boy. He is everything I always knew he would be, and more.

Here is a poem I wrote about J a few years ago.

His blue eyes sparkle like the stars
His love is like the sun
My boy is my heart and my soul
The day you were born my heart sang-
The world stopped.
And everything was different.
My Joey, you are the son, the moons, the stars, the joy, the love, the oath, the hope, the dream and the everything that I always wanted and I always knew would someday
Come.


A few days later, we received an email from my father-in-law. He said he had decided not to pay for the school. It “does not fit my goals for J or your family. It is out of your socio-economic level. I am still willing to pay for a private education at a more middle class neighborhood Catholic or Christian school…”

Well, obviously he has no idea about the application process at any school, because everything starts in November and is due in January. And he is telling us this in mid-March when there are no options available and our deposit is due in two-weeks.

Our resources were extremely tapped by my husband’s relapse, which included him not working for a year. Sending our son to this school will be nearly impossible now.

We had told our son he was going to the best school, one that we had carefully picked out for him with the greatest care and love. He was excited and had told all his friends. We had told all of ours too. I had written thank you notes to his teacher, and to his Taekwondo instructor, thanking them for their roles in his life. I told his Taekwondo instructor, "our success is your success too."
I went back to the poem that I had written and posted. I had graciously taken out one line when I had posted it to our blog.

His blue eyes sparkle like the stars
His love is like the sun
My boy is my heart and my soul
The day you were born my heart sang-
The world stopped.
And everything was different-
At least for me.
My Joey, you are the son, the moons, the stars, the joy, the love, the oath, the hope, the dream and the everything that I always wanted and I always knew would someday
Come.

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL

My all time favorite poem....

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children's mouths
so their dreams will not reflectthe death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of usthis instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

- Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

My favorite professor gave this to me when I was 20 and I have read at least a part of it in my mind probably every day since then.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Relapse


Shortly after our second wedding anniversary, my husband and I were invited to an extended weekend at the Four Seasons outside of San Diego. My husband was already there, after several days on business in LA.

I left our kids at home with my mother and flew down to meet him. It should have been a clue to me that he sent a driver instead of picking me up himself. He was golfing. While it annoyed me, I didn't want it to ruin our time together, and I put it on the back burner.

We stayed at a 2-bedroom suite as guests of our friend Trevor* from Beverly Hills. It was a high-end timeshare of some sort that Trevor’s parents own. Trevor wears makeup and takes bubble baths. He annoys me, but he’s completely lovable in his own way.

My husband is a recovering alcoholic. He's been in recovery now for three years but his mother just died and our friend killed himself and then my grandpa got sick right after that. After caring for my Pappa for 6 weeks in his home, he died too. I'm not so sure my husband is sober anymore, but whenever I ask him he says he is. He swears he is.

The first part of the trip isn't so bad. We eat well, sit by the pool, actually have sex (a small miracle with two young children). But then more people join us. We sit and talk on our balcony alone for a while. My husband seems giddy. Is he drunk? I never seem to be able to catch him drinking. He doesn’t slur his words, but there have been times when he does not come home, and other times when he is very mean. My husband is not a mean person.

We talk about our life, and our plans. Things seem hopeful. He seems happy. He says he wants to do things different. He has been working a lot. I barely see him lately. I am glad to hear these words, but I am hesitant. Is he drunk? Is this too good to be true?

After a nice Italian dinner, and many, many drinks, the bill comes and none of our affluent friends seem to have any money. After hours of hearing all the details of their personal wealth, my husband is left with another large tab. We roll eyeballs at each other as he hands over the American Express card.

I confront Trevor about the drinking while my husband takes over the piano bar, singing some Sinatra song. Trevor says he may have had a few beers earlier. I am agitated, but decide to wait until we are alone to speak to him. On the ride home, he becomes belligerent. By the time we reach the hotel, we are openly fighting. The couple who is driving us tries to intervene, but it is useless.

And this is where it gets hazy. I'm not sure what is real, what is remembered, what is embellished, what has been blocked, and when I went completely insane. I asked my husband about whether he is drinking again and this time he admits it. He goes to a bottle of tequila in the kitchen and nearly guzzles the whole thing. I am hysterical. I beat his chest, or maybe it is the wall, or the bed or the pillow. Do I end up on top of him? We are screaming.

Trevor comes in and begs us to stop. He says he is traumatized. He says everyone can hear us and this is his parents place and he will hear about it in the morning. Trevor takes his Ambien and drinks some more. I am crying and not making any sense. My husband leaves the room for something and I lock him out. I start calling people, basically anyone, hysterical, and drunk myself. The AA people must think I’m completely nuts. I cry all night. I wonder what will become of our life. I don't know how I could have been so stupid. I am angry for believing a lie that was so obvious. I wanted to believe it. A relapse was so inconvenient for me.

At some point I unlock the door and let my husband back in. We are both still angry. I am unable to come out of bed the entire next day. I can not come to terms with my life. I decide to tell my husband that I will not leave him if he gets sober. As if he could just stop right then, and it would all be over, and we could go back to our neat little life.

Trevor knocks on the door to settle the bill early in the morning. I wouldn't look at him or him at me. My head hurts and I want to die, literally. He doesn't have any money, but he won’t say this in front of me, so my husband has to go into the other room with him. When we leave, we see one of the other couples from dinner, the people who drove us home. We mutually ignore each other. The plane ride home is silent.

I wish I could say that it was one day that determined the course of my life forever and everything got better from there. But life is never that obvious. It was a hangover of that night, a relapse that went on for more than a year before my husband finally went to treatment. But it was the residue from that day that caused me to see my own sickness, my own part in things.
A good marriage is not handed to you. A good life does not happen by itself (usually). But somehow I lived most of my life waiting for someone else to make everything right for me and got mad when that didn't happen. That day was a kick in the head, a slap in the face, telling me to wake up.

Addiction runs on both sides of our families and I was no place to be complacent with two small children. I had to deal with my own co-dependency issues. I had to finally look at what had brought me to marry an addict after growing up around them on my moms side of the family.
I do not know why that day took a year to manifest. It was the worst year of my life. I found cocaine in my home and separated from my husband. I refused my own birthday party. I stopped talking to my father-in-law. A friend died from complications of ALS and then my husband’s stepbrother killed himself. I wore a size zero that year, and I felt like a zero, a nothing. My son had 9 cavities and had to go under to have them fixed. I didn’t feel like such a great mother anymore.

At the end of an emotional session with my counselor, she sensed that I was near the end of my rope. She stopped me. "What are you proud of?" I could think of nothing. Tears came when she told me, "You could have fallen apart. You didn’t." She reminded me of all the things that I had held together that year and that I should be proud of.

I had resisted AA and Al-Anon because I hated the concept that I was not in control of alcoholism. But in truth, we are in control of nothing.

Perhaps growing up with addicts had prohibited me from being able to see things as they are. I never learned to trust my own reality. I never knew I was even entitled to one. I needed a year of harsh realities because that one day did not wake me up from my self-inflicted coma.

But on that day I vowed I would never drink that much again (and I have not). I would always speak my truth (and I have). And, that I would stay with my husband.

I wasn’t always sure about that last part. I think the year also was necessary to determine whether I wanted to be married. I had to decide whether the relationship was worth salvaging and what lengths I was willing to go to in fulfilling my vows.

Most of the advice I received was not positive. But I always remembered the last sentences of a very heartfelt email my father wrote to me later that day. “Give him all of your love. You have all of my support.” Somehow those words carried me through.

At the time, I felt like the relapse was somehow a betrayal of our love. I now realize that my husband has a terminal disease and we both need to work our own programs.

At our wedding, my father had performed Billy Joel’s “I love you Just the Way You Are.” I watched the video with my children when my husband went into rehab, hoping for some inspiration. My dad’s voice cracked in some places, the range was a little high for him. It was part of the beauty of the song. My being able to appreciate him singing it, and him being willing to do it, knowing it would not be his best. Both of us are complete and total perfectionists. I had chosen that song. It wasn’t, “I Love You Just the Way I Want You to Be.”

I spent a lot of time reading. I spent a lot of time reflecting. I spent a lot of time fighting, learning how to defend myself. For a long time, I had put up with too much. I had been silent. I wanted things to go smoothly, but silence never willed them that way.

My husband is now in recovery and so am I. All that day, I wanted to put my head under the covers and disappear, but life with children does not give you that luxury. I had to go home. I am grateful I did not have the option to tune out, for the slap in the face that made me realize that this was my life waiting for me to wake up and be present.

A Voice

My dear friend sent this to me several weeks ago and I posted it on my other blog - the happy blog that I keep with pictures of my family, always trying to stay so positive, talking about the things we are doing, but never about how we are really living. I didn't post any commentary with it then, but what it immediately reminded us both of at the time was my husband's family. It is almost painful to read, but so true.

A Voice

They mutilate and torment each other
with silences with words
as if they had another
life to live

they do so
as if they have forgotten
that their bodies
are inclined to death
that the insides of men
easily break down

ruthless with each other
they are weaker
than plants and animals
they can kill with a word
a smile, a look

-Tadeusz Rozewisc

April 15th and No Taxes!


My husband brought the W-2 form home at 5 and went straight to playing poker on the computer. Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out how to file the State and Federal Tax Extensions, make dinner and take care of the children. My son yells down to me that daddy is playing poker and I say I KNOW!!, half laughing and half completely exasperated.

The husband yells back down, “No I’m not!! I'm working.”

Every time I go upstairs, he quickly changes his computer screen.

There is a message on the home machine from my father-in-law. He wants my son to call him. He had called several days ago, apparently, but we never bother to check this machine. I really don’t like to talk on the phone. And I really don’t like for people to call me at home. Especially him.

In any case, he has also talked to my husband by now, and is wondering if our son is mad at him about the books. He received the thank you card.

My husband tells me he is going to buy him a different birthday present and that he will pay for any penalties we incur for paying our taxes late. The form we need still is not ready.

While I am making dinner, they call him together upstairs, even though I have asked them to be present when my son talks to him. I never know what he will say to him. I feel that I need to protect him.

I also wonder if this blatant disregard for the rules and (my) feelings has any role in addiction.

I always grew up getting my homework in on time, no exceptions. My taxes and bills were paid, on time. No exceptions. In my husband’s family, there always seems to be special rules and exceptions. I’m not sure if this is because they have money or what, but life doesn’t work this way. At least not for most people.

I don’t want my children to grow up this way.

My husband really struggles to be on time everywhere. We have started to go to church again. I get both children ready, dressed and fed, (and me too of course!). Then invariably every week we sit in the car and wait for my husband to finish getting ready for 15 minutes and are 15-20 minutes late to church. He gets in the car very stressed out and angry at ME!

To me this is so inconsiderate, and it’s hard to understand. He often asks, “What time does church start?” Well, the same time it has always started! We have been involved with that church for years, off and on. It has always begun promptly at 10. I don’t think we have ever been on time.

I know he also has ADD, and this plays a factor, but there are just a lot of instances where it seems like there are completely separate circumstances for him and his family as opposed to the rest of the world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Scorpion and the Frog



A dear sent this to me many years ago and I have kept it in my book of favorite poetry and sayings. I'm hoping my children will learn its lessons sooner that I did.

The Scorpion and the Frog

There once lived a scorpion and a frog.

The scorpion wanted to cross the pond, but being a scorpion, he couldn't swim. So he scuttled up to the frog and asked: "Please, Mr Frog, can you carry me across the pond on your back?"

"I would," replied the frog, "but, under the circumstances, I must refuse. You might sting me as I swim across."

"But why would I do that?" asked the scorpion. "It is not not in my interests to sting you, because you will die and then I will drown."

Although the frog knew how lethal scorpions were, the logic proved quite persuasive. Perhaps, felt the frog, in this one instance the scorpion would keep his tail in check.

So the frog agreed. The scorpion climbed on his back, and together they set off across the pond. Just as they reached the middle of the pond, the scorpion twitched his tail and stung the frog.

Mortally wounded, the frog cried out: "Why did you sting me? It is not in your interests to sting me, because now I will die and you will drown."

"I know," replied the scorpion as he sank into the pond. "But I am a scorpion. I have to sting you. It's in my nature."

The wisdom behind this story is: People don't change that much. So don't waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.