Like most people, I have a few flaws. I’m scatter-brained. I forget things like birthdays, anniversaries and doctor’s appointments. I say what is on my mind, whether you are prepared to hear it or not. At times I appear as if I am not listening to you or not interested in what you are saying. My ADD brain doesn’t always like to cooperate and share my attention span. My facial expressions are dead give-a-ways of what I am feeling. I tend to jump into things and instantly want to retreat because I overwhelm myself with responsibilities.
I am not perfect by a long shot.
February 23, 1993 I woke up with the awful realization that I had hurt someone I care very much about. The pain in my heart began as soon as my eyes opened and was growing by the minute. Shame, remorse, disgust, and despair weighed on me that morning. I knew I had to see my friend that I had hurt. I got dressed, threw my hair up in a ponytail and grabbed my cigarettes. I knew I had done something horribly wrong. What I didn’t know was the whole campus already knew about it.
Well, maybe not the ENTIRE campus knew but it certainly felt like it as I walked along the path towards the dorm I was asked to vacate months earlier. I couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes and struggled to hold myself together. There wasn’t anyone (thank God) at the sign in desk. I ran up the steps to my former suite. I opened the door and saw a few of my former friends sitting on the couch. I said hi and asked if my friend was there.
“Did you hear what happened last night?” I asked not wanting to hear the answer.
Anne, one of my former suite-mates, flicked her cigarette ash into the ashtray. “Oh we heard what happened. She’s in there.” I saw the glances between herself and the others. I looked as sorrowful as I felt, hoping that they would feel sorry for me. When I looked at them, the expression was pure “You have a lot of balls to show up here.”
I slowly opened the doorknob and timidly opened the door. The door felt like it weighed 500 lbs. All I remember is my friend not being able to look at me because she was so angry. Her face was swollen and basically I had to get out after I expressed how sorry I was.
From there I went to the library and saw my ex Jim at one of the computers. He always made me feel better. I sat down next to him. I opened my mouth to say what an awful night I had and he immediately said “I heard what happened to Martha.” I stopped. Jim knew the story before I had gotten there. I asked him what he thought I should do. He told me he didn’t know, but what he did know was that people were fed up and that I had to stop. My hands shook as I wiped my tears away. I wanted to stay with him so I didn’t feel so alone but he had other plans. I went back to my room carrying a sense of loneliness and despair I had never felt before. This was it. I could not drink again. Ever.
That was the beginning of my journey to sobriety. It was an experience I never want to forget. It made me into who I am today. I own it. It’s mine. I did something horrible and learned from it. I didn’t get sober right after that, unfortunately. Instead I had to experience more insanity that eventually led me to where I am today.
My father also made a lot of mistakes. All were made due to lack of self control. What I love about him and who he was, was that like me, he owned them. My father took responsibility until the day he died. He didn’t try to lie, make up a modified version of the story to make himself look better, or dodge the subject. He stood up and accepted it. As I see others around me try to manipulate truths, it makes me even more proud of him. It’s not easy owning huge mistakes, especially ones that are the result of lack of self control. Decisions made when you are in the throes of your addiction are especially difficult to reconcile in this society where being ‘strong-willed’ and in control are ideal.
Don’t get me wrong- my father ultimately paid the price by giving up on life and choosing to be alone his last years on this earth. The weight of his mistakes crushed what soul he had. Instead of embracing the forgiveness that was given to him, he succumbed to guilt and his heart just couldn’t go on anymore.
One thing I have learned in my life is that when you run from your problems, your mistakes or poor decisions, eventually they catch up to you. You can only run so fast and so far before the consequences are nipping at your heels. I am grateful that I faced the music for what I did to my friend, and have for other mistakes. When I did try to ease the pain for myself, it didn’t work. It hurt like hell but the reward is knowing that in spite of my weaknesses, I am stronger than I realize. It is better to say “Yes, I did do that and I know it hurt you. I am so sorry and will make an effort never to do that again” then it is to say “It wasn’t me.”
For me it brings back the question of “What kind of person are you and what kind do you want to be?” If I want to be truthful, accountable and a decent human being, then I need to accept all of me and step forward. My father’s example of not hiding who he was, on one level, inspires me to continue doing the same.