Family, Sobriety

Lesson Learned and Many More To Go

Today I attended a luncheon honoring women who have been inducted into the YW Boston’s Academy of Women Achievers. The CEO at the firm I work at was one of the honorees, and she had extended the invitation to include a few women from my group. I always jump on networking opportunities for both personal and professional reasons. It turned out to be a lovely event, and I am really happy I went. As always when I hear inspirational speakers at these types of conferences, I tend to reflect on my own current situations and try to see ways I can improve myself. Words that came across loud and clear were “authentic self”, “fake it until you ARE it”, “Passion” and “Pay it forward”.

Authentic self. What does that mean exactly? I have taken a chance and revealed my authentic self to a few of my “friends” recently and have received mixed responses. Some have conveyed their support. Others have asked a few questions, and then stopped talking altogether. Then we have the ones that don’t respond at all. Does this bother me? Of course it does. It bothers me to be rejected, especially after being honest. Many people say they admire honesty but the truth is, they want it on their conditions that are best for them. What do I mean by this? “Be yourself” is what I have heard my entire life. I have also heard “You need to calm down”, “Do you have to be so outspoken?”, “You wear your heart on your sleeve, can’t you just pretend to be (insert socially acceptable behavior here)?”  I pay the price being myself sometimes with the loss of friends, relationships, and even jobs. Over the years I have tried to learn to manage these defects of character only to find that they just morph into other defects. Being myself has its drawbacks and trying to be what others expect me to be only leads to depression.

I have recently discovered that someone’s authentic self has caused me to be more honest about who I really am. Something I wasn’t prepared emotionally for at all. We took a risk and some of the reactions were unpleasant. At the same time, the majority was very positive so it isn’t an experience I regret. The experience showed me the limitations I put on myself. It opened my eyes to where I really am at with this situation in my life as oppose to where I would like to be. I have a lot of adjusting to do which I am willing to do because I truly believe this is where I am supposed to be. The lessons I see before me are invaluable, including the lesson of who my friends really are.

Last Thursday someone who has no idea or experience with a particular topic decided to share her opinion. After reading it against my better judgement, I became angry because it came from a place of pure judgement and not of intellectual curiosity. She proceeded to agree with this article that cites antiquated assumptions about gender and identities. You know, things that she doesn’t encounter in her Christian world and that she has no business starting a debate about. If you have experience or know people that struggle with gender , that’s one thing. I am pretty sure she does not and when I commented about my own PERSONAL and PAINFUL experience, I was told that it was a perspective, not a reality.  Hey-It’s my reality, bitch. Just like being a heart mom is a reality. Yes, I am going there.

The comments reminded me of when people tried (and sometimes still do) to relate to open heart surgery when they compare their childrens’ ear tube surgeries to Isabelle having her chest cracked open and her heart stopped. Folks- there is empathy, there is curiosity, and then there is being stupid. Comparing holes in the heart to missing an entire side is like comparing an apple to a grape. Comparing gender issues to being insane or having a fetish is just wrong. Seriously. Just stop. Go back into your homeschooled bubble and to the things you know about. I don’t pretend to know about Jesus so don’t pretend to know anything about having an open mind.

Perhaps I need to pray about this resentment. Duly noted.

Passion. My passion has always been my family, liberal and or Jewish causes, and congenital heart disease. Those who know me know I am also passionate about my sobriety and about my work. My passion for creating effective compelling design is what brings me to work every day. I thought I lost it, and the last month I think I found it again. Today I heard ways of channeling my passion and taking a leap into uncertain waters. I take leaps all the time. Sometimes with glee, other times with terror- but I make them. Having my children grow up Jewish is a passion, and teaching Sunday school is too. Although I am taking a year off for personal reasons, I hope to continue the following year.

I am passionate about my sobriety. I go on commitments, I speak, I open my home group meeting just about every Friday. It has saved my life. Period. I would be dead if it wasn’t for my commitment and passion for sobriety. Which brings me to “Pay it forward”. Giving back what was freely given to me is the name of the game. I had the pleasure of being given a service position in my group. I also have been given the opportunity to give back to one of the many heart organizations I love and am part of. Combining my passion for CHD awareness and my love for design came together this week bringing me a sense of fulfillment that has lifted my exhausted heart.

The ‘passion’ I need to lose is my need to be liked and accepted by everyone. It’s just not possible. Add my aggressive personality to the mix and we all know that just isn’t happening. Recently, I took a risk and put myself out there. I also know that the price of being authentic has been hearing crickets instead of responding to the posts I make on peoples’ pages, even non-confrontational ones. I want the heart moms I am ‘friends’ with to like me. I want fellow sober peeps to like me too. However I am learning fast that when I do reveal who I really am, these “friends” of mine head for the hills. Someday it will be ok, but that isn’t today. Today I am sad that people are no longer talking to me. It upsets me that people who claim to have open minds really don’t. And the lessons that lie before me are painful ones that will require a great amount of strength I was hoping to get from some of these people.

Sobriety, Work (or lack thereof)

Day 8 of 30 Days of Gratitude: Today I am grateful for my sobriety

It should be a given that I am grateful for my sobriety, and usually it is. Today was a different story. Today was not a day filled with gratitude. It was filled with self-pity, anguish and regret. I was heading into town for yet another interview at a recruiting agency. As I got closer to the city I started to get the usual pangs of missing my job and I did my best to redirect my thinking to how I can move forward towards another position. It didn’t work. I thought about people I worked with and immediately began to mentally walk through conversations I wished went better, reactions I wished I never had and this sinking feeling of despair began to settle in to my stomach.

I went to the interview, walked through my portfolio and even found a few connections with the interviewer which were a nice surprise.  I left the building hopeful and relayed some of the interview to my husband as I froze my ass off walking towards the parking garage. As I drove back down Route 3 towards Plymouth, I thought to myself “I wish I could just make this go away for a little while. I wish I could just have a few drinks and let this stress go.” I snapped out of that train of thought with brakelights unexpectedly in front of me and I slammed on the brakes both literally and figuratively.

The irony is what I think would ease my stress would exacerbate my woes to a whole new level. Alcohol and I are not good friends. It sets off a personality change that makes me into someone I can’t stand the sight of. I become ugly from the inside out and every ounce of rage comes out in ways that always cause trouble. And I can’t get enough. I can remember that sensation of craving in an instant and it scares me. I don’t have an ‘off’ button with many things and with this, the button is ripped out of the socket. When I was in college I would scare the crap out of people I hung out with. The whole idea of drinking socially is NOT to scare the crap out of the people you want to be around. You probably shouldn’t yell at them either or try to walk off with their boyfriends.

Yeah. I was THAT girl. The one who you would want to leave 5 minutes after the party started. The one who cried at 3am. The one you wouldn’t want your parents to meet. I still have memories come back almost 20 years after the fact and I shudder. I still have regrets. I still can be right back in that dorm making people miserable. I hate it. I wish my life turned out differently, and that I was able to act like a rationale human being. And these regrets have followed me, whispering behind my back and telling me that I am not a good person.

Today was one of those days as I drove by the State Street Financial Center and looked at the skyline of International Place. I was able to get to my usual friday night plans and immersed myself in other peoples’ experience, strength and hope. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t go tonight. If I had changed my plans like I almost did to go shopping. I needed to hear every word I heard tonight, and thank goodness I knew where I needed to be. I knew where I needed to be because twenty years ago, someone told me that the most important thing in my life was my sobriety, and if I had nothing but that, then I had my whole world. Somehow in spite of how low I have felt over the past 7 months, I haven’t relapsed. I may have had some serious ice cream and chocolate binges (sorry Jorge) but I didn’t give up what I have worked so hard for. I haven’t given up my second chance at life. Anyone who was around me when I was drinking knows how self-destructive I was. I truly was given a second chance.

So tonight after giving this entry much thought, I decided to be honest and say what I am truly grateful for: that I didn’t give in to that sinister voice telling me that a vanilla vodka shot sounded like a great idea. Instead, I went with the louder voice that told me my ass needed to be in a metal chair with a styrofoam coffee cup in my hands. I could have chosen a ‘safe’ topic and said how grateful I am that we had steak for dinner. Or how grateful I am for my family. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for those things. However today, for the first time in a very long time, I was in a dangerous place and unlike other people I can’t take a break from what is going on around me with a screwdriver. Or a pumpkin ale. Or any other drink that has come out since 1993. I have to walk through it. I reminded myself that one more time tonight as I sat amongst my friends, holding a styrofoam cup of coffee. At the end of the day, I have my sobriety, I have my dignity and I have my life.

Boston Children's Hospital, Family, HLHS, Sobriety

30 Days of Gratitude – Day One

An Intro

Last November my newsfeed was filled with posts of gratitude and thankfulness each day. Thirty days of thankfulness was the theme but rather than do something to make myself feel better, I decided to read everyone else’s posts and not write my own. This year I decided that not only would I post 30 days of gratitude, but I would take it one step further and write a thankful blog post every day. A long time ago a wise woman told me ‘A grateful heart doesn’t drink’. Unlike some of you I do my best to keep myself from drinking since alcohol and I do NOT get along so this advice was very instrumental my first year of sobriety. Every day I had to make a list of everything I was grateful for. In the beginning I would get really mad, since I no longer was allowed to feel sorry for myself or be negative anymore. It was very uncomfortable but with each list, my attitude began to turn around. I learned how to flip things over and for the first time in my life, I was able to redirect my thinking.

You see, I don’t like being negative. I don’t enjoy being miserable. I just thought that was how life was to be for me. By focusing on the positive in my life I could pull myself out of the negative vortex I had created for myself through gossip, selfish behavior and dishonesty. I still need to practice gratitude lists every month, not just for November. Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I have been very negative at times during our Hypoplastic journey. So I am going to shock you with what I am about to say next:

I am grateful that we have experienced a critical illness such as HLHS.

I am grateful that from that fateful day on March 5, 2012 on, I have been forced to truly live in the moment until it has become part of my everyday life. Today, I can appreciate every giggle, every cry, every mess, every smile. I can relish snuggling and kissing cheeks. I was able watch her take her first steps with joy and enjoy searching for her around the house. It’s all good- ALL GOOD, because a year ago, I was in the middle of interstage hell trying to keep her healthy. She wasn’t eating well and no one was able to give us answers on how we could help her. I felt like a failure as they placed her feeding tube down her throat causing her to gag and cry.

Day by precious day we have gotten to this point of enjoying life with our family. We don’t have one person staying at the hospital while the other goes home and takes care of the kids. As tired as we both were last night after patrolling the Candy beat, I know I was so thankful to have a halloween with all three of my girls.

Family, Sobriety

Rashamon Syndrome

I have taken some time off from writing to work, commute and run after three kids and a puppy. Isabelle is doing remarkably well and is walking all over the place. She has learned that standing still is not a good plan if the puppy is around because he sees it as an opportunity to give her lots of love. She doesn’t particularly enjoy this love, especially since he tends to knock her down and frantically lick her face. I wonder what goes through her mind when he does this. It must be terrifying and exciting at the same time. Needless to say I have had her on my hip while he is out of the crate. I haven’t had a dog since 1982 and am thrilled with having him with us until he finds a spot on the rug.

Last week was surreal. While I was working from home I received a phone call from my mother telling me that my second husband, Sean, had died. Of course I didn’t believe it until I saw his picture staring back at me with his name and dates listed. I saw that he had lost a great deal of his family already, including a sister who was very fond of Elizabeth. There were no clues to how he died in the obit but I had a pretty good guess on what happened.

People were funny. Some apologized as if I had lost a friend. Others commented on how mixed my emotions must be. Lots of speculation and putting pieces together, and I did genuinely feel bad for those who felt that they lost a friend. I know there were people who felt close to him and whom he enjoyed being around. I hadn’t been around him in years. And how did I feel, exactly? I didn’t really have a finger on it until I went to yoga Sunday night. Up until then I went along with what everyone was saying about how hard he tried to stay sober and how talented he was.

And then there were the Facebook posts. The comments saying what a good guy he was. How tragic this was.

And it hit me. I’m not sad, I am furious. Furious at this image that people seem to have of this person. That they got to have a ‘nice’ version of him while I was given a very different one. Furious that what my daughter and I went through meant nothing. Furious at how much we suffered and how much I had lost. We were together for five years and it was rocky to say the least. Before he had a gig his stress would lash out at me and it got so bad I would dread his show dates. I would spend more time trying to calm him down and getting verbally abused than enjoying the music. It wasn’t all bad and I have thought of some of the nice moments we had, but they are blackened with his anger at the world. I suffered because he never had a chance-and what really made this tragic – was that he knew it. I suffered because he was miserable. It hurt me and it hurt my daughter. She will never be the same and I know i am responsible for part of it. For staying. For believing a lie. So when people start with the “He was a great guy” I want to say- “Really? Was he a great guy when he called me a see you next Tuesday on a regular basis? Was he a great guy to terrorize my young daughter who adored him even though he never deserved it? Was he a great guy who continually lied about everything to me and when I would try to get the truth he would come close to actually hitting me? Great guy. Sure. Broken man? Unhappy in ways I couldn’t fix? Definitely. I was so bitter after we split I would wish that horrible things would happen to him. Losing the life he had wasn’t enough for me.

Here are a few memories that have circulated in my slide viewer:

1. the 14 days when my name was “See You Next Tuesday” because I thought he should try to get a job with benefits.

2. The feeling of my bedroom wall against my back as I looked downward over my right shoulder holding a laundry basket, trying to protect myself as he screamed in my face.

3. Holding his hands on our wedding day and wondering why he was shaking and sweating so much.

4. Wanting a first dance and being told as we went across the dance floor that I needed to leave him the fuck alone.

5. Him screaming at Elizabeth and calling her a liar. Her calling me one night, in tears, hiding in a closet when I was on the Kingston train trying to get home.

Most of these memories are when he was sober. Or at least when he said he was sober. It’s funny how people have different views of the same situation. It’s called the Rashamon syndrome, after the classic movie of the same name. The movie shows the story of a murder and a series of events told by three witnesses all telling very different stories. After talking with a few different people about him and heard various opinions. I used to wonder why I stayed with him for so long. Funny thing is when you are stuck telling yourself lies such as “If I just hang in there….he will be the man I need him to be,” it’s hard to leave the lie. When I saw him for who and what he really was, I realized that there was no way I could stay. Not only was it just unhealthy, but I was trying to make him into someone he couldn’t be. I know he wanted to be that person, probably more than anything at one time. But heroin won that fight and I knew I had no choice. Asking him to change that much wasn’t fair to anyone, most of all him.

I mourned the end of my relationship with him years ago. He hasn’t been the man he was when I knew him in a long time. His death didn’t shock me. I feel terribly for his remaining siblings. I did not attend the services. It wasn’t appropriate for me to be there and I didn’t want to be. I thought back to our wedding night and how happy I was that we finally took that step and the naive hope I had for us to have a happy life.

Tonight after my usual Friday night gathering, I thought of how lucky I am to have the life I have now. I have a wonderful husband who has never sworn at me. We have three beautiful children and a home in North Plymouth. I am where I am supposed to be.

I hope that this soul comes back for another round and that this time, it finds a place with a family who truly wants it. I hope the family showers that soul with attention and love that it desperately needed. I hope it never wants for anything and is always surrounded by joy. I can reach a place of forgiveness, because I have found it is easier to forgive than to hold onto the bitterness. And I can stay there until someone says to me what a great guy they thought he was. I wish I could say he was that way to me. I was his wife, he should have been.

Family, HLHS, Sobriety, Work (or lack thereof)

Meltdown followed by a Gratitude List

Yesterday was a bad day. I ached, was feeling sorry for myself and was just in a bad spot. Between dealing with people at the office, being 8 months pregnant and trying to look on the bright side in spite of growing anxiety I fell a bit short. Ok, I was very short. I am tired of being this gangly, round ball with flip flops surrounded by skinny beautiful people. I’m tired of the aches and of the constant pain that is under my ribs. And I feel guilty at the same time- like I shouldn’t be because she is exactly where she needs to be and I know this.
Yesterday I was pretty upset and felt robbed. I was feeling sorry for myself. I felt like I can’t complain about how uncomfortable I am because she is right where she needs to be. People are starting the comments of “I bet you can’t wait for this to be over.” Actually, I can. I don’t want to rush right into the next phase, thank you very much. I want to enjoy these last moments of knowing that she is safe, but I have reminders all around me of how things are going to change the minute she is born. I am jealous of new moms who can hand over their babies to relatives and run off for a day. I will be lucky if I get to hold Isabelle before she has to be handed over to the surgical team. She may already be intubated when I get to see her. Yesterday was a total “Why me?” kind of day and I completely melted down by 8:30. I kept asking God why He felt it necessary to give this latest challenge to me. Have I not gone through enough? Why does so much in my life have to be so difficult? Yeah. I know- whine, whine whine.

Most of the time, I can look at these various roadblocks very differently and say they have made me into the person I am now- and can accept it with a level of satisfaction in that I made it through. Today, I don’t feel as bad as I did yesterday but it still isn’t great. I was told once that if I wasn’t grateful, I needed to make a list of things that are positive so I could get grateful. Corny, yes- but it never failed to work if only for a moment. I have nothing to lose other than a few minutes and possible some of this pain.
Here goes nothing:
Tomorrow is the 4th of July and my oldest Elizabeth is marching in the parade through town. She is also performing with the band and Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra on the waterfront for the 1812 Overture before the fireworks. I am immensely proud of her.
We are hosting a cookout where our family and friends can enjoy themselves in our home.
My sister and nephew are up visiting and I love their company.
My brother, who I don’t see very often at all, is visiting with his wife and her family.
My husband is a huge help around the house and makes me feel better in spite of how awful I think I look.
We live near the best hospital in the world for cardiac care.
I am being cared for by an amazing team of medical professionals.
Our families are preparing to help us with the girls during the first stages of the surgeries, which is a huge comfort to me.
There is hardly anyone in the office today and I can get a lot of work done.
The chef made blueberry pancakes in the Cafe today.
Traffic wasn’t insane this morning.
I had some good laughs with my colleague on the way in.
I am surrounded by people I can be myself with, and not have to constantly pretend that I am ok.
I am not in as much pain when I walk around today.
Ok, I feel better and hopefully it will last more than 5 minutes this time. 🙂
I’m off to get my pancakes.