Posted in C-Haze, Personal

Isolation

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always felt like an outsider, and never fully felt like I fit in anywhere.

None of this was felt more strongly than within my own family.

I am adopted. My biological mother is white, my biological father is black and Native American. My bio-mom was 16 when she had me, with my bio-dad being older. He was a Marine. As I was born in the south, in the ’70s, I have no doubt my arrival was full of drama. Young white teen gets pregnant by older black man in North Carolina in 1976-77… yeah, that’s something you can bet people talked about.

Stories vary- some say I was immediately given up for adoption, others say my biological mother tried to keep me, only to give me up about 9 months after I was born. What’s known for sure is that I ended up in foster care.

My first home was with an older white family. They were professional foster parents, with any number of kids parading in and out of their small home over the years.  I lived with this family from the time I was given up for adoption until I was three. For some reason (I have lots of conspiracy theories about why), they took a special interest in me, and decided to try and adopt me. I don’t remember this time very well, but learned they were denied their adoption application. As a result, social services showed up one day without warning, and took me from them. I was allowed to take the clothes I was wearing at that moment, and nothing else. No pictures, no toys, nothing. I was moved to another foster family, one I remember only slightly better, where I lived for six months.

I have disconnected memories from this time. I don’t remember what my foster father looked like, but I do remember his combat boots. I remember burning myself on a piece of homemade fried chicken that I was warned not to touch, but did anyway. I also remember my foster mother insisting I call her “Mom” from the day I moved in with her, and popping me in the mouth if I forgot. Oh- and I remember taking naps in my foster brother’s bedroom while he was at school. It was decorated in Star Wars theme. The most bizarre memory of all is what he looked like when drinking water. I remember his adams apple bobbing up and down when he swallowed.

At three-and-a-half years of age, I met my Real family. They took me to lunch one day, and I took the opportunity to interview them. If I was to live with them, I needed to know a few things first. They were a nice looking couple. White, 30s, and they had one son. I asked them if they ever beat him. God bless them for overlooking my weirdness, and deciding to adopt me anyway.

So, I went to live with my new family. I wasn’t yet four years old, and this was the fourth family I’d had since I’d been born.

This family, my forever family, are amazing people. I hit the jackpot for sure. After I came to live with them, the family expanded even more, welcoming three more kids in addition to the son they already had. Ultimately, I have three brothers and a sister, a mother and a father.

I would never trade my family for anything in this world. They are loving, they are accepting, they are mine. Having the greatest family in the world, however, didn’t stop me from isolating myself. I always knew I was different from the rest of them. I’m the only one who isn’t related by blood to them, and I’m the only one who isn’t white. It’s important to note my family never cared about either of these things. They never treated me any different, and there would have been hell to pay if anyone else did either.

That they didn’t isolate themselves from me didn’t stop me from isolating myself from them. I knew I was different, I felt the difference, and that was enough.

As a result, a years-long pattern was born.

I believe my early life is the key to why I am the way I am today. A lot of it is rooted in being a mixed child living in a white world. Some of it has to do with having had four different families before I turned four years old. Then there are all the questions I have about who I am and where I came from that have no answers. I don’t know which parent I take after, or whose eyes I have. I don’t even know where I was born, other than North Carolina.

Rather than try to come to terms with all of this, I spent years and years burying it. I didn’t feel comfortable in my white world, nor did I feel comfortable living in a black world. I hadn’t been exposed to it. I felt like an outsider in my family, and in the world at large. I didn’t know who I was. So I created a solitary existence, and preferred to spend my time alone. I read books, I wrote in my journal, and I did the best I could to pretend like I didn’t notice I didn’t fit in.

When I got older, I escaped by drinking and smoking weed, since going to my bedroom and closing my door was no longer an option.

For many years, even though it wasn’t conscious, I now understand I walked the walk of a victim. I didn’t do it on purpose, but the isolation I felt- in large part- was more a result of my own actions, and had less to do with anyone else’s rejection. I probably should have gotten some professional help to deal with the changes that came in my early childhood, the lack of roots, and the racial differences between who I am and the world I lived in. I didn’t, though.

I couldn’t understand my surroundings, I couldn’t connect to the people around me, so I just removed myself from the equation.

I had a conversation with my sister recently. What I learned is that she, too, never felt like she fit in with us. While I was isolating from our family, she was too. We both did the exact same thing, though we did it for different reasons.

It’s so ironic that all these years later I realize just how similar she and I are, and the way I came to realize our similarities was through analyzing our differences. Our experiences are nothing similar, but who we are, our feelings, our thoughts and yes, our isolation is exactly the same.

I still feel uncomfortable in this world. I still have no idea what to do around large groups of people, and I still feel like an outsider among both black and white people. I’m racially ambiguous, I supposed.

Born of mixed race, raised by a white family, married to a black man. My circumstances are representative of my DNA.

Posted in Addiction, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Personal, Recovery

The Universe and the letter

I am not a religious person. My “higher power”, if I had to choose one would be The Universe. I don’t believe in God, not in the traditional Christian sense, but I tend to believe in order among chaos, I believe in Karma, and I know that whatever’s out there is bigger than I am.

I also believe that if we pay attention, The Universe is regularly sending us signs that provide most of the answers we seek. We’re free to ignore them, of course, and we often do just that, to our own detriment.

I’ve had a really tough time with my sobriety lately. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which has to do with the fact that I am my own worst enemy, and I apparently enjoy sabotaging myself in the face of success vs. failure. There’s more to it than just that, though.

This disease is crafty, and it wants to win. It has a powerful ally in its corner, and that’s my brain. It’s kind of perfect, actually, because nobody knows me- my insecurities, my fears, my triggers- better than my own brain does. So when the disease wants a drink, it doesn’t fight fair, and can be really hard to beat.

A couple of weeks ago when I got my blood test results from the doctor, as grateful as I was to find my liver function is normal, they provided ammunition for the disease to use against me. Since then, my brain has been barraging me with a series of attacks, telling me that because my drinking hasn’t ruined my health, and because I’ve been successful in quitting alcohol altogether, the whole thing must have been a false alarm. I’m not an alcoholic. I can drink responsibly, just like everyone else. I just needed to take a break for a while, and now that I have, my relationship with alcohol has changed, and the problem no longer exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, my resolve has started to waiver. I started seriously thinking about having a drink. I started wondering if maybe, just maybe, I’m not an alcoholic. Maybe I was just a binge drinker going through a bad time. Never mind that this “bad time” lasted a full decade. Or that I have tried to control my drinking in every possible way thousands of times: I tried switching from liquor to wine, I tried only drinking on the weekends, I tried not drinking at home, and only drinking when I’m out at social gatherings. I tried to moderate, hoping to stop my consumption before I became a slobbering, blacked-out mess.

Nothing worked. Nothing. Nothing.

Finally, I had to get some help and quit drinking altogether. My liver function may be normal now, but it wasn’t five years ago, and I’m willing to bet it wasn’t normal the day I quit drinking. It’s normal today because I’ve actually stopped drinking and gave it some time to heal- not because I don’t have an alcohol problem. The fact that I drank to the point of elevated liver enzymes to begin with is indicative of a problem. That I continued drinking for years after I realized I was developing a fatty liver, and that I still obsess over alcohol- something “normies” don’t do- are also indicators of a problem.

Knowing all this logically and believing it, living it day in and day out, is not the same thing. The bottom line is that underneath it all, I want a drink. Currently. Present tense. I want a drink.

On Friday night, I was up against a tough deadline at work. After working 12 hours straight, I was tired. About an hour before my workday ended, I started craving a drink.

I wish I could tell you I valiantly fought the urge, but the truth is, I didn’t.

I was moments from walking out the door, getting in my car and driving to the liquor store, when my phone rang. It was my husband, on his way home, just calling to chat. I quickly blurted out, “I think I’d like to have a drink tonight. I’m going to go to the store.”

He replied, simply, “Ok.”

I then asked, “What do you think? Do you think I should?”

No, I don’t. This is just the Salesman trying to work you, trying to get you to break down. Don’t let him. You don’t need to drink tonight.

For once in my life, I listened. I decided I would not drink that night, and I didn’t. It doesn’t escape me, however, that had my husband not called at that exact moment, I would have bought a bottle of vodka, and I would have drank.

The Universe put the answer right in front of me when I needed it most. I paid attention that night, and I wish I could say that was the end of it, that “I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes…” (I love a good, random Ace of Base quote), but that’s not the case.

The next day, I was still thinking about having a drink. We’re making plans for Super Bowl Sunday, and I thought, “I can drink with friends. Nothing crazy, just a normal amount.” I never claimed I wasn’t a hard-headed stubborn fool.

At dinner last night, I broached the subject with my husband. I told him I’d like to try drinking in moderation, and wanted to know his thoughts. He said, “I’m not sure what I think about it. I guess my question is why? What is the reason for drinking after all the work you’ve done to stop?” I had no answer, except, “I’d like to see if my relationship with alcohol has changed, after all the work I’ve done.” He responded that drinking to see if I could really do it in moderation doesn’t sound like a great reason to him.

Since I don’t disagree, and had no answer for that, we sort of dropped the subject and continued on with our evening. I didn’t stop thinking about drinking, though.

Later, just before I went to bed, my husband handed me an envelope that had come with the day’s mail. It was handwritten, and was addressed to me. I could tell from the return address that it was from an old high school friend of mine. This friend and I follow each other’s online updates, but haven’t actually spoken in years. Opening the letter, this is what I found:

Hello, Friend!

I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading about your sobriety, and I honor your efforts to stay that way… and have hope that you have the strength to see it through, and that your family is there to hold you up when you’re weak.

All I could think was, “Holy shit.”

I read and reread the note a hundred times. I then placed it back in its envelope.

In that moment, I knew.

The Universe placed yet another sign right in my path, telling me the answer, and I heard it- felt it, even- as clearly as I’ve felt anything in my life.

I will remain sober.

So here’s to friends and family, the people who prop us up when we can’t or won’t do it for ourselves. Here’s to The Universe, for providing a steady supply of answers, whether or not we choose to hear them.

Above all, I’m grateful for family, and I’m grateful for that support system I can’t always see, that reveals itself at exactly the right moment, when I need it the most.

Posted in C-Haze, Personal, Sobriety

The Salesman, Vodka and Tea

I am a schizo-blogger. I go through periods when I blog constantly, only to neglect it for months on end. Sometimes I blog about politics. Sometimes it’s true crime or current events. Other times, it’s personal.

Lately, I guess I’m on a personal kick.

One of the most important parts of who I am is my sobriety. I have to work on it every day. I’m not particularly new at this, as it’s not my first trip to the rodeo, so to speak. Much like my blogging habits, the urges to drink are sporadic and often impossible to predict.

Tonight we are snowed in. It’s the first major snowfall of the season. The kind of snowstorm that requires a Winter Weather Advisory, with a ticker at the bottom of all the local TV stations, telling everyone which schools have cancelled classes, and which church services will not be held.

I generally love being snowed in. It’s cozy. I get to sit in my recliner, cup of vodka in hand, and relax.

Wait.

Did I just say “vodka”? I meant tea!

That’s how urges work for me. I’ll be thinking about something I love, like being snowed in, and some strange connection to alcohol will sneak its way in, kind of randomly. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been sober, it just happens.

Sometimes it really pisses me off, too.

I got sober using a program called SMART Recovery, and there’s a word for this phenomenon. It’s called the “Salesman”. My Salesman, I’ve decided, is male, and he’s a complete asshole. He’s manipulative, he’s cruel, and he will stop at nothing to get me to drink.

Unfortunately for the Salesman, no matter what he does, he can’t erase my past. He can’t erase the damage I did to myself when I was drinking. He can’t make me forget the blackouts, the hangovers, the morning-after regrets. The constant fear I felt, knowing I was killing myself, that I was going to die if I did not stop drinking.

He also can’t make me forget the good that has come with sobriety. No matter what he says, he cannot make me forget that I’m clear-headed, I’m present, I’m engaged, and I’m healthy.

That’s the work I put in every single day. The work is to make sure I never forget where I came from, where I am now, and what it took to get me here.

Tonight the Salesman will be defeated again.

I’m at peace, sipping my vodka tea, content in the knowledge that tomorrow morning, I will actually remember what it felt like to be snowed in.

Posted in C-Haze, Parenting, Personal

Parenting in Varying Degrees of Fear

The parenting of my 17 year old daughter has always been an exercise in fear and uncertainty.

As some of my readers already know, my 17 year old daughter was recently hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in her lung). After a gazillion tests, doctors traced root cause of this thing to a clotting disorder called Lupus Anticoagulation. This led to another, secondary diagnosis of Lupus.

Immediately placed on blood thinners, we were informed that she will always be at risk for future clots, and as a result, will be on both Warfarin (blood thinner) and Plaquenil (Lupus medication) forever.

My daughter, while absolutely wonderful, strong and determined, is also a bit of a drama queen. Therefore, she has the exact same reaction to both major and minor health issues. If she has a hang-nail, she freaks out in the exact same way as she did when she was hours from death, suffering a blood clot in her lung. This is probably why, when she first started experiencing symptoms from this embolism, that I treated her with Nyquil for two days before realizing something was not right.

When she was 12 years old, she complained (by “complained” I mean was hysterically crying and carrying on) about tooth pain, so I made a dentist appointment for her. I thought she had a cavity. The dentist did x-rays and told me to get her to an oral surgeon immediately. She had a mass in her jaw. A huge one that required emergency surgery to remove. After many tests and biopsies, we were relieved to find that the growth was benign.

I have also taken her to the emergency room no less than 10 times over the years, convinced she was dying of appendicitis or something equally dangerous, only to be told after hours of waiting and countless tests that she was merely constipated.

With this kid, one never knows.

On Saturday night, she busted into my bedroom at 1 AM, crying hysterically about pain on her right side, under her rib cage. This is the same place her clot was located. I would have panicked, had we not just been to the ER less than two weeks ago with a similar complaint, only to learn that, Hallelujiah (!!), her clot is gone. I called her Hematologist’s after-hours exchange and spoke with a doctor, who told me to give her some ibuprofen and call back in an hour if she hasn’t improved.

An hour later my daughter was fine, snoozing on the couch, while I anxiously watched her. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 AM, unsure if I was relieved this was yet another false alarm, or annoyed that this was yet another false alarm.

I live in a state of fear.

I almost missed her blood clot the first time around. I almost didn’t get her the help she needed to save her life in time to actually save it.

Then again, we’ve had countless ER doctors perform enemas to relieve middle-of-the-night bouts of constipation, convinced she was in serious trouble. Only she wasn’t.

I wish I had some sort of tool that I could reference; something to tell me that this time it’s serious, or that it’s nothing. When I’m not fearful of missing something crucial, I feel guilty. Guilty when thoughts creep into my head, and I find myself annoyed while my child stands in front of me hyperventilating about yet another ailment.

“Good grief. I can’t keep rushing this kid to the hospital!”

Almost immediately I realize I’m not being fair. If I’d had the year she’s had, I’d be paranoid about every little (and not so little) symptom I developed too.

She almost died.

That’s when I realize she’s just a kid.

A beautiful, strong, determined, genius, understandably hypochondriac kid.

Posted in Alcoholics, C-Haze, Personal, Recovery, Sobriety

Drunk Me Only Lives in My Dreams

I’ve been thinking about drinking lately. A lot. My brain can sometimes be my worst enemy, but it does keep me humble, at least. Just when I think I’ve got this thing beat, and just when it seems it’s no longer a daily struggle, my brain will start playing tricks on me.

Most recently, I started actually dreaming about drinking. Not the way I drank just before I got sober, mind you, but the way I drank in the beginning. When I could attend happy hour(s) with my friends, let loose, have fun, and nothing more. Those were the days before I kept liquor in the house. Before I started drinking alone, in the dark, 5 out of 7 days in a week. In my dreams I’m young, I’m vibrant, I’m confident. I’m having fun, and I’m not lonely or alone. I’m not blacking out. I’m just socializing like normal people do (though if I’m honest, even then I was drinking more during these social outings than everyone else did), and it’s blissful.

When I wake up from these dreams, I go through this really bizarre series of emotions. Initially, I’m confused. These dreams feel so real, they’re so vivid, that I’m momentarily caught off guard. A sense of panic sets in, and for a moment, I’m mortified, not realizing it was just a dream. That no, I did not fall off the wagon.

I am still sober.

Next, the guilt sets in. The guilt that I’m having dreams about drinking and they’re not nightmares. They’re good dreams. I’m so happy and vivacious and fun. A walking Captain Morgan commercial. I feel this sense of guilt, because I’m not supposed to want to drink, right?

I should be dreaming about sober fun, not drunk fun.

Finally, the pragmatism hits, and I think to myself, “Well, at least drunk me can have some fun in my dreams, if nowhere else.” That’s where drunk me has been relegated to. It’s the only place drunk me can survive. Sober me occupies my waking hours. It’s probably a win that the only place drunk me can live anymore is in my dreams.

The truth is, I miss it. I just do. It’s like this old, intense love affair from my past. It’s no good for me. In fact, it’s so dangerous that my very life would be on the line if I ever started drinking again. We shared some good times, though. The relationship was dysfunctional and wrong, but it was real, and it had moments of pure bliss. That doesn’t mean I can go back there. I can’t.

It does mean it will always occupy a place inside of me, somewhere deep, where only I can feel it.

Now, however, I want to live. I also want to drink, but I know it isn’t possible to do both.

So for now, I’ll just keep dreaming.