Fool Me Once…

Rehab stays, divorce, infidelity, cops breaking up fights between suburban mothers, and inflammatory gossip running through it all. “This is why people don’t speak with their neighbors anymore,” I’ve thought on more than one occasion, or “This crap would make a reality tv show look tame…”

Hearing neighborhood gossip, the words said behind my back pierce right through every one of my insecurities. It’s happened more than once. As a military spouse, sadly, it’s sort of expected to have those socially awkward moments, but I find that living off base this time around has brought far more immature behavior than I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience.

I may not always share the quality openly in real life, but I am an extremely sensitive person. In my working life, there were many times spent in tears and crushed after job performance reviews. “Needs improvement” in black and white for all the world to see felt like a hot poker searing right through my gut. It’s uncomfortable at best, and more often than not even constructive criticism sends me wanting to curl up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. I get that it’s irrational, extreme even. But the initial sting of these situations is a gut level response, involuntary. Highly sensitive people are “the ones whose feelings are so easily bruised that they’re constantly being told to ‘toughen up'”, according to Psychology today.

Being an overly sensitive person in this toxic frenemy environment is soul-sucking agony. Think J.K. Rowling’s dementors sucking the life out of Harry Potter.

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Mean people just suck ….the life right out of you. Why do we tolerate and participate in this demeaning behavior? Is loneliness too high a price that we will settle for people we’d probably not choose otherwise? I’ve wrote about real friendships many times. I still feel the same about being real and showing up authentically, but I have to say adult friendships with kids can be a real pain in the ass challenge.

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“Why would they be so mean, Mom?” she asked, tear-stained cheeks turned up to look at me. “Not every family works the same way,” I tell her feebly. “It’s life. Not everyone is nice.” What goes unsaid is just how angry I am. I want to tell her that for some reason, two can get along just fine but when three are involved, there is usually one left out. It broke my heart to watch them break hers. What I pray she takes away from these encounters is to remember what it feels like. Remember what it’s like to be mocked, ridiculed, and excluded. Remember. Then have compassion and empathy enough to never participate in making someone else feel that way.

What I feel most sad about is the fact that it took me this long to figure it out. What should have been glaringly obvious took me a while.

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It may have taken me a detour or two to get here, but I’m here now – wiser, and with eyes wide open.

via Daily Prompt: Glaring

The First Time

The first time I had a drink, I was 4 or maybe 5 years old. My older step-sisters, in high school at the time, were having a party. I don't remember much about that night, other than I felt amazing being with all those big people. I was making them laugh! They let me play their ping pong ball game with them, and even let me cheat and win! I don't remember having an opinion about what I was drinking, or even what it tasted like. I drank it though. I liked the attention. I have a vague recollection of not feeling good, but specifics are not clear. I do recall dark brown fuzzy carpet.

Dragging me by my arm, I was told to go to bed and pretend to be asleep, as people rushed around shushing each other and scrambling to pick up. Hindsight and retelling of family stories years later filled in the gaps that were confusing for me as a child. They were home, and evidently earlier than anticipated.

To this day I do not know where my parents were that night. Or the time I woke up one early morning to a sea of sleeping bags and blankets, covering so many bodies splayed out all over our rec room floor. It was a different time, the eighties. The thought process was "at least they are partying at home instead of out driving around. They are doing it safely".

I will be 40 in 10 days. I have drank alcohol up until 65 days ago. I didn't drink in my early teens, but by 18 had a boyfriend with legal friends. For over 20 years I have ….

been an alcoholic? An on and off binge drinker? Both? Does it really matter?

When I look back at my history, on paper yes. If I was reading this about someone else, it would leave no doubt. Of course she's an alcoholic. But because it's me, it's somehow normal….

It's not that bad…I didn't wake up and have a bottle of vodka for breakfast. (Although I've had Kahlua in my morning coffee on a couple of occasions with friends.) I didn't hide bottles. I never drank before work. I did strategize calorie consumption with alcohol, as in skipping meals to get tipsy quicker, skip meals to compensate for anticipated alcohol consumption. Switched from sugar- and calorie-dense cocktails to straight liquor over the years. Granted, the worst of the bottom occurred in my twenties.  I didn't drink while pregnant. After the kids were born, I drank, but responsibly. I didn't drink alone.

Until I did.

I've had horrendous hangovers, but never withdrawal symptoms.

I think that's the thing. That alcoholic term is so loaded. (Pun not really intended, but I'm leaving it there.) Alcoholics are physically addicted, right?

I don't think it matters.

I don't care what the definition is. Alcohol does not work for me. It doesn't make me feel good, it doesn't improve my life. It never feels as good as that elusive just-tipsy-but-not-drunk feeling does for that brief moment. Chasing that ever-closing window of buzzed perfection always led way past excess. When having 1 leads to 10, it's not good regardless of whatever the definition says. I love the way Jim states it at Fit Recovery, "I didn't want to drink, I wanted drunk."

Exactly.

I am done wrestling with am I or not. Doesn't really matter in the end, does it?

Day 55

I have not had a drink in nearly 2 months. In 5 days I will have earned my 2 month chip. In that time I have also switched to a plant-based diet.

I would like to say that these 2 decisions are miraculously making me into the fabulous version of myself that I always knew I could be, much like an after picture where life is now wonderful and amazing and the problems of daily life do not exist.

Truth?

What I'm noticing is an awareness of the pervasiveness of drinking culture. Mommy play groups, social media, cute videos depicting funny women discussing parenting over glasses of wine, college life, radio ads, military groups, music, books, etc. It's everywhere. It seems normal. But is it?

I notice personally, that my skin is clear-ish. My clothes are loose. Life is going by, just as it always has. My head is clearer. I feel better. Burying feelings under a heavy blanket of alcohol is no longer an option. I'm reading more and am noticing more, but it's still me. I think that's the thing is that you still have to deal with yourself. I am not reaching and pining for something to drink, as I imagined I would. I don't wake up tired and cranky most of the time. I go to bed without regret, usually just tired and ready for the day to be over.

The 'one day at a time' mantra is ringing true just as much for sobriety as it is for deployment. Play a game with the kids, be present. Prepare a meal. Read. Write. Be with the dogs. Clean the house.

Just do life.

Without the numb.

The Life Raft of Gratitude

Navigating this deployment with kids old enough to comprehend time and distance more than they did the last time around, I’m finding that it’s teaching me how to teach them how to navigate tough emotions. One has to have a good cry, the other wants to not talk about it, for now. “Later, mom. We’ll talk later.”

The urge to fix it is there. It’s like this gene that makes us desire to make everything all better is implanted the minute we hold our children for the first time. I resist this “fix-it gene” because in the long run, masking over feelings is not healthy. I want them to sit in the middle of the mess and know it’s going to be okay. Cry, rage, be mad, exhaust all of it. Feeling all the feelings is healthy and normal. Stuffing, ignoring, masking, and distracting pain will only prolong the inevitable. You cannot go around, over, under pain; at some point you have to go through it. It takes guts. When I don’t know what else to do, I grasp for the things that ease pain. Exercise and physical exertion are often-utilized tools in my belt. I don’t always have that in me, though. That which eases without fail: gratitude. Gratitude is the raft for traveling through the gut-wrenching sludge of pain. It’s a survival vehicle that my kiddos will know well.

For today, I’m focused on the little things; a freshly mowed lawn, dogs that seem to sense a shift and are snuggling in close as if they know we need a little more love today, the dishes that were done last night so I could just sit and be today, teaching my daughter the exquisite release that comes from laughing through tears, the automatic coffee maker for preparing a warm pot before I even slipped a foot out from under the covers, and the quiet calm of knowing that the worst part for me is over, so I can focus on what the kids will need in the coming weeks.

Figuring out one thing – even a tiny thing – that I am grateful for can create a 180-degree shift in my mood and attitude. It creates calm in the midst of chaos, fear, and uncertainty.

I used to love browsing shops and looking for sales before kids. Getting lost in a store or the shelves of a Barnes and Noble was a way to pass deployment time. I still enjoy it a little from time to time when I am afforded the opportunity to escape alone. I really don’t like shopping with other people. While I would gladly stop a bullet and step in front of a train for my kids, I loathe dragging them to the store. LOATHE.

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As a person who gets distracted easily, the concentration of remembering what I need from the list I left in the car (but am too lazy to go back and get), mentally canvassing the cupboards and refrigerator from memory, checking ingredients and prices, all while attempting to keep the kids in line, not grabbing stuff, and preventing bodily injury to themselves and unsuspecting passersby with the cart – I come home exhausted and cranky.

The big thing I’m thankful for this deployment? Amazon Prime and our local HEB Curb-to-You online service.

Seriously. LIFE. CHANGING. I know I’m late to the party, but whoa! School supply shopping? DONE. Birthday shopping for August? DONE. The next upcoming birthday and Christmas will be done and done online. I will never have to leave my house if I don’t want to! No crowds, no hassle, no problem! I got this!

Table for 3 please. We’ll take gratitude for things large and small, with a big ol’ side of humor.

 

 

Changes

Why all the changes?

Chopped all the hair, stopped working at the gym, vegetarianism, no alcohol….

Um…wait, what?!

That’s right. I stopped drinking. Permanently.

But having a cocktail or two is fun! Drinking responsibly is no big deal. Having a glass of wine with dinner doesn’t make you an alcoholic. There’s no harm in having a drink or two with friends! Ugh. It’s summer. The kids are home – drinking is a survival mechanism.  It’s been a long day, I DESERVE a drink, damn it. Nothing tastes so good as a cold beer after mowing the lawn. There’s just something about the smell of grass and the taste of a good, cold ale. 

I don’t know if I am an alcoholic. I know that it’s really easy for me after one drink to have five. Or ten. I guess in my mind, when I think of an alcoholic, I think of a stumbling drunk who has to go to the bar everyday. In my early 20s I was a binge drinker. Get trashed, wake up with cotton mouth and a belly full of shame. I ended up in the hospital once, broken blood vessels in my eyes from having vomited so hard it felt like I had hacked up my toenails. But that’s just part of being a twenty something, right? I never had a problem not drinking for long stretches. It has never been a compulsory thing in that way. As an introverted person, alcohol is convenient for putting on the mask of “shiny, happy, and fake-extroverted”. But, does that make me an alcoholic? A cursory Google search offers many definitions and parameters under that term.

Alcohol is a depressant. So if you are already someone who battles with depression? Yeah, alcohol is really not your friend. If you have an addictive/impulsive personality AND deal with depression? It’s definitely not a winning combo long-term. I used alcohol as a tool to deal with depression, to numb out, and to deal with uncomfortable situations. What I have really come to realize is that it’s not serving me. It doesn’t make me healthier. It adds to the grocery bill. I don’t feel good about myself when I drink. So why continue to partake?

I downloaded an app called NOMO. As in no more. It has encouragement, a counter clock tracking days of sobriety and chips you earn at milestones. Strongly rooted in AA, I have found it very helpful.

I still don’t know if I’m an alcoholic. I know that it is not a good thing for me, or for my goals. Evolution is necessary if what I’m doing is no longer productive.

The haircuts are optional.

Irony

The daily post prompts of the last three days; Adrift, Unmoored, and Descend all succinctly describe my inner thoughts as of late. Perhaps depressed, anxious and floundering would be more accurate.

Continually vacillating between feeling justified and completely ridiculous by any real world standard; in my head it’s a panicked loop of: upcoming deployment, two great – but challenging – kiddos, single parenting for a year, sell the house, move to an apartment (but how will the dogs adjust?), get out of debt, don’t let the kids see you sad, exercise, eat right, self-care, walk the dogs, cook from scratch, feel crappy for not being grateful and wanting for things that don’t really matter (but matter to me), have a drink, get back on the wagon, mop the floor, keep the house clean because God forbid someone see the real you and how you live, don’t be so hard on the kids, those kids need more discipline, I’m doing it all wrong, I want to exercise, but my body hurts, my feet ache and my shoulders are numb again, feel guilty for not doing any and all of the above. Repeat at full volume and ever-increasing speed.

The other voice tells me to shut up and just “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” and it will be fine. You’re overreacting and overanalyzing. Maybe I am. Or maybe I’m clawing and scratching to get off the mental merry-go-round.

I’m grieving the loss of relationships. I feel like I’m being a bad person and completely relieved at the same time. I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want a relationship with them and I feel like crap for thinking it out loud. They are not entirely to blame, and neither am I. It’s a dysfunctional pattern that’s gone on for so long it seems normal. I chose to step away for self preservation, only now I feel like I’m drowning in the consequence of it. Do I mend fences just to keep the so-called peace or forge ahead into uncharted territory? Feeling scared, sad, liberated, relieved, guilty, nauseous, uncertain, etc.

So where to from here?

I have absolutely no idea. I’m trying to take all this one task at a time and get through to the next thing. It’s raining here and has me feeling a bit melancholy. I’d like to take a nap, but I will walk the dogs.

Dogs make everything better. And snapchat silliness. Such as this:

Dogs and humor for me. What about you? What helps your anxious and or depressed heart and mind get through to a more even keel?

It’s Not Forever…

In 2009-2010, we were nearly debt free. We were so close. We were working our Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover, we attended Financial Peace; the 9-week class held at our church. We were doing it!

Then we got complacent. “Eh, we got this. We’ve come so far, and we’ll never let it get like that again…,” we told ourselves. “We can handle just this little bit.” Then a little bit became a little more, and then became a lot.

“You can wander into debt, but you can’t wander out.” – Dave Ramsey

We are back at aggressively attacking a giant hole with a decent-sized shovel. This time, however, we are not stopping short of the finish line, wandering around and only doing it with a half effort.

In the process of budgeting and looking at places to trim and downsize, our cars – while not extravagant –  represent a couple of good-sized chunks of our overall debt. We made the decision to sell one and get a reliable beater to drive. Like selling the house to rent for a while, it seems like such a step backward, even though it fits our overall plan and is moving us in the right direction over the long term. I know all of this in my head. My gut, though? In my gut it really sucks. It’s saying out loud that we made mistakes.

It’s shame-filled, yucky, and it makes me angry.

Hi. My name is Lori. I like stuff. It’s really fun getting the new car. It’s really fun getting the shiny thing, instragramming it, and reveling in the newness of it. I don’t like that I like shiny and new and clean and pretty. It’s so superficial. It’s just stuff.

You know what’s not fun? Buying a beater that is filthy, but mechanically sound.

Otherwise known as being an adult.

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Meet Big Bertha. She’s not bad to look at, she’s mechanically good, just needs a little TLC. The interior on the other hand is DISGUSTING and needs a LOT of elbow grease!

 

I have to remind myself that this is temporary. This is a season and is not going to last forever. It’s living like no one else, so later we can live like no one else – without the debt! Delayed gratification.

It’s weird.

It will be worth it.

via Daily Prompt: Temporary