Friday, June 27, 2014


I remember hearing in one of my classes that grief never truly leaves.  Whatever the loss, it has to be re-grieved at each new milestone in life.  For example, if a little boy loses his father, that boy is sad.  That boy is sad again when he starts school and he sees other kids with both parents there dropping off their kids and he has just his mom.  That boy has to grieve again when he starts playing sports and doesn't have a dad to share it with.  This is simplified of course, but during every usual father/son milestone in life, that boy is going to have to re-figure out how to process the loss of his father.  It continues on through when he gets married, has kids of his own, etc.  It has nothing to do with whining, self-pity, wallowing, being unwilling to let go and move on, or anything else.  Those things may be happening too, but it's much more that that base loss will forever effect his perspective on the world.  Just like each individual has to figure out how to navigate the world as a male or female, as their particular race, etc., that person will forever have to figure out how to navigate the world as someone who lost his father as a child.  He may not consciously think about it much at all, but there will likely be other signs in his life around these milestones that show him that something maybe isn't right.

The other big lesson I got from that class around grief is that grief applies to many things, not just death.  Any time we lose something or someone, we grieve it.  I have been fortunate that I have had very few people close to me die.  But I could give you a laundry list of things I've lost:  my happy childhood, my innocence, my chance at a happy family, my feelings of safety and security, my ability to sleep well at night, my ability to trust people, etc.  I have done a lot of healing with a lot of these wounds, but still I have to navigate each new obstacle or milestone in my life as someone who never had a stable foundation in life as a child.  Sometimes I feel totally crazy and don't know why, and suddenly I realize it's my dad's birthday...or I'll be coming up on some major event and I just can't get excited for it, and I have to accept that some deep down part of me still wishes mom and dad were going to be there to celebrate with me.  I know they will never be the parents I want them to be, and I am blessed with an amazing family of choice today, but yet I still miss them like crazy sometimes because I miss what I wanted them to be.

Recently I've been interviewing for an internship at a children's home.  I've been beyond excited about the possibility of this position, though a little bit terrified for the interview.  I so badly wanted it to go well, and for me the more I want something sometimes the more likely I am to self-sabotage.  (Something along the lines of if I don't give it my full effort I can blame my failure on that, but if I give it my all and still fail then I have to question my worth...).  I haven't been sleeping well all week...first because the stress about the interview itself was keeping me up (though ironically the night before the interview was the best night of sleep I've had.  That must've been a higher power thing because I so needed to be rested!).  The night after the interview I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking about how badly I wanted the internship and she'd told me she would let me know soon.  I knew it wasn't helping anything, but I couldn't help but think through the possible scenarios of getting it and not getting it, and about just how badly I wanted it.  The very next day I found out I got it.  You'd think I would've slept like a baby, right?  Finally having relief from all the stress and the unknowns?  Nope.  I was awake a good chunk of the night still in shock that they actually picked me, and just giddy excited about it all.

So that brings us to tonight, and the reason why I brought up grief.  Last night I was excited.  It has been my passion, focus, and what I've been putting so much work towards to be able to get a job where I can work with kids who have been through what I have.  I know that's where I'm meant to be and what I'm meant to do.  I "get" tough kids.  I connect with them.  I see myself in them, and I understand why they do what they do.  It's one of the greatest gifts of my crazy childhood.  I can understand certain people and certain things a lot better than most.  I love that I can use my pain to do something good for the world.  But I wonder who I would've been without the pain.  I know it does me know good to ponder these unanswerable questions, but who would I have been had I had loving parents?  I don't think I'll ever be grateful for the abuse I endured, but I've definitely found aspects of myself and my life today that stem directly from that pain that I am extremely grateful for.  But tonight it's just making me sad.  As happy as I am for my new internship and this career path I'm so passionate about, I wish it wasn't at the expense of my child self being nearly destroyed.  I guess, as happy as I am to be able to relate to these kids that need good people in their lives, sometimes I just wish it wasn't me who related so well.  I wish I didn't know their pain.  Heck, I wish they didn't know their pain either.  I wish no one knew this kind of pain.  I wish there weren't so many children (and adults) out there who know what it's like to have the people who are supposed to love you, care for you, and protect you instead hurt you, neglect you, or abandon you.  While I'm at it it's the same with friends I've met in adulthood that have helped me so much because they relate.  I'm so happy to meet people that can relate, but I care about them and therefore hate that they can relate.  I wouldn't wish this shit on anyone.


I'm grateful for the inner strength and compassion I've been given because of what I survived as a kid.  I'm grateful that the world offers me opportunities to use my pain for the greater good, and to not only stop the cycle of violence but actively oppose it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stay in the middle

Sometimes in recovery I hear things that don't really make sense for me until much later.  I love the sudden revelation when it clicks.  I recently had one of those moments.

Early on I remember hearing someone talk about sobriety and recovery as being on a boat.  The safest place to be is in the middle.  You may be ok for a while on the may feel like a nice ride.  But when the stormy waters hit, the people standing on the edges can be knocked off with almost no warning.  But in the middle of the boat you can get through the storms.  You'll feel the rocking.  You may even get knocked around some.  But you won't go off the boat.  So the message was, "Stay in the middle."  Stay in the middle of recovery.  Be involved.  Be connected.

I kind of understood what was being said then, but like most things I had to live it to really get it.  I've never been one to do recovery half assed.  It's saved my life and given me a life worth living.  That's not something I want to mess around with.  I don't always do things exactly right, but I've gotten a sponsor and worked hard.  I've gotten to know other people, shown up regularly to meetings, talked about what I'm going through, and been willing to take suggestions.  Beyond that I've gotten involved in other sober softball team that I talked about and another social group.  As hard as it is for me, I've come out of my shell and allowed myself to really get to know others in the program.  I've opened up and let them see the real me...not the many, many layers of defenses.  (Ok I'm sure some of my defenses are still there! lol  But closer to the real me anyway...).

At times some of the involvement has felt a bit silly and a bit over the top.  Why do I need to keep going to meetings and keep hearing the same thing?  What's the big deal about spending so much time around sober people?  I'm fine around alcohol now and 99% of the time it doesn't bother me.  I know I can't drink.  End of story.  No big deal.  But recently, when shit hit the fan, I was very very glad to have put myself so much in the middle.

As I mentioned before, my best friend suddenly walked out on me.  It has sent me into a tailspin of grief and loneliness.  It made me start to wonder why I bother with anything.  I'd put so so much of me into that relationship only to have it disappear in a day over something completely out of my control.  Beyond that she's now spreading crap about me, which makes it even worse.  There's other issues going on struggle to find a job and therefore being entirely fears about finally graduating from school....searching for an internship...etc.  I started to make some phone calls, because that's what I've been taught by AA to do.  Unfortunately none of the people I called answered, and I started getting more lonely (hence the previous Friend post).  On top of it all my sponsor, the one person I really really trust, was working overtime and forgot about her meeting with me.  Even though I have 2.5 years of knowing better now, I had thoughts of maybe I should just go have a drink to take the pain away.  Maybe I should give up on trying to be a better person...trying to get out of my shell....etc. etc.  I got more attention, more "love" when it was just sympathy for the "poor me" victimhood I was stuck in.  Why not go back to that?  Why keep trying to get better?  I stopped doing any of the things that would make me feel better.  I sat in front of the tv and hardly moved for days.  If anyone tried to talk to me, online or otherwise, I just got angry.

It's scary to look back on.  I'm pretty comfortable in my sobriety and my new happy life.  I don't want to lose that.  And yet in a matter of days I was ready to give it all up.  But there were little things that kept me holding on.  My sponsor apologized and we went out for dinner and a nice walk to make up for it.  People started calling me back.  I went out to see a friend and ended up running in to another that I hadn't seen in a long time.  This one I hadn't seen for so long was there on my very first day of sobriety so he knew how far i've come.  He went on and on about how great I look and how changed I am.  And then there were silly things.  My softball team needs their 2nd baseman!  The email list that I'm running for one of my AA groups is expecting me to send out emails.  It may sound strange, but at one point those two things...softball and the email list...were all that was keeping me going.  I had told people I would do it, I was going to do it.

It hit me then that that's what being in the middle is all about.  It was easy to offer to be a part of these things when I felt good and positive, and was at a meeting full of other people talking positively about sobriety.  It became much harder when suddenly I was alone, depressed, having nightmares, etc.  I didn't have to sign up for the softball team.  I definitely didn't have to run the email list.  It was my idea to start it at all.  But I wanted to be a part of.  Of course the softball is all about fun for me.  I do get some fun from the email list but that was more out of a desire to help the group.  I saw a need and wanted to fill it.  At the time it was more my offering of service/volunteering.  But later on, it became a life saver.  Another time, a little over a year ago, I was saved by offering to dog sit for a friend in the program.  I had a similar sudden spiral into misery and I wanted to drink more than anything.  The one thing that kept me sober was my friend's dog.  I kept thinking how horrible would it be for me to dog sit for someone also in recovery and be drinking when she was trusting me with her fur baby.  Both of those times I didn't know the fall was coming.  That time it was triggered by a sudden gruesome nightmare that brought up a lot of new memories that made me scared of myself, and therefore scared to let anyone get to know me further.  I wanted to run before anyone found out how bad they were.  But those few more days of dog-sitting got me to hold on long enough to find a better option than running for the bottle and away from the people who cared.

In the last few days, people have been calling me back, and I've had the amazing opportunity to get to know people that previously i've only seen once a week or so in meetings.  It's been such a gift, because even though I know everyone has struggles, when I see them in meetings they just seem like they have it so together.  It's beautiful to me to get to hear what they're dealing with, and I feel honored to be trusted with it.  It also helps me realize that we're all equal as humans and we all have pain, whether we've been sober for a day or 20 years, and no matter what we've been through in life.  I have some friends who had picture perfect families growing up.

The point to all of this is that my higher power will always give me a way and a reason to hold on, but I've got to be there to see it.  If I get thrown off the boat at the first big wave, I won't have a chance to rely on friends, on my support system, on the tools that I've learned over the last 2.5 years, etc.  I've gotten rocked around on this boat a lot in the last couple of weeks, and it's been painful.  But I'm still on the boat and I feel ok again....because during the ok times I didn't wander away.  I kept myself in the middle even when it would've been so much easier to just go do my own thing.  It's been such a great lesson in taking care of myself no matter what, and such a gift in seeing how the world will support me when I let it.


I'm so grateful for the network I have today.  The people that "saved" me this time around are a very unlikely cast of characters....but because of them, and some surprising series of events....i'm back to being ok today.  I'm starting to feel like myself again after a very scary week or so of being horribly angry and just not caring.  I still have a ways to go, and a lot of fear and grief to process, but I'm starting to feel like me again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


How would you define friend?  The dictionary says:

friend |frend|
a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

There are other definitions too, but that is the main one. (Fun fact, it is also included in the dictionary now as a friend someone on facebook). I've been having to do a lot of soul searching lately on what it means to be a friend.  I don't want to go into detail on it, but a close friend of mine for nearly 2 years suddenly decided to walk out on our friendship recently.  She didn't tell me anything, except that she "wanted a break".  The only insight I got into her thoughts was what she was saying to other people.  Unfortunately she's been spreading a lot of ugly stuff about me.  It's so out there that everyone knows it's her issue, not something I did, but still the longer I sit with it the more it hurts.  It's making me question everything.  I considered her a best friend....someone who I would always care about no matter what.  I thought we'd gotten past all the early relationship crap.  I thought we had the type of friendship where even if one of us had a bad day we didn't have to worry because we knew the other wouldn't hold it against us.  Well, I had a couple of bad days and she left.

I don't know if I'll ever be friends with this girl again.  I wrote her a long letter about wanting to work things out, but the longer this goes I'm not so sure.  A mutual friend keeps asking me if we've "worked things out yet".  But truthfully I don't know if it can be worked least not without some huge changes.  This is not something that a quick talk is going to fix for me.  She really hurt me and doesn't seem to get it.  She keeps telling me that she's working on her issues before she can handle being a friend again.  She says it like she's doing it for it's some great, kind action for her to take.  She doesn't seem to register that it effects me.  (Not to mention she says she wants to talk and then goes instantly into attack mode about whatever I say).  It's not a relationship I want to get back in to without some serious indications that she's changed.  Yes I will always care about her, and I'll support her as much as I can, but I don't see wanting to let my heart be a part of that again.

We did have a lot of fun together though.  I really, genuinely enjoyed her company.  And now that the dust is settling, I'm realizing she was kind of my only friend.  At least that's the way it seems.  But I'm not sure.  That's why I wanted to look up the definition.

I have a lot of people who genuinely care about me.  I believe with all my heart that they care.  I used to be very, very alone, but I'm not anymore.  I truly believe that I could go to any one of this pretty long list of people with a matter of the heart and they would be there for me.  I would trust them with my secrets, and they would get me and support me.  And that is a beautiful thing.

But does that qualify as a friendship?  The thing is, most of them are substantially older than me.  That's the nature of AA.  Most alkies were just ramping up their drinking career at my age...but what can I say, I was a prodigy!  I don't think that age alone determines a friendship, but now that I don't have my "attached at the hip" friend anymore I'm starting to wonder if these other people take me seriously as a friend.  I know they support me, and I know they care....but I think they see me more like a little sister than a friend.  One of the expectations of AA is that you get support when you walk in...for strings attached.  In return, you offer the same to others.  It's how the group continues to run and how people all over the world are able to stay sober.  But I'm beginning to wonder if that takes away from the friendship.  In some ways I feel so close to them, but at the same time I have to wonder if they'd even give the time of day if it weren't for AA.  I've been trying to reach out to others I know....trying to build up friendships with people I didn't do a great job reaching out to because I was always with this other girl.  But none of them have called me back.  I've put a lot of effort into it, and have had the ever silent phone in return.

Those that know me even a little know I have abandonment reaching out to people and putting myself out there is really, really hard.  I've always preferred to just do things alone, though in these last few years, in getting sober, I've been trying to trust people enough to have relationships.  I guess if all it takes to be a friend is to have a bond of mutual affection then I have that.  But if it's someone to go to the movies with I don't seem to have that at all.  

I've described my AA people as my family and I do see them that way.  I mean I guess there's nothing wrong with being seen as the little sister.  There's worse things in the world than having a giant group of big sisters to take care of me and protect me.  I know I should be grateful for that closeness and support...and really I am...but I feel like something's missing.  I don't know how to explain it...but I'm starting to wonder if "AA friend" is some sort of caveat that's different from regular friend.  At first I thought it meant a deeper connection, and in some ways it does.  We've shared things with each other that we wouldn't share with most of the rest of the world.  But it also seems to mean "only a friend at meetings or AA related functions."  At least that's the way it seems to me.  Logically I know that people get busy with stuff, and I've had way too much extra time on my hands lately since I'm still I have way too much time to think about it all...but still I have to admit I'm hurt by this.  I'm not seeing the friendship that I was hoping for.  How can a person have so many friends, and yet no friends?  

(PS Just to clarify...I don't mean anything negative towards the true friends I know I do have...some of whom might be reading this...but I'm referring just to local, face to face people here).


I'm grateful for my AA family.  I really am.  And if I had to pick, I would take being the well cared for little sister any day over having someone to go to the movies with.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy father's day to....someone...

I've been trying so hard to stay positive.  I told myself I was going to come on here and write a nice positive post about all the men I know out there who are great fathers.  I know they're out there, and they're so, so important to their children's lives.  I wanted to focus on the dad's that deserve to have a special day just for them.

That's what I'd hoped for, but instead the terrifying memories of my own dad won't leave my head.  If you've ever wondered what PTSD is like....I am exhausted.  I want nothing more than to sleep.  But every time I close my eyes I see him there waiting for me, like he's planning my nightmare.  I see images of the awful things he did to me.  If I keep my eyes closed the images come closer and suddenly I'm right there in the experience again.  So I fight it.  I open my eyes...I remind myself where I am....that I'm ok...that I'm safe.  My eyes start to close again, and again he is there.  My body begins to fight harder....doing everything it can to keep me from sleep.  And yet it's my body that is exhausted and craving sleep.  The more tired I get, the harder it is to sort out any of these thoughts.  The harder they get to deal with, the more terrifying they get and the more they're able to keep me from sleep.  It's a terrible cycle.  Now I can't even lay down without physically feeling them on me.  I feel their hands on me like it's happening.  It doesn't matter how much I logically know it's not.  Once that starts I can't get comfortable...whether laying down or sitting or standing or anything else.  Wherever I go, whatever I do, I feel them.  It begins to hurt.  Badly.  But how do you stop a pain that comes from within?  My usual coping skills don't work.  I can't think through it because my mind is filled with thoughts of them. There may be some creative solution somewhere but I'm just too tired to care.  The only weapon I have is to fight keep my eyes open no matter what.  But the only hope I have is getting my body to rest.

So I'm sorry, wonderful fathers of the world, I won't be writing about you tonight.  Instead I'm just going to pray that my not so wonderful one will leave my head long enough to make this cycle stop.

I know this will pass.  I just wish it would pass sooner.  I wish I had any idea how to make it stop.


I'm grateful for incredible friends who kept most of today a very good day.  And I'm grateful for the fact that those incredible friends can see me have a panic attack in their car and not judge me for it or even look at me funny, but just let me know they care.  I've experienced that with online friends before, but having people see that part of me in person and get a positive response is very new to me.

Some of my best enemies...

It's coming up on father's day, which, among other things, has caused me to be awake at 1 am, my body and my subconscious too afraid to venture into dreamland.  There are too many ugly thoughts and memories residing there.

I go online and I end up reading something filled with anger at the selfish, self-absorbed actions of a particular drug addict, and eventually towards drug addicts and alcoholics in general.  I was taken aback.  The very reason I'm unable to sleep...the reason for my PTSD-induced the actions of the drug addicts and alcoholics in my early life.  And yet, today it is different.

Today, some of my very best friends are alcoholics and addicts in recovery.  Some of the people that I trust more than just about anyone in the world are alcoholics and addicts in recovery.  I trust these people with my heart and my soul, and for someone like me that says a lot.  Some of the most beautiful, genuine, spiritual people I know are alcoholics and addicts in recovery.  This group includes incredible women who mentored me through challenges that I never thought I could survive, much less heal from.  They've given me gifts beyond my wildest dreams: not material items, but things like hope and genuine friendship that I never knew I was missing.  I look up to them.  They show me the type of person I want to be some day.

When I look at these people now, it's easy to forget that they were once the subject of their loved ones' angry rants.  They were once the selfish, self-absorbed people causing nothing but pain in their wake.  I've heard their stories.  I know it's the truth.  But yet today the beauty I see from them is almost indescribable.  And it has nothing to do with exterior looks.  As cliche as it may sound, these are people whose inner beauty shines so brightly it's almost too blinding to notice their physical appearance, good or bad.  I know their stories, but I don't see their stories.  I see the most accepting group of people a person could ever encounter.  They will literally take you in off the streets and love you and support you no matter how broken you might be.  It doesn't matter what you look like, what clothes you wear, what kind of job you have (or don't have!), the walls you may have built around yourself, or anything else.  They see the person inside, and if you keep showing up they'll keep being there for you.  No matter what.  Of course it's not perfect.  There's still issues and there's still a lot of underlying craziness. But it's still beautiful.

Of course the key words in the difference between the two are "in recovery".  Going through recovery for substance abuse, when it's genuine recovery, changes a person.  You see, an incredible thing happens.  Well, I can only speak of what I know of AA recovery, but this is what I've seen.  You walk in the door empty, broken down, and desperate.  People who you've never met before offer you all the help you could want, expecting nothing in return.  They give you their phone numbers and tell you to call any time, especially if you're thinking about drinking or using.  They offer to sponsor you...mentor you on a day to day basis.  They're there at meetings to talk with you and really hear you.  And it's all because they get it.  They've been there.  They came in the door empty, broken down, and desperate, and total strangers were there for them.  The only expectation they have of you is that when you're well enough, you turn around and give that very same help to the next empty, broken down, desperate person that walks through the door.  And the best part is, there's no magic amount of time before you can help someone.  Everyone can help everyone else.  It's just an amazing community.  And it's not just at meetings either.  There's entire social groups of sober people.  I play in a recovery based softball league.  Every person on every team in this very large league is in recovery.  People come from all walks of life.  You get to the field and sometimes you talk about recovery, but mostly it's just like hanging out with any other group of friends.  Except you know that these particular friends have your back in a way that the rest of the world likely wouldn't understand.  Because they get it.  They've been in the same trenches you may be stuck in or trying to climb out of.  Yes there's some egos and some tempers at some of these games, maybe a bit moreso than regular softball leagues....But I could also walk up to just about anyone on any team and get a hug and get support if I needed it; because even if they haven't met me, they know me.  All because of the part of me that a big chunk of society wants to reject, they embrace me.  And I would do the same for them...because we know that at the end of the day there's a lot that's a lot more important than softball.  Heck, beyond the good game shake hands stuff after games we all come together in the middle of the field, put our arms around each other, and say a prayer.  (Which I thought was horribly embarrassing at first, but that's beside the  Everyone comes together and congratulates each other.

There's a man that I've come to know who is one of the most kind-hearted, down to earth people you could meet.  It's hard to find anything not to like about him.  He started an organization similar to this softball league that won some pretty major awards for its success as a social program.  I've never heard anyone say anything bad about this man, except for hundreds of internet commenters on the site announcing his awards.  The comments were awful...all about how can you reward someone for doing drugs, and why don't they look for "real" winners, not some stupid drug addict hanging out with other drug addicts like him.  Again I get why people don't look fondly on addicts.  I grew up with some pretty horrible ones.  But it's easy to forget when I'm around people like this man...and I was shocked to read these comments.  I never thought of what he did as anything but amazing.  I was shocked to see that so many others clearly didn't see it that way.

The point in all of this is just the same phrases...addict...alcoholic...can bring up such hugely different images in my mind.  I wish the frustrated, angry people I know could spend some time with my mentors and the people I am so lucky to get to spend most of my time with.  I get why they're angry.  They have every right to be angry.  But I want them to see that it's possible to change...and that we're not bad people.  We're sick people.  We have the horrible disease of addiction and it truly is a monster.  This monster can move us from beautiful to horrible in the blink of an eye.  But even when the monster overtakes us, we're still good people inside.

I'm not proud of my addiction history.  I wish I'd never taken that first drink...never done that first drug...but I am so so grateful for the life I've found today.  I wouldn't trade my amazing friends, my support system, and the tools for living that I have now for anything.  I wish those with so much anger and even hatred towards addicts could live in my world for a bit.  I know it wouldn't take away the pain being caused by their loved one, but maybe it would give them hope.  I know that when people see me out at work with my kids, or just out having a good time, they would never suspect that that's a part of my history (I've had some really interesting comments made in front of me that prove people have no idea!).  Sometimes I want to tell them, solely to rock their world a bit and change their perspective.  Because really, isn't everything in life about perspective?  Mostly I just hope that some day I can be the one giving hope to someone else.  And in fact, I know in some places I already have.  I've come from the darkness and found happiness.  I remember mentioning to someone about being locked in the psych hospital and she was so sure I was joking she just refused to believe I was serious.  I didn't even get in to the fact that it was a repeat occurrence back then! lol  I love that that is the type of person I'm becoming.

Long story long...I need to remember that there's still a lot of reasons for people to be angry at addicts and alcoholics, but I'd love for them to see what amazing people we can be as well.

Tonight I'm grateful that even though I'm on my 3rd night of barely sleeping and flashbacks, I am sitting here writing about hope, healing, and happiness.  I just love my life and my recovery so, so much!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

It doesn't balance

Last week was my final week of coaching a soccer team at an at risk elementary school.  For the most part the kids I worked with were great, but they were definitely not without issues.  Some of them had no idea how to control their temper, or manage any other emotion for that matter.  Many of them would do crazy things for attention because they weren't getting a lot of it at home.  Many of the parents were either overworked (single parents, working multiple jobs just to make ends meet, etc.  One was even a single grandpa raising 5 of his grandkids because the parents were addicts).  Everyone in the community was stretched thin.  I loved doing it, but it was hard work.  It got me thinking...

With sports teams in more affluent areas...parents volunteer to help.  The coach is celebrated and if a kid acts up during practice or a game the parent is generally right there to help the coach and support the coach.  I didn't meet most of my kids' parents.  Most of them walked home.  Of the ones I did meet, some were great...some not so much.  Even the great ones seemed stretched too thin.  It was just that kind of neighborhood.  Everyone had to work hard just to get by.  It's a lot of stress living paycheck to paycheck in a place like that!  Not to mention the clear exhaustion of trying to support multiple kids without the help of a nanny or anyone else.  Some parents seemed great but spoke no english and my spanish isn't enough to make even basic conversation with them.  Anyway, it got me thinking how out of balance things like this are.  I know money isn't everything.  I've worked in affluent areas and had verrrry difficult kids.  But this was a whole group of difficult ones with basically no support.  I think the parents were mostly just glad to have them somewhere for a couple of hours.  Don't get me wrong, I feel good about the work I did, but it definitely wasn't the kind of thing you do for the money.  Everything I wanted to do I had to fight for.  The kids wanted to have a pizza party at the end and I wanted to offer that to them.  With other teams I've been involved with, you just say to the parents "let's go for pizza" and everyone goes and meets there.  Often one of the parents will organize it along with some kind of nice little gift for the coach.  This time I asked the kids to bring money but most of them didn't.  I ordered pizza to be brought to our last practice and most of it came out of my paycheck (I did get a discount, but still).  I'm not saying this to be bitter, nor to say how awesome I am, just to say that it was a firsthand example of the lack of balance in the world.  I'm sure it's far worse at the teacher level.  The hardest schools to teach at are the ones with the least support and lowest pay.  The kids who get tons of parent support, outside enrichment, a dedicated nanny when their parents aren't available, etc., also get to go to high quality schools with high quality teachers that generally get paid well and aren't stressed by the constant behavior issues and disruptions.  It's no wonder this gap widens from an early age.  The kids who need the most tend to get the least.  The people who work the hardest to help the kids that need it generally have the least amount of support while working extremely hard (not to say that others don't work hard as well, it's just different).

I read a book a while ago that really opened my eyes to this even more.  I don't remember the name of it off hand, but it was about the life of children in some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City.  It became clear through this book just how bleak their existence was.  They didn't see it that was what they knew.  But the issues went well beyond bad schools (that also had rats in them...ew!).  The neighborhoods they lived in were some of the most heavily polluted in the city.  They had health issues like asthma at way higher rates, which added additional financial burden on their parents.  Their parents would have to make horrible decisions like whether the last bit of money was going to food or medicine.  When they could afford to go to the doctor, there were very few quality doctors in the area.  After all, how many people are going to put in all the work to go to med school to live in a place like that, or even commute to a place like that.  The hospitals were falling apart and the city had closed many of them, requiring those in the poor neighborhoods to make an even longer commute to get help. A long commute isn't a huge deal if you can afford it, but for a very poor family, that could be the final straw.

I've been having my own version of this going on in my life, though thankfully not nearly to that extent.  The problem for me is that I am barely able to pay my bills.  I walk a very fine line of trying to get paychecks in before the final deadline for bill payments to go out.  Sometimes I miss that all important window, and end up with late fees on bills or overdraft fees from the bank.  If I were to add up all the money I've paid out just in fees this year it would be huge!  These kind of fees are the kind of thing that people with money don't have to worry about.  If you can afford to pay your bills you don't have to deal with late fees and cash advance fees and everything else.  But it's the people that can afford to pay that at least have some hope of being able to pay the fees.  If I can't pay the bill itself, clearly I can't pay the late fee.  If it weren't for all these fees I would definitely be even, if not ahead, financially.  Instead, I'm still in debt.  I get why the fees are there, but it's just more lack of balance.  The fees get charged to the people least able to pay them.  The people who could pay the fees and barely notice it never even have to think about fees....they can set up automatic payments and be done with it.  That's not an option for me because I have to hold out until the very last second in hopes that enough pay will have come in.

Another example that's hit me lately is a friend of mine is searching for a quality trauma therapist to deal with issues from the past.  This is something I remember going through when I was looking for a therapist.  Quality therapists are EXPENSIVE!  Again it makes takes a lot of effort and education to become highly qualified/certified.  And of course the therapists need to make a living.  But there's lots of data out there on how much adults who were abused as children struggle financially as adults.  There are a lot of reasons, but one basic one I know well is that when your brain is going crazy with flashbacks and everything the time when you probably need a therapist worst of's nearly impossible to focus enough to get a job and be a good employee!  Would you care about work when you feel like you're rapidly going insane?  Many abuse survivors struggle to hold down jobs.  Many never had the support necessary to go to college, so the jobs they do get don't pay well and generally don't have benefits...not to mention mental health is still, sadly, a practically unheard of benefit.  During the summer before I ended up in the hospital, one of the things that pushed me to nearly end it all was that I had finally reached the point where I was willing to say out loud that I needed help (a battle in itself) but everywhere I went to get help I was turned away.  Most places were too expensive.  The few places that were cheaper wouldn't take me because they were only for the uninsured....they didn't care that my insurance offered basically no mental health coverage.  So anyway, I know there are trauma survivors out there with the money to pay for all the top level therapy....and I know there are programs in place to help with the price, though many are extremely hard to get in to....but the point is there's a whole group of people who need the help more than just about anyone and aren't able to get it without a huge fight.  The people who can walk in and see a therapist at the regular price are less likely to have the issues to need one.  (I'm only talking trauma here....but generally people with any mental illness tend to make less than those without.  Also I do realize that people can benefit from therapy without any kind of major issue to deal with).

When you add issues of foster care into this, it's just compounded.  Many foster children end up on the streets after they age out.  They have enough challenges in facing the world without the support of a family...but add to it that they're often fighting just to survive....just to find a safe place to sleep at night and food to eat!  With a lifestyle like that it's hard not to fall into addiction....which many of them are already prone to genetically...which was likely at least in part the reason they ended up in foster care.  Anyone who has dealt with addiction....even those who started with everything a person could need in life...will tell you that addiction strips you of everything...your physical health, your ability to function (some people hold on to that better than others), your desire to improve your life, your ability to see outside the very narrow view of finding your next drug or drink, etc.  There are definitely people who fell into addiction even though they had a lot going for them...but there are a lot more that fell into it after a life of trauma, poverty, etc. and not really seeing another option.

I could go on and on about this, but I already have more than I meant to.  I'll end by saying it amazes me that people can still refer to others trapped somewhere in this cycle and say they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, try harder, and stop looking for hand-outs.  Yes, of course there are people out there that are staying stuck out of laziness.  But there's also a lot of people out there stuck due to the lack of balance.  Don't call someone lazy from the comfort of your secure home in your safe neighborhood with your nanny for your kids and opportunities surrounding you, if that person can't accomplish the same things you have.  Remember they've likely been hiking for days with a 50 lb pack on their back just to get to your starting line.


I'm grateful that even though I didn't have the best of starting lines that I've reached a point now that my issues are small...I struggle with paying late fees to keep my phone or keep my car maintained, but not with wondering whether or not I'll get to eat today.  Even on the tough days, mentally I know I'll be ok, and that is something I wouldn't trade for anything!

Monday, June 2, 2014

I don't wish it all away anymore

Sleep is a weird thing for me.  Nighttime in general is.  I have streaks of great sleep.  I get into a routine, I'm able to fall asleep without too much of a fight, there's no fear or panic, nightmares are minimal, etc.  Then I have bad streaks.  I get scared.  Laying down in bed triggers old memories.  My body fights sleep like crazy, no matter how much I logically know I'm safe.  The sleep I get is restless, I spend most of the night trying to distract myself or calm down the yuckiness, and I get more and more exhausted.

I'm in the midst of a bad streak right now.  Most nights I've had to walk outside at least once before I fall asleep to remind myself of where I am in the present.  When I go outside I'm reminded that I'm in my apartment and it's safe and there's not scary people around.  I've been watching tv until I fall asleep, because my body won't cross that bridge into sleep on it's own.  No matter how tired I am, as soon as I lay down I feel the fight.  Something deep down inside is refusing to let go of being awake.  Again logically I know I'm safe, but it's that whole giving up control thing that still really freaks me out.  I can handle the daytime pretty well these days.  But as soon as I fall asleep I've given up control.  I'm allowing myself to be completely unaware of the world around me...both the actual physical world and the dream world.  I can't do anything to stop the nightmares if they come.  And, I'm a deep sleeper, so I kinda feel like my building could burn down around me and I'd sleep right through it.  I can't even tell you exactly what it is I'm afraid of, but I just don't like the idea that big things could be happening around me and I'd be entirely unaware....something that during the day I could handle without a problem.

But with all this crappy sleep stuff going on...the amazing thing is, I feel really good.  The other day I was talking to this woman I know who takes pessimism to a whole new level.  She's the ultimate victim in everything and I don't think I've ever heard her say anything positive.  (Not exaggerating...the closest I can think to something positive is she once said "not so good" in answer to my how are you question...which is an improvement over some form of miserable or terrible that she usually uses.  And once she told me she was "trying to be grateful" that she just got a new phone.  I guess that's almost positive...but I'd be pretty damn excited if I got a brand new smart phone).

Anyway...I was talking to this woman and mentioned some stuff about my family.  Keep in mind none of the people I describe as my family now are related to me, but I refer to them as though they are.  I call my best friend my brother, a woman who has mentored me my aunt...I sometimes refer to my former foster parents as my parents, depending on who I'm talking to and what kind of mood I'm in...  you get the idea.  I was talking about these people and ms. eternal pessimist says in a very sad voice, "I wish I had your family."  I had to laugh on the inside.  NOBODY wants my family.  Not the one that's related to me anyway.  Not the ones I grew up with who beat the shit out of me on a regular basis, wouldn't let me eat, did horrible sick things to me, and allowed others to do the same.  That's not the kind of family you get jealous of.  I don't know much about this woman's family but I know that as an adult they still offer her a lot of support and help.  I know they could still have lots of issues, but in general family is not a place to be jealous of me.

But then I got to thinking.  I have an amazing family!  No they're not related to me, but for the first time ever in my life I am surrounded by people who love me for me.  They genuinely care about me...good days and bad days...happy or hurting...they're there for me and I get to be there for them.  I've been around these people for long enough, and been a trustworthy person for long enough, that they're starting to really share themselves with me.  (Some of the people I consider family I've known for years...but most of them are my AA family that of course I've only been getting to know for the last 2 years).  I'm feeling that connection that I not only didn't have but it was so foreign to me I didn't even know I was missing it.  I' usually avoid the word love because it brings up a lot of negative, confusing, complicated stuff for me, but I think what I'm experiencing is loving and being loved.  And with these people it doesn't scare me.  I actually like it and it makes me feel good inside.

I was thinking about all of that as I felt tonight start to go bad.  I started to think of how I wish I could make this all go away...all my panic attacks and all my "crazy" fears that I know don't make sense in the present but I can't shake them...I was just wishing to be "normal"...without the PTSD, without the scary past, without the pain of losing my family as it was "supposed" to be.  But I realized something.  As soon as these thoughts started they went away, because I'm not sure I can wish it never happened anymore.  Of course I wish that I didn't have the pain I do, but I love the person I'm becoming and I love the life I have.  I love my family, and without all the pain of the past I doubt I would've ever found them.  I don't think I'll ever be grateful for what I went through, but today I'm a strong person who can get through just about anything, and I'm surrounded by amazing people who actually care about me and want me around.  I don't know what my life would've been like with a happy, nice family, but I don't know that I would risk changing the past if it meant losing what I have now.


This whole post is pretty much gratitude, so I want to do a little something different down here.  One of the AA promises, which they say come true as you do the work, is, "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it."  I always thought that whoever wrote that clearly had no idea of how bad the past can be.  I've always wanted nothing more than to shut the door on it, even as I heal from it.  But as I write this I realize that I can't regret the past because it got me to here.  There's beauty in the worst of it (ok maybe not the very worst...I'm not THAT serene yet!), because I can see how each strand of it connects to something today to make me who I am and make my life what it is.  It may all be different tomorrow, but today I don't regret the past, and I don't want to wish it all away.  I just want to be here and be me.  Though it would be nice if I could also be asleep.

(Disclaimer: I am in absolute exhaustion mode so my apologies if this makes no sense!  It makes sense in my head though so it felt good to write. :)