Negative Space

Saying good bye, it hits differently these days. Specifically day 746 has made saying goodbye forever to someone I love a flood of so many feelings. This isn’t a simple goodbye. Not that any goodbye in death is only ever just nuanced in pastel and soft music, or only ever an end of drive way send off…this one hurts me deep into my soul. It’s pulling tears out by my shoulders, stopping time. Along with my wish for less regret, this moment is steeped in absolutes because you see this isn’t just the loss of a magical and trusted second mother of which Debi was to me at one time in my life….I absolutely could have had more time with her to say my goodbyes and I didn’t. I absolutely could have prevented my wish for less regret with her…but here I am, schedule cleared, dripping nose and broken heart wishing I had less regret. About 6 years ago..and truly the time frame is foggy, Debi’s daughter and I had a falling out. Her daughter, was one of my deepest and closest friends. In my heart she was a sister friend. She truly knew every detail about my life and personality. We were free to be absolutely any version of ourselves around each-other that we chose to or needed to be when we were together. Our confidence in each-other knew no bounds. We also fed off of each other’s demons. I always had a smoking and drinking Buddy in her. There’s simply no way of quantifying the number of late nights, cigarettes, beers and tears we shared. We were inseparable. Until we weren’t. I’ve said it before, when you’re a drunk you snip away at the trust and fabric of nearly every relationship you’re in. Most times it’s a tiny, repairable amount of damage. Once in a while it’s a big blow-up where 2/3 of the way through you realize you’re behaving so irrationally you sober up and make repairs immediately, apologizing and explaining what and why you’ve just said and done what you’ve done and conveniently sweep it away. And then there’s the irreparable black out drunk damage. You’ve already been introduced to the parts of my life that brought me to sobriety through black out drunk moments. I wish for few things but I do wish my black out moment with my friend was my sobering moment so that it could have been earlier in my life and so that I could have been introduced to the clarity that brought me back to reality and forced me to apologize the next day. I wish I would have seen the error in my rear view mirror and instead of driving faster fearing my pride lose its luster, that I would have done a U-turn so that I could have stopped the hemorrhaging because what I didn’t know then that I know now, hurts worse than any tarnished pride. I wish this so that I wouldn’t have lost a beloved friend.

Back in 1992 when we met to me she was the coolest chick in high-school, and she smelled good! Second period biology, she was unabashedly unapologetic & rough around the edges. She loved punk music and smoking cigarettes. Behind closed doors she was soft and artistic but scarred. I wanted to be all of what she was plus those other things that we shared…the soft, artistic and scarred stuff. We became hard and fast friends, and I became an arm of her two person family (4 with the cat and the Guinea pig). Now, there were rules. Debi pulled me aside and told them to me sternly and swiftly. Red faced and definitive but with pride she looked me deeply in the eyes;“There will be no hurting my daughter, and there will be no touching. You won’t make her fear anything and you won’t make her cry” followed by a gentle ‘you can still trust me’ dropping of her shoulders at the end with her signature squeaky, bear hug. I stuck to that pact for decades. A friendship and Kinship between Debi and I of honored trust and love. And then I broke that trust. The hardest part for me is that I never got to fess up to it to Debi. I didn’t get the opportunity to ask forgiveness for breaking that pact as her incredible mind was stolen by dementia. I wish I could have been there in the twilight of Debi’s life only to see her off and to hold the hand of her daughter, my sweet sister friend during her “B’s” passing. My heart aches the deepest at the history of their bond lost in my memory, and I fear I won’t be able to share those memories of her mom and their shared moments that I witnessed with shatters me, it’s like I’ve burned a first and last edition book.

Addiction steals from you. It takes what you love and cherish the most and it pushes it to the brink of its limits of strength and you’re either lucky enough to catch it before it gets lost forever, or you lost it long before you figured out that the anchor chain wasn’t attached to the ship. I miss my friend. She has let me go and maybe someday she’ll find my foot prints when she is ready to seek my path.

“May your face shine down upon thee and be gracious unto thee, and give thee peace, and give thee peace.”

Debi, you saved me when I needed saving. My love for you brings me peace. I hope our spirits cross again, I have missed you.

Friend, you saved me when I needed saving. My love for you brings me peace. I hope our paths cross again someday, I have missed you.

Good-Bye Robot

Sunday has become my day to write. I start at the beginning of my week trying to piece together a specific memory pool of my life and try to make enough sense of it to put it on paper. Most of the time, I have an idea of what it is I want to work on but inevitably the prose is too deep or too much for me to enunciate in a way that won’t be triggering to my audience. Last night I made the clear decision that I was going to finally write about something that made me laugh at myself. Levity in what is a very deep and sometimes dark collection of essays. The plan was to talk about a trip abroad that i took when I was a college student, but every time I came up with the opening paragraph I would instantly flash to a word in my head and be too distracted to start. Try as I may I can’t bring myself to write about that trip, but I promise its catalogued for a later chapter. So no levity today…today will be about; Time

Early on in my decision to stop drinking I couldn’t help but recognize how bored I was. I was gifted with time to reflect on my path ahead but more important bemuse the destruction I had left behind. Not now but soon I will tell all of my truth, the whole reason for me to quit drinking..but I’m not ready. In the mean time I will ask each of you to once again trust me with your precious time.

Back in July some time round about the 17th or so nearly a week after I started on this journey, I had a flash of me…once again losing my temper with my sweet boy. It wasn’t the first time in that week that I had a fleeting moment of clarity that revolved around my kid. After all, more than anyone in my life he was the one person that was left wondering what was wrong with me. Admittedly it had become routine for him to respond to a sharp tongue lashing from me with “maybe it’s time for a vodka” or “why are you so mad at me, are you out of wine?” This from an 8, 9 or 10 year old…to the person that was responsible for his health and well being, his life. I have had a lot of shame in the last decade that has revolved around plenty of mis-givings and bad decisons but in retrospect with nothing but clarity to torture me, my biggest regret is the reality that I hurt the feelings and neglected to place the most priceless gift ahead of all else. Keeping my sweet son in the shadow of liquor was a conscious decision fueled by greed and desire and the guilt of it stares me up and down and holds me responsible and I own it. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention what I put his other father through. Picking up the pieces of our brokem life on a daily basis also became the norm for him. Sheltering and sheilding our son behind closed doors from the bad guy. As a couple we both played a part in the cat and mouse game of a deteriorating marriage, I know not to take all of the responsibility but I won’t ignore the fact that he was forced to pay most of his attention on our boy and his own mental health. Our marriage naturally became second fiddle. Where else would he have focused his energy? It certainly wasn’t to “talk about last night” when he knew well enough that the converation would be wasted…because you see I had no memory of the night before. His battles were valient, I honor his efforts…I cannot expect him to forgive me so swiftly and I often sit back and whisper my apology without his knowing it because my shame is still raw but I’ll get there.

So time…as a young adult my Mom told me that the older you get the faster time moves but I placed no credence to the statement and find myself brandishing my fists at science angry that I can’t go backwards but mostly wishing for more of it. Time for me these last number of years has been fleeting. When I say I have very little memory of my day to day these last 8 or 10 years I mean it. I would rush through my day, 7 days a week just to get to 5 o’clock. If you recall from my very first blog entry, I was a “classy drunk” so unless it was a weekend with friends or family I never drank before the 5 o’clock whistle. I now know that I was what is referred to as a high functioning alcoholic. In a day I would 1. open my eyes 2. stave off nausea 3. pee 4. shower 5. dress 6. drink coffee 7. wake and dress my kid 8. Walk dogs 9. Catch my hungover reflection in a car window 10. Regret my hangover 11. forget about my feelings 12. see kid was where he needed to be 13. work 14. leave work 15. stop at store for dinner food 16. retrieve kid 17. start dinner 18…pour my first drink. Literally in that order every, single day. I was living in the Groundhog day movie. The part that I keep referring to in my minds eye that dawned on me about 7 days into my sobriety is this. Every waking moment of my day to day, be it a weekend day, a vacation day, in the hopital with another ailment, at a hospital with someone that had an ailment, in the car….every, single solitary moment of my life revolved around when I was going to pour my first drink. Anything in my path that got in the way of my first drink would be annihilated either with threat of anger, raw anger or absolute disregard and that included my son and his other dad. In the moment that I realized my pattern my world shifted a little bit more. It was that moment that I realized I was healing and not just myself and it has been the second most important step in my recovery. The gift of finally receiving that insight remains integral to my journey because you see…It helped lead me to the dissolution of guilt and pain. It afforded me the clarity to check my next move, and respond. It has gifted me the joy of seeing my sons concern when he would make a mistake or interrupt me wash away because my response would be one of patience and care. I am so grateful for time. I now have what I need to look my undoing and destruction in the eye, to say I know I wasn’t perfect but I’m working on it. To be graceful and proud. Time. I feel like I have lost so many moments to my disease, but time is now on my side.

The Fronchroom

A few years back I learned that one summer evening, many many years ago.. while my sisters were visiting our Grandma that my sister Lisa accidentally grabbed my grandmas ‘glass of water’ and quickly learned that it wasn’t water at all but vodka. Knowing what straight vodka tastes like I understand her reaction of quickly spitting it out in the sink to then be berated by Grandma Lucy for making the mistake of snatching and drinking from someone else’s glass. After hearing that story I immediately peppered my mom with questions, not knowing that Grandma liked to drink anything other than Sanka instant coffee early in the morning while listening to Wally Phillips on WGN. You see, I knew very little about anything that my Grandma did as my relationship with her was virtually non-existent. Born to first generation immigrants, Lucille Tomaso Hall was anything but soft to me. I felt her distrust and dislike for me at a very early age. She wasn’t overtly mean or abusive but the opposite; I felt ignored at every turn or noticed her favoring conversation with my sisters over me. For years I wondered whether or not there was a part of the story that I was missing. It wasn’t until round about 1992 long after she had passed that a close family friend told me she didn’t like me because she was sure that I would turn out to be like my dad ie; an abusive drunk that wasn’t worth the time. As an adolescent I carried that around for a good period of time, wondering why she wouldn’t have given me a chance to prove otherwise. Fast forward to present day, and I find myself reflecting once again on my “hereditary obligation” to alcoholism and wedging pieces together was no longer necessary, they slowly started to fit together perfectly. I wished for a long time that there would be a generational gap and that I would be spared. After all, I did everything I could in my power to fend off the ‘demons’ of alcoholism starting very early on. I attended Alateen every Wednesday night for a decade, went on retreats for children of alcoholics and even developed a fear of drinking convincing myself that it would at a minimum make me sick to my stomach. It wasn’t long however, that I became the good time Charlie that had a hollow leg and the cruel misfortune of never waking up with a hangover. Now after digging deeper I learned that I had alcoholism coming from both sides of my family. You can do the math, my paternal grandfather, my Dad and now seemingly my Maternal Grandmother as well. It was this information that sparked the questions in my mind: When does the time bomb start ticking and when if ever, will it go off.

It’s funny, for most of my life I felt a lifetime away from my Dad and Grandma and now I have more in common with both of them than I could have ever imagined. It’s both of them that I find myself turning to in my minds eye, asking for advice. Privately the same goes for other members of my close family that are recovering alcoholics. My inner dialogue always includes them. I whisper to them all…reminding them subconsciously to not be disappointed in me, to give me another chance when a fleeting moment of clarity and sobriety passed without sticking and asking each of them for help and subsequently imagining their supportive responses of encouragement telling me that the time will come and that it’s okay…I’m not a failure.

For too long I let my demons push away my white flag? Take the wind out of my sail when I told myself to try again. My heart break and deception shut down my efforts by dragging me down that long and dark wormhole. It was the true reality I was faced with that I could and will lose everything that means the most to me and possibly prematurely. I looked God or source, spirit….the sky, dead in the eyes and I gave up and it was then that the flag raised. The breath and words of my closest ancestors stoke the fires of my recovery but this time I’m at the helm.

Whatever you need to recover from, do your damnedest to not let it win and take away your grace. You’ll get to the finish line even if you have to start over again every day. I now relate with my Grandma Lucy, my Dad, brother and cousin. I now know that some of the demons in their heads were the same ones that I had in mine. I can no longer wonder if looking too deep in my eyes would have given way to my grandmas truth, that she had something in common with my Dad and that her hatred for him pushed her away from me. I’m here to tell you that Forgiveness is a powerful spirit.

Grandma, I did turn out like my Dad. I also turned out like you. That part of you that maybe you were ashamed of…the good news is I continue to give myself another chance to get it right and I will walk with no shame. Even through the daily reminders and hourly struggles I won’t let go of the wheel. I will always beg to get it right.

Buona notte, Luciana

Dolly Parton was my girlfriend

Nostalgia. These last few months have involved a lot of me retracing my steps, correcting my path. I’m surprised most days because I had no plan to dig deep into my oldest memories to regain my stride, instead planning all along to go only through the last decade or so, mark my path and revisit them at a later date like I’ve placed a book mark. Instead…I keep having flashes of my childhood and find myself clawing up from there. The stand outs that are particularly bright these last few weeks are memories of the times that I spent with my dad. Just he and I (drop a pin here “Bar”) and the first and likely the oldest, is me sitting on my dads lap while he was trimming my finger nails. I know that the television was on, and I know that he had a Pabst Blue Ribbon because I remember drinking from the can. My dad would do this thing when he would open his beer, something that no human born later than 1985 would recall, he would peel back the tab and he would drop it in his beer can. From there he would take a long guzzle but thats not what stands out. What stands out most is the intimate way that my dad was trimming my nails, and I have thought of it every moment in my adult life when ever I have trimmed either my nieces and nephews nails or later my sweet Jonahs nails. Propped on my dads lap he would bite my nails to trim them. One by one…carefully and methodically. I rememeber the sour smell of beer on his breath and a pipe with strawberry tobacco extinguishing in the ash tray. I remember goosebumps and falling asleep hot with summer sweat and thats where the memory ends. The only memory I have of me sitting on my dads lap (drop a pin here “Back of a Harley”) It must have been one of his days off, or before he went into his second shift job at Cat. Speaking of Caterpillar, my second place Dad memory is walking with him and a women…that I believe he worked with, through the streets of my hometown (drop a pin here “fence post”) my guess is from the VFW to the car because it cuts to me riding in the back seat, dropping her off at her apartment. I couldn’t tell you if it was all in one day but one must sumise that it was because it starts in daylight and ends at night. For some reason, I feel like it was around the forth of July and for some strange reason….I see her as Truvy, Dolly Partons character in Steel Magnolias and Tammy Fay Baker because of her sparkeling lip stick. Who was this women, what were we doing with her and why? She leaned over the back seat and looked at me and said “You want me to be your girlfriend?”

What do these memories have to do with me now? What could I ever decifer through those memories in relation to my current life situation? I have no idea. What I know is that they happened, and as fleeting as they are, they have molded me in some way. I find myself cocking my head to one side thinking about them, trying to make out faces in my minds eye and poof, done. My dad was not a bad man, he was a pained man, and he moved through his life always trying to make up for lost time and until later in his life never finishing what he started. I’m not a bad man I too am a pained man and the more I reflect on my life these last dozen or so years the more I find myself surprisingly more like my dad than not. Was he always trying to make a memory with me by asking me to tag along or was I just a bystandard too young to be a designated driver? (Drop a pin here “one hitter”). Am I a sequal to my dads life? Is my story another example of history repeating itself? Do I blame myself or do I blame the generations of drunks before me, for gifting me this empty disease? You’re lucky enough to be along for this ride. You’re lucky enough that you don’t have to try and answer my questions, they’re mine to decifer and yours to Muse.

I miss my dad. I hear his voice all the time but don’t hear him giving me advice, you know…from one cleaned up drunk to another trying to clean up. I want to be able to drive down and sit next to him with a pack of cigarettes and a couple pitchers of iced tea and ask him how long this battle lasts. I want him to tell me that it will hurt but that the gift is at the end of the journey. I want him to tell me that he’s proud of me and when I hit my stride or some daunting anniversary I want him to tell me that he told me so and that he never doubted that I would get there. I want him to tell me that his mistakes were bigger than any I have ever made and that I still have a silver lining. I miss my Dad. I miss him more now than when he died. I miss him more now than when my sweet son was born. I tell myself that was him that opened the clouds and showed me the light of the sun through the trees the day I carried the anchor and chain to the side of lake….5 days before my day 1. 🧡🧡🧡

Pet Rooster

Darkness. Dread. Confusion. Sadness. Anticipation. Nausea. Pain. Confusion. For the last several years those words up there are the enduring vocabulary words that stand out the most in my blurred memory. It’s not hard to imagine actually. I would bet that every adult, hold one or two would admit that they have had mornings consumed with the same emotions. And the questions… “How did I get in my bed?”, “What did I say last night?”, “Did I hide the bottles?”, “How did I get home?”, “Did I hurt someone?” …I don’t need to think hard, they’re on total recall & Deeply engrained in my mind. Those are the same questions that I asked myself and the same feelings I’ve had about myself 98% of my mornings these last 8 years or more. It wasn’t always that way. I also remember a time when I didn’t have as strong of a conscience. A time in my mid to late twenties when all of those words were okay while sewing my oats and all. Was it then that the neural connections of addiction set in? Was it then that the trigger was pulled back? I made a lot of things okay back then. Nothing was in vain, everything was a “stepping stone” to the full life experience and selfish wasn’t a word in my vocabulary.

As kids, my sisters and I lived an adventure. Aside from moving multiple times, our Mom did her damndest to provide a stable home and food on the table with $7 a week. By all accounts the early part of my childhood was fairly traditional. Mom and Dad, two girls and a boy, two half brothers, dogs, pancakes, a backyard and sprinkler…Christmas tree blah, blah, blah. There did come a point however that my memory kicked in. I can still close my eyes and taste the air in that living room…smell the cigarettes and hear the hiss of the television and before long, what was warm and comfy became scary and epic. I will never forget the fights between my parents…loud and passionate fights. Mom in night gown Dad with a slur and bulging eyes. There was one particular fight that holds special meaning to me you see, it was when I learned the phrase “Cocksucker”. I had to be 6 maybe 7 at the most and after work one summer afternoon my dad was supposed to take me for a haircut. Not soon after his deadline came and went he finally arrived but alas it was too late. He had one chore to do out of the many that he ignored and when he didn’t show, my mom was fit to be tied. She read him up one side and down the other and eventually ended up walking away screaming that sweet moniker that has endured. I think back all the time and wonder if thats when the trigger was cocked. Destiny had already been written and the memory serves as a place holder, a reference for me to compare to, presently. Replaced were the dreams of getting a pet rooster for my birthday by smoking cigarettes and drinking beer in the basement at age 8 while watching Donahue. You see, like any kid I learned early to model myself after what I saw. No shame to my mom or dad at this stage in my life but when smart doctor people say “Kids see everything” they mean it. Presently, I can recall a handful of times that Duane and I have fought in front of Jonah and on more occasions than I can count we fought behind closed doors and I was the slurry, bug eyed drunk and it started in my house when our boy was much younger then memories of my parents. Smart Doctor people also say that life repeats itself and if that’s the case I rhetorically ask, what have I done? Did I pull back a trigger for my son? Did I set in motion the inevitable ticking of the alcohol binging, belligerent time bomb for him? Time will tell, but in the mean time I’m starting from scratch. I’m going to talk about who I am and what I am with my son. I won’t let him stand behind the curtains to hear hateful, drunk criticisms from me or disappointment filled defense from his other dad. I will do what I can to reset, to un-cock the trigger for Jonah. What lies beneath in your mind? I hope my recollection and memories help you unpack your demons so that you can look at the horizon and feel hope.