Life Lesson #3006: Ask for Help


I’ve been just bouncing along here lately, and everything’s fine. Sun is shining, kids are happy, coffee is hot. Everything’ s fine.

Well, that’s the lie I was telling myself, yet here I sit on a highly recommended leave of absence (from my boss) from work.

The stress was building and I pushed it away. “Stay positive,” I told myself. “You’ve been through much, much worse. You can handle this. Just keep thinking positive thoughts and everything will work out fine. You’ll see.”

And while I am a huge believer in what you think about you bring about, this time life was too much. I could not slow down long enough to catch up with my thoughts. I thought I was slowing down, too. That’s the real kick in the pants. So I bumped along, little by little, resentments building up.

Monday, at work, I observed another teacher as part of my department chair duties. I could tell immediately the class was off. Too many kids, very low level abilities and very high behavior issues. Four were sleeping, six were talking, a few were having internet issues, some were even doing their work. I could see my coworker was exasperated and I decided it was my job to fix her problem. So I marched into the principal’s office and asked if she had a minute. As usual, she invited me in. I proceeded to unload on how we really need to get her class size down, the kids need to shape up and start being more attentive, my coworker was struggling and it was time to help her out. My principal tried to explain gently that this was out of my realm. I wasn’t having it. On and on I went and then brought up at least six other beefs I had with the school ranting about how no one was doing anything. Needless to say, her patience wore thin and eventually out. She explained that I need to look at what I can change and what I need to walk away from. She suggested that perhaps my issues were more personal in nature and really not for the good of the school. That. Set.Me. Off.  It struck a nerve. So rather than take a deep breath, I burst out crying and told her she was way off base and needed to be a better job actually seeing what was going on around her. I proceeded to tell her I was going home for the day as clearly I wasn’t going to get any help from her. I stormed off, cried my eyes out and headed home.

I called my husband on the way, blubbering about how unjust the situation was, how I give my heart and soul to that place and all that ever happens is I get dumped on. My passion was gone.  He’s a smart man, so he agreed with me. I begged him to let me quit right then and there. He asked me to please clam down a bit so I could drive safely and assured me we would talk when I got home.

I cried like I haven’t cried in nearly four years. My head hurt, my heart was pounding, and I was sure he’d let me quit.

I’d like to say I calmed down, took a breath and thought rationally once I got home.

But that didn’t happen. A few friends called and I unloaded on them winding myself back up again. I called in sick the next day, too. That’ll show them I  thought.

I talked to my sponsor several times. She suggested I call my therapist which I ended up doing. My therapist suggested I write an apology email for my part in the whole debacle. Ugh. I hate being wrong. Why wasn’t anyone taking my side?? But because I respect my therapist and my sponsor, I did just that.

Still damaged by my bruised ego, I begrudging wrote the email.

Moments later, I got a phone call from my principal. She suggested I take the next week and a half off. I was horrified. “This is not punitive,” she assured me. “But as your friend and not as your boss, I see you slipping. You need to walk away. You’ve worked too hard the last four years to throw this all away right now.”

That evening, I went to my group therapy and highjacked the meeting so I could get this stuff out. The ladies were gracious enough to play along- in all fairness though, they could all identify in one way or another, so they weren’t really just sitting there. They did provide some great insight, suggestions and empathy.

Unwillingly, I decided to take the offer I was gifted. The first day, I took a hot bath, watched a sad movie so I could cry some more, read a little and told myself I was practicing self care. The next day, I was still licking my wounds. Playing games on my phone, napping, drinking coffee. I was avoiding the big talk with myself. Today, after cleaning out my pantry, catching up on laundry, grocery shopping for a small army, washing the vegetable crisper in my fridge, and smudging my home, I decided it was time to get real and to address the elephant in the room. (My behavior is the elephant in case you haven’t figured that out. 🙂 )

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Growth hurts. No matter who it’s coming from in my circle of friends, I have to trust that their perspective JUST might be a little more truthful and less tainted than mine. My principal was trying to explain to me that I cannot solve all of the problems nor should I expect to. I am the only one who placed that expectation on myself.
  2. I have a huge network of sober-minded people who really do love me enough to tell me the truth. Day in and day out, they hold up the mirror of Truth to me. That takes great risk on their behalf, and I am grateful.
  3. My coworkers are amazing. I received several different texts and emails – each one telling me I am loved, missed and appreciated. Some even went so far as to say they are glad I figured out I was over stressed before it went too far (ie. relapse into drinking). I am blessed in that regard.
  4. I judge myself much harsher than anyone else. All of the “I should be…” is a bunch of malarky. I told myself for weeks that I should be able to handle the stress of work, commuting, making dinner, attending meetings, paying bills, helping with the kids’  homework, running my kids to and from practice, shopping, cleaning, grading papers, feeding the dogs, keeping up with laundry, on and on. The truth is no one human could keep up with the schedule I was trying to keep. I told myself that a good mom, wife, teacher, sister, friend could/would/should do it all. That simply isn’t true.
  5. I am really loved by many. I have taken the people in my life for granted by being so caught up in my own stuff. Yet I have been treated with love, care, concern and dignity anyway.
  6. My sisters are phenomenal. All it took was me to FINALLY open up to them today. One is making a four-hour drive to come hang with me this weekend. If I knew one of them were struggling, I’d be there in a heart beat. It works both ways.
  7. My husband loves me deeply. He allowed me to cry, scream, bargain, fuss, sleep, bathe my way through this all the while hugging me and telling me, “We always land on our feet. Together.” (This from the guy I was ready to leave when I was tip active in my drinking.)
  8. I need to learn how to do some elementary things:  Asking for help. Setting up boundaries. Saying no. Practicing some HONEST self- care. Drinking a cup of hot coffee on my way out the door does not constitute self-care.
  9. A party of one is not a party.

Three days ago, I was in a hole I had created. I was sure quitting my job was the solution. I may or may not be ready for a career change, but doing something drastic like quitting midyear is not the solution. I didn’t see any other options three days ago. I wanted to run away. Today, I know that I probably do need to look into other options over time. I also know I need to carve out alone time where I just sit and be still. Most grounded people call this meditation. I also have learned that my boss is really one of my dearest friends despite her title. She treated me with mercy and grace even though my behavior did not warrant that type of response. But she KNOWS me and I never knew that until this happened.

Today, by the grace of my Higher Power, I can see the sun in the sky again. I have hope for myself and for my future. I do not feel stuck anymore.

Ask for help.

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The Whatchamacallit Wasn’t Worth It #MeToo


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When I started this blog nearly four years ago, I was adamant that shame did not define me- at least not any longer. A large reason for my drinking was to cover up the guilt and shame of my many wrongdoings; ironically, every time I drank, I created more layers. This perpetual cycle of feeling poorly about myself, drinking to numb out those feelings, and waking with more shame nearly became the death of me physically. My spirit had been dead for decades.

Being active in the sober community, I have uncovered many layers of shame, worked through them, discovered more, tackled those and on and on. One of the areas of shame I had not addressed in my meetings, therapy, writing, or sponsor talks was that of sexual abuse. Of the many times I did play the victim in my life for attention or to magnify how bad my life was or to assign blame to others for my actions, the times I suffered from sexual abuse truly do define a victim. As I read  Patti Clark’s post shame-and-finding-well-being,  I was driven to write my story. I am grateful to Patti for sharing because I felt comfortable as a result.

It was the summer before high school, and being just 14, I could not secure a “real job.” In the fall, I was going to be attending the public high school with an enrollment of nearly 2,000 students- a huge increase of my Catholic grade school class of 38. So when the opportunity to work at the concession stand at our local baseball field became available, I jumped at the chance. Having the opportunity to make some money, be around boys, and work with girls my age was all too exciting to pass up. Plus, workers got free candy! The socializing was just what I needed before my big leap into unfamiliar territory. Plus, it was within blocks of my home so I could ride my bike. Independence was lurking right around the corner.

But independence wasn’t the only new experience lurking. Within the first few times of working, it happened. Frank- from what I recall in my mind today- was an old, 70 something man who was responsible for scheduling us, restocking the candy, and “manning’ the concession stand to be sure we didn’t steal the money. His face is blurry, but his smell and the picture of his cream-colored station wagon sit in my mind.

My stomach hurts, tears gloss my eyes, my mouth overproduces saliva, my heart rate increases, my breathing is louder. Still. Thirty four years later.

Standing behind me, his arms gripping the counter on either side of me, I feel it. His erection pushing against me. I feel shocked. My heart is jumping all over the place; my face burning hot with shame.  He slips his hands under my shirt and begins rubbing what little breasts I do have at that point. His hot, labored breathing scorches my ears. I am speechless. I do not say no; I do not back away; I do not slap him. I am frozen.

Someone walks past oblivious to the assault taking place.

“Hey Frank! Got another good-looking worker I see.”

What Frank says I cannot recall. I am petrified. I have no idea what is happening. Somehow I break away and make more popcorn. A game is over so we are flooded with customers. A welcome break from the groping of Frank.

This pattern repeated itself all summer. Not once did I complain. Never did I call in sick. Never did I say this wasn’t right. I bravely asked another girl once if he did this to her, too. She laughed it off and said, “Oh it’s just Frank. Who cares?” As if being “just Frank” made it okay. I believed that for a long time despite the shame burning in my face, the fear that pulsated throughout me as I would show up to work exactly on time (hoping someone else would be scheduled with me- although it never stopped him; he would just alternate between us.)

One evening, a game went into extra innings. The other girl had to get home as she had to babysit her brother. I was alone and I was afraid. As soon as the stand closed, I hopped on my bike and rode as fast as I could. I knew I couldn’t make it out of the park without him following me; I had felt his car trailing slowly behind me previously.  I made a quick right and ducked into some prickly, heavy bushes next to the rest rooms. I stayed there against the cold, brick building for a least a half an hour until I knew it would be safe to come out. I was fearful he would find out where I lived and violate me in my home. That fear nearly paralyzed me.

My adult self looks back at my 14-year-old self, and I feel outrage. Who was this guy? Who else knew of his behavior and kept quiet? Why was it a running joke among the male coaches that Frank always had the best looking workers? Why didn’t anyone stand up for us?

People didn’t talk like they do now. People looked the other way. We didn’t have the knowledge of the lasting effects back then. Education was far less.

Bull shit. Because IF all of that is true, why is #MeToo still happening?
We have made some ground, but we have a long way to go. Talking with girls AND boys about boundaries, self-respect, kindness, and our pasts- no matter how painful- is what will make the awareness happen and the chance to exact change.

So back to my 14-year-old self. She was a victim, yes. No question.

But I also see resilience in her. I see her work hard in spite of the abuse. I see her rise above and know that she is NOT responsible for this man’s illness. I see her learn to become a sum of all her parts- not amputate them, but embrace them. I see her love herself anyway.

I am proud to be a part of #MeToo.

 

 

 

Shoes and Sobriety


 

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In an effort to look at the little things sobriety offers each of us, I decided to think about choices I have now that I didn’t think I had before.  We all have the same choices, but being active in our illness tends to keep us back from life’s littlest things due to fear, anxiety, a who cares? attitude, the list goes on and on.

But today, I made a revelation! I don’t have to buy my shoes based on sobriety anymore!

Big deal? Damn right it is.

I can wear high heels for two reasons: 1) I won’t  be drunk and fall over and 2)If I’m getting a blister, I’ll be sober enough to know I am in pain and it’s time to lose the shoes (ah, self-care).

I like heels- sometimes. I am pretty much all torso, so heels can add some length to my legs. When I was drinking, heels were dangerous. Come to think of it, one night after a tremendous party I tripped in a parking lot wearing flip-flops so maybe it’s not the shoes…

I know how important it is to keep all things in moderation, to live in the grey as I mentioned in my post Super Annoyed and Life is STILL Grey yesterday. So in line with begin moderate, I will simply say that I am excited to be wearing heels again.

 

 

Grey Life


Left, right, up, down

In, out, over, under

Here, there, stop, go

North, south, east, west

Drunk, sober, young, old

Good, evil, dead, alive

Black, white.

 

Everything in between-

Everything in between…

 

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Grey rocks with a hint of love

Time ticking, leaves lofting, wind whispering

Serene, peaceful, calm

Stretching, growing, changing-

All fluid moments really

The only absolute is not absolute.

 

Grey life has its hold on me

Super Annoyed and Life is STILL Grey


So about an hour ago, I wrote what I felt was a pretty darn good post about life being grey.  I took a self-proclaimed sick day because I could feel my body and mind getting antsy. The gist of the post was that in this world of change, I have to let go of living in black and white moments and acknowledge and accept the world of grey. I was feeling calm, serene and peaceful.

Then, I hit “publish.” Well my cursor spun so I hit File>save and named the file Grey Day thinking Word Press was not going to get the better of me today. I rebooted my comp, reloaded the Word Press page and searched my files. Sure enough, Grey Day was lurking in the background. I exhaled, hit open and there it was: a big, blank template.

What?!? Come on! I saved it. I named it. I, I, I. So I Googled how to retrieve a lost WordPress post. For whatever reason, the previous edit, drafts, settings- everything was a wash.

Kick me to the curb. I’m done!

But that isn’t what my post was about at all. It was based upon the uncertainties of life and how we can make a decision how we wish to respond. I wrapped my head around the possibilities of embracing the grey- how life can be a beautiful grey if we take the time to step back and look at the big picture. I believed that I deliberately took a day for some self-care so I could ponder some of life’s smallest moments.

But I didn’t want the grey at that moment. I wanted to be ticked or to have some miraculous screen pop up with my beautifully, well-written, thoughtful piece. I wanted all or nothing. I was jumping into what I just wrote about.

Slow down, Linda. Slow down.

I do NOT have to go black and white on this one. I can go grey. (Deep exhale here.)

The best part is this moment is exactly why I needed to think about the grey. Months ago the same thing happened. What I did then was to close my laptop and not write again for months. The pain of making a mistake was eating at me. So I quit. Temporarily. I posted a few pieces since then and I told myself I would be more careful.

And I WAS more careful. But sometimes, the file gets lost. Sometimes, the car breaks down. Sometimes, you take a day off of work and not a whole lot gets accomplished.

Life is grey after all.

 

You Never Know What’s Going to Happen


When I woke up this past Tuesday, I had no idea how my day was going to unfold. In fact, since I quit drinking nearly four years ago, I have really tried to live my life one day at a time and have quit trying to predict how each day is “supposed” to unravel.

This last week was no exception. The night before, I had picked my sons and nephew up from their Open Gym at their grade school. My nephew piped up in the back seat, “Hey. Did you tell your mom what happened today?”

I have learned this can mean any number of things, so I took a deep breath, looked over at my 12 yo and said, “No. I haven’t heard. Do tell.” The three of them got really quiet and super awkward. So I directed my son to fill me in.

“Well at lunch today, Jeanette (Not her real name) tried to get me to drink a margarita. I told her no.”

Wow. THAT was not at all what I had in mind.

“Wait, what?” I asked. “Start from the beginning.”

He proceeded to tell me how one of his classmates brought alcohol to school and was trying to get the kids at his table to drink it with her. Thankfully, this time, my son said no. We talked about the dangers, the risks involved, and how he went to the principal and told of what transpired. I was really proud of him in that moment. This was- to my knowledge- his first real run in with peer pressure, and he resisted. We called his dad and I had my son relay the story to him. My husband, in turn, was shocked but glad the outcome was in his favor. This time.

I have been through enough with my older daughter to know this isn’t always the case.

After the dust settled, I was able to call my sponsor and talk this through with her. Life is much different today for many of these kids. In that moment, I felt so much gratitude- gratitude that I am one of the lucky ones.

The next morning, I had to take the same son to a doctor appointment which afforded us a 45 minute car ride alone. I brought the margarita episode up again to him and said I really needed to talk to him more.

I asked him if we could talk a little bit about Jeanette and what her home life was like. I wanted to know how a 12 yo needs to numb at school. I needed some clarity. He mentioned how her parents are divorced, that she moved her late last year, and seemed pretty unhappy. He added, “He dad is a raging alcoholic.”

The proverbial window of opportunity nearly fell off its hinges.

“Well,” I asked, “What does an alcoholic look like to you?”

He answered something about being dirty, homeless, and uninvolved.

I nodded my head and asked him, “Would it surprise you if I told you I am an alcoholic?” He looked really confused and mentioned that I don’t drink.

“Not anymore, but I used to. I am not the same person when I drink.”

I let that soak in for a bit and then he asked if I had ever drank and drive.

“Yes. I did. Alcohol abuse causes people to make decisions that when they aren’t drinking, they would never make.”

I went on to explain to him that the meetings I attend are full of alcoholics: doctors, lawyers, politicians, other teachers, and yes, some homeless people and those who have served time in jail- some of whom fall into the former group as well. He was dumbfounded. I talked with him about how alcoholism is a disease, and that no one asks to be one. I explained it’s heredity and is no different than diabetes or even cancer. Just like no one signs up for those diseases, alcoholism is no different. I told him that we do’t refer to then as raging diabetics or people as raging cancer patients. Being able to help put these into perspective and to alleviate some of the stigma and myths associated with alcoholism was a moment I could have never predicted.

I hadn’t previously talked with my son about being an alcoholic because the opportunity hadn’t presented it self in a way quite like this one did. I did not ask him to keep our discussion a secret either, for I am not ashamed of who I am today.

We ended our talk by me explaining to him that Jeanette is in pain and that is why so many people drink or abuse  other drugs. I told him she needs help and that he can be a good friend by suggesting to her that she may want to see the guidance counselor at school. I also let him know that while he can be a friend, the problems she has right now are bigger than he is equipped to handle and that it’s best left to the professionals. We talked about boundaries and how he can be friends with her as long as drugs and alcohol are not part of the relationship. He smiled, hugged me tightly and told me how much he loved me. Not bad for a 12 yo boy just hitting puberty.

Being sober is truly a gift. This conversation would have never happened in the way it did had I still been active in my alcoholism. I know this.

The seed has been planted in my growing boy; I know I do not get to control his path, but it sure is rewarding knowing that I can be here for him, sober, when he needs me.