Addiction and Recovery

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The Crooked Path of Life                             Dreamscapes

 

Birthday Blues

It shouldn’t drive me crazy after all this time. She is 75 and an alcoholic but although I am far into middle age; I still want her to act like my mother. Unfortunately, I need to grow up. She is who she is and she will not change now . . . she has no desire to do so. That she is a remarkable woman who has risen far beyond her sordid roots complicates matters for me. I have always sought to forgive the forgivable but can do that no more.

My mother just forgot my 52 birthday. Granted, it was a quiet year, even my children forgot to send cards. However, their calls were filled with warmth and devotion . . . I hung up from each one satisfied. But my mother –   I had an errand to do at her house in the early afternoon. She provides meals for the one year old twin nieces I baby-sit for so I could see exactly where her mind was. She said nothing to me but handed over the food.

Perhaps I should stop and explain; Mom and I have always had a fractious relationship. She is blunt, prone to hard edges and sharp retorts; a firm believer in giving as good as she is getting and always being on top. Assertive, at times flaring into aggression; anger fuels her passions. She is ambitious and has achieved much in her life. But if you defy her, or ignore her, or live your own life, or have opinions and ways different from her own, there is hell to pay.

I am a quiet person – shy self-conscious, with a poor self-esteem. My life has had its own share of tough times. Throughout them she has tried to be supportive on her own terms. I am grateful. As a result of these trials, I have gained the reputation as being the child with the family’s  fatal flaw.

As my self-esteem improves, our relationship grows ever more contentious. As I am a person in addiction recovery, I find it hard to talk to the active alcoholic in her. There is a firm law among my siblings, outer relatives and I, we do not call mom or answer the phone when she calls after 4:00 pm as she will likely be drunk. I can’t even abide listening to the phone messages. Between ever encroaching forgetfulness and black-outs, she may call several times saying virtually word-for-word what she said in the last call.

What is most ironic is Mom was one of the most pivotal persons in my own recovery. When I was still drinking, perhaps about age 22, she sat me down on a rare occasion we were together to tell me I was drinking too much. It let me know I was observed which was a good thing. The following year I quit drinking and have had the good fortune and God’s blessing not to do so since.

Again, in my forties, she intervened. My physical issues are numerous – Fibromyalgia, COPD, Chronic Eosinophilic Pneumonia, Depression . . . Each day I wake to debilitating pain throughout my body. When my physician of the time suggested narcotics, I knew I was foregoing sobriety but convinced myself it was a quality of life decision. In the space of a couple of years, I was on oxycodone, oxycotin, muscle relaxers, and benzodyazapines. Because they suppressed my already compromised breathing, I ended up on oxygen for 1 ½ years. For 5 years I stumbled and shuffled through life, pretending to care for my daughter while she often took care of me. When I was finally lucky enough to land in a hospital, Mom arranged and paid for rehab, straightened out my finances, and traded my wretched wreck of a car for a better one.

Trust me, I know how grateful I should be. I am. But as time has passed, I no longer swallow my thoughts and feelings with her. I buck her when she tries to railroad me. We simply do not speak the same language. I will say something completely innocuous and she will take offence. Jokes are forbidden!

The years have passed. My mother has long since died of a massive heart attack. I went to California for three years and returned. When I came back, it was to no place to live. A wonderful woman offered to let me stay at her house, which turns out to be my mother’s home. For two months, I stayed in Mom’s room. I believe both my mother and I made peace with each other. I no longer harbor ill will. I respect her, love her, and most of all, miss her. And that birthday acknowledgement? How ridiculous to have wasted precious time in pain, turmoil and sadness. We lost so much time, she and I. Life is so very strange.

************************************************************************

Growing Up

Growing up is a bitch-
learning responsibility,
being true to your feelings,
acting with integrity,
putting yourself out there,
to experience life on life’s terms,
It’s hard, damn hard.

Every time I felt something
I put a pill in my mouth,
swallowed it quickly,
as if someone was gonna,
pull it out, take it away,
deny me from sustenance.

In years past it was a bottle,
just like a baby’s,
had the same effect,
calming me down,
feeding the hunger,
soothing my soul,
all in the power of 16 ounces.

So half a lifetime passed,
pain wracked my body,
sending shivers coursing throughout,
the product of disease,
and I reached for the familiar,
headed for the bottle,
this time of prescription drugs,
so easy, so seductive, so deadly.

Sobriety met me fairly
and much welcomed,
in the nick of time,
as I lay dying,
heaving on bed from seizures,
as my teenage daughter,
held my hand,
tying me to this life,
I had tried so hard to forget.

No longer looking at life
from the sorrowful eyes
of peaked depression
and harrowed addiction.

I have learned to smile,
to laugh,
to look in the mirror
and not shudder,
the mirror no longer my enemy.

Looking at life
with hope,
with conviction,
with joy.
I know how a smile feels,
edging spontaneously up my face.

Half a century went by but
I now know peace.

***********************************************************************

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