If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m sort of going through some shit at the moment. Aside from the standard issue “new baby” bullshit that everyone who has a kid goes through, I’ve got a lovely helping of completely screwed up family drama to go along with it. To be fair to my son, most of this familial histrionic nonsense pre-dates his existence, so I do my best to keep him out of it. I feel like I have a moderate amount of success, but in spite of my best efforts, I do have trouble keeping my cool sometimes and I have been known to cry right along with him (though, I’m fairly sure for different reasons).
The life I have now is one I’ve chosen as the lesser of evils. I have not had any contact with my mother in over three years. It was difficult for me to get the point where I actually felt that I needed to cut contact, but after what was an emotional death by a thousand cuts, I simply had no more to give. I could no longer be her emotional caretaker, fixer of problems and source of financial bailouts, especially since she took great pleasure in undoing all the hard work. Throughout all this, too, she kept drinking.
Sure, she’s an adult, and entitled to drink if she so chooses. I have no issue with that, as long as she’s not hurting herself or others. But she was. The damage she inflicted would sometimes be obvious, such as slicing her hand open or burning herself while making dinner, or passing out sitting up with a lit cigarette burning holes into the couch. Some things were less noticeable, like the slur in her words when she calls you late at night, dumping her venom all over you. When I was a kid, it was being physically trapped while she monologued like a wine-drenched super villain. With the advent of cell phones, she could barrage you from anywhere at any time.
Beyond the visible signs of living with someone who has a drinking problem, though, is the carefully constructed reality they build around themselves. Their denial of the elephant in the room, their drinking problem, and the damage it inflicts on others who are left to bandage the cuts and put out the literal fires is paramount to keeping their self medicating lifestyle intact. This aspect is incredibly painful, because you can feel your mind reeling to believe both their constructed reality and the truth. You begin to question which is real, wondering if you’re the crazy one. In a way, sadly, I was the crazy one.
When I left for college, although I was easily as broken a toy as I am now, I became exposed to other people of questionable mental health. Even amongst the most dysfunctional of friends, I began to see small glimmers that my mother’s carefully constructed mindset was full of the most ludicrous of delusions, flat out lies, and parlaying of things she had no rightful ownership of as part of its foundation. The dissonance was palpable.
After I ended a very toxic, enmeshed, and painfully abusive relationship, I sank into one of the first depressive episodes. When I wasn’t actively behaving in self-destructive ways, I was “stuck,” usually laying listless on the floor or bed just inside my room staring off into the distance at nothing, tears rolling down for no particular reason. It must have looked rather pathetic to those I shared a space with. I remember having one years later where my husband came home to find me on the floor in the dining room. I’ll never forget the look on his face, of genuine concern and downright fear. I felt like I was letting him down, because I couldn’t pull it together, which triggered further serious self loathing because I hated being this broken.
When you grow up around addicts, and as their enabler, especially, you absorb the heavy blows of their bad behavior. Sure, you can recover, even resemble a normal functioning human if you work hard enough at it. But, at your core, you’re still damaged goods. It’s like the grass that unwittingly grows under the kiddie pool in the yard. It didn’t choose to be in the spot where the pool got plunked down, and it’s rather hardy so it keeps growing. So much so, that when you dump the pool out at the end of the summer, the grass is still there, pale white, starving, and grown crooked, bent toward the only light it knows.
Living in an addicted house is like that. As a child, you don’t know what normal is, and you seek love from the only sources you know. It isn’t until the pool is lifted that you see all the other grass growing up green around you, that you see that there’s something wrong with you. Maybe you have some insight, that perhaps it wasn’t your fault, but that doesn’t heal the scars already formed. You can limp forward, but only if you accept that the truth, and want to move on from it.
The sad part about healing, at least for me, is that my family so strongly resisted my attempts to deal with what I was feeling. I understand, it sort of implies that something wasn’t right in the perfect family image we worked so hard at maintaining. It certainly doesn’t help when in order to heal, they have to stop doing the damaging things that got you there in the first place. This would require them to assume responsibility for their actions, and that lifts the veil to reveal the elephant in the room.
For a long time, I sought validation. Screaming at walls doesn’t change what they are, and at some point I just had to give up and let go. After this period of estrangement though, I’ve decided that I don’t need them to do this. It doesn’t change the damage done, nor does validation that my recollection of things was accurate. All I want is the right to walk away from the people who hurt me and to not subject myself to that anymore. Since their version of reality and mine are as divergent as those Frost poem paths splitting in a yellow wood. I am taking the road less travelled, and it is making all the difference.