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Monday, May 22, 2023

Monday Mimisms ~ Toes Out the Window

I was seventeen. 
Performing in 1974

My hair weighed more than I did.
We'd just finished a Beatles medley for the student body of our high school
and all I wanted to do was step out of the Yellow Submarine we'd build out of  cardboard and slide into the passenger seat of my boyfriend's car
 Toes out the window. Coca-Cola in my hand.
Hair-in-a-ponytail-happy-I was.

Fast forward forty-seven years. 
and volcanoes are exploding in my pencil head
Pandemic Me

So much time on my hands
Thinking about the one I should have married
Thinking about the one I could have married
The one I shouldn't have married
The one I didn't marry
All of those shoulda-woulda missteps brought lifelong consequences unbeknownst to the long-haired girl.
The one who got away before I found myself at the ripe old age of thirty-something. 
What is it about sixty-something that causes one to psychoanalyze the whole of a life?  
Shouldn't I be knitting sweaters or something? 
Who does that?
Me. This week. That's who.

Then I hit a big bodacious bad brick wall. SCREEEEECCCCHHHH.

Last Thursday night I was sitting on the couch staring at the wall in silence, evicting a few rickety ghosts from my head, watching them fly away into mist. Scribbling on paper. I'd been there awhile...just kind of numb. Needing to not-think. You get that, right?  There had been unpleasantness, you see. 
I don't like unpleasantness. I like peace.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Meditate. Pray. Listen.
Before I knew it, all the ropes that held me down had been untied. I lit a match and symbolically burned a paper full of angry words in my left hand. 
Watched it burn. Watched it burn.
Ashes. Poof. Gone.
Then picked up what was left of those I-should-have-could-have-shouldn't-have people with my right hand and blew. them. away. 

I looked at the clock. It was 2 am. 
I straightened my dented crown and went to bed.

I've been on a slippery slope you see.
Trying to function and still save me.

There. I said it.
It doesn't matter how long ago your loved one last misused a substance or drank to excess or suffered a bout of depression, in a mother's head and heart they're always a fool's breath away from active destruction; except with addiction or alcoholism or even narcissism it's mutual destruction. A person with a substance use or personality disorder can look at you stone cold sober holding a Bible in one hand and Holy Water in the other and you still won't believe they're sober or truthful.

That's my problem, not theirs.

I don't want to cover it up anymore.

Not because of my beautiful loved one - he's been successfully working his sobriety for many years - 
but because of ME.

Standing in the wide weary gulf between helping and enabling 
when I found myself alone and climbing out of the recent brief foxhole we shared,
it resurrected all kinds of emotional baggage from years and years ago when he was actively struggling with substances. Oh, the memories. We found ourselves dancing to that worn-out record despite ourselves
my eyes were opened
to what I had become
what I needed to deal with
what I needed to admit
what I needed to understand
what I needed to

Don't you hate that word?
What word, Mimi?
Yes, I hate it.

The day I started blogging, half my face fell off
Then all kinds of wonderful adventures began
Today, this many years young,
I found the other half again.

There is a thin line dangling between the edge of authenticity and the need for dignity and privacy. My writing has always walked that wire. But in every word and every story I try to err on the side of transparency, in the same way I would want less shame-based words applied to the people I love.

Addict is not a noun or an identity. Alcoholic is not a noun or an identity. Codependent is not a noun or an identity. They are disorders and struggles, not moral failures. The disease is not the person.

I've wanted to say it for years.
That I am proud of him
That I love him with all my heart
That I see him

Despite me and my uneven walk with worry and faith

But just for a little while, I think we need a mini-divorce.
Hush Homer. I'll be checking your medicine cabinet tomorrow..

 Just until I regain my sea legs and he sprouts more of those beautiful wings.

He can be free to make his own adventures 
 I won't be holding him hostage with my smothering
I can be free to make my own adventures 
 not holding myself back with fear 
What codependency does to your peace of mind is insidious and suffocating 
You don't even know it's happening! 
It's a learned belief and habit that I must unlearn

Have you ever seen your son or daughter nearly dead from a disease?
You'll do anything to keep that from happening again. Even when you no longer need to. Even years later. And therein lies the devil of enabling.

The job of addiction is to kill and destroy. When you enable (helping someone do something they can do for themselves) at first you believe you're actually helping. You feel good about it. You get a rush of feel good dopamine. Sound familiar? 
Here's the problem. The real sneaky job of enabling is also to kill and destroy. 

 My hardwired need to protect, spills over into the decisions I make about everything and everyone else in my life. Now that was an eye-opener.

Codependency grows from a normal natural parental instinct which screams Mothers have it the moment their babies are born.
There's no shame in it. It's motivated by love. 
But with substance disorder, because of the unpredictable trauma that goes on in families as a result, it can grow wild and out of control and you start looking for a recurrence of symptoms in your loved one. It drives them away. It feels like moral judgment even when your intention is to only throw love. 

Sometimes I move about the world in shoe-drop mode, post trauma reactions that aren't even real in the moment. It's not irrational or hypothetical. The triggers of past events can still be seen in my mind and felt in my heart.

So I make up my own scary stories in the now and convince myself that I need to DO something to prevent them from happening again. It's that dead-child-coffin-dream fear, to put it bluntly. It's very common for parents of children who've suffered from substance abuse. It's like you're watching a horror show on the big screen of your life. The substance has the starring role, the protagonist. Everyone is in desperately twisted love with the alcohol, the pill, the high, the drama. Your loved one is drowning. You are the unintentional antagonist. Everyone dies.

You run yourself ragged trying to help. It doesn't help. It makes things worse because they lose the dignity of making their own choices. And you lose your mind watching them suffer.

I think I dented my crown when I hit that wall, my friends.
But I'll be OK.

No matter how many times I stick my toes out the window and put my hair in a ponytail, some days are like a roller coaster ride.  You either hold on or fall off.
But mostly, I discovered the amusement ride in my head wasn't fun.

I joined a support group. I took an assessment. I signed up for a codependency class online. I wrote emails and ask questions. I watched podcasts on parents who also struggle with enabling NODDING and NODDING and NODDING my head.
Who knew I belonged to a club that no one wants to belong to all these years? 

 I didn't join to fix him. I joined to fix me.

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Michelle said...

Deeply moving. <3

Mimi Lenox said...

Thank you, Michelle.

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