I’m thrilled by the final outcome. Kirk, the tattoo artist was so collaborative and we worked together for about 1.5 hours to design this tattoo. Going in, I had some idea what I wanted but it was just a general concept.
Working with the artist, he was able to capture what I was looking for, extrapolating the design from the meaning I shared (see previous post) and a few sketches shared back & forth.
And since the tattoo I’ve had reason to exercise the one of the main reasons I got it: personal boundaries.
C was less than thrilled, in spite of being warned for the last two years that this was happening, and at one point being supportive of the idea. His foul mood and stonewalling have continued from the moment I got home on Friday through today. And yes it bothers me, but primarily I feel sad that something that makes me so happy and fulfilled could make him so upset. It is a reminder of how different we are in some aspects.
But then I look down, see the band, and remind myself – his anger and sadness are his own to deal with, and while it wouldn’t be nice to flaunt my happiness in front of him right now, I’m perfectly OK to inhabit the joy I feel and shed any sense of responsibility for his reactions.
Pride is another emotion I’m owning right now. Pride that I’ve come this far, that I’ve shed an addiction to a substance that was harming me (and my family by proxy), that I made that commitment and never once turned back. With that freedom came a shedding of blinders, which has opened my eyes to the other areas of my life that need work… in some cases, like my marriage, a LOT of work.
And I’m owning that too.
The vertical line represents the continuation of my own personal work-in-progress. Never complete, but with each day one step closer to a healthier, happier self.
Today is the day I get my tattoo and it felt worthy of a post.
712 days ago, I made a plan on how to quit drinking successfully. One element was a system of small rewards leading up to a big reward, this tattoo, to celebrate and mark 1 year sober.
Almost 2 years later, I’m finally getting it done.
And I want to document what it means to me, here, as reference to come back to if I’m ever questioning my decision (both on sobriety and on the tattoo).
The design is a thin band around my left forearm. The band will be interrupted or broken at one point to symbolize breaking the bonds I had with alcohol. And as the years are moving by, I’m realizing that taking that step gave me the freedom and awareness to break other, less visible bonds, and to create healthy boundaries between myself and those close to me. So the meaning of the tattoo has grown to encompass a process of letting go. Shedding the expectations of others, discarding the responsibility for other’s emotions, letting go of the things that have been holding me back.
I’m hoping that the design will also show a continuation of the path I’m on, in some way. That the process is not done, it has just begun. It is a work in progress.
Well I may not be drinking, but I’m stuffing my face with ice-cream every night after smoking pot and then scrolling Facebook, making impulse purchases like it’s going out of style.
So yea, my life is not ideal right now.
With C out of the house for the last two weeks, it’s been rough.
The days have been long and frenzied, with overload at work and overload at home, no time for any of it but somehow juggling through it. The tiredness of late work nights make it worse with the kids too, plus without dad around they’ve been a handful (and understandably having their own reactions to the whole situation).
It’s just been awkward and hard, for all of us.
And surprise surprise, he’s angry about it. Today, he would barely look at me when we met at the boy’s talent show.
After an hour in the hot August sun, listening to kids sing pop songs (some of the little ones crying or running away, C saying “I hear ya kid!”), we tried to rally the boys with ice cream as a fun surprise. Which then turned into a nightmare after little C dropped his Italian ice and big C refused to get him a new one.
I privately disagreed with his choice but to the boys, I supported him which meant tag-teaming to try to get both boys to the car as little C screamed “I WANT ANOTHER ONE!” over and over at the top of his voice while rage-crying, in full meltdown mode, all while the rest of the parents were quietly, happily eating snacks with their kids. I know I shouldn’t care, but it felt like everyone at camp was judging us as we carried a explosive screaming 5-year-old to the car.
He then proceeded to scream for the next 20 minutes while I sat with him in the car, trying the whole empathetic approach to no avail. Manhandled into his car seat, he screams and kicks my seat the whole way home, another 20 minutes, only calming down after a few minutes in the house.
Big C then gets back with the groceries (Boys having refused to go home in his car, he got to do the grocery run…) and the rest of the evening he won’t talk to me, he won’t look at me, he’s just stonewall-angry. A familiar place for me although it had been awhile.
We divide up the evening’s duties and he leaves after the boys go to bed.
While leaves me to my bad habits.
So I’ve decided to write here instead, then go to bed early for a change.
I’ve been avoiding this because I don’t like whats going on right now. I’m not proud of any of it, I wish it weren’t happening, I feel like a bad parent and person and I’m questioning everything.
And the boys are pushing back so hard right now, I find myself feeling really desperate and lost and ugly inside – without the wherewithal needed to be a good mom to them – keeping boundaries, being a calm stable influence when they need it most.
It’s been hard not to project anger at both work and home, with big stressors in both environments right now, and I’ve fucked up a couple times.
This experience is humbling me in ways I didn’t expect, and at times I feel like I’ve lost the ground underneath me and don’t know where to put my feet.
I think C is feeling similarly.
I find us back in the familiar dance and wondering what I’m doing to perpetuate it.
Something happens where I feel hurt by C (or in this case, I was literally hurt by C). I approach him about it. He gets defensive and finds a way to get angry with me for my way of handling how I feel. His anger “wins” over mine somehow, and I end up feeling like I’ve done something wrong. Many times, I end up apologizing – if only to feel I’ve done my best to turn toward him rather than away.
In this case, I asked him to leave – and while initially it seemed he was willing to do anything to make things work and could understand the need for it, now – he’s angry.
Well, guess what. He had a rough week. I had a rough week. Life is shitty right now.
Recent circumstances have shown me, more than any other time in my adult life, how different everyone’s mental landscapes are. One person’s interpretation and memory of an event can be completely different from another person. Who’s to say who is “right” or who is “wrong”?
The reactions of family and friends to a situation I thought was black & white have caused me to question my own judgment and the judgment of others at the same time, leaving me with little ground to stand on.
I have a thought, it makes sense to me… and then I question it’s validity.
There are many moments of paralysis. I don’t know how to BE, right now. Who am I, outside of the reflection of myself in others’ minds?
As anyone would, I tend to reject the negative impressions I feel others may have of me, but right now I’m inclined to give their perspective more credence. Not because I dislike myself but because I’m less sure of my own perspective.
Is this the ego-work I so wanted to embark on, a year ago?
Advice from the comments section of this article makes some sense:
Take your time. Love from your heart. Be still. Observe. Listen, before you act.
Also, this perspective is interesting given the advice I received from my religious parents (“Yes, he gave you a black eye, but you really need to look at your own part in the dysfunction”):
For the record, he has agreed to separate while he works on his issues with anger and alcohol. And he has been absolutely wonderful since the incident.
When does a person go from being a heavy drinker to being an alcoholic/alcohol-dependent?
What if you think you’re fine but your spouse feels you have a problem and says your drinking affects them negatively?
How much should one’s partner’s opinion matter in this case? What if they’re overreacting?
What about pot? Does smoking regularly in the evenings count as addictive behavior? Could it be considered a replacement for alcohol, an avoidance mechanism that should be addressed?
Is there ever justification for a husband giving his wife a black eye?
What situation is better – staying in a dysfunctional marriage to give the kids a sense of stability, or separating to give each other space to work on the dysfunction, but disrupt the children’s lives in a way they won’t understand?
Why do I need someone to answer these questions for me?
Why can’t I just trust my gut?
Why do the opinions of those around me matter so much?
Why am I here? Well to be honest, my dear imaginary reader, its because I haven’t found a new therapist since my last one “graduated” me and I need an outlet for my jumbled thoughts. Our dog walker and friend just left after I bombarded him with the contents of my messy brain, and I’m realizing I need a better place to get things out, and maybe sort through them.
I feel the need to mention that I’m still sober – zero alcohol since Oct 1, 2017, although not entirely “clean” as I still smoke a puff or two of pot in the evenings.
It’s been awhile since I’ve spilled words on this blog and I think that’s because things have been a bit messy and hard to explain. So forgive me the following stream of consciousness jumble.
An unfiltered letter to my husband:
Can we move past this? Yes.
Can we forget it happened? No.
Even though it may feel, to you, as if nothing has changed, everything has changed for me. I always knew you had a white hot anger flowing underneath the surface, that although you like to imagine yourself as the kind, loving devoted husband and father you portray on social media, underneath the surface hides another version of you that reveals itself whenever you feel slighted.
Your anger, especially when fueled by alcoholic irrationality, quickly goes from zero to an overwhelming out-of-control rage that, regardless of what you do with it, scares those it’s targeting.
You’ve only hit me once, but you’ve scared me and the boys many times before.
So no, this isn’t something that can be swept under the rug, left unaddressed until the next time it happens. I’m done waiting for the honeymoon period to end and for your anger to simmer unaddressed until you decide I deserve another dose.
You wonder why this separation is unnecessary?
It’s because I don’t feel safe anymore. I don’t trust that your rage will stay contained in the future. I have no reason to believe it won’t happen again. How have you changed? Do you even see a reason to change?
You keep saying things like “we’ve lost our way”, “it’s because the first few years of raising the boys have been so hard” “maybe now that it’s getting easier, our relationship will improve”. None of these statements tell me anything about your willingness to take responsibility for your own issues in our marriage.
Over a year ago, when you told me you were not open to working on our marriage (or yourself) in therapy, I decided the only choice was to work on myself, by myself. Which I’ve done.
Any time I found myself complaining about your behavior, I would turn that question toward myself – am I asking the same of myself? Is it possible I’m the one with that problem? And then I would work on it.
And although I still see much room for improvement, I’m tired of doing it alone. If you’re not willing to look inside and do some heavy lifting on your own issues, I’m not willing to remain in a marriage that is this out of balance, especially when it means always having to worry about when your next temper flair-up is going to happen.
My mental health, and the future mental health of the boys who are watching our dynamic and learning how to behave, is not worth that.
First, an update on C since the last post was about him. Then, an update on my latest steps and missteps along the road of sobriety.
After a successful Dry January and a “damp” February that started with intentions of moderating (the details of which were hazy and became increasingly more so as the month went on), C recently shared that he is planning to go bushy-tail again, starting this week and attempting to go 8 weeks this time, instead of 4.
During St. Patty’s Month?? I asked. Yes, I know, he said.
The driving force seems to be weight-loss, the first time around a 10 lb loss leaving quite an impression. I’ve expressed my respect for his goal and offered support in any way he needs, trying hard not to be too over-the-moon about it because I don’t want to add pressure or do anything that might make it harder for him to focus on his own reasons for doing this.
While I’m not sure how sustainable a goal weight-loss is, I’m encouraged at his desire to do this a second time shortly after his first and am hoping that 8 weeks will reveal the more lasting benefits of being alcohol-free.
It’s nice to hear him express a different mentality about drinking, occasionally bringing up the detriments instead of constantly defending it.
Whether as a result of his recent choices about alcohol, or the positive outcome of a couple honest conversations at the turn of the year, or any number of personal changes we’ve both made, our relationship seems a bit sturdier lately and I’m grateful.
We seem to be headed in a good direction and I know his changing attitude toward alcohol has given me a lot of hope.
And as for me?
Well, I’m still chuggin’ along 100% sober*. And honestly, not missing it 99% of the time.
My theory about that last 1% is that it’s hanging on because I haven’t had enough practice saying No during those specific types of moments. Like date night, for example.
C & I went on an overnight date on my birthday in February. C had planned it all in advance and surprised me with a really posh hotel, the Bungalows in Asbury Park, and dinner at the equally well-reviewed Tides Hotel. The whole experience was perfect. But I found myself craving a pre-dinner fancy cocktail. You know, the ones that pack a punch and leave you with a euphoric glow for the span of dinner, and then quickly dissolve into a blur of dinner wine, post-dinner digestif, night cap or two or three…
Of course, C & I only go on these kind of fancy dates about once or twice a year, so I haven’t had as many chances to say No to myself as say, a weekend night at home.
Of course it’s a little harder.
The only remedy is more practice! I must tell C.
*I’ve added the asterisk because while I’m alcohol-free, I can’t honestly say I’m 100% clean and sober. I’m still smoking pot on the regular. And the state of my gnawed-down stumps of fingernails is causing me to question whether this habit is really helping or hurting.
Hear me out.
When I quit, I had so much energy for self improvement that I made sweeping and grandiose changes to my diet, exercise and overall health choices, even cutting back my coffee intake and replacing with green tea at the peak of my zealousness.
Over the months, that fervor has diminished leaving me with a few healthy habits like meditation and kickboxing and yoga and green smoothies in the morning, but also a few unhealthy habits that have crept in – mainly pot (I’m smoking almost nightly), staying up too late scrolling social media and making impulse purchases online (yeah, not the greatest, I know), and then as a result of the late nights, drinking way too much coffee in the morning.
Hence, the bitten-down nails.
I was starting to wonder about my own mental health as I’ve recently found myself incapable of stopping the nail biting – something I’ve been able to control better in the past.
Then one day it hit me as I was pouring my 4th cup of morning coffee (increased slowly from 1-2 cups, to 3, to 4 and now more like 5 or 6). It’s the coffee! That’s why I’m gnawing on my nails! Why do I need this much coffee? Well, because I’m not getting enough sleep. And why not? Because I find myself stuck to the couch from about 9:30 (when I should be headed to bed) to 11:30 pm, mindlessly scrolling Facebook and online shopping until the pot wears off.
And the lightbulb went off. It’s the POT. OMG. I thought it was relaxing me. And maybe it is. But overall, the chain reaction is having the opposite effect.
So now, I’m considering cutting back or quitting entirely because I don’t like what it’s doing to me overall. The tough part is that I think I’ve replaced alcohol with this new escape and that means I haven’t really dealt with the underlying problem yet.
No answers or resolutions, just thoughts out there in the ether.
After almost a month of sobriety thanks to Dry January, C told me that he’s thinking about moderating, admitting that 8-10 drinks/night was probably too much. His hope is to stay dry during the week and drink moderately on weekend.
This is HUGE!!!!!!!
My heart is so happy right now. His drinking was hurting our family and our relationship to such an extent that I was starting to think about divorce, but now I have hope.
Who knows how this will play out, whether he’ll stay committed to this idea (he seemed shaky about it initially) or whether he’ll have more success than I did when moderating, but the important part is that he’s admitting his drinking was unhealthy and he wants to do something about it.
He’s also talking about taking up an exercise regimen, and was receptive when I shared my own experience on the road to overall healthy life improvements post-quitting. All of this is without any prompting from me, which is HUGE!!!!
I have stayed as quiet as I possibly could since quitting, knowing that this had to be MY journey, alone, that had nothing to do with him… and that I needed to leave him 100% alone if I could expect him to make any change himself. Any nagging or complaining on my part would only make that more difficult for him. And I can’t say I’ve been completely successful (I admit to rolling my eyes more than once when he forgot a conversation – a big pet peeve for me – or was unable to get through a whole TV show without passing out etc), but overall, I’ve worked very hard at staying quiet.
And it’s paying off. Big lesson for me there.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut.
So C is going bushy-tail this January. That’s his description of a month of sobriety. Back when we were dating and maybe the first year or two of our marriage, he would cut the booze for the month of January, but it’s been years.
We’d talk about it, and some years even attempt it, but after Week 1, or sometimes only after a few days without, we’d find excuses and slowly slip back into it.
Before I quit, I started to noticing the trend – our inability to get through even a few weeks without alcohol, and it was one of the reasons I quit. I used to worry about both of us, but after quitting I’ve had to create a boundary. My journey is mine. His journey will be different. I’m not going to worry about, or be bothered by, his drinking.
But now, with only a week under his belt, the difference is hard to ignore.
He is more present, more patient, more focused. His eyes actually LOOK at me when they look at me. He seems to be really listening when I talk, not impatiently waiting for me to finish so he can say something or go back to watching TV.
In the evenings, when the difference is most noticeable, his posture is better, his face more alert, his eyes clearer. His face is less puffy. He’s not passing out on the couch by 8:30pm.
During the day, when you might imagine there wouldn’t be much difference, there HAS been. He is more clear-headed, more present. He notices me more. For example, he noticed when I was struggling with the boys this weekend, and patiently stepped in. Then later, he actually said that he “saw me struggling more when I was tired” which felt like an epiphany. Not the fact that I struggle more when I’m tired (duh), but the fact that he NOTICED it and then SAID SOMETHING TO ME about it. I don’t mean for that to sound facetious.
I’m trying to stay really quiet about it all, but if he brings it up I’m trying to be as supportive as I can be without wanting it too much, which could come across as pressure and trigger a negative reaction.
So far, he’s only brought it up a couple times, and both times he has primarily mentioned the negative effects he’s noticed (having a harder time falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning, still feeling really tired in the afternoon… has only felt truly “hangover-free” one of the mornings so far, etc).
I want to yell, “Its so worth it! Just wait, it will pay off in spades!” and selfishly, “you’re such a nicer person to be around!!! it’s so nice to actually be SEEN by you!” but I know that the more I extol the virtues, the more likely he is to dismiss the whole thing.
It’s been almost 2 months since I last posted. The holidays have come and gone, and the new year has begun, ready or not.
I’m in a strange uncomfortable place lately which is why I haven’t logged on, and also why I chose to log on today. To document it, because sobriety isn’t about having it all figured out in a neat and tidy package for a blog post.
It’s messy and uncomfortable and painful and un-fun sometimes.
Not even a week’s vacation with C’s extended family at a lodge in a West Virginia state park, sans AF beverage options and surrounded by drinkers, could change that.
In fact, during that week, any time I was the only 100% sober adult wandering around looking for something to drink and passing beer after beer after beer (and whiskey and wine and and and), none of it was tempting in the slightest. And the main reason was the taste. Absolutely zero temptation to give up all that I’ve gained for something that I knew wouldn’t taste that great.
So, while I may be falling apart in other ways, at least I’ve maintained my sobriety.
Due to a number of reasons – some more obvious to me than others, the turn of the year was a rough one for me this time. I’ve swam around in a sea of confusion for the last few days, struggling to sleep at night, biting my nails to the quick, short with myself, C and the boys… just feeling lost.
So I decided to buckle down and make some concrete plans to help me wade through it. A mix of New Years resolutions and goals for a better future:
Get back to therapy to help me sort through some of the internal tangle
Make a list of what fills my soul with happiness (not escapes as much as bucket-filling activities – true self-care as described in this article) and try to do more of them
Make a list of what makes me feel shitty physically and mentally, and try to do less
Start pushing TOWARD inner pain and discomfort to understand it better, instead of escaping
Take a long hard look at what I’m doing to damage my relationship with C, and try to start building instead of destroying even, and in spite of when he continues to avoid his own responsibility in the relationship
Work harder at becoming complete on my own so that the emotional ups and downs of C and the boys don’t affect me so much
Find books to obsess about rather than online shopping, it’s okay if they’re novels and not parenting or self-improvement books.
More exercise, whatever/however I can make it happen (even if it means getting up at 4am and doing body-weight exercises at home)
Stay away from the green during the week, keeping it as a treat on the weekends, reminding myself that daily use makes me unhappy with myself and takes away from the overall pleasure of the experience, plus it muddies the clarity I’ve gained from quitting alcohol
Better sleep by cutting out the social media scrolling at the end of the day
Ending on a groove that I like – no deep meaning, just good blues.