Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Grandmother's Lamp

This was my grandmother's lamp. When she died, my aunt asked me if there were any of her possessions I particularly wanted and this was it. I always loved this lamp and it reminded me of the fond memories I have of going to Grandma's house when I was a child. Grandma's house was the place of unconditional love. It was the only place of unconditional love that I was aware of at the time. It represented all of my instinctual needs being met. My desire for love and affection, security and survival, power and control. The lamp was upstairs, first in my aunt's bedroom and then in the hallway. Upstairs where the bedrooms were, which were pretty and soft. Unlike our bedrooms at home, which were small, undecorated, cold and crowded. The tv room was upstairs too where I could snuggle with my Grandma and watch her stories or have a lunch of grilled cheese and ginger ale while she took a break from ironing and watch Hollywood Squares. Grandma's house was also the place where I did not have to compete for attention. 2 weeks of every summer I got to go and be the only child, away from my two brothers. Not that I was doted upon but I was included. It was simple things, we did laundry on Mondays through an old wringer washer and hung on the line, ironing on Tuesdays while my Grandmother talked on the phone to her sisters, dusted on Wednesdays, listening to the soundtrack from Sound of Music (the Broadway production with Mary Martin, mind you), vacumed on Thursdays (though we carpet swept every day), grocery shopped on Fridays (at the Giant Eagle and Kroger because one had good bread and one had the sales). We picked lettuce from the garden and made dinner and then went for frozen custard. Sometimes I got to help in the hospital gift shop where she volunteered. Sometimes I got to swim at the community pool. It was just me and Grandma until Grandpa came home from work with his silly jokes. We went to Serbian Church on Sundays and it smelled good and was safe. Then my parents would come to get me and we'd have a big Sunday dinner that always started with homemade chicken noodle soup with the best noodles you have ever tasted. I hated to leave, to the point of attempting to run away from home at the age of about 6 or 7, packing my mother's white round American Touristor hard suitcase with a package of american cheese, by sitting in our apartment stairwell for an hour or so because my parents wouldn't let me stay longer.

If you look closely the top of the lamp no longer matches the bottom. Its design is pretty close for 60-70 years later but the glass is different, frosted not milky. The lamp reminds me of something different now. It was shipped to me from Pennsylvania and remained intact. It remained intact for about 1 1/2 years in our small condo. It survived our move across the river to our new home. But one day, during a simple little pillow fight, well you can guess it. My children broke the lamp. It was not done intentionally. They weren't even really fighting. They were fooling around in the living room as children do, they were laughing and joyous, they were middle school age, and a pillow went soaring across room, somebody ducked and the lamp crashed to the floor and it was unfixable. What I did to those children after that is unforgivable. I didn't beat them or anything. Did not cause physical pain but I screamed at them like I have never screamed before. I cried and swore. I was on my knees. I was inconsolable. I banished them to their rooms. I would not talk to them. The look on my son's face is one I will never forget. My daughter was upset, perhaps not as devastated by my reaction as my son because she was just that much older that disdain for me had entered her psyche. I'm not sure if I had glass in hand at that moment in time, I probably did, I usually did, but I was certainly in the throws of active alcoholism. I don't remember how much time passed, a few hours or a few days, I did apologize for my overreaction and explained why the lamp was important to me, or at least I think I did. I had grounded them, I don't remember for how long. I made them write me letters of apology. My son's was poignant. My daughter's less so. But they certainly learned their lesson. Though what that lesson was I'm not sure. I think the lesson they probably learned the most was that Mom loved the lamp more than she loved them. I can't forgive myself for that. I should not say can't though. I haven't. I hope to.

My selfish desire to have that pretty lamp and its memories overrode my love for them. I was dishonest when I let them believe that their normal childhood behavior was bad. I was self seeking when I wanted to feel better by acting out and making them feel bad. By making them jump through hoops to earn my love back. My fear, the real truth, was that I was not loved, by my parents or my children. That the lamp and everything it represented to me was gone. I owe my children an amends for this. This had nothing to do with the lamp or them. It was simply about an emptiness which was being filled by the lamp...when it could have been filled by a Higher Power. I am grateful it is now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Dad Would Have Been 70 today

Today would have been my Dad's 70th birthday. He was only 58 when Non Hodgkins Lymphoma took his life. I am very grateful that I was able to get to the hospital in time to have had some last meaningful words with him and stay at his bedside for the last week of his life. When he died, I felt like the safety net had been ripped from under me. But I think I was wrong about that. I miss him and am sad for how young he was...and how life dramatically changed for our family after he died. But at the same time I know that his presence in my life both before and after his death was a gift. And I am grateful to receive it. And now I'm not sure if I'm even talking about my Dad.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

So, the Spirit moved me.....

While on a walk, which I was trying to do in silent meditation, the thought occurred to me how many of us are looking for relief. When I was three months sober, I had a reservation. I was going camping with my girlfriends. I had excused myself from our gatherings thus far because wine had always been a part of them, at least for me. But I didn't want to avoid our annual camping trip and thought that I was ready to engage without drinking and that if need be I could "come out" to them as an alcoholic. BUT...I knew one of them would be bringing pot and I thought maybe, just maybe, I would partake. That wouldn't be breaking my newfound resolve, would it? I didn't think about it much, it was just in the back of my mind. I didn't talk to anyone about it, least of all my sponser. It was just there. A way out. I was looking for a way out of sobriety. Sobriety seemed so BIG then. I was looking for relief. And that's what many of us are looking for...relief. Relief seeking missles.

I find my relief now in Steps 10, 11 & 12 on a daily basis.

I didn't smoke the pot. Thankfully, a Higher Power stepped in. My friend who brought the pot smoked it in secret because she didn't want to share that she smoked pot with another woman who had joined us. So I was by the fire with that woman and another, while the others snuck behind a tent to get high with no announcement. And the fact that I wasn't drinking came up in our campfire discussion and I shared my disease with them and they were very supportive. As I excused myself to use the restroom, I passed my other friends behind the tent. I didn't stop and my reservation was gone and when I got home I discussed it with my sponser who smiled knowingly. I had wanted relief from the bigness of staying sober...the rest of my life.

People seek relief through medications...or I should say..the misuse of medications. I could too. Percoset, Xanax, whatever....I could manufacture some pain very easily...and I have, when I was drinking. If they are, they are not in the same ballgame as I am. I seek my relief in Steps 10, 11 & 12. I was on antidepressants when I got sober and I am not opining on the use of antidepressants. I believe that there are people who legitamately need them, who are incapcitated without them. I wasn't one of them. I got on antidepressants when I was entering the incomprehensible demoralization of alcoholism. I didn't know it then. I heard recently someone talk about that invisible line that we cross from hard drinker into alcoholism. He said he was drunk when he crossed it. I think I was too. My life was simply unmanageable, I didn't know why, and when my primary care phycisian asked me how I was I burst into tears. She suggested antidepressants and I jumped. (Of course I was not honest with her about the amount I drank.) And they worked for a time..even naturally cut back on my drinking for a very short period of time. I thought they were the answers to all my problems. But alcoholic I am and my excessive drinking quickly resurfaced with a vengenance. When I stopped drinking, I was afraid to go off them. Afraid without them I would drink again...but amazingly...that didn't happen. I got my relief from Steps, 10, 11 & 12.

People seek relief through sex. I could too, and I'm not talking about with my husband...or yes, it could be even with my husband. If they are they are not in the same ballgame as I am. I seek my relief in Steps 10, 11 & 12. And on and on it could go, food, gambling, shopping, and more. These are no longer the things I rely on to provide relief. Is that always the case? Absolutely not. I am not a saint. And I forget. And then I find myself feeling frustrated, sad, angry, whatever. And if I take a rigorously honest look at myself, when those feelings arise, I can say I was NOT practicing Steps 10, 11 & 12.

That is why I can say I am grateful to be an alcoholic. Without suffering this disease, Steps 10, 11 & 12 never would have entered my life. My relief from day to day life, Life 101 if you will, would have come from all those outside sources and then some. Because I have this disease which I must treat on a daily basis, I have been given a design for living, through Steps 10, 11 & 12. Thank You.