Blog

The Elephant in my Living Room.

Denial runs to the shadows to protect itself.

 

Darkness protects us from seeing things we would rather not see.  It provides a hiding place for all of those painful emotions and glaring character defects that we refuse to ferret out by shining the light of truth and courage on what may at first appear to be just a tiny bump in the road.

The darkness is not an ebony hue in a box of crayons or a shadow cast by the slant of the sun.  It is something far more pervasive that plays hide and seek inside our emotional sobriety.  It might begin as a benign tumor (a tiny remark intended to discount us) one that our trusty broom of denial swiftly sweeps under the carpet one crumb at a time.  Or, maybe it is that first fist in the face that a vase full of roses, issuing an apology, erases from our common sense.

Our instincts are to protect our fantasies at all costs.  For many of us, who have stumbled down that twisted path of perfectionism, ignoring the truth is preferable to disclosure.   After all, what would people think?

Throughout much of my married life, I overlooked inexcusable behavior.  I tucked it away in a skewed definition of the word understanding; that misconstrued concept that allowed me to become a martyr and prolong the practice of self- deprecation.

Warning signs were everywhere, but I became quite adept at ignoring them.   I was quite defensive when trusted friends attempted to strip me of my illusions.   What I failed to understand, was that by failing to admit that there was an elephant in the middle of my living room, I had taken three innocent children hostage in a maze of madness.

Opening the shades and inviting the truth in didn’t happen overnight.  It was a slow process that was dependent on outside help.  But eventually the blanket was lifted, and that space once occupied by the elephant became a harbinger of full disclosure.

Denial is the blindfold we wear to our own execution.  Bring it out into the light of day.  It can only thrive in the seductive shadows of our own insecurities.

Pt 4 Interview Shaking the Family Tree

Eric:  What can addicts take away from the book?

Ans:   In addition to the aforementioned, perhaps a better understanding that  escape isn’t the answer.  That recovery requires courage, a desire to rejoin the human race, and the willingness to make the effort.  And, that the rewards of sobriety far outweigh those temporary highs that eventually turn on you and rob you of your family, your friends, and any values you may have had before entering the bleak world of addiction.

Eric:  Do you remember when you finally started to get in control of the alcoholism and how did that differ from the other times you tried?

Ans:  With the exception of one instance about three years prior to my putting it down for good, I wasn’t convinced I had a real problem, so I guess that struggle, that tug of war, didn’t apply to me.   That instance was just a little test I gave myself.  I decided to quit for a week, and it lasted all of three days.   When I quit for good, it was a combination of the educational aspect of the disease and the lifting of the denial that I experienced in my short, but intense rehab stint.  I guess I was finally willing to commit.  I think my Higher Power was doing for me, what I could not do for myself.

Eric:  In your opinion, what makes AA work to help people?

Ans:  It is definitely the fellowship.  The support of those who not only understand but who are truly rooting for you to succeed.  For me personally;  meetings, sponsorship, working the twelve steps on a daily basis, and reading my meditation books are the bricks and mortar that got me sober and continues to keep me sober today.

Eric:  Looking back at your past in your book, what do you think is the most important thing alcohol took from you?  

Ans:  The gift of choice, which in my case was tied to my inability to face life on life’s terms.  Every time that I was presented with an unpleasant situation that required making a decision, I took a drink, hoping and even expecting, that tomorrow everything would be different, no action required.  And of course, it wasn’t any different, nothing ever changed.  Alcohol was the loophole I used to escape taking responsibility for everything.  I drank to escape all of life’s uncertainties and remained in a cell of my own inertia.

Eric:  What’s the biggest difference between life with alcohol and life without it?

Ans:  I can sum that up in two examples:  When I was still drinking, I had this big black coffee mug that had my attitude about life inscribed in bold gold letters:  It said, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”  I coupled that with the philosophy that this is the hand you were dealt, now deal with it.  Today, if you would happen to be tail-gating me, take a look at the bumper sticker that reflects my life today.  Happy, Joyous and Free.

Eric:  What is your advice for someone who is struggling with addiction?

Ans:  I would tell them to reach out.  We only get to go through this thing called life once.  Don’t short-change yourself.  There are people you don’t even know yet waiting for you with open arms.

pt 3 Interview Shaking the Family Tree

Eric:  How hard was it reliving certain moments while writing this book?

Ans:  It was quite difficult.  I was revisiting a lot of pain.  Pain that is especially raw when faced sober.  Most of the time I keep all of that in the rear-view mirror; not to be forgotten but at a safe distance.

Eric:  One of my favorite parts of the book is the part where you talk about the collage.  What does the collage mean to you?

Ans:  Working on that collage was definitely a pivotal point in my recovery.  I had only been sober a few months and was enrolled in group therapy sessions for Adult Children of Alcoholics.  One of the assigned tasks was to create a collage of photos that expressed how we felt about ourselves and our lives.  Since I had been a flat-liner most of my life and had chosen to drown all of those scary, unwanted feelings with alcohol, I had a hard time wrapping my head around that assignment.  I gathered up all kinds of periodicals: National Geographic, Psychology Today and my art magazines, and began cutting and pasting.  The process was transformational.  I would work on it at intervals, and when it became too painful, and I could no longer see through the river of tears, I would set it aside for a few days, but never out of sight, and return to it when I felt strong enough to deal with what it revealed.  I discovered that I did have feelings after all.  And I began to understand why I stuffed them.  They were all negative.  The finished product was a huge poster-board full of fear, anger, and sadness.  The only sliver of hope was a small section dedicated to my grandchildren.  I still have it.  faded and tattered as it is I use it once in a while when telling my story.  And when I look at it today, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that it is a relic that belongs to yesterday.

Eric:  What can non-addicts take away from this book?

Ans:  Hopefully a little better understanding of the disease.  The knowledge that no one is immune.  That it can strike anyone, at any time regardless of social status, gender or age.  And that not everyone has to ride the elevator of addiction, which only goes down, to the bottom.  That some are lucky enough to get off on another floor.

 

What drove me to write Shaking the Family Tree. Part 1.

I will be posting excerpts from my interview with Eric Bergstrom, the DJ at Bay Cities radio in  Marinette/Menominee, Wisconsin.  It pretty much explains it all.

Eric:  Your new book Shaking the Family Tree is about your life.  How does it feel to lay your life out on paper for all to see?

Ans:  Because it is written anonymously, it was not a big concern.  Even though the intent was to protect the anonymity of those who are part of my story,  I’ve come to understand through recovery, that my story is not so different from that of many other alcoholics.  The element of shame and guilt that I experienced early on has dissipated over the years, thanks to the fellowship and support of a couple twelve-step programs.

Eric:  What does writing mean, and do for you?  Is it a therapeutic exercise?

Ans:  Writing, putting it out there in black and white where it can’t be denied, or you can’t take it back, can be both painful and therapeutic at the same time.  It filters and helps put in some kind of order,  a lot of the confusion about events, and the feelings that accompanied those events.

Eric:  What led you to the writing of this book?

Ans;  In the beginning, I was simply going to write a chapbook of poetry that focused on alcoholism because I felt I knew a little bit about it.  When I approached my author, Brittiany Koren, she posed a simple question.  She said, “Why don’t you give us some examples from your own life that will help us understand?”  And it ballooned from there. The memoir was not the original intent.

Eric:  What were you hoping to accomplish with the book?

Ans:  There are two very specific things:  First of all, I wanted to be able to leave my children and grandchildren something useful.  Something tangible and from my heart.  Once I was in touch with the direction that this endeavor was headed,  I wanted to impress upon them the knowledge that this predisposition for alcoholism is part of their legacy, and just where it could take them, once unleashed.  And I wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t come across as preachy or threatening.  I guess you might say I had a hidden agenda.  Secondly, and equally important. my hope is that by sharing my story, which really isn’t so unique, that those afflicted, their families and loved ones, will come to understand that no one has to go through this alone;  that there help out there, in a variety of forms.  And above all, that there is hope.

PART TWO TO FOLLOW SOON.

 

 

Shaking the Family Tree

Shaking the Family Tree is the title of my book that will serve as a backdrop for blogs, excerpts from the book, and guest postings by those affected by the disease of alcoholism.  Those victims include the alcoholic,  Adult Children of alcoholics, and family members and loved ones who suffer the shared consequences.

The book itself touches on other addictions as well, and is a double genre personal memoir/poetry offering that looks at the disease from a layman’s point of view.  It explores the genetic predisposition, as well as the skewed relationships of Dallas as she navigates the rocky road from addiction to recovery.  It is not a horror story,  but rather an honest look at the disease and its effects, minus any embellishments.  Shaking the Family Tree is a story of denial, hard learned lessons, and in the final analogy, a message of hope and recovery.

So I am extending an invitation to all of those who may be questioning their own use,  those who are currently recovering, and all of those family members and loved ones hoping to gain some kind of insight to the disease to stay tuned.

 

Alcoholic

 

I’ve trudged many miles to get to this; my vanishing point. I have not traveled alone. I drag behind me generations of my kind. We often travel in packs, keeping others at bay, hoarding our secret. The vast terrain that has claimed many of us is strewn with the souls of those who sought escape from poverty, abuse, low self-esteem, and life in general. We found a magic elixir. It became our family’s coat of arms.

 

seduction

hides inside a Goddess

venus flytrap

 

For a while, it erased our fears and insecurities. We gulped greedily from its promise as it seeped through the cracks in our armor. We dressed in layers of false courage, fluffed our feathers and strutted across life’s stage, immune to the snickers of a disgusted audience. We cast aside our problems and they became the property of those we loved. Then, without warning, It betrayed us.

 

heir declines offer

cannot afford to pay

inheritance tax

 

 

How does one measure loss? In increments of currency, in a log of failures penned in stained tears, or perhaps, on the pages of our calendars crammed full of wasted years? I used to think that once important things were declared lost, they were gone forever. But, I am living proof that sometimes those things we hold most dear can be retrieved in even better condition than they were when we so carelessly misplaced them.

 

 

 

 

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