Category Archives: addiction

Grief: Alcoholics are Not Nice. ACOAs Have their Moments Too


Little known facts:

Before I write publicly, I always take a few breaths and meditate on what I’m about to do.

Each post I write tends to have 20 small revisions before I click “publish” (which really is a misnomer, because I’m sharing, not exactly publishing, but that’s another post sentence paragraph altogether).

For the past year, I’ve not only meditated, but I’ve gone with my gut when I write, doing my best to cast any fear aside so I may best and most freely express myself.

For the past nine months, I have appealed to Archangel Gabriel, the angel of messaging and the one who visited Mary and told her about her pregnancy — to me Gabriel has it going on, and if I can get a smidge of that, I’m happy. What I’ve specifically asked for of Gabriel is three things: candor, humility and humor. Sometimes in differing order; I determined that Gabriel really knows the best way to parse out these things.

Last weekend, I hosted my family for what we call “Second Christmas” — it’s named as such because we don’t all see each other on Christmas. I host every other year. Thanksgiving is all my side of the family and Christmas is my husband’s.

Mom has been gone now about 16 months. Some “holidays” are easier than others; the last time we celebrated Second Christmas at my house, it was February 2013 and the experience was really emotionally profound for me personally. I recall going outside and looking at all the snow which had recently fallen and seeing our outdoor Christmas lights still on our bushes out front light up the snow from beneath it.

The street was silent. The snow, in its big fluffy flakes, was heavy yet soft and I could hear it land on all sorts of surfaces, other flakes, the leaves of the bushes, my jacket, my cheek … and I remember saying to myself that I was really so very happy. I took it all in, privately and alone outside looking in toward my home where everyone I cared for most deeply in all the world was existing, for just that moment, in what I inferred as a state of harmony and presence.

I remember coming back into the house, the contrasting heat and voices rushed over me. I came in from silent, dark yet white to chatty, bright and yellow. I said to everyone, “There could be no finer hour for me again because everyone I love most — in all the world — is safe and here right now.” I am sure one of my brothers made some snarky remark because I can tend toward the sentimental at times (it’s seldom but it happens), or maybe he didn’t, but the truth is that I was in such a state of bliss, it didn’t matter.

That was the last time I hosted and it was the last one Mom attended. She died seven months later of a massive cardiac arrest on her way to get a root beer float.

So this year, we were all together again at my house. I knew it was going to be hard for me; I was twitchy the week before and I knew it was just something I had to push through and I was really happy to do it. My immediate family is one of my most favorite things, but it was still a lot.

During one of our down times, we turned on the previous night’s Saturday Night Live. The musical guest was a former hip-hop artist named Sia and I’d never heard of her because I’m ancient and I listen to Pandora or yoga music. Her first performance was really … just so bizarre that I couldn’t turn myself away from wondering what the hell she was going to do for the encore. She did nothing bizarre, but she sang a song called “Chandelier” which simply took my breath away.

I Googled Sia. I wanted to know about her song, about her as an artist beyond what my family could tell me: she went completely underground for a while, but now she’s back. She obscures her face, in some form of ironic protest to the amount of publicity she gets, so now, instead of having a face everyone can see, she has created more interest in her face because you can’t see it now…I don’t know… People are weird.

Anyway, the song is about alcoholism and it’s an autobiographical anthem and when I say anthem, I mean Anthem: she belts out this song as though her life –and possibly others– depended on it. I could have been Sia; I could have been an alcoholic.

Maybe it’s the chords, or the song’s structure of minor keys and minor chords, but I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by it. It spoke to me about my own mother and the sadnesses she must’ve pushed away in order to perform as much as she could in a real world with real children who have real needs.

Sia isn’t asking for acceptance or your pity in this song. She’s just telling you how it is in the most primal and aggressive and self-sacrificing and beautiful way she can. I don’t know how she can speak after singing that song — not only is it emotionally draining, but her vocal range and thrust of the sounds that come out of her head are insane.

So it got me thinking, after reading about her, the song, her history and as much as I want to give my mother a break — even though she’s dead — for all the shit she put me through as a child and young woman and young adult and middle aged adult, there is a part of me that just … isn’t quite ready.

It’s not that I want to re-live all that hell, and I definitely don’t court it. Simply, part of me can’t move on entirely from it yet because I think I haven’t processed it fully; I haven’t fully accepted and decided that what all the books say about Adult Children of Alcoholics is correct: that we aren’t the cure, the cause, nor can we control it — “it” being the alcoholic’s alcoholism — and that thinking you have some control over someone else’s life choices is a bit of an ego rush, no matter how sick.

As much as I want to let it all go, there’s a hang nail: if I keep it — the pain of being an ACOA — in my chi, then I also keep Mom alive, and that’s really hard to deny, so I don’t bother. If that’s all I had with her, for the most part: her rages, her narcissism, her deflection, her projections, her denial, her lies, her manipulations, her rages and rages and rages — all those things coupled with my fear dressed as anger, then she isn’t really dead is she? And I get to still play a victim to it. (Lots of layers…)

The other thing is that I lived on “alert” about Mom for more than 40 years, so it’s going to take some time to wind down and let it all go and relax.

I have many wonderful people in my life who tell me to let it go, to move on, to forgive her, to let it go to let it go to let it go… and I have, for the most part, but it’s completely impossible, isn’t it: expecting me to release all the pain and fear and hurt and shame and guilt and rage is like expecting me to forget what the sun on my skin feels like. We love it when the sun rests on our skin for a few moments, don’t we? We do. And we recognize it immediately as a good thing, a familiar thing. It powers us, it feeds us vitamin D, it cleanses our senses for just a moment when we are zapped into that moment — from WHATEVER we had going on in our heads — to feel that eight-minute-old blast of heat, nourishment and “celestial love” from our giant blazing gas orb. The sun sustains us.

So it is the same with me and being my mother’s daughter. That relationship lasted almost 46 years. I’m no masochist and so I ask of anyone who knows an ACOA (who admits they are an ACOA) to cut us some slack when we get swept up by a song, a memory, a smell, a sound, a feeling or a silence. Just cut us some slack. This shit’s hard.

Growing up with an alcoholic parent is hard — like, the kind of hard some people can’t even imagine: We have to rely on someone like “Drunk Uncle” to take us to school or make our lunches or wake us for school or bathe us or take us to the doctor… But “Drunk Uncle” is a sloppy drunk; he’s funny and creepy but not super angry. Replace sloppy, funny, and creepy with pissed, snobby, paranoid, mean and morose and that’s what I had. Imagine that taking you to a friend’s house and meeting their parents. Imagine that opening the door or answering a phone call for you.

A part of my being an ACOA denies my mom her affliction because that is too hard to admit: that she chose a substance over caring for me. Plus, I protected my mother like a guard dog from a harsh society and its realities. It’s nuts.

How do we do it? Well, I do it with humor and candor and humility (“There but for the Grace of God go I”) which keeps me as stable as possible and well, slightly more off center than someone who grew up in a “regular” home. But I cheer myself also, because unlike someone who grew up in a regular home, I’ve overcome shit you don’t even understand and while that doesn’t make me better than anyone else, it does mean I’m not a damaged loser either — I’ve overcome it, with a semblance of love, kindness, humor, silent compassion and reality which can astound.

ACOAs are not into trivialities — we don’t have time to bullshit. We hug you because we mean it. We love you because we feel it. We repel you because we feel you’re toxic; we are like human barometers — we don’t have time to suffer your delusions, rationalizations, intellectualizations and obfuscation, excuses and blathering tedium because WE HAVE LIVED THROUGH IT already. So if we cut you out, it’s because we’re done; likewise, if we keep you around, it’s because we love you with a love that is powerful, humble, vulnerable and loyal. When we Do The Work of being an aware ACOA, we are probably one of the best things to have in your life. We’re like rescued pets…


My dad asked me yesterday after I ranted about what a wretch my mother could be, about her rages (which he knew nothing about because he and the rest of the world was at work or asleep), “You say you miss your mother…. why do you say that and then say things like this?”

I thought I’d explained it before, but he’s older now and it’s been a rough ride for him — almost 60 years with that woman will take its toll and he has his own health as an aging human — so I cut him slack and say, “Sure. I get it. I know it’s a conflict. The thing is: I always missed her, or what she was supposed to represent: a mother. I mean, I am still here; she didn’t completely jack it all up…” But I don’t miss HER at all. I really don’t. Not for a second.

The worst was some of her AA friends. Mom had all the books, attended all the meetings, even worked the phones for AA at midnight to help people who were suffering as she was, to support them and try to encourage them from taking that drink in the middle of the night. I remember the phone would ring at all hours, waking me up. But I supported it. Some of the people calling were really hammered though. I resented them; I knew she would likely fall to having a drink on the call. The lure was too strong.

And her meetings friends … they were really insufferable, saying all the sayings and using all their codes, nodding knowingly at me as I would walk by, snarling and hissing. They disregarded my pain, the suffering of our family. They said many times that I needed to cool my jets, be a better daughter because my mother was so fragile, that I would toss her over the brink. Many times I told them to go to hell. I see it now, it was a form of self-protection: a tribal “thing”: they were doing the same things to their families and kids, they had to protect her from assholes like me… There was only ONE person I respected in her lineage of sponsors: Ellianet. She was a tall, lean and sporty woman. She was still in Buffalo. She was tough and real and she would allow my anger. Not enable it, but “see” it and she understood it. She was a loving, consistent and firm hand to Mom. Mom thrived with her. I think she was sober for a couple years with her. Then we moved. Even if Ellianet lived here, there was no way she’d hang with some of the cheap-shoe, big-haired, Cadillac-driving poseurs my mother ensnared in her web. I honestly think Mom went to those meetings to recruit actors for her plays and Tennessee Williams readings in our moody, suburban, book-lined living room…

But there were good years for her. Mom worked the program for a bit, she made real changes and I was proud of her. Still bitter as hell, but proud. I knew better than to let my guard down as I became a full-blown teenager. She would help people, staying sober for a few months at a time, maybe even a year or two. She was lovely then. But the relapses… oh, they were crushing.


We talked about people on my Facebook page who have much fonder memories of my mother than I was ever blessed with (why they can’t imagine that a person like Judy Garland, Carol Channing or Liza Minelli would ever make a good parent is beyond me). They offer their plastic platitudes and essentially refuse to see the other side of the story — that having an angry Bette Davis for a mother is really, not cool. They would gloss over my pain and ignore the truth I’d love to skywrite on our cyan canopy. I say that says more about them, not her and certainly not me.

These people mean well, I know they do guess, but they have an appreciation of my mother that … simply didn’t exist in my world. That version of Mom was more of a visitor. Dad understood that; lots of people didn’t know my mom. She was a secret wrapped in an enigma disguised as a puzzle. I don’t think she knew herself.

Alcoholics are really difficult people. They booze up to cover their pain which they won’t tell you about because __________ and then they expect you to just rainbows and butterflies deal with it; that you’re the one with the problem if you have a problem with their problem. 

I told Dad, “They say things like “think of her fondly…” and “she was a wonderful woman …” and “she loved you so much… ” or “she was your mother, of course she loved you…” (so all those times she woke me in a rage at midnight 1) to find her things she was convinced I stole; 2) correct or defend a paper or diary entry I wrote; 3) or to clean up a mess I made hours before when she was out of commission was her way of showing love).

I rolled my eyes, laughing in contempt.

He understood it only partially. So I went further. Dad is one of the funniest people I know, and so I portrayed and parodied my response to those platitudes, “Oh! Yes, I can recall those wonderful moments … sure. Give me a second …” and I used my left forefinger to count on my right hand, finger by finger and opening my palm recounting the kindnesses, moments of fearless love, and security my mother selflessly extended to me and I mocked myself, pushed back pain, feigned enthusiasm and difficulty discerning the pleasantries and I counted to four. He laughed and we moved on.

Was it all for effect? Was I performing? Yes and no. Sometimes humor is all I can muster to deal with the reality.


Reflecting on that with my dad revealed to me that it was yet another moment for me in my life of now 47 years that I realized that I’m no walk in the park either. I joke with friends, “It’s so nice being perfect…”

I can be super reactive like a viper; I can say some really stupid things — completely without thinking — as a result. I have a sense of “humor” honed by years of pain and hurt and rage which can either lift you up or stun you. I try to apologize when I figure it out. I try to grow.

So I listen to this song by Sia again and again to flush it out of my system and then I get it, as I’ve gotten it so many times before in my life and this won’t be the last time (thanking God)… because

There but for the Grace of God go I…

I’m a lucky person. I am so aware of what this year means to me — when my mother was 47, she was uprooted from her hometown of her entire life and essentially forced to pitch tent in a new place… oh! Hers was an emotional tsunami that no one could’ve ever predicted.

If I ever thought my mother was “weak” (and I have plenty), her defiance of that life we all tried to make in 1981, has shown me otherwise. Mom was not weak, she was a force, but it broke her, that move.

So I will be on my toes for weird stuff this year.

I believe in genetic energies — that when she was 47, I was almost 14. I was her middle child. I am 47, my middle son is almost 14, and this year has lots of messages for me and my son and I plan to do my best to watch it all and stay present and stay humble and stay grateful for the fact that I’ve survived what I did.

I also need to give myself the latitude of knowing that I am NOT her and that if we end up (randomly and unexpectedly) moving this year and start a new life, that it will be OK because I am ME, not her.

I can embrace that whatever lesson my mother had to endure to teach me by example to keep my life together –despite all the pressure and feelings of entrapment and bullshit of life that she and we all endured– that she taught me well.

Mom taught me well. She used to say she was so grateful that I’d escaped alcoholism. She used to say she was proud of me for it, but those conversations only resulted in me being mad that she wouldn’t stop. And then we would fight.

I haven’t had a hangover in 17 years. I’ve never submitted to the “hair of the dog” to convalesce after drinking. Somehow I knew that having a drink because I was sick from having too many drinks was a reeeeeeally bad idea. She would tell me often of how I am genetically marked, that I exist in the crosshairs of a fatal condition.

Will I think only fondly of Mom from now on? No. And please don’t ask me to because I’m messed up too. She didn’t always speak of her mother with 24k golden love either.

For some people, when I write about Mom in this way, they chafe, the shift in their seats, they furrow their brows, they take breaths and sigh… They get mad. That’s on them… that’s their messaging from their own bodies that they need to pay attention to.

If what I say bugs you SO much, I posit to you: why? Why can’t YOU handle me writing about my alcoholic mother in such a fierce way? Is it because to you she was so much more than that? Ok… I’ll allow it. But as much as I allow it in you, I ask you to allow it in me that she (as any alcoholic is) was a fatal, atomic combination. She, in particular, was a talented, entitled, narcissistic artist; an actor; and a drunk. You try growing up in that and let me know how you turn out. Let me know if you fart rainbows.

In her egoic, human state she would want only gorgeous remembrances — that she was more than what I paint her to have been. She would want me to throw her a bone because she refused many times to permit my recollection of the horrors of my life as her child. She never apologized, she never owned her stuff nor allowed that she shaped me. She used to say, “You have anger issues, Maally…” and I’d be thinking in my head, “YA THINK?! I WONDER WHY…”

But as much as she couldn’t allow it in her human state, in her energetic, spiritual state I feel “she” gets it and “she” knows that it’s not so simple: Mother sets the tone — I know this more than anything — as she recalled of her own mother. My mother set the tone and I fell in line, like a duckling. Maybe in some crazy way, she didn’t want me to get too close to her because she was teaching, training and honing me in order for me to stop the cycle.

This is my lemonade.

So this past weekend was the last revolving holiday “tradition” Mom attended and for me, writing about it was cleansing. I feel as though I’ve been able to close the chapter now. Moving on.

Maybe it’s time to think about forgiveness.

Thank you.

This is How I Roll: Some Parents Need to Grow Up


Look, I’m not going to sugar coat this: I’m grossed out by people who think it’s funny to have kids and then bitch about them, or habitually talk about needing booze, or a line, or a joint or a valium or whatever to get through the day.

It’s all over the Internet. Apparently it’s what sells. “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”- Henry Mencken. I prefer to not engage with the “foolish consistencies [which] are the hobgoblins of little minds.” -Emerson. I guess I will never hit it big. That’s OK, drunk people can’t read very well.

What those people need is a few moments alone and several deep breaths. That’s all. Oh, and likely therapy, which they are probably avoiding.

Ask anyone who knows me or who has interacted with me, and they will tell you, I’ve got a sense of humor, I am resilient, I can roll with punches. But just not this one. Not about parents who get their drink/joint/whatever on to cope with their holes, fears, inadequacy issues, mommy issues, daddy issues, shitty childhoods or whatever that are being activated by triggers that parenthood presents. I’m not talking anxiety, we all have that. I’m talking deep, real, soul-wrenching stuff. Oh, and regarding those who habitually make jokes about it? Grow up.


So, here’s the deal: I grew up with crap like that happening to me. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “You drive me to drink” as a kid. It’s sick as hell. Those days, and my decisions to talk about them are prickly. It’s partly my story to tell, in terms of how it affected me, but I can tell you this: if you need a drink, or think it’s funny to crack wise about being a mom or a dad who needs *needs* NEEDS something to “get through your day” I have a proposal for you: get fixed.

No, not with a shrink, that’s later, but tie your tubes, clip the lines, get your act together before you victimize your kids with your so-called, “I was just kidding” banter and jokes and Facebook groups and blog titles, and all that stuff. Because what you do to your kids, in the end, when they’re like me: 45 and wondering where the hell you were all their life, it’s not gonna be so funny then. You will be “Granny needs a drink” then. And that’s even sicker.

This is real. Kids are not saints, they are micro versions of me and you, and they have memories, and they have feelings and they have access to the Internet. If you find yourself turned off by their behavior, I have a suggestion: look around and look in the mirror. They learn from us, peers, teachers, siblings, but mostly from us, their parents, who appear godlike in their eyes. They believe everything we say, they don’t understand sarcasm until they’re about 15, despite our insistence that they get it beforehand. We are their go-to resource, unless we are half in the bag, spending the night at the office, on a little yellow pill, or pulling a toke.

But I’m just joking. Right? Because we all are. We’re all just trying to loosen up, have a little fun, don’t be such a stiff, Mol…

This isn’t our second shot at being in the cool group in high school or being popular with the pretty people. If you (like just about everyone) have some weird torch you’re holding for the glory days of your youth and you’re pinning your hopes on your kid to Make It this time… Wake up and smell the music. It’s pathetic. Get your act together and behave.

Maybe if you’re lucky, when you’re old and decrepit they will just feel sorry for you. Maybe if when they’re in a state where you will need them, when they have to take care of you, they will do the right, honorable and human thing: respect you and help you age and eventually die well. Or maybe they’ll get drunk and make jokes about it. You know, because it’s all in good fun, right?, crapping on the concept of being there for people who need our help. Or maybe they won’t resent the hell out of you for putting yourself first all. the. time. Or maybe they will do their best, numbly go through the motions, but be unable to give back what wasn’t given to them.

As a parent, I’m all for cutting loose and having fun, but not as a brand, not as an identity, and certainly not as a thematic function for who I am. Life’s hard enough sober and single. Marriage adds a whole new dimension. And then kids?! Innocent people who are legitimately needy and completely dependent on us for everything until they aren’t anymore?! Holy cow… I can’t imagine life drunk and with kids. And I certainly can’t imagine it being clever or glib or witty to make jokes about needing a mind-numbing substance to get through the day.

I can’t stand that stuff, it makes my blood boil. I have moments, trust me, of when I wish I could run away, or of when I wish I could be more resilient, more aloof, but no… This is life. When you get it on and make a baby, it’s not only all about you anymore. It’s about doing your best, everyday showing up mentally and physically and doing two very simple things on paper, but hard as hell to practice at times: love them with all your might and protect them. Love and protect. That’s all.

Therapy is cheap compared to how our glibness affects our children.

I’m dealing with my own set of challenges: I’m the PB&J in my family sandwich. My parents are getting reeeeally old and my kids are almost all teenagers. I will need every ounce of presence and sanity to navigate these waters. I could do the easy thing, do what my parents did: get drunk and avoid my responsibilities, but that’s not who I am.

If I’ve pissed you off, it’s okay. We aren’t right for each other. Just being real.

Thank you.

Three Things Thursday 3 — Free Ways to Live Well(er)


I started this series, thinking it would be fun to share three things I love which help me enhance my Mind, Body and Spirit in less than 750 words. Last week’s offered Art, Apps and Apologies and it went over the limit due to captions (and my inability to censor myself).

I am meeting with the “aging consultant” for my parents today to discuss their situation, as requested by my father. I know that this meeting will only be tenable emotionally because it will happen on the heels of my yoga class. I will need every whisper of namaste during this meeting over hummous, pita points, and cucumber medallions dipped in tzatiki.

I taught sixth graders a bit of yoga this week; I love sharing the gift of yoga with people. Especially children, who have waaaaaay too many responsibilities these days placed upon their narrow shoulders. I showed them how the best gift we can give ourselves is the gift of slowing down. I doubt they’ll adhere to it now, but maybe when they’re my age they might remember.

All of this brings us to three free things:

Mind: Meditate

Slow down and meditate. I don’t mean sit in criss-cross applesauce and hum Ommmmmmm to yourself. I mean to be where you are (if you’re not driving) and just calm the heck down. Calm. Yourself. Down.

"Just Let Go. Be the Leaf." learning, and loving this app, "Drawing Carl" on my ipad.

“Just let go… be the leaf.” learning, and loving this app, “Drawing Carl” on my iPad.

Here’s how: Imagine a place you love, a beach, a forest, a mountain, a lakeside and close your eyes. See that place and as you inhale, count down from 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1… pause and exhale counting down from 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … pause. When you increase the exhale, you are releasing oxytocin and dopamine, and feeling good. Other than the nicotine addiction, this is one of the reasons smokers smoke… the inhale and the exhale; they savor it. If smokers could learn to do this without the cigarette, they’d be golden. Do this five times at first and stay in your favorite place. Just be. If a thought comes in, don’t judge it, let it drift away. Just let go. If you want to do more than five times, do! Wanna know when to stop? The MOMENT it becomes irritating to your spirit, body or mind. Take in one last breath and exhale normally. Try it again later.

Body: Nap

A nap. Sounds easier said than done. As a mother, I wear many hats. One of them is crazed insomniac. I don’t know if it’s hormones, but I’m not getting much sleep at night these days. Soon I’ll be popping the Geritol. That comment used to get laughs, now it just gets knowing sighs and nods. When you’re not driving, respond to your body giving you a tug to lay down and nap. This is different than the meditation. For in meditation, we need to be conscious. We aren’t working out crises or other stuff, as we do in REM dreaming. But take a nap. I took one last week, after the norovirus, and I slept for four hours. I was ready to take hostages before the nap: shaky, agitated, unfocused, bumping into things. Then I took the nap and I felt human. Homo Sapiens even. Just close the blinds, turn off the phone, and nap.

Nap. Windows, couch, you. You can do this. You're allowed.

Nap. Windows, couch, you. You can do this. You’re allowed.

Soul: Perspective, life off the grid

I gave up Facebook for Lent. It was the best choice ever. I don’t know what will happen after Lent, but it’s only been two days and I’ve caught up on laundry (holla!), I’ve become OK with myself and the fact that I’m normal, not perfect, not wealthy, not fantastically domestic and not thinking as much in terms of “status updates.” I wrote (excessively?) about the impending need to unplug, the lie I’d been living and coming to terms with my vulnerability two days ago, Tuesday in one post and then I gave my rationale and cited reasons and a chronology of my obsession in a second post in the same day. Apparently I had some demons to exorcise. I was never addicted (in the clinical, life interrupted, fashion) to it, but I was close. I miss my FB friends, but I’m loving the life I’ve returned to so very much. Try it. Even for a weekend. The blue and white in the sky is waaaay more better (more better… like that?) than the blue and white on your monitor.

Unplug to plug in to life.

Unplug to plug into life.

Hmm. A common theme: not driving and not online and loving yourself. Go for it.

Thank you.

familiarity doesn’t equal healthy


as we grow older and hopefully wiser, we become aware of ourselves. we sense our tendencies and personalities. our weaknesses and our strengths become actual weaknesses and strengths, not just these “things” we’d heard of when filling out personality profiles or talking about in job interviews.

the things we don’t like (and are aware of) we hope to not repeat. the things that we do like (and are aware of) we hope to repeat. it’s simple. what’s not so simple is recognizing what is and what isn’t good. often what comes in familiar clothing is not good for us. it’s the sneaky stuff, the old habits that come in different boxes or wrappings that fool us into repeating behaviors. it’s that simple adage that i repeat to myself: “just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s good for you” which breaks the trance. not recognizing the familiarity of a toxic element, a behavior pattern, a weakness, is where it begins for me: that slow-seeming descent into an emotional tempest set at mach IV that feels like a hangover from a frat party when the haze clears. these hangovers can last for days. for me, it’s what i do to myself that can be so much more profound and debilitating than any outside drug or element. 

i learned about my familiar weakness shrouded in a familiar strength one morning about seven years ago after i awoke from a near-paralyzing dream that changed the course of my life. the content of the dream is on the docket to be detailed in the next Great American Novel that i aspire to write, but that doesn’t matter here. the dream set in motion a journey into surgical self-awareness and psychotherapy that saved me, very likely my marriage and my children from living with Joan Crawford. 

it was in those first sessions where my therapist revealed to me that i was on a mission to destroy myself one thread at a time, due to a habit; a way of living that was so entrenched in my being, so very much a part of my daily operations that i had no awareness of its insidious nature. 

everyone has their predilections, their habits and the things that exploit their weaknesses and destroy their strengths. i used to be like the tasmanian devil. i was aware of this. i used to cry-laugh about how i would come into a situation and leave everything upside down and tables strewn about the room with papers flying everywhere. inside, i desperately wanted to be like a daisy in time-lapse photography. i wanted to be slower, to reveal myself slower, to engage instead of bulldoze, to listen instead of always insist i was right, to speak instead of shout, to Adagio instead of march. 

being Taz came from a primitive place: i wanted so desperately to be seen, heard, appreciated and understood as a child that as i “grew up,” i never noticed others noticing me. i had to turn it up to eleven. always. i realize now, that when i enter a room and no one looks up, it’s working; i’m beating my addiction.    

i come from a lineage of people with very strong habits. we are mostly irish. my great grandpeople were sledgehammer slamming, hard-driving brogue-slingers who helped build the New York railway. i dig that. my genetic family’s stores of physical energy and mental prowess are a thing of beauty in theory. in practical life however it means we have enough energy to think and over think and think some more and stir up stuff, most of it irrational, because of our thinking and remembering. sometimes that thinking is good, sometimes it’s not good.

i don’t believe the eldest of my line were heavy drinkers. their work ethic was insane and coming to America during the industrial age only inspired them for further ambition. the drinking might have occurred with the later litters as perhaps being born in America softened the genetic drive and allowed for more idle time which of course gave us more time to y’know: think.       

in keeping with my irish tradition of having too much of a good thing, i learned through my psychotherapy after that dream that i have an addiction. of course i thought that was total bullshit. i saw brilliant members of my family succumb to alcoholism, gambling, smoking, drugs and over-thinking. because my days of collegial over-drinking were behind me, drugs didn’t hold much appeal for me nor did cigarettes and gambling required my giving away money on a hunch (my friends and family know never to bet against me because when i’m willing to put money down on anything it’s because i KNOW i am correct) so my diagnosis of having an addiction was complete crap because i was on a mission to be sober, fit, hard-working, active and engaging. y’know: eleven.

my so-called (whatever) addiction (right) could be only one thing, that i was a “thinker.” the problem with only my brand of thinking is that eventually, the blood supply to feeling atrophies and it creates a whole other level of thinking, where the tasmanian devil reacts and reigns. the bloodline to feeling (self-awareness, emotions and physical awareness) needed to be open for me to heal. 

my drug of choice is a by-product of the thinking (i’ll tell ya in a minute). it’s free. it’s available anywhere at all hours. you don’t need to be a certain age to get some and you don’t gain weight from it or lose brain cells from abusing it. you don’t need a prescription. if you don’t see any around, you just make it yourself. it’s real easy: just lose your shit over the tiniest things. in fact, if you grew up with it, like i did, it’s even easier to re-create it because you have some of its dust in your pocket or in some of the things you took from your parent’s house to your house without awareness. objects have their own energy and they carry your memories and relationships with them, so if you have something around that came from a sad time, get rid of it or attach happy memories to it. i know this sounds crazy, but it’s true.

my object of desire is Chaos. my therapist told me at the end of my first. session. ever. that i have a Chaos addiction. i have it right here in my notebook titled “Be The Daisy”: “3.16.05: little surprise that i thrive in Chaos. love drama; need to step out of it. see how i create drama. 90% of actions are subconscious formed by patterns we endured / experienced as kids — trick: to become AWARE and learn to avoid it.” 

apparently since i moved out of my parent’s place, i’ve had a bottle of Chaos on a shelf in every room of my house, including closets, bathrooms, the kitchen, workout areas and the shed. i have one in my car and i have a tiny one hanging from my key chain. i think there’s an app for it on my cell phone (facebook). there’s a little bottle in my purse. and i have a travel flask of Chaos for when i fly. it’s FAA-approved.

most of the bottles are coated with a tell-tale layer of dust. the dust is a reminder to let the bottle, no matter where it is, gather more dust because that dust means i haven’t picked it up, looked at it and wrenched off its cap or bitten off its cork to sip from it. i used to drink a case of Chaos a day for years before i started therapy. these bottles of Chaos are The One Thing in My World the cleaning ladies aren’t allowed to make perfect. like a bottle of 100-yr-old scotch, you want dust on these bottles.

i just passed a bottle of Chaos on the way to get my therapy notebook. the bottle was sitting next to a crumb-covered dish my son left beside the computer keyboard. instantly i became irritated by the dish, felt my muscles prepare for battle, took in a deep breath to unleash my dragon and proclaim the broken rule (food near computer — which wasn’t really the problem, it was deeper than that: it was my feeling of insult from being unseen and disregarded) and demand correction. but i stopped myself, laughing inside at the irony of my near-collision with Chaos while in the process of writing about my addiction to it. i decided to let it go. i picked up the dish, nudged my son on the shoulder, gave the raised eyebrow, gestured the dish and he took it from me for prompt delivery to the kitchen. 

Chaos averted.

i’m not kidding: this shit’s insidious. if it weren’t for my awareness of my ability to lose my temper over little-seeming things (aka scars from my past), i’d never know about the Addiction to Chaos. it’s because i grew up with it, was surrounded by it and trained by some of the world’s finest Chaos fomenters that i became one myself. 

the opportunities for Chaos and (depending on the circumstances) its wingman, Ensuing Shame or Guilt or Personal Offense (which create their own Chaos in a family system) are everywhere: 

  • be late for an appointment; 
  • delay cooking dinner; 
  • don’t walk the dog; 
  • put on a couple pounds; 
  • sign up for too much / don’t say no / don’t delegate; 
  • ignore the kids; 
  • be offended when others are late; 
  • have secret expectations; 
  • distract yourself beyond ability to do anything predictable; 
  • expect your friends to treat you the way you treat them; 
  • fall behind on a project that no one knows about; 
  • unleash venom disproportionate to the offense; 
  • hold yourself up to unrealistic standards; 
  • never allow personal mistakes; 
  • give more in a relationship than you get; 
  • have secret needs and expect people to understand your rage; 
  • repeate old patterns of behavior with toxic people and expect them to change simply because you have. . . 

omigawd, it goes on and on. 

once the Chaos was outed, The Work began: i had to see patterns where it manifested and more importantly, where i created it if it were missing: 

Ooh, i like that chair where it is, and the table works just fine. the way the light hits the color on the walls in wonderful. what i think the room needs to feel more like home to me is my rage and Chaos: why didn’t anyone ask me to help?!? you’re all jerks.   

my relationship with Chaos had become so much a part of my fabric of being that if i didn’t sense it, i would make it. imagine: a quiet library. it’s peaceful, calm and the energy is silent industry. that made me insane; everyone was so content … NOTICE ME! i loved the idea of reading. . .  but the chairs were uncomfortable. the lighting was wrong. why won’t that kid shut up? why is that person looking at me? eww. this book smells like filth. what’s that stain from? gross, there’s a hair in this book. these people can’t do anything right so i’m leaving. NOW. in my 2-ton SUV in a self-righteous rage over the hair in a book and i’m going to scour the county to buy my own copy of the book instead of borrow it for no cost and then get pissed at myself later for spending the money when i know finances are tight; but then i’ll blame that on my husband for not keeping me more on my toes…

see? i’m a pro.

or this old one: everyone is sitting on the couch watching a movie. it’s a nice moment. but i’m begging for a phone call from my toxic friend who needed me to tell her how screwed up she was and how often she repeated her patterns so we can have a fight and i can preach and vaunt all my anger at her. i recognize right now at this instant as i type that somewhere in me, i subconsciously wanted out of the Chaos, not the relationships. i knew the relationships were sickening for me because i would freak in order to create divide. i miss the people. but people are their habits and when people don’t change, you’re stuck until you’re not anymore. 

i have another note: “I need to abandon before things become “pattern-istic” and they repeat and I get sucked in and I explode. Are the explosions what do me in? No. They are what feeds me and this food is toxic.” imagine getting energy from an explosion… that’s some bad shit.  talk about Schadenfreude

so you see, Chaos also showed up as a repeating pattern in my relationships with Certain Types of Women based on my nearly constant tempestuous relationship with my own mother: i was constantly giving more than getting which of course allowed me to get pissed. i would actually seek out women whose energy was similar to my mother’s: deeply smart, invisible, unavailable, distracted (unaware) and angry women. i became friendly with women who were not healthy emotionally and in more than one, our relationships became competitions where i had to get out because i was acutely aware of my addiction: Everything About Them Allowed Me To Ignore Myself. if i stayed with them in their states of distraction and huge self-unawareness i was dead; i wouldn’t work on me and i would allow the rage at them (me) to foment. but i had only an on/off switch; no dimmer. i didn’t want to be dead. The Work was showing me there was so much more to life, so i created drama that let us hate each other and end it.   

AA has its mottoes: 

  • One Day at a Time
  • Live and Let Live
  • Let Go and Let God
  • Easy Does It 

my own subgroup, CA, has sentiments very similar to those that are required for awareness of my addiction. my mottoes are:  

  • Continue To Do What You Always Do and You Will Absolutely Always Get What You Have Always Gotten
  • You Get What You Give
  • You Do, And It Is Done
  • Change And You Will Change; and two personal favorites of mine based on the brilliance of two men my parents knew: 
  • “You’re Not Mad at What You’re Mad At” -Father John J. O’Connor; and 
  • “You Don’t Have to Get Out of The Trouble You Don’t Get Into.”  -Howard Clother (my dad’s boss) 

the recipe for success requires daily, no: hourly, no: constant awareness which will eventually lead to new neural pathways in your mind (that’s another blog post altogether) of feeling your body assess, notice and react to something. if it’s quiet: ENJOY it. really enjoy it. just one small opening of self-awareness coupled with turning left instead of right; or calling later away instead of right away; or saying yes instead of no… leaving 10 minutes early instead of later… repeat. these small things can create a whole new way of living.

“there is nothing like the relief of changing your course on something because you’ve admitted you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. you can always change course: delay, think on it, let it settle and come to you when it’s ready. forcing anything never works: you end up exhausted and what you’ve forced is distorted.”

that was a status on my facebook GrassOil page a couple weeks ago. i wrote it because i was stuck on something that just wasn’t happening. it wouldn’t materialize in the way i intended. so, true to form: i thought about it in other ways. i massaged it into another shape altogether. i took a deep breath, told my quads and shoulders to gear up, took a running start and slammed myself into it. i was trying to convince myself to do it anyway simply because i said i would. it simply wouldn’t be. i became frustrated and angry and almost took down the bottle for a sip. i stared at it; i heard it mocking me. calling me… “wouldn’t a little sip fix everything? just one. then you can forget about what you’re trying to do and create a whole new problem somewhere else to fix or obsess over… c’mon…”
i still haven’t done it. i’m ok with it because the dust is still on the bottle. if i did it, if i’d made myself do it or something else just as pointless, the bottle would be clean as a whistle and the cork would be missing.
the simplest of adages is this regarding my Chaos Addiction: “change begins with me.”
thank you.