Tag Archives: alcoholism

One Year Anniversary

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Today has been a hard day.  Although not as hard as it was one year ago this evening,  when my mom took her last breath.  I was blessed with my mom for over 56 years of my life.  While not every moment was hugs and kisses, that long span defined our relationship, mother and daughter, and friends.

For the first time this morning, I sat and read all the comments friends had left on my facebook page one year ago today, about 600 of them.   I knew I didn’t have the strength prior.  Crocodile tears were in abundance.   With some, telling the honest to goodness truth about this “passage of life”, “Donna, you will never get over this, you will  think of her everyday and you will miss her everyday, but I am here to help you”…  They are right.  Never in my life will I stop missing her, and everyday of my life, just like I have with both my sisters, and Jim’s death, I will think of her, and I am very grateful for that.

My mother was quite a character.    People, friends would tell me how strong I was, and then they’d meet my mom and smile “Omg, I can see why, now!”   I am smiling.   My mother’s strength and love had carried me through a lot in my life, and throughout HER life.  You never know what a person is going through, unless they tell you.  My mother kept a lot to herself, as do I.   She never liked that I blogged, because she felt I put too much out for people to read or see.   But writing, sharing for me, is how I get through. “Mom I wouldn’t blog about my sex life, even if I had one!”   She would roll her eyes and shrug her shoulders, head out the door to the gardens that she so lovingly cared for for decades.      How grateful I am, today, that I had my mom as long as I did.

“A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye, and gives it a wink.”   – Gina Carey

My relationship with my mother was strong, complicated, ever changing.   We argued, we made up, we argued some more, we laughed.  We were always “doing something”, because my mom could not sit long.   Unless she wasn’t feeling good, and then you’d find her cozied up with glasses on, nose in a book.   She helped me with my studios past and present, renovating my home, and it didn’t matter the dozen or less times we weren’t speaking, if I needed her, all I had to do was call.   She was amazingly resourceful, I have never known anyone (but my father) who had the talent to fix, repair, replace ANYTHING!  Except of course, addiction and alcoholism.

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”  – Honore de Balzac   

Like many of us, moments from my childhood reared pain in maturity, but I had long since forgiven my mother for the manner in which she treated me, because maturity showed me my own imperfections, and I not only loved my mom, I liked her.   I wanted her in my life.   So in my late 20’s after years of “therapy”, I forgave, and freed myself of the disappointment, harm that I believe only happened because of the hell she had lived through.   I still struggle daily with self defeating behavior, but it’s all mine.  I am the only one who can change that, and someday’s I succeed, other days,  not so much.

My relationship with my mom in my 40’s and 50’s were the best.  Both single, we looked out for each other in a world that wasn’t always easy to exist in.  A therapist once described my relationship with my mom as “spousal”.  I laughed.   Um, no, CLEARLY she was always the mother!   And I smile.   We spent a lot of time together, enough that I know I will for the rest of my life have memories of her, us.   I could go on and on pages long, of the countless things my mother did that helped me, but I’d rather save them for the days ahead when I need to remember them.     In my 40’s and 50’s she was my greatest support, particularly when she gave back the care giving I did for her through her cancers, and she, through my own.

A friend said to me after she passed “Donna, I knew your mother had been through some shit in life, I knew it just by her stance alone “Don’t mess with me!”   I laughed and nodded.   Like mother, like daughter there.    Our lives ran parallel in many ways, both affected by another’s alcoholism, both betrayed in marriage, both creative souls, financial duress, heartache and disappointment.   There were times we laughed so hard I had to go take a shower, because the tears ran down my legs.   One way we did differ was when I would do something REALLY stupid (and that happens a lot) the first thing I would do is call my mom and tell her.  She would say “And don’t go sharing this with everyone either!”.    But of course, I did.   As soon as I hung up the phone I called one of my girlfriends and share my stupidity, because I learned long ago how to laugh at myself, and my many true friends love to laugh as much as I did.  Laughter is healing, and my favorite emotion is laughter through tears.    I had a lot of these with my mom.

There were horrific times in my life, one being when I found out Jim (love) died.  I drove from Watertown, NY, stopped for a 2 hour visit to see his parents outside Albany, and my mom begged me to get a room for the night, I lied to her and said I would.   A few hours later when I arrived home (was bad driving conditions) she was up, waiting for me.  “I knew you wouldn’t do as I asked!”   We sat up that night and talked for hours, and hours, and hours.   We both cried that night.   I was sharing the agony of knowing he had self destructed, Jim was a good person, we had a nice life together, but his alcoholism was a deal breaker.   That night, as I shared about my conversation with his parents, I knew then, my mothers tears weren’t just for me or Jim.   I believe she grieved for her brother, and his children,  to whom they lost to alcohol, too.   It was an area of her life that she rarely spoke of.   It was then the first time I realized, all the times that she watched me walk through the talons of alcoholism, she didn’t offer any advice, only offer to help where she could, and of course, prayers, except the last event when I told her “I need to tell him to leave.”   She then encouraged me to remove myself from the now alcohol ridden relationship,  and did all she could and more, to help me through this difficult time.  How many times did my words or my actions hurt or recall pain from her own life?   But my mom just silently dealt with it on her own.  We spoke usually daily, and it was a rarity when she wasn’t at my house at least once during the week.   She co-owned all 5 of my animals, as she took great care of them (and my home, when I travel taught).

Over a span of 17 years, there were numerous trips, later on to Boston for her surgeries, and trips to chemo, and doctors.  It was very hard to be my moms primary care giver.  Our last trip to Boston was straight out of hell, and I told her on the way home after complete emotional breakdown pulled over on the side of a road at 1am in Boston, “I can’t continue doing this mom”.   For a while I felt guilty about it, because I knew, when I could no longer do the long trips to Boston with her, that the disease would take over, and that is exactly what happened.  That’s a very hard reality for me at times, but I know, I was a good daughter to her, and I did everything I could and then some.   My own health issues needed tending to.   But through it all, today I am nothing but grateful that I was there for her, and I did all that I did for her.   I will carry this with me throughout my life’s time.

I recall being admitted to MGH (Mass General Hospital) for cellulitis.  This happened after an exchange surgery (reconstruction for breast cancer).  I had left the house that morning telling her not to worry, they were going to give me a shot in the ass and send me home with a bottle of bigger pills!    I called her, crying, could barely catch my breath “I’m being admitted”.   You are what?    “I’m being admitted”.    “Omg, okay, are you okay?”   “No, mom, I’m scared”.    “It will be alright, Donna, we will get our prayer warriors right on this”.   Also recalling seeing my doctors face color and expression change as he lanced open my right breast right then and there.  “Am I going to be alright?”    “I don’t know, Donna, but we are going to do our best and you will be in patient for awhile”.    “Mom, I am going to be on Bigelow 9” (Ever seen MGH, HUGE! I was on the 9th floor of Bigelow building).   “Gigolo what, Donna?”  BIGELOW MOM, BIGELOW!

It’s been a challenging year.  When she died the next day, the world felt different.  I no longer felt brave or safe.  How could I?  My greatest protector was no longer here?   A friend asked me if it (grief) was harder than I thought it would be.  “Yes, yes it is”.  Having the sad experience of losing my oldest and youngest sisters to cancer, and Jim to alcoholism, I knew it would be hard.  I just didn’t know exactly how hard it would be.

A few years ago my Uncle, her youngest and only living brother of 3 passed.  We needed to clean out his apartment, and notify next of kin.  We had four cousins we only saw when very small.   We needed to send them paperwork, so I found one cousin on facebook, I will never forget the day we, she learned, that her nephew, Brady had died of cancer.   Her face turned white.   She took a deep breath and sat down at the table in my studio.  Clearly distraught.   We have a couple gene mutations in our family, and are a gene pool you wouldn’t want to swim in.   I knew what was going through her mind was hard for her, like maybe SHE DID give us the mutations.  She uttered some words softly, one being her brother’s name, and her nieces name, and then headed out to the gardens that brought kept her busy and brought her peace.  I will never know what she was thinking, but I knew it was quite painful for her.   This was a really hard night for both of us.   Nor I or my siblings ever asked either parent to be tested, and we certainly didn’t look to them with blame.   They too, were victims.  But I sometimes would find my mom quiet in reflection, and I know she struggled with the idea that she may have passed down her cancers to us.

I know she is with me.   She will always be with me.   I talk to her daily, and while I have received “signs” confirming so.  Today’s sent me to tears yet again.  I am trying to finish the last project we collaborated on, a victorian desk, and somewhere between A – Z, I had lost the front plate for the keyhole.   I looked in my pocketbook 3 times.  Nothing.  I called my girlfriend, it wasn’t in her car.  I was ready to head back out to Home Depot where we had gone and I realized I hadn’t grabbed my phone.   I prayed to St Anthony, and asked my mom to please, please let me find this plate.   Two seconds later I slid my hand into my pocketbook to get my house keys (which were my moms set), and out with them in my hand was the keyhole plate.  For me, that was a sign that she is with me.   I find comfort in that.

“Her damaged petals are what made her more beautiful than all the other flowers”-  a.j. lawless

I was not easy to parent, so I’ve been told.  And she wasn’t an easy mother to parent in later years.  She was stubborn, impatient, hmmmm sounds familiar?

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it”.  – Mark Twain

 

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In my youth

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I’m painting (on canvas) for the first time in months, listening to a playlist on Spotify that depicts my life and times in words, songs.   “Rocky Mountain High” just played, which was, I believe, our 8th grade graduation song.   John Denver got me through MUCH in my youth.   The, what seemed insurmountable problems of youth, which seemed so very difficult, something like a blemish on my face, or my favorite Levi’s not clean for a date, etc.   I think about it sometimes, as I drive by the local high school and see these YOUNG KIDS and I question, “Was I really ever that young?”    And then, putting into proportion the immense deep feelings I had for a kid that I had hoped would last into adulthood.  I’m laughing now.  IF ONLY relationships were that easy!  ha!    But it’s nice to think about being so young, so innocent.  And certainly the woes of that time were real, and feelings are so deep because you’ve yet to experience life, to experience loss, to experience the pain of broken hearts or dreams.    I’m not meaning to sound cynical, not at all.   I guess I’m just saying, the innocence and naivety are covered with blankets of protection of our youth.

I’ve often written about music.  How important it is to my well being, to my mental health.  I simply don’t know how I could ever live without it.    In thinking about life’s necessities, and if I were given only one luxury, would I choose music over art?    I think I probably would!  And yet art is so important to me, ingrained in every aspect of my being.   I’m so fortunate that I have known passion for such.   I’m grateful for that.  I’m grateful for where my paint brush has taken me in life, and all the good it has brought me to.

Now, a song by Toni Child’s “I’ve got to go now”.   A song about a woman in love with an alcoholic, who tosses her and his children aside for the almighty bottle.   This song actually relates to the three major relationships I’ve had in my life.  All alcoholics.  The first, who physically beat me, the second who emotionally did, and the last, the one who gave me so much, and likewise, took so much of me when we parted.     “Must be addicted to all this pain, because I keep coming back for the shame.  Dear God give me the strength to leave, I’ve got to keep going, keep going this time”.   Powerful song, and an epitaph of my past relationships.    Listening to this song does not always make me sad.  Shat it does is get me in touch with the courage I have mustered in my life.  The starting over, the strength and fortitude that comes when you say goodbye to the one you love, because you know, if you stay, you will die before he.

Now, “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks.  I LOVE this song.  It’s been, what I call, my “recovery” song.  Questioning, seeing, surviving.  “Oh, mirror in the sky.  What is love?  Can the child within my heart rise above?  Can I sail through the changing ocean tide?  Can I handle the seasons of my life?”   I go to this song when I am questioning,  seeking strength, seeking guidance.  Doubt becomes certainty, becomes strength, endurance, and then even on top of that becomes the silver lining of it all.  “But time makes you bolder, and children get older, and I’m getting older too…”   Life, learning, lessons.   I’ve become the person I wanted to be, when it comes to morals, standards, strength.  And how did I do that?   Only after the landslide took me down.

Life these days is pretty straight forward.   I am working hard on myself, and my home.  I am focused, aligned, very content with my life.  Change is coming, I’m not afraid of it, nor am I afraid of how it will change me.    I’ve got a track record now.   All the difficulties have thickened my skin, but not my heart.  My heart is strong, my thoughts are clear, and damn, I just had pistachio ice cream!

Music?  A necessity for me.  I have an italian friend who says she couldn’t live without olive oil.  Me?  I couldn’t live without music.   What’s your necessity?

And now I’ll close as “Rhythm of my Heart” Rod Stewart, is playing.”The rhythm of my heart is beating like a drum, , with the words I love you rolling off my tongue, Never will I roam, for I know my place is home, where the ocean meets the sky I’ll be sailing!”  Have a great weekend!  Chase your desires, your dreams, or hell, just get yourself an ice cream, and sit and listen to your favorite tunes.    Love to you…

 

Is there alcohol in heaven?

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Today has been a hard day.  No particular anniversary, minimal physical pain with the exception of that place that resides in my chest and harbors my heart.

My sleep schedule has been largely disrupted, but that’s okay, I am getting A LOT of work done.   What happens, however, is a crash and burn.    But it’s the best sleep next to anesthesia!  I am one who loves being knocked out.  LOVE it!   When my time comes to die, I hope to be wide awake, waiting for that light.

As I slept hard, and what feels comatose, my dreams consisted of people and places in my past.  People who have passed.   Normally I wake up, can shake off the initial pain (remembering… realizing…  reality) and be grateful that I saw their face, eyes, smile, heard their voice once more.  But not today.  Today I am lingering in a world that no longer exists.  My head knows this, my heart doesn’t want to hear it.

A friend, consoling me said “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been”.    I thanked her for that.   No, it doesn’t.    Last night’s dream still has me walking on shaky ground, many hours later.  I know I can’t go back, if I could, I would’ve by now.  Someone I need to walk through this day, embrace what is, be grateful for what WAS and is, and let it go.   But that’s much easier said than done, at least today it is.

I wonder, is there alcohol in heaven?    Hiss at me for suggesting such.  But when you’ve loved and lost someone who is or was an addict, there is some peace in knowing, their fight, their plight with their demons has passed.

We drove past a church where a service was being held for a young man who died of an overdose.    My heart hurt for his family and friends.   “His mother said there is some peace in knowing, it’s behind him”.  I nodded, thinking about what I said above.   Yeah, I said to myself, and I pray that it will carry her through the hard days ahead.

To grieve, to mourn is not anti God.  It is not a horrible thing to do, and while it is hard, for me, apparently today, it is necessary.   For those who have on occasion suggested differently or in a bit of kinder, less harshful words than “Move on”, I bid you, how the hell does one do that?

Last night I visited the past.   A past that ended tragically, but one that was also filled with immense love, memories, and some of the best times of my life.   Today I’m trying to get back to acceptance, beyond the pain of loss that revisits on occasion.   I know I will find my way, but right now?   Right now my heart hurts.  I am longing for acceptance, and soon.  I know why I’m feeling this way, I know that I have to face one of my own demons…. fear.  Fear of being hurt again.     But will I?

Missy Higgins “Scar”

Phillip Seymour Hoffman “cause of death”

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I just realized that the “official cause of death” for Phillip Seymour Hoffman has been revealed.  Yep, the barrage of ignorant jokes and comments are in full force.

My thoughts are with his family, his friends who now have been notified of the expected and not surprising “official cause of death” are not only reminded again, still raw to his death, but are now further pained with the senseless sad loss of their loved one.     Why?  How come?  What if?    His death is sad.  His death is tragic as are the too many others who have died of addiction, alcoholism.   Joke, laugh if you must, just don’t come near me.   It is sad, very sad as well as the too many deaths of other addicts.

Anger resurfaces for me.   Painful memories of loved ones plight and demise through addiction, with my own mental illnesses and societies both ignorant and uneducated understanding of what addiction is.     

Feeling the need to repost my first post on this subject, well regarding Phillip Seymour Hoffman.   Another tragedy… not just another person who overdosed.  How ignorant the comments that “he deserved what he got”.    The words “F OFF” come to the forefront of my mind.    Just wait until YOU experience such a tragedy, and you will.  You know why?  It’s a frigan epidemic.    Wake up people, educate yourselves and loved ones, PLEASE!

https://donnascullyblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/ignorance-addiction-mental-illness-phillip-seymour-hoffman/

Ignorance…. Addiction & Mental Illness – Phillip Seymour Hoffman

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In light of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s official “cause of death” being released I am once again annoyed and aggravated with the barrage of ignorant comments being said.  I thought I’d share this again.  Take what you like and leave the rest. 

The focus in the passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has quickly turned to his addiction, blaming him for his demise, after all, wasn’t it he who injected the needle, the heroin into his arm?   Addiction.  If you are not educated on addiction, or have not been affected or afflicted by its powerful existence, of course you could say such a thing.   For someone who has, his passing is nothing more than another sad statistic.

It irritates me how the press, people will totally extinguish a person’s accomplishments, goodness, contributions when death is a result of addiction, of alcoholism or any other mental illness for that matter.   It is as if the only part of his/her life that becomes news is the demons that bound them.   A person’s life is not cancelled out for those of their families, their friends.   If you have ever had to make difficult painstaking decisions around a loved one who is grappling addiction; If you have ever been forced to see someone you love ‘self destruct’; If you have ever been sadly privy on both the internal and external battle that their lives and the lives of those who loved them entailed; If you have ever had to bury someone who died as a result of their addiction or mental illness you would understand, it isn’t that cut and dry.

It’s a travesty how prevalent addiction is in our society today.   It is a travesty that there is so much ignorance and stigma attached to mental illness.   It seems the more years that pass the younger the onset of use.     We are living in a time where prescribed medications have increased the population of and caused an enormous amount of us to become addicted “to”.  While progress is being made with access to such drugs, it is still clearly a problem, an epidemic, with immense potentially grave endings.

Ask Mr. Hoffman’s mother what it was like to parent an addict.   Was that all he was?   She will surely cry in anguish, in disappointment, of the harsh reality that her son has perished of addiction.   She will instantly remember the kindness, intelligence, and his accomplishments.  She will remember holding her baby in her arms, the hopes and dreams she had for him.  The first tooth he lost, the first homerun hit…on and on.  His death does not void out his existence.  If nothing else, it is her memories, both good and bad, of her beloved son that marks his death all the more purposeless, senseless, vain.

With the progression of the disease (commonly denied) and lack of education regarding such, it is easy to blame the addict.    We picture them on a bar stool, a street corner, in a back alley selling their soul to score a fix.   This epidemic goes far beyond the stereotype.    You will find them in hospitals treating patients, in schools teaching students, in elementary and high school bathrooms, on playgrounds, behind the desks of professionals, sitting next to us in church, in police stations with whom are hired to “protect and serve”, and who arrest those whose addiction has made criminals of them.    Like cancer, and many other potentially lethal illnesses it doesn’t discriminate.  There are many predisposed, at higher risk of inheriting such dreadful sentences, just as there are with cancers, other diseases.  Babies are being born addicts.   Many with mental illness go untreated, out of shame, lack of resources, and inability to find a doctor, a therapist, a mental health worker who has openings to treat them.   Ask any professional in the business of treating mental illness how many patients they see a day, what their availability is to see new patients, if they think that their profession offers as much support as is needed for all.  Ask families who are bouncing off the walls, worried beyond belief, frustrated and fear filled for the fate of their loved ones whom have a mental illness “Are you getting the help, support, treatment needed to cope?”    It doesn’t just begin with the addict, and it doesn’t stop there.  Far from it.

Am I suggesting that a person should not be held responsible for circumstances, consequences caused by their addiction?  Hardly.  I understand, too well, that holding them responsible is an important factor, and could in fact be the very thing that helps them seek help, and hopefully achieve recovery.     You may be surprised to find the mother, wife, husband of an alcoholic relieved when their loved one has been arrested for DUI or sentenced to a jail term and more unbelievable, who has died or the disease of addiction.   Why?  Because maybe, just maybe, and hopefully this could be the answer to their prayers.   Maybe, just maybe this would be the beginning of, the stepping stone to their loved ones recovery, and for those with whom lives have been taken, perhaps now they will be at peace.  There will be no demons in the driver seat of their life.

With all of this said, and from a person who struggles with mental illness, there needs to be more help, education available to all.   The archaic belief that mental illness is that of the “insane”, the selfish, the crazy, the weak needs to cease.   We need to broaden the stream of hope for all…the addict, the person with any mental illness, their families, their friends, their employees and more.   There are three possible outcomes for an addict – Institution, Recovery or Death.   Shaming one into recovery is as counterproductive as denying its existence.  Shunning the issue(s) only accelerates and further populate its victims.

Why would an intelligent being throw away their dreams, their aspirations, their families, their friends, their jobs, basically their present moment and futures for a fix, whether that fix be attributed to a needle, a bottle, a pipe, a gluttonous amount of food…Does it really matter?  Is any of it nonetheless tragic?  Would we shame or blame a person who was diagnosed with cancer?  Actually, that opens up another whole can of worms for me.  When Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer the first thing that was reported was “Peter Jennings has been diagnosed with Lung Cancer.  He smoked”.   Implying that his actions were the result of his diagnosis.   Yes, smoking can cause lung cancer.  Yes, second hand smoke can cause cancer.  Yes, sticking a needle in your arm, swallowing a fifth of vodka, snorting a substance for instant fix, bingeing on unhealthy foods… all can and most likely will contribute to the demise of many and squelch the quality of life for not only them, but those who love them.

I assure you, however, that no one smoked or smokes to get lung cancer.  A father doesn’t set out to be a drunk, or a mother a junkie.  No person sets out to be an addict, an alcoholic, a person who struggles with depression, or any other mental illness.  They didn’t aspire nor desire to “throw their happiness, their health, their lives away”.    All is tragic.  All are a travesty that again, I believe, needs further and vast education and awareness, treatment made available.

“Phillip Seymour Hoffman dead at ­­46 from apparent heroin overdose”.    The barrage of ignorant comments pertaining to his, and the too many other tragic deaths as a result of addiction infuriate me.    Ask his children what he meant to them, what they remember of him, how they will miss him;  Ask his parents, grandparents, his wife, his friends “Do you think he got what he deserved?”   I promise you, they will not only look at you in dismay, but their face will show an expression of trauma, catastrophe, and pain of epic levels.

In all Twelve Step programs the disease of alcoholism, of addiction is described as “cunning and baffling”.   There simply is no understanding it, there are no words to describe its effects, but perhaps?  Perhaps with awareness and education, with more resources made available to its victims we can somehow stop, or at minimum stunt this holocaustic epidemic.

Let us not be so small minded, blaming, shaming, hiding, pious to real mental illnesses that threatens the lives of many, including our youth, your son, daughter, granddaughter.  Let us find a way to improve treatment options, including those who are now or who will be incarcerated as a result of this sinister disease.  Let us find and achieve a better chance of recovery and carve out a course of prevention for such.    Let us HELP others and ourselves by dispelling the myths and attitudes that one should be embarrassed, blamed, or shameful that they have a mental illness.  Let us somehow find a way to lower the sad statistics of and empower the recovery of, the prevention of.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was much more than an addict.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was more than a bloody statistic.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a person like you, like I… perhaps with a whole lot more money, thus easier access too or slower consequences of its progression.  He didn’t set out to be an addict.  He didn’t insert the needle and inject the heroin in his arms with intent to die.

No one sets out to be an addict.  No one smokes to get cancer.  No one welcomes mental illness, of any sort, to themselves their families, their loved ones.   No one.

My name is Donna, and I have been both affected and afflicted with mental illness.  I am one of the fortunate ones, however.  I am under the care of excellent, educated doctors who are treating me, teaching me, helping me through these challenges and working with me to achieve a better quality of life, to achieve recovery.   Sadly, I am of a minority.

Donna Scully

Vernon, VT

On mental illness

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Perhaps it is because I have been afflicted with and affected by another person’s mental illness, addiction, perhaps because I see the ignorance of people who believe Phillip Seymour Hoffman killed himself, and isn’t worthy of mourning.   Perhaps I just can no longer sit or stand by and shut my mouth to the ignorance that flourishes around the topic of mental illness.

If you have never been affected by a loved ones mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, I am more than happy for you.  I am also in disbelief of your answer.     Perhaps this attitude is because I have been privy to too much pain regarding such.    Perhaps because I work hard every single day to cope within the spectrum of my mental illness, and am tired of hearing that mental illness, addiction, alcoholism is made up of the weak, the insane, the selfish.

I wrote an article last night on this, dropped it off this morning with the editor of our local paper.   It is lengthy, it is strong, it is spoken from a point of view of both one whom has lived through the agonizing life of a loved ones addiction, alcoholism.   It is spoken, truthfully, from the lips of a person who would like to high five my middle finger to those who believe this is not a disease.   It is spoken from my heart.   I will post it in a few days, would like to first give the newspaper the opportunity to print it.

I am passionate about this topic.   As much as I don’t want to acknowledge its existence, as much as I don’t want to hear of or know the consequences of addiction, I do.  I cannot walk away from it.  I cannot live in a bubble around it.

I wish that I was passionate about something fun.  I wish that I sit down and pound out a heartfelt article, comically about aging.  I wish that I have never seen nor lived to tell the sad stories of loved ones whom have lost their lives to addiction.

I was watching television last night, listening actually, when I heard someone say something very derogatory about Mr. Hoffman.   It reminded me of when I learned the news that one of the most important people who were in my life, one whom I loved and will always loved, died at 46 of addiction, of alcoholism.  “He did this to himself, no sense mourning for him”.   FUCK YOU!   That is all I have to say to those who are so small minded, devoid of any understanding of mental illness, and feel superior to those whom admit its existence in their or a loved ones life.

Anger, rage.   How dare anyone imply that the victim of addiction is not worthy of treatment, worthy of mourning, worthy of acknowledgement?

I have been caught in the talons of addiction.   Etched in my mind, in my heart are the memories of a loved ones fateful flight with alcohol.   I was once naïve, ignorant to it’s power.  I actually once believed that if he loved me, he would stop drinking….   If only… If only it was that simple.    Neighboring memories of friends whose child, children couldn’t understand why they see daddy, but it’s not him.  Why would he not want to see me?    The innocence of a child, the heartache of a child that cannot understand what we as adult cannot as well.

I need to sign off now.  My neck is tense, my foot is pouncing and my jaw is clenched.   I need to work through this anger.  I need to walk away and hopefully calm down, remember what it was like to be so ignorant.   Ignorance is bliss…

More later.

In celebration of he….

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He had red hair, fair skin and a multitude of freckle. When he was out in the sun, where he loved to be, he would get more freckles. His eyes were a beautiful shade of blue, both his smile and his laugh were contagious. He was kind, caring, sweet, and extremely humorous, he loved people, he loved life. He was 31 years old when I met him, and we lived together for almost a decade. We were engaged to be married, though that never transpired. He introduced me to culture of many types, he taught me that it is possible to start over, to open my heart and trust in another. He was highly intelligent, thus his wit, brilliant. He was the first man to touch my face, cup my cheeks in his hands and hold me until tears stopped and the last man I loved.

Some things aren’t meant to be. I fell madly in love with him, adored him. We shared laughter, belly rolls, tears that rolled down our faces from laughing so hard. We also cried together, once when our dog Molly was hit by a truck in front of my house, and died instantly. We rescued her from the humane society, she was a beautiful dog, they were the best of buds. Though he wanted I would not agree to another dog, so he adopted two kittens, Zoe &Chloe, whom I still have today. After a year I gave in and he got Brody, an Australian shepherd that was sometimes smarter than I was. He was an exceptional dog, stunning, snotty to other dogs (with the exception of his own breed and a few other dogs) I lost Brody this past January, he was 13.

I believe there are some things that we will never get over, time gifts us with the ability to coexist with pain, it doesn’t erase nor cure our broken hearts. I have learned that when someone you love passes, the love never goes away, in fact, it miraculously grows. At least I have found this to be true. Today he would have turned 50, we were both Sagittarius, I was 2 years and 11 days old older than he. Throughout our relationship his disease progressed, at times he was unrecognizable, then he would become himself again. We managed to come back from these times, though each bout would last longer, be more destructive than the last until he reached a point where I felt he was more disease than himself. Seldom and infrequently towards the end, I would catch glimpses of his old self, I would grab on, hold strong, hope that he would get better. He did not. He was an alcoholic, a binge drinker. He was a very sick man. He would go months without a drink and then would indulge himself to a point of oblivion, from his life, from me. He never promised to get sober, and he would call his drinking his “best friend”. Too many times I felt I was taking back seat to booze. It was almost like he had a mistress. It was powerful, it was awful, it was devastating and certainly sabotaging.

It got to a point where I had to choose, he or me. I chose me. Living with addiction takes on a world of its own. It robs you of those you love, almost like a body snatcher. I could look at him, see him, but I had to remind myself when we parted and I saw him out, it was an imposter. The man I loved drowned in alcohol and his fate yet, was to be determined. I told him I didn’t want to watch him kill himself, which happened four years and a half years after we parted ways. He died the day after his 46th birthday, tomorrow the 4th anniversary of his passing. I do not like to say “he killed himself” because what really killed him was alcoholism. But we blame them, its victims for not getting sober, not getting clean. He died a very gruesome death, cirrhosis. He died in the home of another woman, one whom he had been seeing for a few months. He told her no doctors, no hospital, no rescue, I guess he didn’t want to go what he had gone through a couple years before when he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and cirrhosis.

Though our lives were worlds apart, I always kept track of him, I wanted to know where he was in the world. Until he died I didn’t realize that I was hoping he would get clean, get better so we could find our way back together. I always hoped and prayed that he would find sobriety, he never did. The day after I learned of his death, learned by googling his name and finding his obituary, I went to his parents. They live outside of Albany, NY in a small quaint town, the town, the home in which he grew up. I was angry with them for not calling to tell me he had died. As I was walking into their house, each step closer to the door I realized, to his parents, I was long gone,but for me, I never left. Miraculously some addicts do go into remission, into recovery but not without a total transformation of their thoughts. It is cunning, it is baffling, it is one deadly awful disease, far too many inflicted and more affected. I hate addiction, I hate what it does to people, I hate what it did and is doing to people I love, I hate what it does to any of its victims, their loved ones. I hate what it takes from them, I hate what it takes from their loved ones, I hate what it took from me.

I used to think “If you loved me, you would stop drinking”. I know now, his drinking had absolutely nothing to do with me, but it certainly affected me negatively. No addict asks or seeks to be one. Why would anyone wish such awful disease on themselves? But it is hard to remember that when one is in the throws of the addiction, when you look at them, visually see the person you love but their actions, their choices, their reality is not recognizable. Why are they doing this? Why are they destroying their lives, hurting others, casting loved ones aside for what? For fluid? For alcohol?
You don’t have to drink, do drugs to have it rip apart your world and have you living a chaotic insane existence, you just have to love someone who does. The consequences of addiction go well beyond the addict.

I think of him daily, I talk to him much. Some days I can smile, today is one of them, I am grateful, today I am granted peace, acceptance. At least I know the disease doesn’t have him anymore. As strange as this may sound, he is safe, he is alright, he is at peace. He is no longer controlled by the disease of addiction. I am grateful for this. I will always love him, I will never forget him, and I prefer to look to the good in him, in us. I have no regrets. Though I don’t think I would choose to do it all over again, no regrets. I wished then and still wish now that the ending would be different. I did everything I could, and then some, and ultimately had to learn to love myself more than him, I had to save myself and say goodbye to him. I choose to not think of the painful times. If I in anyway implied that our life together was perfect, that was certainly not the case. Living with addiction is something I wish on no one. I do know I am a better person for having known him, for having loved him, for accepting his love. He was a wonderful person who got lost in the vortex of addiction, sadly like far too many others.

I smile today, and will light a candle, wish him a Happy Birthday. Though he will never be 50 I will always acknowledge the day that beautiful soul came into this world. Happy Birthday Jim…. Happy Birthday. And tomorrow I will acknowledge when that beautiful soul left this world.

Letting go, Letting God

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This afternoon while hastily running errands I thought my brain was on fire.  “Do this, next do that…. yada yada yada”.  All because I slept in, which I can legitimately blame on trying to beat this cold I feel coming on.  But I digress…   I had just received some good news “I’m doing it, I’m doing it… my life is getting better, my life is getting easier”…  I was saying to myself with a smile on my face.  It is always a powerful feeling when you realize your hard work is paying off.    

If you follow my blog you know that last Winter I was hospitalized for severe depression.  This was my 4th and by far the worst bout with such.   With the help of my doctors,  (therapists) my family and friends I have climbed out of that hole.  These days I would say I’m not only out of the hole but resting a foot or two away from the edge… progress!   How quickly things can change, however, if I am not vigilant on taking care of myself.  

At my most vulnerable, I met others who, too, were at their most vulnerable, all of us were fighting our demons.  I chose to write about this then and share this information with others in hopes that my experiences, my words could help other (even just one) other person know, they are not alone with their struggles.  We are never alone.     I met some people then whom a handful (few) I call “friends” today.  These are people whom I need not explain a thing, they understand me, they do not try to fix me nor judge me or my actions, I return the same respect to them.   It’s a very deep connection on one level and shallow on another.  These are the friends in my life who I have shared the most intimate details with, and yet I see them rarely, know not their everyday lives, so in that regard, it can, from the outside, appear shallow.     I shake my head as I think of the irony, it is not those who I am around day in, day out, those closest to me that know me or understand me best, but these people who know my darkest corners, have shared my darkest hours.  I am grateful for these people.  I am grateful for this handful of souls who I feel love me as I am, and love me when I can’t seem to muster up love for myself.  More ironic yet, the faces of these souls were the same faces that I judged before.  I did not understand nor “like” the relationship the addict I was with (who was trying to get clean) had with others in recovery.  After all, I was their wife, their girlfriend, their fiancée, why did they need anyone else?    Shaking my head and rolling my eyes.  Just who the hell did I think I was??   What a mess I was!   Today I look at these relationships much differently.  Today I value their friendship, I understand they have pain (do not profess to understand it, but acknowledge and validate it), and I do not judge but try to offer a warm hand, ear when I can, and they, me.    I cannot fix them, nor they, me.   This, my friends, bakes up to be one very honest cookie sheet! 

While waiting for the red light to turn green, and accompanying Adele with her hit “Someone like you” I felt excited about the good news I had gotten and grateful that I recognized my life changing for the better.  Happy, a bit nervous as I am always afraid of being “cocky”, looking out for good old karma,…out the corner of my eye I see a guy who had been inpatient at the same time as I was.   My heart stopped and I seriously had a hard swallow at what was in front of me.    Relapse, back stroking, I don’t know and its not for me to know the details or judge, all I saw was “one of my own” back in the throws of the disease of addiction.   How quickly tears can flow down a face that in the last millisecond had a smile.   

Though not a “friend” we were hospitalized on the same floor.   As fate would have it this would be my third hospitalization on a detox floor, as there was no more beds in the psych ward that a person with my mental challenges would be.   I know not why this happened, I know better than to ask, as I believe everything happens for a reason.   I do know that from these experiences I am no longer so quick to judge another harshly about their addiction(s).   I saw things that I never want to see or experience again.  If you had ever seen the movie “Ghost”, when the murderers at the end die, and the souls of their victims cry out through them, this is how I would describe addiction.   It’s a body snatcher.   The exterior looks like the person you love, and at times you see moments, flickers of who you love, but the progression of the disease, they are being increasingly ruled by an entity outside of themselves.  I personally believe it to be miraculous when one gets and stays clean.  Not without a lot of work on self, discipline, vigilance, not without devine help one gets clean.  Recovery isn’t a green card that says pass go.   In order to keep your recovery you have to continue with the very same actions that helped get you clean.   Ask me why I gained back most of my weight after losing a back street boy?  Because I didn’t follow through and continue the actions that got me there, I went back to my old ways, the very actions that deemed me overweight to begin with.    Definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results .  This insidious disease wants souls, try to escape its hold, it clenches down, harder. 

I had been witness to this self professed alcoholics detoxification.   Night tremors, seizures, loss of control of bodily functions, he fought his way through hell to get clean.  He was brought to the local hospital a couple of times, was returned to the ward to continue with his detox.  When we asked if he would be alright we were told “We don’t know”.  He remained on premises for another month in out patient and then was transferred to another facility for follow up care.   It is no small feat for an alcoholic or drug addict to get clean.   It isn’t about their “will” as I had once thought and judged.  Perhaps why I was hospitalized with those I had judged prior?   I don’t think that anyone sets out to be an addict, who the hell would want that for themselves?  And who the hell would pick up the same behavior after going through so much to get out of it????????  Alcoholism, addiction is no laughing matter, not even in the least.  As a person who has survived by finding humor in mostly everything, I find no humor in alcoholism or addiction.     None at all. 

To get healthy I had to make choices to get and keep my own self healthy.  He was not one of the few (handful) I kept in touch with.  But that doesn’t mean I was not devastated at his relapse .I may not call him a friend, but he is a brother in flesh, a brother with an atrocious demon.    As I sat at the red light watching him make his way up the street, flashbacks surfaced from almost two years ago.   When detoxing  he was put on a plethora of drugs which made him groggy, look and act drunk or drugged,   Alongside of this the evidence of his emotional pain shown on his face.  How did he get to this point?  How did the little boy that his parents and grand parents loved and adored, doted on, grow up to be like this????   And how could they deny what had become of him????   Haunting, ridiculously sad, tragic. 

My first instinct was to pull over and talk to him, but that was brief.  In order to hold onto my own recovery I knew I could not help him, at least without harming myself.  Involving myself in his life at this juncture was not good for me.    I have often wondered and yes, judged others as to how they could turn a blinds eye to others in obvious peril.  At times I still do, but I now also know where it can constitute taking care of your own body, soul.     I said to my therapist a few weeks back “I feel like I’ve hardened”.  She said “No, Donna, you haven’t hardened, you are learning self preservation, you are learning how to take care of yourself”.   I am grateful I knew better than to involve myself, but I also wanted to help so I did the one thing that I know I can do, and what I believe is huge, and that was, I prayed for him.   I prayed for God to look after him, for him to get the help he needs, to hopefully get clean, once and for all.    Now that isn’t a small prayer.   I prayed for God’s will for him to be done.   I know not what God’s will for him is, nor am I supposed to know.  I practiced “Let go, Let God” and I will continue to pray for him.

As I drove away, trying to compose myself and the stomach which I felt coming up through my throat, I swallowed my tears and thanked God once again for today    Though very sad for him, it ironically made the good news I had gotten earlier, even bigger.     Seeing someone fall isn’t easy, seeing someone self destruct is hell, I have seen both, and I have practiced both, fortunately for me, for whatever reason, I am still in recovery, and I am making progress.  While not perfect, and with still a bundle and backpack full of problems, my life is getting better, my life is getting easier.   It’s about my perspective.   Today’s gift is perspective.   

It’s not for me to know or judge another.  I dislike it when others feel they know what is best for, or judge me.  What has changed is that I no longer empower their thoughts with anger.  I smile, collect my thoughts, find humor in the irony of judgment and continue down the path that I’m being guided to.   I know not what is best for another, I know not what God has in store for another, and if I’m living my life right, I do not have time to think I do….  I’m here, keeping my own side of the road clean, cleaning up my messes, trying to learn from my errs…The only one I can change is me.  The only one I can fix is me.  As a recipient of such, I also understand that the significance of prayer should never be described as “just”.  Prayer is everything, everything.  The Serenity Prayer?  My favorite.♥

 

 

Whitney Houston

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Last night I stopped at a local store to pick up some snacks to bring to my uncles.   This place is like a soda/beer distribution place.  Anyway, my eyes caught the glimpse of a man who was in the hospital just months ago with liver failure due to alcohol.   Typically he will say Hi, this time he didn’t.  There is “bad blood” so to speak between us, as his association with Jim was one that I knew would be trouble, and it was.  Anyway he disappeared into the beer cooler, came out with a case of beer underneath each arm.  I wasn’t surprised, even though I heard he was sober, I was however saddened.   How can anyone watch the  insanity, destructive manner that an alcoholic or addict displays and doubt that they aren’t sick, but weak?  Would a healthy man give up his home, wife, children to go sit and drink?  Would a healthy woman leave her children, let her life fall apart, all for the sake of beer? liquor?

I thought about this a lot last night.   Once angry at this man for being a bad influence on someone I loved very much, and someone whom addiction controlled, I have long since been praying for him, and his family, for his health, mental, physical and spiritual.

Tonight its all over the news that Whitney Houston has died at the young age of 48.  A woman who has been struggling painfully and whose struggles have been in every newspaper, rag magazine, and more.   I sometimes feel sorry for “famous” people that they aren’t allowed to go through their struggles without public scrutiny.  I know I wouldn’t want that for myself.   Still, as I say that, I was reading the articles, some of them anyway.   This absolutely stunning, beautiful and enormously gifted young woman who was destined for greatness, and then years later a woman whose struggles with drugs was not only plastered on the front of every magazine, newspaper, or hollywood gossip tv show, but was evident in her face, the darkness under her eyes.  Her eyes, once filled with life, shine and beauty later revealed dulnessl, sadness and withdrawn.    I don’t know too many people who would wish this upon themselves, or even their worst enemy.   At one point she had gotten her act back together, looked like the beautiful and talented Whitney Houston that most of us loved as she sat on the stage of “Oprah”.  Later it was “revealed” (rolling my eyes here) that she and Oprah had had it out afterwards.   Now we sit here at the time of her passing, shaking our heads, some shedding tears…what a tragic ending to a beautiful life, I say this assuming it was somehow related to drugs or alcohol.  Not necessarily an overdose, but something that manifested physically throughout all the years she was using.   Most alcoholics do not die of cirrhosis, but of heart failure, or physical manifestations that have been created by the overuse and abuse of alcohol.

I remember how angry I would get with Jim, and at times how ridiculously naive and foolish when I thought “if he loved me” he would give up drinking.   Love doesn’t have anything to do with it.  The good news is, some find this as their bottom, or a beginning.  A chance to start over, get help, save their marriage, their ass, their home, etc., but many do not.

Long gone for me is the anger, the rage that once ruled me when I was with an active addict.  Life gets complicated, but quick.  It gets insane, and things roll out of control at the speed of lightning.   The negative affects this has on themselves, their family, their friends plays out like dominos.  Clearly, no matter what Whitney Houston died of there are many mourning.  I’m confident that there are family or friends who are left with the lingering sadness and frustration, the humility of knowing…they couldn’t “save” her from herself.   She walked through hell with her addictions, as does any addict.

I am not “pro addicts”, I hope that is not how I sound.  My heart goes out to her family, friends who have to live with the reality of her passing, and most second guessing if they could have helped.  The “if only’s” run parallel and steady with the grief process.

I have many friends who have gotten clean and sober.   Some arrogantly will slam others who are still using, but most?  Most are so damned grateful to be one of the “chosen few” who survived that they aren’t judging another, but basking in the beauty of their lives.

Surely one thing we have learned over the years with the access to the internet, television, magazines, media is that..no longer are addicts stereotyped as dirty, unkept street people who drink out of a paperbag.   Here is a very sad example of fame, fortune, incredible talent, and yet she was not exempt from addiction.

Recalling when I started to really grasp the disease of alcoholism, how enormous, powerful and destructive it was.  It was at that moment that I placed additional words at the end of some of my shares.  “I have been affected by the disease of alcoholism and addiction…. and I’m very grateful I haven’t been afflicted with it”.

“One moment in time”…. you shared and spread so much  joy and enjoyment to so many.  Thank you Whitney Houston.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYFHAvULvJ0

Rest in Peace Whitney Houston, rest in peace

 

Eventually this cold winter will pass…

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I am a natural fixer.  I want to make things better.  If someone is hurting, I want to fix whatever is wrong so their pain goes away.  But I am not God, nor do I have magical powers that can do this.  I am just Donna.  I can tell you that I spent years of my life trying, however!  I tried so hard to help others, that I neglected and lost myself to the point of near ruin.

Five years ago I had to make a choice to save myself from a downward spiral.  This required saying goodbye to someone I really cared about, loved.  Someones whose life was now being ruled by alcohol, consequently our lives.    Not an easy thing to do when you still care , and you feel that your actions to date have somewhat protected him from himself.     This to many, and in Al Anon is described as “enabling”.   To shield, protect, defend the alcoholic of the consequences of his own actions.    So I did just that.  I stopped all protecting, and I watched from the sidelines and heard descriptive details (small town gossip) as his life quickly became more and more unmanageable, and I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed…   I had always feared that he would die of this disease, or worse, that he would end up imprisoned or killing someone else under the influence.  And on, and on, and on.  As much as you see it coming, as much as you fear it, as much as you detach yourself from it, you cannot grieve.  Because as long as they are alive there is still hope.  Hope that they will seek help, find sobriety, return to their senses, themselves…and behind that hidden somewhere for me was a hope that he would one day return, that we could resume our life together from what it used to be, long before alcoholic took over, long before progression. Yet you go on with your life, you move forward, new relationships, a new life, yet you never forget, and you never stop praying for the recovery and health of the person you once knew.

When you hear that your fears have come true, that they have died of the very disease that tore the two of you apart, and took nearly your life too, it is still a shock.  At least it was for me.   On one hand there was relief, that the downward spiral, the battle, the hell was over, yet on the other the reality that though the disease is now gone, no longer present or prominent in your loved one, it has in fact stripped you of all hope, and of the person you loved, or once loved.   Now I start to grieve.  I grieve for the person I fell in love with, I grieve for the man who was once sober and whom alcohol had NO grip on during that time.  I grieve for his life that touched MANY including mine, for his parents, his family, his many friends, I grieve for myself for all that was and could have been, and sadly what was hidden, what I had hoped would be again.  I grieve like my heart has been bludgeoned because for all intensive purposes, it has.

Eventually this cold winter will pass, acceptance will come and all will be placed in its proper perspective, place, which will not be in the fore front, but placed behind all the positives of today.  Will it ever go away?  For some yes I suppose.  For me, no.  It is a lesson, an experience too deep into my flesh to ever fully forget, but that does not mean I will not go on to live a happy full life.  This is my goal, this is my promise to myself.   To love fully again, to trust, to begin anew  not with the grief of yesterday but with the knowledge and the strength that yesterday has given me.  My heart is an amazing entity…