They say that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. I think that the flip side of that coin is that shit stinks no matter what you call it.
What has me musing on Shakespearean word play this morning?
My name and the legacy it leaves me.
My last name is a big old hyphenated mess of my maiden name and my second husband's last name. It's a long story, and thanks to a lazy judge in divorce court, it isn't as easy as taking my divorce papers to the DMV to change it.
I racked up quite the string of arrests under that hyphenated mess of a last name.
Problem is, changing the name doesn't solve the problem. The social security number is still the same, and still brings up the same damned string of arrests.
I probably wouldn't have given my last name a second thought if I hadn't gotten profiled and searched yesterday. I was traveling down that same interstate where I incurred so many of those arrests, and got pulled over by a state trooper for "weaving onto the shoulder."
"Weaving onto the shoulder" is complete horseshit, however, as I was speeding down the interstate in a bashed up car with an expired inspection sticker and a blinker that works sometimes (just not at that moment), I didn't argue about the "weaving onto the shoulder" horseshit.
The trooper took my license to his car and ran my name. Standard operating procedure, I get it. I could be a most-wanted fugitive or something, they have to check. What came back wasn't a most-wanted status. Just my rap sheet, which is bad enough in and of itself.
So the good officer requests that I step outside my car and stand in front of his car (in front of his dash cam). He sits back in his car and writes me a warning for the "weaving" and for not having current proof of insurance. I am such a slob that I had all of the expired proofs of insurance for the last 2 years AND the actual policy itself, so he figured I probably still had insurance and didn't cite me for that.
However, as he handed me the warning he asked for details of my trip. I hated myself for an instant because I had to drag my friend's name into a conversation with police. Old behaviors die hard, I guess. NEVER give the authorities names, right? I only did it because I was almost certain that it wouldn't be written down, as I had nothing to hide (unless you count all the fast food trash in my floorboards).
Of course, given my arrest record, the trooper asked if I had a problem with him searching my car, as he needed to makes sure I didn't have "50 pounds of marijuana in the car." Truth be told, I did have a problem with him searching my car. Old habits die hard, I guess; my attorney once told me that I should never consent to anything. However, I consented and warned him it was a mess in there.
I got lucky. This trooper really only looked for "50 pounds of marijuana in the car". He poked through my shopping bag of new shoes, he poked through my purse, he poked through the box of shoes for charity, he poked at some empty garbage bags (I tell you, I'm a slob in my car), he poked through my travel-bag of clothing, and he poked in the spare tire compartment. He didn't make any real mess and he didn't disturb shit too much. He closed my trunk and gave me a thumbs up. I decided to shake his hand and tell him to be safe out there.
However, as I emptied my car of my travel bags once I got home, I got to thinking about my name. I got to wondering if I will ever truly be able to escape my own legacy.
I doubt it.
Even if it does happen, it won't be anytime soon. It would require a seismic shift in the mindset of an entire world of people. "Once an addict, always an addict" is the common thinking, no matter how much of a lie it is.
I think it's time to tackle the legal quagmire of changing my name. Drop the hyphenated mess. It's time to let go of the past, I guess, even if it ultimately won't matter when I get pulled over. It's really about me, and how willing I am to become something other than the addict I used to be.
A rose by any other name will still smell as sweet, and shit will always stink no matter what you call it.
I'm grateful that I can see both sides of that coin today. I will always carry my legacy of arrests with me, unfortunately; however, I also know that recovery has turned that heap of shit into fertilizer for the beautifully imperfect human being I have become.
Just for today, that is enough.
I have a friend with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
My mom has it too.
RA is an invisible illness. People with invisible illnesses have no visible symptoms, so many folks don't understand why they can't do all the things that most people can do. There is some sort of spoon theory that they use to try to explain it; long story short, people with these invisible illnesses only have so many spoons to get through each day. They have to think about how they are going to use each spoon because they can't go get more spoons at the spoon store, and I can't give my mom or my friend some of my spoons to get through the day.
I found out my friend was thinking of a project involving spoons; she's real crafty and creative like that. I made it my mission in life to go find my friend lots of random spoons. I went to the local flea market hoping to find some spoons. I found a bunch of random spoons and bought lots of them for my friend's project. This made me happy.
Then, I got sad. I was sad because I can't give my friend any of my metaphysical spoons, even though I often have more than I need to get through my day. I would gladly give up some of my spoons for my friend or my mom, but I can't. That isn't how spoon theory works. Maybe some day, science will have the answer to that conundrum, but right now that is still "fringe science"; I get enough fringe science from my Sunshine, as he studies the neurophysiology of addiction.
I sat and thought about spoons, and I was sad that I can't give my spoons to those who need them. Then I had a moment of extreme giddiness over the saying we have in recovery about how "spoons are for stirring coffee." This is especially funny to addicts, because we have some insane uses for spoons.
Then I remembered that movie The Matrix. There is no spoon. This has the potential to take me down the paths of fringe science, but I get enough of that from Sunshine.
So rather than be sad about not being able to share my metaphysical spoons, or travel down the path of fringe science, I went shopping.
I went to an antique shop, and I bought some spoons. I bought some really neat, rather fancy, really random spoons. They are my gift to my friend.
See, I sat in a meeting last night with other recovering addicts, and I realized that the fellowship is all about the therapeutic value of one addict helping another. We addicts share our experience, strength, and hope with one another. We share our metaphysical spoons.
While I may not have an invisible illness that leaves me debilitated on some days, I do have a disease that can't exactly be seen. The treatment for my disease involves sitting around with other recovering addicts and sharing our spoons with one another.
While it may not help my friend get through her day better (physically) for me to send her some fancy antique spoons, I know that it will make her heart smile, and that's what helps her get through the bad days - just like another addict's experience, strength, and hope helped me get clean.
Today, y'all are part of my circle of recovery. Y'all share y'all's spoons with me, and that's some awesome shit.
And until fringe science catches up with us, we'll keep stumbling along the best we can. And I'll keep buying up random spoons for my friend.
I spent a lot of years in active addiction, wearing yesterday's clothes and grime. When I first got clean, I did a lot of dressing up so that the outside looked good, in hopes that you wouldn't see past the facade to realize that the inside was a fucked-up, shitty mess.
Today my outside is more of a reflection of what's going on inside. I feel whole, I feel worthwhile, and I feel good, therefore I try to look good.
There's something to be said about the feel of a well-made cashmere sweater or pair of silk sweatpants, or even an uber-comfortable cotton t-shirt that fits like it was made for me. There's just something nice about wearing fancy pants and fancy shoes to go grocery shopping. I lived too long in the filth and desperation of addiction to deny myself some little luxuries today.
Now, looking good doesn't have to be expensive. Yes, I wear a lot of high-end brands because I'm worth it, but here's a secret--I never pay full price. There is something thrilling about finding a pair of Armani pants on a clearance rack for $25 (yes, it happens). Must be endorphins, because it's quite pleasant like a good buzz.
Well, today I am riding one serious endorphin-based high. I got new shoes. Not just any new shoes. Jimmy Choo shoes. Nude patent leather sandals on cork platform wedges. Brand New In Box. For $85. And? They feel really good on my feet--great arch support, heel and ball of foot cushioning, and light as feathers. My first pair of Jimmy Choo shoes!
Tell me that's not a dose of happy.
I've been on the path toward recovery most of my adult life. Of course, it wasn't always defined as recovery. I just knew I had problems that were considered "secrets."
When I was younger, if you mentioned you were "in recovery," the person you were talking to would've stopped and said, "Recovering from what?" No one understood the aspects of alcoholism, love addiction or recovery from the torture of a narcissist or an abusive spouse.
"Recovering from what?" That's one heck of a loaded question. I'd already read every self-help book on the market.
At nineteen years old, I first sought spiritual counseling. I'd come to the enlightened conclusion that I was in a horribly abusive marriage and was now pregnant with our first child that He Did Not Want!
I'd been married less than one year.
In desperation, I called my Narcissistic mother, not knowing that she was a major part of my problem. She advised me to meet with a local Pastor at a very conservative church for spiritual counseling.
This is part of the mind fuck a NPD Parent causes their adult child. She, my NPD Mother, seemed very empathetic, loving and helpful.
Now I know that she hated having someone else controlling me. We all know how she LOATHED my NPD misogynistic husband.
So there I sat, across from a judgmental, older man still married to his only wife. She appeared so beaten down that when she opened the door to their home, I seemed able to see right through her.
My instinctive antennae, threw up a huge red flag. It screamed: DANGER AHEAD! DANGER AHEAD!
Of course, being a good adult child of an alcoholic as well as being trained for marriage by my mother, who had narcissistic personality disorder and Munchhausen Syndrome, I ignored my instincts and plowed ahead.
I can never forget how translucent the preacher's wife had become under his abuse. He'd turned her into a non-person.
She was me in twelve years.
In walks a willing victim - I'd asked to see him, after all. Boy, did he slam me.
After I told him about my marriage of 14 months, he said, "Either you are a terrific liar or you're in a hopeless situation." Huh.
But what does that mean?
Well, according to the good preacher, I needed to become "a better wife.
"Read this portion of the Bible EVERY day for 30 days - model what a good wife is and he will be a changed man.
No. That definitely did not work. My husband LOVED my new attitude. How submissive I'd become, how I subjugated myself to his every whim, completely under his control.
I tried harder to be a better wife for a man who'd never, ever appreciate my efforts. He'd simply find new, more creative ways to abuse me.
It took ten more years, two more babies, a dear friend dying way too young, before I fell apart again.
I started with cigarettes, with the intention of pissing off my husband. He smoked, so I smoked.
There's a saying in one recovery group, "Eating poison and waiting for him to die." Starting to smoke cigarettes in my thirties is pretty close. He didn't give a shit.
Next, I took a handful of Vicodin and washed it down with a Budweiser. Yeah. Now THAT helped me.
I was able to make a lovely dinner, care for my delightful children and thought I may even be able to endure sex with my abusive husband at bedtime.
Thus began my love affair with alcohol and prescription drugs. My children were destroyed, confused by the radical change in their mother.
My husband, however, never said a word.
Alcoholism is a genetic disease that may be successfully managed by total and complete abstinence. This is a medical diagnosis, a fact, and not up for personal debate. Like diabetes, if you got alcoholism, you have it.
If you want to live a long life as an alcoholic or diabetic, you have to follow a plan to stop the advance of all the devastating problems that arise as the result of improper management of the disease.
I researched alcoholism until I came to believe that I would die if I didn't cease drinking. My body could only take so much abuse. I couldn't hold my liquor, but I could take enough pills to kill a horse. Aahhhhh.
Plus? You can't SMELL PILLS! Yay! I'd thought I was tricking everybody. Turns out, I was only bullshitting myself.
My path to recovery was long and hard for those who loved me. I'd had no idea how much hurt I'd caused the people in my life.
I'd begun to abuse my prescriptions to avoid feeling the pain; the anguish of what my life had become. I was dangerous, desperate to escape the pain.
As my children got older, I was stoned for every event in their lives. I'd be wasted by the time we got to each planned event.
They'd become more ashamed of me, while I obliviously believed I was acting normally. My children began to give me a "field sobriety" test before we left the house.
Of course I'd pass...then. But by the time we got to our destination, I'd be an inelegant, clearly-altered, nicely dressed, stoned mess.
My children were mortified, angry and powerless is protect themselves.
Back To School Night was forbidden to me by the kids.
My kids tried humor, tears, anger, recriminations, reenactments and shame. The only thing that made a dent was when my youngest daughter asked for prayer at our church.
I tried the good codependent guilt trip by telling her,"Don't EVER tell anyone what's going on in this house!"
At a sage fifteen, she told me, "Mom, you're the alcoholic, YOU NEED PRAYER."
I entered treatment after my oldest daughter got married - I have little-to-no memory of her wedding. She knew better than to ask me to help her with the preparations since I was as dependable as a cool wind in August. More shame.
We finally discovered a herd of pink elephants in our living room. We've only just begun cleaning up the enormous piles of elephant shit. Thank God it's pink - easier to find.
Who knows how long it will take to finish up the recovery? Every time I believe I've run off the last one, a rogue elephant stampedes through the house.
I never do know what it'll look like, smell like, or the damage it'll do. I just know that I have to deal with it, no matter what.
I earned it.
The good old fashioned way.
Someone once told me that you only know me as much as I want you to.
I've been thinking about that a lot lately. It’s true. I only let you in as far as I’m comfortable and when I meet someone who wants to be let in, I freeze up. I choke.
I’m very guarded. I’m afraid that if someone truly gets to know me, they will find something they don’t like and get the hell out of Dodge, leaving me with an empty chest, a broken heart. Was I abandoned as a child? No. Did I have an unhappy home life? No. Did I have anything traumatic happen to me as a child? I suppose.
I was always a little wild.
I was a difficult child to handle. I was willful, loud, and precocious. I FELT so much, but at an early age, it was drilled into my head that you keep your feelings to yourself. Ladies act a certain way. Maybe it was my stuffy Anglo heritage. Stiff upper lip, child. Never let them see you sweat. Don’t cry, only babies cry. You’re too loud! Stop having so much fun. I was the black sheep. I didn't fit in. I was different.
I was always a creative person, a person full of passion, until I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression in my 20’s, after a bad breakup. It’s amazing that it took so long for that diagnosis since I’d been dealing with emotional issues since I was a child.
They put me on medication and slowly but surely, I felt the creativity and passion being drained from me. They told me I was doing better and I believed them. I was in a fog, a bland and boring fog. I was numb. I was tired of feeling SO much that it was a welcome respite. I learned to cope and for years, I let the medication stuff my feelings down my throat, keeping everything inside so far down that I forgot myself.
I LOST myself.
A few years ago, I decided to stop the medication. I was tired of not FEELING anything. It’s taken a couple of years for me to feel like a real person, but what I’m left with now is that I don’t know who I AM.
I seemingly lost that creative, passionate, and wild little girl. She peeks out every once in a while and I promptly shove her back down into my belly before anyone can see too much of her, but she’s had enough of that. She wants to live and breathe on the outside.
She wants to speak, to be heard, to be acknowledged. She wants to let her hair down and dance wildly without a care. She wants to be loved so passionately that she can’t think. She wants to live a life full of joy, passion, and creativity.
Every day, I try to let her out a little more. It’s hard because the people that I’ve known for decades don’t know this girl. She’s been hidden for so long. Am I afraid that I won’t like the real me? Yes. Am I afraid that others won’t like the real me? Petrified. But I’m done with putting others' feelings in front of my own.
It’s my turn.
I’ve waited so long for this and I deserve it.
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