Who’s hiding behind your walls?

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Today I have contributed a post at Stories That Must Not Die.  It is a brief synopsis of alcoholism and growing up with two parents who were haunted by that very beast.  Click here to read the story.  My post here was prompted by the post at STMND combined with a conversation I had yesterday.

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There are moments that sneak up on you and make you realize how much a life growing up with two alcoholic parents has insidiously ingrained itself into your way of being.  My endearing character traits and my flaws are directly related to the life I lived as a teenager and a young adult.  If you read my post, you’ll understand that ours was a very loving home but I grew up much more quickly than I should have and learned, very young, how to build walls around myself.  I created a hard outer shell to keep myself soft and emotional on the inside but tough on the outside.

It was during a very interesting conversation with a male friend yesterday that the subject of dating came up, specifically dating websites and the basic instincts of humans regarding the laws of attraction.  He had taken a rudimentary stab at what qualities I would say I look for in a man and he was off the mark, but he was also guessing from a man’s perspective on what he thinks a woman would want based on the opposite of what a man would want.

men-and-women-symbols1

I had all-but forgotten about the primal instincts of men and I am not saying that in a negative way.  In my quest to protect myself and build my walls, I had potentially buried the softer, more feminine side of myself and let the tomboy be the dominant, protective personality.  It was how a teenage mind dealt with a difficult situation and potentially how I have removed myself from the desirable end of the dating pool. That simple awareness was like an awakening.  It is a rare but divine twist of fate that can take an outside force and use it to help you discover an inner truth.

Our conversation really opened my eyes.  I will never try to be someone I am not just to go on a date but perhaps that little girl inside of me is a part of who I really am and I just never gave her a chance.  I built my walls so high that she had no choice but to peer over them and wonder what was on the other side.

Walls are only effective if you know who you are protecting and who the real enemy is and, in this case, I became my own worst enemy.  I may have protected myself from a big part of who I was really meant to be but at least there is still time to find her and give her a chance.

(image credit)

 

Alcoholism – the disease that lurks in the shadows

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The words that grip me today are saturated with reality.  They come from a place of experience.  They come from a place of sadness.   But they also come from a place of honesty.  This piece of writing is not fiction and comes from deep within myself.

Disease is a long and winding road.  I am an adult child of alcoholic parents.  There have been reams written on the subject, some of it is familiar to me and some seems to be a foreign language from another planet.  Each child that has grown up with the same label I have experiences their life in a completely different way.  No two children live within the same defined constraints of alcoholism and no two children will ever see the disease in the same way.  My brother and I grew up in the same house and I would put money on the fact that we would describe the experience from two completely different perspectives.  This is the reality of disease – it will affect everyone in a unique way.

I was always an intuitive child and I knew from an early age that my parents did not drink the way most parents drank.  Sure, life was fun, life was a party, but life also got swept under the rug and the hard times were diluted with an alternate reality that was sold in a bottle.  My childhood was not a horrible experience, by any means.  My parents were loving, affectionate and giving and our family knew how to care for and support each other and work hard for the things we got.  But the demons always lurked in the corners.  When life was good, it was great.  But when life was difficult, my parents would retreat into the safety of the haze that alcohol created and the world outside of the four walls of our home failed to exist.  They shared a blurred vision that perpetuated the colors of their elusive rainbow.  Their co-dependency only fueled the fire of the disease and, as the years progressed, my father was the first to show the physical symptoms of its true profile.  Alcohol is a serial killer.

His once athletic frame had become withered and yellowed and the spark in his eyes had faded.  The buoyant man brimming with life was transformed into an aged man who, at times, seemed like a stranger.  His personality slowly retreated into a dark corner and the vacant stare that remained only served as a reminder that the man we once knew had been abducted by the demons of his past. Watching my father suffer the prolonged and debilitating effects of the disease was horrific.  Thankfully the memories I choose to keep are those of the energetic, exuberant man whom everyone loved.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of that serial killer lurking in the shadows.  I enjoy a glass of wine.  I appreciate a cold beer on a hot day.  But that enjoyment is tarnished with thoughts of a possible genetic mutation that may alter my pleasure and turn it into something sinister.  When I savor a red wine bursting with the aromas of blackberry and cinnamon, when I let it circle my taste buds with the pungent taste of earth and spice, there is an underlying sense of disquiet that the indulgence may have an ulterior motive.   I can only take solace in the fact that wine, for me, is a pleasure and not an escape.  I delight in its taste and my life is not affected by my enjoyment of its true character and nuance.  It enhances my palate, it does not control my world.

True to the form of a demented psyche, the serial killer has now targeted my mother. It has stalked her, circling her and batting at her like a cat with a mouse.  Seeing the recent change in my mom is more difficult because we have something to compare it to.  That all-too-familiar haunting look in her eyes and the subtle changes in her personality bring the experience with my dad back to the forefront of my mind.  We know what to expect and there is nothing we can do to change it.  We are helpless to watch my mom teeter over the same rabbit hole that swallowed my father.

Thankfully my mom is much like my dad and has the spirit of a fighter.  Deep inside she knows she is unwell, but her demeanor and her spunk tell a different story.  Together, as a family, we will board the windows and latch the doors to fend off the evil perpetrator as long as we can.   Serial killers may be tenacious, but this one has no idea what its up against.  Blood is most definitely thicker than water and the life force that flows in our veins is stubborn.  We will never give up without a good fight.   Disease will never trump a child’s love for their parents.

Why?

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This post was written for the Trifextra weekend Challenge:

This weekend, we are revisiting a prompt we’ve done before.  We are giving you three words and asking that you add another 33 to them to make a complete 36-word response.  You may use the words in any order you choose. 

Our three words are:

remember
rain
rebellion

tears

(photo credit: fanpop.com)

I will forever continue to remember his rebellion against sobriety, but the rain of my tears never fails to wash my guilt away.  I still think – why couldn’t I fix him?  Why didn’t he want help?

Slaying the dragon

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Even if it is broken, it can’t always be fixed ~SN.

My mother always used to tell me that I like to find the ‘broken ducks’ and fix them…..and it’s true.   I seem to be magnetically drawn to people who I think I can “save” in some way, even though they may not be looking for salvation.  If I look at it honestly, with no rose-colored glasses, my childhood perpetuated this need to create a sane world in a universe of quiet insanity.  On the outside our life was perfect, but on the inside there were things that created the person I am today and ingrained the need to make life as perfect on the inside as it seemed on the outside.  But I chose to focus on others rather than focusing  on myself.  I felt the need to create a picture by painting by the numbers that belonged to other people instead of the numbers on my blank canvas.  I grew up as a child of two alcoholic parents and the need to fix my parents spun into a life of restoring a sense of normalcy in every life but my own.

No matter the size of sword you carry, sometimes the dragon is bigger than you anticipated and it cannot be conquered by steel alone.  Although I spent many years of my youth trying to slay that beast, it had far more power than I anticipated and my life became a battle far greater than a teenaged girl was prepared to face.  The need to vanquish that dragon spilled into my marriage and the cycle of alcoholism and redemption breathed new life.  The dragon was alive and well with a different face and a new attitude, but it was the same dragon I had been battling for years.

slaying the dragon

(Photo courtesy of Google)

Perhaps it was the wisdom that came with age, or perhaps the sword I had been wielding had gained strength over the years, but the dragon I was faced with in the days of being married didn’t seem to possess as much strength as the dragon of my youth and I was able to overcome its fiery existence and reclaim the life I was meant to have.  Maybe that dragon still lingers, awaiting its chance for revenge, but I have finally drawn the line.  My stance is rigid and I am ready for that battle.

If there is anything this blogging journey has taught me, it is to be honest.  Not only honest in my life, but honest in my writing as well.  And whether that honesty presents itself in traits of a character or a mere extension of myself in this forum, it is freeing.  I have shared parts of myself I never thought I would divulge and it has liberated a piece of myself long since buried.  I have fixed myself by escaping the confines of my past and breaking down the walls that caged my future and instead have trapped the dragon in that cage.

I don’t know if I’m writing this to remind myself of the strength that I need to hold close to my heart or if I am writing this to finally free the dragon that I may never slay.  Regardless, tears slowly slide down my cheek as I free this last bit of anguish and look ahead to what will be.  I cannot change the past, but I can certainly shape my future by letting that dragon rest as I move on to a new castle that is free of that beast.

My life is a blank canvas.  It awaits a new story board and a tale that is yet to be written.  And maybe the canvas is slightly damaged, but I will embrace those impurities because the vision of the artist still holds the potential for a beautiful new masterpiece that is waiting to be created.