"I think you drink too much and that is your problem."
She may as well had slapped me across the face. Doctors aren't supposed to say that to their patients. I was pissed and clearly she hadn't listened to anything I had told her. Never mind the huge omission of bottles and boxes of my weekly wine intake in our original interview. She obviously didn't hear the part where I said I couldn't get anything done, like I'd fallen down a well and I couldn't climb out, like I'd been slogging through mud, that I'd been stuck for decades. How about testing me for adult ADD? Surely I'm experiencing perimenopause. You don't think this is depression? Tell me fucking anything but that I drink too much. You have no idea what you are talking about.
Denial has big green Incredible Hulk strength. It can pick you up and throw you into another reality where your sight-line is very different from everyone else's. I read somewhere that it's the denial of death that promoted our species, but all grown up, it's killing some of us. It doesn't come as a parting gift when we're launched into this world, but how quickly we figure out it's effectiveness. Even when you do catch a glimpse of the actual cold, hard situation, it's like the tall guy standing in front of you at a rock show. He may shift his weight and you can see the band for a second, but then he quickly moves back to his original place, leaving you staring at his backside again.
When you see someone die a particularly long, drawn-out death, you sometimes get to see them return to that baby-like state, before the layers of life's bullshit piled on. I got to see this when my Dad was dying and it punctured some well of compassion deep inside of me where I suddenly saw him as an innocent child. The child that knew nothing but love before his Dad drank too much, before his Dad's rage made him break chairs over little boy's heads and before his Mom pretended not to notice. Before my Dad carried that behavior into his little family, not even needing alcohol, he yelled and thrashed and hit and name-called. He didn't know that that wasn't how other families lived, he didn't share and he didn't care. So he worked, he provided, he bought jewelry and cars and motorcycles and vacations, so he obviously loved us and we would turn out just fine. When I watched him suck down a milkshake on his second to the last day of life, I saw a child that was full of unjaded, unfiltered, unaffected love.
In the last ten years of my drinking I thought my children were safe because I stayed at home to drink. Not that I had never driven them around after a few, but at home, I was certain we were safe. I will never ever forget the look on their little faces, eyes big as plates as they watched flames shoot up from the stove to the vent after I threw too much Pernod into a hot cast iron. Or the time they discovered I left the bathroom sink running and flooded the whole bathroom. Or the time I missed a step carrying my baby girl and landed on my elbow instead of her tiny skull. These things didn't happen because I had a drinking problem. No way. I just forgot to eat dinner. I was over-tired. I just shouldn't have had that tequila shot, but that was a one-time mistake. And besides, my kids are safe. They know I love them.
The best thing I've heard when I was getting sober and voluntarily running my hand over the daily fire of shame was, "model the solution". I've mentioned this on the blog before, but it bears repeating because I think it's the best message we can send to our children. Every problem is fixable, there is almost always a do-over, life gives us second chances and there is always a solution. Even when we have to swallow the cold, hard pill of reality, if we don't like it, we can fix it. Whether we are ready or not, children can be very adept at lifting the veil, giving the tall guy at the rock show a shove. Asperger kids are especially skilled at this and with his unedited honesty, my son said one night, "Mama, I don't like it when you're drunk." I guess the fifth time is the charm, because I finally heard the truth. And I've finally forgiven myself, forgiven my Dad and his Dad, for not being able to face reality and live accordingly. We did the best we could.
So now, I try and see things for what they are. I'm not perfect but if I was, I guess I would just ascend to Heaven now. I'm finding whatever I'm currently denying seems to pop up in my dreams anyway and since my sleeping head is running clear now, they are often fresh and ready for analyzation come morning. I occasionally have the typical drinking dreams that sober people have, but mine are less about the experience of being drunk and more about the sneaking, hiding, lying and covering-up. I know that is most likely because sober people are expected to show up in their lives with 100% honesty and that is still a tough row to hoe for me. Some habits take longer to die, so in the meantime, I have a dreamcatcher in every room. At the risk of committing a cultural misappropriation crime, I just love what they symbolize and I think they're pretty. I like pretty things. And in giving up my dreams to my dreamcatcher, I'm reminded to give up the rest to the Universe. As long as I can clearly see things for what they are, they can sort out the rest.
p.s. These are pretty easy to make with some embroidery hoops, string, yarn or fabric strips, some beads and feathers. For the center, I use pieces from already crocheted table cloths that I find at thrift stores. This and some glue, color and a tea-pot-filled afternoon, you are on your way giving your dreams a beautiful new home.