Love and Friendship

Being alone terrifies me. I have been with a romantic partner pretty much non-stop since I was 12. Even in the brief periods between partners, I have almost always had my children. I became a mom for the first time at 17, and now at 50, my youngest child is 11. I truly don’t know how to be alone. I don’t know who I am alone. Now I am facing a life on my own. Yes, I will still have the younger children, but only for another 10 years or so, and really, it won’t be even that long before they are spending most of their time off with friends. No, I am not closed to a relationship in the future, but I am realistic that it probably won’t happen at my age. So I need to figure out who I am, what I like, and what I want. I don’t have a clue where to start. Today my therapist talked about relying on my friends and I realized, I don’t have any close friends, especially not here where I live. I have wrapped myself up in being my husband’s wife and my kid’s mom, a teacher and a master’s student, and I have forgotten how to make and be a friend.

How do you even make friends at 50 when you are painfully self-conscious, socially awkward, going through a complicated divorce and trying to stay sober? It doesn’t help that my go to assumption is that people don’t like me. (Damn those mean girls from middle school for scarring me for life!) If I am looking at living on my own I am going to need support, and while my family is great, friends are what I need. I just have no idea where to look for them.

Then there is the sober thing. Although I am not practicing complete abstinence, drinking seems to be a big part of socializing with friends. I didn’t do so great with moderating my drinking the last time I was hanging out with people. I felt horrible the next day. While I don’t need or expect my friends to approach alcohol the way I do, I am worried that by looking to put myself in social situations I will be putting myself in the position to drink much more often and that will lead to regrets much more often and frankly, I’ve reached my lifetime limit for regrets.

As always, I guess I will approach this problem by reading all the books. Are there even any books on making friends? Something like “Making Friends for the Incredibly Hopeless” would be nice. Maybe I can find a blog or a podcast about socially-awkward middle-aged women learning to make friends again…If not, maybe I will start one. Who knows?

Changes and Challenges: A brain dump of my mess

My personal life imploded. My husband and I have separated but we are still living in the house with the kids together because financially that is our only option right now. I haven’t been able to write and I’ve been barely functioning. There was so much emotion and stress and tears wrapped up in it all. Then there was dealing with sobriety on my terms, and of course COVID – and people have gone completely bonkers out there politically and with the masking business. I knew our society was selfish, but I didn’t realize we were “I don’t give a fuck if you die. I’m going to do what I want and not be a decent human because FREEDOM!” And I’m stressed about returning to work as a teacher. I was stressed before all this, now It’s just amplified. I’m not good at multitasking emotionally.

My marriage has been in trouble for awhile. My husband has problems with money. He hops from job to job, never staying long in one place. He would frequently take out pay day and title loans against my paid off cars, (he always held the titles in his name. I didn’t think it mattered) and they would get repossessed when he decided not to pay. A few years ago my husband was arrested and went to jail briefly for stealing from his employer. He ended up getting a slap on the wrist – a few weeks in jail, probation, and restitution. He lost a good job (of course) and his VA disability benefits ceased while he was in jail. That was 80% of our income. Our family was thrown into chaos. He was gone, so I had to tell the kids what happened. They adore their dad, as kids should, and this was a big blow. I had to figure out how to pay for lawyers and rent, food, utilities, and other expenses. I also had to deal with the fact that I was married to someone who would steal. That the great family trip we had recently taken was paid for with stolen money. I still can’t look at those pictures without feeling sick to my stomach.

I had been a stay-at-home mom/part-time worker all of my adult life. I had a few stunts of full-time work, but I loved staying home and being a mom. When my younger set of kids (I have 2 – one much older and on their own from my previous marriage and my 3 kids with my current husband) all started school I started working full time in a school as well. It was a low paying job as a special education paraprofessional, but it provided good health insurance, had hours that matched my kids’ school hours, and I really loved my work. When my husband was working, it was perfect because it provided much needed health insurance and paid for extras and some savings. Now it was our only income. After deductions, my paycheck would barely cover our rent. I was selling Lularoe clothing on the side, another job I really enjoyed. I liquidated my inventory and closed to pay our rent and other expenses. I applied for SNAP benefits (food stamps) so my kids could eat. It was difficult. I discovered lie after lie my husband had told me. Lies I accepted hook-line-and sinker. I was devastated and felt like a fool. I consulted a divorce attorney. I could barely afford gas to get to work, much less the thousand or so dollars it would cost to file for divorce. I couldn’t afford to move out on my own. My husband wasn’t working so child support was unlikely and even if he got a job, it was likely he wouldn’t pay or his checks would bounce. I made the choice to give him a chance to grow and change. I was a fool.

One good decision I made was to move toward being able to support the kids and myself on my own. I loved my job working in special education and a nearby university had a program in which I could get my masters in special education and my teaching certification at the same time. I would even be able to teach on a provisional license. I applied and was accepted. Eventually, I was hired as a high school special education teacher. Just a couple of months shy of my 50th birthday I had my first real, salaried job. I was enthusiastic. I was unprepared. I was terrified.

Through all this my husband had gotten and lost a job, been unemployed for most of a year – except for some part time work gaming online- lied about having a job (had me drive him there for weeks even!), and then got the job he lied about. We were tapped out on all savings. After the lie about the job he agreed to get some counseling after I gave him an ultimatum. He went once or twice and quit. Somewhere in all this my nightly glass or two of wine escalated to a bottle plus. I was just trying to numb it all.

When my husband lost his job he was on Workman’s Comp. He had hired an attorney for the comp claim. When he got fired, he sent me a picture of a letter he received saying he was being terminated due to pending litigation. Because you cannot fire someone due to them filing a workman’s comp claim, I encouraged him to give the letter to his attorney. I should have realized that things seemed fishy. His unemployment claim was denied because , he said, they falsely claimed he was fired for giving medication to a coworker. I didn’t want to pay attention. I accepted his flimsy excuse as I always did, without question. He received his comp settlement which promptly went to living expenses. He told me they were perusing the wrongful termination claim.

He lied. fast forward a year or so. He tells me they have set a court date for his wrongful termination case. A couple of days before that he tells me they have settled for a bit more than $66,000. To say this is a relief is an understatement. I can see a light forward. We talk about what we will use the money for. My older daughters are both getting married. Some of the money will go toward their weddings. Our oldest needs braces. We will be able to pay for that. We talk about going on a vacation, buying a house finally, and putting most of the money into savings. Around this time I realized my drinking was excessive and I decided to quit. At first my husband keeps bringing home wine. He doesn’t want me to quit. Eventually he stops bringing home wine.

Again there were red flags. He was having problems getting the check from his lawyer, but COVID had hit and we were in lockdown so I wasn’t overly concerned. Finally, he told me the check was ready and he went to get it. He sent me a picture of the check. He deposited it in his personal account rather than the account we share. He showed me the bank balance on his phone when the check hit his account. We had agreed to put it in the shared account, but this was a minor issue I supposed. I was just happy we were finally above water financially. My daughter was getting married that week in a COVID virtual Zoom wedding. He wrote her a check from his account and we sent it off. The wedding was lovely. My daughter and her husband called to thank us for the check. A few days later my husband is out and I get out of the shower to the dogs barking. Someone is outside our house taking my car. My car is getting repossessed AGAIN! I call and text my husband but he doesn’t respond. When he finally returns he admits he took out another loan against my car. He tells me he is going to fix it. He has the money. Over the next few days it comes out that he does not have the money. Only part of it. There was no settlement. He lied. I empty my bank account to get my car back and call my daughter who confirms the check my husband wrote bounced. I am angry, humiliated, devastated. The financial safety net I thought we had is gone. It feels like it was stolen, though I know in my head it never was there. It still feels in my heart like he stole it from us. And in a way he did. He stole the peace of mind the settlement had given me. I investigate if it is possible he is just hiding the money from me. No, it really was all a lie. Again, I have to face what a gigantic fool I am.

Our wedding song was “Fools Rush In” – the song is inspired by the saying “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” which I wish I knew at the time so I could have heeded the warning. I married my husband barely knowing him. We had spent less than 48 hours together and had known each other for less than a month. It was reckless and, looking back, completely stupid. I loved him, or at least who I thought he was. I was not perfect. I have flaws like everyone. But I never lied, cheated, or did anything to undermine our marriage. He did all those things. In many ways, if I had a time machine, I would go back, laugh, and say, “Absolutely not!” To his crazy proposal, but, by saying yes I do have 3 wonderful children I adore. At least I come out of this with that.

So, now I am on to the next step. For now we are living together. It is hard. Hopefully we will be able to figure out a way to make living separately financially viable. I know he is thinking I am going to give in again and things will go back the way they always have, and I can’t really blame him. I have always done that. It is easy and familiar. Being alone scares the crap out of me. I hope my husband gets into counseling for the sake of our kids. I’m afraid his behavior will continue to hurt them if he does not. I am in counseling to make sure I am strong enough to leave and to deal with my dependent/codependent behaviors that got me here in the first place. It’s a mess, but so far I am dealing with it mostly sober. I had a couple of days of binge drinking and feeling sorry for myself/angry with him. I felt awful and realized I want to be able to cope and deal with things clear headed as they come. I don’t do well moderating my drinking yet. I think I still have too many emotions I want to numb. So no drinking if is for now.

Day 5-ish- It’s not about perfection.

So here we go again. I’m on day 3 of no alcohol, day 5 or 6 if I include my one drink evening, which for me, I am going to include. I get super frustrated and discouraged by the all or nothing sobriety success story. While I get that never drinking again is necessary for some people, I don’t think it has to be the only marker of success. Since I embraced this I have had a much easier time moving forward into a more sober life. I belong to a sobriety group and my heart aches when I hear women who are working so hard on their sobriety, declare themselves a failure for a slip up. Often this leads to a “Oh well, I fucked that up, might as well go big or go home.” Binge drinking bender. We need to embrace the imperfection, the messiness of getting sober, as normal, and as an important step in the journey.

Since I stopped drinking I am already being forced to confront some of the issues in my life that triggered my drinking. I have a crap load of work to do on that front. Fair to say there will be some upcoming posts on that mess.

Another change- I am off all antidepressants. It started when my insurance refused to cover the new med my doctor prescribed. The one they would cover made me feel cranky and off so I stopped taking it, and I had already weaned off my previous medication. I have been shocked to find I feel so much better! Since being off the medication medication my craving for alcohol has diminished at least 80%. I am really curious if this is a coincidence or if the medication was somehow worsening my desire to drink.

Back to the Beginning

Well, that was a bust. My usual bust I guess. I can go a few days sober and then I fall right back into my evening bottle habit.

I am trying to piece together the whys of this cycle. I know I will be better without alcohol. So what is holding me back? I want this. Don’t I? Frankly it is scary. Really, really, scary for me.

I know one fear I have is the “Never again” fear.

That I will never again share a fancy cocktail with my adult daughters or friends at a trendy cocktail lounge.

That I will never again be able to enjoy a glass of wine with a nice dinner.

That I will never again sit on a balcony watching the sun set with a glass of wine (how I love doing this!!).

That I will never again have an alcoholic drink as the primer and buffer that makes socializing bearable for me. This is a biggie. I am awkward and awful in social situations. If I know people I am fine, but crowds and strangers – I am hopeless. Alcohol helps me relax enough to participate at least minimally.

That I won’t be able to use it to calm my anxiety and OCD when my house is dirty and messy. (and it is always dirty and messy, so this one really sucks)

That I won’t have it to calm my anxiety about having my first real, salaried job at 50 and if I can keep up with work and school. (school is required for work for another year until my certification is complete)

Then there is the other big one. The super big one.

That I will never again be able to use it to block out the things I don’t want to address in my personal life.

And there it is. That is the big one.

My drinking got out of control when things started spiraling out of control in my marriage. I am a person who avoids confrontation. Alcohol lets me relax and not think about the things that are upsetting me.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying about having a Purple Heart.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying about being diagnosed with cancer.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying about how he lost his job.

I don’t have to think about how I didn’t even know these were lies for years and what a fool that makes me feel like.

I don’t have to think about my husband threatening to kill himself.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying and getting my car repossessed.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying, stealing from his work, and getting arrested.

I don’t have to think about how my husband lied to me about having a job, had me get up early for weeks and drive him to the job, and there was no job.

I don’t have to think about all of the other things that have happened.

When I drink, I can stop worrying, for just a little bit, if another “surprise” is about to drop and the rug will be pulled out from under us yet again.

People may wonder what part I have had in all the mess that is my marriage. I was definitely too trusting. I let him control all our finances. I stayed at home with our kids when they were little and didn’t develop any job skills. I was passive. I wanted to let someone else be in control. I just didn’t realize I had chosen the wrong person for that. I have started to fix those things, but it is hard. I can say I have never lied to my husband about anything important (Nothing more serious than claiming I did not know what happened to the leftover cookie dough) or cheated.

So I am going to start this again. I am going to look for some meetings or therapy. I checked on AA meetings once and the ones in my area all looked SUPER religious (not surprising, I am in the Bible Belt) which put me off. I am also going to join a yoga studio. Maybe going to yoga will keep me busy in the evenings. We will see. I have to try something.

Not the first Day 1

So no alcohol today. So far, so good. Of course it is 8:45 am and I have never been a morning drinker. Now I do love a mimosa, but I only indulge in them during the occasional brunch or Christmas or Easter morning. So I guess we are jumping the gun saying we have a sober day. The real challenge will come about 4 or 5pm when my brain will REALLY want that first glass of wine. I suppose I should plan now for something to distract me. It is hard because I drink at home. I don’t go to bars or out with friends, or even have friends over to drink. My husband doesn’t even drink. O, that is to say he drinks very occasionally and like a normal person. He can have one drink. Just one. It baffles me. Though he has been less than helpful when it comes to stopping. Our exchanges go like this –

Me: (morning)”Hon, I really want to stop drinking, so don’t buy me wine.”

Him: “Ok.”

Also him when I come home that evening: ” I bought you wine! I poured you a glass, it’s on the counter.”

I need to find something to distract me when I really want to give in, because I know that one glass will lead to two then 4. I would go for a walk but its supposed to be raining. I think the museum will be open. That’s an option. Or I could go to the library to work, but it’s President’s Day so they might be closed. Maybe I’ll start yoga even though my knee doesn’t bend enough to do a lot of the poses correctly. It might be good.

The Research Phase

I am one of those people who either researches the hell out of something or I dive in blind and reckless. There is no middle ground. I don’t know what propels my reckless, blind dives. I don’t know why saying yes to marrying a man I barely knew was something I could do without thinking, but getting sober is requiring PhD level research and planning. Whatever the cause, right now, I am in what I will refer to as The Research Phase of my sobriety.

So far my “Reasearch Phase” phase has consisted of binge listening to sobriety memoirs on Audible and taking numerous on-line questionnaires about my drinking and even googling AA meetings in my area. Which- btw – in my particular little part of the Bible Belt, they all had a definitely Christian bent that I makes me think I would not be welcome as a liberal agnostic at best. Of course at this moment I am typing, listening to I’m not even sure I can call myself an alcoholic. I definitely could have taken on that mantle at one point in my life, but now? I’m not so sure.

So I listen to these “sobriety memoirs”. I just finished We are the Luckiest, by Laura McKowen and I am currently listening to The Sober Diaries by Claire Pooley. I have ordered Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston in book form because, well, it just struck me as a read, rather than a listen. I notice as I look through lists of sobriety memoirs, they are all written by women who had incredibly impressive jobs and backgrounds. They have six figure salaries, high-powered positions in big cities, impressive educations, endless social lives, and tend to be younger than me by a good bit. They are difficult for me to connect with. I barely have a social life. I have difficulty making friends. I am 50 and I have been a mom for most of my life. I just got my first salaried job of my life this year. I am still in school getting my Master’s degree. So, while they are a good listen and I occasionally find myself relating to what they are saying, I wonder where my story fits in all this.

Hi. Meet me.

Hi, My name is Mila and I’m not ready say I am an alcoholic.

I’m not ready because I don’t know if that is what I am. I am certainly someone with a long and complicated relationship with alcohol, but an alcoholic? That doesn’t seem to fit.

So here I am. A middle aged lady, writing a blog, trying to figure out her relationship with alcohol and sobriety, and life.

Why am I writing here? Because I can. Because writing helps me clear my head and order things in my mind. Why not a journal, I’ve tried and failed at that. Plus it is so much easier to clean up a blog post.

My life is messy. It has always been messy. I have never figured out the art of a beautiful life, though I have tried. I know that alcohol is adding to the messy. I know I am using it to ignore things I should be taking care of.