Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The wounds that never heal can only be mourned alone.

A friend recommended a book to me a few weeks ago. It's called "A Million Little Pieces," by James Frey. It is apparently this man's account of his battle with drugs an alcohol as a young man. I didn't know what the book was about when I got it from the library. I love to read and I love it when my friends recommend books to me.

Had I known what it was about, i probably wouldn't have read it. Some of it hits too close to home. As it is, there's been some sort of controversy over this book; apparently Frey fabricated a lot of it. For some reason, that makes it easier to read.

My dad was an alcoholic. I was scared for him for most of my childhood, and I decided when I was very young that I would never drink. My dad wasn't a mean drunk. He wasn't even a mean sober. He drank to keep the nightmares away. That's what he told me once when I asked him why he drank. He saw and experienced some horrific things in Vietnam, and I remember thinking I would probably do the same thing. He talked about the war when he drank. I knew the stories. They gave me nightmares, too. Night terrors, though I didn't know what those were until a few years ago.

When I started regular therapy (for the first time in my life) at the beginning of the year, my therapist told me I have PTSD, and that I also secondary PTSD. I asked her what that was, and she told me it's when a person suffers PTSD symptoms from a traumatic event, even though they never experienced it, because they live it through the person who told them about it. In other words, I was (still am) effected by my dad talking about the war. I felt/feel, on some level, the same fear as he did because he told me so much. I've been having apocalyptic, end-of-the-world nightmares since I was a kid. My sister and I have had trouble sleeping our entire lives, too.

I started reading up on PTSD and I hadn't realized how much of how I am is a result of it. I am mostly talking about this feeling of "disconnect" from other people. I thought it was just introversion, but I think it goes deeper than that. I shut people out and try to drive them away, I feel like I'm worthless and useless and I'm almost always tense and I walk around in a constant "flinch," waiting for the next blow.

My dad did a lot of the same things, only he drank most of the time. I was very conscious at an early age of how easy it could be to escape your troubles through alcohol. And I've never pushed that. I read something somewhere..."we're all addicted to something that kills the pain."

I saw how easy it was for Dad to escape into a bottle. I saw how it hurt him, and I saw how it hurt my family. To this day I have never been drunk. I've been buzzed and a little tipsy, but I never have more than a few drinks. I've never seen the fun in drinking. Rather, I don't think it's worth it. I always feel sick the next day, even if it was only one drink. I'd rather just have a root beer, honestly.

The most I've ever had to drink was this past March. My friends and I went out for karaoke to celebrate my and a co-worker's birthdays. I'd never done karaoke before. I love to sing, but the crap that comes out of my mouth sounds like a giraffe trapped under a burning hippo. But I made a decision, when I started therapy, that I would find one thing that scares me and I would confront it and move on to the next one.

My first real hurdle was the Warrior Dash last year, and I figure if I can survive heat, water, obstacles, barbed wire, mud and fire, I can survive just about anything.

So I sang "Fool in the Rain." Out loud. In public. I had one drink and two shots beforehand, and that helped. Later on I had a duck fart at another bar, and I paid for it the next day, but I'd had a lot of fun. Totally worth it.

Drugs are another matter. I had absolutely no experience with them until I was 24-years old and living in upstate New York. A couple of my friends were potheads, and it was a fascinating (and slightly scary) world to me. I observed but never partook, and my friends were always very respectful of that.

I never tried it myself until a couple of years ago. Then again a year later. It didn't do much but relax me and make me sleepy, but unlike alcohol, I always felt fine the next day.

I've been having some pretty serious sleep problems over the last few months. It's gotten to the point where I'm lucky to get four hours of sleep in two days. I've passed out on more than one occasion. My doctor prescribed Ambien and it helped for a little while. Melatonin used to do the trick, but not anymore. Then a friend gave me a "present" which took me a long time to finish, but I'd have a little toke every morning before bed (I work graveyard, which is a big part of the problem) and sleep like a baby without waking up once.

So while it is a wonderful sleep aid, I've never smoked to excess.

I didn't know what serious drug addiction was until I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Had no idea it was such a huge problem. It scares me more than alcohol, and not only because it's so unfamiliar to me. I can deal with drunk people, but I'm around tweakers a lot when I ride the MAX and there's an unpredictability there that puts me on edge. I lost a good friend to heroin overdose and I know others who have purposefully tried to o.d.

It hurts to have spent your life watching the people you love destroy themselves because whatever it is they're running from is so terrible they can't bring themselves to face it sober. And there's nothing you can do about it. Ever. At the most, you can only wait to help them pick up the pieces, but you can't predict when or even if they'll break. And if and when they do break, there's no telling whether or not they'll ever stand up again.

My dad fell. So many times. And I wasn't there the last time. But I live with that pain not because I think I deserve it, but because it means I'm alive. And I survived. And I wish I could give some of that strength to the people I love, the ones who are struggling, the ones who have given up, the ones who are lost and hopeless and afraid.

But I can't. All I can do is what I'm doing: going to therapy, working, living, fighting. I hope I can be an example to the people I know who are struggling. I know it's not easy, but it's a thousand times more bearable when you know that you've got support.

In every pothole there is hope...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It was a graveyard smash.


Two of my friends and I went to the Portland Zombie Prom on Saturday at the Bossanova Ballroom. Got made up as zombies, had a great time. Didn't dance with anyone except my friend and her boyfriend (at the same time). I guess a pity dance counts.

After the prom, we stopped at the am/pm to get some snacks and when we came out (still in zombie getup), there was a police car parked next to ours.  My friend, R, started walking like a zombie and when we got to our car, the intercom on the squad car clicked on and the cop said, "Brrrraaaaainnnns..." Made my fucking year. So awesome.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

They weren't lying.





Sarah Linkof of the Back Alley Barbers:

'Nighthawks' was the inspiration for this one:




Thursday, May 24, 2012

Always left standing when it came time to dance

I'm going to the zombie prom on Saturday. Alone. My friend and her boyfriend are going with me, but what I mean is that I have no date.

It's really sad to be my age and just now attending my first dance. Alone. I've danced with a man once in my life, and that was 13 years ago.

I'm excited to get dolled up like a zombie, but I'm afraid I'll spend most of the night fending off tears.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Two of my dogs died of cancer and one of my cats is currently fighting it. Please donate to this cause.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Of all that is written, I love only what a person has written with his own blood.

There is a 160 acre forest preserve not even half a block away from the house I grew up in. My sister and I spent the majority of our childhood playing in those woods. We knew them like the back of our hands. In the summer we would run around in the woods, walk along the trails-- we knew all of the trails. The main ones which were predominantly used for trail rides from the stables a couple miles down the road, and the "secret," less traveled ones that were worn enough so that you could run them without tripping, but not so obvious that non-locals would spot them.

There was a not-for-locals trail across the street from our house.  The woods in SW Cook County don't fuck around. They're not like the trees in Oregon, tall and sparse. There are a lot of trees vying for space in my woods, and if you were driving by, you would never guess there was a trail a few feet away from the road. If you were to walk about a half a mile up the street, there is an entrance to the forest preserve. The road loops around to the other side, creating a circle of field in the middle. Parking spots line the edge of this road and all around it.. trees.  The land slopes down a little into a big open area with a few picnic tables overlooking a small, glacial kettle. About 21,000 years ago, the Wisconsin Glacier retreated, and in doing so, created Lake Chicago.  Great-great-great Grandaddy to Lake Michigan, I guess you could say. At any rate, the area where I lived used to be Lake Chicago, and the pond in the woods across the street was created by glaciers. (Niagra Falls was an outlet for Lake Chicago; that should give you an idea of how fucking HUGE it was.) The tunnel we used to get from the east wood to the west wood, passes beneath a road that follows one of Lake Chicago's beach lines.

When we were maybe ten or eleven, my sister and I and our friends went into the woods. We took the trail by our house and came out into the clearing by the pond.  (This is the pond on which we learned to ice skate, btw.) After walking around and exploring for awhile, we decided to head back to my house. Everyone started walking up toward the parking lot, and I said we should take the trail because it's faster. No one wanted to take the trail, so they said I should take the trail and they would walk home via the road, and we'd see who got home first.

I watched them walk away and then hurried down to the path. It was getting close to sunset by then and the woods were a lot darker than when we'd arrived. I stood at the trail head ... and panicked. The thought of walking into the woods alone suddenly terrified me. I walked back across the clearing, up the hill and sat on a parking curb and cried. I heard something and when I looked up, my dad was walking toward me, hands in his pockets, smoking a cigarette. He looked at me, I looked at him, and then I stood up and we walked home.

That is one of my fondest memories of my dad because he didn't say a word to me but everything in that silence said, "I'm your dad and I love you. I'm here when you need me, and I will keep you safe."

My dad died 22 years ago today, on Mother's Day. I talked about this day with my therapist last week and at one point she said to me, "I think your father would be very proud of you." I hope she's right.

I'll never stop missing my dad, but life goes on.  Some years it's harder to face May 13th than others, but life still goes on. In some ways, I'm glad for the pain I feel when I miss him, because it means he was a good man and we still hold him close in our hearts.

I don't know what's "out there."  Nothing, I believe. But if I'm wrong, wherever my dad is, I hope he knows how much I loved him. To this day, I can't pass a forest without thinking of that day. For some of us, childhood was often a time of fear. It's good to have this memory, when I'm scared and alone, to remember the time when someone saved me from the darkness.

I love you, Dad.



No, really.  It's Halloween.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Perigee and the Playoffs

Game 3 of the WHL Championship series tonight! Portland Winterhawks vs the Edmonton Oil Kings.  This time around, I'm bringing a posse: three friends and two of their kids. That's right, it's girls' night for hockey. I would like to stress that I mean that in an entirely non-puck bunny kind of way. Even if these guys weren't jail bait, I go to hockey for hockey.

I'm excited because playoff games are so much more intense than regular season games, and the crowds are really into it. It still pisses me off that hardly anybody shows up to the games until the Hawks make the playoffs, but whatever. I'm always there, if my schedule/budget allows for it.

Last night was the supermoon, but I didn't see it in its super stage because of the goddamn clouds. It was still a lovely sight, and I got one decent digital shot of it.

Supermoon is super. Thanks for asking!

I'm incredibly excited for this Halloween: I've taken a week off and a good friend of mine is flying out for a visit. We're going to be Laverne and Shirley for Halloween and it is going to be awesome. I can't wait. Halloween is my favorite "holiday," and nobody ever wants to do anything fun. I think it would kick ass to dress up in L&S's bowling outfits and actually go bowling...