Alexithymia (The Day My Sisters Died – Part 2)

Trigger Warning: I know several people are reading who have also been through a similar experience to mine. In light of this, please know that some of this post may be disturbing to you. Please monitor yourself if you wish to keep reading and don’t read more than will unnecessarily disturb you. I am going to try to write this in a clear way, on a line between giving details without being overly graphic. However I know that each person’s triggers are different, so I just ask that you are very gentle with yourself as you read.

Click here to read part 1.

sisters
(L to R: Rachel, Stephanie (my twin), me, Grace. September, 2007 – 3 months before)

Alexithymia, the name of my sister Rachel’s favorite Anberlin song, has a strange meaning. According to Merriam-Webster, it is “the inability to express one’s feelings.” Psychologically, it can mean “deficiency or complete inability in assessing and describing one’s own emotional state.”

How can one describe their emotional state during a trauma? It’s impossible. Even after, looking back, I have no words that can fully express what I felt. I can only shape my words to form somewhat of a container for the feelings that occurred.

This is the hardest part to write for me because of so many things. As I write, in my head I hear so much noise. That is what is most present for me as I remember December 9. The noise was unbearable. Noise is still my biggest trigger. I hear it all in my head when I write and it’s excruciatingly painful.

I think maybe the silence I’ve had, though, is even more painful.

——

“It’s alarming how loud the silence screams
No warn, no warn, no warning…”
Anberlin

There was no warning. There was silence, and then there was chaos.

My mom was in the driver’s seat, my dad in the passenger. My twin was behind my mom, and behind her was my youngest sister Grace. Behind my dad, the seat was down and the door was open as we waited for my sister Rachel to get in. Behind that open seat, was me.

After the sound like a balloon popping, there was another pop, and another. And then the window next to my twin sister shattered.

My dad yelled, “Get down! Somebody is shooting at us!” My little sister screamed. My twin sister, just behind my mom, moved to get down. As I slid down in my seat in the very back of the van, everything suddenly became very still and slow. My thoughts came in slow motion. My dad yelled for someone to call 911, so I automatically grabbed the phone that was in my purse and dialed.

Though my mind was slow, my words weren’t. As soon as the dispatcher answered, I was spitting words at her in absolute panic. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something like, “Someone’s shooting at us, someone’s shooting at my family!” I felt like I was suspended in time. Thoughts floated through my head almost slowly enough so that I could see words appearing.

I’m going to need counseling after this.

I forgive this guy, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

This is the same person who shot up YWAM last night.

We’re going to be home by tonight, we have to… God said we’re going to go around the world, that we’re going to get this money,  so we have to survive.

Short, staccato noises kept coming without fail. They echoed, bouncing off the buildings, loud as all hell. Two dots appeared in the windshield as my parents cowered in the front seat, trying to stay out of sight. Glass was shattering everywhere.

I could feel the hate this person was directing at us; not really at us though, at some inner demon that tortured him. I felt as if, though I couldn’t see him, I was looking into the eyes of pure evil.

“I’ve been hit,” said my sister Rachel, outside the car. The screaming escalated. “Oh my god!” my dad yelled, jumping out of the car without thought to get to my sister. He was shot and fell on his stomach about 10 feet from the car (if I recollect correctly and that’s a big if).

My little sister had rushed past me at the same time, somehow miraculously escaping the gunman’s notice. I remember her as a blur, going past me. I clutched the phone in my hand.

My sister’s been shot!” I screamed at the dispatcher.

My dad was yelling “oh my god, oh my god.”

Screaming and loud popping alternately traded off, echoing, echoing, echoing.

I was babbling to the dispatcher. My mind wanted to fly into the stratosphere, and I was hysterical. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” I said. But she had asked me where I was, so I pulled myself into the moment and described clear directions to our location.

The sounds started moving away, blessedly away. A silence that was not silent drifted down on us. Screaming was still coming from all directions, but everything felt chillingly, disturbingly still.

In the silence I heard my dad saying to Rachel, “I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you honey, I’m so sorry.”

It was then I saw my twin sister, Stephanie, in front of me. She wasn’t moving. She was face down on the carpet in front of the seat.

“Both of my sisters have been shot!” I screamed at the dispatcher.

Suddenly my mom was in front of me, sitting with my twin, cradling her head.

“Can you find an exit wound?” the dispatcher asked. “You need to stop the bleeding.”

There wasn’t any blood, though, except on her face. She’d hit her nose when she fell to the floor. That image is seared into my brain – my twin’s face, as if she were asleep, peaceful. But blood ran down from her nose. I wished to God she was just sleeping.

There was a small hole in the back of her yellow coat but that was all we could find. The dispatcher kept telling me, “You need to find an exit wound.”

My mom was saying, “I can’t find an exit wound, I can’t find an exit wound.” She was crying, hysterical as I was. We looked and looked, not finding anything. My mom carefully turned my sister over. Still nothing. My twin’s brown hair flopped around her face, limp.

I got frustrated. “Here,” I shoved my scarf at her. “Put this on the wound!” I yelled at her. There was no wound to put it on but I had to do something for God’s sake. I felt helpless, standing by on the phone with hands full.

“I think she’s gone, I think she’s gone,” my mom said, half weeping. I blocked it away. I couldn’t deal with that yet. She asked me to get her keys and anointing oil from the front seat, so I got out and leaned in the passenger door to get it from her purse. I cut my left palm on the glass that lay on the passenger seat from the shattered windshield.

The dispatcher told me “Emergency crews are on the way. You need to look for them, let me know when they arrive.” I saw a white truck from the fire department driving towards us and as I went to wave him down, I passed Rachel laying on the pavement.

I can’t describe to you anything worse than what her face looked like at that moment. I felt like all the breath had been ripped out of my body. She was mumbling something as I walked by. She wore a shirt that had a sunset on it; I didn’t remember this until 4 years later. It’s oddly ironic to me now. Her face was gray and blue as twilight, horrific death was there. Everything inside of me was sinking like an iron ball in the ocean. There are not enough metaphors in the world to describe to you the depth of agony and despair that I felt.

My arms waved slowly at the rescue truck. “Over here! Over here!” I called. My voice sounded reedy and thin, even to me… hopeless, because hope was draining out of my body. “Emergency crews are here now,” I told the dispatcher. “Okay,” she said, and we disconnected. The man pulled his truck over with a screech and ran toward us. He ran past me, not realizing how intimately I was connected to the situation, focused on getting to the van where my sisters were.

At that moment other people showed up and someone grabbed me. “The shooter is coming back!” he yelled, and my sister Grace and I were dragged to a nearby black pickup truck, where we cowered in the front seat. Two boys sat in the back seat, staring at us. One said something to me, I don’t remember what. “Those are my sisters,” I babbled at him. I had lost myself by this point. I dialed my boyfriend’s number on the cell phone still in my hand. Voicemail. Unintelligible words spilled out onto the blank message. I disconnected the call. “Breathe,” I told myself, out loud. “Just breathe.” I tried. I rocked back and forth, trying to calm myself. My teeth were chattering. My little sister Grace sat across from me, dazed and in a similar condition to mine.

I dialed again, this time my boyfriend’s dad’s number. His mom answered. Words rushed out of my mouth. “My sisters have been shot!” I screamed into the phone. “Oh my god. Are you okay? What hospital are they taking them to?” I had no idea. There was an ambulance there now but I was disconnected from them, hiding in this truck. “I don’t know. I’ll call you when I know.” She agreed. I disconnected the call.

We realized the shooter wasn’t coming back and got out of the truck. I started wandering back towards the van, feeling detached, out of my body. An ambulance was there, and EMTs were everywhere. With my dad. With Rachel. They loaded her up into the ambulance. The siren blasted loud and eerie through the parking lot.

A police officer grabbed me and said, “Go into the Tent.” (This was the nearest building to our location, a tent-like structure used by the church for smaller events) My then-best friend had called me to see if I was okay. I told her what was going on. The police officer, frustrated, grabbed me by the collar and dragged me toward the building, intent on getting me out of harm’s way. My mom was next to me again, crying hysterically. My sister Grace was a shadow beside me.

My call with my best friend was interrupted when my boyfriend called. I told her goodbye and spoke to my boyfriend. We were in the lobby, near a collection of standing tables. Someone threw a pile of coats underneath and I crawled up on the coats and curled into a fetal position. I didn’t want to move. My mom was saying, “I think she’s gone, I think she’s gone…” and crying. “Ugh,” I thought. “SHUT UP.”

On the phone with my boyfriend, I was pleading, pleading, pleading. “Please come now. I need you,” I said.

“I don’t know if anyone is going down yet,” he said. I could feel his hesitation. A part of me thought, “What? This isn’t supposed to be how it works. He’s supposed to say I love you. I’ll be there right away.” But he didn’t. He kept stalling. I kept begging. “Please J—-, I need you. Please come now.”

Finally the words came through the phone. “Okay. I’m coming. R– is going to drive me down to meet my dad.”

Somehow, we moved into the tiny auditorium in the building. People still thought the shooter would return and police tried to shuffle everyone into the auditorium to be safe. (I don’t know how they thought this was safe) My mom, my sister Grace and I all sat down at a table. I was on the phone. My mom, a coat draped around her shoulders, was talking to a woman who had appeared. Grace was crying and talking to another woman who had come to the table and knelt down next to her. I crouched, bent in half, on the phone with my boyfriend. My mom was explaining to the woman what had happened. “I think she’s dead, I think she’s dead,” my mom babbled. I turned away and plugged my ears so I couldn’t hear those awful words.

“My mom keeps saying my sister is dead and I can’t deal with that right now,” I told my boyfriend. “You need a Bible,” he said to me. “Get someone to give you a Bible.” I lifted my head and asked for a Bible. Someone brought me one, and I turned to Psalm 91, the only thing I could think of to read. I read it out loud, twice, because I couldn’t concentrate on it if I read it silently. After I finished the last verse, I suddenly began singing.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

I was terrified and hysterical. It was the only truth I could think of to hold onto.

Just after I’d stopped singing, I got another phone call, from the man who’d led my DTS team the year before. I answered and he asked if I was okay, if my family was ok. I could barely force out the words, “No, it’s us.”

“Oh my god. I’m coming right now,” he said.

Right around then, someone found us and realized who we were. The pastor came up. Another friend I’d known since the summer, J—, saw me at just the moment when the pastor pulled everyone in to pray. He came up to me and wrapped me in a big hug, and I didn’t want to move. I’ll never forget his face; the sadness, the pain. The pastor prayed. And when he finished, finally someone went to find out which hospital my sisters had gone to. My boyfriend still waited on the phone.

Someone told us that the shooter had committed suicide. I felt an extreme relief. All I had wanted was for someone to STOP HIM. My body relaxed just a little in overwhelming gratitude.

A policeman came over and I explained that a friend was coming to find me and they NEEDED to let him through. A few minutes later, G– appeared. “G– is here, hang on a minute,” I told my boyfriend, and G– wrapped me up in a huge hug and didn’t let go. I was wishing he wouldn’t, all I wanted to do was be held at that moment, because I was shattered into pieces inside.

I told my boyfriend I was going to get off the phone now because G– had arrived. So I disconnected. We sat for a few minutes waiting while they got a van to take us to the hospital. They told us where Rachel had been taken, but not where my twin, Stephanie, was. No one seemed to know, or they were keeping it to themselves. Finally, we all piled into a church van. G– came along in the van, and I was grateful, I needed someone there. I sat in the back next to my mom as we drove.

We were at the light at the Fillmore and I-25 exit, just before arriving at the hospital. I was looking at the sky, and it was in that golden hour just before sunset. And I saw Stephanie – my beloved twin sister – and she was with God. She was smiling.

I knew she was gone.

——

To continue reading, go to Part 3. 

The Unwinding Cable Car (Or – The Day My Sisters Died, Part 1)

I have told this story over and over, sometimes to an audience of one, and sometimes to the audience of the world. Although if you asked, I couldn’t tell you what words I stumbled over in the Good Morning America interview only 2 weeks after my sisters died. I remember I was wearing a yellow shirt and looked terribly unkempt. But that’s really about it. I got extremely used to telling the story but I haven’t told it in awhile now. I’ve tried to reconnect with the emotions, and to not just tell it as a line of events that happened.

So as I unfold this to you, I have an ache that sits in the center of my stomach.

“Emotive, unstable
You’re like an unwinding cable car…”
Anberlin

December 9, 2007 dawned clear, cold, and to the surprise of my family: sunny. We were living in Denver in a teeny tiny apartment, and were driving an hour away for church on Sunday mornings. This was a Sunday morning, but there had been a ferocious winter snow storm the night before. My dad debated making the drive. In the end, it was decided; we would go to church.

That week had been a rollercoaster for me. Two of my coworkers had asked me to cover shifts due to family emergencies. I had worked more than my normal amount of hours for the week and I was exhausted. Furthermore, my boyfriend had recently disclosed some distressing news to me that I was still grappling with. Due to this news, I had even asked my manager for extra work. I was trying to forget what my boyfriend had told me. I was angry, and I wasn’t sure if I should stay with him, or leave.

My sister Rachel, having overheard the conversation a few nights earlier, gave me a note when she came into my work one morning:

“Philippians 4:6-7: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

She never told me how much or what she heard during my conversation with my boyfriend. But when she gave me that note, I knew that she knew. The note was so uncharacteristic of her. And I needed nothing more than those words at that moment.

So Sunday morning, after the snowstorm, us girls piled into our family van and we took off for church. We each did our various zone-out activities for the hour long ride. I am sure I was listening to my Ipod. That was my go-to activity. When we were about halfway there, I had a sudden idea and leaned forward. “Rach, there’s an Anberlin concert in Denver tonight. We should ask Mom to take us!”

She got excited. “Yeah we totally should!”

“Okay, we’ll talk to her after church,” I said. We were both excited at the impromptu idea of going to see one of our new favorite bands. We had different favorite songs, but the same taste in music. While she liked Set Fire to the Third Bar by Snow Patrol, I was a fan of It’s Beginning to Get to Me. While I liked The Unwinding Cable Car by Anberlin, she liked Alexithymia.

It was when we had arrived at church that I heard about the shooting. I overheard my parents talking about the news. “What are you talking about, Dad?”

“Oh, you didn’t hear? There was a shooting up at the YWAM base in Arvada.”

“WHAT? I have a friend there!!!” My dad looked shocked. I felt frantic. I immediately sent out texts and tried to call our mutual friends. Mutual friends of hers were calling me to try and find information. I ran out to the lobby for a few minutes trying to get ahold of people. In the middle of this I called my boyfriend who was snowboarding up in Breckenridge that day.

I just feel guilty, you know? Like I should have prayed more last night or something. I feel really bad. I was so selfish last night, so stuck in my own head.

He tried to reassure me but I couldn’t shake the idea that I could have prevented it somehow with my prayers. I went back into the service where worship was halfway through and joined Rachel up near the front, with the other young people who worshiped in front of the altar. Right about then, I received a message telling me that my friend was safe. Relieved, I tried to lose myself in the service.

Dr. Jack Hayford was preaching that day and he talked about the wise men and the gifts they brought Jesus. He talked about having an open heart to God during the Christmas season. About giving our most precious gift to Christ. Unaware that those words would become like hot cattle brands later, I jotted down notes furiously. I was always quite studious during Sunday sermons.

After the sermon, my dad went to talk to the missions pastor at our church. My dad is quite the talker, so we were in the huge sanctuary until it emptied out. It was almost 1pm when my dad finally said, “Okay, well, let’s go.”

We walked down the long hallway towards the end of the church, and our car. Looking back, that hallway is now reminiscent of another hallway… the hallway between the hospital and the hospice where my Grandpa died. It was a hallway I used to call to myself “the hallway of death” due to its stark white walls.

My mom usually stopped at the restroom, but today we were eager to leave after staying so long. We discussed where to go for lunch. To avoid a fight, I agreed with the decision to go to a local burger place. I didn’t feel like burgers, but our fights over where to eat were notorious in my family, and I didn’t feel like making a big deal out of it.

As we were heading out of the building, we saw a long-time friend whose car was parked near ours. We exchanged hellos. The sun was shining in a stark blue sky; snow and slush were still covering the huge parking lot. Everything was so quietly normal.

My sisters and I piled into the back of our white minivan. All of us were in except Rachel, who had stopped to get something out of her purse. At that moment, I thought I heard a balloon pop. Or maybe it was the tire exploding? “What was that?” I asked. That was when the screaming started.

To continue reading, go to Part 2 and Part 3.

Learning Love… Slowly.

When I was a teenager, I thought I had love all figured out. I wrote poems pretending I knew what love was. Mostly because I desperately wanted to know what love was. I wanted to gulp it down thirstily without tasting its essence. I wanted to believe that the person I was in love with was -The One.-

(He wasn’t.)

At 25, I’ve realized that I don’t know altogether what love is. Maybe because love can’t be pinned down in one place. It looks differently with each person. Love between sisters has a different shape than love between friends. Love between friends is molded differently than it is between lovers. For that matter, love for one sister may differ from love for the other, which we don’t like to say. Favoritism is an ugly word. But maybe it’s not favoritism… maybe it’s just that the shape is different.

Maybe love is like me and my kitty hanging out around the house. She lays down on my lap and falls asleep, content. Or, she runs around, batting at my pant legs, pawing my computer cords, hiding in the dark of my bedroom, or rushing around the living room like a cat straight outta hell. She can’t be pinned down, then, and if I pick her up she struggles to get down. She’s 2/3 adventure, 1/3 cuddly sweet kitten.

Sounds familiar. I didn’t pick her – I think she picked me. 🙂

catinthebag
Calm kitteh is in the bag

mekitty1
“MOM put me downnnnn…”

kittehattack
ATTACKKKKK!!! (she’s about to bite my hand)

stahhhhp
“Mooooom stop using me for a photo op and let me bite your hand!”

Maybe human love and animal love isn’t quite so different. 🙂 Somehow you end up loving a creature that takes over your space and can be kind of annoying, but they’re so adorable you choose to keep living with them.

Learning to love yourself is similar, too.

One day, I might learn the exact exposure that love is imprinted upon, the colors and contrasts that make it up. And I might not. I’m okay with not knowing ALL the ins and outs of love. Some things should be left to mystery, to the journey, to learning what it means to savor instead of trying to gulp before tasting.

“One can’t understand everything at once, we can’t begin with perfection all at once! In order to reach perfection one must begin by being ignorant of a great deal. And if we understand things too quickly, perhaps we shan’t understand them thoroughly.” (The Idiot)

I think I prefer to understand things slowly, if that means I learn them thoroughly. Especially when it comes to love.

And now I want to say to all of you – Happy Valentine’s Day – from me and my kitty Hermione 🙂 I am really grateful for all of my readers; thank you for “seeing” me, even if it is through the internet! I am blessed by the words we exchange here; I find this place sacred so much of the time and it’s because of you all. May your Valentine’s Day be full of love; may you feel precious and cherished today, because you are.

STOP – In the naaaaaame of looooove…

So, last week was pretty much hellfire and brimstone aimed at my dwelling. Wish I could say I did the celebrity walkout with explosions in the background…

explode
(Source)

But I didn’t. Got nicely caught in the crossfire happening in my own brain. I’m still dealing with aftermath and all the beautiful particles and things. I got seriously spun out. Thankfully, I was able to do some energy work yesterday and that was regrounding.

Thing is, I really care about what people think of me. It makes up my value system. Merit badges galore, based on opinion or numbers. Numbers like GPA, or the accuracy percentage I achieve at work for dictating calls. Or opinions deeming me a worthwhile person, a “sweet” person (oh how often I hear those words), a “nice” person, etc, etc, etc. These measure my value and worth.

It was also the standards that in many ways, drove me to alcohol. “If that’s what you all think of me, well I’LL SHOW YOU HOW I REALLY AM!” (imperfect, bitchy, unbridled, that is)

I still haven’t resolved this inner maelstrom, unfortunately. With 21 months of sobriety, it still pops up and I still assign my value to what others think of me, to outside standards. So when someone on the outside confirms my inner insecurity – that I’m not actually measuring up to the standard of “quiet, peaceful nun who makes no waves”, well…cue the explosion pictured above. I crumble because my entire value is dependent on what others think of me.

Most of the time, too, I spend my days rushing around trying to meet standards. My own, or the standards of others. When I was in school, it was professors and GPA. Now that I’m not in school, it’s all about work performance and what my friends think of me. I graduated with my B.A. in December, and when I tell people I graduated Magna Cum Laude, they usually react as if that’s a huge accomplishment. Well it is. But here’s the deal. It doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m just “a good student.” That Magna Cum Laude, for me, is a sign of how obsessive I become about maintaining standards.

I did it in my sobriety for a long time. I still struggle with it. I really care about what other people think of how I’m doing my sobriety. Back a couple of months ago, I realized I needed to change up my sponsor situation. I had been working with my love addiction sponsor primarily and had never worked a full set of steps in AA. There was a variety of reasons I chose to do that (and it was a conscious choice) but they’re not really important and if I explained them, it would be further evidence that I was trying to get your approval. In any case, it was working for me; until it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. So I got a new AA sponsor, who just “happened” to be available right when I needed her. But I had a tremendous amount of shame around the whole thing, so much so that this is the first I’ve mentioned it on here. WHAT would others think of me if they knew? Especially people who I had told that I had a sponsor? Were they all secretly judging my program? What if I wasn’t good enough after all? Since I was basing all my values on things outside of myself, this was a massive concern.

This has all been sending me on a collision course since November, and now I just can’t avoid it. My outside circumstances are almost forcing me to go in. At the very least they’re putting up HUGE signs.

thisissign
(Source)

So my head and heart have been in a nasty firefight for almost a week. It completely knocked me off my feet and my thoughts have been drifting through the ozone ever since, dragging my hapless feelings behind them. One outside situation, and boom. It was like a rocket to the moon.

Here is the thing. I can’t measure up to a standard of “quiet peaceful nun.” I don’t really want a 3.83 grade point average. Nor do I really want to maintain 98% accuracy on my calls at work at all times, pushing myself to get there. I can try to push myself into that cage all I want. I can let what others say, think, or do push me into that cage. I can let numbers push me into that cage. But unless I releash the cracken (MWAHAHA!) I will always go back to the things that satisfy the pain of being in a cage… things like alcohol, or men, or more recently, work standards.

kraken
(It’s not really a cracken, by the way. Source)

It’s not anyone else’s fault that I got into this firefight. Honestly it’s just a reflection of my inner state and what I am doing. To myself.

But here’s what the bigger, wiser part of me is saying:

stopinthenameoflove
(Source)

Stop trying to live up to standards. Stop trying to be someone I’m not. Stop trying to conform. Stop trying to push myself in a box. Stop being invisible. Stop hiding. Stop running from yourself. Stop the go, go, go that pushes you even further away from the truth. Stop, in the name of love. Before you break my heart.

Do I know how to STOP?

Nope. I am stumbling forward pretty ungracefully. I have help from a really wonderful Higher Power though.

I think some of it means grounding myself on my truth. Some of it means that being an emotional and sometimes erratic person isn’t a bad thing. I am not bad because I am emotional. Some of it means accepting the loudness of my soul. A lot of it means letting myself off the hook and out of the cage. Dropping keys for my beautiful, brilliant, rowdy prisoner (and letting her know that it’s okay that she’s rowdy, it’s really really okay).

It’s reminding myself of this poem I wrote right after I got sober:

You are not incarcerated by fear.
The key is in the space
between you
and the door.
Breathe.
Open.
There is no distance between you and freedom.

Stop, Laurie. Find the space. In it lies the key.

This is Where I Say I’ve Had Enough

This is where I say I’ve had enough
and no one should ever feel the way that I feel now.
A walking open wound,
a trophy display of bruises
and I don’t believe that I’m getting any better, any better.
-Dashboard Confessional, Saints and Sailors

You know it’s bad when I’m quoting Dashboard Confessional in one of my posts. Going back to my “emo” high school days with all of THAT emotion.

I feel like I’ve been tricked by the Universe. Or perhaps, I’m just being led into a place of dealing with a very painful wound. The Universe/my Higher Power has a way of using certain situations to single out what needs work.

Remember how I wrote that post two posts back about my abandonment issues?

Well, they continue to come up. I’ve been trying to ignore it or something, thinking that maybe it’s just a one-time thing and it will pass. It hasn’t. Things have continued to happen that trigger me in the extreme. I’ve had so much pain going on that it’s been really tempting to find something to numb it. I finally just admitted that to my sponsor in a voicemail. And saying “I want to drink” was an extremely painful admission. I shouldn’t be weak.

titanic
(Source)

My head is screaming that I shouldn’t be so many things. There’s a post that’s been resounding in my head lately that Glennon Melton wrote over at Momastery. She talks about breaking out, about being who you are, about defrosting. I wish I could sit down with her and just ask, “How do you do that when, if you are a bit off kilter, the world looks at you cross-eyed and thinks you’re insane? How do you do that when your heart is in a meat tenderizer?”

Is it a coincidence that my word for this year, not by my choice but by some kind of Divine Guide, is audacity? Of all things. How does one have audacity, pray tell?

I see now that I shrink back in invisibility not because I want to be small but because I am so, so big. I am so big that I am afraid it will scare people and it will be too much and TOO big. I feel like I’m holding a firehose that will twist and turn in my hands out of control, too much water coming through. My inner self is so big I don’t know how to handle her. So I stuff her away because if I can’t handle her, how can other people?

And if she’s so big, what if she’s all big and dramatic and narcissistic like my dad? What then? Am I just like him in the end? Am I crazy?

I am terribly, terribly ashamed of my inner, overly dramatic self. She’s embarrassing.

I’m crying at my computer screen writing this, and I cringe writing that because that seems dramatic, too. But it’s true. My shame is overwhelming and I want to hide. I’ve just been laying on my bed for an hour trying to hide. I’m crying now because this crazy girl inside me is so ridiculously shameful. I’m screaming at her, “STOP! Just stop! Just quiet down! You are too loud. You are too big. You are too much of a bother and I wish you would just go away, maybe forever. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with you trying to escape all the time when you shouldn’t be let out at all. You’re too dangerous.

Most of all, my big, dramatic inner self is just going to drive other people away from me, in the end. So she needs to just go away now. She needs to become the quiet little nun in the back of the monastery, silent, serene, one with the Universe. Meditative. Keeping everything behind the sweet face that everyone knows. If everyone really knew how monstrously large she was inside, they would be afraid.

I am afraid. She’s going to destroy my life and leave me here all alone.

And another part of me inside is 7 years old. Laying face down on the grass near our townhouse, sobbing my heart out. “Amanda!” I’m crying. I tried getting her attention by crying loud enough that she could hear me up the hill. I couldn’t go up the hill to be with her and her friend because I wasn’t allowed to play up on the hill. And she picked her friend over me. Finally I cried loud enough that she came back and gave me a flower. I proceeded to throw myself down and cry some more. “She came back just to give me a flower and say goodbye to our friendship,” my seven year old mind said. I sobbed and sobbed but she didn’t return again. I was alone and no one wanted me. I knew I was being dramatic but I couldn’t stop.

I can’t unseparate my little, histrionic, overdramatic 7 year old from the big inside, beautiful artistic part of me, so they become completely snarled together. The terrified little girl grabs the firehose in an effort to get attention. Instead, it just goes everywhere and sprays everyone, and they all run away because they don’t want to get wet. She’s just a little girl so she doesn’t know how to direct it.

The adult me still struggles to untangle them because the 7 year old is still so afraid, and the adult still doesn’t know sometimes how to take care of that. Because adult me still never learned that people are sometimes more consistent than that and only run away because it’s wet and they don’t want to be wet, not because it’s strong and beautiful. The adult me also has a hard time figuring out still that the 7 year old just wants to be seen and just wants company. The adult still thinks sometimes that she’s the 7 year old, waiting for a rescuer to come. She forgets that she is actually the rescuer.

Okay. That’s my heart, out on a page. I’ve written myself out of the tangle in my head, now. At least for this moment. I can see now that I need an ocean full of compassion today for all my inner selves. The poor dears. No wonder when I asked for my Higher Power to show up, all They said is, “I’m so sorry, honey. I know this is hard.

I can’t guarantee that I won’t get snarled again later. That’s kind of life, sometimes. And this is my work right now, apparently – this issue within myself. It hasn’t stopped coming up, so I’m guessing this is where I’m supposed to be.

But I did find it interesting that when I went to find firehose pictures just now, many of them have TWO people holding the hose. Even when adults are holding it. Maybe hoses are not meant to be held alone.

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And when I went to get the link for Glennon’s recent post, I had to re-read it. And that told me that I’m at level one today and I need to pay attention and accept myself so I don’t go to level two. That I am not safe to others until I stop trying to kill my real self. (See the post here) When I started reading all her other recent posts they told me how to do that… told me not to keep running from my broken heart. Told me that small women build cages for everyone she knows but the sage drops keys for the beautiful rowdy prisoners. Maybe little girl inside needs that key – bringing me back to the LAST post on this subject where I realized I am the key. How’s that for full circle?

I could just backspace this messy, stream of consciousness post but in the interest of honesty, I’m going to put it out there (even though that one part of me still says that’s pretty overdramatic). And if you read through all of that – thank you.

The Dating Plan

In my few posts on love addiction, I’ve referenced my dating plan a couple of times. This post is to clarify what exactly I mean by a dating plan. In my love addiction recovery work, I work through the 12 steps, based on the ones founded by Alcoholics Anonymous. Once I got past step 5, my sponsor announced that I was ready to make a dating plan. In my alcohol recovery, I have at times been asked to make a list of my “ideals” for a future mate. This list was then presented back to me and I was told that these were the things I needed to build in myself.

Think of the dating plan as the same thing, but on steroids.

See, before the steps, before the dating plan, I had this idea of a perfect fantasy man. Of course, he would fall at my feet and serve me and give me all the love I could ever want. Every day would be like this:

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Not that that’s bad. But expecting every DAY to be that way is a little lot unrealistic. Nowadays, I can’t go around expecting a man to give me a fix anymore. Tell me I’m beautiful and get me all high on that affirmation. Or get high on all the dramatic ups and downs of the relationship – the intense romantic moments that reek of toxicity, as well as the heightened rage. Or even more so… stay with a man whom I don’t love, who doesn’t love me, who is stuck in active addiction… all because I am terrified to live life alone.

I spent steps 1 – 5 recognizing powerlessness, asking for help, surrendering, making inventories, and telling on myself. In short, learning how to build myself from the ground up. A lot of my work, too, was learning how to be alone. In my sobriety work, I not only have bottom lines (things I refrain from to sustain sobriety), I also have top lines: things that I do to actively promote a healthy, fulfilled life that I can love being in whether I am with someone or not. Almost all of my first year was spent on steps 1 – 5. I didn’t make a dating plan until after that. All the while I was also working on consistently doing my top line behaviors – journaling, time with friends, yoga, creativity, visiting the ocean, writing, blogging, music, calling my sponsor, going to meetings.

But even after all of that work, I’m not “cured.” Humans aren’t meant to leave relationship in the dust forever, though. So how in the world does a love addict navigate the world of dating? It would almost be like an alcoholic being a cupbearer in the old days – i.e. tasting the wine for someone. Which we all know is a horrible plan for an alcoholic. We’re likely to guzzle the whole damn cup, not even realizing it’s poisoned. So how does a love addict steer clear of guzzling poison?

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Enter the dating plan.

I am not smart enough to see my addictive patterns on my own all the time. I could easily get lost (also why I go to meetings). Part of my dating plan was to go over all of my addictive patterns and cycles so I could see them. To look at red flags of when things are not going well in relationships. Having bottom lines in dating that I need to steer clear of. Maintaining a list of absolute deal-breakers (things like active addiction, for instance). These things tell me what to be careful of… they are the wine in the cup that has been poisoned and the cupbearer spits out.

But also within the dating plan, I do list ideals, which for the alcoholic would be like drinking sparkling water. Ideal characteristics in a mate (things like spirituality, physical and emotional sobriety). Ideal characteristics in a relationship (someone who is my best friend). Ideal goals for emotional and physical intimacy, including specific timelines. And, an especially important part – my ideal life. Basically, a bucket list. Why is this a part of the plan? Personally, I think it’s because then I can see if my life goals align with someone else’s. I also get the added benefit of seeing what I really want to do with my life! 🙂 What I am passionate about and what really makes me tick. It’s important to know this stuff before you find out how someone else ticks. And if you tick on the same beat.

At this point in the game, I am not settling.

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Nor can I, for the sake of my sobriety. One of my bottom lines is not to go against the dating plan, so it’s pretty damn important. If I go against the dating plan, I’m in huge danger of losing myself and my sobriety.

But my dating plan, and my entire program, have done something else that was really important for me. They gave me a detailed how-to on facing real, healthy relationship. I’ve never been able to do real, healthy relationship and I felt like I was shooting wildly in the dark at first trying to find some kind of game plan for it. Now I have clear guidelines. Look for this, but not for that. I also know that relationship with myself FIRST is the most important thing. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything really.

And I can be happy alone – which is a complete miracle!