Thursday, January 20, 2011

A mother's anger

Of all the emotions, anger is surely the most dangerous. Not only because of how much damage it can wreak left unchecked and unrestrained, but also because sometimes it masks another emotion that is too hard to face. Like fear. Or despair.
    While using anger to mask other emotions tends to be a masculine prediliction -- and I have first-hand knowledge of this from my son who seems to coincidentally get in trouble at school for fighting when he has heavy things happening in his life -- this is something I do as well.
    It is a lot easier to get angry than to admit that I am overwhelmed with fear. It is lot easier to stamp my feet and curse than admit devastating sadness and cry myself to sleep. While I have done both--admitted I was overwhelmingly frightened and cried myself to sleep-- I often resort to anger. It is a defense, I know. But it feels more empowering than sadness or fear.
    But I also know if I'm not  identifying the right emotion, it can sneak up on me  and come out sideways. That anger I am  expressing can become uncontrolled. I become unreasonable. I have resorted to violence in my anger-twisted justification of dealing with the alcohol-altered person I married.
    So, knowing this about myself, I know I need to deal with the real emotion behind the mask. Even if it hurts, even if it too hard.
    My ex is in Rehab. This is a good news, even if this is not his first time to the rodeo. While I pray that this time is sustainable, I am keeping in mind the old adage of "hoping for the best and preparing for the worst." I am keeping my expectations in check. I remember how disappointing it is when sobriety is hard-gained and then lost in a flash.
    I've examined my emotions from all sides and here is the deal: I am angry. Period. It is not sadness or anything else. It is out and out pissed-off spit and vinegar anger.
    I am angry for what he has put our son through. I am angry that my son at the tender age of nine, whose biggest worries should be whether there are enough batteries for his Star Wars light sabers, is worried instead on whether or not his father will be sober for good.  I'm  pissed that our son has had to learn so early that people you love desperately can also be untrustworthy. That a person whose job it is to care for you can be unreliable and neglectful. That he lashes out in school when the worry gets too much. I'm furious that it is taking a team of counselors and family members to make sure he knows that he's safe and loved and help him navigate his emotions.
    Maybe I'll move on from this anger, but that is where I am right now and sometimes anger is the appropriate emotion. I know it is a disease. I know! I know my ex isn't choosing to hurt our son. I know! I know his guilt has got to be overwhelming. I know all this and perhaps in the near future I can even bring myself to feel compassion.
    But, first and foremost, I am a mother, dammit! Like all mothers I want the best for my child and I want to protect him from harm. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? nuh uh. Hell hath no fury like a Mother whose child is hurting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fun with an Alcoholic...Not

Einstein once said insanity is doing the some thing repeatedly but expecting different results. So maybe I'm insane, but what I think what happens with me  when I'm dealing with active alcoholism is  this: what I think I'm capable of in the quiet serenity of my peaceful home is different when actually faced with it head on.
    My ex had been sober for weeks. All through the holidays. This is reason to rejoice. When he is sober, he is reasonable and agreeable and our conversations are on point about child care. My son spent ample time with him over the holidays and by all accounts and my conversations with him, our son was  comfortable, cheerful and agreeable. He really enjoyed this special time with his Daddy.  I really want my son to have a close relationship with his dad, and sobriety is a key ingredient to its success.
    So our son had one of those extra days off school that hang at the end of a long holiday like leftover tinsel and I wasn't sure what to do with him as I had to go back to work. He had bounced around a lot during the holidays between relatives, and  although it was joyful time for him, he was settling into his home routine and I was loathe to pack him up for yet another sleep over. So I asked his dad if it was okay if came over in the morning and stayed with our son. Yes, it was, but he needed gas money. Okay, deal.
    He was there on time and sober. We went over meal plans and I was on my way. He called an hour later and informed me a pipe  burst in the basement and we dealt with having a plumber come out.  He was helpful with that and still sober, though rather stressed after the incident.
    A few hours pass and then the call comes, and I know. He's drinking. Did he find the brandy I used for eggnog? Did he bring a bottle? Did he run to the store and buy one with the gas money I gave him? He's talking about how the plumber told him the pipe bursting was due to my overloading the washing machine though I shouldn't question the plumber on this because he would be offended and not be my plumber any longer. He is not making sense and my stomach is in knots, though I try very hard to remain patient. When he drinks, even a small amount, his initial euphoria takes the form of lying to somehow boost himself to some important position.
    I manage to extricate myself from the overloaded washer/burst pipe conspiracy conversation. A little while later I call home to gauge whether I need to come home early, but my son is happy watching a movie and had eaten lunch so I make the call to continue the day as planned instead of risk a scene by  interrupting the day. My son confesses to me his irritation with his daddy though, which is another sure sign of alcohol consumption as he is a little barometer. His Daddy is not "acting normal" when he drinks.
     When I get home my ex is in the basement, telling me he cleaned up (it looked no different than when I left) and that he got me a good price on the plumber, etc. --again with the posturing. I tell him thank you, and doesn't he have appointments? Well, the appointments are rescheduled, he has things to talk about. He is not making much sense. He comes upstairs and its obvious he doesn't want to leave. He talks about a checklist he and our son had for what needed to get done today. He must mention this checklist 20 times, which drives both of us crazy and my son starts to backtalk. I'm telling my son not to be rude, in the meantime thinking to myself, what the hell?
    He needs to leave. How do I get him to leave? I thank him again. He wants to stay. I'm the love of his life, he says.  I will always love him  but we don't work, I say. Why?  he says. I don't want to get it into what will become a circular and painful and useless conversation. I tell him I don't think this will end well, and he needs to leave because I don't want to argue with him. Why? I tell him I will speak with him tomorrow but tonight its obvious he has been drinking.
    He denies this, as usual. But its no use denying it--he is like night and day. I can smell it and I know getting hooked into any conversation will take up my entire evening and end in arguments. So I have to stay on point. Like a drunk, I keep repeating the same things: It's time for him to leave. Thanks for you help. We'll talk tomorrow because this wont' end well tonight. It works and somehow I get him to leave without a scene.
    I think my home is a trigger for him. This is the place he did most of his drinking. This is also the place that has the most bittersweet memories for him. He has told me before that he hates coming to the house. I should have listened more closely to that and not had him spend the day there. But then again,  I can't control his disease. Something else would have happened to make him want to drink.
    It breaks my heart to see how broken he is. I told him I wish him happiness and success and I do. How wonderful it would be for our son if that could come true. To have a father who is whole and sound each day all day. So in the New Year, that is my hope and my wish.