Confession 40

So… I’m on the wagon again. Yup, things finally got too spicy for the pepper and it became over evident that drinking just isn’t for me anymore. The past seven months have shown me that there is something about my chemical makeup and alcohol that just don’t play well with one another. I mean technically, over long term use, alcohol doesn’t play well with anyone, but some of us have stronger constitutions or the ability to “drink responsibly”. Whatever that means. It’s been 39 days now and my resolve has never been stronger to stay sober. I’ve got my routines intact and I’m actively working my SMART tools daily, which has been the greatest downfall in my previous attempts at sustained sobriety. With all that being said, I have a better chance at making this attempt one that will stick.

One of my greatest tools has been how active I have been within the SMART online community. On July 1st, I attended my first SMART Zoom meeting in three months, and made a commitment to attend 30 meetings in 30 days. I began to the put the tools learned via them into practice and restructured a routine that would help keep me focused. I’ve had a better go at things this go ’round by taking on the underlying impetus for my drinking. One of the best tools for this is to examine behaviours and beliefs and work to correct or reframe them. For me, my drinking is most triggered by feelings of anger and frustration, and those feelings are most often triggers by the beliefs I hold about the “cause” of my anger and frustration. The SMART Recovery program focuses on rational (thinking) beliefs and irrational (emotive) beliefs, and switching the latter for the former whenever you find the former dictating maladaptive behaviours. In the case of this practice, most irrational beliefs are seen as limiting judgments about a person, a person’s motives, or a general situation that evoke a negative reaction. For those of us who have addictions, dealing with irrational beliefs about things we can not control can lead us to picking up our DoC if we’re not diligent in thought switching. So a big part of remaining sober, from that perspective, is to be mindful of the thoughts or beliefs you allow to become a part of your every day cognition. Seems simple enough, right? I’ve had relative success in using the basis of the method so it does work. However, I have started questioning certain acceptances of what makes a belief irrational in nature, which has led me to an unpleasant crux with certain SMARTies.

The trick to making the thought switch tool work is to run through a couple of tenets of humanity politics. First off, you come to accept certain human behaviour as base and imperfect. Second, you understand that none of us are owed any particular treatment by anyone else, so personal offense is kind of illogical. And third, you push on to the next bit of business you have planned to do in your life. The basis of irrational belief is the thought that something should or shouldn’t be simply because you deem it as such. We’ve seen a lot of irrational beliefs playing out on the national stage concerning the bouts of civil unrest with people in assumed positions of authority trying to dictate what others do or do not have the right to partake in. Most irrational beliefs are based on feelings and feelings are not necessarily based in fact. But is there anything wrong with with emotive beliefs if you don’t act on them in an irrational manner? Additionally, just because a person feels a certain way about a certain thing, does that make their belief inherently irrational? Although we try hard not to label one another in SMART, I am finding more and more that while we don’t label each other, it seems more than permissible to label someone’s thoughts or feelings, which I think sends the wrong message.

Rational beliefs can be seen as the direct contrast of irrational beliefs in the sense that they are built upon documented proof of a thing instead of speculation or opinion. In trying to curb maladaptive behaviours, deeming a thought or belief about something rational or irrational can help with accepting whether or not one is justified in believing what they believe. This can allow the person to chose the right coarse of action for resolution in the situation, if one can be made. When I voiced an observation about a particular meeting event it was suggested I evaluate my “irrational beliefs” about it, even though it was something that had been observed by more than just me, and all of us came away with similar beliefs about it. So the automatic labeling of what I voiced as “irrational” was not only pretentious it was… Well… A bit irrational by nature.

I think it’s past time for us to accept certain things “as is” if they are not bothering us, whether irrational or rational by our individual standards. Everyone has the right to feel how they’d like, believe what they believe, an think how they think without it always needing to be so neat, tidy, and concise to others. Sometimes a belief about something is based on the fact that a person just doesn’t vibe with it personally. I don’t see that as rational or irrational since most often the response is to just keep on pushing and leave the thing where they found it. Everything isn’t for everybody, and as long as my belief is not inspiring irrational actions or reactions then it should be one of those things that is left where it is found.

Accepting what I can and leaving the rest…

Writing Prompt Wednesday 16

Image courtesy of Michelle Andres © 2014

No matter how terrible my day is these ten things can always make me feel better…

  1. Video chats with my E-Vengers and Appleseeds.

2. Pens and mechanical pencils with .5 mm writing points.

3. Musicals and show tunes.

4. Brand new notebooks, journals, and graph paper.

5. Butterflies.

6. Having time and space to write.

7. Bigs Dill Pickle sunflower seeds.

8. A warm cup of coffee with Sweet Italian Cream creamer.

9. Receiving hand written letters.

10. Hot sudsy showers.

Always On A Quest To Feel “Better”…

#WPW #WritingPromptWednesdays

Confession 39

On his first solo road trip, my youngest son called me and asked a question that caught me off guard initially. For most it would seem a simple question from the inquisitive mind of a semi-innocent eighteen year old.

“Mom. What made you want to have kids?”

As the mother of four children, three of them sons, I take a certain kind of pride that all four of my grandchildren are the offspring of my daughter. The most important reason for this comes from having become a mother at the age of 16 and knowing the heaviness that can come from raising a child while attempting to grow up yourself. For mothers there is most often the benefit that the kids stay with her should things not work out with the father, and she maintains the most control over how the child is brought up. Being young, most often we don’t do the best with choosing a practical mate or co-parent, so being a young male the odds of being separated from your offspring is most likely. So when I was asked the question by my youngest son, my stomach initially dropped because I was sure one of my biggest fears was going to be realized. Luckily, my son followed up his question with the statement that he wasn’t having children, another fear of another colour, he ws just wondering what my impetus was.

Growing up, I didn’t really have a particularly strong emotional connection with anyone in my family. It was almost as if I was an afterthought, in my experience, being the second to last grandchild of my maternal grandparents in a family that seemed to prize sons/grandsons. This is not to say I was not cared for, because I was. Very well. But my parent’s marriage ended when I was 4 and the split was very rough on them both, and roughness that filtered down to me. My mother had to become a single mother and my father was your typical 70s – 80s father and 24 dude, with the typical 24 year old dude tendencies. To make a long story short, I was somewhat lost in the upheaval and a bit emotionally abandoned. When I began entertaining the idea of dating I went looking for someone who could fill that void. I was never interested in casual dating because I wanted to instantly build what my parents couldn’t successfully maintain. But, again, when you’re that young discernment is a bit lacking, and being low in a sense of self worth amplifies that. To be honest, I wasn’t real big on believing relationships in that time had the potential for longevity. I barely knew any couples after my grandparent’s generation that stayed together longer than a decade or two, so I wasn’t very stuck on the idea that any relationship I entered into would fare any better. But with a baby… Oh, a baby would be mine and an inseparable part of me. A baby would grant me the unconditional love, attention, and acceptance that I craved. I’d be able to create my own family with a built in sense of belonging. With that thought in mind, the maternity bug bit me and it was on.

Motherhood came easily for me in the sense that caring for my children and loving them was like breathing. My childhood was good enough that I had the ability to provide them the emotional connection I felt I missed growing up. But what I owned in maternal compassion I have to admit I lacked in maturity. Babies are not dolls. You don’t babysit your own children. When they are hungry, angry, hurt, scared, cranky cause they’re tired but won’t go to sleep at two in the morning, there’s no one else to pass the baby off to. That immaturity did not prepare me for any of that, and in many ways I feel my children suffered from it. I’ve gone through moments where I’ve looked back with regret for some of the things I’ve taken them through, as I’m sure most all mothers do. Thankfully, my E-Vengers see a lot of that time differently and are largely grateful for how they were raised.

After I explained my reasons, my youngest son was quiet for a bit before responding with a with a surprising observation. The first leg of his road trip took him from the Metro Detroit area to Columbus,OH, a four hour drive on the best of days. When I separated from my second husband I moved to Columbus and was away from three of my children for a year and a half, but I would that take four hour drive every other weekend after work on Friday. It was a commitment I was hellbent on keeping because despite me needing to take that time to get myself together as a “single” woman, my first priority was to be with my children however I could be.

That four hour drive was nothing in comparison to upholding my obligation to them, especially with the guilt I felt from being so far away from them. I didn’t want to upset their stability while I was getting established, but I also didn’t want to give them the impression that I had abandoned them. Because he was so young at the time, and so very attached to his dad, that I wasn’t sure he was affected either way. So for him to come to the realization of just how committed I was to being as good a mother as I could while on this stretch or rode I logged so many hours on just to spend a day and a half with him and his siblings. In a very real way, this recognition, ten years after the fact, was so gratifying and uplifting. It personified the very reason I decided to become a mother at the tender age of 16.

It feels good that this thought crossed my son’s mind, on a drive that has come to mean so very much to us both. We’ve been through so much together, and I appreciate his inquiry for granting me the feeling that I am seen and understood for my sincere intentions.

Confession 38

Okay, I’m not sure if anyone realizes this or not but… I’m Black. I know, I know, it comes as a shock being that I’m so “articulate” and “well spoken” but I am, indeed, a 46 year old Black woman, born and raised on the East side of Detroit, Michigan, USA. I’ve waxed poetically on this fact a time or two here and in other blog incarnations but I just wanted to make sure that I provided a reminder for those who may have forgotten. Or ignored it. Or just “don’t see colour”.

In case you are needing a visual:

Yes. That be me in all my Black and COVID-19 safeness looking like a Street Fighter.

Now the reason I brought up my race is because I want to talk about the automatic assumption a lot of people seem to hold about being Black, more specifically being a Black woman, and our specific mannerisms. And by specific mannerisms I mean being angry all the live long day “just because”. And nowhere is this assumed mannerism more tagged is when a Black woman speaks her mind assertively. Most often when a Black woman speaks assertively she is labeled aggressive, no matter her tone, cadence, or word usage, and even if other parties (most often White) in the exchange are speaking in the same manner.

I’ve always been aware of the Sapphire trope, and even know some women who have embodied that persona in for real life because that’s what’s they received as an example of Black womanhood growing up. Don’t ask. It’s complicated. A time or two during my drinking career I’ve resorted to some Sapphire-esque behaviours because… drunk and irrational, but in my normal, everyday persona I’m quite congenial. Sometimes to a fault. I am also very fair minded and more interested in striking a balance and compromise than I am in dominating over a person or situation. I can lead but I prefer to support, which make me excellent in my chosen profession as an Administrative Assistant. So imagine my surprise when I moved here and found myself constantly being told I’m being “aggressive” and “hostile” and “demanding” whenever I request a certain level of treatment. Even if I’m speaking with a smile on my face and in my eyes and a lilt in my voice. If I voice a dislike, or express how I’m negatively affected by the word or actions of another, or am upholding a boundary to keep myself (or the Mister) safe, I’m just an Angry Black Woman with an attitude I’ve just been waiting to unleash on the world. I wonder why that is.

No I don’t. I already know, and here the aforementioned Sapphire article confirms it:

 The Sapphire Caricature is a harsh portrayal of African American women, but it is more than that; it is a social control mechanism that is employed to punish black women who violate the societal norms that encourage them to be passive, servile, non-threatening, and unseen.

The response to me asserting myself always comes across loud as hell as, “How dare you stand up or speak out or have feelings and want things… That’s above your station, Missy!” Like well damn… Ain’t I a people? Well, after so many times of facing not being seen, heard, or taken seriously, who wouldn’t moved to aggressive expression, Black or White? Nobody that I know, but of course it’s always explained away when the latter speaks their peace. A bad day at work, a nagging spouse, unruly kids, people minding their own business grilling at a park or something like that. There’s always an “reason” for Whites, and they are always given the benefit of the doubt and empathy. But let me do it and, I’m not reacting or responding, I’m just being an AWB ’cause I was born that way.

I’m tired of this being the norm in society, and damn sure tired of it being the assumed norm in my Life. I’m sick and tried of being told I need to “change my attitude” because it doesn’t match how “they” think I should act to “fit in”, be “accepted”, or be “controlled”. The whole gaslighting tactic of trying make me ashamed of asserting myself will no longer work and the boundary between how I’m treated and how people feel they are able to treat me is about to get real thick. And sooner or later people will learn the difference between aggression and protection, or they will learn to leave me the hell alone.

This is rated OHDH*… PERIODT!!! *insert finger snap and neck rock*

*Only Hit Dogs Holler

Writing Prompt Wednesday 15

Image courtesy of Michelle Andres © 2014

Write a letter to your son or daughter.

My Lofty Little Prince… Who is not so little anymore…

It’s been a long and interesting 18 years. We’ve seen good times, we’ve seen bad times, we’ve seen confusing times. I think we’ve spent a mutual amount of time raising one another into the people we are today, and through our shared pains we have evolved and grown in ways we would not have had we never come to know one another.

I have expressed my sense of pride in your accomplishments to you before, how you have amazed me with your resilience, even when faced with situations that were way beyond your capacity to handle. I’ve shared how comforted I have become with trusting your intuition, pushing past innate maternal fears to believe you knew what was best for you. It hurt to watch you stumble and bumble and experience emotional upsets, especially when they came from things I’ve done, but I had to come to the understanding I couldn’t live life for you. Because being your mother had become such a tremendous part of my identity that when it was time to step away, it was extremely difficult. Your fierce independent streak didn’t make it any easier, but we survived and am the better for it. Thank you.

I want you to know that I wholehearted appreciate the full circle we’ve come to. We’ve rebuilt a certain amount of trust I thought we’d never recover. We have a greater esteem for one another having come to the understanding of each other’s humanity. We’ve come to a place where our boundaries are in tact and mutually respected, and we’ve learned to communicate effectively. Many mother-son connections never make it to this point after having gone through the things we’ve taken each other through. I’m glad we’re not one of them.

I try hard not to give advice because everyone has to live their lives according to their values and techniques that are best practice for them. But if I could suggest some things that will ensure a full, long life with very few setbacks, they would be:

  1. Be as true to the YOU you know yourself to be and operate from a space of self awareness.
  2. Speak with humble honesty from a platform of acceptance and the ability to step into another’s shoes.
  3. Help others when you can but know when to assert boundaries and practice self care.
  4. Respond to stimuli after careful thought and limit emotive reaction.
  5. Love with your whole heart and never see it as time wasted if it’s not returned.
  6. Smile often, from your soul and through your eyes.
  7. Look for the good in a situation, knowing there is always good in every situation.
  8. Treat every moment as a brand new start filled with unlimited possibility.
  9. Teach others how to treat you by being gentle, loving, respectful, and accepting of yourself.
  10. Accept and acknowledge anger, frustration, disappointments, and fear, and use their energies to work through them.
  11. Never miss a moment to appreciate loved ones… Familial or not.

And, that’s it. Nothing too complicated, and some things you already put in practice daily, which are parts of your character that I admire tremendously.

Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of my life through the good, bad, and the ugly. You never cease to amaze me, and I know you will always work to make me proud.

Blessed to Be Your Mother…

#WPW #WritingPromptWednesdays

Confession 37

It’s a quarter after three on a humid Florida morning. All is still and quiet save for the diverse amphibian chorus croaking and creaking off in the distance. There’s a mist rising from the Earth that’s barely perceptible to the naked eye although the air, void of a breeze, which is very comfortable on the skin. There’s rumours of a hurricane turned tropical storm “coming for us” but I have chosen to remain ignorant of its progress. The anxiety that had become my working persona since January 6th barely registers in moments like this, and for the first time since moving here, I’m in a space of absolute tranquility. Isiasis could come barreling through the center of the room I’m allowed to occupy right this very moment and I wouldn’t be moved. This is MY time so, he’d just have to wait until I’m done sipping my coffee to gain my attention. I’m rarely afforded such times out of mind and I’m not willing to sacrifice it for anyone of anything. Take a number, Isiasis. I’ll be with you at my leisure.

I’m coming up on seven months as a pseudo resident of the Sunshine State and getting acclimated has taken just about every minute of every day of that seven months. Ecologically the climate is akin to my native Detroit as far as dealing with the summer humidity and mosquitoes and greenery that abound, but the social atmosphere is… Florida. That’s the only way to describe it, honestly. I used to think that Arizona was an entity all to its own, making it more akin to an independent country all to itself. Living in such a dry, arid location calls for different adaptations for survival, so rules common to other areas are thrown to the wind for the most part. But Florida… Yes, you can believe all the stories you hear because Florida is truly its own planet. The mindset of the inhabitants, natural born and transplanted, makes living here seem a social experiment or an episode of Punk’d. Maybe it’s always having to be on the lookout for crocigators, I don’t know. But what I do know is this place is all kinds of different. And Florida Man is real because it takes a very strong sense of character to settle here and resist the force of Bat Shit Crazy that exists here, and most inhabitants don’t have that. This is Trump Country, after all.

With all that being said…. For as much as I fought moving here, looking back, I have come to the understanding that I had to come here in order to evolve in the fashion that I have. I think there are very few places in the United States where my gangster, Blackness, and Goddessness have been tested so thoroughly than in this “state”, and in this county specifically. In no other geographical place within my home country has my authenticity been tried and I’ve had to rebuild autonomy with very little boots on the ground support. In no other topographical location has my integrity and character been called into question to the point I came very close to losing whatever mind I thought I had. I’ve been through a lot in 46 short years, but none of what I’ve been through had prepared me for this time and space in my life. In any capacity. I have had to dissect and examine habits, behaviours, beliefs, prejudices, and face fears that were once only figments of my imagination… And all of this resulted in a stronger and much solid woman coming out the other end. It’s been difficult but it’s been worth it for very many reasons.

A lot of the changes I have undergone over the past seven months look familiar on the outset. Although I didn’t reach a hard rock bottom there was the natural point where the stress and pressure was just too much, and the consequences of my reactions were doing more harm than good. But the way these changes feel is totally foreign, and in their dissimilarity I have been forced to chuck “convention” in the Fuck It Bucket and stop fighting what Spirit has been yelling at me for decades… What I’ve accepted as my identity is bullshit, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. The woman I have been trying to fit my soul into is not who I really AM. Over the years the aesthetics have changed but my core MO has not. Rather, I was talking the talk a lot of times but not fully walking the walk with a belief in sustaining authenticity. And that is the difference. These changes feel more anchored in permanence because I believe I actually can pull long term change off now. I’ve shifted out of the trauma survival mode I spent the past four decades in and have an eye on full on thriving. Not to prove “the haters” wrong, not to impress the right people, not to compete with anyone other than the me I was one or two breaths ago. And that difference has made all the difference in my world.

In two days from today I will have another 30 days abstained from alcohol, which will also be my Quit Day from smoking. Hopefully by the end of the week I will be working again and making sincere attempts to rebuild financial security again. With any luck, the assessments attached to my probation will state I am rehabilitated and not in need of treatment so I’ll be able to leave this g_d forsaken state in less than a year in order to find where I’m truly meant to physically reside (NEW ORLEANS, SPIRIT… I’M HUMBLY ASKING FOR NEW ORLEANS… TIA). And all of this effort and transformation feels real, finally, and I am ready.

I hope all of this comes through in my posts going forward, as a beacon for anyone who is breaking through in the same fashion I had to. I’m truly a believer that we go through our experiences in order to provide guidance for others, and that’s what I want to blog to be an example of.

Reconstructed and Resurrected…

Confession 36

NOTE: This entry was taken from my previous Blog attempt, Elements of Angela, originally written in 2018.

I first became familiar with the term gas lighting about two years into my relationship with my now husband, because he is rather good at it. I mean, I have always known what the tactic was, but didn’t know the “official” term for it. More than likely, most of us have been victims of this manipulative behavior in one way or the other. Most often in romantic relationships, but it can rear its ugly head during “friendships” and familial connections as well. It’s hurtful and demeaning and can make you question all your Universe given good sense. But know that you aren’t crazy. It’s just assholes being assholes and you being caught in the midst of their assholery. You can get past it to wholeness by just chucking the deuces and bouncing. It really is that simple.

One morning here recently, I decided to watch the original 1940 movie that lends the term its name (no, it’s not the one with Ingrid Bergman unfortunately), inspired by a bit of assholery that had happened in my own life, and it got me to thinking just how easily we fall victim to this bit of mental treachery. We are encouraged to trust others who seem more knowledgeable about things, oftentimes blindly, because it’s so much “easier” and we can free ourselves to take care of more “pressing” things. In healthy relationships that’s how it’s supposed to be… Like with Forest and Bubba on night watch setting back to back to watch over all points. For empaths like me, it’s a G_d send to have someone doing the “heavy lifting” when it comes to evaluating what deserves my energy. Because left to my own devices, I’d be all up in everybody’s everything trying play Goddess-Save-A-Hoe which is a highly draining position. But the twist on having someone play censor for you involves a whooooole lot of trust, because as I wrote about in another post, there are some nefarious characters that seek out and know how to play us emotionally open people… And weeding them out can be just as draining.

So how can one protect their emotional neck from tactics like gas lighting and other mentally/emotionally abusive maneuvers when all you want to do is follow your nature and help others? Whelp…

1. Know Yourself and Your Intentions: Always, always, ALWAYS be as clear and honest with yourself about why you believe a thing or an action. Ask yourself the tough questions to ensure you are operating according to selflessness, believing you are working towards the highest good of the situation. You always have to understand the “why” behind a thing before you can stand for it.

2. Believe and Trust in Yourself and Your Intentions: Once you have identified your impetus behind standing for what you’re standing for, trust that you are completely capable of carrying out the actions to help the situation. Believe it so tough that not even your Mother could sway you from your stance. Know in your heart of hearts that being there in that moment is well within your capability to handle.

3. Learn to Recognize Signs Contrary to Your Intentions: Intuition is a real thing, people. That funny feeling in your gut is there as your first line of defense against The Dark Arts of being played for your kindness. Some situations just aren’t for us to involve ourselves in, no matter how much we feel we can help.

4. Always Stay Aware of Your Energy Levels: If a situation leaves you more drained than energized once you’ve tried to step in, know that it is not your battle to fight til the bitter end. Maybe you were meant to carry the cross a few paces then pass it on. Your personal energy level will let you know when it’s time to pull back and rejuvenate or try another angle if the opposition is too strong.

Ignoring any of those four points will place you in a position that is more susceptible to emotional or mental manipulation, and have you questioning yourself in favour of someone’s opinion of who you are and what you are meant to be doing with your gifts. If you’re steadfast in your knowledge of self, trusting of your purpose, and aware of when it’s time to pull back, then you will not be swayed. You won’t place yourself in danger of setting store by someone who will only use your good nature against you, and can safeguard you against choosing the wrong counterpart for your Bubba/Forest defense strategy. Always know that your soul knows exactly what you need and don’t need to serve out your purpose… Whether it be for embracing your sexuality, staying in a relationship, going into business for yourself, or choosing whether to have that second donut from the break room. We have been gifted a strong will to succeed, and an incredible inner compass to spot the direction we need to head in to get there. Trust it to guide you to the right “assistants” so you’re not wasting your time and energy.

In watching the original version of Gaslight – which you have to really love classic, British cinema to sit through because the acting is atrocious – one of the things that hit me hardest was how transparent Paul’s actions were, and yet it was Bella’s sense of duty as a wife and loyalty to her husband that blinded her from what was right in front of her face all along. As soon as she started asking the right questions, Paul would immediately attack her character, causing her to question herself. He would continuously hide items then ask for them later, accusing Bella of “stealing” or moving them, attacking her mental acuity and honesty. And the kicker was… Paul would constantly rehash a time when Bella had a temporary moment of humanity (READ: nervous breakdown brought on by his manipulations) against her and threaten to have her committed to a mental institution under the Baker Act. Yet, she “loved” Paul so blindly, she was incapable of believing he would do such things. She was his wife, after all. How many times can you truthfully look back and admit you’d been the Bella to your own folly? Thankfully, good ol’ B.G. was there to smack some sense into her. Not literally, of course. I’d really have a problem with that and it really would have ruined the movie for me… And the point of this post.

So if you’re an Empath like me, and you desire to help, but either the person you are trying to help or your source of support keeps telling you you’re crazy about the lights dimming when you clearly see that happening with your own eyes… Cut ties as quickly as you can and begin to work on healing yourself from their influence. Most likely they have been in your life for a while, and if you reflect far back enough you can pin point every time you have felt derailed from your path due to their “suggestions”, “opinions”, or “supportive gestures”. Know that anything that makes you feel bad for being true to you, it not for you, and begin to work to make that knowing as second nature as breathing.

Writing Prompt Wednesday 14

Image courtesy of Michelle Andres © 2014

Think of three things you want to improve upon when it comes to your personal development.

  1. No longer having knee jerk reactions to, or jumping to conclusions over, situations I don’t fully understand, intentionally constructed to provoke me negatively, or are outside of my locus of control.
  2. Allowing others to be who they are, as they are, even when them being that makes not one lick of sense to me.
  3. Mastering the ability to remain abstinent from alcohol as a coping mechanism for long term.

Always Up For Improvement…

#WPW #WritingPromptWednesdays

Confession 35

Today, my baby brother would have been 42 years old. My baby brother died nine months ago from either alcohol poisoning or withdrawal. My baby brother’s birthday is eight days after our father’s. And today, I have another eight days free from alcohol.

Over in the SMART online community I’d made a journal entry asking how I can combat the enthusiasm I feel now about quitting drinking from fading as things become more mundane. Another member recommended I write a letter to myself painstakingly detailing the events around my last drunk. I thought it was a good idea and made plans to do so this morning. Well when I woke up, I kinda remembered it was my brother’s birthday but wasn’t too sure. We’d been estranged for close to a decade or so so it didn’t pop into the forefront of my mind the way it used to when we were close. I thought it might be today or it might be the 15th. Looking up his obituary confirmed that today is indeed the day he was born, 42 years ago. I had to sit with that for a moment before I started writing my letter because the synchronicity was so astounding. Because of an addiction/dependency we’re both afflicted with, my baby brother will never reach the age that I am now, and at the age that I am now, I’m finally taking real steps to walk away from the monster that “robbed” him of that opportunity. So for me to unconsciously choose this day to draft this letter, I can only take it as a sign that this time is for real.

It was difficult to start the letter because I only had a vague and hazy recollection of what happened that night. I know it was the night of my assault charge hearing where I chose to take a plea of guilty and accept probation because leaving the state would result in 60 days jail time. I remember feeling mad, hurt, abandoned, unsupported, lost, unheard, diminished, and marginally ashamed. I remember feeling disappointed that nothing more had been done to get the charges dropped and infuriated that I’d been railroaded by the state’s attorney and the public defender. I remember buying a fifth of vodka and drinking the majority of it while trying to explain to The Mister how I was feeling, and how I felt he could have been more proactive. Then I remember embarking on a rampage that almost saw me arrested again. Not much to write about there that would keep me from losing momentum and motivate me not to do it all again once the pink cloud burst again. So I started out with these words:

Here we are again at the start of another sobriety attempt. Congratulations on what will be your 8th consecutive day without a drink! I know you’re not trying to be too hyped about it considering how many Day 8s we’ve reached in the past four years or so, but please give yourself a moderate amount of kudos because the effort is to be commended, and your willingness to get to this point again shows strength, courage, and determination. Any effort towards sobriety and abstinence should be celebrated even as you remain realistic about your odds and past missteps. You have made it past the “hard” part of getting started, and [the fact that] you have been consistent in remaining abstinent even though you have had the means and opportunity to drink, shows just how serious you are to your chosen commitment. So celebrate. Be proud of these 8 days. But know you still have miles to go and a lot of work to put in, so don’t be content, complacent, or rest on your laurels. Your journey had just begun.

Then I started writing about my baby brother and the pen flew across the paper like it was enchanted! I wrote almost nonstop like I was Hamilton for seven and a quarter pages, not necessarily detailing the events of my last drunk, but the feelings and irrational beliefs that led me to that night, and so many more before it. I found myself admitting in words things I had been afraid to admit concerning my behaviour and drinking. Things that should make me feel ashamed and embarrassed… Things I never wanted to admit about myself before. It just had to be a message from my baby brother encouraging me to get it all out in the light of day so I did not have to pay the consequences he did to a substance that could only destroy us as we used it to cover our pain and insecurities. It took me from 0900 to 1230 to finish that letter and when I did it was as if a ton had been lifted from my shoulders and I was finally free.

I swear to you, if I ever needed a sign that now is the time to quit drinking, this day and this letter are the biggest I’ve ever seen. It’s as if everything aligned perfectly to answer the question of what to do when the “newness” wears off and sobriety becomes real. All I need to do is reread that letter and remember that the disease has already claimed one of my father’s children for its own, and I need not offer it the sacrifice of another one.

It’s just not worth it.

Confession 34

I get it. I get it. Historic happenings need to be revered and given a platform so that future generations have access to the information and can learn about the many facets that play a part in making The United States of America what it is today. The old adage about those who fail history being doomed to repeat it is really, really real, so we should always have unrestricted access to factual accounts of those happenings so we don’t fall for the bananas in the tail pipes of our past. But keeping up statues and monuments of whitewashed history figures is not the way to do this by any stretch of the imagination.

A friend of mine shared an article/video where a “Young Venezuelan Woman Warns America Where Destroying Statues Leads” and me, my friend, and friend of hers dialogued about the topic in a very respectful manner. I admittedly skimmed the article because I’ve heard all I can stand of the argument for allowing these “landmarks” to remain as slaps in the face of progress, but the main points that the Young Venezuelan Woman made were that in Venezuela:

Statues came down because socialist dictator Hugo Chavez wanted the history erased.

He changed street names for the same reason.

He changed the educational curriculum to erase history and substitute his version.

Some movies were banned, presumably for the same reason.

This is pretty much an OpEd piece which really didn’t cite any supporting sources and used a lot of buzz words like “dictator”, “communist”, “socialist”, etc. etc., so it can only be taken with a grain of salt as the opinion of a Gen Z citizen,. At best it’s a springboard for others to delve into their own fact checking, as it were.

But back to the exchange between me, my friend, and her friend. My friend stated she understood the premise behind removing the statues, but shares the sentiment that these displays should be allowed to stand so that we don’t “remove history” and risk it being rewritten for us. I heard her out and countered with this comment:

Statues aren’t history so the removal of them doesn’t remove history. And history has long been “rewritten” to make it more palatable for certain tastes, such as the Civil War being waged over “states rights” solely. With some, maybe not all, of the statues and monuments, that falsified/rewritten narrative continues through romanticized, nostalgic tribute that doesn’t tell the full story.

It’s been stated over and over that statues and monuments no more “teach” history than a newborn baby can, and that’s where history books and guided museum exhibits come in. The thing about the statues and monuments in question is that they do not represent history as it actually occurred in real life. These landmarks speak to a narrative that invokes wishful patriotism that is false. The “rights” the states were fighting for was the “right” to own a human and treat them subhuman. The monuments dedicated to defeated Civil War “heroes” (READ: men who went to war with their own country’s already established military) are a symbol of injustice, same as the statues of Columbus, and the “brave” cowboys who “tamed” the “wild” west. They’re talismans that seek to inspire people who want to relish the history of a United States that embraced (and in some circles still embraces) freedom, liberty, and justice for some at the expense of others. Can you imagine what it’s like to be one of those “others” and have constant reminders of what was done to your people erected in public spaces your taxes go towards maintaining. Hell, the statues and monuments are most often paid for by taxes so that’s like pouring salt in a gaping wound this country won’t allow to heal. Insult to injury if you will. Not very cool, if I do say so myself.

And when it comes to teachers of history, where do we think the opposition to having these historical accouterments remain in tact comes from? People who have taken the time to dig deeper past the general narrative that’s offered up about historical events. People who have learned better because other people had the foresight to write truthful accounts of history down for posterity. People who took LeVar Burton’s advice and didn’t just take his word for things, and as long as we have people like that who are dedicated to ensuring there will always be as accurate an account of history available to the masses as can be, so we should be good for the duration. For those who don’t or can’t read (yes, illiteracy is still a thing in the Roaring New 20s), there are a wealth of documentaries available that will “read” the story to you. Oh, the wonders of modern technology!

As for memorials and certain historical places, such as the auction block in Fredericksburg that was recently removed, I believe those things do speak of events that are a part of the fabric of our country and should be left to stand for educational purposes. These things aren’t glorifying a specific person’s deeds (or misdeeds) but telling the story of things that happened on this soil that contributed to our collective culture as it stand today. Place accurate educational markers on them to inspire further research into the occurrences. Preserve those things in historical context.

Returning to the conversation between myself, my friend, and her friend, her friend brought up and idea that might be fruitful as far as the future for the statues that are coming down. Quite possibly, create a heritage museum of sorts to house them instead of destroying them outright. The individuals they memorialize are a part of United States history after all, and should be preserved as well. But placing them in a heritage museum — with the proper contextual narrative of their story — allows those who wish to pay tribute to them a place to go to do that out of the space of those who find them personally offensive or culturally insensitive. I mean, really, think about how many racists/bigots never step foot inside any museums of Black or Indigenous history, leaving it as a safe space for those of us who want to learn. Win-win, right?

And in conclusion, removing statues does not remove history. Refusing to learn history, true history, does that.