“What a mistake! I wish I was home.” #alcoholism #mentalhealth #mentalillness #family

August 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

My text to Husband read, “What a mistake! I wish I was home.”

It was Sunday afternoon and I had brought my 83 year old mother out to my sister’s palatial house for a Sunday afternoon gathering. The reason for the gathering was my nephew’s 39th birthday. Mom and I were the first arrivals, although we were twenty minutes late. I felt uneasy almost immediately, I can’t tell what it was that I was sensing. Perhaps a slight manic energy emanating from my sister. She always wears such strong perfume and I react badly to it. She was also wearing this gaudy outfit of prints and beads. It wasn’t that any item of the ensemble was not an attractive piece, but the combination of all of them put together was overwhelming, like the perfume.

My daughter and granddaughters arrived next, and I was happy to see them. I am not totally at ease with them because we are just getting to know each other after a long break. My grand daughters still look up at me and ask, “Who are you again? Are you my aunt?” I have to resist my compulsion to jump in and do everything for my daughter, which is just plain wrong (the compulsion, that is, my daughter is an awesome mom).

I should mention that I had also not been feeling well the day before and had not eaten much that day, and was not going to be able to eat or drink much. If I had not promised that I would bring my mother I probably would have stayed home to rest. So, I have to admit I wasn’t feeling very well to begin with.

We had all gone outside to play frisbee with the girls when my nephew’s father and his ex-wife, nephew’s step-mother, arrived. Nephew’sFather has known me since I was eighteen, that is, forty years. His first comment to me as we greeted each other was to make a joking comment about my hair, at my expense. I did not laugh, I did not really respond, I just felt my sense of unease deepen, that I didn’t feel safe.

I went back into the house and sat in a comfortable chair to tune my ukelele and look up my chord charts for music playing. My sister came in and we sat and chatted for a bit and I felt my tension easing somewhat. Then my nephew came in and offered us something to drink – and that was when the box of wine came out and my sister started drinking. To her credit, it looked like it was her first drink of the day, so she was sober at that point. Yes, it was 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Alcohol and my family has a long and sordid history. My grandmother was an alcoholic, my father, my brother, and my sister are all alcoholics. My  sister and another of my brothers are pot addicts. There is a lot of addiction in my family and I am one of them. I have been sober in recovery for alcoholism and addiction for 18 years.

It was after the wine came out that I texted Husband.

However, I could not leave. My mother was there, the food had not been served, I was stuck for the time being. So, I adopted my comfy chair strategy. I stayed in the chair. I sipped water, and hung out with anyone who came into the room, having nice, meaningless conversation to pass the time. I was social, congenial, kind, and empathetic. And I didn’t get out of the chair. I felt safe in the chair, and there was no reason for me to move.

It wasn’t until lunch was served that I made my way to the table and ate a very modest meal. Once done, I moved back to the chair. I don’t think anyone noticed, because I didn’t actually know many of the people at the party. The people who did know me, and wanted to hang out, could easily find me.

Finally, after a decent time, I was able to load Mom into the car  and we headed home. The afternoon was not a total disaster, except that I was more than exhausted. The wine buzz was only starting to hit my sister and her live-in boyfriend, and I was able to get away before it got out of hand. My daughter and her kids left when we did, so I knew they weren’t going to have to see the ugly that can come up like an 800 pound ocean grouper to swallow people whole.

I had thought it would be safe attending a party at my sisters on a Sunday afternoon, that the alcohol would not be a problem. Live and learn.

I want to spend time with my family, I want to learn to take the good with the bad. After all, I’m no shining example of humanity, so who am I to judge? I do know when I feel safe, and when I feel like the time I am spending with family is just wasting my energy.

Next time I will beg off sick if I am not feeling well. That is a much more respectable way to handle these situations.

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