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Already I’m forgetting the ‘expectations’ thing, despite the fact that I’ve been murmuring about it to myself for the past couple days.  It hasn’t just been in regard to my mother, either:  today while driving home, as some little blonde in her cutesy VW Cabrio cut me off, I tried reminding myself that people drive like idiots (and so I really, really need to stop getting so steamed when they do this stuff!).

But then I arrived home and Mom actually seemed coherent.  There was still a bit of that feverish craziness in her eyes, the sign that were she engaged in conversation longer than a few words, I’d quickly become annoyed with her again.  Briefly, I flashed back to the talk I had with God last night…and by ‘talk,’ I mean it went something like, “Fucking do your job, you piece of shit deity, we’re not your own personal Sims game, so stop fucking around with us!”

God gets insulted all the time by disgruntled mortals, so I know my little before-bed rant did absolutely nothing to motivate Him.  Still, there were those few brief seconds where I allowed myself to think I was awesome enough to cow him.  (Maybe not really.)

I still couldn’t lift my gaze to look at her straight-on, though.  When I did accidentally glimpse her face, the worn, weathered skin looked bruised around her eyes.  She shambled out the door to get food, and while I shouldn’t have allowed her to drive, I was too hopeful from the idea of her eating to care.

Besides that, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m a coward.  And it’s her car anyway.

Then tonight I was cleaning the cats’ litterbox, and some noise must have startled her because she bolted out of her bedroom asking if I was alright.  That’s about as alert as I’ve seen her since well before she went into the hospital.  Again, I could still tell she wasn’t 100% sober, but it was a lot more sober than she’s been in past weeks.  I guess my thought at that point was “This isn’t a great place to be, but I’d rather her where she is right now than where she has been.  If she could just stay like this for a bit and work up from there…”

My dog trotted out to greet her, and Mom cooed, “Grandma needs some time alone!  Yes she does, Grandma just – needs – time – alone!”

It was said just loudly enough to be one of those passive-aggressive “I’m going to pretend I don’t think you can hear me, but I actually know you can and hope you’re listening to me” statements.  I don’t know if it was, but I also don’t know why she’d hang just out of sight of the room I was in and say something like that, either.  She needs time alone?

Allow me to explain here that for the past several years, she’s basically had two residences:  her apartment, and her boyfriend’s apartment.  99% of the time, she stays with him.  Then she becomes annoyed with him, picks a fight, and retreats to the apartment for a couple of days.  I guess she just can’t stand to be cooped up with one person for a long period of time.

So right now, I guess she’s just mad that she doesn’t have a third residence she can go to and be alone.  I’m not entirely sure how she can’t feel like she’s living alone now, however, considering I keep myself locked in my room most of the time.  I’m like the Invisible Roommate.

Anyway, she apologized to me for the second time for panicking, and I admit there was a bit of exasperation in my voice when I called back, “It’s fine!”  If there was more than a touch, then I need to work on how I modulate my tone, because she started muttering angrily and stormed back to her room.

This is how most normal, pre-drinking-to-stupor days went.

At this point, I expect I’ll wake up tomorrow to find another scribbled note lashing out at me for some random thing.  And ever since she stormed to her room, I’ve been repeating to myself, “She’s not actually angry at me, it’s not me, it’s her…”  Of course, not getting irritated with her (or at least, not letting it show) could help, too.  😛  But on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason for letting the snarkiness slip out is because I’ve never actually just…stormed on her.  I’ve never actually sat down and told her when I’m angry and why, so there’s a decade’s worth of anger just bubbling out of me at inopportune moments.

And that’s what I’m supposed to get out of all this therapy, I know.  I’m supposed to learn how to change me.  I hope the changed me is more awesome than the current me.

Despite all my fears about making it to tonight’s Al-Anon meeting, I did make it…and I can’t say right now what my feelings are toward the meeting in general (it’s too soon to really know), but in listening to everyone I definitely heard some things that resonated, and things that I realized were happening but I’d never noticed.

The latter came about when one woman began speaking of her recent experiences.  “I didn’t realize I’d been in fight-or-flight mode constantly,” she said, and I realized that’s been my permanent state…god, more often than not during this time I’ve lived with my mother.  The constant flinching every time there’s any sort of noise in the house?  I just freeze, like some poor animal waiting to see if that noise turns out to be something that’s going to tear it apart.  I shouldn’t be stressed out and nervous all the time in my own home, but that’s what I am.

Before the meeting today, I walked out of my room to find Mom slumped over on the couch again.  Most of the time she’s just laying in bed with the TV on, but there was no TV on in the living room.  Nothing was going on, she was just…there.  She said something to the dog, then she tried talking to me and I couldn’t understand her.  When I asked her to repeat herself, it was like she didn’t hear me.  “I have a meeting at 7:30,” I told her, and went back to my room to get something.

Coming out a minute later, I found her half-sitting now and trying to pull the glass door open more.  We have the AC running, and of course I’m the one paying all the bills, so seeing that the door had just been hanging open filled me with all sorts of anger.  …Except I know it wasn’t the door being open, my anger is due to HER, to seeing that damn blank look on her face, like she’s a robot just going through the motions of life.

“What are you doing here?” she asked in delayed surprise.

“What do you mean, what am I doing here?” I snapped.  I wanted to continue, “I was just out here two fucking minutes ago, and if you weren’t so drunk all the time, you’d realize that!”  But I didn’t say anything more.  It’s not like it would have mattered; she was too drunk to have realized anything.  Instead I took the dog out, then grabbed my things and left.

Aaaaand of course the very second tonight’s meeting started, I burst into tears.  I slammed my chin down to my chest, hoping that with everyone else’s heads bowed they wouldn’t see me crying like some kind of childish idiot, and after a couple minutes I overcame it and was able to look up again.  The night’s leader of this meeting said that at first, she’d planned for the discussion topic to revolve around resentment, but then there was a passage read that basically said to let go of expectations, and to…I guess basically be thankful for the moment, the gifts of the day, that sort of thing.  And so she said she’d rather have everyone talk about something good tonight.

It was kind of odd the way things worked out, us talking about letting go of expectations, because earlier in the day I’d received an email from one of my best friends, telling me about a concept she’d been reading.  To paraphrase, it’s basically that much of our suffering in life comes from that constant wishing that things were different.  You’re driving, and you KNOW there are a lot of idiot drivers out there–that’s just the way things go–but when you get cut off or stuck behind a slow-moving car, instead of just accepting things, you spend time getting angry and wishing maybe you’d left a little earlier or that a meteor would drop out of the sky and hit the offending motorists.

Okay, maybe I’m the only one who wishes for meteors.  Point is, I think this concept she told me about, and the passage we read tonight at the meeting, are really kind of the same thing.  And right now I can sound all logical and enlightened, but I already know this is going to be one of the toughest concepts to truly absorb.  My logical mind says yes, if I merely accept the fact that my mother is an alcoholic, accept that I neither caused it nor can cure it, and make no expectations about her behavior, then I’ll be okay.

But it’s not that easy, is it.  I was already making expectations before she’d even left the hospital this last time.  “Now that she’s been in there for almost 2 weeks,” I thought, “she’s sobered up and realizes this is not the way to be.”  And then mere days later, I discovered more vodka under her bathroom sink and I think I felt worse than if I’d realized she was going to return to the same behavior.

I suppose all this has made me realize what a long, long process I have ahead of me.  It’s not so much about getting her to change as it is about changing myself, and in that way I’ll be better able to deal with things.

I got a little packet of information at tonight’s meeting, and it came with a bookmark that has some pretty good things on it.  There’ll be a link to it under the “Pages” header.

Terrified.

Every time there’s a noise in the apartment, I flinch.

It’s not a fear of thieves or murderers that has me so on edge.  It’s my mother–my incoherent, slovenly, alcoholic mother.

I think the drinking began when my father left.  Once upon a time, I might have blamed him, but the fault isn’t his.  My mother might–and would probably–disagree; she hasn’t been able to crawl out of her depression since it happened, I think.  That was in 2000.

It all happened kind of gradually, but after awhile I realized that the only time I could expect a sensible, coherent conversation from her was if I got to her in the morning.  At that time, I was unemployed and a serious night owl, so I saved all my questions for those early hours before she left for work, then avoided her as much as I could in the evening.  When she went to bed, it always felt like a serious weight had been lifted off of me.

She broke her ankle last February and was out of work for awhile, and that’s when things reached a low point.  I had no idea what was going on–all I saw was that she was having stomach pains and couldn’t seem to keep food down.  After a time, she couldn’t seem to drink anything, either, and she was admitted to the hospital.  I’d grown used to her erratic behavior by this point, so I guess I didn’t link the symptoms to alcohol abuse…and naturally, she didn’t confess anything.  “They can’t figure out what’s wrong,” she told me.

They released her from the hospital, she was fine for a couple of weeks, and then she went right back downhill again.  I still remember leaving for work one morning with her too weak to get out of bed.  Luckily, her boyfriend (who is an alcoholic himself) managed to get her to the hospital, and she stayed there for a week or so.  They gave her antidepressants this time, and her disability checks ran out so for awhile she was great.  I felt like I had my mother back again, and I thought things would be fine as long as she stayed on those pills.

But then, early this year, she began receiving unemployment checks and I immediately noticed the change in her behavior.  It was impossible to hold a conversation with her, at any time of the day, because she’d always go off on some tangent that was completely unrelated (but made perfect sense to her).  Getting exasperated with her (which happens often) would only result in her turning passive-aggressive, leaving nasty notes and destroying things in the house.  That sort of behavior is something I’ve grown up with, though.  I’ve gotten so used to it that I don’t even try to talk to her.  I avoid conflict at all costs, and retreat to my room rather than deal with her.  But even that doesn’t save me, because the sight of my closed door seems to send her into a rage all by itself, and I inevitably walk out later to find yet another note left on the kitchen counter.

I’m not sure why ‘alcoholism’ wasn’t the first thing to pop into my head.  It was there, but my first thought was that maybe she was developing Alzheimer’s.  Her mother had it, and it’s been my fear since then that either Mom or I will also develop the disease.  I guess I didn’t think about alcohol abuse right away because she’s become so good at hiding it.  She keeps her vodka bottles under her bathroom sink, and while she drank all of the alcohol I had (a bottle of peach schnapps and some bottles of wine I’d bought from a local winery), she then put the empty bottles right back on the shelf.  I drink so rarely that it took me awhile to notice this had happened.

Of course, after the realization of what was truly going on, all the other little pieces fell into place.  There was the day I knocked on her bedroom door, only to be met by her staring at me with glazed-over eyes and the blankest expression I’d ever seen her wear.  The time I said she smelled like alcohol–merely smelled like it–and she absolutely flipped out on me.  At first, it was almost a relief to find out her problem was alcohol and not Alzheimer’s.  I figured the former was something that could be “cured.”

Only now I think it’s just as bad as Alzheimer’s would have been.

My 30th birthday is coming up soon, and all I can focus on right now is the guilt and the anger and worry and depression.  In the past, I’ve had just enough energy to keep myself from falling into that black pit, but with all of this added stress, I can’t seem to keep myself out anymore.  I’ll be fine while I’m at work, but the minute my shift ends I feel that heavy dread wash over me again.  Even when I’m at work, while I’m laughing or joking around or otherwise feeling momentarily carefree, there’ll come a sudden thought “Why are you happy?  You’ve got more worries than you can deal with, don’t think you can escape them.”

Anyway, I’ve decided to start writing everything down here.  I’m hoping maybe it will help me cope with everything that’s going on.  Tomorrow, I’m going to my first Al-Anon meeting, and I’m both excited and terrified.  It’s not so much the sharing part–I have a problem with pouring my heart out to anyone I think will listen–but I’ve never done anything like this before.  Nonetheless, I’m accepting the fact that I need help, and I hope this will be the right place to start.