My Dad Behind the Wheel

I didn’t know my father well. He died last year (after several years of being mostly gone due to strokes). He wasn’t an easy person to understand. In the decades that I knew him, I could count on one hand the number of times that he went internal and talked about what was going on inside him. We are so different in that way – introspective is my favorite state.

Recently, something got me started remembering his driving.

When I was very young, I thought that  freeways were an endless race. And considering the number of cars my dad passed, I thought we had a good shot at winning the race. If only we didn’t always have to exit to go to grandma’s house! He had an MG Midget which he adored and gave up because it had no room for kids. He knew everything about cars and spent much time tinkering with ours.

Conversely, coming back after any trip, when he got to our neighborhood, he would slow to a maddening crawl. Was he surveying his domain? Or reluctant to return home?

My stomach still clutches at the memory of drives back from family holiday get-togethers when he was dangerously drunk. One night he went on and on about how interesting it was to see double of everything: twice the lanes, twice the traffic signals. As soon as I got my driver’s license I became our designated driver. Thinking about this still infuriates me. It might be time to think about forgiveness. Now that I have learned about addiction (because Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a heroin addict), I see that my father was probably a high functioning alcoholic. He drank every day. But it was the family gatherings that were most noticeably out of control.

Only after my father retired was I aware of him having much fun. (Did he change or did I grow up?) Golf was a big part of that retirement pleasure. My kids got their first driving lesson in his golf cart. They were 10, maybe, and for years afterwards gleefully informed me of all the stuff he let them try, as soon as they were out of my sight. He was a complete control freak but just as big a rebel when it came to other people’s rules. In this case mine.

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Peace in Thoughtlessness

The last few weeks, I have struggled to put two thoughts together, and this turns out to be a good thing. At first I thought it was a new stage of PTSD, my unfolding reaction to the fact that Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a heroin addict (today more than 2 months sober). Now I see this is part of my own process of healing and recovery.

My thoughts are very foggy and disconnected at the surface, but down below the thinking must continue. I can still hold a conversation – although if it is a work conversation that yields to do items, I had better jot them down when first discussed or they won’t leave the room with me. More importantly, I have written quite a bit on my new novel and it is really good stuff.

The fog disturbed me mightily at first, but more and more I see it as a protective cushion. My longstanding tendencies to brood and anticipate are not functioning well now – and I don’t miss them at all. I’ve got a lot of stress at work right now and when I start worrying I find myself trying to pull the fog closer and thicker.

Perhaps this is how I will back into mindfulness and an ability to be fully present – by thickening the fog. Not thinking is really peaceful. I recommend it.

The Long Plateau

It’s kinda like living in The Lost World, a previously unknown universe on a long, high plateau that ends in steep cliffs.

Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a heroin addict, just about 60 days into recovery. SILD could relapse. SILD could be secretly using. These coulds will continue to haunt me. But right now SILD is looking healthy and – remarkably – happy, intensely working a 12-step recovery program that helps to limit the power of the addiction while dramatically boosting self-awareness.

I have been working on my own recovery as a codependent and thus recognize that it will be a sign of my own improved mental state when I cease to start blog entries by talking about SILD. What happens with SILD is up to SILD. I can’t alter SILD’s path and I can’t predict the future. Hence all the treatment program mantras about focussing on today.

For a purebred westerner like myself, that living in the moment stuff ain’t easy to achieve but I can already see that getting to that point is an effort worth making. Lately sometimes I’ve managed to find the Off switch, to silence all my dreading and what-ifing. The sense of peace and the upsurge in energy are simply incredible. I wish I could tell you how to activate that switch – then maybe we could all flip it more often. At this point all I can do is reassure that it exists.

The biggest test of a codependent’s recovery is the ability to maintain peace, contentment, and joy in life even when the addict is doing poorly. So often we codependents say “I’m doing well today – because my addict is ___” Fill in the blank: Still sober. Working her program. Getting job offers.  That kind of thinking is still codependent. I’m okay because my addict is okay.  The goal is: I’m okay even though my addict is in a tailspin. 

Getting to that point is surely even harder than always living in the moment.

Thinking about a future where my addict could be in a tailspin is pushing against my Off switch. I’m knotting up inside and need to remind myself: nothing has changed as I type this blog. Today is still good. That is all I know for sure.

Today has been okay. Curiously, that simple realization restores my calm.

Folks, you have just witnessed mind control in action.

Perhaps two months ago I would have sheepishly deleted all of this.