Last September and October were a blur.
September was the back-and-forth of sober Chris and drunk Chris. It was accountability and babysitting, it was lies and deceit.
I spent a lot of energy trying to make people understand how bad things had gotten. Friends. Chris. Our families. Chris’ friends.
Addicts make you feel crazy for a number of reasons but manipulation is at the top of the list. Chris was good at manipulating others. He was less good at manipulating me. I was too close to the madness and didn’t buy his lies. But getting those he was deceiving so well to understand I wasn’t just being vengeful or over-reacting felt like madness. I had spent so long feeling crazy. I finally learned I wasn’t and then I had to convince everyone else I wasn’t crazy too.
And when I mean “everyone else,” I mean people we were supposedly doing life with.
Hey Mary, maybe all of this wouldn’t be happening if you weren’t airing your dirty laundry on the internet.
I think Chris is drinking because you’re being too hard on him.
He’s not really that bad, is he?
Don’t you think you’re blowing this out of proportion?
No. No, I don’t.
Even Chris said this was all my fault, if I would just let him come back home, he’d be able to get better.
Never mind the fact he had been drinking for three years while living here and couldn’t stop. Never mind the fact he was caught this summer and told if he started again he’d have to leave.
I spent last September exhausted in so many ways.
The night we dropped Chris off at the detox facility was horrible and also brought me a deep, deep sigh of relief. I got home late that night but I slept well. Really well. I wasn’t worried about where he was, if he was putting himself in danger, if he was making choices that could hurt himself or others.
He was, for the time being, someone else’s problem.
October brought peace.
After detox, he checked himself into a long-term treatment center. I went with him for paperwork and insurance and because I was his ride. We were there hours that day and we spoke no more than twenty words.
This is your last chance, I said as we drove to rehab.
I know, he said quietly.
There wasn’t much more to say after that.
Fast-forward a year: It’s September again. The weather has teased us with cooler nights and milder days. I’m decorating the house for fall. Starbucks is bringing back their traditional (disgusting) seasonal drinks.
And I’m getting angry all over again.
Chris is sober this time, but it’s like my body can’t shake the feelings from last fall, can’t get out of the survival mode I was in this time twelve months ago.
I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to the hills of southern Indiana as I drive to the detox facility, the leaves golden yellow and blazing red; I can hear the album I had on repeat last September, the lyrics burned into my memory and heart. I can sense the anxiety and stress and worry in my stomach, in my bones, in my muscle.
I can’t seem to convince myself I’m safe right now. This is the season it all came to a head. This is the season I was alone. This is the season of divorce attorneys and dividing assets and family secrets tumbling out.
I can’t convince my body we’re safe now.
And so I’m just angry. I’m angry at lots of irrational things and some very rational things. I’m angry at myself for not being able to think my way out of this. I’m angry at Chris all over again for what he did to us. I’m angry at a friend who, for months, didn’t ask how we were doing and then hurt my family and kids as she slammed the door on her way out. I’m angry at adults who do the same things over and over again expecting different results.
I’m angry I can’t keep typing that list because I have to keep quiet about so many things.
I used to love fall. I was born in October; my body was made for layers. I love to sleep with as many blankets piled on top of me as possible. I enjoy the sting of cold air in my lungs when I walk outside. I could eat chili for every meal and never tire of it. Fall is the best time to camp, to hike, to sit around a fire with friends. The best time to be alive.
But right now, I’m angry it’s here. It is full of hurt and memories and fresh wounds and betrayal that just seems to keep coming. I want to scream and cry and hide and say I’m sorry and fuck you all at the same time.
Addiction stole fall from me. Grief stole joy from me. Betrayal stole safety from me.
And like all seasons, I know this will pass. I know this current moment is not my life-long reality. I know pain subsides and moments relax and eventually it will be okay again. I’ve lived enough heartache and disappointment to know the rhythms of pain and suffering. I have had enough joyful moments to not forget they exist.
I know I’m allowed to sit in the discomfort of endings and beginnings and feel all the feelings, allow them space, and then let them go.
I know what healing looks like and I know every day, in some small way, the healing starts over again. So I just have to keep doing what I know is right even when it’s hard, even when it doesn’t make sense:
be honest about my life
say things hurt
ask for help
read my Bible
cry and laugh
make sure my kids are safe and loved
keep my eyes open
keep my heart open
keep my hands open
In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” Maybe that’s what I need: a full immersion into fall, a fresh October for peace–crisp weather and a good freeze at night that ends the summer growing season so there’s room for new beginnings, new life, new starts.