Taking Responsibility ……

So I’ll bet you read the title and thought this would be a Ninth Step kind of post. Or maybe I did my searching and fearless inventory and am taking responsibility for some newly discovered dark thing about me.

No. No. Alas, no.

What I write about is this kind of responsibility one should not take. Taking responsibility for someone else’s shit.

Yes, I’m an alcoholic and addict. But don’t we all have someone in our lives who, too, is an alcoholic or addict? And don’t they do to us what we did to others?

What I’m getting at is when a loved one relapses. I go to that “I should have seen it coming” place. I scrutinize the events and interactions leading up to the other person’s relapse. I put the days after they started using under the microscope. Many “aha” moments are enlarged there. The sleepy, glossy eyes. The fingers in the mouth — this person ALWAYS puts their fingers in the mouth when they’re using. Like a baby who rebels against sleep just as much as he or she wants it.

Somehow the whole feeling “duped” thing is something I’m taking responsibility for. Why am I responsible for being duped? Why isn’t it HIS responsibility for lying? That’s right. It is his responsibility.

And I can’t make him take responsibility for that. I can’t make him stop using. I can’t make him admit to using — been there, done that.

I put myself under that microscope as well. I squint and enlarge and probe. Was I in denial? Or was I giving a heaping, happy, healthy , loving dose of “benefit of the doubt?” Here I am going back to that place…….. I should have seen it coming. Or maybe I did see it coming but didn’t.

So I’ve been doing all of these things. But I’m going to stop. Just for today. Just for today I’m going to sit and be with me and accept that things are the way they are and that I’m powerless. Of course, I’ll have to see what happens when a counter-intuitive train of thought comes clacking and rattling into the station at top speed. I often get into a positive, powerful “just for today frame of mind” and unwittingly hop on these trains when they arrive. I have the power to watch them thunder past me, papers and dust flying in their wakes. I don’t always execute that power.

Good night.

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Gateway Drug? Gateway to Rape……..

“Are you f**kin’ confused about why they call it Blow?” He demanded, jerking the mirror over to his side of the table to re-calibrate the lines.

I felt stupid for a second, but the drunken “I don’t care” mechanism mercifully kicked in.  I was too drunk to inhale on cue.   I was horribly drunk, horribly uncoordinated, and whenever I hovered near the mirror  air gushed through my nose and the white powder would splay into specks all over.  I didn’t answer him. I didn’t have an answer.  The guy he was with sat quietly, staring at the table.  He was stoned.  It was in the 80’s that night, and the little black-haired guy kept his black leather jacket on.  He didn’t sweat a bit.  I  never met him before now.

“You can’t HAVE any if you do it again.  $#!t’s expensive.”  His ashy blond eyebrows were furrowed, meeting deep creases at the place where the top of his nose and his forehead converge.  It looked weird.  I was fixated on it.  That and the boil on his chin thinly veiled with the peachfuzz goatee.

“Ok,” I muttered, folding my arms.

This wasn’t my first time and I didn’t like being spoken to like I was some amateur.

But how did I get here?

I went to school in the ’80’s at the height of Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign. Believe me when I say the education was there.  Did I say education?  How about:  Scare tactics.  Try heroin and you’ll drop dead.  Try cocaine and you’ll drop dead.  LSD?  You’ll walk out a window.  A 10th story window.  Smoke pot?  Welllll, you won’t die, but life will suck.  That was it in a nutshell.  And saying “no” is such a simple alternative, isn’t it?

I internalized this.  I did believe that sudden death was possible – and I don’t mean the bonus round in a game show.  What I thought was more likely was an instant baboon on your back followed by a life of crime.  So when I was buzzed one night and they were passing stuff around, my inhibitions were down.  It didn’t seem so bad.  Some guy chuckled at my reluctance and said, “It’s not what they tell ya.”

Then?  I didn’t die.  I wasn’t stealing old lady’s purses to feed my new-found hunger.    In fact?  There WAS no new-found hunger.  I walked away unscathed.  So?  The next time they passed it around? I did it again.  And again.  And again.   And I loved it.

Now, ‘mind you …. I didn’t bug OUT if so-and-so wasn’t home and I didn’t scramble to get to _______’s (insert name of local bar with a “powder room”) before last call to stalk some drug dealer.  I didn’t start barking at everyone and I didn’t start fretting about who else might have it and inviting myself to people’s houses unannounced so I could score ….. but I loved it.  And I usually accompanied these freaks who would ultimately drive me out of town – with the caveat that they BETTER have a bottle for me.  Humph. I didn’t understand their fixation on the stuff.

Ultimately I didn’t know what I was putting up my nose.  One night I had some stuff that wasn’t the shade of white I was accustomed to.  Beige isn’t the right word …. but it’ll do.  And it made me itchy and sleepy.  Some other stuff burned the inside of my nose one night and made me freakishly paranoid – did I instantly become [in that one night] one of those people with the skin burned/melted out, the skin that cordoned off one nostril from the other?  I kept tenderly twisting a finger around in there to make sure it was all still there.  I’d frantically look in the mirror and then hide when I heard an unfamiliar voice.  One night there was stuff :  kind of a golden tan with a more velvety(?)  texture …. it knocked me OUT and felt all warm and sleepy like a winter Sunday morning in a fluffy big blanket.  It was a nice big dose of “I don’t CARE.”  If it was what I had been looking for, it would have been bliss and probably an instant habit.  But I wanted to be up there [pointing to the ceiling], not down there [pointing to the floor].

However:  With the exception of a few unpleasant surprises, I thought of it as fun.  I could drink more – way more! – and stay up until the darkness gave way to that periwinkle morning light and that sliver of pink in the distance.  I would go home tired and crash.  I hated sleeping for as long as I did and never being sure if I would wake up in time for my evening shift …. but I loved it.

Getting raped changed that.

A cute guy asked me out.  In the late ’80’s looking like Keifer Sutherland was an outstanding perk.  He wasn’t much of a conversationalist –  with the clarity of hindsight, I’d now say he was dumb.  But at the time, I thought it was cute and perhaps meant I made him nervous.   I only wish he had been more nervous.  He had a house party at his mom’s.  His mom was there in her room upstairs save an occasional swaying stumble to the bathroom; she was a notorious lush.  She would stagger unkempt into traffic in broad daylight.  Everyone knew her and I was unpleasantly surprised to find out she was his mom.   She wandered down in a house dress to have a drink with us.  Her hair was in a compact gray bun with strands of hair fraying out from the sides.  She slurred some unintelligible stuff before pounding a beer and staggering suddenly upstairs for the night.

His friends left one by one.  We had smoked some potent weed.  We drank a lot, mixing drinks with not a care in the world.  It churned menacingly in my stomach, but snorting some coke took care of that.  My thoughts sharpened, but it didn’t pair so well with the weed.  I miserably wondered “why do I always wind up like this?”

I never meant to.  I just meant to feel good and always overdid it.  The switch was on and I could never stop.

When his last friend left, I was glad to be alone with him and get to know him better.  The quiet of the house was pleasant, and I was taken with his shy half-smile.

In an hour, I was running out of the house stifling tears.   My head was extremely clear.  The buzz was GONE.  I knew what happened.  I ran. I stumbled. I slammed the door. I clutched my button-fly shorts which now had the top three buttons missing, ripped off.   Through the screen to the open window I heard his slurry voice chuckle, “Come onnnnnn.  Where ya goin’?”

My skin was red and raw in the shower as I vigorously and almost violently scrubbed my skin with a big bar of Dial.  I sobbed snottily slobbery with hot water pouring down my face.  I could still taste his repulsive kisses.   I wasn’t going to the police.  What would I tell them?  I mean, which illicit illegal ill drug should I START with?    And the underage drinking.   That was a nice aside.   And why the hell didn’t his mother wake up?  She really didn’t hear that? I FOUGHT him.  And then that made it worse and it was happening anyway.  And that made me feel more ashamed – that I quit fighting.  It wasn’t until years into sobriety that I made peace with my instinct for self-preservation.  In that moment I thought he could kill me.  He just hated me and was so powerful.   It started with a kiss that went from zero to passion in three shocking seconds.  I pushed him away.  Smiling, I started with “knock it off.”  And it was all downhill from there.  With all of that Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” in my head, that night I found it sometimes was not an option – no matter how loudly you screamed it and no matter how much you kicked and punched.     But I never said no to anything being passed around when the party was in full swing.

I loved to hate him.  For years, my hate intensified and I loved it.  It felt powerful – like another drug.  The rape happened when I was 18.  When I was 28, I happened upon him in some dive bar I frequented.  I had a friend – a guy  who was always cracking his neck and looking for a fight.  I went over to him and whispered what that guy did to me, and he took care of it.  I took pleasure in watching this eruption of violence outside, pleasure in the bouncer closing the door to the bar with a shake of his head.  He did this when he was going to ignore it, and he would for my neck-cracking/looking-for-a-fight friend.  They were buddies.  So the fight went pretty far and I took such pleasure in watching him stagger stunned down the darkened street with blood and mud all over.  The pleasure was fleeting and was soon displaced with the same hatred I always felt.  I thought revenge would fix this feeling.  I thought the balance of power would shift.

I had to work hard to overcome that resentment I felt for him – and that’s probably a whole OTHER blog, but I’ll say it’s possible.  And that’s something I did for ME and not for HIM.

My point is how tinkering with chemicals not only led to me being with a bad mix of people.  It led me to having clouded judgment and misinterpreting nonverbal cues – such as the look he gave me.  It seemed shy at the time, that half-smile.  Now it seemed more menacing.  Or maybe my memories are changing history – and the facts are fixed.  It’s my access to them that changes.

Drugs led me to resisting pressing charges and seeking justice – real justice, not parking lot justice, not street justice.  I’m not blaming myself (and I hesitate to use the term “blaming the victim.” I am not a victim. The victim mentality is ultra bad for my sobriety).  But I think it’s good for me to feel that much more empowered by sobriety knowing that the likelihood that it will happen again has been fantastically reduced.  I am less vulnerable.  I am not a victim.