Feeling good

8:30am

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with my life. For years it was about Michelle and I. Our life as a couple, my supporting her (emotionally and financially) as she built her career, our life with the boys, our life after the boys were grown and gone, and finally our life in the my later years. I was so happy it was all mapped out and that it was going to be with Michelle. Clearly that is not to be. So I’ve been in this, “what now?” mode.

Michelle and I had talked about volunteering (as a couple) with the Peace Corp once I was of retirement age. I have always wanted to do that. But I want to do it sooner than later. I need to get Dennis and Brad established and settled in their lives before I can just take off and think about myself. I figure 10 years from now they should be in good shape. They will be 26 and 24 years old (respectively). That would put my retirement at 54 years old. I would be giving up the Deferred Comp plan (I’m eligible for that at 60 years old) which is a sizeable chunk. I’ve done the math and the analysis. I know how much I need as a nest egg when I quit at 54. If I can get that together…by the time I’m 65 years old…between entitlements and my investments, I’ll have all the money I need to live on. It’ll be a stretch to get to “nest egg” goal in the next 10-12 years but if I buckle down, I can do it. I won’t need to sell my home either. I can hire a rental company and rent it out…that’ll be a way to build equity while I’m overseas.

Ever since Michelle and I have split up I have felt kind of rudderless. I feel like I don’t have any direction for my life past the kids. I have 5 years until Brad is out of the house to college. I want to enjoy my boys while they are still boys. I want to help get them started in life as men. I want to travel before I’m too old and tired. I want to give back to the world that has been so good to me. I want to be comfortable when I eventually retire. I can get all of that done. I’ve had a pretty decent life so far…I can make the second half even more interesting!!

My trip last weekend to New York was inspired. I was so positive and happy there. It felt amazing to be travelling and experiencing life. I’m not ready to have that as my occupation. I want to live and revel in Dennis and Brad. They are such great kids. I can see both of them being good men (for different reasons).

I feel good about this!

Poor assumptions

8:00am

I feel terrible about the assumption I made with Dad. I assumed he was going to lecture and try to bully me. We spoke on the phone last night for over 30 minutes. It started out with “This has gone on long enough. It needs to be fixed. The kids and your mother and I are upset about it. Etc. Etc” I explained to him how I felt. How stressful it is to be around Patrick and Rae. How they talk shit about every single person they know (without exception). How they go out of their way to make others feel like shit. How they just aren’t good people. I asked him…what are we going to do, sit down with them and make them stop being terrible human beings? He said, maybe. I told him I have my own shit I’m trying to come to terms with. I have my children I need to be concerned about after this brutal break up with Michelle. I told him I was in a good place about everything and the only reason (and I do mean the only reason) I am even entertaining an idea of reconciling with Patrick and Rae is because of how horrible my parents feel about things. I told him I can’t help that they feel terrible. I don’t feel good they, my kids, and Patrick’s kid’s feel stuck and trapped in this. But I can’t help that not having Patrick and Rae in my life (at least for right now) is an absolute good thing.

So the feeling terrible (about the assumption I made) part comes in now…he listened to me…and he didn’t try to tell me I was wrong. He didn’t try to tell me I was right…he just listened. I felt good putting it all out there with him. It felt freeing…like an unburdening. It felt like it did when I was in therapy and had a few break throughs.

Something disgusting

1:30pm

Michelle posted something terrible on Facebook this afternoon. Two friends sent me a text with a screen shot (I’m no longer friends with her on social media). It is a picture of Michelle and the boys when we did family photos last year. She posted the following text with the photo:

Michelle: TBT of the 2 loves of my life. Due to selfishness, manipulation and control issues I don’t get to see them and if you didn’t know, it is killing me, especially missing Brad’s birthday and Christmas coming up.

I was super upset. I went into her feed and posted the following comment:

Me: We miss you too…but you left us. This is neither true or fair. Please stop using my children as a prop to get attention. It’s disgusting.

I deleted the comment about 5 minutes after posting on her feed and then reported the photos to Facebook. What a transparent, desperate, pathetic, immature cry for attention. How dare she use my children as a prop!!!

I feel much better texting and talking with friend. I feel supported and cared for. I do not feel alone like I did when we first broke up or in Chicago.

Enough said about her

I am late to strength.

it does not come easily

it does not sit well.


8:00am

I still haven’t sent that letter I wrote earlier this month begging Michelle to take me back. I work on it a little bit almost every week day. I’m not sure why. The boys and I are better off without Michelle. I don’t trust her. I don’t trust her to do what is in my children’s best interest(s) if it conflicts with what Michelle wants. She is either not capable of seeing long term repercussions or worse, she does see them and is more concerned with her own wants and needs in the short term. Enough said about Michelle.

My mother wants me to come out to Arizona for New Years to patch things up with Patrick and Rae (that’s a funny coincidence considering my journal entry from yesterday). She said she feels like I have painted myself into a corner and don’t know how to get out. I got a bit short with her. I told her I haven’t painted myself into any corners. I said, “Patrick and Rae are fucking awful to be around. They talk shit about everyone. It is constant and it is stressful to be around. I am not in a corner. In fact I have reached out to them. They aren’t replying.” She told me she felt bad about the whole situation. I explained to her the ONLY part of this that I regret is how bad she and Dad feel. I know my mother went through a decades, long estrangement with her sister and they are both thinking about that.

 

 

A new outlet

2:00pm

Instead of journaling this morning, I worked on a sonnet. I’ve never written one before. I am enjoying it though. I’m trying to encapsulate the way it felt to the boys and I when Michelle left. How we’ve felt adrift for a while. I’m including the boys but really, I’ve been the one unmoored.

Mom isn’t coming for a visit after all. She had a steroid shot in her hip and had some sort of weird reaction to it. She is going to come in February

A visit

7:30am

My mother is coming in town tomorrow. I am looking forward to the visit. I have yet to speak with Patrick or Rae since everything. I sent Patrick a “Happy Thanksgiving” text message on Thanksgiving Day. He responded with “you too”. Other than that one text, he hasn’t reached out…I haven’t either. I only sent it because I knew it would make my parents happy. It did.

I believe the real problem is Rae. She has become a horrible, nasty person. She is the toxic ingredient. Michelle talked about it (after we broke up). She said when Patrick came to Omaha (without Rae) he was great. He was fun and was really enjoyable. It was when you brought Rae into the mix that he changed. I’m not advocating letting Patrick off the hook, I’m simply pointing out the correlation between Rae being around and how terrible he acts.

If this then never that

8:30am

Driving into work, I was listening to Story Core on NPR. It was a conversation between a woman who received a life-saving kidney and pancreas transplant and the mother of the young man who died and donated the organs. Both the recipient and donor were addicts. The young man died of a heroin overdose. The recipient said what motivates her to stay clean is her family and legacy of the donor. She said she needs to stay clean to honor his death and her life. I know I’ve said this before but it helps to put it down on paper. I will stay sober for my children. Dennis and Brad deserve a father who is the best version of himself. I deserve a life where I am the best version of myself. I will stay sober.

I can’t escape the obvious benefits of doing so. Every aspect of my life (exempting my relationship with Michelle) is better: the boys and I are closer than we have ever been, it feels like I have a handle on my control issues and anxiety, I am more productive at work, I have read 7 books since I quit, so far I filled 190 pages of a journal, I sleep better, my complexion looks better, I have lost 33lbs, clothes fit better, I can run further and faster than I ever have, I am physically stronger than I have been since my 20’s, I am sharper mentally, generally speaking I am more attractive (physically and emotionally), the list just goes on and on. So the verdict remains the same, sober David is a better David.

I was talking with a friend over drinks last night (mine were the non-alcoholic variety) about Michelle and I. She is of the same opinion of all of my friends who spent a lot of time with Michelle and I. She thinks we should not get back together. She said Michelle hasn’t dealt with any of her issues. She feels like Michelle is in the “look everyone at how great I am doing” space. I know Michelle has run up credit card debt because she has started getting offers to help her refinance high credit card balances sent to my house. She said Michelle will eventually have her anger and rage subside and I will be getting a phone call from her wanting to talk about us getting back together. I doubt that. She doesn’t know just how deep Michelle’s anger issues run. Michelle was promised $500 from a past employer over 3 years ago (he never paid) and when it comes up in conversation she still has the same level of anger/resentment she did back then. If she can’t let go of a promised $500 that never materialized, what are the chances of her letting go of her anger with me?

More insight

8:00am

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving next week with my long weekend in Chicago. I’m worried I’m going to get bored while I’m there. I’ll pick up an extra book just in case. Friday after Hamilton, I think I’ll take an architectural boat tour. I have this nervous fear my parents are going to “surprise me” by coming out. I hope they aren’t coming. I really want the solitude right now.

I have been thinking about the right way to structure/organize my thoughts about Michelle. I need to frame them differently. I need to stop thinking about our happiness. I need to remind myself she doesn’t want a family. More than that, I need to remind myself what my friend said the other weekend about hoping we don’t get back together. That was/is a paradigm shift for me. It brought all of the things Michelle did or didn’t do into focus. She took me for granted and I feel taken advantage of. She never really was bought into our relationship.

All her blame and anger are a smoke screen for her guilt. There is a part of her that hates she wants to be free of our family. We would still be together if I was able to move. She would have worked on our relationship if she could say, “I want to move to (insert city)” and I was able to do it. I can’t though. So she tells everyone what a piece of shit I am as the reason we broke up so they don’t know she really broke up because she doesn’t want the obligations and limitations of living her life with the boys and me. She can’t have the adventure and excitement she wants while being with us. She isn’t willing to postpone that till after my boys are grown and gone…she wants it right now.

Okay…giant sigh…that feels right. My life as a father doesn’t offer flexibility or adventure and Michelle wants adventure (right now) more than she wants us.

All of this doesn’t mean I don’t miss “us”. I miss the joy, laughter, love, care, sense of common purpose, sense of family, fun, ease, touch, tenderness, our conversations, her kiss, watching her love my boys, feeling her love me, making love, holding each other…I miss “us”. I have never felt closer to another human being as I did to Michelle. I have never been that intimate with another person. It is a once in a life time type connection I doubt either of us will ever find again.

None of this negates my controlling behavior. It was there! It was a direct result of my anxiety, my anxiety was exacerbated by my drinking. Controlling behavior was a way to eliminate the outcomes in life I was anxious about. Drinking helped numb the anxiety. It was a vicious cycle. I would feel anxious and drink to mute that feeling. Drinking lowered my inhibitions and allowed me to be more controlling. The longer I went in life drinking, the more I needed to drink to get the desired effect. The more I drank the more I felt the need for control. I went further and further down the rabbit hole. I feel like I have broken the cycle. I am clear headed. My anxiety is manageable because I am addressing it not muting it. I address it with exercise, meditation, reading, and writing. I have dealt with toxic relationships. I have worked on creating healthy boundaries (for me and my children) that do not sacrifice what is good and healthy for me/us to what makes other people happy.

I thought for a long time my anxiety stemmed exclusively from my relationship with my father. It doesn’t. It is rooted in bullying from when I was a child. There were some pretty traumatic things that happened in the 7th grade. It made me anxious to be at school. I felt powerless. I internalized all of it and told no one. I was afraid I was going to be bullied again all the time. It’s why I hid in the library at lunch from 7th grade until I was a Junior in high school. If I wasn’t where the bullies were, I couldn’t be bullied. It was my first attempt at controlling and it worked. It reinforced that if I could control things, I would be safe. Never addressing the root trauma allowed the controlling behavior to leach into most of my life. Drinking magnified it.

What I am about to say is very difficult. I have never articulated this before (not even to my therapist). I have had a substance abuse problem since I was 19 years old. I have self-medicated my anxiety for 24 years. From the first time I felt the wonderfully numbing effects of smoking marijuana in mid-September 1993 to August 1st, 2017 (when I quit drinking) I have used marijuana and alcohol to tune out the deafening noise of my anxiety. I used to call it “turning my brain off”. The never ending scroll of “what if’s” would just stop when I was high or drunk. They were manageable when I was controlling and in charge of the outcomes in my life…but they were silent when I was high or drunk.

I feel so much better now. Now I know what to do. Now, I know what is real and what is my anxiety screaming nonsense about the end of the world. All of this insight is the only positive thing to come out of losing Michelle. Losing her was my rock bottom. It was what inspired me to change and work to be a better man and father.

16 years ago, I did what Michelle wants to do. I moved to a big exciting city (San Francisco), worked, and advanced my career. It was a scary, wonderful adventure I’ll never forget. I didn’t have anything tying me down. I was single. She is right at the same age I was when I did that. Our age difference doomed us. If we had been married, she would have stayed with me and been bitter at how her life hadn’t been the adventure she had envisioned. We would have been divorced in 10 or 15 years.

Maybe one day she will look back on our time together without all the hate and rage she has. Maybe she can admit being a family with the boys and me wasn’t important enough (I say this without judgement) and not have the guilt or loss she is carrying around. At this point, who cares really? I have a good life. I have great kids. I am healthy and I’m working on staying that way. I love Michelle. I miss Michelle. I wish we could work through all of this and be together but that will fade over time. In 10 years, we’ll remember how we felt but the feeling itself will be worn down.

Getting better

I wanted to change

for three. I should work for the

two who deserve it.


8:30am

I am surprised by the amount of boredom that comes with sobriety. I am bored…all the time! When I would normally stop off at a bar/friend’s house for a drink is just dead time. I can’t tell you how many times I say to myself, “now what?”  The better I am emotionally, mentally, and physically…the more energy I have. The more energy I have, the more I am bored. There is only so much laundry to be done, I can’t clean the house all the time, the dog won’t go on endless walks, there are only so many books to read, so many movies to see, I can’t play games on my phone endlessly, I can’t work out more than once a day, it’s too cold to play golf…I am just bored, a lot. Looking at this from the outside I can see someone posing the question, “does being bored make you want to drink?” It doesn’t. That’s good.

Of course I think about Michelle and what we would be doing together. I’m not sure why I’m bothering talking about that…silly.

My therapist thinks we have reached the end of her usefulness. She pointed out several things that are different since we first met:

  • Grief has moved (mostly) to acceptance
  • Stress and anxiety are way down
  • I am effectively using tools to manage the anxiety that remains
  • My desire/need for control has abated
  • I have been sober for 15 weeks

Consequently, I am happier than I have been in years…happiness is my “starting position”.

I have to agree with her on all fronts. I know I feel sad from time to time. I think about and miss Michelle in my life every day. Knowing she is happy and grateful to be free of the boys and me hurts and makes the “missing her” worse. That said, I wake up every morning feeling good. I don’t feel like a different person…just a better version. I started out doing this for Michelle (I could have become the embodiment of everything she wants and she still wouldn’t be with me. She left because she doesn’t want roots. She wants freedom.) This change is ending up being for my children and myself. I like this version. He is kinder, gentler, and more patient. The boys like it too.

 

Do as I say not as I do (hopefully)

8:00am

I feel great today. So much so, Brad told me it was annoying what a good mood I was in. So I played up the annoying because…you know…that’s what Dads do and also…screw him for finding my joy annoying…LOL!!

I feel healthy, ambitious, content (with life), physically strong/able, just all around great. I like this, this consistency in my mood. I was talking with an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while on Friday. She was asking me about my sobriety and what I have noticed the most since I quit drinking. I told her it was the clear head every day. She laughed and said, “You mean you’re not hung-over?” It’s true. I haven’t had a hang-over since I quit drinking (obviously). The only time I have had a headache waking up is when I had a particularly sweaty work out the night before and didn’t drink enough water.

I keep coming back to sobriety. Well that’s not entirely true. I keep coming back to Michelle, our relationship, and then sobriety. I should have addressed my drinking years ago. When I say years ago, I mean 10+ years ago. Better late than never, I guess. I think being open and honest with the boys about my drinking is a net positive thing. They get to see and understand the dangers of drinking. Until now a drinking problem was the homeless guy on the street or the man in jail for driving drunk. Now, it’s their father (with: a successful career, a big house, a nice vehicle, who exercises 4 days a week, etc) who has the drinking problem. My life didn’t fall apart (aside from losing Michelle) but I was still unhealthy. Now that I quit drinking, they get to see the incremental improvements not drinking has added to our lives and take those into adulthood. This has improved their chances of breaking the cycle I was stuck in. They won’t have to wait until they are 42 years old to start (hopefully).