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.