A personal inventory

12:00pm

Driving back from lunch I was thinking about the different ways to think about health. I boiled it down to: physical, mental, and economic. I took a personal inventory of each of those for myself, Dennis, and Brad from before Michelle and I split up to now.

It kind of feels like my life going forward is always going to be seen as B.K. and A.K. (before Michelle and after Michelle).

On all fronts we are doing well. For our physical health all you have to do is look at me and you can see a dramatic difference. I’ve lost 41lbs since then, I don’t drink anymore (I’ve only lapsed, getting drunk once since we broke up). Dennis and Brad are both super active.

Both boys are achieving in school and with their friends. Our mental health is much better. I sleep well and am generally happy these days, especially when I have the boys with me. They both seem to be the same. My/our economic health is better than it has ever been. I have more money saved than I have ever had in my life. I made less money last year than I did when Michelle and I were a couple and yet I have more money. It seems we are better without Michelle in our lives. Trying to make her happy was difficult and stressful.

To be clear here, Michelle isn’t to blame for my alcohol abuse and controlling behavior. She was a stressor…my reaction to stress was drink and control. The unhealthy way I had coped with stress/anxiety was my fault. I reacted to every stressor the same way. It didn’t matter if it was a person, my job, financial troubles, etc, etc. If I felt anxiety I alleviated that with booze and “taking charge”.

 

A dream

8:00am

I had a dream about Michelle last night. We were sitting out in the yard listening to music and reading. It was a really nice day. I noticed in my peripheral vision these orbs. They were these balls of smoke or mist that were clearly moving of their own volition. I raised my hand to one and it moved away. I hit one and my hand went through it as you would expect, it dispersed and quickly coalesced again. I laughed when I noticed there were three of these things. Michelle asked me what they were and what I was doing.  That was the entire dream. I guess it was a dream with Michelle in it more than a dream about Michelle. I’m not sure what the orbs or balls of mist/smoke represent and what breaking them up with my hands only to have them reform means. I want to think it is a good thing because I woke up after the dream with a nice, contented feeling.

Dennis and Brad are both doing really well. They are both getting really good grades (4.0 and 3.75 GPA’s respectively), their teachers all enjoy them in class, they are active with sports and exercise, they have active social lives with good friends, and the three of us spend a lot of time together. I love them so much. They make me so happy and proud. I have, maybe, 3 good years with Dennis before college. Add 2 years to that with Brad. That makes me sad…and kind of lonely.

I have thought about that recently, being lonely. I have never been lonely before. Before I married Collette I loved being single. After our divorce I didn’t mind it at all but now that Michelle and I are no longer together I hate being alone. My initial thought is because I don’t have Michelle…that’s why I hate it. That could be it, but it could also be as simple as I’m not drinking anymore as a way to pass the time so I’m bored…all the time. Sunday I was home all day doing laundry, working out, and reading…I kept thinking about going to the Interlude and just watching Golf and chatting with the bartender. I didn’t of course but it was in my head. I have read so many books since I quit getting drunk. I even thought about Michelle on Sunday…I miss sitting in her office reading while she was doing homework. That was so nice to be near each other like that.

“Missing Michelle” is just a place holder for missing someone to be connected with. Seeing the end of having the boys out there on the horizon is making being alone loom large. I ran into my (across the street) neighbor at the grocery store and ended up chatting with her for a while. When we finished she smiled and said, “David, you’ll find the right girl…just be patient.” It was random, off topic, and really sweet of her to say that. She’s right. I will find the right woman. Michelle wasn’t it. She and I would have been well suited for each other in 10 years when she is older, has more life experience, and maturity. She has been reduced to a symbol of what the boys and I are hoping for.

I went on a date

8:00am

I went on a date last night. I was super nervous. I ended up having a really great time. She is funny, nerdy (a huge Harry Potter fan), smart, and very pretty. It was supposed to be a casual, quick date but we ended up talking for just over 2 hours. I would like to see here again. We’ll see what happens. I sent her a text after I walked her to her car:

Me:        Hey…I had a really nice time tonight. Please let me know you got home safe.

Laura:    Hey – me too! I did make it home.

Me:        Have a good night. Talk to you soon.

Laura:    You too!

So that’s good right? I fucking hate dating and all the uncertainty. I’d like to skip ahead to the part where you’re comfortable and involved with a person and have found out their little foibles and idiosyncrasies. Can we just time travel to that part? Now I’m in this dilemma…do I wait for the feedback from the match maker before I ask her out again or do I just text her and see if I can buy her dinner?

The one thing I don’t like about this match maker dating thing is the number of dates they set up for you. It’s more than unromantic…it feels pessimistic. Anyway, if they all turn out to be like Laura I think I’ll be in great shape.

Picking myself up

8:30am

I felt sad yesterday. I was too tired and crappy feeling to exercise so I read most of the night. I ended up having a recurring dream but I can’t think of what it was this morning. The sense I have is it was a pleasant dream. Drinking on Sunday left me in/with a funk, a general sense of sadness. Instead of beating myself up over this like I was yesterday I thinking more of this is a learning experience. A reinforcement of why I quit drinking. I’ve disappointed myself and my kids. Last night I didn’t feel a desire to drink. All I could feel was sad and longing. I wanted to reach out to Michelle and talk to her about what happened on Sunday. She’s the only person I have felt comfortable being completely open and vulnerable with (exempting my therapist). I miss that connection with another person…the vulnerability, acceptance, and love of a woman.

Enough about that…sobriety…I need to put that back on the front burner and re-focus on the habits I have formed the last 6 months. No more casual (1 or 2) glasses of wine. Those are going to lead to my falling into old habits again. I can see it now. So tonight it is exercise and maybe a movie then home for bed and a book.

I’ve been putting off the second meeting w/ the match maker. I’ve rescheduled it 2 times now. I’m just feeling a general indifference to the idea of dating (all indications to the contrary with my opening paragraph to this journal entry right?). I guess what I don’t like about dating is the idea of getting from meeting a stranger to the part where we are a couple who has settled into a life together…the getting there is awful and I’m tired of having to do it.

Is this what “getting better” is?

3:30pm

A crazy day at work. I can’t believe the day is almost over already. I am busier than I have been in years…a good problem to have. I’m staring at the screen and my mind is completely blank. I can’t think of anything to write about except not having anything to write about. That’s a first, my lacking any inspiration to journal.

Is this what getting better feels like? It’s weird leaving this page almost completely blank. Oh well.

Too selfish to be their mother.

9:00am

Jesus Christ!! Michelle stopped by the house yesterday afternoon while Brad was there. He called me and was really nervous and upset. She was dropping off cards, presents, and a letter for me. The notes in the cards were nice and positive. I let them keep the cards and read them. They didn’t want the gifts. The letter she left me asked questions: Why did I make her leave in Arizona? Why didn’t I come to the hotel and get her in Arizona? All questions I have asked myself a million times. She answered those questions with this: “the answer is I have come to realize you are my abuser and I am your victim.” She has accused me of being an abuser.. I am without words…my post from December 11th (questioning whether her isolating me from my friends was the early signs of her being emotionally abusive) is so poignant.

We had the following text exchange:

Me: Brad just called. He said you’re at the house. Is that true?

Michelle: Yeah I dropped off Christmas presents and there is a note for you in the front mail box.

Me: You terrified him. Collette is at my house right now and she said that he is shaking.

Michelle: I didn’t think he would be home.

Me: Yes you did. We lived together as a family…you know when he gets home. Collette says he is so upset he is shaking all over.

Michelle: Did you let them read the letters or did you throw them away, or let me guess you read them first to make sure they are okay. Like a person who can never let go of any control. Notice she doesn’t acknowledge how upset Brad is and her part in it.

She timed her “dropping off” of presents when she knew Brad was going to be home. She could have put a stamp on them. She doesn’t think about what is best for Brad and that he might be made super upset by her just showing up…she only thinks about what she wants. Just selfish.

As I was rushing home to be with Brad I had a thought. What if she was there to talk? What if she wanted to talk about us and maybe us working on things? I got a sick, nervous, dread-filled feeling in my stomach. I think the emotional (heart centered) part of me is catching up to my brain. This moment is definitely part of my closure with Michelle. It is forcing the reality of our end to sink further in. Not the reality…the necessity of it. She is too selfish to be a step-mother to my children.

This morning I had the following exchange with a good friend:

Me: I was thinking about Michelle’s nonsense yesterday as I was driving into work this morning. Ugh…what a jerk!!

Derek: Just laugh about it! Even after 4 months she is still thinking about you!!

Me: I guess

Derek: Well. I guess you could wallow in the fact you were a dickhead at times by being too controlling and drinking too much. In other words…you would be just like Michelle in that you would become bitter and angry about the past without making the future better. Such as you have done by recognizing your behavior and controlling your drinking.

All true. I am lucky to have good friends to give me perspective. I feel better about the end of my relationship with Michelle than I have.

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.

 

 

Plenty of fish

8:30am

I had the boys last night for dinner. We had a blast! We went for pizza and then cupcakes at Jone’s Brothers.

I signed up on Plenty of Fish yesterday. I am going to have a good friend help me set up my profile this weekend. I already had some nice looking woman start chatting me up so that’s nice. I have been thinking about this for a while. I am totally out on a serious relationship with anyone who has kids or wants kids. I think I should avoid anyone who is seriously younger than I am. That is seriously going to narrow the field. I don’t know if I am ready for this shit but fuck it. Michelleisn’t taking me back.

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.

Disturbing behavior

8:00am

Another good day. I feel great! I have nothing new to report in terms of my mood or sobriety.

I feel like I am getting a network of friends re-established. I have a reconnected with a bunch of people I lost touch with while Michelle and I were together (she didn’t like most of my friends. She made it pretty difficult, if not impossible, to maintain those relationships. Now that I think back on things…that’s disturbing behavior…right?). It’s nice to want to go out and be able to find a friend to join me. It wasn’t like that for a while after she left. I haven’t reconnect with everyone though.

It feels right to cut the toxic people out of my life. What’s sad is: at one point, they all meant something to me. They felt like a positive force in my life until I realized they weren’t. I don’t feel bad about it. It feels like a weight off of my shoulders.