When Mickey Rourke is in Your Head

kyoto
In Kyoto

“That’s it Johnny, take a good look. No matter how cleverly you sneak up on a mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye.” ^ Angel Heart

I was thinking recently about self-worth.

Then, this morning, I came across a cartoon with a frame that read “I’m depressed because I don’t know who I am.”

And I thought about it some more. I thought about it while eating all of the breakfast sandwiches I had bought for the next three days. I thought while I watched TV, petted the dog and made coffee, and wondered what I would wear to a show tonight.

I’m not breaking any new ground here, but I see why Americans are so depressed because they don’t know who they are. I hear it all the time. I heard it from Adam in many silent and not silent ways. And I didn’t get it with Adam, and that was my failure.

You see, because even if I always didn’t understand who I was, I knew what I wanted to do, which was a product of who I was, even if I didn’t realize it. I shot straightforward out of the cannon until I came to rest like a flopping blue gill ready for slaughter.

First I wanted to be a Dodger.

But then I realized I was a girl and probably wouldn’t ever be good enough (oh god, please don’t rant in the comments on that shit).

Then I wanted to be a sports reporter on ESPN.

But then I realized I wasn’t aggressive enough to be a reporter, and I looked terrible on TV and would always want to eat cheese and bread more than I wanted to look good on TV.

Then I wanted to be in college sports information. So I did it.

Then I got offered a dream job at U.S. Figure Skating. So I did it.

Then I saw my time and purpose ending there, and frankly, I wanted to be more with Adam. So I left.

Every choice I made of what I do was because I have been clearly aware of who I am and what I wanted. (Except for the part where I thought I was an introvert all this time because I liked to watch movies by myself, read alone, and a million other things by myself. Yeah, not an introvert. I don’t need three days to recover from talking to people. I love my introvert friends, and I am here for you when you are ready to face the world. As you know, I will talk.)

I knew I was a writer for as long as I can remember. I always knew I was an overachiever who wasn’t necessarily as smart or as talented on the ball field as others, so I made up for it by working my ass off.

The only question mark is animals. I always thought I was a cat person. I think I’m a dog person.

I think about Adam and his addiction, and I wonder how much he ever knew who he was. I think he did once. I think he did growing up, and in the years we were first together. He loved animals and art and music, and by all accounts he was a creator. He was a fixer and a helper and a traveler. He didn’t want to stay in one place too long.

This was the man I fell in love with. But as he aged, and perhaps as the drinking increased (which comes first, the chicken or the egg?), did he lose who he was? Did he forget? Did he try so hard to keep up with me that he forgot why I was in love with him in the first place … because HE WASN’T ME?

He wasn’t me. He was a sensitive soul. He should have worked with animals. He shouldn’t have tried to work in a cubicle.

Did I not tell him enough that I just wanted him to follow his dreams? That I didn’t care about the money? That the time it was me, Adam, Chance, Patches, Bailey and Meka in 800 square feet was as glorious as I could ever hope for?

Did Adam know who he was?

Did he once? Did he forget? Was it the drinking? Was it me? Was it just this fucked-up world? Did he fake happiness? Was he happy but frustrated? I was with him for 17 years and I don’t feel like I know the answers to these fucking questions anymore.

In one of his rehab journals, he wrote he was “inherently lazy.” Upon reading that, I suppose I realized he had forgotten who he was. “Inherently lazy” wasn’t Adam Curry. But addiction made him something he wasn’t it.

I honestly am not sure if Adam ever knew who he was. But I think he was learning, and it’s never too late.

Except when it is.

 

Sharing the Story

kanazawa-gardens
Adam and I at the gardens in Kanazawa, Japan, in 2007. 

Tonight, I was invited to a meeting to share my story about Adam and our struggle with his addiction. I had actually made it all day without crying, which I sort of knew meant I was going to fucking lose it at the wrong time, but I kept it together (mostly*).

My friend who asked me to speak told me she considered me one of her angels. It doesn’t matter what I think of the term, but I was moved that our story could have an impact on her and her own struggles. I’ll take being anyone’s angel right now.

I believe I spoke well and touched on my important points, but truthfully, the people in the room gave more back to me than I could have given them. I know I opened up a moving discussion on addiction and compassion, with tears from other people as well, but in turn I found an outlet for all this love that seems so bottled up inside me.

Of all the grief memes people have sent me, the one that touched me the most is the one that says “Grief is just love with no place to go.” That’s exactly how it feels. When every day you used to be able to express love, share love, do something for someone you loved, and then that gets taken from you, it’s a sadness in your soul.

When you are in grief, suddenly it’s the opposite, you are only taking, which isn’t a bad thing because you need to take right now. I get that. But I want to give, and that’s why I agreed to speak, even though the already-bleeding wound of my heart would bleed some more.

You just gotta plow on sometimes.

I hope I can start giving more love again, but I might start and stop for awhile. I might give a little and then take about 10 times as much in return. I’m not even talking about romantic love, though I can only hope I could be so lucky to have a chapter two in my life (boys ARE cute after all) someday. Laugh at me all you want, call me a walking cliche … but I know it now … love is what makes it worth it … love is better than Kirk Gibson’s 1988 home run, than getting Admiral Piett’s autograph on our Star Wars poster, better than getting a photo with Katee Sackhoff with Adam, Paul and Michelle, and you guys, it’s even better than Michelle Kwan’s free skate at 2003 Worlds.

I look back now and see how Adam and I pushed each other to be better; he taught me patience; we walked each other through bouts of mental illness, learning how to deal with our issues even when fear seemed to overwhelm both of us. We encouraged each other because this life is fucking hard. Having someone next to you to face this shit sometimes is as good as it gets.

*I’m really hoping someone out there read “mostly” in Newt’s voice from Aliens.

 

Grief Revelations

youngbobafett
This photo has nothing to do with the blog. This is us with Daniel Logan, who played young Boba Fett in the prequels. We got his signature on our autograph poster and he was so awesome!

Over the last few days, I have a some certain revelations and steps in my grief.

I’ve read about four books on grief since Adam died. All of them by women, a couple more story-like and based on personal experience, a couple that have been a combination of stories and tenets/steps. What I realized is that I was actually becoming confused by the consortium of stories. Was I doing this right? Was I following a good path to steer myself from “complicated grief” (yes, this is a thing…)? Am I spending too much time in one stage?

I know the only right way to grieve is my way, but these books can be confusing as you judge yourself against others with different experiences. I spoke to my therapist about this, and she told me that she was advised not to recommend grief books to grievers for about six months. The reasoning? Exactly what I was experiencing…confusion about wondering what is right and wrong. Six months or so out, she said, it’s easier for a griever to get a handle on where you are.

Thus, I decided not to read the next book on the Kindle, and at the airport, I picked up an LCD book … a Lowest Common Denominator book … which is my acronym for any mass market paperback (yes, I’m being judgmental here). I picked up “Inferno” by Dan Brown. Aside: I read the Da Vinci Code during the week up to my wedding. I was exiled to the bedroom often to rest because I was so sick I couldn’t speak.

Anyway, about 100 pages in, the writer describes Florence, Italy, in great detail, and specifically Boboli Gardens. I immediately thought “I would like to go there.” The next immediate thought is the resounding sadness that I had actually been thinking of going there with Adam. I had to rearrange those thoughts in my head. My next thought was “Well, I guess I’ll never go there, then.” I couldn’t even entertain the thought of going alone or with someone else. And … cue the tears on an airplane again.

Grief is surprising at every turn. You are hit hard with reminders of what is not to be, even though every other minute you already know your life has changed irrevocably. It’s like you know, but you still keep forgetting.

That’s two things. The third is more personal. I’m in Central City, Neb., watching football (of course) after the celebration of life today (I’ll talk about that in the next post). But last night, around the table, we talked about Adam, addiction and his illness. His dad told me that while Adam was in the Texas hospital last April, he was flat out told “If you drink one drop again, you might as well call hospice right now.”

I did not know this. This was one of my own personal bits of anguished guilt and regret, thinking that I didn’t push doctors hard enough to tell him he could never drink. But someone did, and he drank anyway.

This gave me some sense of peace. It’s hard to explain why. Maybe it’s because it seems to be greater confirmation of the fact that he had an illness that affected his ability to make rational decisions. It wasn’t about loving alcohol more than he loved me… or loving alcohol more than he loved life … but whatever was going on, he struggled with making a completely rational decision not to drink… and there is science behind it. It’s not just willpower.

From the recent Surgeon General’s report on addiction:

… substance use disorders are said to involve compromised self-control. It is not a complete loss of autonomy—addicted individuals are still accountable for their actions—but they are much less able to override the powerful drive to seek relief from withdrawal provided by alcohol or drugs. At every turn, people with addictions who try to quit find their resolve challenged. Even if they can resist drug or alcohol use for a while, at some point the constant craving triggered by the many cues in their life may erode their resolve, resulting in a return to substance use, or relapse…

I guess my thought is, I’m still trying to work my way around the guilt I feel. Even in the above paragraph, there are phrases that trigger my guilt … Adam had triggers … they were our house, our city, our friends, our routines. We probably would have needed to uproot our entire lives to help conquer this, and we were talking about it. As I’ve said, we just ran out of time.

My therapist asked why I was continuing my sobriety. I first said “it would dishonor him.” She asked me “how would it dishonor him?”

My answer finally was…”Having a drink means I no longer have to be/need to be/want to be sober. I no longer have to adjust my life willingly for the person I love. Drinking means admitting Adam is gone. That I have no one to support anymore.”

 

Drinking means going on with my life. Going on without Adam.

I guess I’m not there yet.

Remnants of Hope

stmarysfall
St. Mary’s Falls hike. Uphill. Seven miles. Out of water. We did it. 

Coconut water. Low sodium V8. Six Triscuits and six dried apricots in a Ziploc bag. A half-eaten roll of SweeTTarts. Low sodium pasta sauce. These are the things I stare at; the things I have to throw away. The remnants of the last hopeful part of my life. When Adam and I were doing everything to keep his body going. It didn’t work.

Maybe it gave us some weeks.

Liver disease is full of complications. It is these complications that usually kills. I started following Cirrhosis Remedy on Twitter, among other liver accounts, but just had to stop. The reminders of the complications and the anxiety were too much.

Jaundice. Ascites. Portal hypertension leading to variceal bleeds. Hepatic encephalopathy. Muscle wasting. Fatigue. None of these were a surprise to me as they came as I knew this disease. I knew it for Adam so we could be prepared. We fought through every symptom. Now I have to throw away the remnants of our hope. Perhaps in many ways that is good because that’s not who Adam was or what we were about.

Is it fate that the surgeon general came out with his big report on addiction this past week? His message is mine. Addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failure. The full report is available here: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/. I haven’t read it yet either, but I just gave you the summary. We need to help people with addiction with a full frontal assault, not judge. I can only hope that this is a step toward saving another husband or wife or parent or sibling from the pain and despair I am experiencing.

I can’t get the sounds of the hospital out of my mind. There are three distinct beeps. The IV. The respirator. The blood pressure. Each one different. I learned to sleep through the occluded IV sound. The respirator beep just meant someone was maybe moving him. The BP sound was the harbinger of death.

It is the one that haunts me.