Rehab Diaries

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Adam’s proudest moment.

The perils of this numb slog are unavoidable and deadly.

Today, I decide to take a stab at “things around the house.” By that, I mean “Adam’s office.” I took pictures of it. I wanted a remembrance of what it was, even though it’s nothing without Adam in it.

First I went through the trash and recycling bin in his office … just to make sure. Just to make sure there wasn’t one scrap of paper that I couldn’t part with. I pulled stuff off the floor; packed programming and design books into a box for the Arc — maybe some young artist or tech person will benefit. I recycled a hundred empty pads of paper, read every scrap of note with his writing on it, weighing the decision for each one: keep or let it go.

I recycled sign-in sheets from classes he taught at PPCC; threw away anything related to the horrible last job he held. I emptied the bookcase, cleaned it, moved it to the basement, then vacuumed.

I cried the whole time. I talked to Adam, asking for his forgiveness; asking him to understand. Of course he didn’t hear me. He’s gone.

Then I came across his notebook from rehab. I knew it was there somewhere, and I have avoided it. It might now be the most precious thing in this house (shit, am I going to need to carry that with me in the backpack everywhere now?) It was filled with the eloquent journal entries of a man trying to find himself; trying to deal with depression and a lack of self-worth. A man who realized alcohol and depression took his art and his music from him. That he wasn’t the same person he was.

I came to a page that had a number of nouns listed on it … an exercise of sorts. He was supposed to write something small about each. This is what I saw:

Relationship: Challenging … but worth it.

And I feel terrible now, that I made things challenging. I can’t even focus on the “worth it” part because all I see is the “challenging” part. I don’t want to admit that even I felt the last couple of years were challenging as he fell deeper into depression and struggled more with anxiety. That I became a different person as I lived in constant dread of him drinking.

I read his words about how my “honey-do” lists or “boundaries I set” were stressing him out more. We were failing in communication there. After all those years of having this perfect life, we were breaking down in communication. I thought I was helping focus him, helping  show him little things he could do. I knew he was suffering from depression, wasn’t getting help, and I know the enormity of feeling like you couldn’t do anything. I thought I was nudging him. Instead I was stressing.

So I fall right back into wondering what I did wrong; how responsible I was for everything. I’m ignoring everything else he wrote … about the devastation of being laid off twice, about his fear of failure with his business. I gave him every encouragement I could think of … I would support him with anything he wanted to do, I was with him… probably neither one of use realized exactly how much the alcohol was affecting him.

He was ready to conquer alcohol … his writings showed it. But the real world was more than he could handle.

If you read this, and if he ever told you that he loved me and he cared, please tell me. Because I feel so responsible for everything again right now.

I told him once during the last year that it was OK, that if it was me that was causing the stress, I would go, because I wanted him to live more than I wanted anything else, even if that meant we were apart. He told me something like “absolutely not. It’s not you, you are the one thing it’s definitely not.”

But I continue to focus too much on the negative right now.

Fuck.

 

This is Not Overly Emotional

1ivqgkWell, “they” were right. “They” are the women who have been in my shoes, the websites, the forums, the books.

Today is about 90 days since I lost Adam. Miraculously, beyond all hope, I started on paperwork today. I tackled the two tables full of paperwork in the living room, concentrating on what I think I will needed for taxes. Well, at least the medical bills and explanations of benefits. There are more than a hundred. Seriously.

I made an appointment with my accountant to find out what I need for taxes. Because Adam had a business, he handled taxes for the last 10 years. I just gave him my W-2 and a couple of charity receipts and washed my hands of it. Ugh. At least, we never threw anything away. How can two people collect so much paperwork?

I’m only up to a $3,000 total in receipts for medical out of pocket spending for the year, so you know I still have a looooong way to go. But those were the small bills. Pocket change.

So, waiting 90 days was correct in terms of handling pain. I threw away the paperwork from the transplant visit. The Powerpoint slides, the doctors’ phone numbers, the appointment schedule. I didn’t cry. I went through all the sympathy cards again and stacked them neatly to back to. Some of them have great messages and stories about Adam that I would like to revisit.

I have a lot more to do. But it felt good to start.

Three months. Erin was right when she said it feels like a year ago and then it feels like yesterday. It’s both.

Also, as Oscar season approaches, Moonlight is still the best movie of the year. Go see it.

Miss you, Adam.

 

 

 

 

Sharing the Story

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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.

 

Village Nostalgia

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Christmas 2014

Nostalgia, I expect, is a funny thing, different depending on what’s going on in your life.

For me today, nostalgia was just numb.

I needed to move. I grabbed my iPhone and headphones, and headed up Alpine Way for a simulated Huff n Puff Express. The ‘express’ term was originally coined by our neighbors, the Winnies, and it was the journey up the steep hill in the Village and down the other way.

Immediately, I realized my mistake. I have about five songs on my iPhone. There is no fucking cell service still here. In fucking 2016. So I walked around the neighborhood, passed the (most former) homes of the Steins, the Englishes, the Andersons, the Flemings, the Mays. I went up the “other” Dellmont, passed the Ealys (now an ugly shade of green), and over past the Robinsons. I thought, “the Robinson house now has a wrought-iron gate.” Then I was confused because there are two houses with long driveways. I couldn’t remember which one was theirs. This made me sad.

I tried walking up one of the ditches by the Robinsons. This was much harder than I remembered. I hoped the path would lead back down to my house. Alas, I met a fence with a homeless encampment on the other side. Thus, the bars on windows and wrought-iron gates.

I thought about being kids in the village … no fear of going anywhere, playing hide n seek in the cul-de-sac until the parents forced us in. There doesn’t seem to be as many good hiding places anymore. Maybe it’s just because I’m not small anymore. I look at kids now and think “yeah, have fun assholes, because life is going to suck. It just does. You will get an A-minus in a college class and throw up nine times outside of Lisa Johnson’s apartment at Stafford Gardens. You will lose that big game on a three-base error, but know it’s your fault because you let that bitch hit that pitch in the first place. You will get dumped. You will watch the Dodgers lose another playoff game. Your pets will die. Your dad will die. Then, to top it off, your husband will not win his addiction battle. He will die as well. So, go ahead and play tag now, because that game will be outlawed soon you special snowflake.”

Anyway.

I did all this while listening to Journey’s “Only the Young,” Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines,” Jimmy Eats World’s “The Middle” and Kippi Brannon’s “Daddy’s Little Girl.” These are the only songs I had, and I just listened to them over an over. I still do not know how the Jimmy Eats World song got on there. Oh, the damn U2 album that was put in everyone’s iTunes account was available, but fuck that shit.

I paused to look down at Little League fields. On April Lane, I thought about heading up to the very top. A few Christmases ago, Adam and I discovered the Rim of the Valley Trail. Yes, I have never been on it. We walked a mile on it to stunning Valley views.

Back at home, I wandered the house. Upstairs, I remembered the way Adam and I would have our laundry and clothes strewn everywhere; how we would start the night in the queen bed, but Adam would move to the couch half the time because a) too fucking close! or b) I’m snoring. We loved the shower, which had great pressure and would get extra hot.

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On the walk

I’d get out of the shower and Adam would have Star Trek:TNG on the TV while I got ready. Sometimes, he’d go down and talk to mom, make coffee. He learned to appreciate reading a good newspaper here … the L.A. Times.

We would think about what we wanted to do.Was it time to take the requisite beach trip and find a new brewery? Go to Hollywood for the Museum of Death? Sushi at Tori-Yen? Maybe this year we would have gone to the Harry Potter world at Universal Studios. We’d find a bar that looked cool, have a drink and just talk. Together all these years, and we never ran out of things to talk about. If a silence went too long, I’d say “want to get married?” Because our joke was that was the only reason people got married because a couple couldn’t stand the silence in a conversation.

I loved showing Adam L.A., just as much as he loved showing me Central City. We thought about moving back, but only if we could live by the beach. And we couldn’t afford that. Also, where would the dog be able to go?

I think if we had made it to retirement, we would have found a small shack somewhere near the beach. We didn’t need much. Just the Internet, cable, our pets, a big TV and a place to cook.

Nostalgia’s a bitch.

 

 

Takotsubo

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Dogs can also help.

The newscaster just finished his report on the death of Debbie Reynolds, calling it “mind-boggling” that she died just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

Hey, doofus, don’t go off your teleprompter. Only someone who has never experienced massive grief would ever think this was mind-boggling.

For me, it was not surprising. I have spoken about this before. Ms. Reynolds’ son said that his mother was under a lot of stress since her daughter’s death, and she “just wanted to be with her.”

Been there, done that. Sometimes still am there. I am so sorry for Ms. Reynolds’ loss, so sorry for her son and her granddaughter who are still living and now must grieve doubly. Are she and her daughter together in the afterlife? That’s nothing we can know. Trust me, if I thought death would mean Adam and I would be reunited, you would not be reading this blog.

There is a real phenomenon called the Widowhood Effect. Others have written about it more eloquently. Here’s the gist: one definitive study says that a widow or widower has a 66 percent greater chance of dying than a person with a living spouse in the first three months after a spouse’s death. This study only looked at people over 50, but the researchers (in this article at least) suggested that percentage may be greater with younger widows (jury is still out because there is less of a sample size).

Of course, the researchers also couldn’t account for what causes this increase.

Obviously, those researchers have never lost a spouse. Based on my own experience, this death can happen from any of the following:

  1. Suicide
  2. Car accidents because we simply aren’t paying attention like we used to
  3. Tripping on cords, stairs and pebbles
  4. Bleeding to death from chewing on your cuticles too much
  5. Dehydration due to tears; malnourishment due to not eating; obesity due to too many chips and pop-tarts
  6. Leaving appliances on and dying in a house fire
  7. Serious illnesses because we haven’t taken care of ourselves; been to the doctor; or given a flying fuck about ourselves
  8. Broken-heart syndrome (I suspect this might more likely happen to older spouses, but it’s real. Read the link).

Although Ms. Reynolds had a stroke, I do not doubt it was related to broken-heart syndrome.

You know what lessens the chance of bereaved people dying?

You do.

“You” meaning friends, family and any support system available. This is why you can’t stop thinking about me and helping me … I NEED IT. I am thinking about Adam and my sadness just about every minute of every day. But you guys can help me move forward. You guys can keep me from being a statistic.

The Catching of Breath

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Uncle Adam and Coco … 2009? … at the Mango Tree restaurant in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Adam really knew how to eat corn… not leaving a kernel by the time he was done. He was efficient at it, and mocked my poor non-Nebraska corn-eating haphazard style.

Bixby knows.

He knows it’s different this time. When Adam was gone in April and May, Bix slept on the other side of the bed. Now, he’s jammed up next to me at all times. It’s like he knows it’s not temporary anymore, and he stays close for reassurance that all will be well.

Or maybe he’s just cold.

I’m in this stage now where I can go a couple of hours feeling OK. OK does not mean good. It means I can go for a few hours with Adam as a backdrop to my life, always peeking around the corner. But then, my breath catches, my stomach aches and it’s that debilitating fear. That fear you might get if you think to hard about the fact that you ARE going to die.

That fear is closer now that Adam has gone. That I’ve held two people now and watched them leave me. Dad and Adam. Two of the loves of my life. I see death now, but I have to change the word. It’s not fear anymore. It’s just there. It’s closer than ever. But then it’s so far. So far when you factor in grief.

I’m getting a better grip on what I can and can’t handle. I know there are times I can join my friends for something, and times when I know it’s better to just stay home. These hours alone are precious now. They are the times when I can fully envelop myself in Adam’s memory. Sometimes, this leads to tears, but not always anymore. The need to grieve alone can be overwhelming at times. I feel like I sometimes can’t get out of a crowd quickly enough. Then there are times that I am out of the crowd too soon.

I’m confusing. I know. It’s grief.

I’m focusing hard on Al-Anon right now. I’m doing it backward without a foundation as I no longer have an active alcoholic in my life. I’ve had confusion being stuck on step one: that I am powerless over alcohol, and thus in an Al-Anon way, I was powerless to do anything about Adam’s choices. The confusion came because there is also an Al-Anon list of Do’s and Don’ts that was discussed. If there are “do’s” and there are “don’ts,” doesn’t that mean that I had some sort of power? If I “did” the “don’t,” did I screw up and contribute to Adam’s drinking?

Someone finally tried harder to explain what Al-Anon is. It’s not about Adam, or whoever is drinking in your life. It’s about “you.” Doing the “do’s” and not doing the “don’ts” is precisely because you don’t have power over the drinker. You are a hamster on a wheel, causing anxiety only to yourself, spending your life focusing on someone else as if your life was less important. Maybe there is someone out there who can help me focus and understand even more … do I have this correct? I really just am stuck on the fact that I was powerless. I feel like I want to have all the guilt for life because it makes more sense. It’s easier to understand a concrete concept like “I did this because I nagged him” than “addiction is a mystery we are all still working on.”

And that’s where I’m also stuck. My life was not any more or less important than Adam’s. I would have taken the risk for my own life, to give part of my liver for him. I would have continued to live in a state of anxiety for him. I wanted to run away from the anxiety; I told him this. But I didn’t. There are still times I wish it was the other way around. That I was nonexistent and he was here for his family. I feel useless to my family. I feel like a burden of sadness.

I’m sorry I’m so messed up, that I put my grief out there. Know that I won’t feel bad if you stop reading. Grief is definitely uncomfortable for people.

You know what’s not uncomfortable? These black jeans. I’m still wearing them … every fucking day. I change my shirt and sometimes the sweatshirt. Sometimes it’s the same soft Dane hockey sweatshirt and black jeans three times in a row.

At least I have washed them…… once.

 

 

Sindie

img_2115There are few close friends who don’t know about Sindie. Santa brought Sindie to me way back when I was 2, and he has traveled across the country with me. When I left other possessions packed up in boxes at my parents’ home, Sindie went to San Luis Obispo, Atlanta, New York and Colorado.

He’s been my comfort when I can’t have my mom … because that’s the first thing you say when you don’t know what else to do—”I want my mommy.” I have said it many times in the last three months, and I’m not ashamed. Sindie was there when Mom couldn’t be (hey Mom, you need to know, you are my No. 1 choice!).

Sindie usually holds a place in the top of my closet with various other stuffed animals from my childhood (including Brownie, Mrs. Elephant and more). When my dad died, Adam brought Sindie down to sleep with us; he knew it would help. When Adam went to rehab, and I was alone and uncertain, Sindie came back down out of the closet. When Adam died, my sister saw him and brought him down for me as well.

He hasn’t left the bed since. Now, Bixby, Sindie and I sleep in a tiny portion of a king-sized bed; huddled together for comfort.

img_2112Sindie is a boy dog … don’t be confused by his name, dammit. He’s the comfort I’ve always had with me. Once, at Cal Poly, the guys in the dorm strung him up as a joke … I’m pretty sure it was Annie and Suzanne who told them it would be a bad idea … that I wouldn’t find it funny. I didn’t. Now I sort of do because it’s a fun memory … a memory before life became too difficult.

Perhaps we all fall back to childhood when life is annihilated. When you are toasting a Pop-Tart, and you fall apart, when the reminder that Adam is not coming back crashes over you, you sort of need your stuffed dog and your real dog close beside you.

Though I would still rather have my mom.