Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Fear

I'm eight years old, and I'm thirsty.   The house is dark, quiet - everyone is asleep.

I'm a big girl now, I think, I can go down and get a glass of water all by myself.    

I tiptoe into the hallway, cautiously, listening the the creaks and moans of our older house.    At the top of the stairs I peer down into the darkness below, and take a deep breath.   I am safe, I tell myself.   There are no monsters lurking in the shadows.   Monsters aren't real.

Squaring my shoulders, I walk confidently down the stairs - I can see myself as though from above:   a brave girl, a second grader, old enough to help herself.   In the kitchen I flick on the lights - a moment of blindness - then the darkness scurries into the corners.   I pour a glass of water, and decide to drink it standing at the kitchen sink, to show myself how brave I am.    As I'm gulping the water down, my eye falls on the darkened kitchen windows.   Was that a flicker of movement outside?  My heart quickens, but I stand firm.   I'm not scared, I tell myself, there is nothing to fear.   

As I rinse the glass and put it in the sink, I hear a creak, a groan.    I freeze.   Have I heard that noise before?   Is someone watching me?

Getting panicky now, I will myself to turn slowly away from the sink and walk back to the stairs.    I flick off the kitchen light, and the shadows leap up at me.  

I run.

I fly up the stairs, my nightgown streaming behind me, my heart thudding in my chest.   I am certain there is some thing close behind me, hunting me down.    I don't dare turn around - just RUN, I think.    I tear down the dimly lit hallway.   Just get to my bed, just get to my bed.  I'll be safe in my bed.

Just as I'm convinced ghostly cold fingers are about to wrap around my throat, I reach my bed.   I dive under the covers, making sure no stray foot or hand is hanging over the edge of the bed, where monsters could snatch them.

After about one minute, the comfort and familiarity of my bed soothe me, my fears shrink back, evaporate.   I chuckle to myself:  silly girl, I think.   There was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.

Now I am safe.
~~~~~

I'm thirty-four years old, and I'm anxious.   The house is bright, loud, chaotic.

It's 4pm, and uneasiness won't leave me.   It started earlier in the afternoon - a low rattle in the back of my head, a vague sense of impending doom.   My 6 month old daughter is screeching, nothing I do will soothe her.    Is something wrong?   Is she sick?   It has got to be me.   I'm doing something wrong.    I take her temperature, try to feed her.  Nothing works.   I'm scared.   I'm angry, I'm tired, and I'm so, so frustrated.    I glance at the clock - 4:30pm.  

I run.

I bundle her up, strap her into her bucket carrier, and drive to the corner store.   I buy two bottles of chardonnay, pay for them without looking the clerk in the eye, and tear back home.    My daughter is still crying, hiccuping, angry.     Leaving her strapped in her bucket seat, I open a bottle and pour myself a tumbler full of wine.   My heart is pounding.   Keeping my eyes closed I drink the whole glass, put it down on the counter, and wait.   

After about one minute, the comfort and familiarity of the wine soothe me.   My anxiety and anger shrink back, evaporate.

Poor thing, I think, she's just tired.   I pour myself a second tumbler of wine, sit on the floor and rock her in her carrier, humming to her until she falls asleep. I smile to myself as I picture the happy little scene we make.   What was I so worried about?   She just needs her mother.  There is nothing to be anxious about.

Now I am safe.

14 comments:

  1. Argh, argh, argh. Reading this, I literally remembered what it felt like to wait that minute for the wine to hit. It was like I could trace the heat from my tongue all the way down to my stomach. And then everything felt right again. I cannot believe our minds worked the way they did, totally justifying the scenario you just described. I had about 3 years of this exact situation. At the time it seemed soooooo RIGHT. So OK. So acceptable. Now on the other side, I can see the ridiculous-ness to it.

    Thank you for your honesty.

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  2. I have never struggled with alcoholism, but there was a week at the beach when some friends passed over some Valium. After I took them, I finally felt like I'd settled into my body and was the parent I'd dreamed of being. I was so relaxed and warm and fuzzy. That's really all I remember of that week because the rest is black.

    I can't know what it feels like to fight the addiction, but I feel like I understand that draw. Thank you for being brave enough to shine a spotlight on it.

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  3. I came over from Twitter. Your words paint a hauntingly beautiful story. Not to say addiction is beautiful, but the fact that you can put it into words and share it with us is. There are so many layers to being a mother. You are peeling them back. Thanks.

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  4. this is a stunningly real post. i, like kelly above, don't want to pretend to understand addiction. i do, however, know the feeling of being backed into a corner, wanting to press an escape button and simply fall through a trapdoor, away from the reality of my life.

    thanks.

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  5. Ellie, I can relate to so much of what you write. I have been sober since before I got pregnant, but I can still remember drinking when I was afraid, anxious, distressed, or had this sense of impending doom and unease. Well said.

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  6. Once again, I am right there with you in my kitchen. It's no wonder I was so convinced I was a better mother when I was drinking. My disease had completely assured me that I could handle anything as long as I had alcohol in my system. I rarely felt shame, though, when buying the alcohol. For some reason I could completely justify in my head that my purchases were normal. What was all that wine doing in the grocery store if people weren't supposed to buy it? Why would stores sell beer at 8:30 in the morning if it was wrong? Whose business was it what time I planned to drink it? Maybe I was just ultra-efficient and stocking up for a dinner party I was hosting on Saturday? I love that I know what to do with my fear now so that I never have to go back to drinking as long as I make that choice. Thank you!

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  7. The catch is that the drinking actually *causes* the anxiety. That's the craziness of it. The sense of impending doom, the conviction that your kid is going to stop breathing for some reason just because *life is like that*.

    Off the booze, the fear seems to lift. For me, anyway.

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  8. Wow. And totally.

    I used to frantically pour the glass at 4:50 pm-close enough to 5 - to ease the anxiety and start melting my day away...but that's usually when my anxiety would increase and my patience level would hit the ground with everyone and everything except the wine. Good grief. I'm so glad I am not there anymore. I'm so glad you are not there anymore too.

    Thanks, yet again, for your words.

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  9. yes, i remember, like it was yesterday - hell it was only a little over a year ago - leaving all three kids in the car at the corner store... waiting for the 1st soothing warmth of the wine to settle into my body. funny how it can make you think what a great mother you're being. not unhappy to have left it behind.

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  10. oh I've been waiting all night for Kim Yu Na to skate and then I started reading this and missed it. thank god for tivo.

    and thank god for you ellie. Wow. Just wow.

    Keep it coming talented one...

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  11. I have ups and downs with my own drinking...and this is actually scary to me...that I can feel what you've felt. I'm in awe of your honesty.

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  12. this is a stunningly real post. i, like kelly above, don't want to pretend to understand addiction. i do, however, know the feeling of being backed into a corner, wanting to press an escape button and simply fall through a trapdoor, away from the reality of my life.

    thanks.

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  13. I just read the article in oct. redbook.It touched a nerve in me because it was like it was decribing me. Ihave recently moved away from my family and kids. Time have been hard and drinking seems to help cover the lonelness. But I no if i don't quit I will die. I want to see my children marry and hold my grandbabies. It is hard because my husband won't quit.It's hard when its always here. I just abuse. I'm scared for myself but i will be strong and have given myself to the Lord.

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  14. I can't tell you how many times I have read and re-read this post--months apart, minutes apart. I'm still at the point where I question myself, my relationship with alcohol and what I am choosing to do about it. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that this post hits home completely. I think my choice is clear, but the fear that comes with following through...that fear of the unknown...it is stopping me in my tracks. I want so much to jump into recovery with wild abandon. I want to love it as much as I love a good, hearty red. It scares the shit out of me how REAL you must become to do this. At least with the red, you are masking reality. With recovery, you are waking a sleeping dragon. I have no idea what raw, honest REAL looks like on me anymore. Ellie, I thank you for your honesty about everything you write about. It is refreshing and enlightening.

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