Part One (This is Not Why I Left, but How I Got There):
When I was twenty-one I was suicidal. Almost always functioning in that sick, sleepless state that is so common with people who experience regular night terrors, I was a decided mess. I was living alone in a cute, but overwhelmingly sad, basement apartment in the middle class, college town I grew up in. I had dropped out of college not because I was failing (I was just below a 4.0 GPA, not that anyone decided to be proud of this...), but I was miserable. I had few friends and it was almost physically painful to go to class or to lunch in the dining room. I look back at pictures of that time and it is horrifyingly weird, as I was adorable. I wrongly thought I was grotesque.
I was 5' 2" and about 100 pounds, which is thin for an average girl, however, my father had met an emaciated jewy, trust fund, dbag bitch with boobs and my sister, at age fourteen was the leggiest person I knew. I felt huge. My parents never visited me at school. Roommates' parents sent me care packages. I was, in a word, unloved. I dropped out, thinking magically--and very wrongly--that this decidedly and glaringly poor decision would get me some parental attention. Needless to say, it did not.
So, instead of a dorm room, where I had slept near a roommate who was beloved by her own family, I sat in a state of almost constant freak out in a basement apartment. I was paralyzed by utter self consciousness, naïveté, being unloved, and feeling like I could not keep up with a conversation, almost like I had aphasia.
I was taking two classes, un-matriculated. I did enjoy my women's studies class, and wrote a great essay about my creepy father who bought me a playboy bunny tee shirt when I was four. Here is a little aside; I do digress (and I do so because I believe digression is good). My mother, in explaining to me what playboy bunnies were (I was four, just in case you missed that) told me that they were the kind of girls who got their butts pinched by men and enjoyed it. Later, I went over to my friend's house and was terrified the father would home. I was convinced that from that day forward men would relentlessly pinch my four-year-old butt. My mother is a woman who also believed that it was smart to tell her third grade daughter about the day she lost her virginity. She realized, she told me with the candor of a stoopid gossipy chick, she had really "done it," as her high school bf’s semen spooled out of her vadge and into the crotch of her 1960s panties while she cheered for an upper middle class, Massachussetts school's basketball game.
As a 21-year-old skinny with decided suicidal ideation, I decided to call this same, above mentioned mom.
You should know about my mom. And to know about me, and then my mom, means you might need to know about my family, and that is again, another digression. Only digress.
Mom, the former cheerleader. See her in her black and white, lamented by her picture used as a bookmark for years, almost a decade. Mom, who was disdainful, at least in part, of the playboy bunny icon because she wanted to be in with the feminists, as she wanted to be an intellectual, to fit into our college town. Mom who never wanted me to visit her on the weekends, as she needed space. Mom, who thought nothing of leaving me at college and boarding school to brave Easters alone, once sending me a rice krispy shaped heart which was as hard as a rock. This hardened krispy punctuated a long season of nothing There were no phone calls, no letters, never were there cards. There was an uncanny silence, a frozen message. Nothing but an inedible, hard as hell heart.
My mother had attended Al-anon since my parents' marriage had begun to, and then eventually did, wither away like like a perfectly pretty borderline anorexic who once wrote for the school newspaper. nan upon starving, quietly, ends up dead in her teenager princess-y bedroom, shocking everyone, especially those closet to her. My parents, the ones who never fought, separated for years. Their separation become a part of our family culture, much like pets had personalities we pressed on them, vivid and audible in their made up by us accents from New York. Finally, very much like a beloved television series losing a star to to the movies, there were finished. Our family, its tiny, adorable culture, its wannabe preppiness--pink and green birthday parties, Irish setters pooping in our yard, LL Bean mud boots lined up haphazardly in the hallway, my father's sort of pretend job lecturing at the school of business when he was also consulting for downtown revitalization, all of it, disappeared to relic polaroids in a basket under a sink. It was spoken about only for the token jokes, little lessons learned, and interesting outfits remembered. But mostly it was not discussed, remembered, or adored as are the things in the present. It was off the air, cancelled. It no longer existed. Like the litany of ideas about historical events in outdated textbooks or sad reader-less blogs, it was a part of the unimportant past.
My mother grew up in a middle to upper middle class home with two sisters and a brother who were treated, according to her, like animals. She discussed their treatment in such vivid, exaggerated detail that my paternal grandmother told my new stepmother (um, step monster) years later that my uncle was beaten daily and with a brutality so physical that he became retarded. She, on the other hand, was revered, never hit. Her siblings, she will tell you, were punching bags. I am trying not to digress too, too badly here, but I will tell you her siblings are still in constant contact with these abusive parents of theirs, my grandparents. And, my grandparents, though aloof, have never laid a hand on me. My aunts' and uncles's contact with their parents is more direct and real with their parents than she has ever have. It is my idea that though revered, she was misunderstood tin such a way that resembles the unloved. She felt it was her mother and father’s drinking that caused the unlove, the abuse and mostly, their inability to be truly classy, the kind of classy that includes talking about literature (but not necessarily really reading and or understanding it). The kind of classy that points to four year liberal arts degrees and sneers at the aptitude of a nurse, an RN mind you, with a two year degree.
My mother's Al-anon commencement coincided with my commencement of pot smoking, reviving with Viveran, and drinking. Though there was little love, there was a landslide of control. My mother attended group therapy, which suggested that she spend the weekends getting to know her true self, despite my pleading that I stay with her. Though life with her was difficult, life with my dad made me feel like I had peeled of my skin and was then forced to pour rubbing alcohol all over my body. I will speak more later about the decided control and lack of love, but my point here is that my mother joined the 12 step cult. To me, her joining and her marked disconnection with me at the same time is no coincidence. There is little trace of the therapist who led the group, but I found her here: http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/18388.html.
Around this time, she went to the Caron Foundation.
When I called her, years later suffering from the flu of suicidal ideation, I was sent to Caron. In case one may not be familiar with the cult program Caron (which is a cult to promote the 12 step cult), you can read about it here: http://www.caron.org/.
Though she made 25 grand a year on top of her teaching job and was dating a man who was like a mint, I went from Boston to Pennsylvania in about five airplanes, commuter flights that made my never more aged than Kate Moss’ rib cage and propelled me into a state of flight sickness so horrific it is hard to even recall its clutches.
At The Caron Foundation, I weighed, at this point, maybe 95 pounds. Eating made me angry, I did not want to do it, but I felt starving every minute of everyday. There was no caffeine at the whole place, so I was in a grey world of pinched irritability. At Caron, we were slowly, and the gradually, and then ALL AT ONCE, shown how our lives were miserable because of the “disease” of alcoholism. We acted out scenarios from our childhoods and were shown that we needed to take care of our inner children. We learned to identify (I shit you not) with Whitney Houston’s song, “The Greatest Love of All.” Then, we were told to attend meetings, five a week for most of us. I was handed a cup during my family reenactment. I remember little more, but know that at 21, it was difficult for me to challenge the ideas of professional women, and several professional women went n a mission to el me that I drank to assuage the pain of my parent. I bought it. I had not been drinking and had not even been tipsy for over two or so years. But I knew if I was an alcoholic, then I could go to AA. If I went to AA, then I could get friends and that I would maybe want to live in this world.
I need to make sure this point does not go unnoticed: I entered AA, at 21, a fictional alcoholic. I told the truth to a few people, that I was almost certain that I was *not* truly an alcoholic. I expressed the true germ of what woke me up at night and what lingered underneath my every thought: The Caron Foundation fucked me, they led me, for some weirdo-inexplicable reason, tricked me really, into believing that I was alcoholic. But I was told that nobody enters AA by mistake. The gravity of their ignorance coupled with my own, sent me on a journey that would last years.
Gradually, and then with all the energy I could pour forth, I set out to become a part of AA. This included becoming the alcoholic they convinced me I was. This led me to feel so different from who I really was, from who they said they were. I identified with addicts who felt displaced I think because there was a shared feeling of unbelonging. Soon, my relapses were centered around using drugs, not the silly pot smoking, real drugs. The ones that one thinks one will never use. It was necessary to do so, as I was “powerless” and I needed to be one of them, as it was the “last stop on the bus.” I needed to become what was expected of me as an AA member. My AA membership was my fist priority, even above my own self-respect, dignity, love, and happiness. I joined the cult headfirst and for a long, long time did not truly look back.
There is more to this story, as you can see. There is more to the unlove I felt, the judgment my parents passed, the almost Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy sort of categorizing my mother did in terms of looking at me, responding to me, and discussing me with her peers. I recognize that this is barely even a rough draft. It is a loose stream of consciousness type story map of where things went wrong, where I lost myself, and eventually, I want to articulate and of course celebrate where I was able to find myself once again.