I don’t drink. It isn’t because I have anything against drinking; but I tend to feel horrible the next day. I always assumed that between the amount of medication I take and the alcohol combines to give me symptoms of a hangover only those who have drunk tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night (continually), have when they finally wake up to go to work. Maybe I am a cheap date. Whatever it is, I rarely drink.
Tonight, I am going to drink.
I suffer from a mental illness which means that having a rough time is pretty much my standard rather than some unusual vacation from reality. Having bad days are my norm while having good days are simply suspicious. The idea that my norm is dark, damp, and rather uncomfortable is something that I have spent the last two decades working to come to terms with. Understanding that my almost constant drama and the often times exhausting threats that live in my brain are as normal to me as breathing is to others is a daunting challenge. I never sat down to have this mind set. I never sat down to ruin not only my life but hurt those that I love and surround myself with. It comes with the disease.
But lately I find myself on a different level than I have had for many, many years. I turned a “0” age this year and by the time that birthday was in front of me I had started to see that there were parts of my life that weren’t working. I started to see that my behavior in certain situations was the direct result of the people I was surrounding myself with. I started to see that the stress that I was under was more because I was doing what the world wanted me to do and almost completely ignoring what was healthy for me. Oh, I could be selfish and do things I wanted to do but for some reason I was stuck in my ability to do things I needed to do. And there were a lot of things that needed to be done.
For instance, there were people in my life that needed to find themselves the door. These people were selfish, narcissistic, and causing in me this almost unbelievable desire to be friends and loved by them (I mean the worse they were, the more I tried to get them to like me). Looking at it through this screen it seems somewhat ridiculous to continue to be surrounded by toxic people; to allow them any control over me. It seems weird that I have the ability to be strong for my children but I can’t stand up in the face of the most basic rudeness. It seems weird to me that I will allow anyone to hurt me and then come back over and over hoping for more. What kind of logical person walks towards the people that can hurt them? What kind of logical person walks towards the people who hurt those I love? And yet I still go back for more, and I drag my children with me.
It took me way too long to recognize that I didn’t have to be around those people that were so horrible as to be labeled toxic. And although my children helped me to realize that I was hurting myself, they also showed me that I was hurting them. You can guess how making my children follow me into these situations eventually hurt me but I am sad to say they weren’t the loudest voices that made me come to any decision. It took years of people telling me what they thought of my processes and actions for me to finally see that maybe I could find the guts to change. And it took a s-load of guts to change anything.
But one of the worst things that I finally figured out about change was that just because you were doing something good, in this case for myself, doesn’t mean it would either be easy or in anyway less stressful. Change, getting rid of toxic people in my life, is important in the long run, but in the short term it is stressful, depressing, and so, so, so hurtful.
For instance, once I decided I was done with a particular family member, I naively thought that was it. I said no, and there would be no toxicity from this person. I was incredibly wrong. And the stress that comes with this mistake is causing me to drink.
Because this toxic person is so intertwined with my life, to get her out is going to require an act of God. What do I do about traditions? What do I do about Christmas or Thanksgiving? What do I do about all those little moments that I am expected to drag my children to? How do I love those who are not toxic when they love those that are toxic? It is a morass of horrible decisions, indecision and incredible stress. And I am talking about one person. One being that does not live with me, that I don’t have to divorce, that I don’t have to explain myself to. The drinking makes more sense.
The hardest part of getting rid of this toxic person is the loss of the people that stand around the orbit of me and the toxicity. People choose sides; it’s part and parcel of life. People either consciously or subconsciously choose who they want to spend time with. They choose at the beginning of each day what activities they are going to participate in and who they want surrounding them. People wake up and literally point fingers at the people they think need their companionship. We are selfish and that changes our view. We desire to be wanted and that changes our view. We need to be standing next to the most popular person and that changes our view.
For me, it’s my mom who has chosen the toxic person over me. Do not mistake me, my mother loves me. But she simply can’t change who and what she is because I don’t feel like enduring toxic behavior from her sister, my aunt. My mother has spent the last sixty-odd years taking care of her sister, occasionally leaving me in order to do so. (My aunt had a cocaine problem in the 80s that forced my mother to chose between taking care of me or taking care of her sister. Do I need to tell you which one she chose?) My mother was raised, taught, relied upon to take care of her sister; a sister that at her core is selfish, prideful and literally rude. My mother sees her sister’s behavior but the idea of walking away or even choosing to spend time with me is difficult for her. If she chooses me, the consequences from her sister are large.
But for just a moment imagine a mother that loves you but can’t really give you any of the joy or the relationship that is so meaningful. Imagine for a moment someone you love choosing someone else over you. Imagine having to come to terms that you set this in motion by saying you were done with the toxicity in your life. By making one simple decision that you won’t be treated so horribly, that you will protect your children and husband, you lose more than you thought you could gain. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s lonely. Because ultimately, I can’t disparage my mother to her grandchildren or her other children; she hasn’t done anything that can’t be easily explained. But I am stuck in a new world, that would be so easily changed back to where it was, and there is no one at fault but myself.
Did getting the toxic aunt out of my life the right decision? Yes. Did it take courage and strength? Yes. Did I lose as much as I gained? Every day and twice on Sunday.