This guest post comes from member @esmeralda. She actually submitted it for the recent 'Anonymous Confessional' post, but only a short snippet of it was included there. Here you can read her entire story in much more detail - a very powerful and honest piece of writing.
@exmerelda: Several years ago both my parents died. My father went first, died in his bed. My mother died a year later in an Assisted living home.
A year before my father died, he ended up in the hospital for a few days, as his prostrate was enlarged and he could not pee for about two days. He almost died of kidney failure. Fortunately he got to the hospital on time and they put the catheter in and sent him home. He was 91 and had never had any health issues. The day we brought him home from the hospital, I was devastated. I knew my parents at ages 91 and 86 were going to die eventually, and it would be sooner rather than later. I was broken hearted at the loss that was coming.
My three siblings were also at the house that day. We all agreed that it was going to be all hands on deck to take care of them, and keep them in their home as long as we could. My Mom also had dementia, but had been fine living at home, as long as my Dad was there.
I remember, it was around 1:30 in the afternoon when we brought my Dad back from the hospital. I went into their liquor cabinet and took a shot of whiskey to keep me from crying my eyes out. I had to steady myself and not upset my parents by letting them see me cry. I had to be strong for them, because they needed me now and fuck me, I was not going to let them down. Because I am ferocious like that.
I was not a whiskey drinker or a shot drinker, I was strictly a wine woman, but this situation called for stronger medicine. The shot of whiskey triggered a 5 alarm hot flash, and I remember thinking what a bitch, now I have to suffer hot flashes in order to drink, as I only got them when I drank, and it was pretty clear to me, that with what was going on with my parents, I was going to need my booze. But it was no way typical of me to drink shots of whiskey, at any time, but especially not at 1:30 PM on a weekday.
After this day, I went to my parents’ house 5 to 6 nights a week, after work to check on them. My Dad needed help with his catheter, and he was going blind. My mother’s dementia meant that she was not really able to care for him. But they were tough, and loved each other, loved me, were hysterically funny and appreciative of my care. My Dad told me every day that I “was a dutiful daughter taking care of her elderly parents” while he patted me on the head like I was a little kid. That meant a lot to me and it still does. That he was kind enough, and thoughtful enough, to acknowledge my efforts to care for him when he was facing the inevitable end of his life.
In some ways while it was a hard and sad year for me, that year was one of the most special times I had with them. Two of my three siblings were not there much at all, but one brother was there as much as I was. Because he is ferocious like that.
Most nights after coming home from my parents’ house I had to pound several glasses of wine, just to numb the pain and cry. My wine drinking was moving up at a steady pace, for the year up to my Dad’s death and the subsequent year after his death, when my mom moved into the assisted living facility.
The assisted living facility was a first class place. It even had had a swanky dining room that served wine and beer, so family members like me, could feel right at home. I visited her 5 nights out of 7, while working full time in a stressful job. Because I was ferocious like that.
My ferocious brother, was there every single day my mom was there, for a year straight. He did not miss one day the whole time she was there. Because he is ferocious like that.
My other not so ferocious siblings did not visit her at all, or very little. But us ferocious ones had that devotion. We were there for her, and had the wine and beer with it all. Self-medication is after all, a form of self-care. And when one has to watch the death of a loved one, self-care is necessary for survival I think.
Before my Mom died, I sold my home. Around the time she moved into hospice and then died I bought another house. I also had an orthopedic surgery and could not exercise. I was a lifelong athlete and being laid up at a time I needed that outlet the most, was the perfect storm.
But as I have stated, self-medication is a form of self-care. So I treated my grief, and my forced inactivity due to the surgery with Chardonnay and take out Mexican food. I missed my parents. They never saw my house. I had falling out with two of my siblings (not the ferocious one). I think I was pretty much a fucken heat on for the year after my Mom’s death. I was finally doing the grieving for my Dad that I could not do after he died as I was taking care of mom. I could not give in to any grief, while my mother was alive, as I had to be ferocious and be there for her and be there for my ferocious brother.
I was also really, really happy in my new home. It was right for me. I was so sad my parents did not see it. I decorated my new house with some of my parent’s treasures. I drank my wine. I cried. I was thankful for my new home, but I missed my parents at Thanksgiving. I drank some wine. I missed them at Xmas. I drank some more wine. On New Year’s Eve I watched my Dad’s old black and white DVDs, and drank some champagne. I raised a toast to them on a regular basis. I talked to them. I drank some more wine.
About a month after my mom’s death I bought a cheap lap top, one that can turn from a pad to lap top. It was a cheap model as I planned to use it for shopping and maybe some banking and did not want to spend a lot of money on technology. I had a work lap top, but thought I should do my own stuff on my own computer. So I ordered the lap top online. It came in the mail.
It was alright. Not as good as my work laptop.
One night, I was messing around with my new cheap ass laptop, watching TV and drinking my wine. I had not finished the bottle yet, but I was pretty buzzed. Some nights it hits ya harder than other nights. I couldn’t get the stupid laptop lid to fold over to convert it to a pad, the hinge was not really lining up and it would not let me fold it back. I was getting frustrated with it, and I am drinking my wine. Now mind you, I am proud to say that I do not have ROAD RAGE, but I definitely have TECH RAGE. I have it sober, so you can imagine how the tech rage escalates when fueled by Chardonnay or Merlot whichever one I was pumping down my gullet that night.
It was not a good time for me. Not a good night specifically, and not a good time in general. I was grieving the loss of my parents, the loss of holidays with my family, the loss of relationships with two of my siblings, but I was doing it sloshed a lot of the time, which means I was not really doing it, not really grieving, I was numbing. Not getting on with it, the process of grieving. Instead I was getting stuck in it, getting drunk in it. In retrospect it is always better to move through shit, than to get stuck in it. I think alcohol gets you stuck in some emotions. My rage over the lap top was fueling up, winding up and up, I grabbed the lap top and charged outside of my house into my driveway. I pulled the lap top up over my head, holding it by the lighter weight side of the screen, so the heavier weighted part of the hard drive is lifted above, adding force and velocity as I throw the fucken thing to the ground. And it smashes. Into a couple of pieces.
I grabbed the pieces and threw them to the ground again. I jumped on the pieces. I kicked the pieces. Hah!
I showed that laptop!
I went back in my house and went to bed.
The next day I woke up and remembered everything. I went out and looked at the pieces of the broken lap top in my driveway. I picked them up and put them in the garbage can, looking around to see if any of my neighbors see me. I went back in the house.
A few days later I ordered the same lap top. It arrived in the mail. I am a little ashamed, as I was not raised to squander money that way (my Dad grew up in the depression after all!), but hey it’s been rough couple of years, and I make decent money and it is not like I am drinking and driving or getting into fights and hurting people.
So what if I busted up a lap top when I got a little heat on? Not my best moment but so what?
It’s my money, my lap top, and my driveway.
In my house that I bought with my money.
I am the Queen of the Castle. If I want to bust shit up in my driveway so be it!
I was just glad that hopefully none of the neighbors saw my ‘off with the head’ moment.
So I am taking my time to try to learn this lap top. I still do not like the interface and you have to take your time with flipping the lid to convert it from lap top style to pad, but I am taking time and not letting my tech range manifest. I am doing ok, for a few days… then….
I drink some wine.
Watching TV and messing with this lap top. And god dam it, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get online, and I hate this fucken interface. Why do they do this? Why do they make lap tops like this? Why can’t they all be the same? So I grab this lap top, go out in the drive way—
AND DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN!
I am not fucking kidding you. I did it again! I smashed up a second laptop!
After that I told myself that I could not get another lap top. Absolutely not. That unless I was willing to spend a lot more money and get a laptop the quality of my work lap top, that has a great interface etc. I should not buy one because I would only smash it up. It was all about my tech rage and not about my drinking. Although in my defense I did once throw a printer out of a second story window, AND I was sober, so my denial was not completely unfounded, but seriously I just busted up two laptops on two different nights, you think there might be something going on here besides a little tech rage?
What I did not realize at that time, but have learned only recently when I decided to go AF, is that is I was correct in that I should not have been concerned about smashing up the stupid lap tops.
What I should have been concerned about, is the anger and sadness behind it that fueled me to bust up two laptops. The lap tops were inconsequential, it was the feeling behind it that made this act of destruction significant.
My ferocious brother, told me after our parents died, that grief made him feel like killing someone, so if he had not committed homicide that day he was managing his grief well.
I realized that for some grief goes inward and makes them sad, but for the ferocious ones, grief goes outward and manifests in anger. And anger can be a hard emotion to carry around. And one short term way to alleviate the weight of all that anger is with booze.
But booze just hid the truth that I was hurt, and sad, and lonely. I had done right by my parents and siblings. I was there. I stood up and did not let my parents down. My ferocious brother and I took the major burden / blessing of taking care of our parents. And we kept ourselves medicated with booze to manage our sadness and despair. I know now, but did not know then, that I was very, very sad. Which manifested as anger. Because that was what I was, angry. Underneath the anger was deep sadness of the irrevocability of death. My other siblings viewed my brother and me as the “emotional ones.” Well if they had been there, and did and saw, all we did and saw, they would have been emotional too. But instead they were not there. They were not ferocious.
After my mom died and I managed my grief with wine. I did not protect myself with the ferocity that I protected my parents with. Instead of focusing on myself, I abandoned myself. Right when I needed myself the most, I abandoned myself to wine and destruction at a time I needed to be there for myself, to be ferocious for myself.
That is what happens to the ferocious ones. We externalize. We get angry and bust up lap tops. And if we are fueling up with booze, then we do not even know that underneath the anger is really a sad, sad person with a good reason to be sad.
Recently I lost a pet. I drank with myself all day the day after my pet’s passing. I was so bereft. I knew I could not do this again. That I was not going to abandon myself. That I was going to grieve and get it right this time. So I became ferocious again and stopped the booze.
And every day since then (26 days) I have cried over my pet, over my parents and over the sadness of the irrevocability of death and the loss it leaves us with.
But I never ever cried over those stupid lap tops. I am glad I busted them up. I am glad to know that as ferocious as I am, and I am ferocious, that man there are feeling like grief that just bring you to your knees. And if you are really, truly ferocious, you don’t abandon yourself and swallow the pain with a bottle of merlot, you be ferocious, you fucken face the pain, move through it, and things get better.
As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:
“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”