As I sit here waiting on the movers (assuming they show up!) to arrive to move me out of what was my father’s home (and, for a brief time, mine), and into my very first home purchased on my own, I’m overwhelmed with memories and emotions. I’ve been so “busy” doing all the things we do to get ready for a move and all the other things I do to avoid sitting still, that I haven’t taken much time to appreciate the life milestones that happened in this house. Rather than fill another box with things that I could easily grab later, I decided maybe now would be a good time to reflect on the years spent with this house.
First I should mention that in the year and a half or so since I’ve last posted here on the blog, a lot has changed in my life. My father died. I got into a new relationship, got engaged, got a puppy, got another puppy, ended an engagement, ended a relationship, lost a puppy, got attacked by (and then lost) the other puppy, bought my dad’s house, sold my dad’s house, and bought a condo — oh, and got into another relationship. So, yea, a lot has happened since I’ve last written. My sponsor reminds me of this fact every time we talk and I am quick to brush her off with the “yea yea but that’s life” thing, but it is a LOT. OH, and I realized I prefer dating and being intimate with women. So, there’s that too. Geez!
Now that we are caught up on my life … how you doing?
So, this house ….
My parents bought this house and had it built to their specifications in 1999 after they just relocated back to the East Coast from California. A couple of years after they moved in, my mom’s health issues flared up again and, for the rest of her years here, she was sick. Sometimes very sick and in and out of hospitals. My dad would joke that he learned about Baltimore through the hospitals. (Fortunately, Baltimore has great hospitals.) About 6 years after they moved in, I came to stay here too (with my, now, ex husband) after graduating law school, landing a job in Baltimore (the job I still have today), and needing a place to rest and study for the bar exam.
My marriage ended in this house.
Cocaine came back into my life and rocked my world for several years while I was here, and with the return of cocaine, so came the end of my 19 year relationship with my ex husband. Shortly thereafter, I entered yet another relationship (as I do), and moved out of this house and into Baltimore City. After the crash of that relationship, I entered REAL therapy, and began a journey that eventually led to my being clean and sober today.
It wasn’t too long after the beginning of my therapy that my mom died. I came back to this house about 2 months before she died. I spent the last 2 months of her life attempting to right the wrongs between my mother and I. Thankfully, there was some kind of peace and progress between us before she passed away. I continued to live here while continuing to battle this addiction of mine – had periods of sobriety and periods of active using during those years living here with my dad alone. It was during those first years after my mom died that I began to notice something happening with my dad. Something had changed about him and I wasn’t quite sober enough to actually put a finger on it. Eventually I entered yet another relationship and moved out and in with the new person (as I do… geesh). During that relationship, I finally had my “come to Jesus moment” with myself and my drug use, and entered inpatient rehab, and, one precious day at a time, have been sober since. This was June 4, 2012 — the day my life changed in the best way possible.
I got clean and sober in this house.
While in that rehab, my boyfriend at that time visited and told me that my dad was really not doing well. While not prepared mentally or emotionally to hear that big ol bit of truthy truth, I did my best to suit up and show up, and on the advice of that dear ex, moved in with my dad after rehab. We both did, my ex and I. It wasn’t too long after that when that relationship ended. One hundred percent clean and sober for the first time since I was 14, I was also 50 percent crazy. I began to question everything about myself, including my sexuality, and began the journey of recovery from a 29 year drug and alcohol problem. I also began the journey of actually being a productive member of society, and more importantly, my family. Soon after that relationship ended, my dad and I began our 5 year walk through what would turn out to be his final days. As of this writing, those were the best 5 years of my life (I am still hopeful that there will be brighter days in my future, hence the caveat).
I really, really met my dad in this house.
During those final years of my dad’s life, we formed a real relationship and bond. I began the journey of recovery from substance abuse and began to learn about who the hell I was. I started this blog. I continued with therapy. I entered and left relationships faster than you could type that sentence. I formed real bonds of friendships with women who are still in my life today. I learned who Cyndi was and I got to share that with my dad, while learning a lot about who he was. Through his illness, I got to learn about love and commitment and learned that I was capable of loving and committing to someone or something. I got to travel with my dad (twice!) to see the rest of our family in Alaska (my brother, his wife, and my niece). I did a lot of work on myself through therapy and recovery, and began to question if I was dating the right gender for me. Although that question did not resolve itself until after my dad died, I have zero doubt my dad would have been anything but supportive of that discovery. Even though my dad was former military, he was one of the most liberal people I knew, so the realization that I am gay had nothing to do with his being here or not. Well, other than maybe I was a little too busy focusing on him and his health to really explore that option.
My dad loved this house. He did not want to leave it. When he finally had to move into assisted living, it was after we tried everything to find a way to keep him here. I promised to stay here with him so that he could be in this house. We hired workers to give him round the clock assistance so that I could still go to work, but unfortunately, eventually it became clear to both of us that it was not safe for him to be here. He made the decision to move into assisted living on his own, and I know it was not an easy one for him to make. He told me that he wanted me to stay here. He told me that he wanted to leave this house to me. He felt safe knowing that I was staying in this house. All of this to say, making the decision to sell this house now and move (today, hopefully – but, um, where the heck are the movers?!), have not been easy ones.
Shortly after my dad moved into assisted living, I got roommate #1: Eric. A fellow traveler on this journey of self-improvement, Eric and I worked pretty well as roommates, I think. During those years I was busy with work and my dad and continuing to explore who Cyndi was, now that I was actually sober and able to do that. After Eric came Margo. I won’t say anything more right now other than I will always be so grateful that through Margo I realized an important truth about myself: I prefer dating and sleeping with women. (HELLO!)
I realized that I prefer dating women in this house.
Eventually Eric moved to Arizona to pursue his dreams, and my dad lost his battle with Lewy Body Dementia. I was there with my dad non stop his last 11 days on this earth. It was shocking how quickly the end came, even though I had seen him move closer and closer to that realm in the years leading up to his last day. IMMEDIATELY after he died, I entered a relationship with a woman, that would eventually lead to an engagement, 2 puppies, my buying this house, an end to that engagement, a break up, the loss of both puppies (one with my now ex and one no longer of this world after she snapped and attacked me and then I was forced to make the decision to put her down).
So, now, here I sit waiting for movers. Looking at this house where SO MUCH changed for me. Starring at my dear cat, Chirp. Reflecting.
(And, frankly, getting a little worried now that these movers are not coming!)
After the end of my first relationship with a woman, and the loss of the 2 dogs (basically at the exact same time), I realized that I was in over my head with this house. And maybe just in over my head in general. After she left and took the dog, It was back to being just me and my sweet kitty, Chirp. Eric was now in Arizona. My dad was gone and had been gone just over a year at that point. I now was living in a 3 level, 3 bedroom house – just me and the cat. It became quite clear quite quickly that this house was too much for me: too much space, too much money, and too much work. BUT ….
But my dad loved this house. My dad wanted me to have this house. My dad felt safe knowing I was in this house.
There is the rub.
The reality, however, is that I cannot afford this house (and my car and my student loans — don’t even get me started on my student loans!). After intense consultation with my team of trusted advisors (thank you, recovery!) (also, everyone should have a team of trusted advisors), and some serious budget and number crunching, the fact just glared at me from across the many unused rooms of this house: I CAN’T AFFORD THIS HOUSE.
But my dad wanted me to be in this house.
Wow, what a struggle. However, the facts were the facts. If I stayed here, I would lose this house and all the equity in it. Maybe not in a month, or two or even 3, but sometime shortly after that the money would run out. No matter how I crunched the numbers, the facts were the same. And so I made the decision to put the house on the market.
Believe me when I tell you that it was not an easy decision to make, but the truth just kept smacking me in the face: this house was too much for me. In every way — this house was too much for me. Too much work, money, and room.
So, I began the work of clearing out and cleaning out and, ultimately, selling the house. In one of the most beautiful moments of this past year, this house sold super quickly to people I know, people who are also fellow travelers on the journey of recovery. People who understand my struggle with this house and people I know who will honor the house as my dad would have should he still be here. In fact, they will do way more with this house than even my dad could have done. I sold this giant house and bought a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo for me and my Chirpy Cat. (And I entered into a new relationship with a new woman … and I’m very hopeful and excited about the future. Yay!)
And today is moving day.
Today I leave behind the house that my dad wanted me to have. The house my dad felt safe knowing I was in. But the reality of my dad’s thoughts are that they don’t match my reality.
I do not feel safe in this house. In fact, I have never felt safe in this house. And today I can honor my own feelings, thoughts and fears. I don’t feel safe here. Not because it’s not in a lovely neighborhood – it is. But because it is too big for me. There are too many doors. Due to my PTSD (to be written about at some other time), I am frequently terrified in this house. My dad spent his last year in this house TERRIFIED from his dementia, before making the decision HIMSELF to leave for small space in an assisted living building where he would feel safe. I am essentially doing the same thing. So, I think he would understand that.
Also, I cannot afford this house. I don’t think my dad would want me to live in fear of possible foreclosure on this house that he loved so much. And I do believe he would be thrilled that I actually know the people who will now get to love this house as much as he did.
(And thank God the movers just called and said they are still coming, but running super late.)
I think my dad would be happy about the choice I made in the next place that I will be living — not too unlike the assisted living home he ended up feeling “safe” in. I purchased a unit in a condo building. Not assisted living – I am still able (thankfully) to take care of myself (barely! LOL), but a small space in a nice building, in a nice neighborhood. A neighborhood super close to my friend Linda, whom my dad knew well and loved. Linda is former military, which of course Bob LOVED. In fact, my dad was always terrified of me doing anything physical for fear I would fall or drown or something. Whenever I told him I was going hiking, he would get this nervous look on his face, unless I said I was going with Linda. Then, he would relax and say
oh, okay. You’ll be fine then.” He knew Linda has mad military skills and trusted that she would look out for his clumsy daughter.
Now, you may be wondering why my dad was so worried. This is the effect the disease of addiction has on our loved ones: it makes them nervous. Beyond nervous, truthfully: terrified. And, my dad was fighting his own issues with dementia , which made him much more fear centered in his last years than I ever knew or imagined he could be. (Plus, in general, I am clutzy. Legit clutzy – even 100% clean and sober, I’ve been known to trip over my feet ….)
But the disease of addiction does do that to the ones who love us. It makes them afraid for us, and rightfully so. Long after we put down the drink or drug, that fear remains for our loved ones. We, the addicts, don’t usually realize this until years sober. I know, I didn’t. I certainly never even considered it while I was still drinking and drugging. I never considered the effect the drink and drug was having on my dad. Or my mom. Or my brother. Or my ex husband. Or anyone who got close to me. I absolutely never thought about it. I would say things when confronted about my drinking and drugging like “I’m not hurting anyone but me. ” As if hurting myself was a perfectly reasonable option?!?!? The lunacy of the disease of addiction. But I certainly never considered anyone else. I really could not see that my behavior and choices and my acting out affected anyone other than me. That’s how crazy this disease is ….
If you are currently scratching your head at the behavior of a loved one due to drugs and booze and wondering how they could possibly do this to you and sleep at night, I can reassure you (I guess?) that if they are an addict and/or alcoholic, most likely they are completely unaware that what they are doing is affecting you at all.
Terrible? Yes. But also, true.
It baffles me still that I could not see it, but I swear to you on …. Chirp (he’s the only thing around right now not packed in a box waiting on movers, so I will place my hand and swear on my beloved pain in the ass cat), that when we are lost in the disease of addiction, we are oblivious to anyone else’s feelings or fears.
It took me years of active recovery to understand that my dad was afraid for my safety because of the way I behaved for 29 years of active drug and alcohol abuse. He was afraid because I gave him reason to be afraid.
I totaled every car I ever owned under the influence. Bad, bad car accidents. I totaled several of his cars under the influence. I fell down the front stairs of this house. Several times, under the influence. I fell down stairs of public places, many times, under the influence. I would leave and be gone for days without a call or text to my parents while under the influence (and under age – police were called, etc., it was not a pretty scene). I gave my loved ones reasons to be fearful. No wonder he was so concerned with my safety.
My dad got to see that as a result of putting down the drink and the drug and actively working my recovery, I had changed. I know he saw that change because he made me his power of attorney. He made me executor of his estate. He thanked me for being there for him. He said “I don’t know what I would do without you.” So, I know he saw that I changed, and he came to trust me, but still …. it take s a long time for the effect of addiction to leave me and to leave the ones who loved me. I get that today.
But, I believe my dad would feel good about my decision to leave this house today. I believe he would trust that I carefully weighted my options and talked to the people I should talk to, and found a place where I would be safe. And that I could afford —without roommates or a lover or a parent to support me. I place that I can afford on my own salary – OMG, how great is that going to be!
So, today, as I (still) wait for these freaking movers …. as one door shuts, another one opens. Right? That is the saying, and I believe it is time.
It is time to say goodbye to this house my dad loved so much. It is just a building. It does not contain the love that I felt for my dad. It reminds me of my dad, yes. But I am reminded of my dad in one million ways, one million times a day: when I look in the mirror I’m reminded of him (his nose, his large head and forehead — got ’em … ugh). When I talk to my brother. When I talk to my friends who knew and loved my dad, I’m reminded. When anyone mentions ice cream; boom, reminded.
Yes, this house contains a lot of memories of the years of my life, and of my DAD and his life, but I’m ready for some new memories. I’m ready to be in a house where I’m not constantly reminded of my parents illnesses. And their deaths. And their not being here anymore. A house where I am not reminded of the loss of lovers and animals and all the other losses of the past 6 years. I’m ready for a place where I am not full of fear of too many doors and windows and killers, etc.
I am ready to make some new memories: in my condo, with my new crabby neighbors, and my pain in the ass cat, and new love and adventures, and continued recovery (one day at a time …).
I trust my decisions today. What a miracle?!?!? I believe my dad trusted the decisions and choices I was making for him the last years of his life, because he saw the changes recovery brought about in me. And today, December 5, 2018, I also trust my decisions. I trust my feelings and thoughts today, as well. I trust that if I am not happy in a relationship, it is time to end that relationship, even if the other person doesn’t agree. (I realize that this sounds pretty basic, but trust me, it took me a long time to get to this point …) I trust that if I am not happy in a house (because it is too big and too expensive), I can find another house, where I may or may not be happy, but at least have a better chance to afford it without the fear of economic collapse. After 6 1/2 years of living a clean and sober life, I trust myself today. What a gift!!
The knowledge that today, as a woman in recovery from addiction, and recovery from codependence and all the other things, I can trust Cyndi and her decisions — that is what I am really taking from this house. (And about 100 boxes full of things that I don’t even probably need … [sigh]…)
On to my next (clean and sober!) adventures! ( If these movers ever get here ….)