cripple me.

yesterday i cried.

like a big baby, last night, i wept.

for a while now, i’ve been saying, “i need to find a meeting. i need to find aa in tulsa”.

last night, i did.

and i was weepy there with gratitude that i felt like i could breathe with others who understood why sometimes i can’t.

but it was last night once i got home that i groaned from dark caverns.

i went running yesterday afternoon, like have done every other monday and thursday and saturday since the beginning of the year. i ran and ran, and as i was processing the day as the anniversary of the day i was the “girl in the green dress”, i was also so consumed by the awareness that i was no longer safe. secure, yes. safe, no. it’s been there for a while, this desire to escape, to run (and not the good kind). this need for one more bloody mary sunday with my bff. and for one minute longer than i should have thought about it, i wondered how possible it would be. how feasible it could be. if i could even get away with it.

and then i went down that road in my mind. i played it out.

and the answer is i couldn’t. can’t.

there is nothing – not one thing – that would make picking up that first drink worth it. i heard someone say early in my recovery, “i know i have another drink in me. i don’t know if i have another white chip in me”. i have worked too hard to live as a sober person. i don’t always do a good job of this, even though i’m not drinking. some days, all i have is, “i didn’t act right, but at least i didn’t drink today”. and somehow i’ve accumulated whatever 7 months and some months and some days equals. at this point, i’ve spent more days sober than i did in active alcoholism.

i understand now that i deserve sobriety. i am worth being sober.

deep in the night within the same 24 hours on the other side of the day -that is, before i walked in to a meeting, so the night before- i woke up to this post by christa black. i did not know christa well, but she and i were a part of the same church family in new york about 12 years ago.

before i started therapy. before i went into full-blown addiction.

before she went on tour with michael w. smith. again.

and i do not know this kind of grief. to write so raw and beautifully so early on in what can only be described as the worst form of torture, my heart aches and breaks for her.

but i do know what it’s like to be making eggs or running or vaccuuming or reading or breathing and to be hit from out-of-nowhere with a desire for strong drink at 9:00 in the morning. or to spend money that i don’t have. or to find someone who would offer temporary pleasure. i do know what that’s like. that desperate need for a fix, for an escape, for whatever else you want to call it. to be numb. to not feel anything because you feel so much. all the time, you feel so much. too much. and now i know that feeling life so deeply when i used to not feel it at all, is not not normal. it’s the not knowing what to do with my feelings, or how to handle them, or thinking there’s something wrong with me for having them at all when there’s nothing wrong at all, that can make a person loo-loo.

i don’t want you to worry.

i won’t go back.

i can’t go back.

but i just need to be honest.

because if i am only as sick as my secrets, then i need to tell the truth. my truth.

and don’t try to understand it if you can’t understand it. it’s really okay, maybe it’s better if you don’t. i’d rather you just say that -that you don’t understand, but you will honor this in me- then pretend like you do and make up words or thoughts that aren’t true and real. you don’t have to do anything with any of this. i’m just processing and you don’t have to get it. but if someone might, and i think someone might, then i hope this helps you.

a few weeks ago, i shared my sobriety story with the undergrad substance abuse class. i only got as far as, “and then i got sober” and class ended. it was the first time in 7 years and some months and some days that i had publicly, in person, shared out loud what it was like. but i didn’t get to the part about what it’s like now. i’ve been invited to come back and share the rest of my story. i honestly don’t even know what i would say, so i’m glad for the time to process the last several years through the filter of my sobriety.

i loved hearing and telling my own story and remembering but not reliving that girl i once was. who i used to be but never really was, only to return to who i was made and was always meant to be. and isn’t that the case for us all? most of us, anyway? i loved hearing her story because that girl is precious to me. and i loved telling it because i am not that girl anymore, the one who “took a sabbatical from (her) brain”, as john hobbs says.

back to my run.

as i played out the story in my mind yesterday, i pretty much sprinted all the way back to the store. (and by “sprint”, i mean ran only just a little bit faster.) i was suddenly overwhelmed by how close i was to the edge, and how desperate i had become. i almost ran straight to my car, but i was the only one there in my group yesterday, so i knew i had to be seen just so no one would worry that i hadn’t returned. (i’m not sure if that would have actually happened, but i wanted to be a responsible adult.) and then i sat in my car and begged siri to tell me when and where the next meeting was.

i yelled at siri when we couldn’t get on the same page. i kept saying one thing, she heard something all together other. dammit, siri.

and my cousin texted me right around this time. the last time she texted me, about a month ago, she gave me permission to get mad at god about some things he and i haven’t talked about in a real long time. and i did. i got mad. and then i got tired. and he won. i basically let him. i wasn’t fighting to win, but to gain understanding. i relented without getting many answers, but enough that i knew i was okay not knowing again.

years ago…as in, maybe 15, i told a girl i went to college with -i had been her r.a.- that she couldn’t get mad at god when her dad died suddenly.

she was pissed then at both god and me, understandably.

it hasn’t left me that i ever told her that.

i can’t believe i ever told anyone that.

this time, cousin said, “get to a meeting.”

i told cousin to leave me alone.

but i made it.

i did make it.

i walked into a beginners’ (which there were none even though we all are) eighth step meeting. “made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

i didn’t mean to stop going to meetings. i got sober in my hometown, and faithfully went to meetings daily if not twice-a-day for over a year before i moved to eastern north carolina. as suggested, i didn’t make any major decisions or move anywhere in my first year. i broke other rules/not rules, but i did not break that one. when i moved, i attended meetings in my new town for a while, but it just wasn’t the same. all meetings are the same, in theory. but not all meetings are the same. i wanted them to be, but they weren’t. at that point, though, i found myself back in church again. and if our sobriety is based on our spiritual program, then my spirit was still actively growing.

the last chip i got was when i put together 3 years.

i’ve been sober now for 7 years, and some months and some days. i could do the math, but i try to make it a point not to do math at all.

that’s a long time to go without working any steps or holding hands with strangers who are family, crying with one another and laughing together and drinking not great coffee and holding space and allowing silence for one another.

the last meeting i attended, i took the youngest of my mom’s six sisters with me. she wanted to go, so together we went.

she died tragically a year later of stage four alcoholism. the same summer i went through the stuff that led me into the deep calling deep which the deep used to lead me into the middle of the country. her death was a part of that whole glorious experience, and i mean that in earnest now. her death, actually, led to more life for me. (i need to tell you the whole story of getting out here, soon. this will make more sense then.)

my dad died a few years before that, dropped dead of cardiac arrest from congestive heart failure, manifest from a lifetime of hard living. i’ve told you the story, but i mention it now because i wasn’t actively tending to my recovery when my dad died. i was still seeing karen, but i wasn’t attending meetings at that time.

i moved to the middle of the country a year ago. i wrestled, i strived, not with my disease but with not having really lived away from home for the first time ever in 35 years and so i was re-learning myself. i didn’t know that was going to happen when i got here, and before that i felt like i knew myself pretty well. i have no doubt i am right where i am supposed to be. i am still growing spiritually, and i am asking a lot of questions. i am thawing out from the trauma of what i experienced a few years ago. i am returning to myself, making my way back to where i got a little bit lost again.

and i need meetings.

i have friends here who love god and love me. i have people with whom i can be honest. i have found some who see me, whom i have shown me, and others who i don’t need to see me. these are those into whom i get to look deeply and say, “you are loved. and you are enough.”

but i have not made this connection yet, the one with people who are like me in this way. broken and bruised and painstakingly honest and terribly vulnerable, so painfully aware of our character flaws, and wanting to be and become better, one day at a time in the fellowship of true grace.

yesterday, a friend posted on facebook, “Melancholy is to depression as eccentric is to crazy. A few extra zeros make all the difference.” (quite honestly, i don’t know what the part about the zeros mean.) but to this, i replied, “You put words to what I was thinking about earlier tonight…sometimes we just get to grieve and feel pain, deeply. It’s necessary, and we can’t afford to miss out on it by just calling it depression when it’s not. (Alternately, we have to be honest with ourselves when it might be/could be/is.) Sometimes we just get to feel all of our feelings, though. I’m so grateful for that. (And just because one is quirky or eccentric, doesn’t mean one is cuckoo. Alternately, one who is certifiable may not appear to have any eccentricities at all. Most cunning, baffling, powerful of all.)”

perhaps my favorite part of being sober is that i get to feel all my feelings now. i’m not depressed, just sometimes i get sad the way normal people get sad. (and i’m not crazy, just quirky. or, as it turns out, just a woman.)

when i stopped going to meetings, i left off on step seven, which is to “humbly ask god to remove our shortcomings.”

i hadn’t yet made it to step eight.

which is exactly what we studied last night, what i walked into.

and i have blamed others and victimized myself, pretending to but not really owning my own part in the wreckage of broken relationships.

as someone pointed out last night, step eight is just to make the list of those we wronged when we were drinking. that’s it. we’re just making a list. kind of like the fourth step. it’s just the list. the next step is the decision about what to do with the list, how to best make amends, and then to do it. there are also those we have wronged while maybe we weren’t drinking, but perhaps not sober, either. i probably have as many people on this list as the other, many of the names are the same.

but last night, what i grieved deeply when i came home was that the one person i abused the most violently when i was drinking was my dad. and how he’s not here any more to ask for forgiveness and to live out our amends together.

this is to say nothing of how, together, we lived next to and worked together while we were both in active alcoholism. or what it was like growing up in an alcoholic home that preceded my own search for an escape route.

but for the first time, i grieved not being able to ask his forgiveness for how i yelled and cussed and punished and hurt my dad in my anger and depression.

he’s dead. he’s dead, and all i could do was cry and ask, anyway.

and to ask god’s forgiveness also for not honoring my dad better.

i honor him now. and before he died, i stopped being mad at him and we had sweet days that neither of us knew but i think we both suspected and i kind of did know that they were our last ones together.

i know he forgave me then, even before i would have asked. i know he understood my anger toward him…toward everyone…even if we never really talked about it. i know he understood it because, along with a deep well that could be filled with all manner of liquor, i inherited an intense capacity for feeling deeply. and if there’s a way for him to offer forgiveness now then i choose to receive it, because i know he would offer it freely. in fact, it probably wouldn’t even be a thing for him.

but it’s a thing for me, now.

i heard him say in my heart, “sweet pea” like he used to call me, or when he didn’t have other words. but that was all. and it was enough.

i’m not going to drink.

but, once again, i realized i’m still learning how to live here on this new playground with my new playmates with the gifts and tools and talents and quirks and dreams and clumsiness that god has given me which i can now offer to others, leaving room in my bucket for what is offered back.

because we all need each other. i need what my friends here at school and work and my people back home and across the universe and what my global aa-family presents to one another, to better live together. simply, to breathe.

i don’t have the 12 & 12 in front of me right now, but the last page of the chapter on the eighth step concludes with a thought about how this step will isolate us from each other if we continue to live under any amount of shame or blame of not making things right what we made wrong. not the wrongs done to us, and of course there were some and we have to forgive because we get to. because we have to. but these are the wrongs for which we were responsible.

in my fear and insecurity, both as a sober person and when i wasn’t, i have pushed people away at different points in my life. people i know who really love(d) me. i was afraid that if they got too close, they wouldn’t like what they saw or they would find me a fraud or i would clobber them with my co-dependency. i was afraid i would be too much or not enough and once they discovered this, they would end up leaving eventually, so why not just make it easier and create the distance myself?

i still do this. that is the raw, honest truth. i am not proud of this. and i will make amends with those, to my knowledge, i have hurt in this way or in others over the years. and i am working on standing still and not walking away from those god’s given me to love and to trust him and not them with the outcome of our relationships, even as i hold on loosely to them but hold on nonetheless.

because my soul can’t afford to live in that kind of isolation, the kind that’s afraid of being abandoned or rejected or just left alone in life. god does have me in a season of stillness, and i do have and enjoy and appreciate my alone-time. i’m in an incubation period right now, and it’s necessary for me to stay hidden in his wing. there is a difference between staying hidden and polarizing oneself because she is plum terrified of the outside world and feeling all of her feelings out there inside of it.

none are islands, and we are not made to live on one.

and that’s all i have.

please, please, please cripple me
so i cannot keep running away
away from you

{elenowen, cripple me}

hey, p.s. i don’t always post here. sometimes i have these random inspiring moments that i share on facebook, just in a status update. less thought and time goes into these posts. it’s less of my processing, and i guess they are bent more toward encouraging and exhorting others. i was going to tell you that you can find me there, but i just remembered my page is set to private. blah. if you can find me there, and you’ll include in your friend request that you know me from here, then i’ll be glad to friend you there. i say more there than i do here, regularly. just an invitation to share life if you want to. unless you seem creepy. xo

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Catharine Robinson Christopherson
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 15:29:10

    Mary Kathryn,
    You are enough. You are wonderful, beautiful, amazing, real, true and good. I could relate to your words in other ways of my life simply as a woman and daughter and just about living and relationships. Your real posts are inspiring. Keep on working on yourself! You are doing it girl! You’re doing a good job! And I love the realness you have when you write! Much love always!!!!

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Mar 19, 2014 @ 10:39:12

      thank you so much, catharine. i appreciate that you could relate, even if our exact struggles aren’t the same. thanks for being here, and for your support. we’re all on the same team, in this together. you are wonderful. xoxo

  2. smwallis75
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 15:29:15

    Crap. Now I’m going to have to get to a meeting. :) It’s been since I was pregnant. I actually tried to go to one in Leland earlier this month for my 8 year anniversary, but no one was at the location I was given. Two weeks later…
    I, too, have grown a lot spiritually in the last couple of years – and I credit that for keeping me sober. That and the tools I gained in my first 6 years of AA attendance. But there’s nothing like the “fellowship of true grace”. My sobriety is probably the largest example of God’s work in my life. I had no idea how to live differently. Then suddenly I did, with an ease I couldn’t explain.
    Lately, I have been looking for ways to be an active Child of God and share the love of Christ with the world. Every time I search my soul for ways to be of good use, “You need to go back to AA” is whispered in my ear. But, I’m scared. You know, the kind of scared you get when you know it’s exactly the right thing to do? God is gently nudging me towards his will, but my inner alcoholic, who thrives in making things painful for myself would rather procrastinate. Because gentle makes me uncomfortable…another reason I need to go back to meetings.
    I love your honesty MK and how you just put it out there. I am proud of you for returning to the rooms & I hope you keep going back. Let’s share about our new experiences in AA sometime soon. I love you and miss you. xoxo

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Mar 19, 2014 @ 13:24:11

      yes, i do know the scared! i’ve been scared to find meetings since i got here, too. knowing how wonderful it would be once i did, but just taking the first step toward them would be the hardest one to make! everything that you said – yes. growing spiritually, not really at risk…but knowing i was missing something, and i knew the only place i could find it again was there.

      i love hearing you talk about being the light of christ. i can’t/can believe it. i LOVE it. and i love you. so much. you were my first friend in aa, and still one of my bests, even though i have not been a good friend AT ALL since lyda came in to the world!

      i love you. i miss you. yes, catch up SOON. we can skype any time. can’t wait. xoxoxo

  3. jennylovesjohn
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 15:31:13

    Wow, Mary Kathryn!! That was just beautiful!! Thanks for sharing your struggles and sharing them for the glory of our good God!! This was beautiful, just like you!! :)

  4. Anne
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 19:33:45

    MK, you are a beautiful person! Love you dear friend.

  5. Tay
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 21:33:23

    Oh MK. Of course you were an RA. I am proud to say that I am one too! :) Words cannot express how incredibly blessed I am by my residents. I am SO SO proud of them and I am so thankful that I get to be a part of their life. I could tell you story after story of how amazing they are and of all the fun we have together.

    These girls have changed my life in so many ways. I never thought that I could love a group of girls this much. I feel like I am kind of getting a taste of maternal love. They have also drawn me closer to Jesus. I will literally stay up all night talking to them about love, life and Jesus. And let me tell you, they know a lot about all of the above. My experience with them has not been without it’s challenges, though. I’ve had to walk with a few of them through disciplinary issues. That has really taught me about unconditional love. Because I truly love them, no matter how much they mess up.

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Mar 19, 2014 @ 13:18:00

      oh, tay-tay. i know you are such a blessing to your girls. i loved being an r.a. i was one for three years. i’m so glad you are learning (and teaching) and growing so much. you are awesome! xo

  6. Dorsey
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 00:01:41

    Oh MK, what a beautiful, haunting, raw and honest blog. I can tell you I can relate to the core in so many ways; or rather what I read deeply reached me to my core. I am a part of that community and go to keep my recovery. It is the place we can see each other’s naked souls. I can relate to the desire to escape, to run, to escape, – it has been stronger in these last few weeks – but where to go? There is no place to go – just to stay still with courage and accept the moments as they come.
    I love your honesty and articulation about people, closeness, being still vs isolating…. “I was afraid that if they got too close, they wouldn’t like what they saw or they would find me a fraud or i would clobber them with my co-dependency.” That is so me! I struggle today with finding that balance and I have been teeter-tottering on isolating – and too much of that, then the crazy comes! I need to work on keeping the communication open and being vulnerable even if it’s uncomfortable.
    I remember your interactions with your Dad in NC, and they were always so lovely. You may have had your moments but you were a kind and loving daughter and I enjoyed seeing you both together.
    I love reading your journey and what your heart is going through and it is like poetry to my soul and I feel enterwined in yours.

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Mar 19, 2014 @ 10:45:06

      dorrrseyyy…first, i ADORE that you named yourself “dorsey” for me. you will ever be dorsey to me. :) (and i am now laughing so hard at how you got that name. WOAH.) i knew you were in the rooms, too. everything you said, i was nodding along to. all of it. thank you for the reminder that it wasn’t all bad all the time with my dad. you’re so right. it wasn’t. but when it was bad, it was pretty bad. he wouldn’t have said so, i don’t think. but he was in loving denial about a lot of things. precious, but in loving denial. :) i miss you, dorsey. you and that sister of yours, i miss so, so much. love you. xoxoxo

  7. Kim Sullivan
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 10:29:24

    Hey, MK. Just want you to know that I always read all you write, I am with you and for you, forever. Orbits and all, you know? I love you, miss you…and I will be so very happy when our orbits coincide again.

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Mar 19, 2014 @ 10:40:50

      i cannot tell you how often i think of you and miss you and, yes, am desperate for the day our orbits might collide again in all the right ways. i love you, my friend. miss you so much. thank you for being with me and for me. i, too, am here for and with you. promise. xoxoxo

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