Category Archives: alcoholism

Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

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Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

So in 1983 my world imploded just the tiniest bit. We had been living in the same town in central NJ for about 5 years. Some years were better than others but it was the longest stretch I had lived anywhere in my 15 years so it felt like home. I lived there with my mother and twin brother.

A little background, mom was a drunk until she got sober for good in August of 1982. That is pretty much when I started to drink and “experiment” with drugs. Fortunately for me, I had limited means so it was mostly some pot and an occasional pill. I am pretty sure I would have tried anything put in front of me. We called that a garbage head in the 80’s. I was quite reckless and I put myself in harm’s way on a regular basis. Traded in my long term friends for a sketchier variety that wanted to meander along with me on my path of self destruction.

How did the once good girl suddenly find her self so misguided? Escape. I just wanted to escape from the life I was in. As a young girl I remember looking at the most popular girl in the class and I wondered….what is it like to be Kim? Back then I was a judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover kind of gal and my cover was torn, tattered with some coffee stains and a cigarette burn or two. Kim had a flawless, shiny, smells like a new car cover going on…..I wondered what that was like.

In addition to having the family from hell I also had a fairly long “awkward stage” that’s the stage when the kid is fairly ugly for a few years and everyone hopes it’s temporary. So I basically went from being the buck-toothed scrawny girl to braces straightened teeth, kind of pretty and overly made up. It wasn’t a magnificent transition but it was enough to get the boys to notice me. The ones who made fun of me the year before suddenly wanted to “hang out”. I was insecure enough to not tell them to fuck off. If only I had a time machine…….

So this is where my childhood ends. The story, my story continues in another series titled…..(insert drum roll here) “1 in 37……..”. That series describes my first year of recovery. Spoiler alert I have been sober since 1983. Don’t let that stop you from reading…….some crazy shit happened that first year (and trust me, I know crazy, we’re like besties….smh).

https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/04/28/1-out-of-37-part-1/

 

 

Keep on Truckin’…….Part 7

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Keep on Truckin’…….Part 7

Sometime in the summer of 1978 my brother and I finally moved back into a place with our mother. She had spent the last year getting settled into a job and a new apartment. While she was getting settled my brother and I stayed with our maternal grandparents. That living situation was prompted by a disastrous year in Florida with my mother, her boyfriend, Frank and my twin brother and me.

When we came back to New Jersey my brother and I were excited about seeing our father again. He lived in a shore town in New Jersey and we were both looking forward to reconnecting. Before we left for Florida we saw our father and his bride on a regular basis. They even tried to gain custody of the two of us. I remember having someone from the court ask me who I would rather live with….which was a ridiculous question for me…that question was a 1,000 pounds on my 7 year old shoulders. I answered with trepidation….something to the effect of I love them both but I guess I’d rather live with my mom.

The truth is I was torn. I kind of fantasized what it would be like to live with my father and his new wife. I really loved them, they were good to us….her whole family was good to us. On the other hand I had my mother and I recognized that she was wounded and I felt like she needed me. I also knew with every fiber of my being that if I went to live with my father she would be lost to me forever.

She frequently said bad things about my father and step mother which made me question my loyalty on a regular basis. I felt good when I was with my father and his new family and then when my brother and I would get home our mother would interrogate us. She would look for the smallest sliver of anything she could use against him. How many drinks did so and so have, who was there, what was on tv? It was intense. And I’m not sure exactly when it started but sometime early on my mother started referring to my father as “shithead”. She did this constantly used shithead in place of his name or a pronoun. Textbook definition of how not to behave after a divorce.

So naturally when we went to see our father for the first time since returning to New Jersey, my brother and I were nervous. We were also excited. He called us weekly while we were in Florida and we were under the impression that they missed us. So when he answered the door and didn’t invite us in my world caved in a bit. He said something about not being able to just come over unannounced and blah blah…..I don’t remember the exact words. I just remember shutting down and closing him off. Of course my mother reinforced how awful that was when we told her what happened.

Even though my mom was crazy it was hard for me to be apart from her. So when the three of us starting living together again I was happy. We started 5th grade that year in an elementary school which was maybe six blocks away. I had been to plenty of new schools by this point so I was pretty good at making new friends and observing situations.

Not sure how far into the school year it happened but one day I got into a verbal altercation with someone.  Before I could blink I had half the class threatening to beat me up after school. At which point I became more bravado than brains and started to assign people numbers something like “oh yeah I’ll fight you first, you second, you third….” pointing out the kids I would fight and in what order. Somewhere before I got to double digits an angel stepped in. She was the class jock and everyone adored her and even then she was cool enough to not give a shit about what people thought of her. She announced that if anyone fought me they would have to fight her as well. They all backed out of the fight and I got a new best friend.

I’ll never forget the day that Shelly stood up for me. After school I was determined to go to her house. I went up to the door and from that day until high school I spent many hours there. Her family was crazy but in a good way. They were loud, all the kids cursed but they loved each other. There was always food, snacks, dinner and all the Nestle Quik you could drink. Those were luxuries for me then…..hell we couldn’t afford Devil Dogs. Her mom didn’t work so she was often driving her kids and their friends around. I was always welcome there.

This was such a stark contrast to my family life. My brother and I were latch key kids. We came home after school to an empty apartment and I always had a long list of chores including getting dinner ready most nights. My brother and I fought all the time. That caused problems because we lived over a business so my mother had to hear about our behavior a lot. That did not make her happy and if mom isn’t happy no one is happy.

We never knew what kind of mood our mother would be in when she came home. When we heard her coming up the steps we would scatter like roaches when the lights come on. Scurrying off in different directions, tucked away until we could determine if it was safe to come out.

To be continued…..https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/12/keep-on-truckin-part-8/

Keep on Truckin’……Part 6

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Keep on Truckin’……Part 6

When I was in 4th grade my twin brother and I lived with our maternal grandparents. We spent the prior year moving from one place to another in the northern part of Florida with our mother and her then boyfriend, Frank. Parts of that year were fun. The weather was mild, little lizards were everywhere, we got to Disney World and we had a boat. The bad parts probably outweighed the good; snakes, domestic violence, multiple moves, mom in a Psych Ward, a foster home and a rapid departure after mom was arrested. So all in all an exciting year.

My brother and I were staying with our grandparents so our mother could get back on her feet. She needed to time to get a job and find an apartment for the three of us. Our parents had divorced several years prior and at this point my father was remarried and recently had his first child with his second wife. Before we left for Florida our father requested custody and ultimately lost. When we finally got to the shore town where he lived my brother and I could hardly wait to see him.

We were visiting a family friend who lived around the corner from my father. My brother and I bounded over there excited to see him. We could barely contain ourselves while we waited for him to answer the door. A somber version of our father emerged and coaxed us away from the entry and sat on the steps. I don’t remember his exact words but the gist of it was you can’t just come here unannounced and I’m sure it had something to do with his baby daughter. Looking back I can see where the man had been put through hell. Trying to get custody, loose that battle and then his crazy (certified) ex wife takes his kids to Florida….it must have been an emotional roller coaster for him. I lacked that perspective then. What I heard was I don’t want to see you now and then it all faded to black.

I think my little psyche had been through too much at this point so I just shut down. If he didn’t want us there then fine I wouldn’t want to be there. I flipped a switch, threw up a wall, deployed the shield. If I am honest some of it is still there, maybe half a wall (3/4s) at this point almost 40 years later….My brother god bless him he handled it different. He just tried harder to get the man’s attention and sometimes they still do that dance. It’s heartbreaking, infuriating and pathetic to watch. Like watching an animal stuck in a trap trying to get out, wailing in pain. I avoid the trap, still do.

That year with my grandparents I started to slide. I mouthed off to people said shit that was stupid and incoherent. I told one kid to “suck momma moose cock” which isn’t even a real thing. Had to have my grandmother sign a note with those ridiculous words on it. I got in physical fights one was with a classmate who happened to be a boy. I was ready to fight anyone. My brother and I fought a lot and it got nasty – punches, scratching full on physical altercations. I also stole change from some charity box we had at home that was supposed to go to church. I wanted ice cream at lunch …..I didn’t think past the box.

Our mother would visit us sometimes on weekends but not always. I was so insecure I’m sure part of me thought she would just leave us there with our grandparents. She did leave me in Florida with family friends the prior summer for several weeks so it wasn’t that far of a reach. So here I am an angry, scared, insecure 9 year old girl who has already moved at least 12 times and attended no less than 5 schools by 4th grade. The poster child for dysfunction.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/09/keep-on-truckin-part-7/

Keep on Truckin’………Part 5

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Keep on Truckin’………Part 5

My mother was arrested in front of me in August of 1977. I was 9 years old. We had just destroyed the mobile home we lived in with her boyfriend, Frank. Apparently someone called the cops. I was put in the back of one police car while mom got taken away in another. It took them a while to figure out where to take me. We didn’t have any relatives in Florida, we were only there about a year.

My twin brother had been sent back to our home state of New Jersey in June. He was staying with relatives. I stayed with family friends for about 3 weeks while my mom and brother made the trip back home. My brother stayed in New Jersey and mom came back but not for long. She attempted suicide shortly after she got back to Florida.  Because of that, I was sent to a foster home for about 5 days in early July. When she got out of the Psych Ward we went back to living in a mobile home with Frank. Mind you at the time I didn’t know she tried to kill herself, I was told that she needed to rest.

Things were rocky to say the least. Frank and my mother fought constantly and I saw my mother get physically abused by him. He dragged her throughout the home and she was crying. I was chasing after him and screaming for him to stop. My mother tried to say it was fun, that they were just goofing around.  The rug burns on her arms and legs told another story and I can still picture them in my mind.

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The night my mother got arrested I stayed with a childless couple that were friends with our once foursome. They seemed like nice people. I remember sitting on their couch and talking but I don’t remember what we talked about it. I think they took me snorkeling but the memories are fuzzy. At any rate I probably wasn’t with them more than two days. Frank had to buy me a first class ticket to New Jersey. I guess that was the rule then for a minor traveling alone. It was my first plane ride. I don’t think I was afraid of flying but I did challenge myself to get a candy bar out of the guy before I boarded. That was a personal victory, it was a mounds bar in case you are wondering. I remember being encouraged to chew gum during take off so I was totally fine with flying.

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My maternal grandparents and my twin brother met me at the airport in Newark, New Jersey. I remember that my grandmother fell on the escalator…..as if my homecoming needed more drama. My grandparents were probably close to 70 at the time so a fall could have been a real game changer. Thankfully she recovered. I’m not sure how long it took my mother to get back to New Jersey but my brother and I lived with our grandparents for a year while my mother got back on her feet.

That’s pretty much how it was explained to us. My mother was busy getting her life in order; getting a job, finding a place for us to live, etc.,. So while she did that we lived with our grandparents in Waretown, New Jersey. Sometimes we wouldn’t see her for weeks and that was really hard. When you are a kid you tend to believe what the adults around you tell you but I was getting cynical.

We were in 4th grade that year and my brother and I both had issues with kids. He was tormented by some jerk on the bus and I was the second least attractive girl in class. In the 70’s no one gave a shit if you were bullied you just dealt with it. I remember feeling conflicted about the other least popular girl in class. I simultaneously felt sorry for her and was grateful there was someone under me in the 4th grade food chain.  I recognized that made me a bit of a jerk.

Her family lived in a trailer and had less than we did. She didn’t seem to have a good handle on hygiene but I suspect that was because she only had sporadic access to hot water. In the spring we were picking buddies for a field trip and no one picked her so I offered to be her buddy. Looking back I don’t think I had a lot of offers.

One time a kid found milk bone dog biscuits in my desk, that was unfortunate. I had an explanation…….there was a dog I passed on the way home from school and I regularly brought treats for it. That wasn’t the take away that the class latched on to….no from that day forward I was referred to as a dog. That was a thing when I was growing up, ugly girls were referred to as dogs.

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To be continued…….https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/07/keep-on-truckin-part-6/

Keep on Truckin’………Part 4

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Keep on Truckin’………Part 4

In August of 1977 I was living in a mobile home in the northern part of Florida. I was there with my mother and her boyfriend, Frank. My twin brother who started the adventure with us nine months prior was back in our home state of New Jersey. My mother made the trip back with him and I stayed with friends of the family for several weeks until she returned.

Soon after she returned to Florida she tried to kill herself and ended up in a Psych Ward. Mind you I didn’t know she tried to kill herself at the time. I was probably told that mommy needs a break or she is sick and needs to rest. The family friends were probably weary of my company so I landed in an emergency foster home for about 5 days. Nothing horrible happened in the foster home except that I knew this wasn’t normal. My whole life up until that point had not been normal but the emergency foster home made me feel especially isolated and insecure. I was 9 years old and my entire family except for my mother was in New Jersey.

I also wondered why she took my brother back to New Jersey and not both of us. In retrospect I think she was trying to pry herself away from an abusive relationship in what she thought was the safest way. If she left one kid in Florida she could convince Frank that she would come back. If she took both kids he would have been alerted to the fact that the relationship was over and the abuse could have escalated.

Why take my brother and not me? Well being the oldest by a full five minutes, I always acted as his protector. Of course we fought like hell but deep down I would have taken a bullet for my brother and somehow that was known. In fact I would have taken a bullet for him up until I had kids of my own. I was also mentally and emotionally stronger. So I can understand her choice and I am giving her a lot of benefit of the doubt. Any way you slice it….it was a fucked up situation.

A couple weeks after we both got out of our institutional settings, things got nuts. My mother and I were at the mobile home and Frank was out. It was a hot day in Florida typical of August. I was outside playing with a friend. The mobile home had a large window in the front room and I could see my mother motioning my friend and I to move away, so we did. A couple of minutes later a large object came crashing through the window. I told me friend I had to go and went inside to see what was happening.

My mother’s master plan for ending the relationship was to destroy the home. She thought if he sees this level of destruction surely he will let us go. So I helped my mother trash the place. I’m not going to lie it was kind of fun. I threw dishes like they were frisbees. We decorated a framed photograph of Frank with toilet paper and drew a crown on his bald head and renamed him “King Shit”. I threw flour and other food all over the kitchen, we slashed furniture and clothes. We destroyed the place.Featured image

It was all great fun until the cops came. Then I saw my mother get arrested and hand cuffed in front of me. Apparently it was the second time she was arrested since we moved to Florida. I wasn’t present for her first arrest. I was placed in the back of a police car until they figured out what to do with me. My mother was taken off to jail.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/04/keep-on-truckin-part-5/

Keep on Truckin’……Part 3

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Keep on Truckin’……Part 3

My twin brother and I turned 9 in early June of 1977. I still remember my favorite birthday gift, a pink pair of silky smooth bell bottom pajamas with a ruffle halter top. I did some serious dancing in those jammies to Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. It was a good song then and it stands the test of time.

We had been living in Florida with our mother and her boyfriend, Frank, for about 10 months. In that time with lived in a hotel, 2 houses and a mobile home. We attended third grade in two different school districts. Did I mention that we were there for about 10 months?

We also spent a fair amount of time on a boat we named Gemini IV and yes we were all Geminis. It was a 40 foot cabin cruiser and I learned how to fish on that boat. I also tried snorkeling and I remember hearing about sponge divers. We ate out a lot, mostly at Red Lobster which was a new experience for us. We even went to Disney World – somewhere I have a photo of me in orange bell bottoms with Holly Hobbie stitched on the leg bottoms. I was also wearing the ever popular mouse ears.

Featured imageIt was a big year for us filled with adventure and we weren’t broke which was a nice change. Prior to Florida we had lived in a boarding house and various apartments and shack houses. I knew what poor was from a young age. The year before our move we had a secret Santa who dropped off a couple of black hefty bags full of goodies including a Candy Land board game and some Fluff marshmallow spread. I knew what it was to want things that you knew you couldn’t have.

Eventually though the relationship between my mother and Frank started to deteriorate. There were some mamma drama moments. One time my mother ran over our bicycles. Mind you she wasn’t mad at her kids….she ran the bikes over to piss off Frank. The bikes were a gift from his sister and somehow destroying them seemed like a good get-even plan to her. I’m going to assume alcohol was involved in that thought process. She wasn’t the only one who was nuts. I remember seeing Frank drag my mother across the carpet and I was screaming at him to stop hurting her. To her credit she tried to tell me it was OK and that they were having fun. The rug burns told another story.

At some point my mother started to plan our escape. Apparently it was a two part plan. Sometime in the beginning of June she left Florida and took a bus to New Jersey with my brother. She left me behind. Let that sink in a minute…..she left her just turned 9 year old daughter in Florida with a family we knew for maybe two months. The family I stayed with moved into the second house we rented in Newport Richey so at least the house was familiar. The memories are fuzzy but there were at least two daughters and they taught me how to stuff oranges in my shirt to make it look like I had boobs. I also tried smoking and had my first kiss with an Australian boy. What can I say he had me a “‘owdy mate”. it was a hell of a month.Featured image

Somewhere close to July my mom came back to Florida and I went back to living in the mobile home with her and Frank. Within in days my mother went off the deep end and wound up in a Psych Ward. My brother was still in New Jersey and I landed in an emergency foster home. I don’t remember much from my time there I think I was only there about 5 days. The woman who picked me up to take me there told me I had nice eyelashes. That was almost 40 years ago and I remember that simple compliment. I also remember there were other kids there. Some were the foster parents biological kids, others were transients like me. We drank powdered milk which was gross and the dad was a cabinet maker. They liked to watch Little House on the Prairie. I was there for the 4th of July, we watched the fireworks on tv. I also remember it being 7/7/77 while I was there. I was told at the time that it was a special date. It didn’t feel special but it was memorable.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/22/keep-on-truckin-part-4/

Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

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Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

There were a few incidents that I remember from before our trek to Florida that made me think my mom had some problems. There were fights with my father. I remember he got physically violent with her once. I swear I was crawling at the time and people say you can’t remember that far back but I can picture it. Had to be under 2 years old. I remember seeing my father hit my mom across her face as she slid down with her back against the wall. I also remember the verbal assault when my mom was screaming at my stepmother outside of the house where she lived with my father.What a tricky situation for a kid. Three people I adored and my mom was out of her mind, most likely drunk and making a scene on a block where we knew everyone.

Then there was the night when were couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. Our mom woke us up in the middle of the night, she had a bandage on her chin. She told us that she was in a car accident and she just wanted to hug and kiss us. I later found out that she was driving drunk. The cops let her off because it was the 70s and she was pretty. So, drunk driver turned into driver swerved to avoid hitting an animal.

There were of course the family holidays which were an excuse for the adults to get wasted. That always guaranteed some level of dysfunction. I learned at an early age that topics of religion and politics were fine because if they focused on that they left the kids alone. When they tired of those topics the kids became targets. I was smart, kept my mouth shut and generally stayed under the radar….the ones that stood up for themselves got the most abuse. I learned how to blend in like a chameleon.

During our send off/8th birthday party the drunkenness was at expert level. A few people stayed over in our small apartment because they passed out. I shared a bed with one of those. Her name was Eleanore and I adored her. We met Eleanore and her husband Frank when we lived at a boarding house in Point Pleasant Beach. We had one room for the three of us and they had an efficiency which was basically the penthouse in that place. They were kind to us and were very close friends of ours. Anyhow, I woke up the day after the party and the bed was wet. I was mortified. How could I have wet the bed……..wait a minute….I realized my underwear was dry though the sheets next to me were wet. Took my 8 year old brain a minute to realize Eleanore had wet the bed.

Shortly after that party we found ourselves in Florida with my mother’s boyfriend Frank. He was an inventor and he was working on a product that would conserve water in toilets. Sounds boring but the guy was so damn charming, I was in love. We were in Florida for about two weeks when I made the conscience decision to be an adult. Not sure what made me take that mental step. I’m sure I heard bits and pieces of conversations and somehow decided that was the best way to help out.

So I started that day. The four of were living in a Quality Inn hotel room and I started my adulthood by cleaning out the coffee pot. I was going to be a responsible citizen from that point on. Sure enough that year I started to cook family meals, vacuum and do my own laundry. I adored my mother at this point and I wanted desperately to please her. I’m sure that is why I went into adult mode. The adults probably thought it was cute at first and then they realized not so bad this kid can get shit done.

Aside from the Quality Inn we lived in three different houses and went to two different schools. We were in 3rd grade that year. The first house was next to a Drive In Movie Theater…..guess who saw JAWS on the big screen from outside of our house. I’m not going to lie that movie messed me up. We also had a coral snake in our shed once which freaked me out. This house was a bit of a dump if the proximity to a drive in and the snake didn’t already give that away.

The second house was a huge upgrade. We had a lot that went from one street to another. We were near a park and had an orange tree in our yard. We were so complacent we even got a dog. He was a German Shepherd, we named him Duke. My brother and I each had our own room. It was a 4 bedroom house which to me was palatial. I had the chicken pox in that house. I remember taking an oatmeal bath in the brown bathroom. We had a snake in that house once, our cat coaxed it out of hiding and then a neighbor stepped in to finish the job. Did I mention that I really hate snakes?

The third house we lived in was actually a mobile home. For those that are familiar,  it was a double wide which pretty much means what it says. It was a very nice mobile home with new carpeting and I remember I had white furniture in my bedroom. My brother and I had a Jack and Jill bathroom that we shared. Hard to imagine but the downward spiral went quick after we moved in.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/20/keep-on-truckin-part-3/

Keep on Truckin’……..Part 1

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Keep on Truckin’……..Part 1

When I was a little girl I adored my mother. I suppose that is normal, little girls look up to their moms….miss them when they go away for an hour or a weekend or a month. I remember when I was in kindergarten we made plaster hand plagues as mothers day gifts. Mine was a pink circle with a small white plaster hand imprint in the center. I was so excited about giving her that gift that I spilled the beans about it before mothers day.

She was so pretty. Stylish short blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes and a petite figure. She would go out sometimes so she dressed nice and did her make up. She was young, pretty and divorced in the 70s so she went out. She also worked as a cocktail waitress at a couple of popular Jersey Shore bars and she had a great uniform for that. One of her cocktail waitress uniforms was a block style mini dress with alternating black and white blocks she wore high white boots with it…..I can still picture that dress hanging on the bathroom door in our apartment on Beaver Dam Road in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

I can remember her making things fun when we were young. We moved a lot probably due to a combination of equal parts financial hardships and poor decisions. She always made it feel like an adventure. I remember there was a poster in the living room in the place we called “the shack” it was an old guy walking down the road with “Keep on Truckin'” across the top. I remember listening to music – Neil Sedaka, The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross even some Janice Joplin. She read to us at night – Horton the Elephant by Dr. Seuss that was our favorite and she must have read it a thousand times. She was patient, pretty, cool and fun. That’s the mom I miss.

I can pretty much pin point the day that I realized she was in over her head. I was eight years old. We had just traveled from New Jersey to Florida and we were temporarily staying at a Quality Inn. It had a pool and there were little lizards all over the place so basically a kid paradise. But underneath I knew things were f*cked up.

We left the state of New Jersey soon after my twin brother and I turned 8. There was a big party….I think it was promoted as an 8th birthday party for the “twins”. But it was more of a drunken debauchery send off for my mom and I suppose us. My mother had recently won full custody of my brother and I. My father and step mother tried to get us to live with them but they lost in court. So my mom wanted to celebrate by moving us to Florida with her then boyfriend, Frank, who was an inventor and could easily sell ice to an Eskimo.

We drove to Florida in a convertible Cadillac and when we crossed the state line there was a huge sign that read “Welcome to Florida, the Sunshine State.” Even then I appreciated the irony or perhaps it was foreshadowing, it was raining like hell.

To be continued…….https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/17/keep-on-truckin-part-2/

It’s Complicated

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It’s Complicated

So today is a shitty day. It is actually the anniversary of a very shitty, horribly tragic, mind numbing day. One year ago my half brother hung himself, he was 25. I feel I must utter the odd disclaimer: we did not grow up together and I was born more than 20 years before him. We were not close in the traditional sibling way. We didn’t share Christmas or birthdays, we did not jockey for the best passenger seats in the family car or get jealous over the attention one got from mom. I barely knew him but I liked him. Circumstances led us to be primarily facebook friends and let me tell you the kid was funny as hell on facebook. I used to love his posts. He was a musician, a bartender, no doubt a player – the ladies loved him. He was adorable. And he killed himself, I’m still angry about it.

Before you get on my case for being angry let me just stop you and say, it’s a process. Perhaps I should be further along than anger but I’m not so let me be. I don’t have the ocean of sorrow, the missing expected and vastly hallow memories, sadness for new memories that won’t happen, it wasn’t that kind of relationship. What I do have is my own bizarre experience of how it all went down and I am curious if others have been in this particular and peculiar spot. I’m going to try and keep it as brief as possible but it is um….complicated.

So my parents got divorced when my twin brother and I were two years old. Drama. Physical fights, multiple moves, betrayal, screaming, drunks and chaos from my earliest memory. My father saw us on a scheduled and somewhat regular basis until about age 8. He got remarried when we were young, maybe 5 years old?

His second wife, we’ll call her Jenny was so pretty and kind. I remember her long thick, straight hair – brown with some reddish blonde highlights. She used fat hot curlers to achieve her look. She drank Pepsi and had a little dog named Scruffy and she had a birthday party for him. She made me feel like a super model before that was even a thing. She was a teacher and she knew how to work kids, we loved her. Of course we couldn’t tell our mother that.  She was a rage filled, jealous alcoholic. I learned to read her from a young age and I knew that I could not act as if I liked my father or Jenny around her.

When my brother and I were 8 years old my mother and father had a custody battle and mom won. That’s how it was in the 70’s kids went with mom most of the time regardless of how F’ed up she was….we soon moved from New Jersey to Florida with my mother’s then boyfriend.  Now that span of time is a whole other story that I don’t have time for right now but my god the insanity was at expert level.

We were in Florida about one year before that situation imploded in a cops taking mom away in cuffs kind of way…..We wound up back in New Jersey. My brother and I were so excited to see our father again we went to his house at the shore as soon as we could. A different man showed up. I mean the guy looked like my dad but he didn’t act like him. He opened the door, did not invite us inside and talked to us on the stoop. It was obvious even to a 9 year old that he didn’t want us inside the house. Well I determined at that moment that he would not get the better of me and an internal emotional wall was erected to protect myself. My brother chose the slam his head repeatedly against the wall approach. The necessity of either approach sucked.

So for the next 20 years or so my relationship with my father consisted of a Christmas card and a birthday card each with $50 and an obligatory brief thank you from me for each. There were a few skirmishes on the phone when my mom would prompt me to ask him for money for necessities. When I was 15 I went to rehab (I know what a shock) and he came in to sign insurance papers, didn’t bother to visit. My mother made sure to tell me that. At 21 I wrote him a letter as an adult. I acknowledged that I heard one side my whole life and invited him into my life. I got no response. No. Response.

In my late twenties relatives started to die, the old ones mostly. I would see my father and his family (which included 5 kids with Jenny) at funerals and weddings and other large family events. Eventually it became less weird to see them and we started making small talk. My siblings from my father’s second family didn’t even know I existed before then, that must have been an interesting family meeting. In 1997 my aunt became terminally ill with cancer and that increased the sightings. In early 2000 my twin brother and I were there on a random Friday night for pizza. Three days later Jenny died in a car accident leaving 5 kids behind. Ben, the youngest was just 11 years old.

My twin brother and I tried to be there for them. On the day of the accident we rushed to the hospital to meet our father. His oldest daughter from his second marriage was in the car with Jenny and required surgery. A friend of my father’s was with him and when he was introduced he commented that he had never known about me. I was 32, that kind of crap happened all the time but clearly there were other things to think about so I swallowed it down. Made sure the doctors knew that my sister needed to be able to attend her mother’s funeral. I could tell my father needed to communicate that but he wasn’t capable at the time so I said it out loud on his behalf.

My twin and I went to the wake, the funeral, the lunch all the sad events. At one point we were at the wake surrounded by family pictures of our father, Jenny and their five kids and we weren’t in a single photo. We both felt so many mixed emotions in that room that after an hour or so we needed to leave. I felt like I was choking. I mean I wasn’t but I was dry drowning on my own anguish. Jenny was a teacher for 30 years, she had 5 kids and was active in her church there were probably 1,000 mourners. Highway lights were blocked off for her funeral procession it was intense and horrible in all the ways you imagine it would be.

Fast forward 14 years and Ben kills himself. Once again I have a back stage pass to someone’s tragedy. I have expected rights to rituals based on my family label with just a fraction of the closeness the tasks should require. I heard the news from my twin who had stayed much closer with dad’s second family. He lived in the same town for several years and had more things in common like, sailing, beer and music. I’m a stay at home mom who lives far from the beach oh and I don’t drink alcohol, practically another dimension.

As fate would have it I had plans to go to the same shore town that day to visit a friend. So I took my kids to visit with my friend and went to my sister’s house where I had never been before. My father and his girlfriend were there along with my siblings (minus the one I grew up with who was 12 hours away) and Jenny’s best friend who always gives me and my twin death stare daggers when we are in the same room. My sisters were writing the obituary. It was awful and I was useless, awkward and in the way most likely but I felt like I should be there. I didn’t want to make a statement by not being there in my mind that was worse.

The wake was awful as you would expect. People waited for hours to pay their respects. I waited outside for a good amount of time before my twin got me and shuffled me inside. He wanted to get me to wait on the receiving line which just would have been too weird. I felt the building sway with the grief in that room it was surreal and yet here we were again. Another room filled beyond capacity with broken souls aching in their grief filled with pictures of a happy family that I was not really a part of….. I just waited it out feeling like some kind of fraud. I was there for my father and twin brother but the others probably wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t there. I say that without malice it’s just a reflective thought.

The next day was the funeral. I started the day with a last stop at the funeral home where the “family” was saying their last good byes. Those poor kids having to bury another pivotal family member far too soon. My heart broke for each of them and my father. I can’t imagine having to bury my son. It should not happen to anyone. Eventually we cleared out and went to the church for a Catholic service. I took my own car and planned on ducking in the back. My twin was a pall bearer and I just wanted to blend in somewhere.

That didn’t happen. My father saw me outside the church and motioned for me to come over. He had his longtime girlfriend on his left and me on his right. He held my hand and walked me down the aisle to the coffin where a fabric was draped on top he then led us to the front pew. I sat next to his girlfriend and my twin for the service and was motioned to sign a book at some point, it’s a blur. So many emotions swirling through my head it was like an out of body experience.

After the service we went to the cemetery. Once again there was a several miles long procession with a police escort and a salute from the fire department (he was a volunteer), highway lights blocked to other traffic. Eerily similar to his mother’s funeral procession. It was hot and the grief was palpable.  It was as prevalent as the steam coming off the asphalt of the cemetery parking lot. The sobs came in waves, a sea of mourners. They buried him next to his mother.

Beating the Odds

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Beating the Odds

I grew up in a the textbook dysfunctional family. Divorced parents, alcoholic mother, absent father, no money and not a lot of hope. There was verbal abuse, some physical abuse and of course the mental torture that lends itself to that environment. The odds were stacked against me.

I cleaned up after my mom when she got drunk. I was the good little enabler, the peace keeper, people pleasing and overly responsible little kid. It gave me a sense of importance, a purpose. I was needed. No matter how many times my mother told us “I wish you were never born” and she said that frequently, I knew she needed me. I had a purpose and I swore, swore to myself I would never EVER end up like her.

Not sure when I had my first drink but it was a grenade from go. I remember my first real drunk though, it was planned. I stole a bottle of Jack Daniels from my uncle’s stash. He had a large basement bar and I was confident no one would notice the missing bottle. A few days later I rode my bicycle to my friends house and three of us started drinking the Jack Daniels and some beer. We were counting out our shots and I got to 21. Seems I won or lost depending on how you see the world. Now I have to say I felt fine with my 21 shots of Jack and assorted beer until I attempted to stand up….then the world shifted in that carnival spinning ride way and I was in and out of a black out for the next several hours.

I woke up in the hospital with a nurse complimenting my nail polish. I didn’t know how I got there. I did notice that my bra was undone and my jeans were unzipped. I was a 14 year old virgin at the time and required a gynecological exam to determine if my hymen was intact. Fortunately it was and the incident became an early example of how I would put myself in harms way so I could get wasted.

I became what was termed in the 80’s, a garbage head. I would do whatever chemical was available to get high. I was really lucky that there wasn’t a lot of intense stuff like cocaine or heroin. I have no doubt that I would become hooked on anything that was within reach, it is in my DNA. I hitch hiked for a chance to get high. I knocked on random doors if I liked the music I could hear from the street. I was equal parts stupid and selfish with the added affliction of being young and dumb enough to think I was bullet proof. I was a good liar, a fast talker and a quick thinker – honestly that and some invisible force in the universe stopped me from getting raped more than once.

After about a year and a half my mother was sick of her teenage daughter coming home drunk or high. My last drunk left a trail of vomit that led from the front door to my bedroom. I was able to convince everyone except my mother that I had the flu. She knew I was full of shit and decided to send me to rehab.  I was 15 at the time.

I had a pretty cocky attitude about going to rehab. I thought I could write a book about it someday, maybe gain some street greed….what a punk. What actually happened is that I had realization a few days in, some call it a spiritual awakening. It was simply this….I had a moment of clarity where I was certain that I was an alcoholic and an addict and that I needed to get sober. It was as if a new life path was placed before me and I had a moment of sanity where I chose sobriety and I have continued with that choice for more than three decades.

My first year of sobriety was absolute hell. I wrote about it in a ten part blog series called “1 Out of 37”. You can find it on my blog at https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/ I have to say since then my life has improved greatly. I would not be on this path if I wasn’t sober. No doubt about that.