Feeling the Hard Feelings
My sister, Jen, experienced an awful trauma this last week that will likely impact her for a long time, if not forever. My brother in law mistakenly left their beloved black lab in his car in the morning before work and forgot she was asleep in the back seat. She passed away and the entire family is just broken. I don't know any of the details of what happened, because no one in my family will talk about it. It is just too painful. They are trying to deal with the shock of the tragedy and make sense of it on their own terms. Her two teenage children seem to be doing better than my sister and brother in law, but overall it's an awful situation.
I am just heartbroken for them all. I wish they would talk more to me about it all, but that's not how my family works. I don't know any details about what happened, because no one can discuss it. Not my mom, or my other sister Laura. It is too painful to even talk on the phone. So I am left wondering - what actually happened? Does Jen need a grief counselor? Are her kids actually okay?! Can we all just talk it out?!
I understand this was extremely traumatizing to my sister and her husband. I remember losing my dog Maggie in college, and her absence left a small hole in my heart still to this day. Not everyone can just dump their feelings out on the table like me, sit around and talk all day about what is bothering them. Not everyone is capable of working through their emotions until they feel cleansed and ready to face the day. Some people still want to hide. And that is what I did for the past 20 years, I just used booze.
I need to have compassion for my sister and where she is right now. I need to be mindful of where I am.
This whole event of Sadie brings up some sad, disturbing memories of my drinking days. It reminds me of when I passed out drunk in the passenger seat of the car in the cold, dark garage after a heavy evening of drinking at a family dinner at the neighbor's. The thing that hurts is that Parker was only a baby and she was strapped to her carseat in the back of the car with me. Evan found her crying, covered in tears and discovered me hunched over asleep in the front. He had been upstairs putting the boys to bed, and I was supposed to be getting Parker out of the car and into her crib. I wrote about this on my blog early on in my sobriety, and this memory clearly still haunts me to this day. It is one of those things that I can't let myself forget, and it still hurts me tremendously.
Don't see, don't tell, don't feel. Those are the actions of people who abuse alcohol. That was what I did when I drank. It is the way I avoided most problems in my life, and probably what I was doing that night that I got so drunk at the neighbor's that I passed out in the car. I was avoiding.
I am grateful that I am no longer running and hiding. Even when I don't want to, I sit in my feelings. I know I cannot escape the things that scare me, or hide from them behind a bottle of wine. I know I have to learn to face it all eventually.
No matter how much I continue to focus on moving past the shame and working through the mistakes of my past, I still need to show myself some grace. And I need to accept and appreciate that remembering these mistakes do not define me. I need to forgive myself.