Monday, November 17, 2014

Lost In Madness

Keeping what happened simple.

Shortly after RR died I left my teaching career.  I always worked with at-risk youth in non-traditional classrooms in places such as Allegheny County Jail and Shuman Detention Center, etc.  I just could not do it anymore.  I could not bear the thought of questions about my husband.  Plus, I could not hold a conversation with anyone without crying.  (That lasted for years!)

While I was still pregnant with Ethan, several local musicians and friends came together and put on a benefit concert for me and the kids.  It was called “Friends of Rich Rust” and it was bittersweet.  I loved seeing how loved he was.  Plus, it helped to cushion the financial blow of going from two decent salaries to zero.  And, of course, we did not have life insurance – it never even crossed our minds before cancer.  He was only 32.

I was able to put a down payment on the house in North Hills where we still live.  I spent about two years not working, sending the kids to daycare, spending recklessly and steadily increasing the number of glasses of wine it took in the evening to not feel or dream.

Funds ran out and I had to go back to work.  I took a job in the treasury department of a pretty big Pittsburgh based corporation.  Oh dear - rapid decline in my emotional health which was already delicate.

Corporate America is terrifying.  “I am a social services person!  What am I doing here?”  I’m a “hey, somebody save that whale” kind of person.  I pretty much spent my time there working on the “Penske file”.

Guilt.  I cried everyday on my way to work.   It was a sense of how can I possibly move forward without Rich.  It was unnatural.  There were people who had to report to ME.  I prayed everyday that they would not cross my office threshold with questions.   

On the plus side – those folks were drinkers!  “Two-beer Tuesday?”!!  Count me in!  I started in mid December and on my second day - there was a luncheon at the Sheraton Station Square.  My new boss handed me a glass of wine at 11am.  “Nice.  I’m going to get along just fine here.”    

Soon enough two-beer Tuesday became every day at the bar downstairs.  If only it ended there, but it would continue at home until I had to begin the next day. 

One Friday evening after imbibing in more than my share, again, I drove home.  There was nothing unusual about that.  I was having a daily pity party.  No one else was invited nor did I think of anyone else.  I pulled into my driveway and the police pulled in right behind me.    

I imagine that for most people a DUI would be horrifying and embarrassing enough to pause and think about where your lack of concern for yourself, your children and for society is taking you.  It just does not work that way when you are lost in the madness of addiction.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What It Was Like

I owe my life to a power greater than myself I choose to call God.  I fell into a pit that I didn’t think I could get of.  I used to say it started when Rich died, but that’s not true. 

I always had a depressive and addictive personality.  I have memories of when I was a child watching myself in the bathroom mirror as I cried.  Maybe I had a reason.  Maybe I was born that way, but I always felt alone.  I remember daydreaming.  I would go off by myself and not want to be disturbed so I could live the other life I created in my mind.  I was a boy named Danny and I had a dad.  That’s really all I can remember about it.  I know now it was how the child me escaped.

I spent some tween years with anorexia.  This also was about escape.  When I was 10 I was diagnosed with scoliosis.  I started wearing the Milwaukie brace the summer before I began 6th grade.  It was a solid piece of plastic that wrapped around my abdomen.  A thick bar stretched up to my chin and wrapped around my neck.  Two thinner bars went down my back to connect with the body of the brace.  I wore it until 9th grade.  Talk about traumatizing…  I systematically stopped eating and started exercising an absurd amount of time.  I wanted to shrink and hide.  Isolating myself began.  I was addicted to starving.

After a lengthy stay at Children’s Hospital and my “secret” was revealed I was able to get through the physical damage it caused.  The emotional damage had never been addressed.

I had no sense of self as a teenager.  I was emotionally stunted.  I didn’t know how to make new friends in a high school that tripled in size from one school year to the next.  I certainly didn’t know how to maintain any sort of relationship on any level. 

My addictive personality and my wanting to escape from myself found the best thing ever – alcohol.  Drinking on the weekends became the norm.  I blacked out at the very first high school party I attended.  It was fruity, numbing bliss! I found the answer.  It didn’t matter how I felt because I couldn’t feel it.  Perfect.  College was even better.  Everyone was drinking every night!  At least I thought they were.

Then I met Rich.  He did not drink every night – hardly at all, in fact.  I calmed down a lot, but he knew there was something in me that could get quite ugly when mixed with alcohol. I knew it, too.  I finished college.  I finished graduate school.  I became a teacher of at risk youth.  I married the man I loved.  I had a beautiful daughter and was expecting a son.  Then Rich died.

All my untreated crazy erupted!  The easiest escape was to drink it away.  Slowly at first.  Soon my self-confidence, self-respect, self-worth, personality, laugher, career  and much more, but worst of all, my children were gone.

Stayed tuned for what happened.