General Non-Fiction posted May 10, 2018 Chapters:  ...5 6 -7- 8... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
One revelation after another.

A chapter in the book Shaking the Family Tree

Pt 1 Stepping into the unknown.


Wrapped up in the genetic stitching that weaves its way through her families predisposition for alcohol addiction, Dallas accepts the harsh realities of the disease and discovers recovery.
I'm not sure what my expectations were. Did I expect to be cleansed and emerge
as clean as the pure-driven snow? Would I be struck by a bolt of lightning and have
some kind of epiphany? My mind was wearing me out with all of the mental gymnastics, and we hadn't even begun.

For me, working the steps had become a just do it project. Left to my own devices, I would have over-analyzed it, decided I couldn't succeed, and thrown in the towel. That is why a sponsor was so important for my process.

I made it through steps one and two. I knew once I picked up that first drink I was no longer in charge of my actions or behavior. And in step two, I was willing to make the fellowship my Higher Power, understanding that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

When it came to turning my will and life over to a God of my understanding, I was a deer in the headlights. God and I weren't exactly on a first name basis. It wasn't His fault. I had come to the conclusion long ago that he was so busy with more important things, like taking care of others, that I didn't make the priority list. My job, the way I saw it, was to fend for myself. I didn't need any help.

In my early teens, I made a feeble attempt to introduce myself to God. My best friends were all Catholic, and I was intrigued by all of the rituals and mystery. So, I decided I would convert. I informed my parents that I wanted to go to the Catholic school, and they acquiesced. I sometimes wonder, if in my desire to want to fit in somewhere--anywhere--I thought by donning the blue and white uniform of Catholicism that some kind of miracle would occur.
It didn't.

I continued to struggle with my lack of belief off and on for several years. Until it just got old and I no longer cared.

Every time I attended a meeting where God and the third step was the topic, it took everything I had not to bolt. I was beginning to think I would never get it.

Then one evening as I sat in a meeting I don't even remember what the topic was, I received my miracle. In my peripheral vision, a vague, ghostly outline of a white, pocked-marked door swinging halfway open appeared on the wall. I was standing inside the door, and an image of Christ was there on the other side, gently tapping. In that split second, I realized He had been there all along, waiting for an invitation to step inside.

Imagination? A hallucination? Who knows. It doesn't matter. It was the motivation I needed to move on, and I haven't questioned it to this day.

I would never have been able to progress to the fourth step, which is taking a personal inventory, without accepting the concept of some kind of higher power. The steps are arranged in a specific order for a purpose. The cleaning house steps which are four through ten all require at least a smidgen of spirituality.

The biggest hurdle I faced in step four was coming to terms with how my disease had affected my children. Because I sought escape, rather than solutions, they had been denied a healthy loving environment in which to grow emotionally. Without realizing it, I had done the same thing I accused Steve of doing. I had taken my own children hostage.

Chaos and denial co-existed in our home. The only kind of attention that seemed to be forthcoming in our house was the wrong kind. I threw an invisible sheet over the elephant in the living room and walked around it daily, kids in tow. And every time that elephant began to disrobe, I took a drink. The atmosphere in our home was always charged, ready to go off at the drop of a hat. We were never sure what we did to trip the wire. It could range anywhere from me wanting money to buy the kids a birthday gift, or send them to a Catholic school, to Luke looking at Steve the wrong way. Nick and Jake learned to stay out of the way. They knew how to fade into the woodwork.

When he wasn't screaming and raging, Steve would sit in his chair for hours, exhaling vapors of stone cold silence into the mounting apprehension that filled the room. And if that weren't enough to intimidate us into supplication, he would fix his hateful gaze and stare into empty space for hours. The silence was the most frightening because we never knew when there might be a volcanic eruption. We could sense it, rumbling beneath the surface of our trepidation.

Family dinners were a treat. Steve was either raking me over the coals for something or hitting one of the kids over the head with a spoon. He rarely missed a chance to put Luke down. Whether it was in front of company or at family gatherings, he would repeatedly seize the opportunity to openly criticize him for the most minute transgressions. If it wasn't about something he did, it was how he didn't measure up to Steve's expectations. The look of embarrassment on Luke's expression mirrored that of whoever was being subjected to witnessing the ongoing assault. It was pure mortification.

Why didn't I defend my child? Because I was terrified of him, afraid that in doing so I would incur his father's wrath even further and make it that much worse for Luke. So I leaned on alcohol, telling myself that the next day would be different. It would be better. A drink was the only thing that allowed me to live with myself.

By the time Luke was nine, he had already learned that he couldn't trust me. The incident that informed me of that fact is seared into my memory bank of failures. He had been invited to Mary's, his best friend's birthday party. The invitation appeared to have been an afterthought, arriving just one day before the party. Mary went to a different school so Luke did not know too many of the other kids. Wanting to make an impression, he decided to take his new phonograph and some records. Head held high and full of expectations, he marched down the front steps and across the street to Mary's house.

Twenty minutes later, I heard the front door slam shut. When I looked down the hall, I saw Luke, head hung low, dragging himself up the steps. The phonograph and records were left sprawled on the bottom landing. Before I could ask what happened, he brushed past me and went into his bedroom without saying a word.

When a child hurts, the mother's pain is almost symbiotic. The need to console him was an aching knot in my chest. I was determined to get to the bottom of whatever happened. I found him laying on his bed, staring at the constellations painted on his ceiling. As I lay down beside him, he turned away and curled up into a ball. When I wrapped my arms around him, he stiffened and move away. The line in the sand had been drawn. But I refused to be rebuffed. The ache in my heart swelled as I stroked his head, trying to coax the pain from the wounded child that lay rigid beside me.

"Luke, honey. Please tell me what happened." The roughness of the worn chenille bedspread dug into my cheek. "Come on, baby." The lump in my throat was constricting my breathing. "You can tell me. Please don't hold it in." The dead silence that hung in the air thundered the unspoken accusation that prevented my nine-year-old son from confiding in me.

I don't trust you to protect me.

Hit with the realization that any further attempt to console him was futile, I raised my head, and left my failure drowning in the tears on his pillow; my tears.

Why was I unable to comfort my son? I had no excuse. It was the alcohol. It allowed me to overlook the mounting evidence of what living in such a dysfunctional environment was doing to my children and me. It helped me shove it down that dark bottomless pit where responsibility and accountability were buried, unable to surface.

Nick and Jake didn't spark Steve's animosity, he simply ignored them. That didn't ease the fact that because I was so adept at standing on my head trying to keep the peace, and escaping reality via alcohol, that they didn't also pay a hefty price for being raised in those conditions. They tucked their scars away in their invisibility.


A blanket of denial warmed me, tucked me in, and made me safe. I crawled into its cavity and curled up in the illusion, smothered myself in delusion. 'Tomorrow will be better,' it whispered. Take another drink. So I did. And for what seemed an eternity, nothing changed.

weighted in alcohol,
my caterpillar
sprouted wings, but couldn't fly

Layer by layer, recovery skinned me like an onion. It spared no tears. It yanked away all of my excuses. Left me sprawled naked on the scorching beach of reality.

Answers preceded questions. Yes, I can quit anytime. The liquid courage, the coffin nails, the sugar-coated calories. What do they call it? Yeah, that's it. Comfort foods. Relationships...they belong in a category all of their own.

Okay, okay, I hear ya' Lord. Let's just do one at a time. We can start with the most harmful.
And we did. Thus began the wildest ride of my life. The uphill climb. Summit in sight...Son of a bitch everything is real equals S O B E R.
twenty-four hours
makes anything possible
one day at a time

The fourth, fifth and ninth steps were challenging because they required in order; total honesty, deflation of ego, and accountability. I couldn't have tackled them without Sara's help. She was the key to discovering the rewards waiting behind each curtain. She knew when I was ready to move on, explained how each step should be approached, and didn't allow me to beat myself to death in their execution.

One of the greatest miracles I experienced in doing the steps occurred one Saturday afternoon while I was agonizing over my failure as a parent. My pen refused to commit it to paper. In taking inventory, I had made a long list of my defects, offset by my assets. As suggested, I gave detailed examples of both. The list incorporated almost every area of my life, except for the most important--the one that caused me the most pain. If it continued to fester, I knew it could take me back out
Crouched over the dining table, reading the same lines over and over and lighting one cigarette off of another, I wasn't even aware that Luke had let himself in the front door and was towering over me.

"What are you doing there, Mom?" He asked.

Startled, I knocked the ashtray off the table and slammed the notebook shut. He stood there waiting for an answer. The game was up; I was never good at lying.

I turned around and looked up at the sober young man standing tall in front of me; clean shaven, eyes bright and focused, hands steady and no longer shaking. I was overwhelmed with both gratitude for the miracle of his sobriety, and shame for not having been there emotionally for all three of my children when they needed me.

I told him the truth. "I'm working on my fourth step."

"What?" Luke didn't bother to contain his surprise.

He pulled a chair up beside me and sat down. "You should have been done with that weeks ago. What's the hold up, Mom? Don't you think it's time to move on?"

Damn it. I could feel my lips trembling. I tried to hold back the tears. My kids didn't like to deal with a lot of emotion. It made them uncomfortable. Years of running from it, hiding behind false bravado, inappropriate humor, and in Luke's case, alcohol influenced their approach to problems and solutions. To this day, all three prefer to deal on a cerebral rather than a feelings level.

When I told him I was stalled on the ugly reality of how much I had let he and his brothers down when they were growing up, he looked at me incredulously. The wisdom that followed released me from the bondage that was anchoring me to the past.

"Mom, if I can forgive you, and your higher power forgive you, then who are you not to forgive yourself?"

He said it so matter-of-factly that it began to make sense. He stood up, gave me a quick hug and was on his way.


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