Almost 22 years ago, I entered the halls of Clark High School as a new freshman. Like the others, I was excited to leave behind the insular world of middle school. I looked forward to the more challenging and personalized classes. I was thrilled about the additional freedoms. And I was particularly enthusiastic about the
boys upperclassman boys.
To that end, one class stood out on my printed schedule, 6th Art I. A class that was not restricted to 9th graders and offered my best chances of meeting some of those older boys I had my eye on (it’s pretty funny, by the end of the year, I dated my way through that class much like I dated my way through the gym after the divorce). As luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to a junior with kid eyes, a quick wit and the cutest dimple. And, most importantly, a car. I was smitten.
Over the next few weeks, we got to know each other over our charcoals and tempera. I loved the particular symmetry of his last name and I frequently wrote it on the back of his paper as we passed them in. I was intrigued by his stories of evenings and weekends out with his friends, drawn to the freedoms that a vehicle provides. Although we flirted in class, I figured that I had no chance. After all, I was barely 14 and he had all the wisdom and opportunities of 16 year old:) I was shocked and thrilled when he asked me out a few weeks into the school year.
I was nervous about asking permission from my mom. Although I dated throughout middle school, this was my first Date where no parental transportation was needed. My mom agreed after she devised a “driving test” for him (he drove her to the repair shop to collect her vehicle) and a “counseling session” where he was drilled in the living room. Luckily, he passed and I got to go on my first “real” date where I learned that short skirts and Texas trucks do not necessarily make a good match (the floorboard of that thing was above my waist! I didn’t realize that jumping hurdles was a prereq for dating in Texas).
We ended up dating through much of the fall. He was a drummer and, along with his friends, introduced me to the music I still today – metal, the heavier, the better. It was the beginning of my enigma-laced persona. I’ll never forget attending a metal show wearing a floral pink shirt, surrounded by tattoos, black and mohawks in the mosh pit. I’ve done away with the pink flowers, but I still carry those contradictions.
We had a good run, but like most things, it came to an end. He some issues with an ex girlfriend and moved to a new school around the same time. I ended up in hospital homebound for a couple months after some complications from surgery. I saw him periodically until I was 16 with a car of my own, but then we drifted apart and he faded into memory.
I have a rule that I only check my personal Facebook page from my phone (this helps me stay focused on work on my computer). As a result, I never see the messages that arrive from people outside my friend network. I had a few minutes yesterday afternoon and I decided to check those messages for the first time on over a year. (Note to self: don’t wait so long next time!). There were several messages from men after seeing me on the Jeff Probst Show, one from an old childhood friend (love this part of social networking!) and one from the boyfriend of the fall of freshman year:
Hi Lisa, I really need to let you know something. First, I am in AA and have been sober for 2 1/2 years. Part of me working through my program of recovery is an amends process. I don’t know if you ever knew, but I grew up in a home where both of my parents were alcoholics and drug addicts. However, that does not give me any excuses for any of my actions in life. I wanted to tell you that how I treated you when we were younger was wrong and I wanted to make amends with you. I am asking nothing of you except one thing; I just need to know what I can do, if anything at all, to make it right? And I am not saying you have to forgive me now or ever. My main objective is to let you know that I know what I did was wrong and I am willing to fix it in any fashion you want. It can be anything from “Don’t ever speak to me again!” or to do something for a charity….etc. The options are endless. Finally, to wrap this up, I had to become very honest with my self and make a decision to go to ANY lengths to remain sober and I am doing that today with the help of God and working this program. If you or someone you know ever has questions about this I will always be willing and ready to help. I hope you have read this and if so thank you very much and I hope to hear from you soon.
There are times when people come into our lives at the right time for the right reason. As some of you on here have gathered, I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads lately. A couple weeks ago, I was ready to throw in the towel and end this site, leaving divorce in my past. I was having trouble figuring out how my past fit into my present and I wasn’t willing to jeopardize my future. A conversation with Brock convinced me to keep writing, but I was still uneasy about my decision. Little did I know that the Facebook message above would lead to some profound understanding about embracing the past and using it as a tool.
I responded to his request,
Oh, wow. It’s great to hear from you and to hear that you are doing well. I’m sorry that it’s taken so long for me to respond – I never check these messages. I knew of your home situation and I’m proud of you for your efforts. I still think of you when I listen to certain songs – I credit you with my to-this-day passion for metal:)
I know how tenuous sobriety can be. I have seen so many people start down that road, only to get lost again along the way. I hoped that I would hear back, if only for confirmation that he was still sober and doing okay.
I had nothing to worry about. He soon responded and we engaged in the usual catching up (he’s married with three cute kiddos and works as an engineer) along with reminiscing about the past. Throughout, he was very forthcoming about his addiction and, even more importantly in my eyes, the emotions associated with it.
Because my ex left with no discussion, I try to gain understanding about him and his possible mindset through conversations with others. I learned after he left that he was struggling with alcohol; I found evidence of hidden drinking and he admitted to a problem in a text conversation with my mom. (Related: The Secret Keepers) I saw an opportunity last night to peek into the mind of an addict to try to understand my ex a little better.
The drug, drink, or action are just symbols of a much more real problem. I always tell people who go to an AA meeting and they know they have to stop using drugs, but they think they can drink. That it never was a problem…I tell them “It’s not the WHAT, it’s the WHY”.
I believe in the thought that my past is not a bad shameful one. I’m not proud of it. It has become my greatest tool and to be of service to others in and out of any program…but sometimes my faith in that belief weakens….then the darkness….so on and so on…but the always I know the big picture is better than that moment.
That line hit me hard. It spoke directly to my recent struggle with trying to figure out where to house the past. Once I explained my recent debate, he responded with an excerpt from the AA book:
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
See your past, is your experience.Your experience helps those suffering relate. And your healing and growth….even for those uncomfortable, will begin to see you are actually a greater person…trust me…that growth and healing is a sufferers hope. I know that feeling and concern…TRUST ME…all the hurt people, my children, my coworkers, I smile and become a living example through my actions. My coworkers like who I have grown to be, and I know and proclaim I am not perfect.
So as fars your ex goes…you have to realize that is he was doing only what he could do with the tools he had.
So, now, you own the past, you can own your feelings
Damn. How did that 16 year old punk get to be so wise? It’s amazing how two very different journeys can share some of the same core ideas, emotions and conclusions.
Last night was serendipity. I now feel more at peace with the place of the past. I am more dedicated than ever to using it to continue to reach out and help others.
HATEBREED says “One Flame can light a million”
You helped me in my recovery today…