I started smoking again the night my husband tried to kill himself. It was around 3am in the ER and my friend, Rosario (who refused to leave me alone no matter how many times I told her she could go home), had the “warm” blankets you get in a hospital piled on top of a Sharps container. We were trying to make pillows as we tried to sleep sitting completely straight in our metal and vinyl and plastic chairs. The thought came to me like a lightning bolt.
“I’m going to start smoking again. I think I deserve it.”
Feel free to judge, but smoking on my front porch has felt like a lifeline these last several months when there is no one in my club at all. No one I know is in the my-spouse-tried-to-kill-himself-and-lived-club. No one is looking to join. Just me and my cigarettes and the front porch and Jesus who I think is still pretending He doesn’t see the smoke rings around my head.
But the fact of the matter is this: A nuclear bomb went off in my family. Everything was flattened. Every inch was leveled. And we have been left with some hard truths.
First, your family is not ok if one member is not ok. Your family is not functioning if one member isn’t functioning. The rest of you can make a million concessions and put bandaids on problems, but until you’re willing to say someone is not ok, you’re just stuck. Communication is a life saver. And I have said 882 times since January, the older you get, the more life is made up of hard conversations. Have those conversations. Have them when you hate what the other person is saying, or you can’t believe it, or you feel like your head might explode. Have the hard conversations. Avoiding crap serves no one.
Next, I often told folks these last 20 years, “Corey is the glass is half empty, and I am the glass is half full. We balance each other out.” Hear me now: You cannot balance another person out. They are a whole person. You are a whole person. They have to become balanced on their own. You cannot do it for them. They cannot do it for you. You can want to balance them with your whole heart, but, again, they are an entire human. Counseling and medication are a very real part of our home. Anti-Depressants are real. Saying you’re not ok and making an appointment with your counselor is real too. And these realities are game changers for someone who needed more than I could give him. Although our glass analogy was really cute for two decades.
Also, the trauma from someone’s past cannot be erased by their present. Hear me on this. A person can move on and grow and learn and begin to recognize their triggers. A person can be healed. But in my personal experience healing looks a lot like knowing and vocalizing when you’re not ok. It looks like management on some days. And for Corey it looks like knowing the trauma from his past can still pop up on random holidays, or when a family member sends you pictures of your abuser, or when your abuser says you deserved what you got…or tries to guilt you into feeling sorry for THEM. And I think I kept thinking our life, our present, could make his past obsolete. I wanted to not be dealing with someone who’s entire life was impacted by the trauma of his childhood. But it was. And it is. And at some point, my trying to make him be happy because of our current happy life just wasn’t going to work anymore.
We are four ½ months home from the hospital. I want to wrap up this story for you in a pretty little bow…with a life lesson and some Jesus attached. I want to tell you my kids are unscathed and unscarred. I want to tell you I’m not a mess. I want to tell you I quit smoking. Some days I feel stronger than I have ever felt in my life, and some days I feel like I can’t find a place to put my feet…there is no solid ground anywhere…and I’m steering a yacht clearly underwater and I have one oar…and I won’t give up.
So, if this story looks anything like your story…If this story makes you have to breathe in and out a whole bunch…if you have ever sat and stared as your entire life went up in flames…on a random Wednesday while you made dinner…This is just me saying that you’re not alone. This is just me saying that I don’t have any timeline or flowchart or theorem to make the hurt and the sadness end. And this is just me saying I see you. You did the best you knew how. And I believe in better days…full of honesty…full of hope…and full of wholeness for all of us.
I have a glass of tequila and a cigarette waiting for you if you need a front porch to sit on…I’ll make some room.