Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Born Dependency

You know in those Bourne Identity movies how Matt Damon enters a restaurant and without even looking up from his menu he can tell that there is a man inside a phone booth across the street wearing a red tie and that the man dresses himself on the left side and speaks with a German accent? Well I’m kinda’ like that except of course I only have one passport and no muscle. I have no interest in what color tie anyone is wearing at any given moment but as the adult child of an alcoholic I can tell you the mood of everyone else in the restaurant right on down to the dishwasher and whether or not he is on edge and might need some alone time.
My dad has been friends with Bill W for about 16 years. I am not supposed to write that. I think. Anonymous and all. In Health class in the 10th grade we watched an after-school special starring Martin Sheen as an alcoholic father. In the movie he drank straight from the bottle and then flew into a rage and kicked the patio furniture into the swimming pool. We had a pool but no plastic patio furniture so I was in the clear and spent the class writing notes to my friend Tawna. Are you and Jason going to do it? Priorities. At night the lamps in my house would be dimmed and my dad would disappear into his office with a glass of cognac and some pot. My mom would have to remind my brother and I to turn down the tv. Our house was quiet and we all spent the evening in our respective bedrooms.
Bryan does not know how to read moods. He has muscle but only one passport like myself and he cannot ever tell when I want to be left alone. Is that Halle Berry? He leans over my shoulder when I am at the computer looking at a photo of Kim Kardashian’s butt. No, I say, the lights around me dim. Are you sure? he asks. Bryan’s mother does not know Bill W., nor does she need to meet his acquaintance. And so Bryan leans down farther into my personal space and I can feel my chest tightening.
Zoey is not a morning person. Nor is she a 4pm person. Or a person who takes the tear in a Hello Kitty sticker in stride. She does not like hair in her face or cheese in her eggs. She does not take kindly to whistling. Instinctively I know these things, not just because I am her mother but because I am codependent, hypervigilant to any change in the air around me. She hates me, Bryan says sometimes and of course he is wrong. It’s just that he is healthy and cannot tell that when she sits in that corner of the couch with her sippy cup tilted at an angle just so that it all means to give her some space. And me? I know because I am an al-anon action hero, a codependent CIA operative who will forever study the menu feeling the mood.
p.s. True to my codependent label I must make it clear that my dad is now sober, has made his amends. He is a wonderful father and nothing like Martin Sheen. And I am nothing like Matt Damon. Although Bryan is very much like Franka Potente. Schei├če Manni!


Anastácio Soberbo said...

Hello, I like this blog.
Sorry not write more, but my English is not good.
A hug from Portugal

Megan said...

Congratulations to your dad, all those years sober is quite an accomplishment. As someone who comes from a family with a long history of addiction on both sides, I know what kind of personal integrity it takes to get to that place.

darlabug said...

I can so relate to you. I am an adult child of an alcoholic mother. She was very much like Mommy Dearist and Sharon Stone in Casino. I could hardly bear to watch Casino because she was so much like my mother. Congratulations to your father.

s. said...

And, congratulations to you, dear P-Face. It's hard growing up with an addict in the family, and you've done a beautiful job at creating a healthier environment for your own daughter. Yay, you.

hej said...

Roll on, girl.

Anonymous said...

I remember passing notes as a freshman speculating if seniors, tawna and jason were doing it. Yes, priorities. You are hilarious, love your blog. I can't remember my password... have to sign "anon"

Mrs. Blandings said...

When I first talked to a counselor about my crazy mother, he handed me literature about having alcoholic parents and said, "Emotionally, it's the same thing." I, too, can read the mood of the person two tables away, and the waitress who is about to dump his pasta in his lap. When it's not making you crazy, or nervous, it is a good by-product of a very bad thing. Oddly, my husband is the golden retriever puppy type as well. Often, I envy him, even though I think he's totally clueless.

Visual Vamp said...

You know you don't have to be an al-anon codependent to feel this way. Most women feel this way about their husbands or partners every so often, and sometimes even about their friends. There's some goofy saying running through my head, something like, be free to be you and me...WTF. Anyhoo, I hate when anyone looks over my shoulder when I'm writing. Maybe it's a writer's thing instead of a mean psycho bitch wife thing (and I am not talking about you).

Melissa said...

The sixth sense. Or seventh. The sixth was used up for that movie.

Dani said...

I don't think your sense of awareness is abnormal. Honestly, I admire it. Its an amazing gift to be able to read people... and have self-awareness at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I was told that I was emotionally unavailable and codependent. I didn't volunteer for the diagnosis, but went to my daughter's treatment centre because rules required that whoever was paying for her treatment had to do a week long session at the centre. It was pure hell. There were other forces at work, and I still feel I was ambushed.

Even in that setting I was focused on how the other group members were feeling - deflecting away as usual.

I, too, scope the restaurant. I know who's scared, lying, hurting. Not so good at picking up the happy stuff.

Thanks for that. Good for your dad. My daughter made it also!

Richie Designs said...

my step dad never became a friend of Bill W. He should have.

So one of the skills I learned in coping with some insane is to read a mood at 3 paces. Kind of like..."Can you name that tune" in 3 notes?

I can tell if someone is not well by the way they close a door, the way they walk, the smile they have on that day.

It's a good skill to have in the business world but one you learn only after many, many days of not understanding what you've done wrong.

happy bday. 36 is nothing.

try being 39 and wanting a child. Now that's staring at the face of a number straight in the eyeballs.

~M said...

Oh Susannah (bet no one ever says that to you), I dearly love your blog. I, too, can read when someone needs space, but my son's daycare provider has taught the kids to ask for it and it is awesome. Really helpful as we live with my mother who loves to act like a toddler with my son, "Nona, I need some space." It is great, but also hysterical (I only laugh when he can't see/hear me). Btw, how did you score a husband that's like Franka Potente? Man, you've got it all!