Oh, Those Well Meaning Folk!

Many years ago, during the period of time I refer to as my Dark Days, I worked in a small indie coffee shop. There were a few other indie coffee shops in the surrounding area, and we were really the opposite of hip at the time, so it was fairly slow there. We had our morning rush of office workers who didn’t want to wait in the long lines at other places, a few daytime regulars, and our nighttime crowd who hung out until close.

Most of the people I saw there, I got to know by name. Because my then-fiance would stop in to check on me a few times a day, they got to know a bit about my situation at the time. For most people, their first reaction was to try and offer me help.

Without getting into much detail, I was in a relationship that was highly abusive in multiple ways. I wasn’t able to eat properly, was constantly tired, my hair had started thinning from malnutrition and stress, and I was working at least 6 days a week and sometimes up to 14 hours a day.

Most of the people I talked to throughout the day offered me some sort of help. For the most part, it was little things. One woman would offer to buy me sandwiches on my break. A gentleman was always offering me cigarettes so that I wouldn’t have to go through mine on my very limited budget. Others just let me sit and talk to them when the shop was slow.

One well-meaning woman went too far. This woman knew my mother, and my mother did not know where I was working at the time. I was not living at home, and was not exactly on speaking terms with my family. This woman, from talking to both myself and my mother, knew this. She knew that I was not mentally in a place where having long talks with my mother would help my situation, and that my mother seeing me in the state I was in would be of no help to her.

Still, she felt the need to go to my mother. She told the state I was in, where I was working, what my schedule was there, and anything else she could think to tell her. She told her bits of things, out of context, that she had overheard me talking about with other customers and friends. She told her things she thought about my situation, without know much about my situation.

Basically, this woman got my mother all worked up into a tizzy, told her exactly where she could find me, and didn’t tell me any of this. I only found out when my mother showed up at the coffee shop one day. In her mind, this is how that day would’ve gone:

My mother would walk into the coffee shop during a slow period, and see me standing behind the counter. All of our fights would be completely forgotten the second we saw each other, and I would run to her arms. We’d hug, we’d cry, I would beg her to take me away from my awful situation and we’d leave right that very second.

Magical, isn’t it?

That’s not what happened, though. Instead, my mother showed up one day while I was working. We had an awkward hello, she ordered a coffee, and sat down while I served other people. We made some forced small-talk about my siblings and dad, and then the hushed fighting started. How could I disappoint them like this? Why did I have to be so stubborn? Why couldn’t I just leave my fiance because my parents don’t like him?

That was in April. My mother and I didn’t talk again until well into the summer. Any progress we had made in our relationship, no matter how little it was at the point, was gone.

That’s the problem with being well-meaning: you have a certain idea of how things will work once you fix them for someone. You don’t take into account how the other parties will be affected, what harms you may be doing, how those you’re “helping” will perceive your “help”, or if your help is even wanted. People who are well-meaning usually come off as meaning well for themselves, not for the greater good.

Now, that’s not to say you should stop helping people all-together. Remember, I had a lot of people help me out in that time. There were times when I probably would’ve have eaten for days at a time if it weren’t for the kindness of others. There are some big differences between help and well-meaning help, though.

1) Does the person want any help right now?

Sometimes, people just want to work things out for themselves. They may not think their situation is as dire as you seem to. Or maybe they’re stubborn and determined to pull themselves out of whatever situation they’re in.

Jumping in to help a person who doesn’t want help can scream “you’re a failure and can’t do this on your own” to them, no matter your intentions. If someone is really trying to pull their life together on their own, and are proud of the progress they’ve been making (no matter how small that progress seems to you), you can’t just jump in and try to take control. If they don’t want any help right now, you can’t force any on them.

2) What kind of help do they want right now?

In my Dark Days, I would never turn down free food. At one point, I had to make a box of macaroni and cheese last me 3 days because I had no other food in the house for myself. There were times when I actually ate out of a donut shop’s dumpster to survive. If someone had come up to me and offered to buy me a burger from McDonald’s, I’d have to resist the urge to tackle them in a giant bear hug. Food was the one thing I always seemed to need.

Do you know what did me no good at all? Money. Part of my problem at the time was financial abuse in my relationship, and I had to turn over all money to my fiance so he could “track” my finances. He came with me to cash my paycheques, he gave me a small allowance, and he needed to know where every penny I spent went. If I came home with any extra money, or bought things that couldn’t be accounted for with the meager amount of money I was allotted, I was in deep horse turds.

I know that one of my friends is always in need of socks and shoes. I can’t afford to be buying him shoes every time he loses his, but I can get a 20-pack of socks for $10 at Giant Tiger and buy a dozen pairs of good thick socks at Dollarama to keep in my car for him. Giving him money to buy socks is not going to get him socks. There’s very few places to shop for clothes in the area he stays in, and most places don’t like to let homeless people in, especially when they’re a bit stinky. If he tells me he needs socks, I give him socks. If he says he needs a toque, or gloves, or a clean t-shirt, then that’s what I’ll find him. Giving him money for these things isn’t going to get them for him.

3) What kind of help are you willing to give?

I will tell you right now, if it were financially possible I would put a roof over Strength’s head in a heartbeat. I would fill his closet with clean clothes, fill his kitchen with food, and make sure he got any help or opportunity his gigantic heart desires. I would make sure he was safe, and warm, and didn’t have to ever worry about find a spot in an alleyway to sleep in in the middle of winter.

I know that’s not something I can afford to do.

Here’s the thing, though: there are things that I may be able to afford to do, but just aren’t practical or helpful to either of us. As much as I want to bring that boy home with him, let him shower and do laundry, and them wrap him in a blanket like a giant burrito to watch movies all night with AAB and the kitten crew while I cook mass amounts of food for them, that’s not going to help any in the long run. I cannot risk losing my home because he brings drugs with him, or his drug-related mood swings cause problems with the neighbours. I can’t move him in with me, because I know I cannot leave a meth addict that no one else in the house knows or trusts alone there while I am at work.

In order to take care of him like that, I would practically have to restructure my life around him. I would have to keep tabs on him, bring him to work with me when I’m at the library, find somewhere for him to go while I’m working at the store. I would have to be financially responsible for his rent, his food, and even help out gathering up basic belongings and clothing for him. That goes well beyond what I am willing and able to do right now.

What I can do, which he says he appreciates, is what I do for him now. I bring him warm clothes and old blankets in the winter. I take him out for coffee, try to feed him. I keep bags of snacks in my car for him. I’ve taken him out in my car to go out for coffee, just so he can rest his feet and get out of the cold (but there are some massive rules when he’s in the car, like he has to turn out all his pockets and bags to show me he has nothing illegal with him).

Now, if I won the lottery tomorrow, it would be a whole different story. I have a well thought-out plan to help quite a few people, with him being the first. But until that happens, I have to set my limits and only do what I am willing and able to do.

4) Why are you helping them?

There is nothing wrong with enjoying that warm, fuzzy feeling you get in your heart when you help someone. Good deeds give people good feelings. If you’re helping someone out of the goodness of your heart, then revel in that warm, fuzzy feeling. That warm, fuzzy feeling is pure goodness.

I do know some people who can’t lend someone a quarter for the phone without taking pictures of the good deed and cross-posting it on every piece of social media they have accounts on. They spend weeks hyping up a charity event, only to have that event do more for them in the public eye than it does for those it was supposed to help.

People like this are in it purely so others will look at them and start heaping on praise. Yes, they may do some good for others, but it can come at a price. They could monopolize fundraising for a certain charity, only to do a poor job of it. Their lack of commitment to a cause can drive others away from it. Or, others could associate them directly with that cause, and not volunteer because they don’t want to deal with them.

I’m stuck with this dilemma right now. There are a few events I’ve signed up for that benefit a certain cause, all for different local charities. For some of these, I will be volunteering with two gentlemen who are very vocal on social media about their activism and charity work. One, I am thrilled to be working with, and others have asked me about him. Yes, he posts a lot online, but he’s doing so just to draw attention to causes. He’s spoken on TV and in the media about things, and declined interviews for others for fear that it draws more attention to him than the message at hand.

The other gentleman…….. well, he’s very active online. More than once (or a dozen times) when I’ve mentioned to people that he will be at an event, they’ve responded with eye rolls. He grabs the spotlight, even when he’s trying to shove others into it. In the beginning people were impressed with the work he was doing. Right now, a lot of the people I’ve talked to are just sick of him. Sadly, these same people don’t want to be associated with events he is a part of, which is hurting my personal fundraising goals.

Do it for the feels, not the fame.

At the end of the day, Sunshine, you can mean well without being well-meaning. You can do a world of good, and make life around you shine as bright as you. You can bring happiness and joy to people’s lives, make a difference in the lives around you, put smiles on faces. You can be the good in the world that you want to see. Just please, make sure that good is good for all the right reasons, and in all the right ways.

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What’s Holding You Back?

So I’ve been reading through my old posts on here the last week or so, just seeing how much has changed in my life. Looking back, I have been making the same non-resolution for years every January. Each and every year, I swear that THIS is the year I get out of the House of Random Strangers and get my very own grown-up apartment. And at the end of every year, I have still been sitting at my desk in the House of Random Strangers, wondering where it all went wrong.

Having my own apartment has been a huge dream of mine for a very long time. When I first moved out of my parents house for good, more than a decade ago, the goal was to get a cute little apartment somewhere and make it my own. Instead while I was in school, I shared houses and apartments with other people, never getting the chance to even decorate. I have lived with the majority of my belongings crammed into one little bedroom, sleeping on a twin bed (and sharing the bed with AAB for the last few years), basically a hermit in an ever-growing collection of crap. I don’t have the room to sort through my things, so they seem to keep accumulating.

Recently, while helping a few people look for places of their own, I had to look at a few apartments online. I started having dreams about living in my own cute little apartment, just me and the Still Adjusting to a New Space Bowser Kitten. It had wide window ledges big enough for some herbs or small potted plants, and a radiator heater. The floors were old hardwood, and the paint on the walls was a little faded. But it was mine, with all of my books and ugly furniture arranged exactly as I wanted them.

I wake up from dreams like that and start to wonder why I don’t have my own place, and started to actually listen to the reasons that pop up in my head. I have too much stuff that I’ve been cramming away into drawers and shelves for the 5 years I’ve lived in this house. This is the only real home Bowser has ever known. I don’t have a set amount of hours I’m given at either of my jobs, so I can’t really create a real budget to know what I can afford. If I move now, I have to figure out if having AAB move with me is a good idea.

Basically, I’m afraid. I know there are a lot of decisions I have to make in my life that I’ve been putting off, and the act of moving into my own place means I have to address pretty much all of them. I have to face all of the issues in my relationship with AAB, face my fear of financial instability, and face the fact that I can easily go through my crap and downsize but just choose not to.

Fear is what is holding me back, and that thought makes me laugh. I’m not a fearful person. My coworkers are always telling me that with some of the stupid things I do, I’m going to get “murder stabbed” on my break at work some day.

Case in point: there is a beautiful alley way full of professionally done graffiti art appropriately called “Graffiti Alley”. When I get a lunch break at work, my favourite thing to do is to wander down there and look at my favourite pieces. Sometimes I get sidetracked on my way there and wander down other alleys (never dark ones at night alone, though). Sometimes I’ll stop to talk to random homeless people and addicts in the street. Sometimes I will walk through Graffiti Alley with my favourite homeless addict while he shows me where he used to make his shelter down there.

Ok, I pretty much do ALL the things you’re not supposed to do if you really don’t want to get murder stabbed. The thing is, I’ve gotten to know enough people in the area that I know I can take certain risks (like walking through those alleys) with certain people and be safe. If I’m walking alone at night, I always stick to well-lit streets and make sure I’m very aware of my surroundings.

So I’m not afraid of walking through alley ways, hanging around a meth addict (with certain rules and restrictions on him on my part), wandering around downtown, or just grabbing a coffee with a random homeless person. But I am scared shitless of facing all the things I’ve been putting off and finally getting my own place.

I’ve been letting this one fear hold me back on so many things. I haven’t done a proper purge of my things in years, because I know that once I purge it’s easier to pack my things and move. I haven’t made any firm decisions on my relationship with AAB, because once a decision is made I can move (with or without him). I know that I have to face all of these things if I’m ever going to move into my own place.

So what’s holding you back from reaching your goals, Sunshine? Is there something you secretly fear that makes you put things off?

Lose Yourself While Finding Yourself

Hey there Sunshine, I’m back yet again! Sitting at work today, trying to put back together the pieces of my life recently. You know how things go with me (and with pretty much every one else out there these days): as soon as things start to fall into place, other things start crumbling down around them.

One thing that had been crumbling for me for many years was my identity. I would find an event, or an activity that I really enjoyed and that brought some sort of sense of accomplishment into my life. Then I’d try to cram my life full of a reasonable facsimile of that thing. I didn’t sit down and think, “What about this makes me happy? What about it brings me joy? What other things could bring me the same feeling?”. No, I just rushed out there and tried to cram crap into my life.

Case in point, for 10 years I helped out with one very specific fundraiser. The frat boys I hung around with did an event every fall called Homeless for the Homeless. Basically, they would make a shelter on campus out of wooden skids, cardboard boxes, tarps, and twine. Then, they would “live” in this shelter for three days. No one person stayed the entire time. They made a schedule so people could go to class, and go to work, and take the time to eat and warm up somewhere. But at night, a bunch of people would all hang out until the wee hours of the morning, and part of that group would actually sleep in the shelter. The entire time everyone involved would be collecting food, money, clothes, and blankets for the local Downtown Mission.

I spent a few year sleeping in the shelter. Every year, I would gather up bags of clothes and food to bring down to donate. There were even a few times when no frat brother was available to supervise the site, my friend and I were the ones left in charge. I helped build 6 different shelters, tore down 8 of them, and got to remind the design team each year why we needed a peaked tarp roof (the Year of the Flat Roof also happened to be the Year of the Sleet Storm and the Year the Roof Caved In in Multiple Places During the Night). It didn’t matter how cold, or wet, or sleep deprived I got. Something about this one particular fundraiser seemed to give me life.

So what do I do? I sign up for ALL the fundraisers!

I joined student groups that I didn’t give a crap about in university. I marched in protests, walked in parades, sold cupcakes for charity, baked cupcakes for charity, and even once walked around in a blizzard wearing a banana costume over my clothes. None of these things gave me the same feeling as that one fundraiser, so I figured I just needed more fundraisers.

Looking back now, I see the error of my ways. That one fundraiser had meaning to me. At one point in time, I spent sporadic nights sleeping on the street. I had to make a box of mac’n’cheese last me three days. I once had nothing to eat in my cupboard for a week but two cans of corn, a Mr. Noodle, a loaf of bread, and half a jar of peanut butter. I had a very rough idea of what it’s like to be homeless (though I did have somewhere to go back to after a day or three, it’s a very long story). I knew what it was like to go to bed hungry and not know if I would eat the next day. I had used the food bank at the mission quite a few times, bringing home zip-lock bags of rice and butter wrapped in tin foil.

Basically, this one fundraiser I did every year was super important to me, deep in the cockles of my heart. Maybe in the sub-cockles, maybe in the liver, maybe in the kidney, maybe even in the colon. But it was me giving back to somewhere that had helped me so much 15 years ago now, and helping people who were in situations similar to what I had been through. My heart wasn’t in the act of fundraising, it was in helping the homeless.

It took me many, many years to realize this, though. I poured myself into volunteering with every single organization and campaign that asked me. I can remember standing in the Student Center in my fourth year of university, selling Cinnabons for a social justice organization. I was on their board of directors and chair of their Event Planning and Fundraising Committee, but couldn’t find the need in me to throw myself into any campaign. I think I failed at every single event I tried to put on, the Cinnabon sale included.

When I was transferred to the store downtown last year, I knew that there were changes coming. I swore that I would be true to myself, and not lose what made me me. I was determined to be the girl behind the counter who wore funny hats, danced to the radio, and marathoned Vines like they were going out of style (which they kinda did, since Vine is just gone). I thought that these were the things important to me, that these were the things that made me special.

Over the summer, Strength came into my store without a shirt on and was asked to leave. He came back in a minute later wearing jeans wrapped around his neck like a scarf. My manager came out to talk to him while he stood there shirtless in my line. Here was this super buff shirtless man standing here, trying to reason with management that his jeans/scarf concoction was no different than a woman in a tube top or a man in one of those ridiculous tank tops that is basically thread with a loose band of fabric around their middle. I’m not going to lie, Sunshine, the man was majestically gorgeous, all glistening and sweaty. He argued with my manager for a bit, giggled at my reply to his questionable fashion, and then said something I wasn’t expecting.

“I’m homeless. Where the hell am I supposed to get a shirt?”

This majestic being in front of me didn’t look like my preconceived notion of what a homeless person should look like. He was goofy and sincere, muscly and in shape, and he was cute as hell! In the movies homeless people were always dirty and stinky and covered in poop. This man looked like the opposite of that, and I was seriously shocked.

After arguing for a while, Strength was asked to leave and not come back. A few months later, he stopped in on a Sunday when I was in charge. He said he didn’t want to cause any trouble or bother anyone, he just wanted to apologize for his behaviour. He shook my hand and told me that he was all kinds of messed up, but he wanted to at least be the kind of man who could walk into our store and buy something. I got him to talk to our manager later that week, and soon Strength was a regular fixture.

One day, they shut down the streets for a festival for half the day. Strength was running around cleaning up garbage, directing traffic in our tiny parking lot, acting as security for roadside stands, and even playing basketball with random people. Once the festivities had died down and the streets had reopened, I found him curled up in a ball in the back of our parking lot. Up until that point I had been very hesitant about getting to know any of the regular homeless folk in the area. But for whatever reason that day, I just walked right over and plopped down next to him. We spent my break talking about how much work he had done, and how much I appreciated him keeping our parking lot clean and accident free. In the end I gave him the last dollar I had, plus the bag of snacks I had just bought.

From that day forward, something changed. Strength and I started hanging out in the parking lot. When I started my second job, he would (and still does) randomly meet me so that I don’t have to walk back to my car alone. After he was banned again from our store (another long story), we spent a month apart and then jumped right into coffee dates and hanging out in fast food places together. I had started keeping bags with socks, snacks, and rain ponchos in my car for him. In that month apart, I would search downtown for him and pass out whatever I had in my bag to others who needed it.

I know it sounds more than a little crazy, but hanging out with him awoke something in me. Being with him, helping others in his position, it gave me the same feeling as the old Homeless for the Homeless fundraisers. Ironically, this past year was the first time in more than 20 years that fundraiser hasn’t run. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself walking through alleyways in the middle of a rainy afternoon, passing out ponchos. I never expected to be happy to see a homeless meth addict walk through the doors of my workplace. These were not things I was taught were good things.

I know that some people take issue with me doing some of the things I do, and that they especially take issue with my friendship with Strength. But the people who know him, the people I work with at both of my jobs, for the most part get it. We all worry about him, but no one there does more than me. Sounds crazy, right?

But this man somehow reminded me of the things that were important to me. When I looked at him and thought, “Well that’s not what a homeless person looks like”, I had to ask myself “then what did I look like 15 years ago?”. Most people don’t know much about that part of my life, but since meeting him I’ve been able to talk about it a lot more freely. I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and I’m doing the things that make me feel like me.

The strangest thing, though, is that the things that I thought made me so special before really don’t hold much meaning to me now. I didn’t bust out the tiny hats this Christmas, at all. I still dance at work, but not in the same way I used to. And I haven’t had a good old Vine marathon in ages (although a coworker and I do still quote them to each other). The things that I thought were important to me were just things others noticed about me, regardless of how I felt about them.

I guess in finding myself downtown, I lost the West End me. I had to lose myself to find myself?

I know this is all rambly, Sunshine, but there is a lot going on here. I’ve gone through some super huge changes since my last run on this blog, and it looks like I may have some huge and super hard changes coming up in the near future. This change, finding both strength and Strength, are a precurser to many things going on right now.

Well That Break Went A Little Long, Eh?

So, it’s been a while, eh Sunshine?

The last time we talked, I was all scared and freaked out in my new store. Let me tell you, that store is the best thing to happen to me in a long time.

Remember I was talking about the “parking lot people”? We have a pretty steady rotation of men who sporadically stand in the parking lot and either ask for money or ask someone to buy them booze (those ones are banned from the store). Well, on of the previously-banned asked permission to shop again from my manager and started cleaning our parking lot in return. Months later, he’s banned again (he is a very long story that you will hear lots more of), but he’s also one of my favourite people in the world at the moment. Lil ‘ole me, who was shaking in my steel-toed booties at the thought of dealing with downtown people, went out and befriended a piano playing homeless meth addict.

For real. Like, seriously.

For the sake of his anonymity, I’ll just call him Strength (anyone who’s met him know why). We’ve gone out on coffee dates, taken some long walks together, I bring him snacks and socks, and he’s come to my other job to play piano for me.

Oh ya, that reminds me: I got a second job.

Late in the summer, I had testing and an interview with our public library system. I came home afterwards, called my mother and spent an hour telling her how it was a lost cause. The job was for an on-call supply person to fill in at all of the library branches in the city. There I was with limited availability thanks to my customer service job, no car, and a reliance on a laughable public transit system.

Well, they loved me. I mean, who wouldn’t? I somehow got hired and wound up in a training group of eight with a guy I went to University with. He’s like the love child of Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Chandler Bing from F*R*I*E*N*D*S, but much more charming. Made for an interesting week of training.

So I’ve been mainly picking up shifts at the library closest to the store I work at. Sometimes on his more lucid days (meth is one hell of a drug, kids), Strength will stop by the library for a private piano concert and to walk me back to the store. Other days, while walking between the jobs, I will randomly run into him while he hunts diamonds and data mines. We try and make plans, but his memory is so far gone that he forgets to meet me at work an hour after I remind him to. I was actually surprised the one day when he remembered to meet me for breakfast so I could take him out for a drive in my car.

I did mention that I bought a car, right?

She’s a little green lemon….I mean, a 2005 Pontiac Pursuit. I haven’t even given her a proper name yet, since she pisses me off so much. Looking back now, I know I got royally screwed by the dealer I bought her from. There’s a recall on her power steering system that was never attended to, which causes me to lose power steering randomly at low speeds. There’s also an issue with the transmission filter being clogged because her transmission fluid has never been flushed and the filter has never been changed. This causes the traction control to turn itself off and the transmission to slip from time to time.

It’s quite terrifying, really.

Let’s see, it there anything I missed? Little Sketchpad McCaffrey turned out to be a boy. Things with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend have been falling apart faster than the Trump cabinet. I’ve been volunteering again, wandering around and talking to homeless people and bringing them sandwiches and granola bars. Annoying Roommate is still uber annoying.

I think that’s everything.

Well, hopefully in this new year I’ll be better able to make time to write again. I’ve been working on a few things here and there in notebooks, but nothing too serious. I’ll try to update here more, get some of my twirly brain commotion onto the interwebs.

Until then, stay classy Sunshine!

A Very Late Update, with More to Come Soon

Hello, lovelies!

Yes, it’s been about a month and a half since my last update. I have had a lot going on in 2018 and came to realize that I was using this blog more as a personal diary than as what I had intended it for: a tool or resource to help others learn from my mistakes and experiences.

Yes, some good came of that. I was able to open up quite a bit about my anxiety, and about the issues I’ve had involving alcohol in my life. Those are huge things for me and really helped me grow as a person. Also, I got a few emails (which I chose to keep to myself and not post here) from others going through similar experiences with alcoholic partners and family members. Still, this seemed more LiveJournal than ProfessionalWiter’sBlog. So, while I took the time to adjust to my new store, I imposed a blog-hiatus on myself: no writing, no note-taking, no pre-planning at all. I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo to help get this blog back on track, but I’m still unsure as to my participation in it.

So what has been happening in my life lately?

My new store is quite a bit rougher than the old one. We have “parking lot people” who beg for change and a few have actually grabbed people and demanded money. So there’s that to deal with.

Also, have a lot more shoplifting. No one likes doing the reports and camera work so I could spend a whole day catching up on that if I could. We have banned more people for stealing in the 6 or so weeks I’ve been at this store than we did the entire almost 4 years at my last store. And some of them are so brazen. Just the other day one walked in and just started loading up her backpack. When the assistant manager caught her, she dumped everything and started receiting legal jargon at him about how he couldn’t call the police on her because she technically hadn’t stolen yet (which would be true, if we didn’t have her on camera stealing a few times in the past week, and if she were not permenantly banned from the store). She’s been through the system enough that some stores know her by name.

There’s also a lot more people with different addiction issues. We have a very heavy meth user who tried to attack our security staff one day, who keeps trying to come in. He scares the hell out of me. The other people with these issues are mostly fine, but this guy almost put his fist through a plate-glass window because I refused him service once. I am actually terrified some nights that I’m going to be attacked by one of the people we refuse or ban from the store.

I do have a former coworker I had a crush on working with me now. I will freely admit that physically, this man is perfect. I mean, his ass should be framed and hung up in the Louvre because it is a damn work of art. Working with him again, though, the crush isn’t there anymore. We can still tease each other back and forth, but I know that the two of us are a horrible match. It’s fun now having him around because we get along great and he’s a great person in general. Now that we both have pets, every shift pretty much starts with the sharing of pet pictures.

I’ve taken a lot more sick days at this store in the last 6 weeks than I usually take in a year. I usually take maybe two a year. Today was my third day since moving to this store, after already taking one before the move there. I took two days off one week because this store is horrible for my anxiety, and I was puking more than I was eating for a while. I needed a few days to get my strength back and keep some food in me. I had my first full-blown, laying on the floor in hysterics, screaming and crying and shaking, totally scary panic attack since my last year of University. Usually, it’s more of the jittery, pukey, head constantly spinning and heart racing feeling I get, and that I’m able to somehow deal with. But this time, I just went over the edge. It scared the hell out of the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend, who had no clue how to help. His first instinct was to hold me, but that’s pretty much the opposite of what I needed. I let him try to help, though, and got myself calmed down a bit. Later that week, though, when I still hadn’t completely come down, I had to take two days off. I just told the boss I was having stomache issues.

Also, I’m not as forthcoming with my anxiety issues with my coworkers here as I was at my other store. My former assistant manager moved to this store the week after me, and he knows a bit about my issues. But I don’t talk about them freely like I did before. There just seems to be so much more judgement, and gossip, and back-talking that I don’t feel comfortable speaking up. That was a big reason why I didn’t update here: I knew I could talk freely on here, but needed to become comfortable in my daily life with it again too. After renaming my group chat with my former work fam to “Fam Squad”, and sharing in the misery with them, I realize now that there are too many trust issues in my store for me to be open. I don’t have the bond with my coworkers that I did before. I’m much more guarded about sharing information about pretty much anything with anyone but three coworkers I knew before moving here.

To top all of this off, I took another sick day Wednesday. My wrist has been bothering me due to the increase in use. Remember, I was bumped back to 4 hours a week. That means I got roughly 175 customers a week, or 700 a month. At my new store, I’m getting closer to 10,000 customers a month, which means more time on the scanning gun. This is in addition to my new duties scanning the store (with a gun that uses the same motions), The increased strain has left me with the beginnings of a repetitive stress injury. How did I find this out? A bird flew in through an open door at home. While trying to corral cats and shoo the bird, I fell on my already sore wrist and sprained it. Took a day off work, went to a clinic, and am now medicating with wine because the doctor knows I’ll listen to my body and what I need to do rather than drag myself halfway across town to a series of different medical appointments over a series of months. If I have any further issues, I’m more than welcome to come back and see him. But he didn’t give me papers for work, or a prescription.

My wrist has been ok so far today. I practically destroyed it at work last night, so I’m surprised I’m not in more pain. To top everything off, we have a new District Manager who is changing everything about every store, and is passing down new motion study procedures to all of our larger stores from her bosses. Somehow it’s supposed to take us only 10 minutes to fully scan and put away a skid of product, even though most stores are short handed and some have only one person working the load at a time.  And then they wonder why so many of us are getting injured………

Of course, this has all been on top of everything else that comes with life. The apprently accepting Bowser Kitten has fully embraced his new baby sister Baby Sketchpad McCaffrey. The two are pretty damn adordable together now. He’s a bit protective of her at times, and she’s a hyperactive accident waiting to happen. It’s a match made in heaven.

We had some family issues to deal with for a while, and had the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s father stay with us a few nights so AAB could help him out the following morning. That really took a toll on AAB, but baby kitten snuggles have been helping a lot. I have some new work possibilities coming up, and have been thinking about doing some more schooling if none of those pan out.

So with this all off of my chest, I’m hoping to get back to this blog’s original purpose: to give people to knowledges, resources, tools, and advice that they generally aren’t given to make important decisions, create better habits, and live the best life they can. Yes, I will update about myself and my life from time to time, but not at the rate I was recently. I want this blog to be more of a help to others than glorified LiveJournal.

And with that, Sunshine, I bid you adieu for the day. One of my former coworkers gets married tomorrow, and I have a lot of beauty crap to do today before work to get ready for the party tomorrow. AAB and I will be heading out there with my WorkBFF and her fiancee, and we’ll all be reunited with the FamSquad for the day. Now, go out there and enjoy the day!

Hey Sunshine, I’m having a really rough time mentally right now. Started at my new store Monday morning. It’s twice as far to walk there, and it’s a tiny cramped store. Some of the other people transferred there came from a slightly bigger store, so they know how things get done around there. I’m completely lost though. Instead of pallets and forklifts, we have a conveyor belt into the basement and have to hand-bomb everything. There’s no cardboard baler, so apparently, we have to walk armloads of cardboard to the recycling a dozen times a day. Everything is different there, and I’m having a really hard time adjusting.

To top things off, the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend brought home a tiny kitten named Sketch McCaffrey. The very solitary Bowser Kitten was very much not pleased. I’ve had to spend my days trying to follow the two of them around and force them to interact, or else Bowser Kitten just stands on counters hissing and growling at everyone. He was even mad at me!

I’ve had a lot of major changes happen in a very short amount of time, and none of them were changes I have been working towards. I still haven’t found a second job, which means I still can’t look for a house or apartment just yet. The goals I set for myself seem to be going nowhere, while the universe just keeps throwing giant steaming turds my way.

Having a hard time getting out of bed every day, and not just because my knee is so damn swollen from suddenly walking twice as far to work and going from 4 hours a week to almost 40. Been crying in the shower a lot. Not eating much. I just….. don’t know……. anymore.

Life with an Alcoholic

As long as I don’t pick up a shift, Sundays are usually our lazy day. Yes, we can get a tonne of errands and cleaning done. But we like to sleep in, laze around a bit, and just plop down in front of the tv at the end of the night to watch so old Bar Rescue reruns.

And, there’s alcohol.

This past Sunday we had to go visit the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s father, about a 45-minute drive from here. So he got up a bit earlier than me and had a few sips of whiskey and a beer for breakfast. When I hopped in the shower a little bit after noon, he was sipping on a Snapple cooler. And just before we left, he finished the last half shot of whiskey.

Then we had to stop and buy more booze.

After driving for 45 minutes, we pulled up in the driveway…….. and he pulled a cooler out of the bag in the back seat to “slam back a quick one” before heading inside. Another cooler while we sat around and chit-chatted. Then it was off to dinner. We beat his dad to the restaurant, which meant he had time to sit in the parking lot and slam back a radler. Then there was a pint with dinner.

When we got home afterwards, my shoes were barely off before he was cracking open another drink.

And this all leads to more intense discussions and fights about his drinking. Some of the fights are long, drawn-out duels of stubborn quiet and harsh looks. Others are loud and frightening, ending with me bawling my eyes out and him sleeping in the other room. And sometimes, like last night, it just takes one or two comments to set a timer in him, waiting for me to do one thing just slightly not the way he wants it so he can explode.

Last night, I heard music coming from our room after he went to bed. I poked my head in the door, expecting to find that Bowser Kitten had hopped up on my desk and turned on Spotify with the keyboard again. He seems to have a thing for Talk Talk and Violent Femmes. Instead, I found AAB laying in bed watching a video on his phone. Then, I walked away to go get ready for bed.

When I came back, AAB was in a mood. He accused me of being “uppity”, meaning I wasn’t acting the way he wanted me to so I must have some sort of attitude problem. I told him I was just trying to pull some blankets out from under me, and flipped. Grabbed his pillows and half-yelled something at me about being “uppity” when I saw him laying in our bed because I apparently didn’t want him there. Then he stormed into the other room. I had to go in there a few minutes later and tell him I was just checking to see if my computer was on, and was surprised to see him still awake. His mood did a complete 180 and he crawled back into bed with me.

And this was a pretty normal weekend for us.

I will be perfectly honest with you: life with an alcoholic is anything but easy. It’s frustrating, maddening, depressing, and makes you doubt everything you ever thought about yourself.

Between my college and university friends, my line of work, and my family and friends outside of that, I have known a startling amount of people with alcohol issues in my life. You would think that I, of all people, would know better than to get romantically involved with someone with an alcohol problem. It wasn’t even like his problem was a secret: I worked at the store he came into twice a day to buy his booze. That’s how we met.

Alcoholics are not bad people. They’re just people who are not able to control their cravings and need for alcohol, to the point that it changes their mindset and their behaviour. Many people can have issues with alcohol, get help, and go on to live very normal lives. Some people have to abstain from alcohol altogether for life, while others can have a few drinks every now and then without relapsing completely. But being with someone who is in the deepest throes of their addictions, someone who is not in control, can really take a toll on both you and your relationship. Before you get involved with someone with an alcohol problem, consider a few things that I’ve learned in the 2 1/2 years that AAB and I have been together so far.

1) They will lie to you about almost anything.

“I swear, I didn’t have anything to drink before we got to the restaurant. I just didn’t eat today, so those two drinks hit me really hard.”

“I only hit the beer store today. I didn’t stop at the liquor store because I didn’t want any hard liquor.”

“I’m not day drinking. I just had a quick drink with Harry after our shift, that’s what you can smell.”

“I’m putting money aside so we can take a vacation together this year. It’s all coming out of my former drinking money! Aren’t you proud?”

Over time, an alcoholic becomes an expert had lying and hiding things from loved one. They’ve had years, maybe decades, to practice their excuses. They’ve gotten away with things to some extent for so long that they think no one can see through their wall of bullshit. With this mindset, it takes more effort to tell the truth than to lie to someone’s face, no matter how much they love them.

No matter how supportive of them you are, they will lie to you. No matter how much they say they won’t lie to you, they will lie to you. You will reach a point where you have to question every single thing that comes out of their mouth, and question what isn’t coming out of their mouth.

2) You better like guilt trips

I’m pretty sure I hear the words “I just can’t win with you” more than “I love you” these days. AAB will tell me something that he knows will upset me, but try to frame it in a way that makes he sound like he was trying really hard to be good. When I’m still upset, he makes it sound like there is absolutely nothing he can do right in my eyes.

I’ve known alcoholics who guilt their friends and loved ones over anything. It’s a way of deflecting negativity away from them. If they can make someone else feel bad for the way they treated them, then maybe they won’t notice their addiction.

Also, AAB has made sure I can never leave him because of the ultimate guilt trip. While his drinking is still really bad, it’s better than it was before. Instead of a 60oz bottle of vodka and a few beers a day, he has a bunch of coolers and maybe a mickey of whisky. And he’s made it known that if I ever try to leave him, that’s all it will take for him to snap and go back to his old ways. He’ll wind up drunk and be living on the streets, all because I couldn’t just be supportive of his struggle and put up with his “bad habit”. He’ll be a drunk on the street and it will all be my fault.

3) You are constantly doing too much and too little for them, even if you’re doing exactly what they said they want you to do

I once knew someone who drank themselves into a ridiculous amount of debt. They maxed out credit cards and took out payday loans that they just never paid back. When they got into a relationship, they told their partner to take complete control of the finances. Together they drew up a budget, settled on an “allowance”, and even looked into starting to pay off debts.

This lasted almost 4 days.

Then the yelling started. “You’re too controlling. You’re such a nag. Why can’t you just treat me like a real man and let me live my life?” All their partner had done was do exactly what they were told to do, and apparently, that was all wrong.

I go through this with AAB quite a bit. He’ll tell me to hold him accountable for his drinking and the things he says and does while drinking. Of course, the second I actually do that I’m suddenly “uppity” and “a nag”.

These plans they make are made with good intentions. That’s as far as they’ll ever go through, usually. The second any of this interferes with their ability to drink at will, it all goes out the window. And the second you try to stick to the plan that goes against them being able to drink at will, you are the enemy.

4) When you think about everything you’ll miss out on because of your partner’s drinking, you’ll start resenting them, even if you love them. Especially if you love them.

My friend I mentioned above will never be able to buy a house with their current partner. They can never get married because that would mean legally joining their finances which would ruin his credit score because of his partner’s ignored debts. He’ll never be able to take a vacation, or buy a new car, or enjoy pretty much any of the nicer things in life that he had hoped for. Instead of joining finances towards a common goal, he has to keep a tight eye on his finances while his partner squanders away his own paychecks on booze each week.

And I’m in that same damn boat.

There were things I wanted in life that I know I will never have as long as AAB and I are together. He’s in the same drunken debt hell as my friend’s partner. Even the little things in life that I had wanted, I know I’ll never be able to have. Like I always wanted a little mini bar in my home. I had the beginnings of one when AAB and I met, and he drank his way through that. I can’t even keep booze in the house for myself without hiding it.

Speaking of that…..

5) You’ll start hiding things.

The last time I left a full, unopened bottle of my favourite whisky (which I have to go across town to find) on top of the fridge, AAB drank it and then hid the bottle behind other bottles so I wouldn’t notice it was empty. I’ve lost count of the number of bottles of liquor he’s stolen from me. He once even stole a Christmas gift I got for my dad and drank it.

Now, I have a collection of little make-up bags full of mini liquor bottles hidden in my sock and underwear drawers so he doesn’t drink them. I have my good booze hidden in my closet and my knitting bag. I have my emergency cash hidden in envelopes taped to the bottoms of drawers because he’s taken money from me. And I know I’m not the only one who does this.

I’ve known people to hide alcohol, money, prescription medications, even cold medicine from their addicted loved one.  It’s not because any of us want to hide things from them. It’s because if we don’t hide things like these, they’ll get stolen. The money would be taken for booze, booze would be drunk, cold meds are taken when booze isn’t available.

And it really sucks, knowing that you have to do this.

6) They’re probably going to get pretty damn mean

After a bit too much whisky, AAB gets mean. He flat out admits that he’ll say things to me that he knows are hurtful, just because he knows they’ll hurt me. When he’s drinking and I do even the slightest thing wrong, he’ll want to mentally and emotionally hurt me as bad as possible.

A few of my very close coworkers (my work family) know a bit about this. They’ve seen it in him, and have seen it affect me. They also know that I’m very accident prone, and have been showing up to work with random cuts and bruises since long before I met AAB. Still, Sugar has pulled me aside multiple times to make sure I know that she’s there for me if any of those injuries are from him. All it takes is one bad night for him to go from screaming to slapping someday.

And that scares the hell out of me because I’ve seen it happen way too many times.

I have nightmares about the day he finally snaps, and this seems to be a common thing among some of the people I talk to in online groups for loved ones of alcoholics. I know people who won’t leave their loved one home alone with their kids, or even their pets because they don’t know how they’ll treat them once they’ve had a few drinks. Me, I have nightmares that he finally snaps and hurts me real bad. The worst dreams are the ones where he hurts me and the tiny adorable Bowser Kitten too.

7) You’re going to worry all the damn time

A lot of the alcoholics I know drink during the day, even when they have to work. Quite a few of them drive vehicles. A bunch of them work jobs involving heavy machinery. One even worked in medical settings at one point and was responsible for distributing medication to patients. Can you imagine knowing your husband or wife is going to be half-drunk, behind the counter in a pharmacy-like setting, and their job requires incredible focus and accuracy to make sure they don’t give out the wrong meds and kill someone?

I worry when AAB gets behind the wheel of our van because I never know what he’s had to drink beforehand. I worry when he’s at work, whether he drinks there or not. I know other alcoholics work there because they were customers of mine too. I worry when he shows me pictures on his company’s website of the machines they use because there could be a drunk person on that machine right this very second while he’s working with it. Sometimes when he passes out in the afternoon on the weekends, I worry that his body is just going to give up on him after a decade of heavy abuse and he’s just going to die right there in front of me.

 

Don’t get me wrong, AAB is a great guy….. sometimes. If he wasn’t, I would’ve walked out on the first date. He’s smart, sweet, artistic, caring, and generous. But alcohol destroys all of that and leaves him a tired, cranky, mean shell of the person he was before.

I don’t know what will happen with the two of us. I have dreams of leaving him, of starting over again, but I can’t do that to him. He’s already said that would drive him to drink more. I feel like I’m trapped; like there’s no use in trying to figure out my feelings for him because I’m stuck with him no matter what.

If you’re with someone who has a drinking problem, or any addiction problem at all, know that you’re not alone. A quick Google search can pull up support groups and hotlines for your area, where you can turn to deal with how their drinking is affecting your life. And if you’re not ready to reach out like that publically, I’m always here. You guys can all reach me at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com anytime you need to vent, need to cry, or just need to know that you’re not alone out there.

Until next time, Sunshine.