By Jessica Kasevich
He sat in the waiting room of the hospital picking at his nails while the midnight news began. He was glad the volume on the television was slightly louder than it needed to be, as he did not want to sit in silence alone with his thoughts. The question of “should I call my brother” seemed to persist. He feared looking like a fool as he was the only one left in the family who believed that his father could change for the better. He had made this call so many times before and each time no one had faith in his father’s ability to stop drinking. He realized that to his brother and family, this looked like the typical “Boy Who Cried Wolf” story that they all have heard for the past twenty-two years. He felt alone. No one understood why he continued to try to pick up the pieces for his father each time he fell: losing jobs, being arrested for public intoxication or urination, trying to find lawyers who would take on his case for minimal pay, fielding phone calls from angry family members who he had stolen from to buy alcohol or who he had verbally abused in a rage of drunkenness.
This time Tommy convinced himself that rehab would be different and that his father would stop drinking. How could he not, as he was told yesterday that his liver enzymes showed that he would lose function of his liver in a year or two if he continued . Tommy thought, “if this doesn’t wake him up nothing I can do for him will make a difference and he will eventually drink himself to death.” He realized that he had sacrificed his own life for his father who was not putting his own first. Tommy had to, like all the other friends and family realize that the only life he had control over was his own and he had to start living it!
Tommy was an accountant. He liked the predictability and honesty of numbers as they could never fool him. He became an accountant when he was 23. His success rose when he met Vanessa through one of his clients. She gave him the encouragement he lacked from his father and built a successful business. He referred to her “as the love of his life, his rock.” She showed him that life could be beautiful even if he came from a home where he watched his father drink himself to sleep every night, where he was in fear every morning of finding his father unresponsive. She made him see that he had his own life to live and that he was not responsible for his father’s poor choices. She gave him a reason to have his own life outside of caring for his father, a life with her, with friends and deserved success.
When she passed away unexpectedly he threw himself back into the role of caring for his father. He begged every liquor store owner within a 20 mile radius of Hoboken not to sell his father alcohol. He told all the neighbors not to bring him liquor when his father asked them to. He pleaded with his father’s primary doctor to give him a prescription that would help him stop drinking. He tried to persuade so many of his father’s employers to take him back. He cashed in a substantial portion of his 401K to pay for lawyers, tickets, surcharges and whatever legal fees needed to be paid to keep him off probation and out of the legal systems.
He had gone to every family meeting held at every rehab facility he had ever been to show his support. Now all Tommy could think of was: “What were all of his efforts for if his father would not stop drinking to save his own life?” He had no friends. His business was in serious trouble. He gave up on his dreams of having a wife and family. He started taking Xanax every day to calm his nerves from the daily phone calls he received when his father was in trouble. He was constantly on heightened alert preparing to have to settle some problem his father was in, never feeling relaxed. He had constant thoughts of finding his father dead . All of this made it difficult to sleep, take care of himself and live a successful and happy life.
Tommy began to think that enough was enough and that he had to start living for himself.
Why do we try to help our parents with their addiction? We do this because we care and love them but when is “helping,” self-destructive? Helping is too destructive when our own physical and mental health is being compromised. You can regain the control you once had over your life or begin to have it if you only put your oxygen mask on before theirs.
Why not take control back over your life?
By Jessica Kasevich
It was the first Christmas since she passed away. She died in November, a month and a half earlier. I always hated November ever since I could remember: cold, dark, barren, the hope for a surprise spring day gone with the October leaves. She had been sick for so long fighting one of the rarest forms of Cancer. “Why did God give her cancer?” “Why would He do this to her, to us?” “Maybe he never existed. If he did why would he want anyone to be in pain?” “Why?”
The day before she went into the hospital is one of the most vivid memories I have. That day we were both home for the weekend. I wanted to take her to the country to pick pumpkins, drink apple cider and see the beauty of fall, the bright reds and oranges of the New England leaves. She grabbed my hand and told me to walk with her. She said, “I want to take in all of the wonderful memories I have had in this home, because I know I will not be coming back.”
I wanted to scream with rage when I heard those words. I wanted to scream at the cancer and at her. I wanted to tell her not to talk such nonsense, that she would be home again, just a quick checkup at the doctors and then home, home to us, home to her family, home!
I walked through the house with her. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I fought the denial I had that she was truly dying and gave her the experience she needed.
We sat on the edge of her creaky bed like we always did when we had our “serious talks,” bullies, boys, the “birds and the bees…” She then leaned over and reached for her jewelry box which was placed in the center of her rich mahogany bureau. It was her mother’s bureau. She took such wonderful care of it, weekly polishing it to preserve its natural sheen. She said she felt closer to her mother after she shined it every week. For the first time I began to understand what she meant. Her fragile hands grabbed the sides of the jewelry box and placed it on the floral bedspread. I could see the black and blue lesions on her forearm from the cancer.
She picked up each piece of jewelry, held it in her hands, stared at it for a couple of seconds in silence as if she was saying goodbye and then told me what each piece meant to her, who had given it to her and for what occasion. I did not want to hear what she was saying.
I wanted to be anywhere else then there. “Be strong, be strong,” is all I could say to myself. “Give her what she needs,” so I did.
She made me promise to keep all of the jewelry in the family. I shook my head with tears streaming down my face. I tried so hard not to cry. I did not want to make her feel bad about dying and about how I was having a difficult time handling it. The parent child roles were becoming reversed as I had to be stronger for her instead of her for me. I could not imagine what it must be like to accept your own mortality questioning, “Will my life continue?” “Is there really an afterlife?” I thought how could she be so strong? She was calm, collective and it seemed like she had accepted her death. She smiled with each memory she shared with me. The next day she went to the hospital. She was there for a month and a half.
She was right; mother knew she was never going to come home?
I was having dinner with a dear friend of mine. It was so lovely to reconnect and both of us cognizant of how much we cherish one another began to share about the relationships we each have in our lives. Thinking about whom we surround ourselves with can impact how we can be fulfilled in our lives. We came to the conclusion that we must surround ourselves with people who not only love and support us, but also provide unconditional love by making the effort to share with us all that life brings to us: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whether they are friends or family members, these relationships are absolutely golden.
Later, I began to think about the relationships with family and friends that in fact are quite the opposite or somehow do not measure up in the way we expect them too. Feelings of sadness, anger, and disappointment are all too common, while some relationships leave us feeling taken advantage of, disrespected, abused and worthless? We all know we should not be in relationships that make us feel so negative and often feel trapped by familial necessity when family members impact our lives this way. Family members are sometimes the ultimate ball and chain, and when they behave badly it can have an incredibly damaging effect on our psyche.
I asked myself the very questions we have all asked ourselves: Why do we continue to maintain relationships with our family members that not only offer very little, but in fact carry a lot of heavy baggage? Why do we continue to listen to our mother’s put downs and feel hurt? Why do we continue to listen to our brother’s talk about how much more successful he is, making us feel worthless? Why does our cousin’s opinionated rumors about how we run our lives enrage us? Why do we let our alcoholic parent’s inability to be there for us continue to hurt us at every important event they miss: graduation, wedding, birth of a child?
We continue to hurt from the inability of these family members to meet our needs because we believe and hope that these people will miraculously change. One day you will be enough for them to change and you will get what you always desired; love, support, and understanding. Yes, Hope can be powerful but also detrimental in keeping you from living the best life you can.
Besides hope why else do we stay in these difficulty relationships? Is it possible that we stay because we have expectations of our family and the responsibility ascribed to their role in our lives? For example a newborn child cries for her father to meet her physical and emotional needs: holding, bonding, and soothing. In a healthy situation these needs would be met. If these needs are not met the baby will begin to lose weight and will eventually not meet normal developmental milestones such as crawling and making eye contact. This phenomenon is known as failure to thrive. As children these expectations of family members continue. Ultimately, we maintain these expectations for family members to behave in a positive way in our lives. We expect family members to soothe our anxieties, to pick us up when we fall, to be present and to not leave us alone in a difficult situation, and to encourage us when we really want to give up. After all aren’t they suppose to, “That is his father, her mother, or sister?”
Exploring many common relationships we have outside of the family and the expectations we carry as parameters for these relationships provides helpful insight. With our boss or supervisor, there is an expectation that this person might not always be our boss. He or she might get promoted and change roles within the company or leave for another job. We are usually okay with this because it is the expectation of the role. Let’s look at a roommate situation in a transient town, Hoboken. We might be sad when our roommate moves out to get married but there is an expectation that this will eventually happen. Also it is easier to handle because there is less of an emotional connection in these relationships then between your immediate family, generally speaking.
Let’s look at more emotionally involved relationships. We expect that our spouses will decide to spend more time with the family after it is voiced that the other spouse feels they should. The expectation of a married couple is that they will work through the difficulties in the marriage because they promised to do so in their vows “ for better or for worse.” When the other spouse does not see the spouse changing in this scenario, trying to change “for better or for worse,” they continue to hope that the spouse will change and spend more time with them soon because it is what is expected in the role of a spouse. Will the spouse leave if the other does not change “quick enough?” Most likely not. We stay in the relationship because of the responsibilities of the role of wife and husband has to the relationship and because the connection is deeper than other relationships one may have. If a friend never wanted to spend time with you, yes it would hurt but wouldn’t it be easier to move on?
What if our spouse can never change or our parents will never be able to meet our emotional needs because they are so concerned about themselves? What if our cousins never stop spreading rumors or a sibling never stops putting you down? What if?
You have one choice: accept that they will never meet your needs and that others must meet these needs. Releasing the expectations you carry based on familial definitions allows you to define how these crucial players affect you. Understand that this is easier said than done. Hope and fulfillment is the driving force that causes us to keep turning to family members that will never meet our needs.
Surround yourself with those that do meet your needs. Accept that those closest to us will not meet your needs and be okay with that kind of relationship. This is the key to how to live your best life: only engaging in positive relationships that enhance your life. Remember there are three things you do not have control over: time, nature and others. You do have the ability to change your perceptions and self!Hoboken NJ
She was exhausted.
She quietly stole a moment for herself as she rested her head on a throw pillow. She reminisced about the carefree and happy memory of picking out the pillow when they bought their first piece of furniture together, a year after they met. As she laid there she realized she was experiencing the same feeling of fatigue she did when she was the top Real Estate agent in Hoboken.
This time the fatigue was from caring for her beautiful new born baby boy Matthew, who became colicky the minute they arrived home from the hospital.
She had always wanted to be a mother. This desire became stronger when she met her husband. She saw that he was a family man and together they could make this dream of hers come true. She loved the way he took care of his parents, checking in on them daily, doing their grocery shopping when needed and driving them to their doctor’s appointments. She respected him tremendously for putting the needs of his parents first and knew that their family together would be his priority.
When she found out she was pregnant she felt so blessed with the feeling that she had it all; a great career, loving relationship with her husband and now a child on the way. She dreamed of quiet feedings in the rocking chair her grandmother left her, short cat naps while her baby took his, and lunch dates with her girlfriends and their babies. She was glad to finally be in “the mommy club” and looked forward to sharing the challenges of motherhood with her girlfriends, as well as embracing the rewarding moments of being a mother.
She had promised herself early on in the pregnancy that she would strive to maintain a balance in her life remembering not to lose her sense of self while still being a caring friend, wife, and mother. This promise became difficult when she had to meet the needs of her colicky child. She did not have nearby family to offer support and her parents were presently in their 70’s living in a nursing home.
She began to isolate herself in her home as the stares in the grocery store and bank from fellow patrons became too much for her to handle, making her question her ability to mother her child: “Why can’t I make him comfortable? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I do not know how to be a mom?”
She felt emotionally and physically spent, and frustrated because she could not meet her child’s needs. She hated to say this because she loved her husband and her child with all of her heart but this was not what she expected when she found out she was expecting. She desired adult conversation and some time to herself.
She missed the daily hour of yoga that centered her before she became a mother. She could not remember the last time she wore makeup or dressed up for a dinner out, because it truly felt that all twenty-four hours of the day were dedicated to her son.
Although her husband provided as much support as he was able she found it was not enough to prevent her overwhelming feelings of sadness. These feelings of sadness were nothing she could have prepared for. She never expected to feel depressed as a new mother. She felt ashamed of her depression and the reason it evolved. She could not tell her husband after all, being married to him and having a child together was all she every wanted. She wondered if she would ever feel “normal” again.
How do we maintain a balance of being a wife, mother, and friend while caring for our own needs when the needs of our family take precedent?
When can we as mothers tell ourselves that we are doing our best and our best is just that? How can we recognize that these feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control, or depressed are signals that we must care for ourselves to enable our own psyche to be healthy; fueling a healthy mindset toward our little ones? Whether we are parents or not we all have the struggle of maintaining or own identity in the different roles we subscribe to. Is it wrong to want a balance in our lives as mothers?
When relationships and roles begin to take over your own inner identity causing sadness, we must understand that this is normal and it is perfectly okay to ask for help.Hoboken NJ
By Jessica Kasevich
She fights the urge to trust, to allow herself to become vulnerable to him, keeping the wall of solitude strongly rooted to avoid the “oh so familiar” feelings of disappointment that dating offers.
Is it easier for her to be alone, or should she learn what his qualities and values are: lifestyle, ideals on money and family in order to see if they align with hers before becoming emotionally involved? Why do we become emotionally invested in a relationship before we know if our needs will be met ?
Has she learned from the potpourri of men she dated in her twenties what kind of men are worthy of her time, love and vulnerability in her thirties as well as what she wants a potential relationship to be like: The George Clooney’s of the past: eternal bachelor, the men her parents thought would be great providers but she was “just not that into,” the Jerry Seinfeld’s who made her friends laugh when they went out to the bars but embarrassed her beyond belief and finally, the good guy, the Andy Stitzers (Steve Carell, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”) who were extremely thoughtful and caring but whom she never had chemistry with.
What did she, what did we learn from the people we date in our past: What we want and do not want in a relationship! If we know this why do we date people that are not meeting our needs? Isn’t it healthy to know ourselves and what we want in a relationship and what we need for ourselves at whatever age we learn this ? Why aren’t we going after what we know we want and deserve?
Does knowing what you want and do not want in a relationship make you selfish or smart?
Isn’t it uncomfortable to feel “obligated” to hold someone’s hand that you really don’t want to hold, when you can be searching for the person who’s hand you will never want to let go of?Hoboken NJ