Do you ever get the Twisties? It’s that somewhat pleasurable, somewhat uncomfortable feeling in your stomach you get, but only when you’re alone. I suppose it’s comparable to butterflies in your stomach, but it’s different. It’s not nerves, and it’s not excitement. It’s just the Twisties.
I get the Twisties every couple weeks. Maybe it’s hormonal. They usually come around 10pm, after I’ve watched a really poignant episode of Grey’s Anatomy or a girly hope-filled movie like Love Actually and I turn off the TV and am sitting in the quiet.
It happens when I see on TV, read in a book, or hear in a song hope…
In the past year, I’ve had to begin the process of coming to terms with my father’s alcoholism. Growing up, he was always home for dinner and provided for the family and came to see my school plays. But that’s pretty much where the “dad” behavior stopped. My mom always told me that I should just get used to the fact that my dad will never be “the bounce you on his knee type”. Ok, fair enough. But as I started to grow older, my father became more and more distant. We disagreed more, yelled more, cried more.
I blamed myself for this rift for a long time, not realizing what it actually was. It was because I didn’t like golf (my dad’s line of work). It was because I was liberal. It was because I was dramatic and emotional. It was because I did something wrong.
Last spring, Human Resources had a MADD speaker come in and talk to the Student Affairs professionals about alcoholism. A woman went up to the front of the room and proceeded to tell us of how her husband was killed by a drunk driver. Obviously, there was not a dry eye in the room. After, the Assistant Director of the Student Health and Counseling center got up and proceeded to talk about alcoholism. She began to read from a paper the warning signs of alcoholism. As she read them aloud, it was like a check-list in my head, and I started ticking off the ones that applied to my father. In front of my entire division, I cried like a baby as I realized at 25 years old for the first time that my father was an alcoholic. My boss leaned over and said I could leave if it was too much. At that point, I figured it would be more embarrassing to get up and walk out, perhaps some of the people sitting behind me couldn’t see my river of tears pouring down my face. I sat there and listened to the whole presentation.
The next day, my boss called me into her office and shut the door. Afraid I was in trouble (a character trait I later learned is a classic one of children of alcoholics), I was anxious and intimidated. She proceeded to tell me that her father was an alcoholic and that she had spend many years attending Al-Anon, and that she thought it might help me. She looked up meetings and offered to drive me to one after work. She told me to take the rest of the day off for free, go do something that was just for me, and she would pick me up after work. And she did just that. I will forever be grateful to her for that act of kindness, and I don’t know if she realized just how meaningful it was to me.
I attended Al-Anon meetings weekly for about 3 months. I learned that just because he didn’t pass out in gutters, hit us, or leave us, didn’t mean that his illness didn’t have just as much of an effect on me. His body was there, but he wasn’t. In hindsight, I didn’t really have a father. Planning my best friends wedding, and eventually moving to NJ made me stop attending my meetings and I haven’t been back to one in over a year. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking maybe I need it.
I learned that children of alcoholics have a lot of similar character traits. We often try to be perfectionists (if I’m perfect, he’ll be so proud and stop drinking). We judge ourselves without mercy (if I was just a little smarter, thinner, prettier…). And we have an image of what “normal” is and we think we’re not it.
The hardest thing for me to learn is that there is no such thing as normal, and I should stop trying to be it. That is especially hard when I’m sitting here alone. It’s not normal to be single and alone at 26. It’s not normal to be the size I am. It’s not normal to have the hair I have. It’s not normal to tell the pointless stories I tell. It’s not normal to be me.
And I guess that’s why I get the Twisties. It’s watching, reading about, or hearing about what I perceive to be normal- and hoping for it. Craving it. Praying for it.
I guess I hate the Twisties.