Tag Archive | alcohol

The Unexpected Memories ~

journals1

 

I’m a “writer”.  Not like the professional kind, or even semi-      profesional ~ just one of those people (typically women) who like to write.  I have been called a “deep thinker” by a professional counselor, and I tend to write down a good portion of my thoughts.  And I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember.  Most people refer to this commonly now as Journalling.  Back when I was in school, it was “keeping a diary”.  I have recently decided to acknowledge to myself that I am obsessed with “journalling”.  Especially when I discovered that it takes me several days, if not weeks of research on and off the web, just to find the “right” journal to write in.  It must be spiral  bound, and at least 5 x 8 as I have large, dramatic handwriting.  I need to have unobstructed room to write, so the spirals must be relatively small… etc. etc.

In the past week I decided to gather all of my respective journals and take inventory of them, and my life.  I found some dating back as far as 1996 ~ which isn’t that far ~ but most of my journals prior to this time were lost in a sea of domestic violence, quick middle-of-the-night moves from house to house or shelter to shelter ~ and they got left behind and probably destroyed.  So, in reading my journals starting in 1996, I decided I really needed to condense all of these spiral bound notebooks into one comprehensive document that is easily locateable, and easy for me to continue making entries as necessary.  I have created a journal on my computer.  Not online, but here on my desktop.  I have made all appropriate fixes to it so that I can actually print it out if I want to, and put it into an 8.5 x 5.5 3 ring binder… or not.

Well, for the past couple of days, I began to type all of these entries into my computer.  Oye vey!  Until I discovered that my fingers just couldn’t take it!  Fortunately, my beloved husband purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking for me… two years ago for Christmas.  It has sat in its box, until this past weekend when I installed it.  I was wary that it would not work as proclaimed, as these things often do not live up to (my) expectations.  However, I’m happy to say that it has been a complete blessing in this incredible documenation project!  I am now halfway through the project!

Having said that, I did not anticipate the flood of emotions and vivid memories that would come back to me during the reading of these journals from 1996 and forward.  In 1996, I was still in my “before Al” period ~ very turbulent, selfish, into drinking and prescription drug abuse, domestic violence, self loathing… wow!  You name it!  As I’ve been reading aloud the journal entries into the computer, it seems like these times of self destruction and depression weren’t very long ago ~ not long enough, anyway!  I’m through 1996 into 1997 and almost to where I met Al, my husband ~ and where everything changed.  I’m eagerly anticipating the uplift in mood and thought from late 1997 into 1998 and forward.

I’m thankful, though, for these journals of my history that I do have.  There have been moments I have read that were long forgotten until relived in writing.  I’m talking many of the GOOD times ~ yes, we did have them, as witnessed in my journals of my past, and the future to come.

Until next time, TTFN ~ Tamara Eckstadt

 

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Revealed Chapter 7: Into the Lion’s Den ~

The first few years with my new, live-in “beau” were common.  In March of 1985 I gave birth to his son, and we began to move around (relocate) quite a bit.  BB was a farm hand in rural Cayuga County.  Before I met him, and for several months after we first began living together, he worked on his family’s dairy farm.  For whatever reason, he decided he no longer wanted to stay on the family farm, but was hoping to “advance” his career by changing jobs to a different farm in the area.  Often dairy farm jobs come complete with housing for the farm hand and family.  Thus, we began to move as he would take a job, decide he didn’t like it or it didn’t pay enough, and get another job with housing… dragging us from place to place in the process.  The children and I were still receiving public assistance in Cayuga County, but BB’s paycheck was barely $150-$175/weekly, plus the “housing” (which was usually bleak at best, but included utilities, typically).

 As what often happens when two people co-habit together without even knowing each other, it didn’t take long for our true colors to begin to show.  I learned quickly that I had chosen to be saddled with another “child” rather than an equal adult to help me carry the family responsibilities.  And I think he learned that I had a quick temper and low tolerance for stupidity.  I grew tired of moving around and uprooting the family and changing schools simply because he could not get along with his employers time and time again.  Often I would have to intervene between him and his supervisor or the farm owner just to try to keep him employed and us in one place for more than a few months.  This would be a regular pattern throughout the upcoming decade. 

It didn’t take long for the arguments to begin in earnest.  I learned early on that this was a person who literally believed everything he said and did was right.  Needless to say that verbally fighting with such a nut case is beyond frustration.  And, as the months and years went by, I discovered that it was not simply just a tactic he used to try to “right fight”, he actually believed whatever he said was true and correct.  This would be his delusion right to the end.

 Add to that the fact that BB was a drinker.  He came by it honestly enough… all the “men-folk” in his family consumed mass quantities of beer at the local watering hole, where BB was literally raised.  I guess that’s pretty much when and where the violence began between us.  He was not a “happy” drinker, but was belligerent.  It began with just a push here and a shove there, then a punch in the arm and a kick under the covers in bed at night.  Admittedly, I fought back…. though my 5’6” against his 6’4” made it pretty futile.  I was not one to take things lying down, despite the fact that often I had no choice.  On more than many occasions when BB wanted his way in bed and I refused, I found myself being kicked and shoved onto the floor and screamed at and ordered out.  When he got tired of me picking myself up off the floor and sleeping on the sofa (because I wouldn’t let him have his way), he decided to forgo the kicking and shoving and just not take “no” for an answer.  I contemplated over and over about having him arrested for rape, but I had no income ~ well not enough to support my growing family on my own.  So I remained quiet… for now.  I’d grit my teeth and wait the few moments it would take for him to finally leave me alone, then I’d cry from frustration.  I would eventually be quoted giving a description of BB to sheriff’s detectives as a sexual addict.  That was neither a lie nor an understatement.

 In late 1986 I would announce that we would be adding one more to our family, as I was pregnant again.  We were still bouncing around to various farm jobs, but at the time we were living on a really nice farm in Skaneateles, NY.   Despite our differences, I always thought we could work things out and maybe, eventually, find a way to exist together.  I wasn’t so much a realist back then.  Well, not until I went for a prenatal checkup and found out that I was walking around with a venereal disease that went undetected!  I think I was in shock at my OB/GYN’s office.  Never ever had I had such news!  I took great time and care to question my doctor about everything to do with it:  how it’s transmitted, symptoms, treatment.  I wanted to know everything.  I was informed that I would’ve had to have gotten it from my partner (BB), that there would be no other way possible.  Well, I guess that would mean that he must’ve gotten it elsewhere… which would mean I was not the only “girl in town” for him.  Not such a big surprise.  When I got home and confronted him, he denied, denied, denied.  Like if he said it enough times, I would believe it like he does.  When a major argument ensued, he left the residence and didn’t return home until the next day after work.  Hmmmm.  To keep peace, I let it slide for the time being, but did not forget nor forgive.

 Katie was born in May 1987, and in August 1988 I finally landed my first job… well, other than when I was in high school.  This was to be my first real job:  an intake clerk for a weatherization program for a non-profit agency in Auburn, NY.  I was excited.  We managed to move into some low income housing in Auburn that wasn’t far from my work, and they had programs for both preschoolers Brian and Katie to attend, while Kristen and Karalyn went to elementary school.

 I don’t know if it was the fact that I was gainfully employed that made me feel better about myself, but things began to change for me, and hence my family ~ and not necessarily for the better.  It was common knowledge to me and anyone who knew him the BB was not with me exclusively (to put it kindly).  He decided to revert back to his old ways of “open marriage”, even though he and I were not married ~ he still wasn’t divorced from his first wife.  In a way, it was relief to me, since he left me alone more often, and I soon began to explore my own other interests.  BB decided to leave the farm hand life, and he took a job as a cab driver in the city of Auburn.  He worked nights and slept days, which seemed to suit us well.  I was making new friends, who soon became drinking buddies as we made our rounds to various bars on Friday and Saturday nights.  Kristen would’ve been about 12 years old then, and I had no qualms about leaving the other 3 smaller children in her care while they were in bed so I could pursue my own carefree fun.  I was coming into my own “all about me” phase that would last decades before I would wake up and see the light.  Right now, I was of the opinion that I deserved to have a good time, whenever/wherever I wanted to.  After all, I worked hard, I took care of my kids and I tolerated an idiot ~ who would deny me a little fun?  It would be a little more time before I would come to realize that “fun” had all of its own costs.

 ~ To be Continued in Chapter 8…

Revealed Chapter 4: Imprisoned ~

*Note ~ the next few chapters are especially hard for me to reveal, as they show me at my weakest as a woman, and as a mother.*

 In 1982 I moved my little family, which consisted of a divorced me, and my daughters Kristen and Karalyn at ages 4 and 2 years old, into the city of Syracuse.  I decided that, after the divorce, I needed to do something to propel my life forward on my own, so I enrolled in business school, attending nights while I took care of the girls during the day.  We moved into some low income housing only a block or so down the street from the school, and we relied on public assistance for our rent, meals and utilities… and pretty much everything else.  I had a car, and attempted to keep it road-worthy, but it wasn’t working most of the time.  Thank God for buses! 

 But I got a good babysitter for my daughters while I attended school evenings.  She was also a business school student, who attended school during the day.  We became fast friends.  I also made other friends at school, one of which used to share her (what I thought at the time) unusual lifestyle of being married to a prison inmate.  Still, I was curious and we often talked of how she visited her husband at Auburn Correctional Facility, and all the various trappings that came with the lifestyle.  One evening she asked me if I was interested in being a pen pal (yet again) to a friend of her husband’s in Auburn Correctional.  I pressed her for more information, and then agreed and got the address and wrote my first letter that very night.  Within a few days, I received an answer back! 

 BH was a charismatic inmate, 3 years older than me, and with much more worldly experience.  He was in his 3rd year at Auburn Correctional of an 8 ¼ to 25 year sentence for the manslaughter of his second wife.  He never even bothered to profess his innocence to me, as most inmates do.  He accepted the fact that he’d injected her with too much heroin when they had been partying together.  She died from the overdose.  I don’t know what it was I found so fascinating about this man that I had to meet him… perhaps it was his history riddled with crimes, or his exciting biker lifestyle (he was a member of a gang out of Rochester that was notorious for violence).  But I decided I wanted to get to know this person.  I was shown the processes involved for visiting an inmate in a state penitentiary, and made arrangements to visit him on the same day my friend was visiting her husband, so she could show me the ropes.

 Upon arriving at Auburn Correctional, you are required to wait outside the welcome area until it opens up.  A myriad of people wait with you, first come, first serve.  Sometimes buses would pull up and dozens of people would disembark from New York City or other distant places, coming to see their husband, father, uncle etc.  Once the doors opened and you went inside, there were lockers to place anything you would not be allowed to take inside… which was pretty much everything.  You would have to submit to a metal detector, and a pat down once through the metal detector.  Then you would pass through double barred doors to get into the visiting area, which contained tables and chairs, a few vending machines, doors to public restrooms, and guards.  Lots of guards, who watched your every move.  They chose your seat for you, and you would report to the guard desk and they would tell you which alpha-numeric table you would be seated at, then you would go and take your seat to wait for your inmate to be called out from behind locked down doors.  After the usual 10-15 minute wait, BH strolled into the visiting room.  Having never seen me before, he approached the guard desk to ask which table he was assigned, then he found me at the appropriate assigned table.  He was my kind of attractive:  blond, muscular from working out daily, although he was rather unassuming and the same height as me.  He sat down and introduced himself as he looked around to see what other inmates were coming into the room to visit with their loved ones.  There were women with children of all ages, and men visiting their sons perhaps.  BH was surveying the room to see if there were any potential confrontational inmates there ~ guys he didn’t get along with on the “inside”.  Seeing no rivals, his once guarded disposition easily melted into happy to see me.  We would visit for about 6-8 hours before being ushered back out of the visiting room at the end of visiting hours ~ around 4 pm.  We’d say our goodbyes and make plans for the next time I could get to see him.

 It didn’t take long, maybe 5 or 6 visits, before BH began to pressure me to bring him “things” into the prison.  Sometimes it would be a simple “care package” of foods that he liked but couldn’t get inside.  But he was not shy about telling me his penchant  for alcohol and drugs.  He explained that he regularly made his own “alcohol” behind bars using potatoes and bread ~ the fascinating process has been long-forgotten.  And he was not without his marijuana as well, but now, he explained, he wouldn’t have to buy it on the inside, I could bring it to him.  Of course, everything was at my expense.  Me, depending on public assistance to support myself and two daughters, and now an inmate.  I was dutiful.  He seemed to really like me, and I wanted to keep it that way.  This person was the only prospect I had for male companionship at the time.  So I learned from my business school friend, and from BH, how to introduce illegal contraband into a state prison for consumption and resale.  What an adrenalin rush!  It even sounded cool.  About once every couple of weeks I would come to Auburn Correctional with a “package” for my new boyfriend, and I learned the in’s and out’s of how to bring it in internally, and how he would take it back to his cell internally (if you get my drift).  After a couple of months of operating this way, now he had me believing that I “owed it to him” to help him out in this manner.  I was his girlfriend, and potentially soon to be his wife, so it was my duty to bring him whatever he asked for.  Eventually, this included prescription Valium. 

 I never knew that there were physicians in Syracuse that would see a patient for the sole purpose of collecting the money involved in the visit, plus give that patient pretty much whatever prescription they requested.  I was connected with two such physicians for the purpose of getting Valium for my inmate friend.  Boy was I scared in the beginning, but the docs made it easy.  No questions asked.  In fact, I was prescribed Valium (a downer for BH) and amphetamines (for me) from the same physician!  All meds available on Medicaid at no cost to me.  (thank you tax payers!) 

 The one day I was scheduled to bring in some pot during a visit, I wasn’t feeling well and could not internalize the contraband… so I just stuck it up under my bra and hoped for the best.  I also brought my two daughters with me to visit BH (they’d been there before).  I had no idea that the guards were actually anticipating my arrival and would be taking me aside and into the “inner workings” of the prison to be detained on suspicion of having contraband.  Oh yes!  I was found out and arrested that day.  I was taken from the prison to the state police barracks nearby where I was processed, my daughters in tow.  Was it fortunate that I had them with me?  The troopers said I would’ve been sent straight to jail but for them.  I was absolutely terrified.  I eventually found out that my own friend had been the cause of my demise, as he’d bragged to someone on the inside about having a reliable source of “stuff”, and word got around.  It only takes ONE rival to snitch to a guard that you’re coming and they’ve got you.  How naïve was I?!  A friend helped me get and pay for an attorney, and the charges were pled down and I got probation, plus I was banned from visiting BH (at any prison) for a period of one year.  I felt I could breathe easy for awhile, since I wouldn’t be pressured to bring him anything again for at least a year.  But, I soon found out there are other ways that inmates can have things on the inside.  “How about sending me some homemade Christmas cookies” he told me in a letter.  The letter included all the instructions on how to crush up the Valium pills into a fine powder and make blue icing (Valium pills are blue) for the Christmas cookies.  I was of such low self esteem that I was allowing this person to control my life from inside a state prison, pressuring me to do things that I really didn’t want to do, but chanced it anyway.

Auburn Correctional Facility, NYS DOC, Auburn, NY

 The next year was spent like this, letters and phone calls from Auburn Correctional, and I continued on with business school and raising my daughters.  Within 4 or 5 months, I got word that they were transferring BH to Attica State prison near Rochester/Buffalo.  The state doesn’t need to give a reason or have any rhyme to what they do, inmates can be transferred without notice to any state prison in the NYS system.  And so BH was gone from being local to me.  We continued to write, and he’d call when he could, and we’d decided that, once the year long ban was lifted, he and I would get married.  In the Spring of 1983 he was transferred back to Auburn, the ban was lifted in August, and in September 1983 we got married inside Auburn Correctional Facility.  Two of my friends from high school attended (best man & maid of honor).  The honeymoon, however, would have to be put off for a little while.  Conjugal visits were not easy to come by, but the day after our wedding, BH put in the appropriate “application” to be with me.  By Christmas he was transferred back to Attica, where he would have to re-apply.  I think it was around April or May before the application for a conjugal visit was approved by NYS Department of Corrections.

 This milestone in my new life involving the Department of Corrections would set the stage for a scary ride into my second marriage.  My life was already a train wreck waiting to happen.  Soon enough, soon enough.

 

 

Revealed Chapter 2: The White Picket Fence ~

In my senior year of high school, amidst all the drugs, alcohol and self-pity of losing my first love, a girlfriend of mine told me that her fiancé had a brother who is a Marine who is currently on a 3 month cruise and was lonely and wanted a “pen pal”.  What could it hurt?  It would give me something to do to take my mind off ST, and I loved to write because I had good handwriting skills.  So she gave me his address on this military ship in the middle of the Mediterranean and I wrote my first letter, never really thinking I would get a response, I guess.

 I did get a response, and MS and I continued our pen pal relationship for the three months he was overseas, and for a month or two upon his return to Camp Lejeune, NC, where he was based.  When he finally got leave, he wrote that he would be coming to Syracuse, NY, to see his family (his mom and brothers), so we made arrangements to meet in person.  By this time, I had my first car (a 1970 Maverick) and I had a job working at the Baldwinsville School District Offices as Receptionist after school each day… so I had $$.  Also I had “toned down” my partying from my own school locker, and was only getting completely wasted on the weekends.

This is not my exact first car, but exactly LIKE my first car (including the color).

 When MS and I finally met, it was pretty electric.  Wow!  I was a 17 year old high school senior dating a 21 year old Marine!  And I was finally able to get my mind off ST ~ okay, well, maybe not so much.  But who cares?  I was dating a Marine!  The mutual physical attraction was instantaneous, but then again, I’d had a lot of mutual physical attractions with guys before now… none were Marines.   I guess, by the time MS left Syracuse to go back to Camp Lejeune, we were “boyfriend/girlfriend”, and I promised to continue to keep writing in between infrequent phone calls, and I also had decided to make the trip to North Carolina right after graduation for a week or so of fun in the sun at Camp Lejeune.  I had relatives down there I could visit as well.  It was an exciting time … 1977.

 I’d planned that year to go to college after graduation with a business major and art minor.  I was looking into schools when I found out I was pregnant (yet again), and everything screeched to a halt.  What the he!!?  How did this happen?  And I had to tell that 21 year old Marine that we were going to be parents.  I had no idea how he would react, but was thankful it was positive.  He and I decided to get married and become a family with our little one due the next March 1978.  So it was that he managed to get back to Syracuse 2 days before our wedding day, and we said our vows in Plainville Christian Church with a reception following at my parent’s home where I grew up and would soon be leaving.  I couldn’t be happier!  I was going to have it all… a career husband who would make good money in the service of his country to provide for his wife and child.  And there might be more children, and eventually we’d buy a home somewhere and put up that white picket fence in rural America, get a dog and maybe some cats and live the good life and be in love forever.  I expected nothing less.  And I wanted to be a good mom and wife and do all the “stuff” that was expected of me once domesticated.

My ideal marriage/family dream. After all, the white picket fence holds it all together, doesn’t it?

 And all was well for awhile.  We learned to “play house” in North Carolina.  However, some things were just not meant to last, and my white picket fence was about to come crashing down.

 

Revealed Chapter 1: In the Beginning ~

I remember having a good, “normal” childhood until Junior High when I met my first love.  I wasn’t even interested in boys at all until then, until “ST” started giving me all this attention.  Wow!  I was getting attention!  And from a boy!  He made me feel good; good about myself, good about us.  It only seemed natural to kiss him and to let him kiss me.  And that felt good, too.  It only made sense that during April’s Spring vacation, when I was a month shy of turning 13, that ST should ride his bike the 7+ miles to my rural home while both my parents were working and spend the day with me.  After all, we really liked each other’s company. 

 I’d like to say I was naïve and that it was all his fault, but that would be a lie.  Although I was naïve and inexperienced, and had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I was just as much at fault as ST.  Ignorance is not bliss.  When we became intimate with each other, it was a life-altering experience for me that I could’ve never foreseen.  I did not understand that it would be a defining moment in my life that would set the tone of decades to come, effecting my lifestyle, my children and possibly their children.  Like they say:  “If I only knew then what I know now.”  But, would I have changed anything?  Could I have?  And who is “they” anyway?

 I must admit that the now intensity of our relationship built quickly.  We talked on the phone before school, saw each other and “made out” as much as possible during school, and somehow made arrangements to be together sometimes after school; and I was addicted.  We were in love… at ages 13 & 14.  Is that even possible?  It sure seemed like it then, and I can remember it and still feel it like it was yesterday.  I made it to the ripe age of 13 before I became pregnant ~ surprise!  I won’t elaborate on this time of my life, because I already have covered most of it in my “Forgiven and Set Free” post.  I now have a better understanding and am able to cope with the subsequent abortion, after which my son’s father wanted nothing to do with me… another defining moment.

 The rejection that ensued left me feeling desolate, inadequate and shattered my self esteem.  In 9th grade, I may possibly have been the only student at Baker High School that kept a bottle of liquor available in my locker for daily consumption… who knows?  I drank in private and I drank to replace the feeling of emptiness that was left behind when ST turned his attentions to other girls in school.  I experienced intense jealousy that consumed me every day.  It left me miserable, and desperate to find something, or a someone, to make me feel good again like he had.  So, “someone” it was!  Or perhaps I should make that plural.  Thus, I began what would be a series of “relationships” with pretty much anyone who would look at me and show me any attention.  I didn’t really care.  Some were friends from school, some were acquaintances or friends of friends, some I picked up in local bars. 

When I turned 16, I was frequenting bars in the Baldwinsville area with a girlfriend, and meeting men.  No one ever checked ID back then.  Even the guys over the age of 18 and 21 who often took me home ~ to their place or not.  Talk about risky behavior!  It didn’t feel risky to me.  I was just getting what I needed (attention) from whatever source could be obtained.  At 16 I was with a friend in my favorite B’ville bar, we were enjoying a band that we had been following, and this guy asked me to dance.  I obliged.  He was kind.  He stayed with us the rest of the evening, then took us home to my friend’s house (I was spending the night with her).  On the way, he talked me into meeting him the next day, and he would take me for a ride and we’d just talk.  How absolutely dangerous and exciting!  I had no idea who this stranger was!  But I met him the next day anyway, and got in his car.  He drove me back to Baldwinsville, and to his apartment.  After it was all over, he confided that he was a teacher in one of the middle schools there in Baldwinsville.  I didn’t care about any of that, I’d gotten the attention I craved.  His name?  Never got it.   Next!

 From that point on, it was one selfish, irresponsible thing after another throughout the rest of high school.  I’m not sure how I managed to get through the business curriculum I was enrolled in, and be exceptional at it, but I did, even after I began using drugs at age 16 or 17.  Well, because, all my other new friends were doing it!  And it made me feel good and/or made me not feel at all.  I don’t recall having a “home life” during those tumultuous years of sex, drugs and alcohol in school ~ everything pretty much revolved around getting away from my parents and my home and having fun.  Was this fun?  I couldn’t tell anymore.

Next Chapter:  Senior Year