What It Was Like


December 24, 2021

What It Was Like

Swirling confusion spirals around me.
I’m caught in a whirlpool of
behavior, emotion, belief, and memory
that I can’t reconcile.
I fight against the current,
swim away from the vortex.
I’m so tired, so sad.
I long to surrender to the tide,
but I choke back the tears,
and insomnia protects me from my dreams.
Words bombard me with threats of annihilation
while I read, searching for the key that will
unlock my prison.

Swirling Confusion

They had to drag me from my
drugged, hysterical mother.
Inhuman, misshapen, I remained an infant
stuck in ugliness,
frozen by their remarks and anecdotes:
the bullet-shaped head, the ugly hair, the enormous eyes,
the colicky crying and vomiting.
I must have given up early on my mother,
Pregnant again after only two months.
(Try again, they can’t all be that bad.)
How pleased she must have been with my sister,
the tiny, sweet babe who followed me.
(The more you have, the cuter they get.)

Bonded to my father and his parents,
I struggled for approval, acceptance, recognition
That never came.
I became a bookworm, lonely, withdrawn,
sucking my thumb, lost in fantasies of
abduction, abandonment, adoption.
Scholarly, asexual, alone,
I wandered through adolescence
in a haze of sadness and rejection,
until I found an actor’s mask of competence
that let me survive with a
sarcastic wit and a false optimism.

I did it all right:
College, Europe, marriage,
teaching, childbirth, career,
until the alcoholism of my husband
forced the bookworm into a cocoon.
I tried to wrap my son in the
gauze of my affection,
but it wasn’t enough.
My love was a need he couldn’t absorb
like the milk and wheat that
ran through his small body.

The demands of my life,
my husband, my son, my career,
buffet me from one side of
my fragile mooring to the other.
My cocoon hangs from a tenuous strand,
a pendulum swinging between extremes:
the bitch and the doormat,
the witch and the mother,
the whore and the virgin;
and all of it is false.

Nothing is right.
The once cozy cocoon is smothering me.
My chest tightens, my stomach hurts,
but I’m afraid to break the wrapping
and cut the thread that tethers me to my life.
I know what to do to push through the webs that
entangle and entrap me.
I shrink back into the shroud,
cowering in fear of the
painful sacrifice that beckons.

– Julie T.

Do you have a piece of poetry living within you that needs to come out into the light of day to celebrate your recovery in OA?

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