I moved down to the Everett area about three and a half years ago, and stayed in the area for a month at a time over about a year period before that at David’s house. Before this, I lived in Bellingham, Washington, which is a really beautiful place. It’s full of trails, lakes, and is on the Puget Sound. There is an area in Bellingham (or on the outskirts) that has all kinds of lowland hiking. It is right around Larrabee State Park and is in a lowland mountain range known as the Chuckanut Range. The range is not too high, probably with the highest points at around 2500-3000 feet above sea level. This small mountain range, though, is right on the Puget Sound, and it provided me wonderful hiking experiences for the 15 or so years that I lived in Bellingham.
Bellingham is also right next to the Cascade Mountains, which provides even more hiking experiences for the people who live in the area. And, it is close to a ski hill in the winter, and is close to Canada. It was a really great place to live, minus all the trauma that I experienced while I lived there.
When I lived there, too, despite all of the issues in AA, I did really love it up until the last year that I was involved in that area. Even though not everyone in AA is liberal like I am, or as educated as I am, there were people in Bellingham AA that are/were as liberal as me. I remember, too, that when I first went that I did feel out of place as I was getting a graduate degree and it was kind of weird being surrounded by people who were not as educated as I was simply because I was used to life in academia. In order to deal with this, I sought out other academics in order to feel more comfortable there. And, over time, sadly enough I “dumbed” myself down both consciously and unconsciously to fit in. But, I never lost my liberal beliefs and some of my hard and fast views about many academic matters, including how I truly feel about the true basics of human behavior (which were in stark contrast to much of what I learned in AA).
Still, as I said, there were people there as liberal as me. I also lived in my home town of Gig Harbor for a year while I was attending AA and the same thing was true there. And, a lot of people were also highly educated in Gig Harbor AA.
Before AA, I had a lot of friends who were liberal and educated and had similar values as me, and was involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities that involved some political groups. It was a nice time for me, and I felt very much like I fit in. I flourished during this time, much more than I did later in life when I was in AA.
As a child, too, even though I was experiencing a lot of abuse and felt quite alone, I was always on a sports team and in a choir (or two or three), so I always felt like I fit in somewhere, even if I felt like I didn’t have friends when I really did.
What all of this meant was that usually I always had a group of people in my life that I felt similar to. Plus, growing up in a cultic family meant that cohesion and Groupthink were pushed onto me as a child in a different way than most children experienced. This led me to have some weird expectations about what life is like, as did AA.
When David and I started talking about moving in together, it was obvious that the best choice was for me to move in with him. This is mostly because he is employed and I am not, and he has a very good job that he doesn’t want to leave. I knew that this would be hard for me, as my family and friends were mostly in Bellingham, but I tried to make the best of it. When I came to visit for those months or weeks at a time, I tried out many different AA groups in the area. But, I felt out of place pretty much immediately. There were very few people in AA that were similar to me in basic beliefs and educations, and I noticed that even my style of dress was different than most people there (it’s a farming community and the meetings reflected this). I always felt weird when I spoke, and the emphasis of the meetings were very different than Whatcom and Pierce County (where I’d gone to meetings before). It was like culture shock to me. And, I noticed that there were very few women at the meetings who had more than, say, a decade of sobriety. At nine years of sobriety I would often be the woman with the most sobriety there, which made me think that something was up within this AA community.
I was really upset about all of this for quite some time. The good news, though, is that it opened my eyes to the issues that are happening within AA. In Bellingham, the number of women with lengthy sobriety also was diminishing, but because I loved the area AA so much I was blind to this and to what it could mean. It was easy, though, to process this in a new community that I didn’t have strong attachments too. When I started to explore my experiences with abuse at the hands of AA members, including within domestic violence, I started to wonder if “13th stepping” in AA and problems with predatory behavior could be one of the reasons why women appear to be leaving the program. I also started to talk to other women in AA about my experiences and found out that some of my friends had similar stories to me in terms of domestic violence with men that they met in AA (and/or sexual assault) that I did not know about because I’d never really brought it up before to them. This was one of the things that led me to leave the program, as was the victim blaming that I received particularly in the Everett/Snohomish/Monroe area when I simply talked about my experiences even within the AA framework. Also, even though some people were nice to me while I went to AA in this area, I got the feeling that because I was talking about controversial subjects and showing signs of severe PTSD that most people didn’t really want me there, and they showed this to me in many subtle ways.
This led to me never really finding my place in the area that I live in now,, because I was so dependent on AA for so long that I still am not sure how to find a place without it. And, on top of this, David’s family made and continues to make me feel extremely unwelcome in their family. They have many “reasons” why this do this, such as they are concerned about David dating someone with health issues, they are concerned because they think that I spend “too much money on cats”, even though David does the same thing, they are concerned because they think that I don’t like them because I ask them to call before they come over to my house, they are concerned because David spends money on me, they are upset that David spends time with me over them (I’m actually his first girlfriend, and they don’t seem to like the natural things that happen when a loved one finds a significant other), and more.
All of these things, the victim blaming, the unwelcome response from David’s family, my issues in the area AA, and my flare of pretty much all of my health issues have led me to not feel great about living in the area that I do. And, the truth is that even though I have been to fun events and to nice hikes in the area (we live even closer to the Cascades than Bellingham is), I still have yet to really bond with the area itself or make friends here. I just don’t like it here that much. And sadly, as I said above, I’ve lived here for over three years. This really illustrates to me how much of an impact people’s behavior can have on you (me), and that it can take a long time to undo the messages that are sent to you by the people around you. I’ve been working through this though with the help of David and friends that I’ve made online, and am starting to feel confident again after all of these situations.
This is why I feel like it’s so important for me to find things that I enjoy in this area. I can do this with David or I can do it on my own or with family and friends who still support me. I’ve been spending time lately looking through events and things to do in the area that I do not currently know about, and have found some promising events. And, we’ve already done some things recently in the area that I have enjoyed. I also really love Seattle and I am not too far away from it. I was thinking yesterday that typically I would have been overjoyed to move near Seattle. It’s too bad that my I’ve been made to feel so unwelcome here.
And even though I’m looking into all of this, whether I can do these things are contingent on whether or not I’m having a viral flare, which is not something that I can fully control. My worsening viral flares have made it hard for me to counteract my negative experiences in this area simply because I haven’t had the energy or strength to do fun activities while I was experiencing such negativity. I remember that even when I was in abusive situations before my health issues started flaring in 2015, that I was able to still find fun in life because my health was not so bad as it has been the last four years. But, with the flaring of PTSD symptoms, Dissociative Symptoms, anxiety, panic attacks, thyroid issues, and chronic viral flares, I just haven’t been able to live life as I’m accustomed to or to keep up say, workout routines and the such, which are sources of confidence for me. And, when people acted like jerks to me, this only made these symptoms worse and resulted in plummeting self esteem. All of this led to really severe depression as well as just plain exhaustion, which I am just starting to come out.
It’s obviously been a really difficult few years for me, but I see signs that I’m starting to live again. The fact that I’m focused on trying to equate positive associations for myself in this area is a pretty healthy thing for me to do. It also means, too, that I am understanding and accepting the negative things that I’ve been through here and that I need to find a way to rewire my brain regarding this area, because I don’t think that we’ll be moving away from it anytime soon. I remember in AA that they always talked about accepting your life and your situation the way that it is, but, I don’t accept my situation the way that it is. I want it to improve, and I will work to make it improve. I don’t need to accept miserable situations anymore and just sit in them, or to “accept” people in my life, family included. I can say today that this situation or my life today is not acceptable to me, and that because of this, I need to and have the power to improve it, change it, ,or just leave it. I don’t need to lie down and let life or anything else just happen. I am not powerless or helpless anymore. And, I don’t have to put up with other people’s terrible treatment of me. Today, I can just walk away from a person who has a negative impact on my life.
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