Posted in Addiction, family, friendship, housekeeping, inner peace, Learning, Life, motherhood, People, recovery

Mementos

letters

I spent a good portion of last weekend cleaning my house. It needed to be done, and it always feels great having order restored, however temporary that order may be. But, when I found myself house-bound with a sick child both Monday and Tuesday, I was sort of at a loss for what to do. I could have folded the three loads of laundry that are sitting in a basket on my couch, but for whatever reason, I just can’t quite bring myself to deal with that. I did my normal avoidance routine, consisting of screwing around online, and binge watching yet another show (Mom this time, on Hulu- if you haven’t watched it, check it out. It’s pretty hilarious.). Eventually, though, I had to do something else, something productive, and I knew it was time. Time to deal with The Closet.

The Closet is in the hall, four doors, two on the bottom, two on the top, and I have been avoiding it for three years. Well, three years in March. That’s when I moved into this house, and that’s when I shoved The Closet full of bags and boxes of paperwork and keepsakes and God only knows what else, and left it to rot. I was still getting loaded when I moved into this place, and to be honest, I’ve been a little afraid of what I might find if I went poking around in there.

But on Monday, I put my big girl pants on and started digging- one bag and box at a time. There was a lot of junk, sure…things I should have thrown out eons ago. Printer cartridges for printers I don’t own anymore, file folders full of bills that no longer exist, insurance information for cars I no longer own. I filled up my recycle bin in the space of a few hours. I didn’t find anything to be ashamed of, though, and certainly nothing that put my recovery in danger. So that was a relief.

And then…and then I found some other stuff. I’ve kept boxes for each of my children- those fancy, pretty banker boxes- not the plain brown kind, but the ones you can buy at Marshall’s or Target with the beautiful designs on them? I’ve kept them for my kids and for myself for quite some time. I never really thought about how long I’ve kept them, and I don’t know if I’ve every thoroughly, soberly, gone through them since I started, but…I’m really glad I did.

Although I am working hard on my opinion of myself as a mother today, in the present, my opinion of the kind of mother I have been in the past has become rather concrete. I was a horrible mother, I decided, with no redeemable qualities, and my daughter would have been better off with anyone else. I was heartless and unloving and drug addicted, and I can rarely think of a time when I didn’t suck, heartily, at the task of parenting my eldest child. But her box of mementos tells a different story. I have every art project, every note to Santa and the Tooth Fairy, every report card and hand-made note she ever made for me- so many that I might need a bigger box. This “horrible mother” wrote things my daughter said to me on sticky notes and kept them, all these years. There are pictures of us that I had forgotten about, and we are laughing and playing, and clinging onto one another with love. My mind, my awful, lying mind told me a story and I believed it, and I have carried it around with me for all these years, without question. The things in this box tells me that maybe there is more to that story, more that I need to remember.

In my own box, I found cards and letters- real, hand written letters- from people whom I love, and who love ME. Letters from my best friend Grace, and letters and cards from my grandparents and mom, and a whole bunch of letters from Joe, my friend who died in August. You can’t imagine, you really can’t begin to imagine, how much that meant to me. Reading through all of those words from people who cared so much about me, not just when I was clean, but throughout the worst parts of my life, reminded me that I still had value, I was still worth so much, even when I believed myself to be worthless. I may not have been well, but I was loved, and I was worth something to all these people.

It blows my mind that living the crazy, chaotic life that I lived for so long, having lost nearly everything I owned on more occasions than I can remember, I managed to save these amazing items. I lost households of furniture and closets of clothes, but I have the discharge papers from my daughter’s birth in 1997, and all the cards from the people who visited me at the hospital. I lost everything, except the most important things of all- the slips of paper, the glossy cards, the letters that could fill in for me the memories I lost along the way. The story of a girl who wasn’t all dark, who always had a little light, a little more worth, than I could have remembered on my own.

The Closet is nearly done now- just one more shelf to go, and it will be neat as a pin. I put those boxes away after shedding a few tears, and I sat down on the couch full of wonder and feeling so much lighter. I am not exactly who I thought I was, and for once, I was so glad to be wrong…and anytime I start to forget, or start listening to the lying voice in my head, I know I can just pull one of those boxes down out of that closet, and find all the evidence I need that I’m not all bad. That there was something worth saving in me all along.

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Posted in Blogging, family, funny, humor, kids, Life, motherhood, parenting, People

Parenting Fail

parenting

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I have been on a bit of a roll since I decided to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get my life rolling again after a few days of wallowing in my figurative shit. Well, I was so busy conquering the world on Saturday that I left my little one to her own devices- literally, she was on her Kindle the ENTIRE day, which is not something I normally allow. However, I was super busy, and she, like me, deserves a little time to over-do it, right? Okay, who am I kidding- the truth is, I was busy and didn’t really notice until late in the day that she hadn’t gotten out of bed aside from a trip to get fast food with her dad. Who, by the way, was watching her on Saturday, so he gets some of the blame, right?

Anyway, yesterday, I got up bright and early, did my normal morning writing, and headed out to the gym about 8. When I got home, she was still in bed, on that damn Kindle again, while her dad snoozed on the couch.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” I griped, “This is ridiculous. Let’s go to the Flea Market in Santa Cruz like we talked about.”

No one really wanted to go- it was getting late, and Cam wanted to stay in bed, claiming she didn’t feel good. I wasn’t buying it. I whined and pleaded and, finally, bribed Camryn with promises of all the good toys she was sure to find at the Flea. That got her moving.

So, off we went, on a beautiful sunny day, a quick 45 minute drive over to SC to check out the bargains. Except…halfway there, I looked back to find Cam, who was uncharacteristically quiet, curled over the armrest with her eyes closed. She looked a little pale.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m just tired. And my head hurts. And my knee hurts a little bit. And my tummy hurts. And my throat hurts a lot.”

Uh-oh.

In my defense, I really thought she was just tired from laying around too much. I thought once we got her out of the house, she’d perk up. I was kind of right- she did perk up a little, once we were inside the market. There were toys everywhere (much to my relief, because I wasn’t sure there actually would be.) and she scored a bunch of dollhouse furniture straight away, which is like her favorite kind of thing ever. About ten minutes in, however, she was ready to go. I, feeling bad for her, kept compulsively checking her neck and forehead for warmth (she was definitely warm) and nagging at her dad to leave, even though I had basically forced everyone to go in the first place.

We stayed maybe an hour, and stopped for a quick lunch at a little deli nearby- that’s when I knew for sure Cam was sick. She didn’t want anything to eat except for a Snickers, and she didn’t even eat that. This kid LIVES for junk food- to pass on gobbling down her own Snickers is unheard of. The guilt came for me full force.

She slept all the way home, and as soon as we got back, she went straight to bed. I tried giving her some kids Motrin, but getting her to take medicine is like trying to get a cat in the swimming pool- it’s not only difficult, but can be terrifying and dangerous. My normally sweet girl can throw herself into such a state that it’s a little bit alarming. Pair with this the fact that her dad will pop in throughout the ordeal asking me to reconsider whether she really needs the Motrin or not…for God’s sake! YES, she needs it! Suffice to say that by the end of it, she took maybe half a dose of Motrin (not helpful at all), she was upset with me, I was upset with her dad, and who cares who he was upset with.

She rallied enough in the evening to eat a MASSIVE dinner (yay!) and take a long, lavender scented bath drawn by yours truly, after I scoured the bathroom from top to bottom- guilt is a big motivator for me, and I felt so bad for dragging her out earlier in the day. I sat with her while she soaked, and we watched an episode of Bob’s Burger’s on my phone. Not really the most kid-appropriate show, I know, but luckily most of the adult humor goes right over her head.

Finally, I tucked her into bed in her bright pink raccoon PJ’s, and we embarked on a very long night of barely sleeping. She was breathing weird by this point, and definitely feverish, and I just don’t sleep well when my kids are sick. I just wished I knew exactly how she was feeling so that I could judge how worried I should be…

I woke up at quarter to four this morning with one working nostril and a pounding headache. I guess I got my wish. Well played, Universe. Well played.

Posted in Addiction, Depression, Goals, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, recovery

The Upswing

the upswing
Picture found via google images- I wish I knew who to credit!

Last week, I struggled through some uncomfortable and unwelcome feelings. I wrote about them, the way I write about everything, and I said I knew that what I was going through was just part of life, and that I would feel better soon, the way I always do. But the truth is, every single time I go through those down times, I worry that I am going to get stuck there and that I will feel that way for a long time. Maybe forever. I don’t know why I think that however I am feeling at any given moment is how I always feel, and will always feel, but I do tend to believe this on a certain level. It’s weird. I think I should know myself better by now, but I do need to remember that I am not quite three in recovery years, so I am still figuring out how to operate this life and this person.

One thing I have learned is that I do need to wallow a little bit when I am down. I think everyone probably needs to honor themselves in this way- rather than just power through and act like everything is peachy, go ahead and lay around for a day or two. Spend an entire day watching movies On-Demand, refuse to participate in anything taxing- be that a trip to the beach or a trip to the bathtub, you decide what works for you. Just treat yourself like the unwell creature you are, why not? It might not be the flu, but it’s still a valid thing, that mental bullshit we go through. But I do encourage you to put a timer on this wallowing. We cannot wallow for too long, or it can turn into something else. Something bigger and uglier and much harder to control- at least, that is my fear. I have been legitimately depressed a time or two, and I have a healthy fear of it. I’m pretty sure that if depression were coming for me, there wouldn’t be much I could do to avoid it- it’s a chemical imbalance, obviously, and it happens to people who are doing all the right things, all the time. For me, however, a person who lives entirely too much in her head, I know that my attitude has a lot to do with how I feel. So, I allow myself a brief reprieve, and then I mobilize.

Once I have thoroughly assessed my situation via the wallow, I go into my Handling Business mode. This phase is not the easiest to prod myself into, but once I get started, it’s on like Donkey Kong (do people even say that anymore?). Friday, I decided that it was time to get my shit together, and yesterday was Handling Business day. I went to the gym. I got my eyebrows done (they look amazing, by the way. Seriously, I took a picture of them to show the next girl who does them because I want them to always look this good.) and went grocery shopping, stocking up on healthy foods for the week. I did three loads of laundry, including folding and putting away. I cleaned my kitchen, and my living room, and still managed to take a nice, long, hot bath…I even shaved my legs. That may not sound like a lot to you, but you would think differently if you had seen my kitchen. The stove top alone needed like 30 minutes of attention with a Magic Eraser.

During the wallow, I realized that in just a few short months, I will be turning 43 years old. This past year has been one of my personal best. I have stayed clean, and done so much work on myself. In the past three years, I have gone from total chaos and dysfunction to mostly-pretty-normal with occasional bouts of low grade chaos. I count that as a win. But there is always more to strive for, and I enjoy re-assessing my situation and figuring out where I want to go next. I have my writing habits pretty dialed in at this point, and I plan to keep on going with that. My fitness goals kind of got swallowed up (pun unintentional) over the past month, though, and I am going to get back to that. I’ve decided I want to see a significant change in my habits (honestly, I’d like to see a significant change in my body, but I want to keep the focus on my health) by the time 43 rolls around.

So there you have it- Wallow over, Upswing initiated. There will be moments of both in the months ahead, but I have my eye on the prize. Now, I am off to find some blogs about fitness and eating healthy. I’m sure I’ll find one or two. 🙂

Posted in Blogging, Goals, Life, Musings, story telling, writing

The Writing Hour

typing

You’ve heard of the Witching Hour, right? Well, I want to talk about the Writing Hour- the magical time of day when I get to write. I get up at 4:30 in the morning, every single day, just so that I can have this quiet, undisturbed time to write.

Every night, before bed, I set up my coffee maker so that it starts my coffee at 4:15, assuring that it will be ready when I crawl out of the warmth of my blankets way before the first light of dawn. It takes me a little time to wake up- somewhere around the dregs of my first cup, I stop reading and commenting on blogs, and start working on something of my own. Sometimes it’s my novel, and sometimes it’s a blog post- on a good day, like today, I might manage both.

Like many of us, I am an extremely busy person. I work full time, I have a small child (and a not so small child, also), a house full of pets that want my attention. There is homework to be done, and housework, laundry that never seems to be folded, and a million other little tasks tugging constantly on my mind. On top of that, I am in recovery, trying to fit in meetings, and doing all the things that take care of me mentally and physically. Groceries need to be bought, dinners prepared, I have to get to the gym, I have to walk the dog. My God, just writing it down makes me anxious. The list literally had no end- once you complete it, if that ever even happens, you go back to the top and start over.

And that is fine, that’s just the way life is. BUT…doing any of these things at 4:30 in the morning would be pretty unreasonable, if you ask me. The only acceptable thing I can think of to do at that hour, besides sleep, is write. Between the hours of 4:30 and roughly 6:30 in the morning, I am free to indulge myself in whatever form of writing pleases me. I can read blog posts at my leisure, or re-read the latest chapter in my work in progress. I can let my fingers fly over the keyboard as I transcribe the crazy events playing out in my imagination. Not even the sky is the limit. It’s entirely up to me.

Could I use a bit more sleep? Maybe. Would my life benefit at all from me staying up later than 8:30 every night? Most likely. Am I willing to give even an inch on this one thing, and give up my magical Writing Hour? Not even a chance. I’d rather yawn my way through the day and count down the minutes to bed time than give up my writing time.

Happy Friday, and Happy Writing!

Posted in Blogging, fun, Life, Musings, random

Three (Cheerful) Things

In an attempt to highlight the more awesome parts of my life, I thought my three things this week should be happy things. So here goes:

cinnamon rolls

  1. I made my daughter cinnamon rolls this morning. I mean, I didn’t make them from scratch or anything, but she was certainly impressed. All I did was open the can (which, as most of us will agree, canned breads of any type are TERRIFYING to open!) and pop them in the oven, but she was beyond excited about the treat. Which made me feel great, and was just an all around awesome way to start the day. I really needed that this week.seaside
  2. The weather here has been gorgeous this week! I mean, I live on the Monterey Peninsula, so even at its worst, it’s still pretty fantastic, but when the sun is shining here…it’s just unbelievable. Seriously, some Disney Princess weather we’ve been having. Birds singing, poor confused little flowers popping up everywhere, little white butterflies. It’s hard to be glum when mother nature is showing off like she has been. I mean, I can do it, but it takes a lot of work.facebook 2
  3. My Facebook Fast in January seems to have worked. I think I actually broke its toxic hold on me. I can get on there, but I don’t have to get on there, and I certainly don’t do it 500 times a day. Maybe once or twice, tops, and I am not posting hourly. I was really out of control…it has left a bit of a hole in my life, though, I’m not going to lie. Facebook gives you the feeling that you have a very busy social life, when in fact, all you’ve got is a busy social network. Those two things are not at all the same. I am trying hard to connect on a more personal level, but it really is going to take time, I think. And I am okay with that. Quality over quantity, for sure.

So there you have it! My three things for the week. I hope the idea of Friday coming up quick is cheering you up, and that you, like me, have a three day weekend coming up! Yay for three day weekends! Definitely in my top 100 favorite things.

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, faith, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, twelve step

Life on Life’s Terms

life on life's terms

 

 

I am having the hardest time ever with this post right now. This is the third blog I have started, and I am determined to finish this one, no matter how much I may hate it. Here’s the thing: I am having a shit time right now, for a number of reasons. None of them are big things, but a bunch of little things strung together, causing me stress and a general feeling of unease. I don’t feel comfortable with my life or in my body right now, and it’s bumming me out.

Here’s the thing, though. I understand that this is temporary, just like everything always is. My face has erupted like Mount Vesuvius, but…it is going to go back to normal. Eventually. I had a bunch of unexpected expenses come up all at once, but…they are going to be dealt with. Financial ruin is unlikely. I haven’t had time this week to buy groceries or get to the gym, and it sucks, but I will get back on track. It’s not the end of the world.

In my addict mind (and maybe in normal minds, too, I have no experience with living in one of those) everything is extremely black and white, all or nothing. Every time I get off track, I feel like I have failed utterly, and there will be no coming back for me. Which is ridiculous- I have millions of examples in my own life where that has not ever, not once, been the case. And yet, I persist with this wrong thinking. My mind often works against me, and it can be exhausting.

The solution? I believe it must be to just acknowledge that my wrong thoughts exist, be aware of that, and then work around them. Sometimes, I can think myself right into a corner, wedged so tightly that I can’t even move. Like, moving a muscle seems impossible, seriously. That is when I need to find the strength to haul my ass up anyway, and get some shit done. If I let myself sit in my mess for too long, that is when depression comes calling. And if you’ve ever dealt with depression, you know how hard that can be to get out of, and how scary it feels when it’s breathing down your neck. Inaction is not my friend in this situation.

I keep thinking about how, four days ago, I wrote a post about laughter, and how weird it may seem to any attentive readers that I am now writing about something quite the opposite of that. Maybe you will think I am nuts…hell, maybe I am. But here’s the thing- life doesn’t care how great I felt last week. Life just shows up, and does what it does. What I have learned in recovery is that I am supposed to be living life on life’s terms, meaning I deal with what life serves up, to the best of my ability, without taking anything to change the way I feel. This is harder than it sounds sometimes. Not the part where I don’t take anything, I’ve grown used to that. It’s the part where I cope with it well that eludes me sometimes.

I get nervous. I get scared. I feel like a lot of people depend on me, and I don’t know if I am up to the task. I retreat. I close up. I shut down.

But I always, always, always (so far) pull it together in the end. I always find a way to come out the other side of my feelings intact. I have a 100% success rate so far of not destroying my life completely, as long as I stay clean. I may not be feeling my best today, but tomorrow…who knows? Hell, later today I might feel better. You just never know. My job is just to hang in there, do my best, and wait for things to change. Because they always do, for better or worse.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, fun, health, humor, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, recovery, spirit, twelve step

Laughter

laughter

 

I gave up laughter for years.

I mean the good kind, the kind that rolls out of you uncontrollably, the kind that makes you double up, the kind that makes you cross your legs so you don’t pee your pants. The best kind- the laughter that comes out so hard that it makes no sound, just your big open mouth, your shaking shoulders. I can’t even think about that kind of laughter without smiling.

I gave it up, and I didn’t even realize it. Which is weird, because I love to laugh so much! I didn’t stop making other people laugh- I have always been really good at that, and it is an excellent way to distract people from what is wrong. When you can make people laugh, it’s easy for them to assume that you are okay, that you are happy, right? Happy people make other people laugh. I don’t think that is true at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I adore making people laugh, but…it’s a show you put on. A friendlier way than my other go-to of crazy anger to keep people at arms length. To keep them from asking too many questions, or seeing me too clearly. Deflect, distract, confuse. Another tool in my arsenal.

I don’t remember doing too much laughing myself. At least, not the good kind. The sad fact is, when you are deep in addiction, you don’t have much to laugh about. It’s not fun. It’s a life in survival mode, just barely keeping your head above water.Then, if you are lucky, and if you work really hard at it, you get clean and shit gets REALLY real. If you are doing step work and working with a sponsor, things come up. Feelings you didn’t feel ten years ago clamor to be felt. You deal with anxiety, remorse, shame, regret, depression, elation, joy, love, relief, exhaustion and peace. But what you might find little room for in your life, while dealing with all this other stuff, is silliness. And silliness is a big ingredient in laughter.

For me, at least, it was a long, long time before I stopped being so tense. I had been so on my guard for so long, so careful in the way that I lived my life out of fear of being found out, that it was a long while before I trusted myself to keep going. Believe me when I say that I am not some paragon of ease- I can’t see that ever happening. I am a little tightly wound, as friends and family will attest. Lately, though, I have found myself able to breathe. To be in the moment, to let go, to have fun.

And I have been laughing so much. So much that it has caught my attention several times over the past few weeks. My little daughter, the one I am with the most, has noticed too. She’s the one I’ve been cracking up with the most, and it’s like some kind of medicine, I swear. We laughed our way through Target the other night, being silly as hell, and causing people to stare at us as we giggled and swerved our cart through the aisles. I am not lying when I say that several children looked at us with longing, wishing they were having as much fun as we were.

We’ve been laughing in the car, and laughing in our house, laughing in the morning when I wake her up, and laughing while we brush our teeth. We almost died laughing during a dance off we had in the living room the other night.

I’ve been laughing at work, and laughing in meetings. Last night, at my critique group, it felt great to laugh with my writer friends about writer stuff. And yesterday, when I was complaining about my sudden acne outbreak and my friend asked me why I thought I was breaking out, I pointed to my face and said “Hemorrhoids” when what I meant to say, in fact, was “Hormones”. I literally almost peed my pants. Come on, that’s freaking hilarious.

I missed laughing so much. If you are just starting out on this journey, I promise you, the day will come when your heart and spirit have healed enough to let your guard down. You will trust yourself again, and you will find, without even realizing that it’s happened, you are whole. You will find that you can breathe again, you will find it easy to smile, and I promise you, you will laugh.

The good kind of laugh.