Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, random, relationships

Let Go of Everything

breathe

Today is the last day of my life that I will ever be 42. Forty-fucking-two, you guys. Holy shit! Tomorrow, I will be FORTY THREE. I honestly had no idea that in your forties, you could still feel the exact same way that you did in your 30’s and even in your 20’s. Maybe just a little more cautious, and a little less willing to paint your own toenails or pluck your own eyebrows- this is the luxury of having a bit more financial stability and less of a desire to stay up past nine in the evening, meeting friends for expensive drinks. You can pay someone else to groom you. I am only half way joking- this is one of the most enjoyable things about getting older for me. That, and getting to enjoy the full scope of Amazon Prime. I love that shit.

Anyway, for some reason, I always thought that 42 would be this landmark year for me. I actually looked forward to it for a really long time, and now, here I sit, almost done with the age…and nothing pointedly significant is jumping out at me. I didn’t get an agent (nor did I try, so that might be part of that problem), I didn’t have a New York Times best seller (also, didn’t finish my novel yet, so that could be why), and I am not rich beyond my wildest dreams (although this has been a great year for me, financially, so…). So what does that mean? Has this year been a failure because no giant big deals are jumping out at me?

Nah. This has been the best year of my life so far. I’m still clean. My mental health is outstanding- like, I am probably more stable now than I’ve ever been. My physical health is incredible. My parenting game is top-notch. My bills are all paid. My recovery is strong. I am closer with my family than ever, and I have some wonderful friends. My life is in really good shape.

But the best part is the ease of it all. What I mean is, I’m not afraid of living anymore. Like, I finally learned how to stop trying to make everything turn out exactly the way I wanted it to, and let whatever is supposed to happen, happen. And this small thing, when someone is the caliber of control freak that I am, is not really a small thing. Do you know how exhausting it is to constantly try to manipulate every possible outcome in your favor? If you do, you really need to hear this, because…I think I finally figured out the solution. Just let go. Let go of the outcome, and enjoy the ride. You don’t have to insert yourself into everything, you don’t have to put up a false front, you don’t have to do anything…just let things go how they will go. It’s literally the most magical thing ever.

I don’t mean stay in your pajamas and stop showing up for work. You still have to show up. But some things you don’t have to do? Okay, well- you don’t have to suffer fools. Let them go…show them the door, even. You don’t have to keep anyone in your life that doesn’t deserve to be there. You can definitely let go of people that suck. You don’t have to explain yourself, either. If you are done with someone, chances are they know exactly why you feel the way you feel, so BYE. You don’t have to apologize for your feelings. You don’t have to beat yourself up for being human. You don’t have to let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. You don’t have to let YOU make you feel bad about yourself.

And here are some things you can do: You can love yourself, exactly the way you are. You can love yourself, and still want to change a few things. You can let people into your life that make you happy. You can let those people go, if they want to go, and it doesn’t have to mean anything is wrong with you. You can be proud of yourself. You can tell that mean voice in your head to shut the fuck up. You can decide you are pretty fucking great, and defend that decision as if your life depends on it, because it kind of does. You can just be who you are, and relax.

I may not have done all of the things in the past twelve months that I expected of myself, but I did a lot of things that will help me get to where I want to be. I did some deep, deep, inner work, and it has given me back far more than I invested, honestly. Sitting here, writing this, I have so much peace in my heart. I am so okay with who I am. Flaws and all. It’s been a pretty outstanding year.

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Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, parenting, recovery

The Best Things…

I Love You quotes for Daughter Mother daughter quotes at www.bmabh.com

It is Tuesday morning, and my house looks like a cyclone hit it. To my left, the couch is covered in jackets, napkins, pillows, a purse, and a discarded bra. Under my chair is an empty sparkling water can that I keep forgetting to pick up, and next to that is my seven year old’s backpack.

There are no dishes in the sink because we haven’t eaten a meal at home in DAYS. There is, however, a garbage can full of empty take out containers, and one half eaten box of carne asada fries on the microwave stand. The bathroom floor is covered in clothes abandoned pre-shower, and left there until someone (me) picks them up. The counters are littered with expensive make-up and hair products. The front porch? Oh lord, I was out there this morning, and there are puddles of spilled coffee all over the place, a dead giveaway that my older daughter is home. She loves coffee, but doesn’t metabolize caffeine very well in her tiny little body.

And in each of the beds in both of the bedrooms, my daughters lay sleeping. My mom always says she sleeps so much better when her kids are home, and I get it, I really do. The past three nights since my oldest has been home, I’ve slept with my bedroom door open, and slept more soundly than I have in weeks. Just knowing she is right there, in the next room, and my littlest one is sleeping beside me…it’s like heaven.

You have to understand, my daughters and I…we are the closest of the close. Aisley, my oldest, we have been through hell together- most of it my doing, of course, but she…I’ve always said, she’s the reason I am still on this earth. I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if she hadn’t come along. We are more than just mother and daughter, we are each other’s core family, the nucleus, the main event. We grew up together. Which means things can get weird, and roles can be confusing- sometimes I try to be the mom, and she doesn’t want it. Sometimes I’m more like a sister, and she needs a mom. We have struggled with boundaries, and with communication, and with our expectations of each other. We’ve healed a lot since I have gotten and stayed clean. I think she finally trusts that I am serious now, that I’m not going to fuck this up. She doesn’t look at me with that suspicion on her face anymore, and I never want her to worry about that again. I don’t really ever entertain the idea of getting high anymore, but the odd time that it idly crosses my mind, I imagine what it would do to my children, and I know it’s not worth it. Not even close, not ever.

It was always Aisley and I, the two of us, and no one else. By the time Camryn was a toddler, Aisley was off living her life, in high school, running around with her friends. So I basically have two only children. Now it is Camryn and I, and Aisley has moved away. But sometimes, for brief times like this, I get to have them both, together, sleeping under the same roof, and I can breathe again. The worry I didn’t realize I was holding, I can set it down for a few days.

I am so blessed. That my life turned out the way that it has, that my children still love me, that I get to be their mother, and that I am better at it than I ever dreamed I could be. Not perfect, I’ll never be perfect. I might not ever even be great. But I’m so much better than I ever thought I was capable of. And honestly, for now, that’s all I need.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, escape, Life, random, recovery, twelve step

Slip Slidin’ Away

slippery slope

Sometimes, I forget who I am. I get a little too relaxed. I walk around my home without seeing how incredibly blessed I am to get to live here, in a house I can afford, where my daughter has her own room, and I get to have my dog, and I have a big old yard, and TWO bathrooms. I just get caught up in living my life without seeing how amazing it is. Same thing goes for my career- I can be whiny about my job, I get lazy sometimes, completely oblivious to the fact that the rash decision I made 13 years ago to go to night school, the credentials I gained, and the amazing opportunity I was handed when I was hired at the hospital where I still work today, changed my life. Completely transformed it. I’m not saying this is unusual- no one walks around in a state of constant gratitude. At least, no one I know.

But one thing I would do well to remember is the reason I get to keep the wonderful life that I have. The one thing that would save me, should the house go away, or the job wasn’t mine anymore. That thing is my recovery, and I haven’t been doing much for it lately. I really need to remind myself that if I didn’t have all these days in a row of not just being clean, but being clean and working on the person I am, working towards steadily getting better than I was before, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this right now.

Life can and will keep changing right before your eyes, and it is easy to get swept up in this thing or that thing, and let your focus change. I think that during those times, it’s pretty normal to stray from the path and wander off, but…do I think it’s a good idea? Nope. I think, in reality, when you feel yourself getting off track, you need to double down on the things that anchor you. I do, that’s what I need to do. I should be specific here, I am talking about me, about my life right now. I need to be closer than ever to my program of recovery, not just saying the words, but actively.

Listen, I am not in any imminent danger, but…my thoughts have been a little squirrely lately. Which, of course, is how it always begins- right in your head. I have been wishing for something to take the edge off, or blur the edges at least, just a little bit. I want something that will make me less…less worried about how ME I am all the time. Because I am messy and nervous and insecure, I think way too much, and take things pretty seriously, believe it or not. And my brain has been telling me stories about how much more fun I could be, how easy it would be, the exact way that I could lay all this heavy shit down and just fucking relax already.

Thankfully, I know my brain to be a liar. I know my brain, sensing discomfort, will do just about anything to make that feeling go away. I mean, my brain has been lying to me for yeeeaaars. So I don’t have to listen to any of it. I know there are no shortcuts in recovery, and there are certainly no days off. Not even when you could really use a drink or two. As a matter of fact, all these years that I have put in? This is sort of what I’ve been training for- the day when I really longed for an escape, or an easier way. This is the test I’ve been studying for this whole time. I’m not about to fail, not now.

I made a choice, I made a commitment, a long time ago, knowing there would be times in the future that it would be hard to keep that commitment. There have been these times in the past, and I kept at it, and I wasn’t sorry. There are always two paths, and I know where one of them leads me- I’ve been down it about as far as a person can go and live to tell the tale. The other one, well…the other one I don’t know as well. But I have a feeling that the woman I want to be is somewhere along it. So I think I will stay on that path. I think that is the wise thing to do.

slippery

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Blogging, inner peace, Learning, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery

Punishment Enough

punishment enough

I have been cursed with a guilty conscience, thanks largely in part to living a lifestyle for many years where I usually was doing something wrong. I mean, nothing major, for the most part, but generally, just the way I lived, it was all very secretive, very sneaky. I got in trouble with people all the time and it was normally very much my own fault, and so…I developed a habit of feeling pretty bad about myself.

This has not changed, despite the fact that I am very much a responsible, productive member of society these days. What it amounts to is that I tend to be a lot more nervous and worried about making mistakes than perhaps your average person- as a matter of fact, I don’t allow myself any room at all for messing up. When it inevitably happens that I do, I am very, very hard on myself. I expect the worst consequences despite the fact that people have almost always been more forgiving of my screw-ups than I anticipate. Basically, what I’m saying is, I’m kind of a wreck. When things are going smoothly, I am okay. But throw one little issue into the pot, and the entire trajectory of my thoughts goes rapidly down hill. I obsess. I am consumed with worry. I feel really, really bad about myself. And I have had it.

I’ve had it with my attitude about myself. I’ve had it with my inability to just let things unfold, and my refusal to have any faith in myself. I’ve had it with my catastrophic thinking, and more than anything else, I have had it with fear. Even as I write this, I have a little thing hanging over my head that is causing a major disturbance in the force, and my poor fear-poisoned body feels tight and uneasy and anxious. I woke up with that old, familiar heaviness, that sense of dread that I know so well. I’ve had enough. I have to let it go. So, here is what I have to say to myself-

Dear Courtney-

Life cannot be lived while curled in the fetal position, not even the figurative fetal position. You don’t have to be afraid. Everything is going to be okay, even if it doesn’t go the way you have planned. You are safe. You can rely on me. I am not going to let you down. You can’t enjoy the awesome adventure of life if you are holding on so tightly to all of this fear. You can put it down. No matter what happens, you will figure out a way to navigate it. You always find the silver lining, always, eventually. Try to remember that. You are a good mother, a good friend, and a good person. The past is over with. You are allowed to leave it there and move on. Your life was punishment enough. Stop beating yourself up for being someone you bear no resemblance to anymore. That girl was sick and sad and desperate for help…and you saved her life. Give yourself credit for how far you have come. You have been through so much. It’s time to start enjoying the life you have managed to create. So hold your head up, and let the chips fall where they may. And never forget that I love you.

Love, me.

I know that got a little weird, but I needed to say those things to myself. Now it’s public, so I can’t take it back. 🙂

Here’s to lighter hearts and lighter loads to carry. I’m ready to leave some of this baggage behind and skip a little bit. Happy Friday!

Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, Life, People, twelve step

The Next Right Thing.

next right thing

When I was still in active addiction, my choices in life were pretty limited. As a matter of fact, I came to the conclusion at one point that being an addict is like having a real handicap- you just cannot live a normal life at all. Simple things, like going to the grocery store, are a major life event- there’s a fine balance between being way too high and not high enough, and lets face facts, I was terrible at finding that balance. Of course, it’s all just a bunch of lies that your fiendish mind is feeding you, 24/7, but when you are in it, it seems very, very real. So, if going to the store is a big deal, things like going out to dinner with your family or flying somewhere on a trip out of town are just off the table, pretty much. I mean, unless your drug of choice happens to be alcohol, because that shit is EVERYWHERE. I’m sure that comes with its own set of challenges though- I can only imagine the bargaining and idea of moderating that must go on for alcoholics who are still using. I’ve often said I have a deep respect for alcoholics who can stay sober- I don’t know how in the world I’d stay clean if amphetamines were sold at every 7-11 and Safeway I frequented. As usual, though, I digress. My point is, life is very limited for the addict in active addiction. “Well, what about the choice to just not use?” You might ask. And to that I say- “Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! You don’t get it, do you?”

Not using is less of a choice and more of an event in the life of an addict. It is something we dream about, we begin to think about constantly, it’s a promise we make to ourselves, and it usually goes something like this- “Tomorrow, I am going to stop.” “After this last _____ I am definitely done.” Or, “Just one more, just one more, just one more.” It can seem hopeless, and the more hopeless it seems, the more we obsess over it. For me, personally, I knew that I needed help on many occasions, but I was so scared to ask for the help I needed. I was afraid of losing my daughter. I was afraid of what people would think of me. And later on, when I was well established in my career, I was terrified of losing my job. There is a huge stigma attached to addiction, and this can make it nearly impossible for an addict to reach out for the help they desperately need. I know it did for me. What finally pushed me into getting help the last time was the realization that I better beat “them” (them being HR/ the police/ any and all government agencies that my paranoid brain was living in fear of) to the punch line- if I asked for help FIRST, I was safe, right? Well…actually, kind of, yeah. My addled mind got it sort of right. Had my job intervened on my behalf and sent me in for a friendly pee test, I would probably be writing this from the backseat of the car I live in. Luckily for me, I took some initiative, and despite my overwhelming fear, I faced up to the fact that I couldn’t do it on my own, and checked myself into treatment.

So, what happens when the dust settles, and you find yourself living an entirely different kind of life without drugs? Well, for me, the first two-plus years I spent still dealing with my behavior- the very thing, the impetus really, that drove me to be desperate for help in the first place. I hated myself. I thought if only I could be done with the drugs, I would be back to my “normal” self, and life would be good. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for two things: One, that my brain was truly fucked up- those years of assault with heavy drug use had made a mess of me, and my emotions and thinking were distorted and volatile. Two, I had been using for so long that there was no “normal” me. From the time I smoked my first joint at 13, until the last narcotic entered my bloodstream at 39, with very small stretches of abstinence interspersed throughout, I had missed out on everything. I had no idea how to live like an adult, act like an adult, or even how I was supposed to cope with an adult life.

I spent a good chunk of time just climbing out of the rubble pit of my own mind. Once the residual drama and conflict and chaos of active addiction started to fade, I found myself with So. Many. Choices. Oh my God, you guys, the options I have today! I am not exaggerating when I say that I can do pretty much anything I want to do, within reason, if I so choose. The choices are so varied that it can be downright…paralyzing, if I’m being honest. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of parent? I basically bulldozed my life and started it over, from the foundation up. It is both incredibly liberating, and terrifying. I don’t generally know what the hell I am doing, and yet I recognize that it is imperative that I make the decisions for myself. I can ask for help and advice from trusted friends and family, but ultimately, I must choose the life that works best for me. And that is so scary, because I could mess up. I could RUIN EVERYTHING. Just look at where I came from! I have no business running ANYTHING.

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. I don’t have to worry about the bigger picture all the time. I just need to have a general idea of where I’d like to be, and in the meantime, in my daily life, here is what I need to do: Act With Love. Choose kindness over impatience, whenever possible. Even in traffic, when half the population of this town appears to be driving with their heads up their asses. Practice the Golden Rule- treat others the way you want to be treated. Will they reciprocate always? Of course not, but I’ll try to do it anyway. It feels good. In NA and AA they often use the saying (among billions of others, trust me) “Do the next right thing” and this is what I am choosing to do- I may not be able to see what lies down the road ahead, but I can figure out the next right thing. I can do that. And yes, I have larger goals and bigger dreams, but…in the day to day struggle just to like myself and feel good about who I am becoming, I think acting with love is a really good place to start from.

**But don’t take my word for it, because I have almost no idea what the hell I am talking about, most of the time. LOL. **

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, spirituality, twelve step

Being in Recovery

find yourself.png

Edit: Something I should definitely add, in the interest of not alienating people is this- there is 12-step recovery, and there are other types of recovery, as well. But ALL recovery means DOING THE WORK to be a better person than you were when you were using. If you are not actively engaging in the process of figuring out why and how you wound up where you are, then that is not recovery. If you are still using any substance to change the way you feel (and I’m not talking about anti-depressants here, to be clear), that is definitely not recovery. For ME, that means the traditional NA, AA, twelve step path. For you, it could be faith based or whatever floats your boat. But recovery is a specific thing, and you are either doing it or not. It’s not a halfway thing. THAT is the point I was trying to make.

Something that REALLY bothers me a lot is when people say they are “in recovery” when what they mean is that they stopped using a particular drug. Listen: You are not In Recovery if you stopped using meth or heroin but you still smoke weed or drink. You are not even in recovery if you practice abstinence completely, but you have never been to a meeting. Being in recovery (for me, for instance) means attending 12-step meetings regularly, and working those steps, with a sponsor. You can say you are clean, you are sober, or anything else like that if it pleases you. But don’t say you are in recovery, because you just aren’t.

Listen, I am not trying to downplay what anyone is doing to better their lives. If you can stop using hard drugs and find that you are someone who can drink responsibly, my God, that is GREAT for you, more power to you! But please, don’t confuse that with real recovery. It isn’t. Let me explain to you why that is-

Recovery is a lifestyle. It means committing yourself to something that is serious, time consuming, and really hard at times. My drug of choice was amphetamines. Do you know how often I toy with the idea that, because of that fact, maybe it would be okay if I drank occasionally? It crosses my mind a lot. Despite the fact that I have factual evidence that every single time I have been a responsible drinker it has eventually led me back to drugs at some point, I still continue to battle with these thoughts here and there. Maybe this is not the case for you, and hey, high freaking five on that. But it has been my experience that this is what we call a “yet” situation. I am not prepared to gamble with what I have earned.

Here’s the other thing: through my prolific years of drug use, I learned something really important. Addiction is not just about the drugs, and the shameful things that happen to us and because of us while we are using. It’s really about the people we are, the behavior we exhibit, and the deep seated self-loathing that basically all people with addiction issues have in common. People who have problems with addiction have problems with loving themselves. When you take away the drugs, the problems are still there. The drugs or whatever it is you are using to control the way you feel, and the way you show up in the world, are a symptom, they are not the real problem.

Recovery is how we get to the root of that problem. It’s like manual labor of a the spirit- there’s a lot of heavy lifting and digging, a lot of time spent in the dark with all of the things you fear the most. When you are in recovery, you make a decision to face all of the things you are terrified of looking at, and to do that, you have to dredge shit up, shine light on it, pick it apart, and learn how to dispose of it properly. And you do every bit of it with NOTHING to take the edge off, NOTHING to dull the pain, even when it sounds so good, you could almost cry.

recovery

Let me tell you, it’s a struggle sometimes. Do you know how hard it is to date when you are in recovery? I don’t have the option of loosening up with a drink, and thanks to my general anxiety over who I am, this would be welcome on a date, let me tell you. Do you know how much of a weirdo I feel like when I try to lightly gloss over the fact that I don’t drink to a guy who just cannot compute the concept? “But why?” he inevitably asks, or “You don’t drink EVER?” And it feels like I have grown another head, but you definitely don’t want to lead with a horror story of WHY you really don’t drink. And yes, I could just say I’m allergic to alcohol (lies) but, you know, I’d rather just not.

My point is, recovery is a very specific thing. It MEANS something to the people who take it seriously. The ones who are fighting to grasp it, to hold onto it, to incorporate the principles into their everyday lives. We aren’t just trying to stay clean, we are trying to use a set of instructions to become the best people we are capable of being. And it’s HARD, but it is good work, and it has rewards far beyond what I ever expected to receive. So please, respect the word recovery. And now, I shall get down off my soap box. Carry on.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, Blogging, faith, Goals, inner peace, Life, People, recovery, twelve step

One Step Closer

one step closer

Yesterday, I went on a gorgeous hike at Point Lobos State Park with a friend of mine from work- I do this fairly often now, go hiking, and I enjoy it so much. I love the exercise, for one thing, the way my legs burn, the rush of endorphins, I love gaining all those steps in my Fitbit challenges (I’m not gonna lie, I have a competitive streak). But I also just enjoy being outside, being in nature, being somewhere beautiful.

After that, we grabbed a quick coffee at Starbucks, and booked a room for our trip coming up in October. We are going to Salem, Massachusetts, just because it sounds like fun, and I couldn’t be more excited! Booking the room makes it feel like it’s really happening! Anyway, I dropped her off at her house, and made a beeline over to my sponsors house, where I finally worked my 10th step and got started on the 11th. When I realized how close I am to actually completing the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous, I got a little choked up. I am just so proud of myself for actually putting in this work! And let me tell you, it has really been WORK. When you are doing these steps right, it means something, it changes you. So, that was a pretty cool moment for me.

I went home, feeling a little bit lighter, and a lot more connected to my program, the way I always feel after working a step. I spent a little time picking up my house, and had just settled in to doing nothing when a girl I had offered to take to a meeting reached out to me. I hadn’t heard from her, so I assumed she had decided not to go, and I was fine with that, but…she sent me a text and wanted to go. The meeting I had offered to take her to was in a neighboring town, about twenty five minutes away. I briefly thought about saying no, that I wanted to stay home, that she should have let me know sooner. But of course, I didn’t. I got up, got dressed, and offered to pick her up early and grab a coffee. Which is what we did. The meeting was great, the speaker was great, the whole entire day had been great.

So what, you may be wondering, is the point? The point is, I woke up this morning feeling so blessed, so lucky, so grateful for where I am. Sometimes I get a little disconnected from the program part of my recovery- the part where we attend meetings regularly, work with our sponsor, be of service, help another addict. Writing a blog about the things I have been through and the things I have learned is great, but there is a lot more to it than that- writing this blog is not a substitute for the actions I need to take to keep myself feeling the way I want to feel. The way I feel right now, which is connected, at peace, capable of giving something back. If I don’t do those things, pretty soon I’m not going to have much to write about, because I won’t be adding anything new to my experience.

The other thing I want to point out is this- Holy Shit! I’m a person who goes on hikes now, and loves nature! I’m a person who plans trips, and keeps appointments, and does the right thing, for the right reasons, on a regular basis. I don’t live in fear anymore, and I’m not filled with shame over who I am and what I am doing. It hit me the other day that my seven year old daughter takes for absolute granted that she can depend on me. That she knows, every day, when the bell rings at school, that I will be there, waiting to take her home. She knows that I will be there if she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs me. She knows that I will feed her, provide for her, and do all the things I have always done, because I always have. There is no insecurity, because I have never given her a reason to be insecure. My older daughter told me once that she was always afraid that I wouldn’t show up. I was always the last one there, the after school program was always waiting on me so that they could go home. The feeling I get when I think about this never gets easier. It breaks my heart.

But today, I don’t have to live that way anymore. I am not only one step closer to the end of my stepwork, but I am one step closer to being the person I always hoped I would be someday. There have been times, even in recovery, when I was filled with despair, believing I would never, ever get better. That I was so fucked up, such a terrible person, that I would never be able to change. I kept moving forward because I didn’t know what else to do- I didn’t want to use, but a lot of times I was just going through the motions, sure it was pointless, that I was going to be this miserable, angry person forever. Well, once again, I was wrong. I know for sure there will be hard times ahead, but I am not afraid. I know wherever I am, if I keep moving forward, things will always change for the better.