Posted in adventure, faith, family, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, women

Grace Period

A funny thing that recurs repeatedly for me is the realization of how well I think I know myself, how much I think I know about the way I show up and operate within my life…only to be smacked upside the head with reminders of just how forgetful I am. Now, here’s the thing- I can predict pretty accurately how I am going to feel and react and show up in a familiar situation. But put me in a new situation, one where I feel completely out of sorts and out of my element…and all bets are off.

Last night was the fifth night I spent in this incredibly odd condo I rented in Maine (more on that later) and, had you asked me even yesterday morning- even last night, for that matter- how I felt about all of this, I don’t know what I would have said. Probably depends on who was asking. I might have lied and said (in a rather flat and unenthusiastic voice, as I am a terrible liar) “Oh, it’s good- just getting settled, you know.” More likely still, I would have talked about how gorgeous the neighborhood is, which is absolutely the truth, and mentioned that I was kind of lonely, the condo was not exactly what I’d expected, and I was FINE.

A few of my trusted friends and family got to hear the story of my toddler-style tantrum in the bathtub the night before last when I realized the tubs plug didn’t work, after I’d dumped in my expensive bubble bath and jumped in, excited after not showering for two days. I was REALLY looking forward to that bath. My mom is the only one who got to hear the story of how, while loading the new dishwasher that is set up completely differently than my old dishwasher, I forgot that the silverware was in the front and stabbed myself in the webbing of my hand with a dirty fork. Hard enough to draw blood. These are little things, I know, but when everything is so different- and I mean everything- these little things feel so big. Insult to injury, you know?

What I have said to no one at all are the things that bother me the most. Like, why am I not happier than this? Why don’t I feel the way I expected to feel? I got what I wanted most in the world, shouldn’t I be jumping for joy? What if I made a huge mistake? Why am I so homesick already? What is wrong with me?

I have felt this unnecessary pressure to plop right into this entirely new life, three thousand miles away from everything familiar, and be ecstatic about all of it. Overjoyed that I got lost three times in one car ride to the local CVS. Thrilled to shit about the dead spot in town where my GPS glitches out, telling me “turn right in one mile” “turn right” and “proceed to route” all in ten seconds. I feel embarrassed that I’m homesick when I couldn’t wait to leave, embarrassed that I haven’t slipped into life here like an old pair of jeans. I know how lucky I am to get to do all of this- keep my job and follow my dreams and get the adventure of a lifetime- so I’m a little ashamed of how ungrateful I’ve been feeling. Not ungrateful, even. Just…freaked out. Lost. Adrift. Frustrated.

Well Jesus Christ, Courtney. I am not a Muppet on Sesame Street. This is real life, it’s my real life, and it’s pretty turned upside down and inside out right now. I spent the last month packing and cleaning, sorting and selling. I spent five days driving from California to Maine in a car with two cats, a kid, and half of my belongings. I spent four nights in different states. I arrived here on Monday and was back to work by Wednesday morning. I am trying to set my life up in the midst of a pandemic while half-heartedly quarantining, which is easier than it sounds when you take into account that I know exactly four people here and they are all one family. I am exhausted, disoriented, and on my own in a way that I am unfamiliar with. In Monterey, I was on my own, but I didn’t have to be…and I knew where everything was, you know?

So yesterday I started thinking about what I could do to restore some sense of normalcy to my life. Thursday night, I’d unpacked my candles and incense, my crystals, tarot cards, and books and arranged them on a shelf as a sort of mini-altar. Later that evening, we picked up dinner from a restaurant in town and sat down together, Cam and I, at the dining room table and had dinner. I liked that a lot. Yesterday, I meditated for the first time in a long time. Last night, I cooked dinner here for the first time, and again, we sat down together to eat. After dinner, we sat in the living room- she watched TV while I read, and it was nice to spend time together.

We don’t have a yard here and I was worried that would be a problem with a dog, but…actually, it’s been kind of a bonus. There is a beautiful beach half a block from my door, so Lucy gets walked about four times every day, which means I get to walk four times every day! I like that a lot, too. The sunrises here are the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, and a brisk walk at sunrise is a pretty great way to start a day.

And yes, the condo is quirky- it’s filled with too much furniture and SO much junk. The floors slope up and down, the blinds are broken, most of the furniture is rickety and falling apart. It’s also not very clean. BUT: the beds are clean and new, the carpets and couches are nice, the washer and dryer are very new. Most importantly, though, it feels warm, and not spooky at all- which is important in a place that’s over a hundred years old! It’s so quiet here, and very dark at night- no sirens, no neighbors outside yelling, no loud music or fireworks.

There is much to like and be appreciative of, but I forgot that it takes time. I forgot that I might need a moment to catch my breath, to figure out where the steak knives are, to feel at home. I forgot that the way I felt the first day I arrived wouldn’t be the way I always felt, or even how I felt the next day. I forgot that I needed a grace period. And today, I am feeling a lot better.

Oh, and I also found a hardware store and bought an old fashioned bathtub plug. So, I think I’m going to be okay pretty soon.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, faith, friendship, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery

Leaving Here a Different Person

I moved into this house in February of 2015, at the end of a short but incredibly destructive relapse. I believe it lasted about four or five months, that last little run. It felt like a million years. I didn’t know it was the end, of course. How I was able to sweet talk my way into this place, I still don’t know- I had horrible credit and was in the midst of bankruptcy, strung out and about to be homeless. I pulled up in front of this place in my little beat up Santa Fe, and I knew this was the house I wanted. When the landlady was hesitant, I wrote her a letter assuring her that I would always make my rent my top priority, that I would take care of the place. Whatever I said worked, and though at the time I was just saying whatever I could to get my foot in the door, it turns out I kept my word.

In mid-March of that same year, I finally reached my breaking point. Of course, it was awful. I had a terrible screaming match with my sister and my daughter one night, followed by a sleepless night and then a breakdown at work…and that was it for me. That was all she wrote. March 16th, 2015 was my first day clean.

From that moment forward, I began to change in ways both visible and not. To be honest with you, I feel like I have almost nothing in common with the girl who walked through that front door for the first time almost six years ago. And yes, I was a 39 year old “woman”, but let me assure you, I was really just a girl. Lost and scared, angry and sick. I had really begun to lose all hope that I would ever, ever break free of my addiction.

And when I did, it was so…uneventful. I mean, after all that fighting and panic, the despair and the fear, it was just easy. That life had become so fucking exhausting, it was a relief to let it go.

Listen, I don’t want to constantly harp on that part of my life at all. As far as I’m concerned, it’s in the past and I’d like to leave it there. But there is no way to celebrate where I am now without mentioning where I was then. Five years and eight months ago, I was as far from okay as I could possibly be. Today…well, today things are light years away.

Tomorrow, I will walk out this front door for the very last time. My landlord is sad to see me go. My neighbors have stopped by to tell me they’ll miss me, that I’ve been a good neighbor. I was a good tenant, a good neighbor.

I’m going to tell you something about myself that I probably imply sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve ever really said it outright- I harbor a stubborn belief that I am actually a terrible person. That if people really knew me, the REAL me, they would be horrified. This is such a deeply rooted belief that it is hard for me to even accept evidence that proves otherwise. I’m sure there are many reasons why, but most of them are because I really did behave terribly for many, many years. I was mean, and loud, and I hurt a lot of people. I wasn’t a good friend, a good mother, or a good girlfriend. I certainly wasn’t a good neighbor or tenant.

But you know what? You know what never occurred to me until like a week ago and I am not even kidding? That person was not me. That person was a version of me with a chemically altered brain. Druggy me is NOT WHO I AM. Those behaviors I exhibited do not represent the person I have always been on a core level. Can you imagine that I never understood that until almost six years after getting clean? That I have still been walking around thinking I am just a giant piece of shit because of the life I lived in my addiction? I am far enough from it all now to feel…just so, so sad for that girl who existed in such misery for so long. I am far enough now to wish I could help her. Which, of course, I did. I saved her life, actually.

So, here’s the thing- I am going to leave this place a different person than I was when I left. When my landlord says I have been a good tenant, it’s not because I fooled her- it’s because I paid my rent on time and never gave her any trouble. When my neighbors say they’ll miss me, it’s not because I fooled them, it’s because they like me. When my friends come by to help me wash blinds and scrub walls, it’s not because they think I’m someone I’m not- most of them have known me for twenty or thirty years! They KNOW me. And they love me, even so.

I am moving all the way across the country, leaving behind a lot of things- my safe haven, my comfortable routine, friends that are family to me, the town where I grew up in more ways than one. But the best thing I am leaving behind is the idea that I am not a good person. I will never be perfect, but I am good. I am good enough. I am strong and smart and loving. I am driven and funny and unique. The good things that happen in my life are not a mistake, I am not pulling off some kind of cosmic, karmic heist. It’s all a result of my choices and effort and maybe a little luck. And I am pretty proud of myself today.

Anyway, I’m off on this adventure. I’ll catch up with you when I get where I’m going. Wish me luck!

Posted in Dreams, family, Goals, happiness, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Telling On Myself

I wrote a post yesterday. Ever since I posted it, I’ve been annoyed about it. You want to know why? Good, ’cause I’m gonna tell you- I’m annoyed because, though there were a few grains of truth in there, it was really a fictional account of how I want to feel; it had nothing to do with how I actually felt right then.

Do you want to know how I actually feel? Good, ’cause I’m gonna tell you that, too. I am scared. Scared half to death. And also, in case you were uncertain, I want you to know that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Like, I mean, I guess I kind of know, but what I mean is…I’m not really sure I should be the one in charge of making big decisions around here. I’m not nearly as confident as I probably seem. I often feel like a very young woman in a middle-aged woman’s body, baffled by life. I frequently wonder if I deserve the good things that happen in my life, and then I feel guilty, which is weird.

I want very much to be positive, but there’s a fine line between positivity and being disingenuous. Yesterday, I was having a really hard day and in an attempt to bolster myself, I wrote a post that was utter bullshit. I’m telling you this because honesty is so important- now more than ever, in my opinion. When I tell the truth here, when I am really open about my feelings and struggles, I know that someone will read my words and feel less alone. I know, because it’s happened time after time. I put my real feelings into words, and someone says “Oh my God, I thought it was just me, thank you for saying that.”

We don’t tell the truth about human stuff, and then we suffocate on shame. As they say in recovery, we compare our insides to other peoples outsides. And that’s not a fair comparison. Social media makes it so much easier to do that, because we post the best pictures, and the funny moments, and we leave out the personal stuff that makes us real people. Well, guess what? I’m a real person. Flawed as can be.

Yesterday, I had a terrible realization. I realized that I have made the last ten years about my kids (that isn’t the terrible part, stay with me), and the past five I doubled-maybe tripled- down as a parent. But I did it wrong, I think. I gave these girls the impression that I lived only for them, to serve them and save them and give to them, even if that meant overlooking myself. And now, when I have this amazing thing happening for me, I am being met with open resentment. I am selfish, I have ALWAYS been selfish, I don’t deserve help, I don’t deserve appreciation…UNLESS I am doing what they want me to do. It occurred to me yesterday that I kinda have no one who is really in my corner. And man, that makes me sad. Like, really, really sad.

Do they love me? Oh, without a doubt. That’s not it at all. It’s the lack of boundaries with them, the path I laid out that is the problem. I gave as much as I could in some areas to make up for what I perceived as shortfalls in other areas. And now I find myself in a lonely place because I devoted myself to people who are ultimately supposed to grow up and go off to their own lives. Obviously, my nine year old is still dependent on me, but she’s spoiled, too. And that is my fault. But my eldest is PISSED, and cannot see beyond her own needs right now. Needs that are, I might add, not mine to meet. At all. She’s 23.

Yesterday, it hit me that I need to take care of myself and show up for myself, especially if I’m the only one doing it. So all this family resistance I am hitting is actually only driving home the point that I have got to do what makes me happy. Because making other people happy is great, but it isn’t getting MY needs met. My kids will be fine. I will always be there for them, but I will also be there for me. As I should have been all along.

So yesterday, I painted a pretty picture that didn’t tell the real story. Today, I am telling the truth. Because you deserve to hear it, and I need to lay it out, too. Life is hard, being a grown up is hard, parenting is hard. For everyone. Most of the time. You are not alone, and I know I’m not either. One thing I wrote yesterday is true, though. Things really do have a way of working out. I’m counting on it.

Posted in faith, happiness, inner peace, Life, manifestation, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

No Complaints Here

When I first moved into this house over five and a half years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the birds. Because I get up so much earlier than most people, I am privy to the quietest parts of the day, when all of the birds are in charge of the world. I am not a bird watcher in the technical sense. I don’t know much about them at all, really, though I can tell the difference between a crow, a gull, and a hummingbird- those are the ones that hang out with me the most. I was just sitting outside, listening to the crows cawing and watching my hummingbirds at the feeder, thinking…I will miss this part. My porch and the birds, and the view from right here.

But it’s time. If everything continues to go smoothly (as smoothly as a move of this magnitude can go, anyway) and I do, indeed, find myself sitting on another porch, overlooking another view, a month from today…then I am at peace with that. And you know what? If everything falls through (though I truly hope it doesn’t) and for some reason I am sitting on the same porch, looking at the same view, a month from today…well, I will be at peace with that, too. Okay, that feels like a lie a little bit, but the point is- my life is really blessed, any way you crack it.

I’ve wasted my time on two long posts that were nothing but stories about stress and worry and complaints, and…you’ll never see them. You know why? None of that shit even matters. All the things I am worried about will fall into place. All of my stress will be for nothing. Complaining doesn’t help at all.

Everything is going to be okay. And when I get caught up in worries, stress, and complaining, I cut myself off from my intuition. Self-doubt garbles the message and makes me second guess myself. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep going, step by step, and have faith in myself and faith in the universe.

Things have a way of working out, this much I do know.

I really will miss my hummingbirds, though. Maybe I’ll send the new tenants a feeder and ask them to please look after them. I think I will do that.

Posted in adventure, faith, family, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, magic, manifestation, Mental Health, Musings, People, random, travel

Where Do I Even Begin…?

You can’t see me, I know, but after I wrote the title, I sat here wide-eyed with my hands out, palms up, in the classic “WTF?” pose. For two days, I have been ignoring my desperate need to get this all out, commit it to the screen and perhaps untangle even a small corner of the mess that is spreading into every corner of my brain. Even my sleep isn’t safe anymore, my dreams just one more running commentary (albeit, a very abstract commentary) of the chaos within and around me.

But where do I start? Should I dive right in? The last time I posted was like July, I’m pretty sure, on a day where I felt peaceful and was yammering on about acceptance. Then I went quiet for a while. Stuck in the weird global pandemic time-warp where every day blends into the next and you’re just treading water, waiting for something to change. The only thing that changed was things looked like they were going to get better for a minute, so I went into the office for the first time since March a total of two times, and then…the shit hit the fan in a big way here in California, and they told us to stay home again. Thank God. Then the entire west coast caught on fire for months- pretty sure there’s a bunch of it still on fire, though I’ve honestly stopped keeping track- and the pervasive feeling of doom just crept closer.

In August, during the two minutes when things appeared to be returning to a more normal routine, I had booked a flight and Airbnb in Maine. By the time my trip rolled around, I wasn’t sure if I should go or not. And maybe it was selfish and stupid of me to follow through with it, but my mental state demanded that I feed it some type of happiness before it fell into a pit of despair, so…off I went for a Covid swab and a plane ride across the country.

There were 72 people on our flight, including the crew. Rows of empty seats following the fastest TSA check in line I’ve ever experienced- and that includes me having to go back through the detector thingy three times AND get patted down (Still no idea what the hell was setting the thing off). Everyone wore masks and gave each other as much space as they could. Mostly, I tried not to think about it.

Maine, once again, exceeded my expectations. I was in Mid-coast Maine this time, in Bristol, near Pemaquid Point. Trust me when I tell you, if you are looking for a socially distant vacation, this is the place to be. The cottage looked directly out onto the water- I could throw a rock and hit the inlet if I’d wanted to. But mostly, I just wanted to look at it, the old Atlantic ocean…it really does feel older to me than the Pacific, for some reason. Older, more serious, more magical. At night, you can see the milky way with your eyes, and more stars than you even believe can exist. There is no light pollution, no sound to interrupt the wind in the trees and the rhythmic pulse of the water on the shore. For the first time in months, I could breathe again. The worries of the world- the pandemic, politics, distance learning, tragedy and mayhem…they faded into the background, where they belong.

And while I was there, something pretty incredible happened…but I’m out of time, so dammit! You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the rest of the story. My apologies, I really want to tell this the right way!

Posted in Dreams, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

Acceptance

So, I have been writing on this blog since 2012- that’s eight whole years. In that time, I have written close to 600 posts. That’s a lot! That’s so many posts that, even when I don’t write for a very long time, I get visitors to this site every single day. I don’t really pay attention to which posts they are viewing. About once a week, someone new will discover this place and go crazy, reading thirty or forty posts in a row. I like it when that happens, I’m not gonna lie. There’s some validating feelings that emerge when I see that go down.

But I have changed a lot in that time. So much, in fact, that sometimes I think about going back and getting rid of some of my older posts. Although I can’t recall everything I’ve written here, I know some of it would be embarrassing to me now. I know I have overshared and said things that no longer represent the woman I am today. But…you know, I’m not gonna do that. If you read through my posts from start to finish, I think…I hope, anyway, that you would see the slow evolution of a human being who is trying to find her way. I think you would see a lot of growth, even if it was painful and awkward sometimes. Even if there were lots of “one step forward, two steps back” situations. Slowly and steadily, I have progressed.

I believe, when I started all of this, that there was some part of my subconscious mind that thought I would eventually “arrive” at a place where I would be complete. I would know it when I got there, right? It would be a place where I was generally happy and joyful, my relationships would be easy and healthy, I would be mature and confident, and all of my laundry would be done. My mismatched sock basket would be empty, my bathroom counters would be wiped down at all times. I would know what we were having for dinner for the entire week ahead. Basically, I thought I would be perfect.

Not only was that vague idea incredibly far off the mark, but…it was harmful. Harmful because I didn’t realize I was reaching for perfection, a thing that doesn’t exist, and trying to get there was making me feel like a failure. I have been in so much pain because I couldn’t manifest perfection. I have resented my beautiful life because it didn’t match up to my idealistic daydream.

The chaos and tumult of the world since the beginning of this pandemic has thrown me headfirst into the chasm where my shadow dwells. Already halfway submerged when all of this started, I found myself very quickly sucked under. For a good while, I was afraid that I would drown. I didn’t know what that would look like, exactly, but I won’t pretend I wasn’t afraid. “I shouldn’t be feeling this way!” I kept telling myself, “Look how good I have it, I should be- (enter whatever shiny adjective caught my eye at the moment)” As my old sponsor would say, I was “shoulding all over myself”.

A few things transpired in the past few days that have opened my eyes. One was the word “acceptance” which kept popping into my head. I am not sure, but I’d be willing to guess, that I’ve written on this topic before. Smart as I am, it takes me a while to understand things, though. Sometimes I think I get it, and I will keep thinking that until I REALLY get it. Sometimes your understanding just deepens over time.

Here’s the thing- I’ve been wanting to do all this stuff! Move across the country, maybe for a year, maybe forever. Buy a house- maybe in Maine, but also maybe somewhere closer, for just a while, until I can work out how to get to Maine. But I also want to keep my job, and finish a book, and make money from that, while I work on my mental health, my spiritual life, getting my house together. I was flopping around like a fish on a line. Then the pandemic hit. All my tentative “plans” got blown away, who knows how far. No travel, no freedom, no reprieve, even, from my beloved daughter. Just her and I, this house and work, day in and day out, at this computer. My need to bolt became frantic, the shedding of tears became a daily event, and every single one of my worst qualities came raging to the forefront.

That’s when “acceptance” showed up. Not the act, the word, in my head, over and over, until I decided to examine it. Here is what I discovered: My desire to be different than I was, to have a life I couldn’t have right now, to be someone I am not, was the root of the problem. This is who I am. This is where I am. This is how it is. Be here, embody it, feel it, accept it.

Yesterday, Camryn and I walked the whole length of a long beach at low tide early in the morning. There was only us and a few surfers, a couple, and a dog or two running around. Camryn didn’t want to be there, but she had no choice. By the time we made it to the tide pools, she was the happiest she’d been in weeks. We saw starfish and countless sea anemones, pelicans, sandpipers and one very excited sparrow. Camryn, in that moment, was a perfect example of acceptance. She rode the figurative wave, and, after a moment of resistance, she stopped fighting what she couldn’t control, and guess what? She enjoyed the moment. So did I, a reminder that no one is forcing me to stay inside my house. There are still things I can do, places I can go to escape and to breathe. It’s not really my life that is giving me trouble, it’s my attitude about my life. It’s my fear and my grasping.

And finally, sometimes…there’s this weird thing that happens. Someone will ask a question and when you answer it, you realize it was an answer you’d been trying to come up with for yourself. A truth you didn’t know you knew. Someone asked why she used to be so happy in her twenties, but now, in her thirties, she just didn’t feel so joyful all the time. I explained to her that as you get older and wiser, you view life through different eyes. The rose colored glasses come off, and you see more truth and nuance, more depth. Fighting to return to a place in time that is gone, and a person who has evolved, is futile and painful. That’s what I told her. And then it hit me. That also applied to me! I can’t go back. I can’t jump ahead. All I can do is be here, where I am.

Acceptance does not mean I am giving up my dreams. It just means I can stop trying to force a change that isn’t ready to occur. I can relax and quit flopping around at the end of the line I am caught on, wearing myself out. I can stop pulling so hard at the hook in my cheek, stop making the pain so much worse. I can rest. I can gather my thoughts and my strength, so that when the time is right, I will be ready to set myself free. Today, right now, is not the time for me to move forward.

That is acceptance. That’s my take on it, anyway. This time around. Stay tuned, who knows what my take on it will be next time. Hahaha! Happy Sunday. Stay well.

Posted in anxiety, escape, family, friendship, happiness, health, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, random

Interesting Times

Hi! Since the last time I showed my face around here, I have: turned 45, tried and fell very short when helping my child with distance learning, lost both my bras for weeks at a time. I’ve- stopped shaving completely, then really regretted that when I made myself start again; resumed some weird, nervous habits that I thought were related only to my drug use, but I guess not. I have wondered daily if I were completely going off the deep end, or if…you know, my feelings were warranted, based on the information I had.

I have vacillated almost comically between wanting to make the best of things, and wanting to just throw the freaking towel in completely. Sometimes several times within the same day. Things are hard. They are weird. They are scary.

It doesn’t matter that I’m one of the luckier ones whose life hasn’t even changed all that drastically, really. I still work from home. Cam would have been off school anyway, it just happened a little sooner. It’s the way it feels. I can’t just go do whatever, whenever I want to- well, I can, I guess, but not safely. Even when the restaurants here were open for a few weeks, there was no way in hell I was going out. I knew that it was too soon, and I knew exactly what would happen. It gives me no pleasure to find I was right. Now everything is shutting down again, and this virus is worse than it has ever been here.

It feels like I am in limbo, because I am. Everything is uncertain and on hold. I catch myself holding my breath. A lot. Nothing about this feels good to me, I don’t like it, and…there’s not a single thing I can do about it. Other than keep soldiering on, trying to do my best.

Some days my best looks really great! I get a lot done and go to bed at night thinking “This isn’t so bad!”. Other days, the best I can do is peel myself off the couch and away from whatever I’m binge watching on Hulu long enough to make my kid a grilled cheese sandwich.

All this to say…whatever you are going through, wherever you fall on the spectrum, you are well within your right to be there. I don’t know a single person, not one, who is not struggling in some way. This is the weirdest event most of us have ever, and hopefully will ever, live through. It won’t go on forever. I don’t know what that means right now, but I do know that things will change, because that is simply what things do. They change.

One of the reasons I took a break from all of this was because I was so overwhelmed by the clamoring voices all around me, spouting out their opinions as if they were facts. It got to be too much, and I didn’t want to contribute to that, in case I was making things confusing for other people. I didn’t want to be part of it.

But I do want to check in and tell you all…hang in there. Do your best, whatever that looks like today. One way or another, this will all be behind us eventually.

Until then, I can’t recommend highly enough watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from start to finish on Hulu. Now that’s what I call a great escape! 🙂

Posted in Addiction, adventure, faith, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery, spirituality, women

1,825 Days

On this day, five years ago, I woke up and chose to stop putting drugs into my body. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it both is and isn’t a simple thing. You have to understand, and I know it’s hard if you haven’t lived it, but…when you are deep in the throes of addiction your brain tells you stories, and, because it’s your own brain talking to you in your own voice, and because you are very sick and things aren’t right inside of you, you no longer have the discretion to discern the truth from the lies. Your brain tells you that you can’t just stop on a dime- you have to plan ahead, you need to wait for the weekend, you just need to finish off the rest of the dope you have. You’ll have to call in sick, you need someone to help with the kids, tomorrow would be better, next month would be better. It’s going to be so hard. It’s going to feel so bad.

The truth is, you only need to be ready. Before you are ready, nothing will make it work. And nothing can force you to be ready until you arrive there on your own. That place looks different for everyone.

I want to share a part of my story that I’ve been reluctant to speak about for a couple of reasons; I am not in recovery, not in the traditional sense, anymore. One year ago in February, I made the decision to leave the 12 Step world and live life as a free agent. I was terrified, honestly. I had found myself thinking, for quite some time, that I wasn’t comfortable with defining myself by my addiction anymore. I was tired of rehashing the sordid details of my former life in order to identify with the newcomer. Healing from something while reliving it constantly began to feel counter-intuitive. I had done everything that was asked of me, all of it. Service work, step work, meeting attendance, and I felt I was at a crossroads- it was time for me to start sponsoring women or time to move on. I agonized over this decision. I worried that my brain was lying to me again, that I would leave and somehow, though it seemed impossible to me, wind up on drugs, right back where I’d started. But I knew that in order to sponsor women in their most vulnerable time, I had to be committed. I had to buy what I was selling 100%. Lives were at stake. And that made my choice pretty easy. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell someone there was only this one way to live for the rest of their lives because I no longer believed it was true. So, I left.

At first, it was really weird. But, once I found my footing, I realized this choice was the right one for me. I thought I was endangering myself by walking away, but what I did was…I set myself free, and gave myself permission to live my life the way I chose. I trusted myself to make good decisions. And it was the most loving thing I have ever done for me.

The reasons I have been hesitant to share this are not far-fetched at all. I would never, ever want to encourage another person to follow me out of recovery. Every one of us is different, and I think that, scared as I was of breaking from the norm, I knew in my heart that I was done with dope. I knew I wasn’t going back to that life. So, I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, you know?

The second reason is…I don’t want to take away from the fact that I have accomplished something fucking marvelous. I know what my friends in recovery are going to think about this, because I thought the same exact way- pretty sure I even wrote a rude blog about it here somewhere: It only counts if you do it THIS WAY. Well, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true for me. You know what is true? That my life is not ruled by substances of any kind anymore. That I don’t have to hide or lie or feel ashamed of myself because of the way I am living. That, in the past five years, I have made fundamental changes to my life that have allowed me to become the woman I had wanted so badly to become. The woman I was afraid I had lost all chance of ever being.

So no, I am not in recovery anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that this morning, when I woke up and thought about what that number meant- One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days- I wasn’t overwhelmed with gratitude. I thanked God profusely and sobbed because my life is so incredibly beautiful. The freedom, the healing, the changes…they are so precious to me. The difference between who I am right now and who I was on this very day five years ago is profound.

When I shared that I didn’t go to meetings anymore with a friend of mine a while back, she said to me “Oh, so you’re cured?” in that “tone” one can get when they think they know something you don’t. Today, I would like to say this- I might not ever be cured completely, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m free. I’m not afraid of myself anymore. I trust me. I’m so proud of myself. And nothing anyone else thinks about the way I move through life can change that.

So, happy anniversary to me.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, family, friendship, happiness, health, Holidays, Learning, Life, mental illness, Musings, People, recovery, twelve step

Thanks-Giving

Hi, guys! I started to make this a post for my other blog, but quickly realized this one belongs here, where my story has played out over so many years. I have a different voice, and a different story, and a different history here, and this one should live here. So here goes:

I woke up this morning a little put out that I’d had time to clean the whole rest of my house, but no time to clean my own room- the one place that should be my sanctuary, right? I felt bad that I had put myself at the bottom of my own list. Dumb, but that’s just my brain, trying to find something to be unhappy about. I was feeling a little better about life once I sat down here, in my neat, clean living room, sipping a hot cup of coffee fresh from the sparkling clean coffee pot (I even remembered to run the coffee pot through the dishwasher! I’m so proud of myself!).

I hopped on Facebook to see what I’d missed since bedtime, and I happened upon a post from…the brother of a friend of a friend. We don’t know each other in real life, but we’ve been social media buddies for a number of years, and…over the past couple of years, I have witnessed a slow and steady decline. Posts that are cryptic, yet somehow also overly personal, alarming and worrisome, but no real information being given. About a week ago, he posted a video detailing his woes, and I wondered what was happening. Was it a mental health crisis?

Today, I saw his post and I understood. He wrote about his recent struggles with addiction. He has lost all hope. He feels helpless, lost, alone, worn out, confused about where to turn.

An hour after that post went up, he posted a check-in at a hospital. It didn’t say for what, but I hope that someone there can guide him towards help. Of course, once I knew what was going on, I could no longer just lurk around and keep quiet. I sent him a message, told him I knew exactly how he felt and what he was going through. I encouraged him to find an NA meeting and ask for help. I told him not to believe the things his brain was telling him, but to listen to his heart and soul, because they were crying out for help. And I told him “One year from this day, your life can be completely different. You can be whole and happy and surrounded by family again.” I told him to reach out to me and I would help if I could.

Boy, did that take me back. As much as I try to separate myself from that part of my life, as much as I long to leave the past behind me, it is part of me. My life, those years and years of addiction, were not just a small part of my story. That was who I WAS, that was my identity, for the bulk of my adult life. I was other things, too. But before anything else, I fed my addiction. Before my children, before my family, before my job, before my bills were paid, before I made any other decisions, I fed my addiction. I cannot tell you the number of holidays I missed completely or ruined by showing up. I cannot tell you the number of moments I lost or stole from others. I couldn’t guess.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be where I am now. Right here, in my fuzzy pajamas, on Thanksgiving morning, in my own, clean house. My mom sleeping in Camryn’s bed on clean sheets, Camryn sleeping in my bed. And me, clean. Not worrying about how much dope I have left or how I’ll get more or when I’ll be able to sneak off to use more. Not angry for no reason, not making everyone around me walk on eggshells to keep from setting me off. Not making everyone sick with worry, but afraid to say a word.

There are not words to describe to you how grateful I am to be whole and here. I have gotten far enough away from my old life to forget, sometimes, how big of a deal that is. I have wanted to get away from it. But at times like this, when I see that pain in someone else, when I remember precisely how that felt, I am glad to remember. It makes the things I was griping inwardly about seem very small and petty, and shifts my perspective to one of gratitude, intense gratitude, and joy.

It took me a long, long time to get here. I had to work very hard at it. I suffered so many set backs and failures along the way. But I never gave up. I kept trying, and it paid off. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so eager to close the door on the past. Perhaps it is important to remember who I was, so that I can appreciate fully who I am today. Today, at least, this seems to be true. I have never been more thankful to be me than I am right now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems today and need help, you can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for guidance.

There are also NA and AA meetings in almost every town in the world. You can google “NA world service” to bring up links to anyplace you might be, and you can find hotlines manned by members who can tell you where to catch a meeting today.

Don’t suffer a minute longer than you have to. Reach out. Someone has been where you are and understands. Trust me on that. You are not alone.

Posted in adventure, advice, Blogging, friendship, fun, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, manifestation, meditation, Musings, People, spirituality

Hi There!

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Me, excited to share my new endeavor with you all.

I just wanted to pop in here real quick and let you guys know that I am in the process of setting up a whole new WordPress blog! I am still trying to iron out all the kinks- the set up has changed a whole lot since I started this blog a million years ago, and it is making me feel like a goddamn dinosaur…maybe I should enlist the help of my 8 year old? She’s basically a part-time coding expert, thanks to countless hours of Roblox and freaking…what’s it called? That other one all the kids are gaga over? Anyway, whatever.

So, this will be something different for me! You know, my life has changed so very much over the past five years. I’ve grown up, finally, in so many ways. I will always still come here, to After The Party, to share parts of my life. But I am wanting to try something new, and I thought “Why not?”

For the longest time, every morning, before I would pray and meditate, I would read a…well I guess you could call it a devotional? Those short little daily readings to sort of set the tone for your day? I had trouble, eventually, finding ones that resonated with me. Too Christian, too cheesy, too out there. So I just stopped looking.

Well, lately, I have been keeping this running Word document where I would write (for myself) a little nugget of inspiration that sort of filtered into my brain from the ether. Sometimes it happened during or right after my prayer and meditation, sometimes it just popped into my head randomly out of nowhere, but whenever it happened, I knew that was the one- that was my idea for the day.

So, I’d run over to my desktop and pull up the document, and flesh out the little sliver I’d been given. I found that I was suddenly able to keep things relatively short and sweet (which you all know, if you read anything I write here, can be a bit challenging for me) and get to the point pretty easily. I’ve been collecting them for a while now.

They aren’t doing me any good just sitting in my computer. Well, they might be doing me some good, but I’m all about sharing. Plus, what a great way to make sure I write something daily, right?

So PLEASE, keep your eyeballs peeled for the updates, and follow my new blog when I post a link, if you feel like you might get something out of it…even if it is just a laugh. Look for “Notes From Elsewhere”. Coming soon to a WordPress site near you. 🙂