Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, family, Life, recovery, twelve step

Things I Forgot to Remember

Death has been an unrelenting presence in my life over the past year, which is very, very unusual for me. Beginning with the loss of my beloved friend Joe in August of last year, then his dear friend Che, just a few weeks ago- Che, who spent countless hours on the phone with me after Joe’s death, listening to all of the stories I have to tell about Joe, that I suddenly needed to re-tell to someone who knew him… and sharing his own with me. Then, in the late hours of July 5th, or perhaps the very early hours of July 6th- we don’t know for sure yet, but oddly enough, every member of our family found themselves awake at 3:30 in the morning on July 6th- my darling uncle, Louis Earl Fulton, passed away. His life was not an easy one. One day, I will tell his story properly, but I want to do it right, and I want to have all of the facts straight first, though I will tell you this- due to an accident with a drunk driver when he was just starting out into adulthood, his lot in life was hard. He suffered, for the bulk of his years on earth, with a busted up body and what I would guess as being trouble from a traumatic head injury. Over the past several years, his health seriously deteriorated, and he had many falls, broken bones, and other injuries. He suffered from seizures, and I think he even had a stroke recently, but honestly, there was so much going on that I would have to ask my mom to be sure. The fact is, he wasn’t doing well. So you would think that his death would be less of a surprise, and maybe in some ways it wasn’t shocking, but…when someone just dies at home, and they haven’t been in the hospital or particularly sicker than usual, it really is a shock.

This blog is not going to be about him, because like I said, I would rather honor him by writing his story correctly, and I can’t do that without getting some help from my mom-she was alive when his accident happened, and I was not yet. I will tell you this- his given name was Louis Earl, but I haven’t heard anyone call him that since my grandmother was alive. His nickname (one of them) was Fizzle, because he was born on the 5th of July (get it? He fizzled out! My grandfather had a strange sense of humor) and, coincidentally, he died, near as we can tell, on the exact same day, many years later. There will never be anyone like him- there will never be anyone like any of the people I have lost this past year- and nothing I know brings a person into sharper focus than their death. And nothing slaps you out of your own miserable funk like the loss of a life that belonged to someone precious to you.

For the past month, or maybe even longer than that, I have been struggling like crazy with myself…upset about things like: hating my job because it is boring, hating myself (low-key) because I am not perfect, wishing I had better friendships, wondering why I am still single, wishing I could connect in a more meaningful way with my youngest daughter, and…this is the one I didn’t even want to write about or admit out loud to anyone who could talk some sense into me…wanting to quit being in recovery. I wanted to quit. I wanted to start drinking again, and I was really, really close to throwing the towel in. Closer than anyone but me knows. I felt like I was missing out on something. That my life wasn’t fun enough because I couldn’t go out and have a drink. That maybe it would be easier for me to deal with men if I could just relax a little bit, like everyone else does.

My uncle died on the day that my daughter was going out of town with her father for the first time in over a year- so I was already incredibly anxious without the addition of a death in the family. I took the rest of Friday off, and I cried and cried and cried. I cried so much that by the time I went to bed, my head was pounding. I woke up on Saturday morning with eyes that looked like they had been bitten by mosquitoes, or injected with saline. But I had made plans with a girlfriend earlier in the week to go hiking and hit a morning meeting, and she is notoriously hard to pin down, so there was no way I was cancelling. I pulled myself together, worried that I would be too somber to be any fun, but I went anyway. I needn’t have worried. We had a nice hike, and plenty to discuss, and it was just what I needed. We almost didn’t go into the meeting afterwards, but we did, and again, it was perfect. I came home afterwards, ate a massive amount of food, and fell asleep the way you can only when you are grieving and exhausted- face down on the mattress for four solid hours. When I woke up (which took a good hour of just sitting, staring into space) I knew instinctively that being still would be a bad idea, so I grabbed my dog and went for a long walk on the beach. That night, I went to another meeting.

Over the course of my 48 hour weekend, I managed to hit four meetings, hang out with two good friends (one of them twice), go to the beach two different times, and take two solid naps. I did something I had never done before in the course of my recovery- I doubled down on what was good for me, and sidestepped an almost inevitable relapse. I was reminded that both life and recovery require my active participation in order to work the way that I need them to. I can’t just sit here and cry about what isn’t working- or, I can, but it isn’t going to do me any good at all.

I’m sorry if this is sort of all over the place- I don’t feel like I am explaining myself well at all, but there is so much to what I am feeling, and it’s all jumbled up. The bottom line is, my uncle’s death helped me to remember what I had forgotten- that life is so precious, that while I am here, I need to rejoice in the gifts that I have been given, and they are many- my health, my beautiful children, my job which provides so well for me, and my recovery which is the only reason I have all of the other things. I will not dishonor myself or my wonderful life by giving up on that. I have all of the ingredients, but it is up to me to make something worthwhile out of them. Today, I will choose to do just that.

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Posted in adventure, Goals, Learning, Life, living, Musings, People, random, recovery

Restless Feelings

It feels like I return, over and over again, to these restless feelings- like I carry them around with me always, only sometimes, I can hide them for a while by throwing myself into something new and interesting. Most recently, those things have been working on my novel and learning the tarot. Over the past several years, I have run from the restlessness by focusing on recovery, educating myself about nutrition and exercise, trying to quit smoking…repeatedly, and binge watching seven million shows on Netflix. Social media and outrage over politics have also been a band-aid I have used.

Some of these things have been more beneficial than others, obviously. But in the long run, none of them have been able to satisfy what is ultimately a much deeper issue- I am not living the life that my heart wants to live. I have this great career, but it is not the right career for me, and I KNOW this, but I am terrified of what comes after that knowing. I don’t want to sacrifice all of this comfort and security for some unknown thing…and that’s the even bigger problem. I know I’m not living the life I want to live, but I have no idea what it is that I DO want.

There are little flashes of insight, of course. Ultimately, I would love to just be able to write full time, but I don’t think that is the next step. If I am just going on what my intuition has to say, I can tell you that that might be down the road a ways, but it is not next. I feel pretty strongly that I am supposed to go back to school, and at the age of 43, this seems very daunting. I have a lot of friends around my age who are in school now, and the amount of stress they are constantly venting on Facebook is enough to give me serious pause- like, is that what I really want?

If it is what I want, I have the support of my boss and my employer to do so. They have already told me they are willing to accommodate my schedule (to a point) so that I could go back to school, without losing my benefits. The only problem with this is that I would still be working nearly full time, which means I would have to take less classes, meaning I would probably be in school for MUCH longer. And again, at my age, how long do I want to drag out the schooling thing? And how much time would that mean I would miss with my daughter?

There are so many questions, so many unknowns. Perhaps I am just trying to know too much all at once. I have always liked to know everything that was coming down the pike before I committed to something. I’m not sure I can do that in this situation. I think I might have to begin first, and learn as I go.

I don’t know. I don’t know nearly enough. And yet…I really feel strongly that I need to get started on whatever is next. I feel like it is time. I’ll let you know what I come up with, as soon as I come up with something.

Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, recovery

Radical Change

change

I’ve been extra quiet, here lately. I have been working hard on my novel, and it’s nearing the end, which is incredibly exciting for me- I had planned to be done with it months ago, but that just wasn’t how it panned out. I find it a little harder to blog on days when I am also working on my book, and I have been working on my book every day, but also…I just haven’t had a lot to say. Everything comes and goes in cycles, and in this cycle, the blogging aspect has been less active. And I am not overly concerned about any of it.

I am not overly concerned about anything, to be honest with you, and that…that is not like me at all. But MAN, do I appreciate it. I am just sort of rolling with whatever, happy to float along. It’s funny, though- one of the sharpest tools in the box of every addict is control. It’s very important when you are in your addiction, to be able to control every conceivable aspect of your life so that you can manipulate the outcome in your favor. It’s a necessity, almost. Or at least, it feels that way. The idea of letting go of the end result is totally foreign, and completely unacceptable. I don’t know, maybe normal people experience this as well? I have never been one of those, so I don’t know.

What I do know is that lately, I have made a conscious decision to stop fighting everything all the time, to let things go the way they are going to go, and see what happens. More than just a conscious decision, because decisions are one thing, but action is where it’s at! I’ve made a conscious effort to redirect myself often so that I stay on that path. What I mean is, my habit is still to control things and so, when I feel myself getting bunched up and frustrated because things are not going the way I expected, I take a deep breath, and get back with the program. I let go. I step back. I redirect.

Here’s the thing- I didn’t get clean so that I could just get by. In my heart of hearts, I have always believed I could have this big, beautiful, amazing life. I won’t settle for a life of struggle and mediocre happiness. That’s not what I am after. And I didn’t get clean so that I could find a whole new set of reasons to be unhappy and dissatisfied with myself. I want to love myself and love my life, and love all the people in it properly. But in all those years that I was using, I created a carefully crafted persona- someone sarcastic, tough, invulnerable and sharp, and that is my default now. I am having to learn how to disassemble this person I spent years and years putting together. It won’t happen overnight, but I know that is not who I want to be.

So every morning, I make up my mind that there is a lot to be excited about today. I think about how grateful I am for the life I have, and I imagine myself just being happy. I imagine it so well that I start to feel excited and happy and as if it is going to be a really good day. This may sound incredibly dumb, but it works! And throughout the day, when I feel my attitude slipping, I try to pull it right back to where I want it to be. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it works a whole lot better than when I don’t try at all.

A long, long time ago, when I was still very messed up, I remember driving down a street in Fresno when the thought popped into my head “Attitude is everything”. I remember it because it was such a weird thing for me to be thinking at that particular time, as I was in quite a state. I don’t remember what the thought was even in response to, I think it literally just randomly appeared in my head. But I believe that to be true with all of my heart- Attitude really is everything. I happen to know two different people that have recently gone through the exact same loss of a limb. Their attitudes about that loss could not be more different. One of them is thriving and full of gratitude about being alive, and the other has basically given up. It’s the exact same thing, two different attitudes. Our perspective on our own lives has everything to do with how our lives function. Everything.

So today, I have a plan of action for my own attitude. Love my life. Love the people in my life. Be grateful for everything. Love myself, everything about me. Do not think ugly thoughts, do not say ugly things. Find the blessing in every situation. Take a nap or eat a snack if any of the above gets too hard. Take a deep breath. Start over. Hug someone. Smile at everyone. Pet my cat, hug my dog, do the dishes, take a walk…whatever I need to do to keep the good energy flowing, that is my goal. And beyond that, be okay with whatever else happens. If I can’t be okay with it, let that thing go. I think there is always a way to have peace in our lives, if we have peace in our hearts, right?

And THAT is my recipe for radical change…a whole bunch of little things that add up to me being exactly who I want to be. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted in Addiction, faith, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery

Strength

strength

I have always thought of myself as someone who is strong- not physically strong, although I’m no slouch in that area, either (being a single mother for most of your life will help you develop muscles, trust me) but resilient, tough, capable, able to lift myself out of difficult times and situations.

Yeah, but… I’m just sitting here this morning thinking- if I created all of the difficult times and situations in my life, does that really count as being strong? I mean sure, I eventually got myself out of them, time after time after time, but…what does that say about my character, that I created so much drama and strife and upheaval? Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of myself for never giving up, for always trying to fix whatever I had broken. And I realize that I had issues that had issues, that with all the shit I was hauling around inside of me, there was no way I could have been any other way than I was until I got help. Still…

I view strength very differently now. It is no longer necessary for me to aggressively assert my “strength” by acting out or being demanding or dominating the conversation (although I do still get carried away when I am talking sometimes). I have kids, so I still raise my voice a little more often than I would like, but I don’t feel the need to when I am speaking to another adult. As a matter of fact, when my temper gets away from me these days, I feel the opposite of strong- it makes me feel diminished and weak. Funny how we change over time, isn’t it?

You know what I see as my strengths now? My ability to keep showing up, even when I am so tired of it all that I want to throw the towel in. Strength is knowing that I am just having a moment, and it’s going to pass.  Strength is taking a deep breath or five before I speak, because I know I am too angry to be reasonable. My greatest strength lies in my consistency, and I am reaping the rewards every day because my life, finally, is not an uphill battle. The decisions I make now are generally made more with the future in mind, rather than for instant gratification. And because I have made a lot more good choices lately than poor ones, I have the added and unexpected bonus of being able to trust myself. I can’t think of anything more bad-ass than feeling confident in your own capabilities. It feels really, really good.

Two years and 341 days ago, I was a very different person. I knew I was a mess, but thankfully I didn’t know how much of a mess I was. It would have been overwhelming, and I don’t think I would have been willing to face all of it. But in a perfectly timed fashion, each new layer of bullshit was revealed to me just as I was ready to see it. I am not done yet, but I am much, much better off than where I started. The strength to stay in recovery, to keep going even when I really just wanted one fucking little…whatever was available to just make me RELAX already…that has to be the single most important show of strength that I have ever displayed. Without that, none of these other revelations would have even been possible. This entire journey has been fueled by my recovery, and that is the truth.

Three years. Not even three yet, almost three. In almost three years, my life has been completely changed for the better. Do you know how fast three years goes by when you are still getting loaded? In like five minutes, no kidding. So anyway, if you are new to all of this, and you aren’t seeing the results you want, I encourage you to hang on. To really devote yourself to the process of self discovery and healing, and just keep going. The day will come when you are so much more than you ever even dreamed you could be, and it will all have been worth it. Stick around for long enough to see your definition of what strength is be totally, irreversibly changed. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

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, adventure, family, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery, Uncategorized

Routine Devotion

 

safe

My daughter, the older one, is obsessed with growing things right now. She moved away, out to the middle of nowhere, where she has to hike a mile just to get phone service, and…I’ll be honest with you- I didn’t think she would last a month. I really didn’t. No Instagram? Ha! That was her life, when she was still in town. Well, that was months ago now, and she’s still there. Instead of posting pictures on an app and trying to get followers and likes, she’s started planting things in the ground and saying things like “germinate” and “zones 4-9” (I’m not fucking around, she actually said “these grow really well in zones 4-9” when I spoke with her yesterday. I don’t even know what that means, but I was too surprised to ask) She has made a dozen raised beds, and every other day I get little seed packets mailed to my house with her name on them. All she talks about is her plants.

I think it is pretty amazing. I’ve only had two house plants survive life with me so far, and one of them my cat used as a litter box, so it actually died. Which I guess makes it one plant. I don’t know what kind of plant it is, but it got so big I finally had to move it outside because I don’t know how to deal with it. So I might be down to zero pretty soon. In any case, my point is, my kid has thrown herself 100% into gardening right now.

Last year, she was 100% into beach glass. Beach glass hunting was always my thing, and I dragged her with me mercilessly when she was little. She hated it, and hated the beach, because…well, because I was so into it that it made it a burden rather than fun for her. So imagine my surprise when she started hitting my favorite spot last year and bringing home stuff that was way better than anything I ever found. Day and night, she was beach glass hunting, bringing home piles of beautiful glass and pottery. For Christmas, I bought her sifters and scoops. About a month later, she was over it.

And I thought oh my God. She is just like me.

I have that, too. That thing where, when I like something, I throw myself into it to the exclusion of everything else. Of course, for me it manifested in some really unhealthy behaviors, but…honestly? It could be anything. I have done it with drugs and I have done it with online shopping. Okay, fine, I still do it with online shopping. But I’m getting better. And I really will read all those books, eventually. I’ve heard people in meetings claim their drug of choice is “more”, and I understand that. It doesn’t have to be a substance, it can be anything you do to excess, which for me can manifest itself as anything that feels good. It doesn’t matter what it is.

So I created this routine for myself. It keeps me on track, it keeps me focused, it keeps me safe. I get up early every day, I write. I pray and meditate. I deal with my job as a mom, and I deal with my job that pays my bills. I go to the gym, I walk the dog, I make the food, blah blah blah. It’s not exciting. But it addresses all the things I need to address, and it’s familiar, it’s comfortable, and it’s…safe. It’s SAFE. Like, who makes that their top priority in life? What happened to me?

I was just telling my best friend yesterday how backwards I am right now because my routine has gotten a little disturbed over the past week or so. My mom has been in town (they are “camping” in the most luxurious trailer I have ever seen in my life outside of TV. I’m not kidding, it’s like a condo on wheels) and I’ve been trying to make sure I see her as much as I can. I have…well, I’ve been…lets just say there are some other things going on in my life. No big deal, right? Except for me, sometimes even little changes, even good things, can be overstimulating and throw me for a loop.

But I’m in such a good place right now that I can see it- I can see what is happening, and why I am feeling kinda off, and so I understand it and can make adjustments- to my attitude, or to my behavior, and know I will be okay. I can choose to be more flexible without losing myself completely in the process. Because I think that is what I am most afraid of, and why I am so devoted to my routine- I’m afraid of losing the rhythm that makes my life work. Because when I have gotten off track in the past, it has been disastrous.

I am not my past, though. And life isn’t supposed to be all about following a routine, and being safe above everything else. If the things that keep you safe also keep you from people you love, or from doing anything new, are you even really living? This week I am going to trust that I can still do all the things I need to do to keep my life running smoothly, and make room for all the things that make life worth working so hard for. And I’m going to enjoy every second of it. So there.