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 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 Addiction, adventure, family, friendship, happiness, Life, Musings, People, recovery

Beautiful

beautiful

The past five years of my life have been a trip and a half, honestly.

When I moved into this house, four years and four months ago, I was at the end of the worst relapse I had probably ever had- it only lasted five months, but it was a doozy. So much so that I can’t even remember the sequence of events prior to its beginning. How long was I clean before that? I dunno. It might have been a year? Nine months? Really, I’m just not sure. The years between 2011 and 2015 were a messy patchwork quilt of good days and bad days, struggle and victory, way way up and down down down.

Ugh, I’m so sick of talking about that part of my life. I really am. But, you know, it’s part of what makes my life so incredibly beautiful today, so I can’t leave it out completely. A month after I moved in here- on April 15th, 2015- I used my drug of choice for the very last time. The night before, I’d had a terrible fight with my sister and my daughter, and I knew I was out of control, but I was so fucking angry that I couldn’t seem to control myself. The next morning I went to work and I was NOT OKAY. I remember sitting at my desk, barely holding it together. Someone said something to me- “Not having the best day, huh?” or “Someone’s having a rough morning.”, and I couldn’t, I just could not possibly hold in my tears anymore. I remember crying in the bathroom stall, shaking and trying so hard to get my heart to slow down. I knew I needed to do something drastic, and that it had to be TODAY. There was no more putting it off. The fears I had about being found out were suddenly not nearly as big as my desperation for help.

Ask anyone in recovery, they will tell you- desperation is an addicts saving grace in moments like that. Desperation is the friend who helps you find your way out of the mess you are in. And so, just like that, I started over. It wasn’t a new thing- dear Lord, I’d done it a million times before. But this time, it stuck.

For the next several years, and you know this already if you’ve been following along for a while- I went through some intense shit. I had no idea at all what a “normal life” was supposed to look or feel like, I had no idea how to function as an adult woman. Everything from the way I paid my bills to the things I understood about relationships was dysfunctional and…for lack of a better description, fucked up.

Even though I was clean, my life did not magically improve overnight. Lots of things in my life got better and easier, but I did not stop using drugs and voila! – life was suddenly perfection. Nope. If I’m being honest, if anything, it kinda got worse. It’s sort of that thing where, when you are deep cleaning your house, and you’ve been at it for a while, you’re getting tired, and you look around only to find that it looks about ten times worse in the middle than it did when you started. You’ve dragged everything out from the cupboards, closets, under the bed. It’s discouraging, right? But anyone who has done this a time or two knows that it always looks worse when it’s getting better. That’s how it was with my life. I dragged alllll the stuff out into the open, and I was dealing with it. It SUCKED. It sucked so hard sometimes that I am sure the only reason I kept going was because I didn’t know what else I could do. The idea of using again never occurred to me- that door was firmly shut. So, I soldiered on.

Therapy and twelve step meetings, self-help books and more introspection than anyone should probably ever subject themselves to- that was my life. But it HAD to happen that way, I am sure of it.

In January, I did something that freaked everyone out, including myself. I quit recovery. I dropped out of NA, and decided I didn’t want to live by those rules anymore. I haven’t said much about it here for a few different reasons. In the beginning, it was mostly because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me and I was scared- after all, I have spent the last twenty or so years of my life being told that there is no middle ground for someone like me. Jails, institutions or death. Recovery or relapse. Once an addict, always an addict. But I didn’t want to be sitting in those rooms twenty years on, talking about the sad shit that happened in my old life. I didn’t see the value in it anymore. It seemed…kinda weird. And I had a hard time believing that it was wrong of me to say “I’m done with that life forever.” when I knew it was true, FOR ME. I started to wonder if constantly discussing the life I’d lived before was…like poking a wound, keeping it fresh instead of letting it heal. It seemed counter- intuitive to me. So I stopped.

I am happy to report that, as of this writing, I am doing just fine. In truth, I am doing better than I ever have in my life. I am happy and whole and healthy and free of all the prepackaged ideals I leaned on so heavily in the beginning. I’m not saying they weren’t useful or important or really good for me at some point, because they were! I would never fault anyone for sticking with what works for them. But THIS is what works for me, and I am so glad I took a chance and struck out on my own.

What works for me has nothing to do with what might work for you- this was the other thing that made me keep quiet about this leg of my journey. I would never recommend to another recovering addict to try another way of life. This was an extremely personal, and risky, decision that I made that happened to be right for ME.

I have spent this summer hiking in forests and playing in rivers, jumping on our trampoline, and watering my garden. We’ve flown on planes and played on beaches on both sides of the United States. I’ve laughed with friends, eaten dinners with ocean views, gotten butterflies in my stomach and remembered how to kiss. I’ve gone to parties and picnics, seen movies, gone bowling. I’ve had sun-tan lines and dirty feet and wild hair, and probably gotten about a thousand more smile lines around my eyes. And you know what? I’ve never felt more beautiful in my entire life.

Because I’m living my life the way I have always wanted to- by my own rules, not because anyone else has told me how it should be, or how it should look. And for the first time ever, living my life the way I want to doesn’t come with a cost or with terrible consequences. It comes with a feeling of peace, happiness, and contentment. That is the most beautiful thing of all, I think. I am so grateful that I was brave enough to make it through those hardships, strong enough to do the work that needed to be done, and confident enough to believe I could get here…to exactly where I am, right now.

 

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, Blogging, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, recovery, twelve step

Just…wow.

just wow
courtesy of lisalayden.com. 

Have you ever had one of those strange moments where your perspective shifts, and you suddenly…I don’t know…like, see your life? All of the sudden, your own reality hits you and it’s just mind blowing? And not in a bad way at all, but in the most incredible, blessed feeling way? Gosh, I’m getting tears in my eyes just writing this.

That happened to me last night. I was drifting off to sleep, and out of nowhere it hit me that I’m a mom. I have two daughters! And you know, of course I know this- one of them is a legit adult now, the other one is 8. It’s not like it’s something new, but…it just sort of hit me. Wow. I am the mother to these two incredible people, their mother. What an honor that is. How lucky am I?

To get to have these two beautiful girls, so unbelievably different, so perfect in their own way. I have one who loves everything that grows- she plucked a giant mushroom out of my garden yesterday, and plopped it down on my butcher block, examining it like a scientist. She broke it apart, leaving a trail of dirt and possibly poisonous spores over every inch of my kitchen…but you know what? I’m so happy that she’s found something she’s passionate about- her seed packets, and all of the knowledge she has about soil and zones, water and sunlight. The way she looks when she is plucking a bean from a vine, or pulling a weed from the earth. As a parent, all you could ever want is for your child to grow up and find the thing they love most, and I think she has done that.

And then there is the little one- tender-hearted, kind, but absolutely self assured. She loves tiny, tiny things, colored pencils, blank pages, pencil sharpeners. She’ll drop everything to give me a hug, but then she rushes back to whatever it is that she is focused on. She’ll give up some of her time for me, but she is pretty clear about needing her own space, her own time. I feel like that will serve her well. She also loves jokes, loves to laugh, more than anyone I’ve ever known…and again, this will help her immeasurably in life.

I LOVE these girls. I love them so much. And it is such a miracle, such an unbelievable miracle, that I get to live this life I am living. For an addict like me to be living a life like this- gainfully employed, a real career, my bills paid, food in the fridge, these gorgeous kids, and I am CLEAN? Are you kidding me? When I think of how desperately I longed for this life, so many, many times. When I think of how little hope I had, how futile it seemed to even think about it. Because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay clean. Except I did. I have. I continue to.

And because of that, I get to feel like this. Like my heart will just burst open from all of the gratitude and love and appreciation I have for my life in this moment. For the mother I get to be because I just kept showing up, day after day, and I stopped trying to change the way I felt by putting drugs in my body. I went ahead and felt my feelings instead. I went ahead and faced the truth about who I was and what I had done. I went ahead and dealt with it. And it was hard- it’s still hard sometimes. I have a lot of painful memories, painful facts about my life that I can never change. But you know what? I’m making a lot of new, really beautiful memories, too. And if I keep it up, someday they might just outweigh the bad ones.

For that, and for so many other reasons, I am deeply grateful this morning.

Posted in Addiction, Blogging, fun, Life, motherhood, Musings, People, recovery, writing

Allow me to Re-introduce Myself

This is my neighborhood.

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to start posting every day, and I still stand by that- this has got to be some kind of weird fluke or something. It’s just that I have been having SO MUCH fun here lately! I have been finding all kinds of new blogs to follow, and enjoying so many new posts. Also, I have gotten a ton of new followers and my stats have been robust and incredibly satisfying. You know what I love? I mean, I obviously love having lots of visitors- I’m human, after all. But I love it when I have, say 80 visitors and like 120 views…of course, 900 visitors and 1,050 views would also work, but you get the picture. That means that a few people liked my blog so much that they kept reading and reading and reading. So cool.

I thought it would be neat to just kind of give an updated overview of my life, as it is today, and what my corner of the world looks like. I would LOVE it if some of my blogging friends did the same. It is a bit like travelling without leaving home, getting to read about the homes of others. So if you feel so inclined, please share something about your life in the comments, or write a whole post about it. I would like that very much.

Me, obviously. Being photo bombed by Cam.

So, about me. I’m 43. Chronically and bewilderingly single. I have two children, one an adult of 21, one an adult of 8. Just kidding, but seriously, she’s more mature than I am some days. I adore my kids, but I struggle a lot with my relationship with my eldest. One thing you should know about me is that I am, after a life-long struggle with drug addiction, happily clean and sober. It’s only been about 3.7 years since I’ve been clean. My older daughter lived through some SHIT with me, you see. Parenting is hard under the best of circumstances. Learning to parent a nearly adult child this late in the game, with so much baggage, guilt (me) and anger (her)…it’s rough. I am doing my best. I write about that sometimes. I also write about recovery, how amazing it is to get to be my real self- or learn who that is, sometimes- and lots and lots of other things. I struggle with anxiety and other things, so that makes it in here, and so many other odds and ends. I hope you read something that keeps you hanging around.

Point Lobos, one of my favorite spots to stroll around

I live smack dab in the middle of the West Coast, in Monterey County- home of the famous aquarium and right next door to Big Sur. The cost of living here is outrageous, but it’s home, and I am blessed to call it that…for now. I don’t know how long I’ll be sticking around. I really want to buy a home, and that’s nearly an impossible dream around here. I’m also in LOVE with the East Coast, and will be going to Maine in June to scout it out. I love the idea of adventure and change, though I don’t do so well with either in reality. LOL.

A recent sunset. Ridiculously beautiful.

Monterey is gorgeous. Miles and miles of beaches- any kind you might want. Sandy, rocky, dramatic, calm. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets, fresh air, hiking spots and hidden coves, an endless dream of fog and sunlight. You cannot leave this place without longing to come back. I know, I’ve tried. I’m still holding out hope that I’ll find another place, just as spectacular, that costs a little teensy bit less. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my days here, sipping strong, strong coffee, and getting up way too early to work on my novel, post here, meditate and daydream.

That’s my life in a very, very limited scope. I hope to learn something new about all of you as well! Have a wonderful, speedy rest of the week. 🙂

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, faith, Goals, Holidays, inner peace, Life, manifestation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, recovery

With a Grateful Heart

a grateful heart
courtesy of Pinterest and littleleaves.com

I woke up way too early, as usual…but I am not going to get all worked up over it. This is just who I am, and I have accepted it. I’m an early riser who has become a super early riser over the past few months. I think partially it developed as a way to save a few precious hours of peace for myself, while my older daughter and her boyfriend were staying here. This time is so important to me. I’d do just about anything to preserve it, including waking up in what is basically the middle of the night.

I did, however, get to usher in the New Year last night! I set an alarm for 11:55, and Cam and I got up long enough to do the count down, scream “Happy New Year!” once, hug each other, then scramble back to the warmth of the bed. Last night was her last official night sleeping with me. We are both more than ready to go our separate sleeping ways, but with the extra people here the past few months, we didn’t really have a choice. So tonight, I can sleep diagonally, the way I do when she is at her dad’s house. She’s a tall child, and such a bed hog, and I feel guilty for saying this, but I sleep SO much better when she is staying overnight with her father. So, bittersweet though it may be, we are both excited about this milestone. Obviously, she’s way too old to still be sleeping with her mother, and she used to sleep on her own at our old house…not sure what happened. I don’t regret it, though. They are only little for such a short time.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling such gratitude for my life. I have such a good feeling about the year ahead. I was thinking about the horrible panic attack and subsequent anxiety I suffered through less than two weeks ago, and I wonder if it was just a giant purge of built up negative energy- shit I needed to get rid of? Because since it faded away, I have been steadily more centered, happy, and anxiety free. Seems like more than coincidence to me- to get to begin a new year wiped clean of the dark feelings that had been plaguing me? Well, whatever it is, I’ll take it. Gladly.

You know…my house is still a mess. I meant to take down my tree last night, and never got around to it. There are dishes in the sink, and…well, it’s pretty much like it always is around here. But for once, none of it is bothering me. Because I have a plan, and I intend to stick to it. Little by little, this house will transform, and be the way I want it to be. By the time I go to bed tonight, those dishes will be gone, the counters wiped clean, the tree gone, ornaments put away. It still won’t be perfect- I doubt it will ever be perfect. But eventually, it will be the way I want it to be. I feel quite sure of that.

The thing is, I have started this year with peace in my heart. I don’t know that I’ve often felt peace like this. It feels solid to me, as if it is not dependent on outside circumstances, but more like it stems from within me. It’s the kind of peace that comes when you have finally started to trust yourself, to know that most likely, you are going to be okay. I’ve survived a lot- I’ve survived MYSELF, which was no simple feat. This is my fourth consecutive New Years clean, and I’ve grown stronger every year. And I am so grateful for that- for the peace, and for surviving myself, and surviving the dark parts of my own mind. I’m so grateful for making it out of that last, awful, dark place, and for the wonderful new spot it wound up leaving me.

I’m starting this shiny, fresh new year with a grateful heart. And I don’t think there is a better place to begin than that.

May your year be blessed, happy, full of hope and laughter. Happy New Year!

Posted in Addiction, advice, faith, family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, recovery, women

Trust

I don’t know about you, but trust is a struggle for me. Not so much trusting other people, although lets be real- I don’t do that very well either. Being the control freak that I tend to be, I’ve put myself in a weird position where I don’t generally have to rely on or trust others too much- I just do everything myself.  Which then creates a whole different set of problems, because no one can do everything all the time, and when I am feeling down and weak and need someone to turn to…guess what? Little Miss Self-sufficient Pants has made that position in her life obsolete, so…now what? Well, I get sad and bummed out that I am in this all alone, even though I kinda set it up that way.

But what happens when you are a control freak, like I am, and also have trouble trusting yourself? I mean, lets take a minute to look at my track record, shall we? If I’m feeling down, I might choose to overlook the success and triumph, the massive changes I’ve made, and the hard work I’ve put in, and instead focus on the countless mistakes I’ve made, the cruel behavior, the trail of ruined relationships and bad choices. If I’m only seeing the bad stuff because my state of mind is poor, yeah, it’s really hard to trust myself. It’s not so easy to trust your gut when your instincts were once so chemically altered that they gave out on you.

And then there’s the whole “Trust the Universe” thing that I subscribe to so wholeheartedly…as long as, you know, we aren’t talking about my specific painful life issue, whatever it might be. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to take my hands off of everything and let things unfold as they undoubtedly will anyway…it’s just so damn hard! It’s such classic addict behavior, trying to manipulate outcomes in the way I want them to be- in the way I believe they should be- and boy, this shit is ingrained in me, deeply. It’s a LOT of work. It’s a LOT of useless worry, grief, and pain I put myself through, trying to make sure things go “right”. And you know what? It’s all for nothing, really. Because either way, things always unfold the way they are supposed to, whether it’s to my liking or not. My interference may prolong the inevitable, but is that really a win? If something painful or hard is trying to happen, is it better to keep it from happening for a little longer? Or does that make it worse?

Lets take my daughter for example- she is going through the messy, painful business of trying to grow up. I keep running interference for her, saving her from consequences that are her own, but that hurt me to see her go through. So…here we are, down the road a bit, and the same exact consequences are still coming up, despite my previous help. This time, I take my hands off, and allow life to happen for her the way it is trying to happen. My gut instinct kept pulling me back to reality every time I started to panic, started wanting to step in and fix things for her. For one thing, I needed to have boundaries in our relationship, for ME. But more than that, even, I needed her to see that in life, you must provide and think and advocate for yourself, or you find yourself in deep shit. So I listened to my gut, finally. I was prepared for the worst possible outcome. I let her know I loved her, always and forever, but it was time for her to sink or swim.

And guess what happened? Well, for one thing, she apologized to me. For another thing, she is implementing some big changes in her life- in her very own words, she said “I realized that the way I was going was not good, and that I really had no choice but to change or it was going to get worse.” Listen, I am not trying to take ANY of the credit for her breakthrough. All I did was finally get out of the way, and in less than a week, she figured it out on her own. I prolonged the inevitable, and made it far more painful, because I was trying to save all of us from the very pain I was prolonging. The Universe knows what it is doing. My instincts are telling me the truth.

So here is what I am taking away from all of this- let people live their lives. Don’t intervene more than you absolutely need to. Allow people to experience their consequences- that is where we ALL grow. When it comes to people we love- our children especially- seeing them in pain is hard. But if you want that pain to ever end, don’t get in it. I mean, obviously, use your discretion- I’m not going to let my 8 year old parachute off the house no matter how much she insists, but- you know what I mean. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and let people learn how to live. Trust your own wise instincts. Trust the Universe. Trust God, if that is what you do. See what happens when you finally let go.

Posted in Addiction, family, Holidays, kids, Life, motherhood, parenting, People, recovery, relationships, women

Trying Times

I’ve been avoiding trying to post anything here for the past little while, as I am slogging through a whole bunch of uncomfortable life stuff, and can never trust myself to not say too much. I can’t guarantee that I won’t do that now. So to preface whatever comes next, I would just like to say this: This is my experience, this is my space, and this is my truth. Okay, lets get on with it.

After this many consecutive days, months, and years in recovery, I figured life would get easier, my close personal relationships would be healed and warm, close and vibrant. I really thought that if I could change myself enough, that would change everything. The truth is, changing myself only changed ME. I am the one actively working on myself, and due to that, sometimes it seems like it’s actually caused more trouble than ever before. Why? Because I have some respect for myself, and therefore, I expect other people to as well. Because I am cognizant enough to see clearly when someone else’s behavior is not okay, but smart enough now to know when I might as well keep my mouth shut about it. It seems like I am having deep issues with all the people I love most in my life, and I’m not going to lie, it hurts.

It’s made especially bad because it’s Christmas time, and this cheery little tree all lit up in my living room seems like it’s mocking me. I don’t have tons of Christmas spirit on my best days, and these are far from my best days. But I do have a happy little eight year old who deserves to feel all the magic of Christmas, so I will do my best to plaster a smile on my face and keep things light.

I also have a twenty-one year old daughter who isn’t speaking to me right now. She blocked me on social media, and told me she wants nothing more to do with me. And, listen, I know…I know that, chances are, she’ll get over it soon enough. I also know that her anger, though she might disagree, is misplaced. There are times when you have to draw the line and let people know you mean business, for REAL this time. I drew my line. She doesn’t like it. And that’s okay. She has to go about this business of growing up on her own, and sometimes that means learning some hard lessons. This is how we figure things out, most of the time. Through stark reality and pain. I wish it could be some other way, but I feel deeply that I need to step back and let her find her way on her own.

Still…it hurts. It hurts a lot. I’m sad, and angry and worried sick. I’m mad that things feel so uncomfortable. I blame myself, knowing I didn’t raise her the right way, and I have so much guilt, guilt I don’t think I will ever be free of. And it hurts like a motherfucker that I can’t even talk to my own mother about these things that are causing me so much grief, because she simply will not hear me. She has made it very clear that she just can’t handle it. So…what in the world do I do?

Well, I guess I write this. I tell the truth, and wait it out, hoping for the best. I put a smile on my face and go ice skating, telling myself that things will surely get better. They always do. And most of all, I let myself feel all these feelings: Anger, sadness, disappointment, fear. I’m lucky to get to have feelings I can name today. For so long, I didn’t feel at all, and when I did, I couldn’t trust those feelings.

Doesn’t mean I have to like them. But I can at least recognize that knowing myself, and knowing how I feel- I can see that having boundaries and holding fast to them- all of this is progress. Even when it feels like the worst thing in the world.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Goals, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, People, recovery, twelve step, women

Peace

peace

This morning, when I took my dog Lucy to the beach, I made a conscious decision to leave my phone in my pocket. I didn’t want to be taken out of the moment by my urge to take the perfect Instagram picture and then cross-post it to Facebook, and subsequently spend the rest of the day compulsively checking for likes. I grow tired of that cycle, but the truth is, it isn’t easy to stop. But I did it- left my phone in my pocket, resisted the urge. Picked up a shell or two, and enjoyed just throwing the ball for my dog. I also met a few fellow beach strollers- something much easier to do when you are looking up, being present.

After the walk, I dropped Lucy off and decided to hit a meeting. I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t been to one in nearly a month! It was just what I needed today. I saw my sponsor, and a few core people that I really love and respect. What a message of hope you can find in those rooms sometimes…it really is amazing, when you think about it. Escaping from the life of depravity that is addiction is such a freaking miracle. If you know, you know. It’s incredible to me that I have somehow managed to stay clean, that I somehow have made a success of what was once a very sad, broken life. I’m very proud of this life I have given myself. I forget sometimes.

Here we are in November, and I am already thinking about the year coming next- what I want to work on, where I want to focus my energy. The theme going forward is going to be “Making Peace”, and by that, I mean with ME. As much work as I have done on myself, I still carry around a lot of guilt and shame, and so many upsetting memories from the past. I still have a lot of anxiety and worry around the future. The past is gone. The future isn’t here yet. I think I need to forgive myself and focus on today.

I was listening to a TED talk yesterday about how to be happy- I didn’t finish it, but something stuck with me: People are happier when they are focused on what they are doing. It’s when our minds wander that we begin to feel anxiety, dread, and unhappiness. This makes so much sense to me! Since then, I have noted when my mind was spinning off, and started focusing on where I was right in that moment, and I found almost instant relief. I think it’s going to take a lot of practice, but if I can master this one, I’ll be in business.

Anyway, I will not so much be seeking peace as I will be doing the things that I know bring peace to me, and doing less of the things that take peace away. I deserve to feel good about my life, to feel peaceful, content, happy. We all do. I encourage you to really think about the content of your life, what is working, what is not, and what you can do to bring your life closer in alignment to what you’d like it to be. This is not a dress rehearsal, and the clock is always ticking. I’m starting now. How about you?