Posted in Addiction, adventure, alcoholism, anxiety, Blogging, Depression, faith, family, Goals, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, twelve step

Reflecting on After The Party

party's over

Did you know that I have been writing this blog for 6 years now?

Sure, I haven’t been consistent…I mean, this blog is a lot like my real life in that way. As true to form as could be, I have been sporadic, I can’t follow a theme, I don’t stick to the subject at hand. I guess that is the one way I am consistent- by being totally inconsistent. Well, dammit. Now I’ve said the word “consistent” so many times that it’s started to sound weird to me.

Anyway, here it is. I have pretty much laid out my life and my truth here through a lot of shit over the past six years. I struggled mightily with my addiction, and I kept writing through it. I told on myself, sometimes I tried to make it look prettier than it was, sometimes I thought I’d succeeded, and then…looking back, the truth is pretty clear to me, what a mess I was. I don’t know if I had anyone else fooled. It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that I kept going. That, throughout all of those years, I never stopped trying and I never lost hope. I was scared sometimes…I lost my mind many times, and lost myself, but I somehow never totally lost hope. I knew that I could do it, I just knew that I could. And look at me now…three years and some change into this latest foray into recovery, here I sit, still clean, still hanging in there.

It looks nothing like I thought that it would. In some ways, it is so much better, and in other ways, it’s just…underwhelming. It’s just life. I don’t wake up every single day ecstatic that I am not using drugs anymore, over the moon that I get to be sober another day. I wake up and wonder why I can’t seem to get my laundry folded, or why “other people” (whoever they may be) have their shit together so much more completely than I do. This is REAL life…and real life is not an Instagram feed or the things we post on Facebook, it’s not even the happy face we put on for the world. Real life is not the highlight reel, it is the piles of shit on the kitchen table, the lost keys, the sitting on the toilet and realizing there is no toilet paper and there’s no one home to yell to for help. Real life is what is happening to everyone, all the time, around and through all the beautiful moments. Because I am clean, I get to be a part of that.

But because I wasn’t clean for so long, I am still, even at 43, even with all this time clean now, adjusting to this reality. I am also dealing with the weird personality tics- such as: low self-esteem, poor coping skills, boundary issues, people pleasing, isolating tendencies, anxiety and probably a little depression thrown in to spice up the pot- that most likely led me to going all in with my addiction in the first place.

Basically, I thought that getting clean would be the solution to all of my problems. What I have learned is that getting clean was the first major obstacle I had to clear to start dealing with a bunch of other problems. My addiction is just a symptom of other, much more deeply rooted bullshit. And now I am trying to fix myself.

This past few years have been HARD. But, on the flip side of that, they have also been, hands down, the best years of my adult life. Easily. I mean, I could just cry thinking about it. I have healed so many relationships that were deeply wounded. I am so close with my mom, and so incredibly close with my daughters. I can look anyone in the eye, at any time, and not feel ashamed of who I am. I have stopped being so angry. I have learned how to hear myself, sometimes even before I speak, and my words don’t have to hurt people anymore. Because I am not in pain on a deep, soul-level anymore, I don’t have to lash out and make sure everyone around me is hurting, too. On the contrary, I spend a lot of my time trying to show the people I love that I love them. I think about ways I can make their lives better. And if you understand addiction at all, if you’ve been there yourself or if you’ve witnessed the destruction wrought by an addict that you love, you understand how monumental that is. I no longer hurt or destroy everything that I touch.

I no longer hurt or destroy everything that I touch…I needed to say that again. Because I don’t ever want to be that person again, and yet, even knowing what I know, I have been STRUGGLING lately. I have wanted to give up. To quit being in recovery, to quit going to meetings, to just have one fucking little drink. Because I want to relax. Because I feel like I need something outside of myself to help me let go a little bit. Because alcohol was never a problem for me, so why can’t I just have a glass of wine? Or a beer? Or maybe a shot of tequila for old times sake? I just want to be NORMAL.

But you know what? I am not “normal” in the way I think of normal being, and I know this. I know that if I have a drink, it might be just a drink for now…but eventually, it would turn into something far bigger than I could even try to control. And you know, next time, I might not be so lucky. I might not make it back. So, here I am, reminding myself of one of the overused but oh-so-appropriate NA sayings…just for today. Just for today, I can not drink, right? I don’t have to think about forever, or even tomorrow. Just today. I know I can do that.

I started this blog because I wanted to write something funny and relate-able and real that other people in my position could find themselves in. I wanted it to be a success story, and an inspiration, and most of all, I wanted to be honest. I think I have done that. I’m not about to stop now, whether 500 people are reading, or only two. My life isn’t always pretty or fun, but I can promise you that it has been much, much more meaningful after the party ended. And let’s be honest- the party was over long before I ever found my way home.

 

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Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, misinformation, People, recovery, twelve step

Fear, Shame, & the Stigma of Addiction

stigma

Something I am really riled up about right now is the stigma and shame around drug addiction. SO MANY people do not understand what it really is, what it is really like, and how it feels when you are in the grips of it. They get upset that it is classified as a disease, and they say that it is a choice…which…I mean, even drug addicts themselves feel guilt and shame around this. Trust me, I was one of them. For a long time, I thought it really was my fault, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just quit, why I insisted on making my life so much harder than it had to be.

Well, news flash! It might start off as a choice- a BAD choice, obviously- but lots and lots of young people experiment with drugs. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a really healthy chunk of the population has, at one time or another, tried drugs. Lets not forget that alcohol is prevalent almost everywhere, and it is one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs that exist- why do you think AA started WAY back when? It wasn’t just a friendly, old-timey social club. Anyway, not everyone gets addicted. But for some of us, for whatever reason, our brains get a little hit of that euphoria, and from that moment on, we just want MORE. To our detriment. As our lives crumble, as our dreams wither up, as our families cry and beg for us to change. And we promise to try, we promise to pull it together, we want to get better, but…

It’s not a choice anymore. Something has us in a grip so massive that we can’t stop killing ourselves. So maybe it isn’t a disease the way that cancer is. I will give you that, if it hurts you to think of it that way. But what about OCD? Bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses? Would you judge someone harshly for having something like that? Because to me, addiction is a mental illness (and usually not a stand-alone one, either) and it’s no more my fault than it would be if I had…say, an ulcer. Or maybe diabetes that I controlled with my diet and lifestyle. Other people might do the same things that I did, and be okay. But some people aren’t, because something inside of them is different.

Sure, now that I know better and I have it under control, I can manage it by avoiding the things that would make me sick again, and by taking my “medicine” (meetings, therapy, watching what I eat and how I behave and paying attention to my thoughts and feelings). Just the way someone with diabetes has to monitor their diet and their glucose and all of that. I know that if I don’t do those things, I am putting myself in danger of a relapse. I am now responsible for my continuing health. But I was not responsible for the way my particular body reacted to the substances I foolishly tried.

Here’s the thing, though: People get sick and they aren’t afraid to go to the doctor and ask for help. They are not judged by their doctor when they show up sick. They don’t generally fear repercussions from their employer if they are ill. But do you know how many people walk around every single day, desperate for help with their substance abuse problems, but terrified to reach out because of what might happen to their lives? Not all addicts are the people you see on the streets, acting crazy. It isn’t always that obvious. Many of us are high functioning professionals with a LOT to lose. And asking for help is terrifying.

I stayed sick for a really long time because I was afraid to tell the truth, afraid of what would happen to me, and to my family. I was lucky.  I got the help I needed and I got to keep my job, I got to tell the truth to my boss, and she was compassionate and concerned. That is not everyone’s story.

But I really think it should be. We don’t throw people away like garbage because they aren’t working correctly. You don’t KNOW…you don’t know what kind of beautiful human being is there, underneath that illness. The addicts I have known in my lifetime, and there have been LOTS of them, are not garbage. Not even when they were using. Even the worst people I have known had redeeming qualities, and intelligence, and loyalty, and very, very few of them did not dream of getting better. I can’t think of one person out of hundreds that didn’t want to lead a better life.

We should be able to ask for help when we need it. When someone asks for help, we should help them. When someone is sick, even if it makes us uncomfortable and afraid, we should help them find their way to help. Addiction is stealing the lives of our friends, our family members, and our children, many times over, every day. Addiction is destroying the lives of not only the addict, but the addicts parents, and the addicts children. It is a disease of loneliness and disconnection. It might help a lot to end the stigma and remove the shame. It’s a terrible life to be stuck in. When someone is reaching out, we have to reach out, too.

And that’s what I am thinking about this morning.

1-800-662-HELP is the number for SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Call someone if you need help, or even if you just want to know how to help someone you love.

Posted in Addiction, family, kids, Learning, Life, love, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

The Best Thing I Ever Did

everything

I have been a mother now for almost half of my life. I have forgotten so many things- my daughter will say “Do you remember that time…” Or “Remember when we…” and I feel terrible about it, but nine times out of ten, I have no idea what she is talking about. Sometimes I secretly think she is just making stuff up to torture me. But for all the things I have forgotten, I will never, ever forget the day that I became a mother. I remember being in labor all night, by myself, timing my contractions, and sleeping between them, and writing them down on a little paper bag that had held a greeting card (I still have that bag, taped inside my daughters baby book). I remember the ride to the hospital, and the giant men’s flannel shirt that I had taken to wearing because it was pretty much all that would fit me at that point.

But more than anything, I remember the moment that my daughter arrived in this world. I remember the doctor holding her up, and the way that time stood still as my eyes beheld her for the first time, the way that something inside of me shifted, and the way my heart changed, in an instant, to something so much bigger than I had ever known it was possible to be. For the first time in my life, I loved someone else more than I loved myself. It pains me to admit how selfish I was until that moment, which is not to say that I immediately was redeemed as a human being, but from then on, I learned a lot about guilt, lets put it that way. But that moment, the moment I met her, was so pure. I remember thinking “Please don’t ever let me forget this.” And I never have.

It’s impossible for me to remember that day without thinking about all the ways it went wrong after that. I wanted so badly to do it right, to be the best mom, but I didn’t stand a chance. My addiction and my immaturity saw to that. I know there were happy times, but it’s so much easier for me to remember everything I didn’t do, and all the things I did wrong. It honestly breaks my heart. Knowing the kind of life my daughter deserved to have, and understanding what I took from her. Knowing that is one thing I can never, ever fix. You can’t give someone back the time you stole. And I know that for her, that’s just what she had, so she doesn’t look at it the way I do- she doesn’t know any different. But for me…how can I not see all that could have been, how can I ever possibly be at peace with these things? How can I ever truly forgive myself?

I still don’t have an answer for those questions. But I can tell you this: From the moment she came into my life, I never stopped wanting and trying to be better. I failed, over and over and over again, but goddammit, I wanted it so bad. And it wasn’t for me, which might have been my first mistake- no, at a certain point, I really began to despise myself for my weakness- it was always, forever, and only for her. And because I kept trying, I managed, somehow, to keep us together (although I’ve often wondered if she would have been better off with someone else), and I managed, somehow, to keep our heads above water, just barely. Sometimes things were really, really bad. I have memories that I would love to banish from my head, and yet I cling to them like a penance. How dare I try to forget?

But sometimes things were good and sweet- her tiny feet in footy pajamas. The way we would sleep curled together, two peas in a pod. Riding in the car together on a beautiful summer day, all the windows rolled down, singing along to “Cowboy Take Me Away”. The fierce love she inspired in me, the deep connection I had never felt before for another human being. She was, and is, my world. I just didn’t know how to do it right. I just couldn’t get there in time. She was all grown up by the time I finally figured out how to do this job. Talk about heartache…you have no idea.

Now she is almost 21, and she has a little sister who reaps all of the rewards of my experience. I do homework and read stories, and worry about shit like too much screen time, and processed food, and nitrates in hot dogs. I pack her lunches, and make sure her hair is brushed, and I would never send her to school with a backpack that reeks of cigarette smoke. I try hard not to say things I will regret later, and I try even harder to say things that let her know she is loved. But most of all, my youngest daughter has had the luxury of a safe life. Things are never up in the air, and we always have a home of our own, and everything is consistent and routine. She will never know what it is like to have the ground beneath her feet shifting constantly. I am so glad that this is true. But I wish I could have given this to both of my children, not just one of them.

The wonder of it all is that, despite everything, my daughter- the 20 year old- loves me more than you can even imagine. You know what she tells me? That I am the only one who was ALWAYS there for her, that she looks back at her life, and the only one that she sees in every memory is ME. She remembers the closeness. She remembers the good things. She is the one who reminds me that is wasn’t all bad, that there were plenty of happy times- Like sliding down the snowy Reno streets in our fake Ugg boots, and laughing so hard our sides ached. And sitting in our car, sharing terrible lemon chicken and chow mein on payday, even though we couldn’t afford it. To her, I am just her mom, and she just loves me.

So today, even though she will probably never even see this, I dedicate this post to my daughter, Aisley. The best thing I ever did, and the person who made me a mother. I love you so much, and I’m grateful every single day that God saw fit to give me you.

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, advice, alcoholism, Goals, Life, People, twelve step

The Next Right Thing.

next right thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Step Closer

one step closer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in advice, alcoholism, Blogging, faith, inner peace, Learning, Life, recovery, twelve step

The Courage to Face Yourself

courage

I remember the exact moment that it hit me. The moment when I realized that the only reason I was still using every bit of energy I had, every resource I could scrounge up, to come up with some pittance of dope day after day. It wasn’t to get high- I couldn’t get high anymore if I wanted to, that ship had long since sailed. It was to keep myself one step ahead of what was constantly nipping at my heels. The truth. The truth about who I had become, and what I had made of my life. The truth about the wreckage I had caused, and the collateral damage…the pain I had inflicted on everyone around me.

I was in my living room, in a shitty apartment in Reno, Nevada, and I was stalking around the way I always did- restless, agitated, trying to figure out my next hustle. Half out of my mind from lack of sleep and fried brain cells, and it hit me. A moment of clarity that I really wasn’t looking for.

“You’re going to have to face yourself, eventually.” The thought came out of nowhere, and it was one of those weird moments where it sounded like my own voice in my head, but it didn’t feel like it came from me. I didn’t want to hear it, but I couldn’t help it. I remember that I stopped my pacing, and considered what my head had just told me. I wasn’t ready yet, not at that moment, but something had happened. A seed had been planted, blown into me from somewhere- maybe it was God, maybe it was just my own desperate psyche, trying to save me. I don’t know.

After that, weird little moments kept cropping up- I would be in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, and catch sight of myself in the mirror, and find myself thinking “Can I even get back to the person I used to be? Does she even exist anymore? What if she isn’t real? What if all I am is this nightmare of a human being?” Or, at two in the morning, I’d find myself nodding off on the couch, thinking “What if I can’t change? What if this is just who I am?”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I can see that all those questions were more than just idle thoughts. They were the very beginning of my escape plan. The very idea of doing something different was so absurd, so foreign to me, that at first, all I could handle were these tiny little thoughts. Eventually, they grew and grew, until I had worn myself out enough that I had no choice but to drop from exhaustion. My first surrender was pure exhaustion, so complete that I couldn’t even wave a white flag. I just gave up because I had nothing left in me to keep going.

My first spin through recovery was more of a reprieve. I made it two years, I relapsed for one day, then made it another year. I went through the motions, learned all the acronyms, went to meetings, thought I was getting somewhere. But after all that time, when the opportunity to use came along again, I jumped at it, and it wasn’t long before I was right back where I’d been before, with the exception that I was now employable, responsible, and really good at faking my way through life. In short, I was a functioning addict now as opposed to the totally dysfunctional one I had been before. Progress, right? Yeah, I don’t think so.

When I got clean again almost three years ago, I had no idea how different this time would be for me. I had no clue that I was finally ready, and that the work I was about to embark on would be painful, hard and the most life-changing thing I could do for myself. Thank God I didn’t know! If I had, I never would have had the courage to start. I have unearthed things I never wanted to look at again, I have told the truth about things I hadn’t even known I was lying about all my life. It has been gut wrenching and frightening at times- to see myself in the most unflattering of lights, to realize what a mess I made, not just of my own life, but of the lives I was responsible for. My kids definitely carry the shrapnel of my battles in their skin. There are some things I will never be able to fix, unless someone figures out how to build a time machine.

But even so…what could I do? My past mistakes are so intrinsically linked to the joys of my life, they could never be separated. I had to be who I was to make the choices I made to get to exactly where I am. If I went back in time and changed one thing, I would not be this person sitting here, writing this, right now. The framed pictures of my children that I can see would not be there, because they wouldn’t be here, none of it would.

So, if I couldn’t change any of it, and if it was so painful to face, why do it at all? You might ask. Why not just leave the past in the past and move forward, leave all that shit behind you. The only thing I can tell you about that is, there is no peace in burying the truth. The moment I found the courage to face the ugly truth, the moment I took responsibility for who I had been and what I had done, the past lost its power over me. I still have moments, nearly every day, where I feel remorse or regret over something that happened long ago. But they are just twinges now, they don’t feel like a punch in the gut anymore. And that really IS progress.

You cannot heal and hide at the same time. Anyone can run away from the truth, or bury it- but you can’t bury it deep enough to keep it away. The truth ALWAYS finds a way back to the surface. The most courageous thing I have ever done in my life wasn’t getting clean- it was inviting the truth up to meet me, seeing it for what it was, and finally, setting myself free.

via Daily Prompt: Courage