Posted in Addiction, Depression, faith, happiness, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, random, Uncategorized

Kindness

kindness

Once upon a time, I was a very, very messed up young lady. Not messed up in the everyday, average, run-of-the-mill way I am now. I’m not talking about depression or anxiety this time, which I seem to suffer from in a very “normal” way, judging by the lives and comments from my friends. I don’t know many people who make it to this age in life without some baggage, vague mental illness, and/or flat out jadedness. I’m not saying this is a good or even acceptable thing, I’m just saying…it’s kind of part of the deal.

What I’m talking about here is my “former life”. The life I began at 19, the part where I wound up on drugs for such a long time. When I tell you that I was bad, I need you to believe me. There were no days off, not if I could help it. I lived, breathed and existed for my drugs. It was my life. I wish that it weren’t true, but facts are facts.

What I don’t often talk about is the kindness that was shown to me through those years. The people who saw something more in me, something good, and gave me chances, reached out a hand, tried to help. There are more kind and giving people in this world than you would ever imagine, if you have never needed help the way I used to.

I was homeless, periodically, many times throughout those years. And yet I never once had to sleep in my car- not ever. My friends would take me in for various lengths of time, never asking for for anything in return. I was always fed when I was hungry, I always managed to have a pack of cigarettes, I never remember feeling afraid or having nowhere to go. I was asked to house-sit, invited to stay over. My clothes got washed, I showered. I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky, but I always felt that I was. Even in the worst of times, I recognized that my life could be so much worse.

Did I disappoint people? Oh, yes. Regularly. The remorse I feel for the people I let down is almost a living thing, sometimes. It’s better now that I’ve made something of my life. I don’t feel it so acutely, with the passage of time. When I think about those years of my life, it honestly feels like I am viewing the memories of another person…someone I could never possibly have been, except that I was. I took advantage, overstayed my welcome, pilfered change from pockets, ate food that wasn’t meant for me. I was given jobs that I casually didn’t show up for, and borrowed money I could never pay back. In short, I was kind of a nightmare. Looked like a sweet kid, behaved like a monster.

And still…people helped me. My friend Debbie, who I’ve lost track of over the years, replaced my headlights when she was scraping by on a waitresses salary. The number of nights I spent in her apartment, blasting Aretha Franklin and driving her nuts, I couldn’t count. A lady named Suzi that I worked with asked me to “house-sit” for her every time she left town, knowing what a risk I was. People rolled the dice on me all the time, and I was not a safe bet. But I’ve never forgotten. I have never forgotten the kindnesses I’ve been shown.

One time, I was at the welfare office in Nevada, in a desperate situation. I needed money, I needed food- at this time I had a small daughter, and I had waited too long to look for help. There was no way I was making rent. I had called the Catholic charities, I had tried to figure it out,  but things were dire. It was winter time, I remember that, and things were not looking good in that welfare office. It was harder to get help in Nevada than it had been in California, and I knew things weren’t going to work in my favor for once.

There was a woman working there…she was probably the age I am now, mid forties, a heavy-set black woman. She had this beautiful necklace on- a simple chain with this big, shiny, single rhinestone hanging from it. In the midst of all the bullshit I was spewing, wired out of my mind, I said “I really love your necklace.” Because I did. I will never, ever forget what happened next. She said “You know, I never wear this thing. I felt called to wear it this morning, and now I know why.” And she took it off her neck and handed it to me. She GAVE it to me.

You know, that meant something to me. It might have just been a little piece of costume jewelry, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, she did something incredibly kind in that moment. She made me feel worthy and special and less like that desperate, messed up young woman I was. I don’t know how to explain it. But it gave me a boost that I needed so much right then. I will never forget it. I still have that necklace, and I wish I could find that lady and tell her I turned out okay after all. She might not remember me, but I will always remember her.

Another time, and this story is very strange, I was at the beach- a beach I frequent, even to this day. I was at the end of my last run, really strung out, really miserable, feeling like I had reached the end of my rope. I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore…I had realized that no one was going to come along to save me, that I was going to have to rely on myself, and that thought terrified me. I just remember feeling incredibly down that day. The beach was nearly deserted, and out of nowhere, this woman approached me. She had on a skirt, I remember, a longish skirt, and she seemed out of place. She had a bag of sea glass with her, and she showed me her finds. I would guess she was in her fifties or sixties, and she seemed a little odd, though friendly enough. All of the sudden she told me she felt called to pray over me and asked if it was okay. Normally, this would have been SO not okay with me. But that day…I really needed it. It was the strangest thing. She held my hands, and she prayed for me, right there in broad daylight on that deserted beach. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. I never saw her again.

I don’t know where I am going with this, except…I’m just really grateful for the kindness I’ve been on the receiving end of over the years. I have hurt people and let them down, ripped them off and fucked them over. Yet I never saw the end of that kindness. It always kept coming, and always when I needed it most. I forget that sometimes- how kind people are when it matters most. Having been self-sufficient for so long now, relying on the news and social media to tell me how the world is, I let myself forget. But that’s not the truth, the things you see online, or on your phone. The truth is, people are mostly good, they want to help. I bet you know this about yourself. I bet you see it in others.

I would not be here without the kindness of strangers, the giving hearts of my friends. I know that much is true. Never stop reaching out, even when you think it’s a lost cause. You just never know the impact you might have on someone.

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Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, People, spirituality

Did…did Oprah Just Change my Life?

Glennon

(This is longer than usual, I apologize. But I needed to tell this story)

As you all know, I have been struggling like crazy (no pun intended) with my mental health recently, specifically an anxiety cocktail that includes obsessive thoughts, hyper focus on far-fetched illnesses, and catastrophic thinking. I would not recommend this cocktail to ANYONE.

I would like to announce that I had a little breakthrough yesterday. It actually started out to be a terrible day. I woke up anxious already, but I couldn’t figure out about what. I felt shaky and nervous and weird, and all I’d done was wake up. So of course, my anxiety is looking for something to hitch its wagon to. I see my brain start searching it’s data banks for the nearest fear it can blow out of proportion.

And let me tell you, I am just fucking sick of this shit. Pardon my language, but my GOD, this gets soooooo old. So, I sit down to pray and meditate. I send up an urgent prayer to God- please take this, please help me, HELP ME. And then I choose my meditation for the day- I love the calm app, and if you struggle to meditate, I cannot recommend this app highly enough. Guided meditations for every conceivable thing, plus you can choose your music, and the woman’s voice is incredible. Anyway, I chose one I’d never seen before…I just had to look it up, it was called “Investigating Anxiety” and let me tell you, it was one of the hardest 13 minutes I’ve ever sat for. She asked me to call up my anxiety, to feel it in my body, to sit with it. It was like opening up a fire hydrant and just letting it blast you in the face. But I did it. I sat there, with the knot in my gut and tears rolling silently down my face, and you know what…it didn’t kill me. For that time, it was just a very uncomfortable feeling. For some reason, I feel like that limbered me up a little bit- like I was looser, and less clenched, and so what happened next was able to get in, I was able to hear the message I was meant to hear.

Let me explain what I mean: I have noticed, throughout my life, that when I am desperate and asking God for help, God is listening to me. But I need to be open to the answers. Until I am open to the answers, I am not going to be able to receive the help even when I am begging for it. When my anxiety is full throttle, I am so shut down, just trying to make it through every minute, that short of appearing in the flesh in front of me and shaking me, I am not picking up what God is laying down- and for the record, if the idea of God makes you uncomfortable, just fill in that space with whatever word you use. (WOW that was a run-on sentence. My apologies) I really don’t think it matters.

Anyway, I was feeling a little less knotted up after my meditation, and when I returned home after dropping Cam off at school, I started listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast. I started last week, and had moment of clarity listening to Brene Brown, which was so funny as I have struggled to get through her books…but something about hearing her speak got the message through. Anyway, yesterday, I trusted that I would find the right episode and chose Glennon Doyle, whose name I’d heard, but knew nothing about. She said some stuff about addiction, that it is a place where sensitive people hide because they learned early on that the cost of love and pain were too much. It blew my mind. Wow. There was more, but trying to convey it all here would be impossible- I didn’t take notes, I just let the message into my heart. After that, I listened to two episodes with Iyanla Vanzant- again, heard the name, know nothing about her. Let the message flow into me.

I couldn’t tell you the exact things I heard, but I can tell you this- I remembered a few things that my anxious mind was keeping from me. Things like, oh yeah- I believe in a benevolent universe, and I have a God in my life who loves me. That you can’t bank worry to keep you from future pain- it doesn’t work like that. And that sometimes bad things do indeed happen, but that is true whether you choose to live in fear of them or not.

But it wasn’t exactly what was said, I don’t think, that really got me. It was more like…my mind and my heart opened up because I was thinking in a different way.  The guests and the questions and the stories were like WD-40 for my mind, helping the wheels to start turning, getting me thinking again. And right in the middle of all of it, I opened up a notebook and wrote a letter to myself. I’m not going to share it with you here, but my therapist had asked me to write a letter of self-compassion last week, and I balked like no one has ever balked before. Just, YUCK. No. But lo and behold, I pulled it off yesterday. It didn’t even start off that way, but that’s where it ended up.

The thing is, my anxiety is not really about my fear of something happening to me, or to my children. My anxiety is really about me not being able to forgive myself for my past. It’s about me not thinking I deserve the blessings I have today, because I am just a mean-spirited ex-junkie who just got lucky. It’s me waiting for the jig to be up, for God to take it all away. My anxiety is me, telling me I am not good enough. That there must be some mistake.

But I have worked really hard to get here. I overcame my addiction, and even though it didn’t seem hard to me, it must have been- how many other times did I try and fail? How many years did I sacrifice to that monster? So, yeah, it didn’t seem hard but maybe that’s just because I have a good perspective about it and I chose to see the beauty in it. And perhaps it looks like I have a cushy job- even to me, sometimes. But I show up day in and day out and I try to do my best. I struggle A LOT. The point I am trying to make is that the same brain telling me I am not good enough is the one telling me I just got lucky. Yesterday I saw the flaw in my thinking. I do deserve my life. I do deserve my kids, and the love, and the happiness. And yes, awful things may come. But do I have to ruin all my happiness while it is good? No. No I do not.

I’m sorry this is so long. I needed to get this off my chest. The thing is, I am not magically cured. I just believe I needed to stay with those feelings until I got the lesson, and now things will, hopefully, begin to improve. In the meantime, I am going to keep asking for help and looking for the message, and really try to let go of fear and enjoy my life. So thanks, God. And thanks, Oprah. LOL. You’re the best.

Posted in Addiction, Blogging, Goals, health, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

Changes

change

As I have written, time and time and time again, I am the ultimate creature of habit…the one caveat is that I have the wandering soul of a gypsy, and these two things do not mesh well at all. I long to jump on a plane and fly across the continent, then, when I do, I spend the first few nights homesick and wishing for my own bed. This happens every time. Unless, of course, my kids are with me, in which case- well, home is wherever they are, in my estimation. So, the solution for that is pretty obvious- take the kids with me, right? Right. Problem solved.

I’m sure there was an element of that in my drug addiction. You know, they say that amphetamines are not physically addictive…although I can tell you for sure that my body protested every time I quit, it wasn’t the slow hell that a heroin addict suffers through for months on end. More an annoyance than anything. But there is a lifestyle that goes along with addiction- a whole world that exists right under the nose of the “normy”, with its own rules and unspoken laws. That was the world I unwittingly stumbled into so long ago, and where I far overstayed. As much as it was a relief to give all that up, it was hard. I didn’t know how to fit in in the regular world, I didn’t know how to behave anymore. But the idea of going back was so abhorrent, it became easier for me to keep making the right choice. But that change was hard. I left a home, of sorts, and I know I could never go back now…for a while though, it was up in the air.

One of my resolutions this year was to not only stay away from cigarettes, but to give up my precious vape as well. I recognized it for what it was, finally- just another crutch, basically the same as smoking. I would alternate between the two- smoking for a while, then going back to the vape. My vape broke, I’d buy another- 70 or 100 dollars, at least five or six times. The juice you need to fill it runs about 30 bucks a bottle, and I’d go through at least one, if not two a week. So, financially, not quite the win that I thought quitting smoking would be. I switched to no nicotine juice and went back on the patch, and…you see where this is going? Right, nowhere. Still doing the same thing, pretending it’s different.

Yesterday, I just gave up. I put my patch on and thought “I am not going to vape today. I just want to see how it feels.” Guess what? It felt pretty odd. I didn’t get that hand-to-mouth thing that I am so stuck on, and it seemed like every five seconds I had that feeling like I was missing something. That… beginning to reach for something before I realized it wasn’t there. So, I found an old fast food straw that was shoved in my desk drawer and I cut it into three equal pieces. Now, I just compulsively chew it, or, when I’m really wanting to inhale something, I take a nice big hit of oxygen, right through the straw. I probably look like an idiot. But it’s working fine. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now. I have been a smoker of some sort for most of my life, and I want to see what it’s like to be tethered to nothing. To need nothing I didn’t come with to get through the day. And yes, I’m still wearing my patch, for now. I’m not a sadist.

But this morning, I woke up knowing I needed to change up my routine a little, to make it safer for me. Mornings are the prime nicotine imbibing time- stores are low, you know. And even though my vape had no nicotine anymore, I still hit that thing hard in the morning. So, I got up this morning, started my coffee, and jumped straight into the shower. I didn’t fool around. I got out, put on my patch, and then had my coffee. Also, I smartly got rid of all temptation-this is quitters rule number one! Gave all my vaping stuff away, so there was nothing to mess with even if I wanted to. But still, I know me- I’m perfectly capable of throwing in the towel while half asleep and running to 7-11 to buy a pack of smokes. But I don’t want to. I want this. I want freedom.

I can promise you this- I have quit all kinds of things in my life that were addictive, from drugs to relationships to bad behaviors. Nothing has ever been harder than giving up smoking. I will stay on the patch for as long as I need to, but I can’t wait to be free of that, too. I just don’t want to kill anyone trying to move too fast- I’m not kidding, nicotine withdrawals are no joke. And I’m kind of evil to begin with, so it’s not that far of a jump for me.

Anyway, there was more to this story, but we’re already at almost 900 words, so…look for “Changes, part II” tomorrow. And have a wonderful day!

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?

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.

 

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.