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.

 

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Posted in adventure, happiness, inner peace, Life, living, magic, Musings, People, random

Stormy Weather

I went to sleep last night to the sound of rain pouring down outside. What a lovely way to drift off…I can’t think of a better sound to lull me to sleep.

I woke up this morning to the sound of the wind howling through the trees outside. Shaking the windows and screeching around corners. Camryn must have gotten scared, because, as I lay there just listening, I heard her little feet padding through the house, and soon there was a warm little body snuggled up against me. And I love it- the storm, the rain, the wind, the little girl curled up next to me.

I love the wildness of a storm. So many times over the past few weeks, as the rain poured and the wind howled, as the dark clouds roiled in the sky, I have opened up my front door and invited a little of that charged air to sweep through my home, cleaning out the stagnant air and replacing the old energy with new. I have stood on my porch and looked out over the rooftops and up into the sky and let the cold air wash over me and wake me up completely.

In this verdant place where I live, trees are snapping like twigs and whole limbs are crashing to the ground, blocking roads and rerouting the world. Rivers flow down streets and waves crash, littered with branches and boiling with foam, into stairs we once used to walk down to gentle beaches. And I watch all of it with breathless wonder, the might of mother nature never failing to thrill me.

I cannot seem to resist the call of the outdoors despite the weather- or maybe even because of it. I made my way through Carmel on Sunday, having to turn different corners and drive down unfamiliar roads due to all the trees down, but we finally made it to the shore only to find the sand had been devoured by the angry waves. Still, I had to go- I had to see it for myself, and only returned to the car when I was soaked and so cold my fingers ached.

Yesterday, I rolled the dice and went with my dog for a run in between rain showers. We made it far up the hill when the rain decided to begin to fall in earnest again. I couldn’t help but smile the whole way home, breathless and soggy and more alive than I’d felt in forever.

And in the evening, we went to the beach. I wanted to see what treasures had been washed ashore, churned up from the ocean floor and left for my fingers to pluck up from the sand. What I found instead was a sky so breathtaking with clouds, the sun burnishing them the most indescribable pink gold in places, and leaving them so ominous and black in others. The greens and oranges of the ice plant and the metallic, mercury waves, the angelic pink and doomsday gray of the clouds…I was frozen solid by the time we made it back to the car, but my soul was fed. And just as we began to drive home, the rain swept back in from out to sea, and began to fall once more.

Oh, how I love a good storm.

Posted in Blogging, family, friendship, Goals, Holidays, Life, manifestation, Musings, People, relationships, women

Ready for What’s Next: Part 1

connection

I don’t want to jinx myself, but it looks as if I will be ending 2018 on a high note- I’ve had a fabulous past few days, filled with fun interactions with old friends that I haven’t seen in years. Lots and lots of laughter- the kind you can only really have face to face, with people who truly get you. And there is nothing better to me than people who not only laugh at my funny stories, but can make me laugh just as hard with theirs. Humor is just the top thing for me. I also went on a date that 100% did not suck- just easy conversation, not awkward, really nice…we all know how awful a first date can be, don’t we? Enough to keep me from going on very many, that’s for sure. So whether we go out again or not, it’s just really good to know there is hope- well mannered, funny, gainfully employed, grown up men do exist. I’m just happy for the experience.

But what really stands out to me about all of those things is the common thread of connection, and how it affected me. As you may know, I work from home about 95% of the time- I only work in the office for about 16 hours per month. The rest of the time, I’m here, at this computer, alone. There are many days when the only other adults I see are the mailman, if he has a package for me, and my friend Harmony who picks Camryn up from school for me. This generally seemed okay to me- I didn’t realize the impact all my isolation was having on my mood, my motivation, and my life. Until now, that is. After spending some real-life time with people recently, it was hard to miss the elevation in my mood, and the subsequent rise in my motivation to do things even later, when I was alone. I’m still basically an introvert- I will always relish time alone to recharge and decompress. But too much time alone is just as bad for my spirit as too much of anything else, and I intend to be mindful of that.

In 2019, my mission in life will be to continue in this fashion, spending time with people who make me laugh, and who laugh with me. People who I can talk about anything with, and never feel weird or bad. I want my friends to know that I care very much about them, and I am going to make a real effort to be there for them when they are struggling or in pain, and to reach out when they need someone. In 2018, I thought I was ready to come out of my cocoon, but looking back, I can see that I still had some resting to do. I do not feel any kind of way about this- it’s over, basically, and I must have needed that time or it would have been different. But I feel in my heart that this coming year will be different as can be, and I look forward to a lot of joy and good memories to be made.

There are certainly other goals I have in mind, but I think I will leave it at this one for now- connecting with friends and family, and looking forward to how it will color my life. That is 2019 Goal Number One. Stay tuned for the next few goals for the New Year!

Posted in friendship, inner peace, Learning, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, relationships

Happiness & Curiosity

curiosity

I’ve been in a bit of a rut, lately, and it’s been hard for me to want to write- not just here, but also on my novel, which is a total bummer. Mostly because I am part of an awesome critique group and I’m running out of chapters to submit thanks to this weird writers block…but anyway, I haven’t been feeling my level best, had some minor health issues that are slowly resolving, and the whole vibe has not been conducive to me writing, I guess. When you aren’t feeling well, it’s hard to think about anything else.

For the last few days, I’ve been feeling better though, and my thoughts have turned again, as they always do, to my happiness and what I might do to improve it. Some people say that happiness is not a destination you arrive at, it’s something that you choose to experience, and I agree with that to a certain extent. But I also know that when you live a hectic, modern life full of children and work and chores to be done…the first thing we throw out of the picture are the things that make us feel the best. Forget about long, lingering bubble baths and walks on the beach with the dog- sometimes I am lucky to take a three minute shower and can’t even manage a quick walk around the block with poor Lucy. The truth is, when it’s getting dark around the same time I clock out of work, I often allow myself to just move from my office chair to the couch and spend the rest of the night numbing out to Netflix.

There may be stretches of time when this is honestly the best I can do. Do I judge myself a little harshly when this is the case? You bet your ass I do. I go to bed, frustrated and disappointed with myself because I feel like I wasted these precious hours of my life, hours I can’t get back. I think a lot about stuff like that- probably a side effect of having lost so many loved ones over the past 15 months. Death has a way of making our own mortality very, very clear to us, doesn’t it?

The good news is that, without fail, my energy returns, and I can try again. Try to fill my hours up in a way that makes me feel better about my life, try to figure out how to experience more happiness. I always come up with the same things: Be outside more, move my body more, connect with my kids and friends more,write, meditate, pray, get the house in order, and go to meetings. Obviously, these are just the little, day-to-day things that work best for me, not the longer term, “big” goals. But doing just these little things make a huge difference in my life. My magic formula for deeper enjoyment of my every day life.

Most of those things are simple enough to slip back into, once I’m back in the right frame of mind. You know what I struggle with, though? The “connecting with people” piece. And I mean this is a struggle on every level- with my own children up to the stranger sitting beside me at a meeting. I know why. It has everything to do with me being judgmental, which is really just a symptom of my own insecurity and fear of being vulnerable, i.e., I don’t want to be judged, so I will judge you first. Well, with my kids, I mean, I’m just being a mom…and to be fair, some of the shit they say is just…lets just say it’s hard not to power roll my eyes, sometimes. But with other people, this can become really problematic. When you are super guarded, or you think you already know something about someone based on their body language, their appearance, or maybe their current shitty situation, you are doing both them and yourself a disservice. When I think back through my life, to all the people who graciously chose to get closer to me when I was just awful…I don’t know how I would’ve survived without that kindness. I don’t think I could have.

Luckily, I found an easy solution to this problem. Instead of being guarded and drawing away, I have been choosing to be open and curious. There is a physical sensation attached to both of these things- being guarded feels closed off, tight, impatient, and makes my eyes look anywhere but at the person. Being open and curious feels…well, open, obviously, and warmer, somehow, and helps me look at and hear someone so much better. When I am not quick to judge, I am much quicker to listen, and when I listen well, it is so much easier to connect. For me, connecting with someone, really hearing and understanding and empathizing with where and who they are, is the best high. When I listen with curiosity, when I am open, when I take five seconds to talk to someone after a meeting and let them know I heard them…maybe it doesn’t mean anything much to them, but that connection means a lot to me. When I have friends over here for a super casual dinner, when I spend thirty minutes walking outside with Cam, playing Pokemon Go- maybe it’s not big deal, but it feels like one to me. It feels like the key to everything, to be honest.

So, this week, and for the rest of this year, my goal is to continue to make time for the things that help me to experience happiness, and to be open and curious about people, rather than closed off and invulnerable. Not a lofty goal, but I don’t know…it feels important to me. I may be onto something.

Posted in inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, Uncategorized, women

Openings

It seems to me that there are specific times in my life where I inexplicably begin to feel better. I might not even be fully aware that I wasn’t feeling so great to begin with, but maybe the weight of living felt a little bit…heavier, I guess. Little things are harder. Daily life is gotten through, but joy seems just beyond my reach. I am just muddling through as best I can.

And then there are these openings- times when I wake up, and my heart is lighter, my energy is bubbling up, and life seems full of possibility again. This past weekend has been one such time, and I’m hoping it continues. I have no idea what brings them about, these openings- maybe it’s just some fluctuation in my brain chemistry. Maybe that cracked wisdom tooth I had pulled on Friday was causing me a lot more trouble than I was ever aware of. Maybe the stars just aligned. I do not know, I just know that I am grateful.

I see these shifts in me for what they are- great opportunities to get the ball rolling in the right direction again. These are the times when, if I take advantage of them, I can reconnect with the part of me that I enjoy the most. The part who goes on 6 a.m. beach adventures with her children, the me who opens up the blinds to let the light stream in, who sings while she cooks dinner. This is also the part of me who unflinchingly sorts through piles of old mail and ruthlessly cleans out the fridge until there is nothing left but a bottle of ketchup and one egg.

I am grateful for these times, but I know they do not last forever. They are gifts, and I am happy to receive them. I know that life is always a series of ebbs and flows, and my job is to learn how to ride the waves, however they show up. If I handle the easy, happy, good times right, perhaps the difficult times will be just a little easier. Perhaps. And if not, I know that there will be better times opening up for me again, down the road.

Have a beautiful week.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, family, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery, Uncategorized

Routine Devotion

 

safe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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