Posted in beauty, Blogging, inner peace, Learning, Life, love, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People

A Tiny Little Revolution

alan-cohen
courtesy of Alan Cohen. Thanks, mister.

Let me describe my day for you: I woke up at four a.m. and poured myself a cup of fresh, strong french roast coffee, fixing it so that it was creamy and sweet, just the way I like it. I sat out on my front porch and sipped it, listening to the crazy birds singing in the trees- yep, they are singing away even at that hour.

After I had my fill of the quiet and the not-so-quiet, after I had seen enough of the tiny little crescent moon, I came inside and said good morning to both my beautiful black kitties and my sweet black lab. I sat down at my computer and worked through a few lessons on the tarot course I am taking, pausing often to take copious notes. I read through a little of my work in progress. I had some more coffee. I read for a little while.

When the sky started to lighten up outside, I lit my candles and my incense, I got my cushion, and I sat down on the floor to pray and meditate. When I was done, I stretched lazily, grabbed my book, and poured myself a very hot, very bubbly bath. I stayed in there reading until my fingertips did not look much like fingertips anymore. I threw on my bathrobe and jumped back in bed, snoozing for another hour, give or take.

After Camryn woke up, we threw on whatever clothes looked decent enough, and Lucy (the lab), Camryn and I jumped into the car and headed to the beach. We walked and walked, finally stopping at the rocky end, where we lingered for a while, picking up shells, and standing in the gentle, icy water, while seaweed wrapped around our legs. Camryn saw a cairn and asked what it was, and I explained to her that people built one in memory, sometimes, of people they loved. She wanted to build one for my friend Joe, so we did. I was delighted that she thought of it.

On the way home, sandy and salty and filled with the calm of the ocean, we stopped at the best bakery on the peninsula and got a few croissants, a coffee for me, and a coke for her. I am sitting here now, at my desk, as the sun streams through my window, writing this to you. I don’t know how to adequately describe to you the peace inside my heart, the calm assurance, the gratitude. It is at once enormous, and completely, perfectly, normal.

I wrote recently about the shift that occurred for me, the way that I was suddenly able to see my body as something more than just some object to be admired, or, more upsetting, to be judged harshly by the eyes of others- and even more harshly by ME. Suddenly, I saw my body as the vehicle for my soul, perfect even with its imperfections, perfectly functional, ever faithful, strong as could be. From that moment forward, there has been an almost comical domino-effect of changes happening, one after the other. I don’t know the words one would use to describe something like this, and right now I don’t even want to try to find them, but suffice to say…things are…I am…changing on a fundamental level. Some deep, deep shit is just resolving itself. I am just over here, watching it happen. Enjoying it.

So what does that mean? Well, it means that I am pausing, all the time, to search for that feeling of connection to the energy that is just pulling me along, when I am open. It means I have stopped saying anything demeaning to myself, about my appearance, or any other facet of my being. It means I do weird stuff, like close my eyes and feel the sun on my face, and the wind, and smile because I am not worrying about tomorrow or yesterday, I am here, now. It means I don’t always know where my phone is anymore, because I don’t care. It means I am not tracking my food, obsessing over calories, or beating myself up for not being driven enough to work out regularly. Consequently, food tastes MUCH better without the extra guilt sauce, and I have gotten more walking in than I have in months.

I’ve decided to leave myself alone, for once. Just simply live and enjoy my life without the guilt and she really should’s and shouldn’t s. It’s so easy, and so simple, and so kind…and yet it FEELS revolutionary, to me. My own quiet little revolution. A little love affair with myself. How perfect. And now, I’m going to read my book and take another nap. Enjoy your day!

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

Radical Change

change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Addiction, 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 Blogging, faith, family, inner peace, kids, Learning, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships

My Girls

daughters

One thing in my life that it is never hard for me to be grateful for- even on the very worst days- are my daughters. Man, I hit the jackpot when it comes to kids! My girls couldn’t be more different…not only are they 13 years apart in age, they are just completely different personalities, and yet I relate to them both so much, in separate ways.

Yesterday, my eldest, Aisley, who is beautiful and complicated, came down off the mountain she now lives on for a short visit. She misses me so much now that we aren’t seeing each other every single day, and it’s been hard on her. So when she does get to come into town, she’s so excited to see me- she wants me to write down recipes for her, and she has so many things to show me and share with me. This daughter has always been my uber-affectionate little bear, and she still wants a million hugs and all my attention when she sees me. Yesterday, she planted a little vegetable garden out in front of my house for me. She put in little stakes with labels so that I would know what was what, and she made me promise to remember to water it. She has my dirty sense of humor, and we always make each other laugh, and I am so glad she belongs to me- that I get to be her mom. I’m so happy to call her mine.

And Cammy, my little one…oh, man. She is so smart and independent, with her giant vocabulary and the biggest heart. One of the great joys of my life is waking her up every morning. I always take a minute to watch her sleeping;  mouth open wide, hair in a big old knot on top of her head. She still lets me haul her into my lap for a quick cuddle most days, even though she hangs over both sides of me by quite a bit, and I can barely pick her up. I smiled this morning as I watched her lurch, half asleep, to her waiting bath, like a little drunk person. I know these particular days aren’t going to be around for too much longer…I am acutely aware of the passage of time, having been through this once already.

That’s all, really. I just wanted to take a minute to speak my gratitude for my children out loud to the Universe. I don’t know how I got so lucky- I definitely got so much more from this life than I probably deserved. But I am so in love with those girls, and feel so blessed to be their mom, still the most important woman in their lives. Every day I pray to be worthy of the task, to be the person they need me to be. Some days I fall short of the mark, but miraculously, they love me anyway. I don’t understand how that works, or why it’s true, but I’m sure glad it is.

Have a beautiful day. 🙂

Posted in Blogging, Life, motherhood, People, random, writing

Three Things, Late Again

three flowers

I can see a bad habit emerging here, but I do have an explanation- I just didn’t feel like writing yesterday. I mean, writing a blog. I worked on my novel some, after dealing with some technical issues (mine, not the computer) with Word in the early morning hours. Not only did I not feel like blogging, I didn’t even check my stats compulsively yesterday, or any of that. First time since December that I can recall just checking out of here like that. I needed a break, I guess. But enough of that- here are my final three things for February:

  1. Housework. I have been really, really trying to keep my house picked up lately, and, at the ripe old age of 42 it finally hit me- you have to do this shit every single day, don’t you? Like, if I don’t pick up the house every single day, it looks like hell again. I am both outraged and saddened by this fact- and I know it to be fact, because I didn’t really pick up the living room last night and, even though it was clean in here yesterday morning, it looks pretty messy right now. There is a giant pile of unmatched socks on the coffee table, next to several pieces of sketch paper abandoned by Camryn, a jacket and a pair of Uggs on the floor, and the “couch blanket” half on, half off the couch. There is also an empty laundry basket, a backpack, and a bathrobe on the couch. I was busy working on the kitchen last night, I didn’t quite make it to the living room. Maybe I should just work in the kitchen? But seriously, I went online, searching for a housekeeper yesterday, then realized I could be saving that money for fun stuff if I just managed to keep the house clean on my own. I mean, it’s never happened yet, but people change. Right?
  2. Worry. I don’t mean to brag, but I kind of consider myself a professional worrier. I am so good at it that when I run out of relevant things to stress out about, I am an expert at making up scenarios in my head in which things could theoretically go terribly wrong, and then I worry about those make-believe things. This morning, I found myself worrying that my tax refund would be intercepted by various government agencies that I owe money to, but don’t remember owing money to. Like, what if there are a bunch of things I have forgotten about, and they all take part of my money, and then I am expecting all this money, and I don’t get any of it?! What will I do then? Well, a) that isn’t going to happen, because it’s a made up scenario, and b) even if it did, I would just do what I always do- keep going. Still, it makes me anxious, just thinking about it. That’s how good I am at worrying.
  3. Gratitude. I think a good way to wrap this up is some perspective on all of the stuff I just wrote. How lucky am I to have this messy little house? How awesome is it that I have any house at all? There was once a time when I would have given anything to have even a crappy studio apartment of my own to lay down my head in at night, and now I have a whole house! With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry room, a big old yard…it might not be fancy, but it’s a lot more than I’ve had before. It’s a lot more than I should have wound up with, considering my former trajectory. And even if the imaginary government agencies take every penny of my tax return, I still have a great career and a paycheck I can depend on. So I need to be be grateful for all the blessings in my life, rather than feeling overwhelmed or worried. I am going to be okay. I am always okay.

And that is the best I can do for today. As always, have a speedy Friday, and may your weekend go by slow as molasses.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, Blogging, family, inner peace, Life, living, Mental Health, People, recovery, writing

6 Years Old

6

A few days ago, I received a notification that my blog has been around for 6 years! Oh my goodness, that really is hard to believe- I remember very clearly starting this blog, and what I thought I wanted to write about. Funny how that wound up working out- my writing had other plans, and took me in a very different direction.

Sometimes I want to go back and remove some of the posts I have shared. There are plenty where it is clear to me that I was not doing so well when I wrote them, and it causes me a bit of shame to read the words I wrote when I was not in my right mind. But I haven’t done it yet, and I don’t know if I will- that’s kind of what this blog is; a real life account of an addict, both using and clean. I can confirm that this is true with simple math- the blog is six years old, and I have two years, eight months, and one day clean. There were many small stretches of sobriety interspersed here with other stretches of not-so-much.

There were long periods of time when I didn’t write anything at all- maybe one or two disjointed posts over the stretch of many months. There were times when I promised to write again regularly, and meant it, only for life to show up and take me for a ride in a different direction. There were times when I thought about abandoning this particular project all together, but just…never got around to it. I’m glad I didn’t do that.

I was fooling around with the stats of this blog the other night, and there is a way to see how many other countries have viewed your blog. Let me tell you, in six years, I don’t think there is one country that hasn’t at least popped in. Countries I honestly didn’t know existed have viewed this blog! It blew my mind. There have been thousands and thousands of views, thousands of likes, and hundreds of comments. I mean, that is so freaking cool!

So, happy birthday to my blog, and thanks so much to all of you who take the time out of your lives to read my ramblings, who reach out to me and let me know you are really feeling what I do, and who make me feel like I have something to offer. This has been a wonderful part of my journey.

RLG Family 4

I am happy to report that I am not the same person who started this blog six years ago. I have been through so much, but I have learned from all of it, and I am in a much better place now than I have ever been before. My life is calm (for the most part), my recovery is solid, and my heart has more peace in it than it ever has before. I have learned that I do not have to be afraid of myself anymore- I have learned to trust myself to do the right thing. This is huge. There was a time when I feared that if no one else could save me, left to my own devices, I was as good as dead. I’m so glad to report that I was wrong. Somehow, and with some divine intervention, I’m sure, I became the hero of my own story.

Not only can I depend on myself, but other people can depend on me- my job knows I will show up. My kids know I will be there for them. My friends can call me, day or night. I might not pick up the phone every time, but I will definitely come through as soon as I can (hey, I’m not perfect, give me a break). My bills get paid, and the chores, eventually, get done. My dog gets walked, my cats get…whatever it is that cats need.

In short, my life has become a safe place to be, and it blows my mind every single time it sinks in. Like, whoa! How did I get here? It is truly staggering, the reality of how I turned this ship around. I am proud of it, sure, but more than that, I am deeply, profoundly grateful.

And I look forward to sharing it all with you, going forward. Thanks for hanging out!

 

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, family, health, Holidays, inner peace, Life, living, Musings, People, recovery, relationships, spirit, twelve step

The Best Christmas Yet.

the best christmas yet

 

In the 42 years I have been on this planet, I have had all kinds of Christmases. I have had magical ones- lots of those, thanks to my mom, who REALLY pulled out all the stops every year to make it special for us kids. I have had terrible ones- I remember a year, when Aisley must have been about seven, when I had stayed up partying all night, and all of her presents were from the dollar store. Also, a guy I didn’t know was passed out on my living room floor, left there by his friend the night before when we couldn’t wake him up. We just stepped over him. That’s the kind of life I have lived.  I have had angry Christmases, and lonely ones, Christmas days filled with too much driving, too much fighting, and too much wishing I was somewhere else.

But I have never, ever, had a Christmas day when I was so overcome with gratitude as I listened to the sound of my family- all the people I love most in the world- chattering away and laughing in the living room behind me, that I broke down in tears. Not just a pretty little drop or two as I brushed garlic butter onto bread, but full on, “Oh shit, Courtney, this is not the time for a breakdown” kinda tears. Sobs, you might even say. I don’t know how to describe it to you, the way I was feeling, except for that worn out word, grateful. So, so, so full of gratitude that it hurt a little bit.

Because that, that feeling that I had, that sent tears pouring out of my eyes, and my mother rushing to hug me- that, my friend, is what recovery is. All the meetings that I make and the stepwork that I do, all the self reflection and correction and digging deep and starting over, forgiving myself, forgiving others, all the TRYING. All of the never taking anything, no matter what- THAT is what I have been searching for, and striving for, and wanting in my life and heart all along. That feeling of peace. That feeling of love, and belonging, and contentment and family. I have been really working a 12 step program for two and half years straight, but I have been trying to be where I was yesterday my entire adult life. My whole life.

If you are reading this, and you are new in recovery, I want to encourage you to stay the course. Don’t give up. There were times in the beginning when I was more miserable than I had been when I was using. I had zero coping skills, nothing left to take the edge off, and my brain was fucked up, even if I couldn’t come to terms with that at the time. My temper was as short fused as ever, and goddammit, I got clean so that I could stop being so hateful, but it didn’t seem to be working. If this sounds familiar, just wait. Just find whatever small improvements you do see, and hold onto them. Know that it will change.

When I had about a year clean, I got really mad at my mom, for a good long while. She didn’t do anything wrong, and I didn’t understand it- I hated it, actually. I was afraid that I was going to stay mad forever, and it scared me. But I had faith that I was working through old shit, feeling feelings that I should have felt a long time ago, and I held on. I kept pushing forward, inch by inch. One day, I looked for the anger that I had almost gotten used to lugging around with me, and I found that it had faded. Day after day, it lessened, leaving me surprised by what took its place- love, warmth, affection, acceptance. Yesterday, I can tell you, I did not have one single weird feeling where my mom is concerned. I never felt judged or criticized, picked on or even remotely insulted. The reason I am telling you this is because relationships change in recovery. You will change, and they will change.

Every single person in my house yesterday has been hurt by me in my addiction. Every. Single. One. I just now realized that. Wow. How blessed am I, that I get to make a living amends to these people? That they have forgiven me? That they still love me, that they are so proud of me? I literally would not have ANY of it if I wasn’t clean. I wouldn’t have it, and I wouldn’t even know that I wanted it. I would still be trying to fill that hole in my spirit with all the wrong things, wondering why everything hurt so much.

Listen, I want everyone to be able to feel the way I felt yesterday. If you have reached the end of your rope, and you need some help figuring out what to do next, shoot me an email. I will try to help you figure out a solution. Clduncan1@outlook.com, or just message me here.  And again, if you are new in recovery, I promise you- the pain will be worth the gain. It will be worth every second.