Posted in anxiety, family, Holidays, inner peace, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

Another Great Christmas

a happy christmas

I woke up this morning (well, this middle of the damn night, really) in my fancy new pajamas, courtesy of my mama, looking about as smart as a half-asleep bed headed woman can look, and I have to tell you- I feel nothing right now except for gratitude for the day I had yesterday. My house, which I scrubbed from top to bottom on Monday, is in utter shambles all around me. There is a mountain of empty boxes behind me against the book shelf, there are tiny little plastic toy packaging pieces- or maybe they are toy parts? I don’t know, but…anyway, flotsam and jetsam liberally litters the floor and surfaces. My kitchen sink is piled high with dishes- you get the picture. It’s a mess. And I’m not even mad- about the mess, or about the fact that I fell asleep at 6:30 in the evening last night, leaving all of this for today me to deal with. You want to know why? Good, I’ll tell you.

Reason Number One: My last two posts involved me having a sort of mini nervous breakdown last week, and though I might have tried to make light of it (perhaps failing to do so) I was REALLY scared about the future implications of what that massive panic attack might mean. I didn’t know if it was just a one-off, or a terrible harbinger of mental problems to come. So the fact that my fear and panic and anxiety seems to have resolved itself and then some was enough to put me over the moon by Christmas day. Not only has the fear, anxiety, and panic receded, but I seem to have come out of it with a much better attitude and my feet more firmly planted on the ground. That intense fear I felt appears to have made my day-to-day fears seem so silly in comparison that I just don’t have time for that shit. I’m gonna live my life. This is very exciting.

Reason Number Two: Christmas stopped being about what I was getting a long time ago. This year it wasn’t even about what I gave to others, either- at least, not quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I have found a lot of joy in gift giving as I’ve grown up, but now it’s more the feeling of being the mom of this family, being the home that my loved ones show up at to celebrate. Suddenly, I am the “mom”, the home, the destination. For the first time ever, I took so much pride in that. My tree was perfect this year, my home was clean and welcoming, I did it right.

Reason Number Three: Another first for me- I didn’t have a single second of worry about money this year. It’s not that I am rolling in it or anything, but I’m finally in a place where I am financially stable and did not have to stress about every penny. What a blessing this is! I have spent every Christmas of my adult life until now freaking out around Christmas time, worried that I wasn’t going to pull it off. This year was different, and for that I am beyond relieved. I didn’t go crazy by any means- why ask for trouble? But it was nice to not have to sweat it. I have worked and worked and worked to get to this spot, and it’s finally paid off.

Reason Number Four: I didn’t ruin everyone’s day with my own expectations, subsequent disappointment, and then unavoidable meltdown. Seriously, this has been a thing I’ve been known to do. Past years, I have imagined idyllic scenes of love and appreciation, respectful gift openings, and dinner at a perfectly set table…and when that all went to shit, as it will, I freaked out. This year, I just wanted to be happy. I let everyone do their thing. And I was there for it. I just kept being there for it, whatever “it” was. And guess what? I was far happier as a result. When Camryn started ripping into her gifts faster than I could register them, I let it happen. When Aisley didn’t want to sit down at the table with us for dinner, I let that go. When Devon fell asleep- in his car, then on the couch, then on my bed- I didn’t need to get upset. Why did I ever need to? Why let it bother me? I honestly tried to go with the flow this year, and it made everything so much better!

Reason Number Five: Devon and I decided to spend our holiday’s together with our daughter, rather than trying to figure out who gets her when and then one of us having to miss our girl on Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. Gosh, that seems so sad, and I couldn’t really enjoy my day knowing he was somewhere feeling down and lonely. I’d like to think he feels the same. So, we co-parented like freaking champs yesterday. We cooked a beautiful meal together, we spent a peaceful day in each other’s company, and it was such a massive win for Camryn, whether she ever knows it or not. No fighting (except a brief spat about politics), no animosity, just her mom and dad hanging out with her on Christmas. That was the best thing we could’ve done for her, and I’m so proud of that.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I am not a religious person, but I do love God, and I am deeply connected to my spiritual side. So I said many prayers of thanks yesterday, and shed a few tears of gratitude, and a few of sadness, for the family and friends I’ve lost the past few years. I went to bed healthy, grateful for my family, my tummy and my heart both full. What more can you really ask for from a day, especially Christmas? Not much. Not much more than that at all.

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

Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trying Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in friendship, Life, love, Musings, People, random

One Year, Three Months, Five Days

One year, three months, five days. That’s how long it’s been since you left this earthly plane, on to whatever comes next. Which means that one year, three months and six days ago, you were still doing whatever it was you were doing- talking, smiling, popping up here and there as you were wont to do. No idea that the minutes of your life were winding down, down, down. Oblivious. I think about this sometimes, and it scares me a little bit. It’s a hard truth to swallow, the way we live our lives so blissfully unaware that this might be it- this might be our last day, our last hour.

Anyway, God, I fucking miss you this morning. Grief is a strange thing, isn’t it? Weeks pass, and the pain recedes, and then I wake up one morning, like I did today, and it just hurts, oh so very much. It still seems impossible to me that you are gone.

There is no way for me to describe or quantify or make sense of what you meant to me, how my life was altered because of you, or how it changed when you died. But I know that my life WAS altered, and your death stole something real from me. Because of you, I learned that love can evolve in all sorts of different ways- when you stop trying to fit a relationship into a box, stop trying to label and categorize it, and just let it be what it is, something wonderful can happen. The connection between us spanned decades, and changed many times, ultimately mellowing and becoming something rich, that I cherished. Knowing you were out there, somewhere, knowing that you would be there if I needed you…it mattered so much to me.

Your surprise visits were often the highlight of my week. Just drinking coffee with you out on my front porch, or playing board games with Cam. Getting to hear you laugh and seeing you be silly and playful with my kids lifted my heart. I just enjoyed your company. It had become as simple and easy as that.

I was not blind to your faults. I knew you well enough to worry about what the future held for you, to worry about where your life would ultimately end up. We even discussed it a time or two, with me lamenting what would happen to you when you got old, joking about which girl would end up taking care of you. “Oh my God,” I groaned, “It’s going to be me, isn’t it?” And we laughed, because it seemed far away and preposterous. I suppose it wound up being a useless worry, didn’t it? But for the record, I would have gladly taken on the job. Not that you ever would have wanted to be in that position, of course, but I would have done it. In a heartbeat.

The point is, I guess, that I loved you. I love you still. I used to feel angry sometimes, resentful that I so completely loved someone who could never love me back in the same way. It wasn’t as if I had a choice- we love who we love, and that’s all. But now I’m grateful for all of it, I really am. Because of you, I know I am capable of loving someone unconditionally, exactly as they are, with no expectation and no need for them to do anything to earn it. I realized that long before you died. I know I made it clear to you. I’m so glad I did, and so glad we were friends.

I just really, really miss you today.

Posted in Addiction, Dreams, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, recovery, Uncategorized

Bloom Where you’re Planted

bloom-where-you-are-planted

There’s this thing I love to do, where I window-shop for houses on Zillow, almost exclusively in places where I’ve never been. I have this obsession with the east coast, and the idea of seasons- autumn leaves in fall and snow on Christmas, the sweet relief of melting snow in spring and delicious summer nights spent with the windows open. And there is nothing wrong with that, I guess…except that I live here, on the west coast, and this is where my life is unfolding.

I notice that I do the Zillow browsing most when I am feeling the least thrilled with my life here. The cost of living in California is astronomical, and it would be really hard for me to buy a house here on my own, something that has become more and more important to me over the past couple of years.

But it’s more than that, I think. I have always been a daydreamer, but there is this other part to these daydreams- the idea that I could be happier if only I were somewhere else, doing something else. There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming, but it’s the idea that the grass is greener elsewhere that makes trouble. Rather than tending to this lawn right beneath my feet, I’m staring across the country, into the yard of someone who has made it look really pretty for the photos.

And then there is this other part- the part where, and I have learned this lesson already- I will still be me wherever I go. No matter where I am, all my troubles come with me. You cannot run away from your own restless nature. You cannot escape a longing for another place…no matter where you are, that longing will just change direction. When I ran away to Reno years ago, thinking that this peninsula where I sit now was the root of all my problems, I would stand in my bathroom late at night and pretend the cars rushing by on the busy road some miles away were the roaring of distant surf. I just wanted to go home.

I am such a strange human. I long for change and for routine at the same time. I want to travel and still, somehow, sleep in my own bed. I want to start over without losing anything in the process. I want to keep everything I have and have everything I want.

But most of all, I just want to be happy.

And happiness is not a place. Happiness is not waiting for me in an empty house in Maine. Happiness is right here, waiting for me to notice it. I found it yesterday in the most mundane things- a morning spent with my daughter, cleaning out the “linen” closet, which held everything except linen, and packing up seven bags of junk to go to Goodwill. It was in the satisfaction of accomplishing something with someones help, and just being together.

I found it working my 11th step with my sponsor yesterday, and really understanding what this journey of recovery has meant to me, has made of me, over this past few years. I am not at all who I was at the start, although the changes have been so gradual and subtle that it’s hard to notice as they happen. We had to take turns reading because we both kept getting so overwhelmed with gratitude and choked up.

I found happiness standing on the beach yesterday- a perfect late afternoon in early fall. The air was just right- not too cold, not too warm, and my daughter flew a kite with her dad as I tossed the ball for the dogs and just took it all in. I feel peaceful and…full, I guess, just thinking about it.

The grass is not greener somewhere else. Happiness is not a place. I am fine right where I am.

A long time ago, I had this sticker that I loved. It said “Bloom Where You’re Planted”, and I thought that was such a wonderful saying. It was easy for me, at 17, to be happy wherever I happened to be. I think it’s high time I get back to that.

Starting right here, right where I am.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, family, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships, women

Life Explosion!

It’s been almost a week since I have written anything, mostly because I’ve been too busy and too distracted to get any writing done. As I may or may not have mentioned, my eldest daughter, who will be turning 21 at the end of this week, and her boyfriend Dylan, had to move suddenly from their property up in Boulder Creek, so…when you are in your early twenties and life shows up to kick your ass, you go home to mom. At least, that’s what I did in my early 20’s! I guess it’s a family tradition.

Anyway, I have the two of them in Cammy’s room, and Cammy in my room with me, two extra people is a big change after all these months alone with Cam. But you know what? It isn’t so bad.  The downside is that they get up almost as early as I do, which means that my meditation practice and my time to write in the morning is being infringed upon. But other than that (and I’m sure I can figure out a way to resolve that with some effort) I can honestly say I feel better than I have in a while. I’m happier, I have adults to talk to, I don’t get to spend so much time obsessing over why I feel so depressed and anxious all the time. Because now I’m not so depressed and anxious. Maybe I’ve just been a lot more lonely than I thought.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that with the two of them and Cam here, I feel like my little family is whole again. The three of them are my favorites, honestly. Dylan and I used to have terrible fights, but that was a long time ago, and we are so close now…I can’t imagine him not being around. Aisley and I have had our issues as well- being mother and daughter, and all the stuff we’ve been through…but we seem to be getting along well. She’s been really helping out around here, which is amazing. But the best part is that we have been having so much fun, just talking to each other, telling stories about our lives, and laughing so hard! I definitely need all that laughter. I tend to get a little too serious on my own.

I’m not going to lie, though- knowing this is just temporary makes it a lot more easy to deal with. They are planning on staying through the holidays and then moving into their own place, so I will just enjoy our time together.

In other news, I can finally sit and stand comfortably again after my exercise class a week ago. I’m not even kidding, I REALLY messed myself up last week- in a good way, I guess, but dammit…all movement required serious thought by Tuesday last week, and remained a major issue through at least Friday. The class is tonight and I think I’m going to do it again! The only way to get stronger is to keep going, right?

And finally, my trip to Salem is getting so close! We leave October 19th, and it will be my first time ever on the east coast. I am super, super excited! I’ll make sure to share my Instagram handle with you guys so that you can see my pictures from my trip if you want to. I can’t wait.

All in all, life is looking up- I’m feeling better, mostly because I just haven’t had time to think…and maybe that is a really good thing for me. I’m starting to think that thinking might be my biggest problem of all.

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.