Tag Archives: substance abuse

Lost: Sense of Adventure

scaredy cat

I really don’t have time to be writing this, this morning, but I have something I want to say so I am doing it anyway. I used to be the most fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person you would ever meet. I cared nothing whatsoever for social conventions, I never stopped to really wonder what other people thought of me, and I did whatever I wanted, pretty much as I wanted to do it. I never let my lack of money or worries about my shitty car stop me from going on long trips out of town. I wasn’t afraid of falling in love, or concerned with taking things slow and seeing if maybe this guy (or that guy, or the next guy) was good for me- just the spark was enough for me, and I was all over it. I went through (crappy) jobs like most people go through underwear, I was broke all the time, and I wrote overly emotional poetry with absolutely no shame whatsoever. I would also corner you and make you listen to me read it out loud, without a qualm.

Now, I realize that most of this behavior was drug fueled, and I was also young, and that, after a time, it crossed a line into dysfunction and sadness. I don’t miss that part. But goddammit, sometimes I wish I had retained a tiny bit of it. I am quite possibly the most tightly wound I have ever been in my life these days, and the irony of it all does not escape me- I am finally at a point where I could take my nice car, which is under warranty, on a road trip during my paid vacation which is coming up, and guess what? I am totally afraid to do it. I thought maybe my daughter and I could take a drive up to Oregon, where I have never been, and stay a night or two in a hotel, and do some exploring. But all I can think about is “I’ve never been there, though. I don’t know where anything is, and what if something goes wrong?” I mean, can you believe what a massive wimp I am being?

I have some other stuff going on- someone called the city on me, and code enforcement has to come out, with my landlady, to make sure I am not doing anything illegal here (which I am not), and I have been downright obsessed with the outcome of this situation for days on end. I am terrified that I am going to be made to move, I have blown it out of all proportion, up to and including looking online for new houses and crying when I look at my dog who I am sure I will have to re-home. Oh, for Christ’s sake! Who even am I? I have survived conditions and situations in my life that would make most people run home to their mothers, and I am having a heart attack over something that isn’t even an issue? Even if I did have to move, which I highly doubt I will, I will simply figure it out. But why do I let myself freak out like this in the meantime? What good does it do? I have never yet failed so completely in this lifetime that I was not able to recover, and that was under the worst of circumstances. I am already so far ahead of where I once was, I don’t know why I would even spend a moment worrying about anything.

Do you know what these two things have in common, the fear of driving out of town with my kid, and the fear of the impending code enforcement visit? I have lost my sense of adventure. This girl, who once loaded everything she owned into her car, and moved to another city, in another state, with her seven year old daughter, where she knew no one- not a single solitary soul- has become kind of a chicken. I’m afraid of my landlord. I’m afraid of getting “in trouble”. I’m afraid of messing up. Weren’t we just talking about this a few posts ago? Maybe this isn’t as simple as just making up my mind to stop being afraid…because I think what is really going on here is that I don’t have a lot of faith in myself. I’m afraid that now, when I finally have it all together, that other shoe is going to drop and all hell will break loose.

The thing is, there is no reason for me to believe this. I have tons of proof that I am doing everything the way I am supposed to, and zero proof that I am a failure, or irresponsible, or cannot be trusted. So, my question for you this morning is, how do I connect the dots? How in the world do I internalize those facts, how do I start believing in myself? Because this is really getting old. I want to find the strength to be confident in myself- if I could do it while I was a drug-addled maniac, why is it so hard to do it now?

Sorry if this was kind of all over the place- I am really on a time crunch, but I’m hoping someone will have some words of advice for me. Because seriously, I have had it.


The Next Right Thing.

next right thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being in Recovery

find yourself.png

Edit: Something I should definitely add, in the interest of not alienating people is this- there is 12-step recovery, and there are other types of recovery, as well. But ALL recovery means DOING THE WORK to be a better person than you were when you were using. If you are not actively engaging in the process of figuring out why and how you wound up where you are, then that is not recovery. If you are still using any substance to change the way you feel (and I’m not talking about anti-depressants here, to be clear), that is definitely not recovery. For ME, that means the traditional NA, AA, twelve step path. For you, it could be faith based or whatever floats your boat. But recovery is a specific thing, and you are either doing it or not. It’s not a halfway thing. THAT is the point I was trying to make.

Something that REALLY bothers me a lot is when people say they are “in recovery” when what they mean is that they stopped using a particular drug. Listen: You are not In Recovery if you stopped using meth or heroin but you still smoke weed or drink. You are not even in recovery if you practice abstinence completely, but you have never been to a meeting. Being in recovery (for me, for instance) means attending 12-step meetings regularly, and working those steps, with a sponsor. You can say you are clean, you are sober, or anything else like that if it pleases you. But don’t say you are in recovery, because you just aren’t.

Listen, I am not trying to downplay what anyone is doing to better their lives. If you can stop using hard drugs and find that you are someone who can drink responsibly, my God, that is GREAT for you, more power to you! But please, don’t confuse that with real recovery. It isn’t. Let me explain to you why that is-

Recovery is a lifestyle. It means committing yourself to something that is serious, time consuming, and really hard at times. My drug of choice was amphetamines. Do you know how often I toy with the idea that, because of that fact, maybe it would be okay if I drank occasionally? It crosses my mind a lot. Despite the fact that I have factual evidence that every single time I have been a responsible drinker it has eventually led me back to drugs at some point, I still continue to battle with these thoughts here and there. Maybe this is not the case for you, and hey, high freaking five on that. But it has been my experience that this is what we call a “yet” situation. I am not prepared to gamble with what I have earned.

Here’s the other thing: through my prolific years of drug use, I learned something really important. Addiction is not just about the drugs, and the shameful things that happen to us and because of us while we are using. It’s really about the people we are, the behavior we exhibit, and the deep seated self-loathing that basically all people with addiction issues have in common. People who have problems with addiction have problems with loving themselves. When you take away the drugs, the problems are still there. The drugs or whatever it is you are using to control the way you feel, and the way you show up in the world, are a symptom, they are not the real problem.

Recovery is how we get to the root of that problem. It’s like manual labor of a the spirit- there’s a lot of heavy lifting and digging, a lot of time spent in the dark with all of the things you fear the most. When you are in recovery, you make a decision to face all of the things you are terrified of looking at, and to do that, you have to dredge shit up, shine light on it, pick it apart, and learn how to dispose of it properly. And you do every bit of it with NOTHING to take the edge off, NOTHING to dull the pain, even when it sounds so good, you could almost cry.


Let me tell you, it’s a struggle sometimes. Do you know how hard it is to date when you are in recovery? I don’t have the option of loosening up with a drink, and thanks to my general anxiety over who I am, this would be welcome on a date, let me tell you. Do you know how much of a weirdo I feel like when I try to lightly gloss over the fact that I don’t drink to a guy who just cannot compute the concept? “But why?” he inevitably asks, or “You don’t drink EVER?” And it feels like I have grown another head, but you definitely don’t want to lead with a horror story of WHY you really don’t drink. And yes, I could just say I’m allergic to alcohol (lies) but, you know, I’d rather just not.

My point is, recovery is a very specific thing. It MEANS something to the people who take it seriously. The ones who are fighting to grasp it, to hold onto it, to incorporate the principles into their everyday lives. We aren’t just trying to stay clean, we are trying to use a set of instructions to become the best people we are capable of being. And it’s HARD, but it is good work, and it has rewards far beyond what I ever expected to receive. So please, respect the word recovery. And now, I shall get down off my soap box. Carry on.

Learning to Like Myself

liking yourself

Oh my God, this is so weird. I had to…strike that; I got to buy a new computer yesterday. I had a little incident with my laptop (Best Buy broke it when I brought it in for help with my mouse, and now they are charging me to fix it…I know, I know, don’t even get me started) and I can’t really go without a computer, being as how I work from home. I was going to have to buy a desktop soon anyway, I just wasn’t counting on it being this soon. Either way, here I am, trying to adjust to this enormous screen, and to writing from a different room in my house. Small things, but jarring, just the same.

The thing is, yesterday, when I figured out a way to purchase this (very freaking expensive) computer on my own, when I brought it home and set it up all by myself, I felt like a WOMAN. I mean, yeah, I am 42 years old, so you might assume that I felt this way all of the time…well, you would be wrong. Most of the time, I am still pretty much fumbling my way through life, a teenager stuck in a really unfortunate body. You have to remember, I literally partied my way from 13 to basically 40, with some pauses throughout. I am still figuring stuff out. Yes, I do manage to hold it together pretty well, and yes, I probably don’t give myself enough credit for the things I have accomplished, but…well, it’s hard for me to trust that this isn’t all some fluke, to be honest. That I haven’t just gotten lucky a bunch of times in a row and that’s why things are generally okay.

So when I managed to pull this off yesterday, saving myself from a really difficult week of having to figure out where I could work and when, I felt pretty together. I smugly patted myself on the back and thought “You can do ANYTHING, Court. You are the best.” (I didn’t really do this, but you get the idea.) I went off to my meeting last night feeling tired, but capable and confident.

And then…a person showed up at my meeting last night who knows me only from my active addiction. This person, having lived in close proximity to me, knows intimately how insane I was when I was using. There is no way for me to change that first, ongoing impression that I made. And it makes me feel bad. Really, really bad. I have this crazy urge to prove how much better I am, how different I am, how good I have become. This is really nuts because I don’t really have any type of relationship with this person. I don’t see them on a regular basis, I don’t interact with them on a personal level. What in the world is this about? Even now, while I am writing this, my body feels so uncomfortable.

You know what it is really about? It’s about me needing outside approval. It’s about me needing everyone who comes in contact with me to like me, whether it’s the dudes who work at Best Buy who broke my laptop, or a person who had the misfortune to witness me at my worst. And the reason I need them to like me is because I still haven’t really mastered liking myself- I’m still looking for acceptance from others to feel validated. That really needs to change. Not only can I not control what other people think about me, I have no idea what they think about me- I’m just assuming the worst, and running with it. Most importantly of all, though, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what my old neighbor thinks of me, or what most people think of me, really. It matters how I think of myself. That’s what I really need to work on.

So what is the truth, then? The truth is, I am becoming someone I can trust. That trust was broken pretty badly, and just like any relationship, when the trust is gone, it takes time to build it back. I am working my way there, bit by bit. The truth is, it is vital that I learn to like myself, exactly as I am, because all of my other relationships depend on me liking who I am. And I should like myself, I am a good person. I try every day to be a good person. Another truth is, not everyone is going to like me, and that’s okay. That’s just life. I don’t need to preemptively defend myself, or prove myself. I just need to keep doing what I am doing, and know that is enough.

Also, I really need to talk to those guys at Best Buy. I’ll let you know how that turns out. Wish me luck.

One Step Closer

one step closer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Things, Late Edition

three hearts

I tried, I really did, to get this thing written last night, but…unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control ( it was after seven in the evening, and I had eaten peanut butter pie after dinner) I just wasn’t able to form any type of cohesive sentence-like structures for this blog. It’s a little before five now, so I might not do much better, but I am going to take a shot. Here goes:

  1. This has been a weird week. My schedule got screwed up, being basically on quarantine with my sick kid, and I have learned that I am highly dependent on my routine to maintain my sanity. I don’t know when this started- I mean, I lived a life that was the very opposite of “routine” for most of my years on earth, and suddenly, a few days are a little different, and it’s enough to take me down. I want so badly to be the kind of person who just goes with the flow, but I guess that just isn’t who I am. I have to try a little harder- or at least it feels that way to me- than most people to maintain my equilibrium. I often wish I were different…but you know what would also be cool? Being totally okay with who I know myself to be. That would be refreshing! Also, Cam is fine- she had a little cold, aggravated by some seasonal allergies, and now she is good as new.
  2. I wrote a post this week that I am really proud of. I don’t usually do this on my “Three Things” blog, but I am going to this week- if you haven’t checked it out already, I would love for you to. You can find it here . The truth of the matter is, when you are trying to maintain a blog with regular posts, you want to write from the heart all the time, but it can be hard. Sometimes, you just can’t access the deep stuff, it’s just not where you are at. Or sometimes, you are in a funny mood, or just need to share something mundane. But every once in a while, you write something that really means something, and that happened for me the other day. My journey in life isn’t ALL about recovery from drugs, but it is a huge part of my story, and I want to share it with the people who might need to see it. So there it is.
  3. Valentine’s Day happened this week, and I didn’t mention it at all. Mostly because…well, why would I? I have SERIOUS issues surrounding romantic relationships, and overall, Valentine’s Day is just not my thing. But it’s hard not to feel a tiny bit left out when Instagram is basically flooded with lovey-dovey posts and pictures of happy couples. I’m not completely dead inside- I do remember what it’s like to feel that way, and I miss it sometimes. So, by Valentine’s evening, I was feeling a bit…deflated, you might say. Well, my ex showed up with balloons and a card for me, from my daughter, and I thought that was really nice. He also got me a vaguely threatening coffee mug that says “Family is Forever”, but I’ll give him a pass. I’m sure he didn’t mean to freak me out.

And that is it- those are my three things for this week! I will be back here one day this weekend to share something brilliant (or mediocre, maybe) and I hope you all have a fantastic and quick Friday.

Life on Life’s Terms

life on life's terms



I am having the hardest time ever with this post right now. This is the third blog I have started, and I am determined to finish this one, no matter how much I may hate it. Here’s the thing: I am having a shit time right now, for a number of reasons. None of them are big things, but a bunch of little things strung together, causing me stress and a general feeling of unease. I don’t feel comfortable with my life or in my body right now, and it’s bumming me out.

Here’s the thing, though. I understand that this is temporary, just like everything always is. My face has erupted like Mount Vesuvius, but…it is going to go back to normal. Eventually. I had a bunch of unexpected expenses come up all at once, but…they are going to be dealt with. Financial ruin is unlikely. I haven’t had time this week to buy groceries or get to the gym, and it sucks, but I will get back on track. It’s not the end of the world.

In my addict mind (and maybe in normal minds, too, I have no experience with living in one of those) everything is extremely black and white, all or nothing. Every time I get off track, I feel like I have failed utterly, and there will be no coming back for me. Which is ridiculous- I have millions of examples in my own life where that has not ever, not once, been the case. And yet, I persist with this wrong thinking. My mind often works against me, and it can be exhausting.

The solution? I believe it must be to just acknowledge that my wrong thoughts exist, be aware of that, and then work around them. Sometimes, I can think myself right into a corner, wedged so tightly that I can’t even move. Like, moving a muscle seems impossible, seriously. That is when I need to find the strength to haul my ass up anyway, and get some shit done. If I let myself sit in my mess for too long, that is when depression comes calling. And if you’ve ever dealt with depression, you know how hard that can be to get out of, and how scary it feels when it’s breathing down your neck. Inaction is not my friend in this situation.

I keep thinking about how, four days ago, I wrote a post about laughter, and how weird it may seem to any attentive readers that I am now writing about something quite the opposite of that. Maybe you will think I am nuts…hell, maybe I am. But here’s the thing- life doesn’t care how great I felt last week. Life just shows up, and does what it does. What I have learned in recovery is that I am supposed to be living life on life’s terms, meaning I deal with what life serves up, to the best of my ability, without taking anything to change the way I feel. This is harder than it sounds sometimes. Not the part where I don’t take anything, I’ve grown used to that. It’s the part where I cope with it well that eludes me sometimes.

I get nervous. I get scared. I feel like a lot of people depend on me, and I don’t know if I am up to the task. I retreat. I close up. I shut down.

But I always, always, always (so far) pull it together in the end. I always find a way to come out the other side of my feelings intact. I have a 100% success rate so far of not destroying my life completely, as long as I stay clean. I may not be feeling my best today, but tomorrow…who knows? Hell, later today I might feel better. You just never know. My job is just to hang in there, do my best, and wait for things to change. Because they always do, for better or worse.




I gave up laughter for years.

I mean the good kind, the kind that rolls out of you uncontrollably, the kind that makes you double up, the kind that makes you cross your legs so you don’t pee your pants. The best kind- the laughter that comes out so hard that it makes no sound, just your big open mouth, your shaking shoulders. I can’t even think about that kind of laughter without smiling.

I gave it up, and I didn’t even realize it. Which is weird, because I love to laugh so much! I didn’t stop making other people laugh- I have always been really good at that, and it is an excellent way to distract people from what is wrong. When you can make people laugh, it’s easy for them to assume that you are okay, that you are happy, right? Happy people make other people laugh. I don’t think that is true at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I adore making people laugh, but…it’s a show you put on. A friendlier way than my other go-to of crazy anger to keep people at arms length. To keep them from asking too many questions, or seeing me too clearly. Deflect, distract, confuse. Another tool in my arsenal.

I don’t remember doing too much laughing myself. At least, not the good kind. The sad fact is, when you are deep in addiction, you don’t have much to laugh about. It’s not fun. It’s a life in survival mode, just barely keeping your head above water.Then, if you are lucky, and if you work really hard at it, you get clean and shit gets REALLY real. If you are doing step work and working with a sponsor, things come up. Feelings you didn’t feel ten years ago clamor to be felt. You deal with anxiety, remorse, shame, regret, depression, elation, joy, love, relief, exhaustion and peace. But what you might find little room for in your life, while dealing with all this other stuff, is silliness. And silliness is a big ingredient in laughter.

For me, at least, it was a long, long time before I stopped being so tense. I had been so on my guard for so long, so careful in the way that I lived my life out of fear of being found out, that it was a long while before I trusted myself to keep going. Believe me when I say that I am not some paragon of ease- I can’t see that ever happening. I am a little tightly wound, as friends and family will attest. Lately, though, I have found myself able to breathe. To be in the moment, to let go, to have fun.

And I have been laughing so much. So much that it has caught my attention several times over the past few weeks. My little daughter, the one I am with the most, has noticed too. She’s the one I’ve been cracking up with the most, and it’s like some kind of medicine, I swear. We laughed our way through Target the other night, being silly as hell, and causing people to stare at us as we giggled and swerved our cart through the aisles. I am not lying when I say that several children looked at us with longing, wishing they were having as much fun as we were.

We’ve been laughing in the car, and laughing in our house, laughing in the morning when I wake her up, and laughing while we brush our teeth. We almost died laughing during a dance off we had in the living room the other night.

I’ve been laughing at work, and laughing in meetings. Last night, at my critique group, it felt great to laugh with my writer friends about writer stuff. And yesterday, when I was complaining about my sudden acne outbreak and my friend asked me why I thought I was breaking out, I pointed to my face and said “Hemorrhoids” when what I meant to say, in fact, was “Hormones”. I literally almost peed my pants. Come on, that’s freaking hilarious.

I missed laughing so much. If you are just starting out on this journey, I promise you, the day will come when your heart and spirit have healed enough to let your guard down. You will trust yourself again, and you will find, without even realizing that it’s happened, you are whole. You will find that you can breathe again, you will find it easy to smile, and I promise you, you will laugh.

The good kind of laugh.

Learning how to Love

anger chinese proverb

Of all the things I have struggled with since I have been clean, practicing loving kindness is highest on the list. I know, I know- I don’t think I come off as someone who has a rough time with something like this. For sure, I know the appropriate way to act, and how to say the right thing, the thing people need to hear, most of the time. But there is a difference between how we intentionally show up in the world and the way we act, react, and even the way we think, when it’s only us alone with the chosen few who live their lives closely entwined with ours.

In other words, sometimes- too much of the time- I am an impatient asshole to my ex, who lives in close quarters with me ( supposedly a win-win for all parties, but in practice, not always the best), to my friends, and worst of all, to my kids. I struggle to be nice. I have a hard time keeping my temper in check. I yell too much. I say things I regret- if not immediately, then eventually. I hurt the people I care the most about, and it’s crazy because, you might recall from some of my earlier posts- this was one of the main reasons I wanted to get clean in the first place. I wanted to stop hurting people, especially the people I loved.

Well, here’s a news flash: You Don’t Get Better Over Night. Look, I am nowhere near as bad as I used to be, but I am also not the same person I used to be. The person I am now has a different tolerance for pain- because believe me, if I am hurting people with my behavior, I am suffering too. As a matter of fact, it has come to my attention that it’s possible I might beat myself up much harder than I do anyone else. But my truth remains the same- these are people I love, I want to treat them that way. Period. Without fail. And I could do better…in my head, I can almost always see where I went wrong, when I should have walked away, where I could have taken a breath, how I could have chosen to say nothing. Why? I ask myself all the time, Why couldn’t you have done better?

I think I know at least part of the answer- Anger has been a huge defensive tool for me for so much of my life. Anger kept me safe, kept people at arms length, kept questions from being asked that I didn’t know how to answer. When you are a volatile person, people tread lightly around you. Walk on eggshells, even. When being vulnerable is the thing you most fear, anger is a heady drug.

And there is the whole matter of habit- all those pathways burned into my brain, all the things that I let make me angry for all those hundreds or thousands of days in a row. Any switch I had lead to anger, because it was safer. Safer than being unsure, safer than being hurt, safer than being afraid. Anger is big, powerful, and much easier for me to deal with than the “softer” options, such as crying or, I don’t know, admitting that I messed up, that I am in deep trouble, that I need help.

But that was me BEFORE. And this is me NOW. And the woman I am today cannot tolerate the way it feels to behave this way. This morning, when I prayed my daily prayer, I asked sincerely for help- “Look God, I am serious, I NEED YOU to help me with this. Please, please, pretty please. I can’t do this on my own.” And then I said the rest of the stuff I said, and moved on to the meditation practice part of my morning. I had to smile when the theme of the day was “loving kindness”. My God does not mess around.

I have been deliberate with my words and actions all day today, trying to be gentle with myself, because I am growing, and because I am still starting out on the path to who I want to be, and because I just deserve it. And I have been gentle with others, because it has been easy to- it’s when things get rough, or I am tired, or overwhelmed, when it gets hard.

But I believe that when we truly want to change, we begin to change. And that when we sincerely ask God for help (again, feel free to exchange the word God for whatever word you feel comfortable with), help comes. We must do the footwork. We can’t just say “help me!” and then keep going on like we always have. You show up, and the benevolent forces of the Universe show up with you.

I am trying so hard to be someone who knows how to love other people in a way that is beautiful, rather than damaging, and I know it won’t happen over night. But I also know that it has to start somewhere. Why not here?


found on Pinterest

So, I walked into my Tuesday night women’s 12 step meeting uncharacteristically late, just as the group was trying to coerce one of the regular girls into being the Secretary. ( I just want to stop right here and let you know that it is so early right now, and I have had so little caffeine, that I have been unable to spell both “Commitment” and “Secretary”. That’s pretty bad.) Anyway, you could see that this poor girl was NOT into it, and as I rushed through the crowded room to my seat, I heard someone go “I’ll do it!”.

Apparently, it was me. If I could, I would insert an eye-rolling emoji right here. The current Secretary was stoked, they did not follow protocol and vote me in, and by the time my butt hit the chair, I found myself with a new service commitment (neither of these words are getting any easier for me, dammit.)

For those of you unfamiliar with 12 step recovery stuff, first of all- congrats on your normalcy, hahaha! Secondly, in every meeting there are certain service positions that must be held- treasurer, coffee maker, bigger meetings might have greeters, and there are other roles, too, but the secretary (ha! I did it on the first try that time!) runs the meeting. They show up early to set up, run the whole thing, then pack up everything at the end and shut it down. It’s not hard or scary or even unfamiliar to me- I’ve held this position two other times at this very meeting over the past several years.

But it is a big commitment. And I had no intention of signing up for anything when I left my house on Tuesday night. Yes, my darling sponsor told me months ago that I needed to find a position, but I ignored her, as one does when it is something one is not interested in. And I am busy. Overextended. I have my irons in too many fires. I am busy working, and writing and planning my two upcoming vacations, building this blog, and going to the gym, and…and…and…

And God had other plans for me when I walked into that meeting Tuesday night. AND I wouldn’t be so busy, would I, if I didn’t have this gift of recovery…right? I probably wouldn’t have my job, I certainly wouldn’t be planning any vacations, or going to the gym, or writing anything I was proud of.

Do you know that when I wrote out my list of resolutions this year, I committed to writing, to my meditation practice, to my home life, to caring for my body, to building my relationships with friends- but there was not one word written down about how I would commit to my recovery. It never even crossed my mind, and that is troubling. Because the person I am RIGHT NOW, this woman who I really like, I mean, I LOVE myself- I was created, at least in part, in that very room full of women. They let me cry, they listened to me go from a scattered, broken, angry, loud mess to someone so much better- admittedly, still pretty loud, but I’m a work in progress.

I guess it’s okay though, because my God has got me- he puts the words in my mouth so that I can blurt them out; “I’ll do it!”, and of course, I will. Every morning, I pray (so sorry if this makes you uncomfortable- it used to make me kinda wiggly too, when people started talking about God, and prayer. My best advice to you is just, you know, get over it. I’m not trying to convert you. This is just my deal. 🙂 ) for God’s will to be done in my life, rather than my own. He took me up on it this week, for sure.

I was remiss in not adding my recovery to the list of things I will commit to this year, for without it, I wouldn’t have anything else, and I know this to be true because I have lived it. When drugs are in my life, they are ALL that exists. My program saved me, gave me almost everything I needed to find my way out of the darkness, and showed me that there was still something good, something worth salvaging, inside of that darkness. I will commit to my recovery this year. It’s time to give back.