I Am Not Anonymous

Who I Am

A few weeks ago I received an email from a writer for Dr. Oz’s website The Good Life. She had discovered my blog and wanted to interview me for a story she was doing for Alcohol Awareness Month in April. She felt my recovery journey would resonate with many of their readers, the majority being women. My initial response was surprise, gratitude – and fear.

Those who know me are aware of my story and while I have written about my experience here on my blog, I have always had a sense of security knowing that my audience is fairly small; that I had some (realistic or not) control over who knew about my journey and recovery from alcoholism.

For some, I suppose it would be an easy decision. I mean, come on – it’s Dr. freakin’ Oz! For better or worse, he’s probably the most well known Dr. in the world thanks to Oprah and daytime television. But, for me, I was hesitant to have my story profiled on such a large medium. You see, I’m really happy living my little life on our little farm here in Oregon. Yes, I’m open with my story, but I never set out to be the poster girl for “stay at home moms who are recovering alcoholics.”

I questioned how much attention I really wanted. Because, really, there are times I’d like to crawl under a rock and leave it all behind me. To not be known for what I used to be, but known for who I am now. But, that’s just it. I am who I am today because of my past. And, after talking it over with my husband and going through all the maybes and maybe nots, I realized that this was way bigger than me. In fact, it wasn’t about me at all. This was about glorifying God. My story is His story. I’m but a messenger. And, when I began looking at it that way, it made my decision easy. Of course, I would share HIS story of faith, love, forgiveness and redemption.

Some may say, “But wait, aren’t you supposed to be anonymous? Aren’t you supposed to be hiding behind the tradition of anonymity?” And, my response to that would be, “Who am I helping by being anonymous?” We are taught “You are only as sick as your secrets” yet so many of us choose to keep our sobriety secret out of respect to an outdated tradition. For fear of what others will think, say or do.

Sharing your truth is a personal decision. For me, God made that decision for me when I got sober. It wasn’t anything I did to bring me out of the despair of alcoholism – believe me, I had tried before. It was by the grace of God that I went to that first meeting, took my first coin and continue to wake up each morning sober, and grateful.

I will continue to speak my truth – His truth. And, by the grace of God others will experience the gift of sobriety.

Please click here if you would like to read the article featured on Dr. Oz’s website.

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid or endorsed for my story. My ultimate wish is that other women like myself will find courage to seek help.

A Lesson on Dirt and Fear

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It’s springtime on our little farm here in Oregon, which means everything is green and bursting with new life. I love this time of year, but it’s also bittersweet. On May 3rd, it will mark 10 years since my mom died. I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of her at this time and I continue to be amazed how I can feel such joy and happiness, while also feeling such sorrow.

Today was the day I decided to start the garden. My husband had tilled and it was ready. But, ready for what? All I saw when I looked at it was a big plot of land, looming back at me. Empty.

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I’ve been eyeing that dirt for the last few days. Intimidated by its vast size and blankness. Instead of seeing it’s potential, I saw and felt fear. Fear of the unknown; fear of failure; fear of all the “what ifs.” It was the same fear I felt after my mom died and when I made the decision to stop drinking. I was filled with fear of the unknown.

As I was making the bed this morning, I began crying as the fear poured out of me. Doubt started taking over. I couldn’t do this. What if I had gotten in over my head with this farm stuff? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” gardener? What if everything I planted in that plot of dirt died? I needed my mom. She was the real gardener. She would know exactly how to turn that brown piece of dirt into a lush garden.

As tears rolled down my face, I walked into the bathroom where my husband was getting ready. One look and he pulled me into his arms. He reminded me that my mom’s here – she’s always here. She’s by my side, quietly watching and teaching me as I walk through this life. And, he reminded me that I can do hard things. I can walk through the fear because I’ve done it before. I did it when I gave birth to our daughter four months after my mom died, not knowing anything about being a mom myself. I did it when I walked into that first recovery meeting, not knowing a single person or what to expect. I continue to do it when I share my story with others, unaware of how they will perceive me or what they will say.

Fear is real and it paralyzes us if we allow it to. But, making a choice to walk through the fear, to push it aside and instead see the possibilities of the new and unknown – that is freedom.

I spent all day in the garden today. Plotting, staking, digging rows and planting seeds one by one, envisioning the new seedlings poking up through the barren land. Tired and sore, I was faithful that the vast emptiness would one day reap a great harvest.

By continuing to walk through these moments of fear, I experience peace, joy, faith in the unknown and the freedom to be my true self, which is a beautiful thing.

Walking Through Fear

 

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Overwhelmed Mom

Yep, that pretty much sums up my week. Fortunately, I made do with a latte and a couple of O’Doul’s. Let me give you a little recap.

Friday:

Finally, the hubs and I get to celebrate our belated anniversary while the in-laws take the kids for the ENTIRE night. And…not so fast. Just as I’m dropping the kids off that afternoon, we discover head lice on my daughter. I’m immediately in denial. My mother-in-law and I are trying to convince my father-in-law they’re fruit flies – nope not happening. We put four on a wet paper towel and book it to Walgreens for confirmation. As I’m standing at the pharmacy counter debating with the two young pharmacists whether these “bugs” are or are not lice, my best friend who I had planned to have afternoon coffee and cake with, walks up to me and hands me a piece of my favorite chocolate cake. Seriously, friend of the year right there. But, now I find myself with a baggie of what we have now determined are lice in one hand and chocolate cake in the other. Something is very wrong with this picture.

Fast forward. We’re home. While my mother-in-law starts the all-consuming lice treatment on my daughter, I frantically tear through the house stripping anything that’s not bolted down. Quickly, piles of bedding and pillows start accumulating; the washer and dryer are going full speed; stuffed animals are being quarantined; dolls are being stuffed in freezers; never has there been a time I’m so grateful for my OCD behavior.

Obviously, our Friday night plans have drastically changed. I call my husband. It’s action time. There’s no way I can dry ALL of this stuff. Is there a laundromat nearby? Do laundromat’s still exist? Yes, yes they do! Thank you, Jesus! We have a little over an hour for hubs to dry four bags of pillows and comforters before basketball practice. Yes, we can do this! Thirty minutes later I get a text and attached pic of hubs and exploded pillow on the floor. Apparently, two of the pillows didn’t like the dryers. He assures me he’s giving the “regulars” quite a show. I’m now laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face.

Wash continues. I treat myself just in the off chance those little suckers are looking for a new home. Seriously. I can’t believe this is happening!

Saturday:

50 loads of wash later, I’m feeling like we might have this under control. I have Googled every piece of head lice info that exists. Friends have given me their steam cleaners and friendly advice and “This too shall pass” comfort. I’m not so sure.

Honestly, this day is a blur.

Sunday:

Morning wakeup with the dreaded daily “nit picking.” I feel like a mother monkey picking bugs off her young – but I’m not eating them. The fact that I’m picking bugs out of my daughter’s hair means nothing to me anymore. It’s just a simple fact.

Highlight of my day – meeting another sober blogger for coffee and shopping. Much needed break and more assurance that I will, in fact, survive this too. I’m honestly starting to think we’re the only family who hasn’t dealt with this dreaded parasite. Is it like childbirth? Horribly painful, but then you forget all about it? Weird.

Monday:

I have notified everyone that needs to be notified and they have promised a thorough check at school. Another before school “nit picking” session and I’m feeling pretty confidant.

Now, that my head cold is in full swing I’m looking forward to a day of rest. Not so fast. An hour after drop-off, I get the dreaded call. More nits. Come and pick daughter up. Nooooo!

It’s time. Time for the dreaded mayonnaise treatment. As I spread mayonnaise through my daughter’s hair, all I can think about is how I might never want to eat a sandwich again with this particular mayonnaise. Then it’s plastic wrap around her head and wait three hours, which for a nine-year-old is practically an eternity. But, I’m determined to smother these suckers. And, to make her feel better I assure her that people do this all the time for silky soft hair. Heck, it’s practically like going to a spa.

While she’s enjoying her spa treatment, I strip the bedding – again. And, vacuum – again. Seriously, this house is freakin’ spotless!

Tuesday:

I’m officially exhausted. I. Need. Rest.  No news is good news. Just in case, I do yet another treatment on myself. I may die of insecticide poisoning, but at least I won’t have lice. Just trying to stay positive.

Wednesday:

Kind of “normal” day. Starting to feel really confidant I’ve got these suckers beat. Not finding many nits in our daily head checking and life is semi-routine again. Okay, I’ve got this. I. Will. Survive.

Thursday:

Normal morning. Head check is good. A few here and there, but all in all looking up.

Hubs and I make an impromptu date for lunch. If we can’t manage dinner, lunch at the local Chinese restaurant will have to do. Maybe we’ll do a little shopping after. We’re alone and it’s a miracle!

And, then the dreaded call. More nits. Come and get your daughter. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I’m totally and completely defeated. I can’t handle this. Out of everything I’ve gone through, this might be what ultimately sends me off the deep end. Maybe I should just have hubs drive me to the State Hospital right now. But, no, they might have lice there. Am I safe anywhere?!

Pick daughter up. Yes, there are more. I get a thorough tutorial on how to go through every strand of hair, which I thought I was doing but apparently not to the degree needed. This is going to be a long day.

Once home, I get my supplies out. Well lit area? Check. Wet paper towel (to wipe nits on)? Check. Hair pins? Check. New movie on Kindle to keep daughter occupied? Check. Gummy bears? Check. Because, gummy bears just make everything better.

Two hours and one bag of gummy bears later, I’m feeling like a bad ass nit picker – if there is such a thing. Those guys don’t know who they’re messing with. I. Will. Eradicate. You.

One more lice treatment, two loads of wash and a big ol’ prayer that this is it. The end.

And, I’m reminded for the millionth time that being a mom is by far the hardest job that I’ll ever have…and this too shall pass.

 

 

 

Have You Ever Heard the Ground Talk?

Listen

No, I’m not going crazy – oh wait, I was but I take Prozac for that crazy. There really is a story here….

Yesterday, was one of those days you look back on and go “huh?”

Just as we were waking up the power went off…well, crud. So, we got out the lanterns (battery operated that is) and managed to get the kids ready for school – sans coffee. Not good. Not good at all.

By the time I got to the coffee shop I had a raging headache and was practically pleading for an IV drip with caffeine. Apparently, this is what a coffee withdrawal feels like, which I had never experienced before – at least not to that degree. Like I told a friend, it was either coffee or a dark room and a tranquilizer. Fortunately, I got my coffee.

Later in the morning, the power went on, but not before my husband determined that in an emergency I would be a barrel of fun without coffee (or gasp – my Prozac!). He was very matter of fact that in such a case, he would just lock me up with some cleaning supplies and call it good (because by then my OCD would be so bad I would be perfectly content cleaning for hours on end). I’m afraid he’s not too far from the truth.

Being the optimistic person I am (I’m trying!), I had little hope that the rest of the day would be much better. As I’m writing this, I keep having that phrase “turn that frown upside down” run through my mind – any who….

A couple of hours later my husband walked through the door and declared he was taking advantage of the beautiful day to spread dirt. Well, okay. And, I thought “what the heck, I’ll spread some dirt.” Why not?

The sun was out, it wasn’t raining and as I raked the dirt back and forth over the wet ground, I felt the fresh air going in and out of my body. My arms were working hard and I could feel the muscles in my back burning. As I looked around, I realized THIS is where I belong. This is where I’m truly my happiest. Outside, working “our” land, which isn’t really “ours” but God’s. And, I’m but a caretaker, using my God-given body to look after this beautiful place we now call home.

As I walked across the area that will soon be our garden, I stopped suddenly and asked my husband, “do you hear that?” “What?” he said. “The ground; the ground is talking.” And, sure enough he could hear it as well. Bubbling, soaking in the moisture; as though it was quietly whispering to us and welcoming us home.

To simply be quiet and see and hear the beauty in a day that didn’t start out so beautiful…a gift.

 

 

New Year, New Look

My new look happened before the new year when I told my husband it was either “bangs or Botox” and reassured him that bangs were much cheaper. So, one night after a “DIY bangs” search on Pinterest, I took the “hair” scissors and with a little twist here and a snip there – ta da! The verdict was out for a few days, but after a couple of months everyone seems to be getting used to them and I don’t see those forehead wrinkles mocking me every time I look in the mirror. Oh sure, I could just embrace them, but for now I’m perfectly content hiding them!

You’ll also notice that my little blog here has a new look, which I’m pretty happy about. Like my hair, it was time for a change. I went back and forth whether to start a new blog altogether, but decided in the end that just as I continue to change and morph into the person I am today, this blog can as well.

Mostly, this blog has been focused on my recovery, with a few recipes and DIY projects mixed in along the way. And, while it served it’s purpose during my early stages of recovery, the reality is that I’m at a very different place now than I was then. There are different things I’d like to write about now, like our new adventures living on our little “farm” here in the Willamette Valley. But, when I debated whether or not to abandon this blog and start anew, I realized that my life now still continues to be based on the original reason I created this blog – to document my “life corked.”

I can’t deny or ignore that my entire life as it is now is a direct result of my stopping drinking. I’m totally confidant that without my sobriety, none of this (picture me spreading my arms open wide) would be possible. So, as I continue to write here, I will continue to write about my “life corked.”

I’m grateful for those of you who have stuck with me along the way, despite not being the most consistent writer! While not all of my posts will be recovery related, I hope I can continue to give people encouragement and inspire them to embrace a life of sobriety.

Let the journey continue!

The Courage to Speak

Courage means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. To me, courage means doing what you know is right despite the fear or repercussions. Most of the time that applies to me sharing my truth about recovery – what my life used to look like and what it looks like today – despite worrying about what people are going to think or do with that information.

For the most part, I’m pretty open about my recovery, but there are times when I’d rather side-step the truth and just omit that part of my life. You know, take an eraser and make it nice and clean.

Recently, my husband and I were asked to speak to our church on tithing – time, talent and treasure. Basically, they wanted us to each share how the church has impacted us individually, as a family and in what ways we give back. When Tyler first mentioned it to me, I think I said something like “Ugh, why us?” I mean, we’re involved, but we’re not THAT involved. Surely, there is someone more qualified than me. Heck, I just became Catholic less than two years ago and there’s people who have been in the church their entire lives!

So, we ho hummed about it and finally decided that it was something we needed (not necessarily wanted) to do. I guess you could say, us not wanting to do it was a sign that we probably should do it. Definitely a “God-thing.”

Tyler wrote his part and I wrote mine. As I read over mine, looking for corrections, I kept feeling this nagging inside of me. I had been pretty honest, but not really. I had referred to a “difficult” time in my life three and a half years ago that had greatly impacted my relationship with the Church and God, but that’s as far as I went. Something kept telling me if I was going to stand up there in front of hundreds of my fellow parishioners and give my testimony, that I might as well let it all hang out – the good, the bad and the ugly. But, holy cow! What would they think? What would they say? Very few people at church knew my story. To most of them, I was just that mom who sat on the right-hand side of the church a few rows back from the front.

One evening, I told Tyler “I need to share my whole truth. I need to share about the alcoholism.” At first, he had the same fears I initially had. Did I really need to share ALL of it? Yes, I did. I knew without a doubt that I had to share MY truth. And, with that I re-wrote my portion of our talk, which goes as follows:

As Tyler mentioned, I come from a very different background. I wasn’t raised in any particular church, in fact, I was never baptized. It wasn’t until I met Tyler that I attended my first Catholic Mass. In all honestly, I was expecting an old, stodgy Priest with a totally irrelevant message. You can imagine my surprise when Fr. George, who many of you will remember from Queen of Peace, stood up and started talking. He was young (well, younger), dynamic and engaging. Not only was I surprised by his relevancy; I was surprised by how comfortable I felt in those pews. But, most of all, I was surprised by the peace I felt. It was the first time I had felt completely at home in a church setting.

Years went by and I continued to attend weekly Mass with Tyler, eventually baptizing both of our children in the Church. However, it wasn’t until three and a half years ago when I experienced the lowest point in my life, the reality that I was an alcoholic and my marriage was in shambles, that I was faced with a choice: open my heart to God and answer His knock, or continue down the same path that had led me to that point in my life.

Fortunately, I chose God’s path, and at my lowest moments, when I could barely drag myself out of bed or get through a single day, it was the strength of God and the peace of this Church that held me up – the same peace I experienced during that first Mass I attended years ago.

How can I repay a God and a Church that has provided me with so much? The reality is, I can’t, but I can live my life trying to the best of my ability. Two years ago I had the privilege of going through Brad’s first RCIA class, where I was baptized and confirmed into the Church. Over the years, I have given my time and talents in many ways, including participating in Catholic Bible studies and book groups, pro-life organizations and just this past year taught Vacation Bible School here at St. Ed’s.

As Tyler mentioned, there is no wrong on right way when it comes to tithing. While money and time are always appreciated, often the most important thing we can do as members of the Church is to be active participants in daily or weekly Mass; praying, singing, praising God and staying after Communion to hear uplifting talks like this!

Thank you for your time and God bless.

I didn’t share my truth about being an alcoholic for shock value or for attention. Like I mentioned before, I never wanted to be up there in the first place – with sweaty hands and a quivering voice – all while hundreds of eyes stared up at me. Yikes! No thanks.

No, I stood up there, feeling totally vulnerable, because I made a promise to God a long time ago when I first got sober. I promised that if I ever had the opportunity to share my story and maybe, just maybe, help someone else in the process, I would do it. I knew the nagging feeling I had felt was God saying, “Do it. Share it all.”

And, that my friends, took every ounce of courage I had.

I know God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed of my past and who I am, because the truth is, my story is His story. It is He who made me; and He who saved me. And, it is Him who continues to guide and direct me – but, only if I will listen.

The Gift of Plan B

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So…it’s been a long time. And, I’ve completely neglected this blog, but I’d like to think it was for good reason. In the beginning of sobriety, we often wonder how life will go on. How will we function without the daily drinks or glass (or um, bottle) of wine? How will we handle social situations? How will we ever make up for all the harm and destruction we have caused? We slowly see the need for a new normal, but the reality of it being long-term is terrifying. And, then we start to question if it’s all really worth it. Wouldn’t it be easier to go back to our old normal, the normal we were so used to and comfortable with? But, we know we can’t if we want to keep our families, our marriage, our children – our life.

If we’re one of the lucky ones, we begin to reluctantly accept the new normal. Like a child taking their first steps, we slowly, carefully venture into the unknown. We fall, we skin our knees, but we continue until we gain our balance and walk slowly, but steady. And, then the day comes along when we realize we’re running.

It’s not the path we intended to take, but it somehow got us where we needed to be – where we were meant to be all along.

On August 28th, I celebrated three years of sobriety. The day came and went without a lot of excitement or acknowledgment. Most of all, I felt peace and contentment.

Over the last month, we have moved to what we consider our “dream house.” It’s an older home on two acres in the Oregon valley with room for the kids to run and for us to have a big garden and raise a few animals. During the first week we were here, my husband and I were standing in the kitchen and he turned to me, and hugging me said, “This is the happiest I’ve ever been since we’ve been married.”

I will never forget his words or how they made me feel – totally and completely loved. All of the pain, anger and hurt I once caused and felt has been replaced with a love I never knew possible.

Every day I thank God for my plan B and this new normal I was blessed to have.

When We Feel Too Much

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel so much. I was reminded by my sponsor (again) today that I’m sensitive, emotional and all-too feeling at times. I’m sure there’s a million jokes that could be made about women and emotions, but in all seriousness, it can be devastating for someone like me; an alcoholic who used to drink to escape feeling.

I envy people like my husband who can be sad and empathize with what others are going through without taking on their feelings. Instead, I dive head first and take on their sadness, grief and heartache as if it were my own until it’s no longer about them, but about me (did I mention I can be really self-centered too?). Then, I slowly get sucked into this all-consuming depressive state of mind where everything is wrong and nothing is right in the world. My relationships and my spiritual life suffer. I find myself feeling angry, alone and isolated – the perfect storm for a relapse.

Even though I’ve been sober for a while now, it’s times like these when I know I can’t do this alone. I have to grab onto that life-preserver we call recovery if I’m going to pull myself out of it. Whether it’s going to meetings or meeting individually with my sponsor, I must be reminded on a regular basis that I AM AN ALCOHOLIC and what might seem laughable to some, is no joke for me. Because, that feeling, sensitive and emotional side of me that gets out of control at times could lead me to my death. Is that extreme? Maybe. Real? Absolutely.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as my sponsor looking at me and saying, “Chenoa, you need to put up some boundaries between other people’s feelings and your own.” Just because someone else is experiencing grief, sadness or pain doesn’t mean I have to take on their feelings as my own. I can feel bad for them and reach out to them, but I can’t, under any circumstances, let their experiences define my mood or behavior.

On this Ash Wednesday, I’m feeling renewed; stronger than I was yesterday or even this morning. As I go forward in this Lenten season, I want to focus less on myself and more on my spiritual condition and my relationship with God. I want to step out of myself and what I want for my life, and focus more on what God wants for me. How can I be the best version of myself? And, how can I better serve those around me?

I am reminded, yet again, that this is all part of the journey, and I find peace in trusting that God knows what He is doing and where He is leading me.

 

 

23 Years

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Originally posted on Wanderlust:
On Thursday, I celebrated 23 years of sobriety. My son Paul, presented me with my medallion. It was a very special and magical night filled with fellowship, friendship, and love. This is the gift of sobriety. And while it’s important to celebrate these milestones for our own recovery, it is equally…

Maintenance Required

Today can be a hard day for those of us in recovery. In the past, Christmas Eve was a day (and I do mean most of the day) of drinking and partying. Today, it’s not about that, but I’m always aware of the extra diligence I have to take around this time of year.

I recently started working the 12 steps again with a new sponsor. Not because I was worried about my sobriety (although I’m always a little worried), but because I had become complacent in my sobriety. Things have been good, but I wasn’t “working” my program. I was busy living my life, starting a new business, taking care of my kids – being present. All of that is good – it’s really good. It means I’m reaping the benefits of my sobriety, but at some point I stopped and realized that I wasn’t maintaining my sobriety. Because, at the end of the day it’s my sobriety that made my life as I know it possible, and what happens if I don’t take care of the one thing that got me to this point?

So, I started from the beginning. I’m at step one, which is where I admit I’m powerless over alcohol. Yep, I am – totally and completely powerless over alcohol. No matter how successful I am, how much education I have under my belt, how good I look on the outside, how much I workout to stay healthy – when it comes to that bottle of wine or open bar, I am unable to stop at one. I will do everything (and have done everything) to try and convince myself that I can stop. But, when it’s all said and done, I simply can’t.

As I began reading in my recovery book again, I was just as shocked as I was the first time, three years ago, when I first read through the pages. Once again, I saw myself in those pages. It was me they were writing about it. How could that be? How could they know so much about the insanity that I went through each and every day. Again, I felt the comfort in knowing that it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t alone. There were and had been other people who had felt just like me – who had gone before me and lived to tell about it.

And, I was reminded yet again that no matter how much time goes by; how good we feel; how successful we are in our life and sobriety; we will never be safe from the grips of our alcoholism.

Most of us have believed that if we remained sober for a long stretch, we could thereafter drink normally…We have seen the truth demonstrated again and again: ‘Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.’ Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as ever.

I know this is true because I have seen it more times than I’d like to admit. Yet, I can have all the knowledge in the world, but if I’m not maintaining my sobriety I can give into that first drink as quickly as the other person. No matter how much sobriety I may have, I am no stronger than the other alcoholic who has one day sober.

When I first got sober, I found strength and solace in reading the sobriety website Crying Out Now and the blog One Crafty Mother both started by Ellie, who also founded the podcast The Bubble Hour. I related to Ellie’s story and connected to her as a person and fellow sober woman. After many years of sobriety and much success, she relapsed nine months ago. It was bad and she suffered immensely, yet she is one of the lucky ones. She lived through it and is now talking about it openly and honestly. If you do one thing today, please read Ellie’s post here from yesterday. It might just save your life. Thanks, Ellie, for being so brave.