Searching for You

Faithful God

As I sat in the church pew on Christmas morning, I noticed a young woman sitting alone in front of me to my left. I didn’t recognize her and she seemed a bit uncomfortable, maybe even nervous. She followed along with the mass, perhaps at one point in her life being familiar with it. She quietly sang along to the music, yet there was a sadness about her – a loneliness. To her right, sat a young woman and man in their early to mid-30s. I recognized the older woman they were sitting with as I knew she was a regular parishioner. I assumed it was her son and daughter or son and girlfriend. I couldn’t tell. They seemed disconnected, even bored. They went through the motions, but it was obvious they were there out of obligation. Probably in town for the holidays and fulfilling their obligatory “duty” to their mom.

As I observed both the young woman and the “couple” in front of me, I remembered having both those feelings of loneliness and disconnect. Only two years before I had sat in that same church feeling alone, empty and desperate. At the time, I had everything to live for – husband, children, family, friends – yet, inside I was like an empty vessel. I was searching and grasping for everything around me that I thought could fill the emptiness and silence the desperation I felt. I wanted so badly to feel on the inside the way people perceived me from the outside, but in reality I was sinking quietly into the loneliness and emptiness.

It wasn’t until two months later I would realize that what I had been searching for all along was right in front of me. My husband who would stand by me and hold me up when I couldn’t hold myself up, my children who would love me unconditionally and my church that would allow me to explore and question the God I had always been so scared of.

Now, almost two years later, as I sat in that church pew next to my daughter holding her new “Frozen” dolls and my husband holding our sleeping son, I felt the serenity, peace and joy that we often refer to as “The Promises” in recovery. I no longer felt alone, empty or disconnected from my life. I was filled with love, gratitude and gratefulness for a God who could make a broken person like myself whole again.

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I will celebrate nine years of marriage – a marriage which could have easily ended two years ago.  In all my years of searching for happiness and contentment elsewhere, I was fortunate enough to find a man who would lay down his life for me, forgive me, love me when I was unlovable and walk with me through the pain, grief, anger and healing that it took to get to where we are now. I know he is a true gift from God. But, like all valuable gifts, I must treasure, protect and respect him and his love for me.

And that’s when I was searching, I’m not searching anymore
And that’s when I was learning about the things worth living for
Before I was open, before I knew I couldn’t live a day
Without you
Without you

Without you in the morning, to love me another day
Without you in the evening, when the colors start to fade
Without you on the plane ride to hold my hand and pray
Without you standing here when you could’ve walked away

Now I’m not searching, I’m not searching anymore
But I’m, I’m still learning ’bout the things worth living for
I am here, I am open, and now I know I couldn’t live a day
Without you
Without you

– From Holly Williams’ song “Without You”

When the Unexpected Happens

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I get grumpy when I get sick; just plain grumpy. I tend to be irritated at everyone and everything. Needless to say, I’m not much fun to be around. With that being said, I was in a grumpy mood this morning as I rummaged through our medicine cabinet looking for cold medicine when I pulled this acid reducer from the back.

I stood there for a minute, staring at it as if I had never seen it before. But, the thing is, I had. I knew this exact box all too well, although it had been over a year since I needed it.

You see, towards the end of my drinking I started suffering severe stomach problems. It was also during this time I started the age-old alcoholic “trick” of switching my choice of drink. I’d been a wine drinker for many years, so maybe if I switched to beer the problem would go away. Or, maybe if I alternated between beer and hard alcohol, my stomach would get back to “normal.” Of course, I never EVER considered just quitting!

None of that seemed to work, so I immediately went to worst case scenarios. My mom had died of pancreatic cancer so maybe it was that; or maybe I had an untreated ulcer; or what if it was my liver? I mean, could my drinking be “that” bad where it could be effecting my body? I was never completely honest with my doctor about my drinking, so she had no way of knowing there could be an issue. For my peace of mind, she ordered an ultrasound and all came back clear – whew. She told me to take some acid reducer when I felt sick and that was that. On my merry way I went. Or, more like on my merry drinking way I went.

I’m sure you can guess the rest of the story. Despite taking tons of antacids and acid reducer, I continued to have stomach problems. It didn’t matter what I drank or when I drank, nothing changed.

And, then, through a serious of events I quit drinking and got sober. And, guess what? My stomach problems went away – completely. You don’t have to be a genius to put two and two together.

And so, as I stood in the kitchen this morning feeling grumpy and irritated, I was snapped back into reality by this innocent box of acid reducer that had been hiding in the back of the cabinet for nearly two years.

Sometimes it’s the uneventful and unexpected things like this that remind me just how truly far I’ve come. And, how God continues to do His work in both big and small ways.

Reflections on a Year Sober

Endurance

For some reason I’ve been putting off writing this post. While I’m happy about celebrating one year sober, I’m emotionally drained. Last week I attended two memorial services for young women who were taken too soon – both mothers. And, in the middle of that I celebrated one year sober. It was bittersweet in so many ways.

After driving back from attending Sadie’s service in California, while tired, I went to my home group meeting that evening to get my one year coin. My sponsor was planning to be there and it was important for me to be with the people who had been with me from the beginning – those who loved me when I couldn’t love myself.

Ironically, the topic of the meeting that night was “love.” If there was one word to describe Sadie’s service and Malia’s service it would be “love.” The love that shown through their bright smiles and the love displayed by those who came to celebrate and honor their lives was immense. While I was saddened by their loss, my heart was full.

In reflecting on the past year, I realized that the love I have received and the love I am able to now give is what matters most. I am not cut off from the world anymore, instead I am able to receive all that it has to offer and to finally give back after so many years of taking.

Sadie and Malia both loved deeply. They loved their children, their faith, their families and friends. I am more grateful than ever to have the ability to love like they did. To live my life not for me alone, but to live as God intended me to live – honest, joyous, peaceful and loving to those around me.

So, now what? It seems like a year sober is a pivotal time for me. I will never be a fully “recovered” alcoholic. I will always be “recovering.” I might not feel the anxiety that I felt in early sobriety, but I continue to be challenged with new situations that I must learn to “walk through” sober. It’s not easy, but no one ever said it was.

I will continue to write about my sobriety and my journey living sober, however, I might delve into other topics along the way. Next week, I start the process to become Catholic. This has been a long time coming and I’m excited. My husband will be my “sponsor” (yes, they have them there too!) and I’m grateful for that. He has been an example of faith when I didn’t even know what faith was. It will be a new journey for me, but it will also be a journey for us together.

Sobriety has taught me a lot of things, but most of all it has taught me the willingness to change, to follow my heart, to be okay with the unknown and to be at peace with my life – just the way it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Gone Too Soon

Loss

Sadie came into my life when she was eight and I was twelve. Her older sister and I had become close friends with the start of junior high and we quickly became fixtures at each other’s houses, which were blocks away. As the years passed and her sister and I became best of friends, Sadie’s family became my second family and she became the little sister I never had.

From sleepovers, pizza nights and everything in between, Sadie was always there. Being four years younger, there were times she drove us crazy as any typical little sister would. But, more often than not, she was a goofy, adorable little girl who would do anything to make you smile.

Time passed. I went off to college and moved out-of-state, Sadie graduated high school and remained in our hometown. Her sister and I remained best of friends, so while I didn’t see her much, I always kept up to date on her latest adventures.

Over the past few years Sadie’s life had changed dramatically. She had met the love of her life, got engaged, bought a home and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Her dreams were coming true and the future looked promising.

All of that came to a crashing halt last week when I got word that Sadie had suffered a massive stroke after surgery and wasn’t going to make it. A surgery that she was expected to make a full recovery from; a surgery that was supposed to be the answer to ten years of unexplainable symptoms and headaches; a surgery that was supposed to “cure” her. Instead, the next morning I got a phone call saying she was gone. Not gone for a few weeks; not gone for a few days; but gone. Gone forever.

I cried. I cried like I hadn’t cried since my mom died seven years ago. How could this be? This couldn’t be true. “Why?!” I screamed to God. “How could YOU take away this beautiful, young, vibrant woman. How could YOU leave her baby boy without a mother?” There was no answer. There never is.

I wanted to escape the pain and sadness I was feeling. I just wanted it all to go away. I wanted to wake up from this horrible nightmare. In another life, I would’ve found escape in a bottle of wine. I would’ve drank until the numbness took over and I couldn’t feel anymore. But, not now. No, now, I had to feel it all. Somehow, I felt like I owed it to Sadie to feel everything. The sadness, hurt, anger, resentment. Her life was worthy of all these feelings and I needed to feel them.

I’m still in a state of shock. My mind tells me one thing, while my heart tells me another. I know she’s gone from this world, but I’m not ready to fully accept it yet. I hurt terribly for my best friend, her sister. I hurt for her mom and dad. I hurt for her fiancé and baby boy. I hurt for everyone who loved her and had the privilege of being touched by her life.

Sadie grew into a beautiful woman who radiated joy and happiness. But, it’s not Sadie the woman I see when I picture her in my mind. Instead, I see the eight-year-old little girl with the bowl haircut riding in the backseat of her mom’s Oldsmobile, jumping out of the car and waving goodbye as we dropped her off at elementary school. Goodbye sweet girl. Until we meet again.

I will carry Sadie’s memory in my heart forever. Her smile, her laugh, her love of life – I will cherish it always. Her love of children was undeniable. Like my mom, she was one of those rare people who children were drawn to. I often wonder if God needs more people like that in Heaven. If we can’t have them here with us, I like to think that Sadie and my mom are watching over all the little ones who have gone before us.

I will honor Sadie’s memory by living life as she would have – full of joy, gratefulness and happiness. Never taking herself too seriously, I will play more, laugh more and hug my children more often. I will tell her son how much she loved him and how much she was loved by everyone who knew her.

She gave love and received love. And, I will forever be grateful for the love she gave me over the years.

Tired, But Grateful

Grateful

What a week it has been! At times, I felt like a fish out of water, gasping for air. I kept telling myself, “Just make it ’till Friday and then you can relax!” Well, Friday is here and I’m tired, but feeling extremely grateful. And, since it’s the last day of the month (and I have at least 31 things to be grateful for today), here’s my gratitude list for the day in no particular order:

1. My sobriety. I celebrated 9 months on Tuesday. No words can describe how grateful I am for this blessed sober life.

2. My son who “graduated” from preschool. He is kind, sweet, affectionate and his smile always melts my heart.

3. My daughter who graduated from kindergarten. She is strong, caring, independent and described as “hard-working” by her teacher. She inspires me to be a better person.

4. Teachers. God bless them. My children have been extremely blessed to have amazing teachers who teach them, guide them and inspire them to be their very best. It is a God-given gift to teach preschool and kindergarten because after spending two hours in a class of 20, I’m ready to pull my hair out!

5. Friends and family. Those who encourage, support and help guide me on this journey.

6. My husband’s work. That he is able to have a career that keeps him busy, that he enjoys and that allows for me to stay home and be available to our children. For this, I’m extremely grateful.

7. Dishwasher. You don’t realize how much you depend on this time-saving appliance until it breaks. And, to those repair people who can come to your home, take it apart and get it working again. Greg (appliance man), yesterday you were my hero!

8. Sun. After MANY days of rain, I’m ready for some vitamin d!

9. Summer vacation. No “real” schedules and convincing my kids that I “get” to sleep in until 6:30 instead of 6:00. Hey, I’ll take what I can get!

10. Blogging community. You guys rock! It still amazes me that I am part of a community of people who I have never met, yet who I consider to be true friends and confidants. Very special.

11. AA. My people who are always there, no matter what. Who know me and accept me just as I am. Where I learned how to live again.

12. My sponsor. She just celebrated 10 years of sobriety and I adore her. She is kind, gentle, yet still continues to challenge me by her suggestions and thoughts on life and recovery.

13. Hope and faith in God’s plan. It’s what keeps me going when I feel completely and utterly lost.

14. Daily devotionals. I read them every morning and when I don’t I feel like I’m “missing” something. They keep me grounded and give me perspective and remind me that I’m part of a bigger plan – God’s plan.

15. Music. The kind that speaks to you, that you can turn up in the car and sing at the top of your lungs (which is a good thing for me and everyone else because God did not bless me with a singing voice!). I’ve been obsessed with Pink, Rihanna and Bruno Mars lately, which is strange because I’m usually a country girl but whatever. Like I said, it’s about the music.

16. New life. My best friend gave birth to a healthy baby boy last week. He is beautiful and reminds me to slow down, and cherish all the little moments.

17. Coffee. Need I say more?!

18. My house. I’m a homebody at heart and I love just “being” at home.

19. My flowers and garden. I love watching them grow and find great joy and peace in taking care of them, especially in the evenings when it’s quiet and all I hear are the birds “talking” back and forth to each other.

20. Hummingbirds. My mom and grandma loved hummingbirds and am always reminded of their presence when I see one.

21. Jesus. His words remind and encourage me to be kind, patient and forgiving.

22. Netflix. My husband and I have been watching the Ken Burns’ documentary “The West,” which reminds me just how good we have it today and the extreme endurance and bravery of those who came before us.

23. My lived experiences. Despite the ups and downs, I have the ability to reach out to others who still suffer and to reach back when they reach out to me.

24. The men and women who serve our country. I’m constantly amazed and extremely grateful to those who would leave their families and miss milestones like birthdays and kindergarten graduations to protect my freedoms.

25. Facebook. Love it or hate it, I’m grateful it gives me the opportunity to share my life and story with family and friends who I would otherwise not see.

26. The rain. While I may complain at times, I’m grateful for the nourishment it brings to the trees, plants and flowers.

27. Prozac. For me, it’s like insulin to a diabetic. I need it to help me function and without it I would be crazier than I already am! For those in recovery who don’t think you should take anything, even antidepressants, well, lets agree to disagree.

28. The gym. I’ve been taking my kids to the daycare at the gym since they were two months old and I’m still extremely grateful for the opportunity to have “me” time.

29. Good books. The kind that suck you in and encourage you to stay up way too late. I’m planning to read more of these over the summer!

30. Goodwill. The take anything, they sell everything and they support a wonderful community of people. I could spend hours there.

31. Diet Coke. Because sometimes, despite how horrible it is for you, you just need one.

Being Content

Contentment

Yesterday, I read a great post by Paul over at Message in a Bottle. In his post, he talks about the “meh-ness” of life.  He describes this “meh-ness” as being “times of inertness and mid-level drabness.  Neither here nor there type of deals. The pause before the next note on the scale.  A certain form of unwanted stillness and unsureness.”

Today, I had a “meh” day. It was raining and grey outside, I was home with a sick kid for the second day in a row, I managed to ruin the first of two batches of cookies (thanks to rancid nuts) and burned dinner. In the past, I would have viewed today as a total waste and disappointment. I didn’t “do” anything and I didn’t particularly “achieve” anything.

And, then, I watch the news and see the people in Oklahoma who have lost everything. And, I think, “You know, it’s okay. It’s okay to just be.” It’s okay to have just a “meh” type of day. In fact, I find more and more that these days teach me to slow down, relax and be in the moment. Today, I was grateful I had a warm house to shelter me from the rain, supplies to bake cookies, my son and daughter to snuggle on the couch with and a God who gives me all I truly need in this life.

I used to view contentment as “just settling.” Contentment wasn’t something to achieve in life, it was something to pass up for something greater. Contentment was boring. People who were content had given up on life. I never wanted to be “just” content, yet in an effort to surpass contentment I always found myself wanting, needing and yearning for more. Drinking fueled my desire and helped (or so I thought) cope with the emptiness. And, eventually, I got really tired of feeling that way.

In early recovery, I was told that I would “know a new freedom and a new happiness.” And, it is true. I find this freedom and happiness in being content with my every day life. Not wanting more, and not wanting less. But, just being content with what God has given me today.

Thanks, Paul, for reminding me that even the “meh” days are good days.

TheBetterMom.com