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.

 

 

 

When Someone You Love is an Alcoholic

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I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately – how things used to be and how things are today. It’s like black and white TV versus color. My life before I got sober is almost unrecognizable to me. On August 28th, I celebrated two years of sobriety and my husband would agree that the last two years have been the best of our almost 10 year marriage. I often wonder why me? Why was I one of the lucky ones who got to this point? The only thing I can come up with is by the grace of God. And, a husband who said, enough is enough.

In just the past couple of weeks, I’ve been approached by a number of people who are worried about a family members drinking. “What do I do?” they ask. “How can I get them to stop?” It’s really the million dollar question. And, I don’t pretend to have the answer. I can only share with them what I know from my experience and what worked for me. And, a few things I’ve learned along the way from Al-Anon.

First and foremost, you cannot make someone stop drinking.

But, you can take control of your environment and how you react to someone’s drinking. Believe me, you can yell at a person, bribe them and threaten them until you’re blue in the face and it’s not going to make them quit. The problem I see most often, is that the family has allowed the person who is drinking to have total control over their environment. I know because I did the same thing when I was drinking. Everyone tip-toes around the issue because God forbid you create a stir. No one wants to make an “issue” out of it despite the fact that the “issue” is ruining everyone’s life! People become so wrapped up in the drinker’s life, that they forget they have their own life to live. And, so the cycle begins: denial – enabling – denial – enabling. And, so on.

It’s a vicious cycle and the ones who get hurt the most are the family members. Heck, the drinker doesn’t care because they’re going along their happy way doing what they’ve always done. They have you right where they want you. Fearful and feeling helpless.

So, what do you do? You say enough is enough. You create boundaries. You tell the drinker you love them, but you do not love their drinking. You take control of your life and do what you need to do to reclaim a healthy environment for you and your family. Despite the fear of the unknown or the fear of others finding out your family’s “secret,” you reach out for help. If you’re living with the drinker, you pack up your things and leave. “But, I don’t have anywhere to go.” Yes, you do. There is ALWAYS a place to go or someone to call.

Alcoholism is a family disease. Living with the effects of someone else’s drinking is too devastating for most people to bear without help. – Al-Anon

When my husband sat me down and asked me if I was ready to stop drinking for good, I finally knew I had come to a fork in the road. I could either continue drinking and lose my marriage, my kids and everything I loved, or I could get help and stop drinking. For me, that’s what it took. For others, they might have to lose everything before they get to the point where they want to stop drinking. It’s not our decision to make as family members. First and foremost, we take care of ourselves and strive to live happy and joyous lives.

In Al-Anon we learn:

  • Not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people
  • Not to allow ourselves to be used or abused by others in the interest of another’s recovery
  • Not to do for others what they can do for themselves
  • Not to manipulate situations so others will eat, go to bed, get up, pay bills, not drink or behave as we see fit
  • Not to cover up for another’s mistakes or misdeeds
  • Not to create a crisis
  • Not to prevent a crisis if it is in the natural course of event

“By learning to focus on ourselves, our attitudes and well-being improve. We allow the alcoholics in our lives to experience the consequences of their own actions.”

And, to those of you who drink or use, let me say this: you are not a bad person. More than likely, you have the disease of alcoholism or addiction. But, you want to know the really good news? Unlike cancer or other diseases, it’s curable. Yes, a curable disease! How did we get so lucky?! All you have to do is reach out and ask, and you will find the keys to the cure.

Before I end, let me ask those of you who drink or use two important questions that my husband once asked me. 1) What are you willing to lose in order to continue drinking or using and 2) Is the drink or drug more important to you than those you love? You would think those would be simple questions, but I had to think long and hard before answering them. Remember this, even those who love us can only take so much before they break.

 

 

Drinkers Wanted; Believers Needed

I drove by a bar the other day that I drive by on a regular basis and they had changed their sign to read, “Drinkers Wanted.” I chuckled a little bit because I would’ve been all over that when I was drinking, and then I got a little sad. I thought about my life then compared to my life now. And, I thought about all the people out there who are still searching for that “Drinkers Wanted” sign above anything else in their life.

Forgive me if this post reads like a stream of consciousness. I haven’t written in a long time, and I feel like the words are coming out faster than I can type them. For ease of reading, I’ll try to condense my topics.

  1. Thank you for all your thoughts, prayers and well wishes for my husband, Tyler, and his recovery from neck surgery. He is healing up nice and this morning got the go ahead from his doc that he can start driving again. I’m happy and he’s happy because it means my duty as wife/taxi driver are over and he gets his freedom back. But, in all honestly, I’m kind of sad. As frustrating as it was at times (hectic mornings out of routine, driving twice as much as I would normally drive and shorter work days for him), I’m going to miss our extra time together and our morning chats after dropping the kids off at school. This was one of those lessons in seeing the positive in the perceived negative (which I could always use more of in my life!).
  2. Life is B-U-S-Y right now (which explains not writing more). I had NO idea what I was getting myself (actually, our family) into when I signed both kids up for t-ball this spring. I’m not kidding when I say that almost every day/night of the week we have either practice or a game. It’s by far the busiest this family has ever been. A couple years ago when I was drinking this kind of busy would’ve sent me over the edge. Actually, back up. When I was drinking I probably would’ve never even signed my kids up for t-ball because it would’ve seriously infringed on my drinking schedule. So, fast forward to today and I’m loving it! Yes, we’re crazy busy and I barely have time to think and I sometimes feel like I’m in the car ALL day, but I’m happy and I know these days won’t last forever. One day, my kids will walk out the door, waving goodbye and I’ll wonder where the time went. So, each day I wake up and brace myself for another crazy busy day and hope for the best.
  3. I’m sponsoring someone for the first time, which has been an amazing experience so far. I write and blog to help others and pass on what I have been so freely given, but it’s completely different (as many of you know) when you’re working with someone face-to-face. I see so much of myself in her when I first began this journey and I just hope and pray I can be an example of what is possible through recovery and working the steps.
  4. Holy Week. I have so many emotions and thoughts running through my head right now. This Saturday night I will be baptized for the first time ever at our church’s Saturday night Easter Vigil. As I’ve written before, this has been a long and personal journey for me. And, it truly is just that, a journey. I am reminded of so many years past, but I’m especially reminded of four years ago on the Easter Vigil. It was my grandpa’s 90th birthday and friends and family from near and far had come to celebrate with him. I started drinking early in the day and never stopped. Eventually, my husband put me in the car and drove me to our hotel (with our kids) where I passed out on the bed. I briefly remember my husband trying to wake me, but I was completely out of it. The next morning I woke up to discover that without knowing who got what, he had assembled the kids’ Easter baskets because I was too drunk to do it. Up until then, my husband was one of the few who knew how bad my drinking had gotten, but after that night it was no longer a secret. It still pains me to think about that night and the shame and guilt I felt the next morning. But, it’s those memories that make my upcoming baptism mean even more to me. I know those moments and incidents are not what defines me. I know that change is possible and forgiveness sets you free. And, what means more to me than almost anything is that my grandpa who just turned 94 has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my recovery.

Today, I am humble and grateful for this messy, beautiful life I have been given. If you’re at the beginning of your journey, know that despite the shame, guilt and desperation you may be feeling now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just give the journey a chance.

Happy Easter, friends – oh, and play ball!

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When Nothing Makes Sense

Give Me Faith

I’m sorry if this post seems disorganized and rambling, but I’m feeling a need to purge my thoughts and sometimes they’re not such a tidy, pretty little package (as much as I’d like them to be). It’s like diarrhea of the mind, with thoughts firing back and forth until my head feels like it’s going to explode (sorry for the visual).

My hope is that I can empty it all out and make room for more peaceful, loving and kind thoughts. Thoughts filled with faith and hope, especially during this first Lenten season that I am participating.

What’s on my mind? Grief. The loss of people I love, people who are no longer here; my husband’s upcoming back surgery that puts a desperation and fear into my thoughts that I’ve never experienced before; my own mortality and what that looks like; the recent tragic death of a woman from our church who served on the Pastoral Council with my husband who was shot and killed by her 17-year-old son; the fear when I think about the world that my children are growing up in and the desperation I feel to change it, to do SOMETHING to make it just a little bit better.

My husband called me yesterday afternoon while I was shopping in Portland with my five-year-old son to tell me about, Michelle, the woman who had been killed by her teenage son. Not only did he kill his mother, but he attempted to kill his father who remains in critical condition. As I drove the hour home with my son sitting behind me playing his Leapster, I wondered how such an innocent child could grow up to do something so horrible and inconceivable. Yes, these things happen all the time, but WHY? What happened to that young boy to make him do such a thing? As with so many families and children, everything seemed fine on the outside. Yet, obviously, there was something horribly wrong on the inside.

It’s times like these, I look up and want to scream to God, “Why?!” My husband who just turned 40, who has been the epitome of health his entire life, is having major back surgery in two weeks. I have watched him suffer silently over the past five months, in chronic pain from the shooting pain and numbness that has taken over the right side of his body. A man who has always been afraid to take more than two Advil at a time who is now taking heavy pain meds throughout the day, barely masking the intense pain. My husband who has been a pillar of strength for me throughout our entire marriage who is now the one in need of my strength. His humbleness is beyond anything I could ever hope for myself.

Yes I am worried; yes I am fearful; yes I want to know why. But, I know in my heart of hearts that there’s no answer.

You know, my entire life up until I got sober I was a glass half-empty type person. Ask anyone. I always feared the worse. I always expected the worse. I always admired those glass half-full people. How could they be THAT positive? I know now. I know they had a faith that I never had. A faith that, despite the pain and suffering, it would be okay. It might not turn out how they expected or how they imagined it would, but it would be okay in the end.

I know that family who has just experienced the most horrific tragedy imaginable will continue to suffer greatly. But, I know because of their immense faith in a loving and just God that they will be okay. They will go on and inspire others with their strength and determination.

I know the next two months will be challenging for our family as my husband goes through surgery and recovery. There will be days of immense exhaustion and frustration, but it will be okay. It will be okay because, together, our faith will be stronger than any feelings of desperation and fear that attempt to bring us down.

As I go forward in this Lenten season, I pray that God opens my heart to greater faith, hope, love and kindness.

Let’s all just strive to be kind to each other. I am reminded daily that we never know what someone else is going through. Your words or the way you look at someone could make or break them.

I constantly remind myself of what my sponsor always tells me, “We are all God’s children.”

Peace.

Tasty Taco Chili

Taco Chili

Welcome to Day 3 of my “healthy eating-but tastes good” week of recipes!

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir and you already have your favorite chili recipe, but I wanted to share mine because it’s SO easy and it’s my go-to quick, tasty and healthy weeknight meal. In fact, my five-year-old son who is somewhat picky (at least pickier than the rest of us), loves this chili and regularly requests it for dinner!

The ingredients are pretty straightforward, however, you can add or subtract ingredients as you like. I will often add frozen corn or diced garlic, or you can just make it according to the following directions!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean hamburger meat
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans red kidney beans
  • 1 package taco seasoning (I like to use mild and reduced sodium)

* I try to use grass fed beef and organic ingredients whenever possible.

Directions:

  • Cook hamburger meat and diced onion in pan on medium-high heat until hamburger is brown.
  • Add 1 cup water and taco seasoning to hamburger and onion mix and sauté for a few minutes on low.
  • Add remaining ingredients (do not rinse beans).
  • Stir, cover and let simmer on low heat for 30 min. (you can serve right away if you’re in a hurry, but if I have time I like to let it simmer).
  • Serve in bowls and top with grated cheese, light sour cream and diced avocado.

My daughter loves cornbread, and, to be honest, most of the time I’m too lazy to make it from scratch, so sometimes a package of Marie Callender’s cornbread does the trick! I’ve also served it with corn tortilla chips, which the kids love!

This recipe typically serves our family of four with a container of leftovers for lunch!

Experiment, have fun and enjoy!

 

When the One You Love Is Gone

Grief Process

Yesterday afternoon, in between rain showers, I took a walk around our neighborhood. I walked quickly, knowing that I only had a short time before leaving to pick my son up from school. The fresh air felt good, and I let my thoughts drift as I walked and listened to my music.

I thought about some of the things that had been weighing heavy on my heart and how more than anything I wished I could see and talk to my mom. I wanted to hear her soothing voice, telling me everything was going to be okay. I just wanted her.

As I began to walk the steep part of the road close to our home, I found myself gasping for air. Tears started streaming down my face and as I tried to catch my breath, I began crying harder. A couple of cars drove towards me and I did my best to hold it together, walking as fast as I could to get home. Once home, I collapsed onto our entryway bench and sobbed. I wanted my mom more than anything, but she wasn’t there.

I went into the house, knowing I needed to find something. I needed to see her, hear her – something. In my bedroom, I keep a box filled with letters and cards I have received over the years. I hastily opened it, as if I were looking for some lost treasure. I sorted through the cards and letters, opening them up, looking for her distinctive handwriting. And, finally, I found them. Towards the bottom, I found the card she had sent to me when I was in high school and she was away taking care of my grandpa; the card she had given me when I graduated with my master’s degree; all the cards and letters she had written me over the years. And, they all expressed the same thing – how much she loved me, how proud she was of me and the happiness she wished for me.

And, I felt myself breathe. I felt my body relax because this is what I had been looking for. This is what I had needed from her. She wasn’t physically there to give it to me, but she was there in spirit and memory. Her words spoke what she couldn’t physically say to me. And, I knew everything was going to be okay. I knew I was truly loved. And, I knew that she had loved me more in those short 27 years of my life before she died, than most people experience in a lifetime.

I am so grateful for those years.

I don’t share this because I want you to feel sorry for me. Far from it. I share this because this is what grief looks like. No matter how much time has gone by, it sneaks up on you and punches you in the gut when you’re least expecting it. I share this because this is the type of thing I used to drink over. I didn’t want to feel the pain and sadness and loneliness. I didn’t want to feel anything.

But, now, I don’t have to drink. I don’t have to keep shoving my feelings down, deeper and deeper. Because, the truth is, they never go away. Those feelings are always there. Now, I let myself feel. I cry because I’m sad and pissed off that my mom’s not here.

And, then I find ways to feel close to her. Because, she’s always with me; I just have to open myself up and look for her. And, there she is – just waiting to tell me she loves me.

 

 

 

And, God Said Be Still

Snow

On the 7th of this month, God said, be still. He said stop your busyness, throw away your to-do list, spend time with your family and just be. How did He do this? He sent snow. Lots and lots of snow. More snow than we’ve had in over five years. And, then He sent freezing rain. And, we were stuck. We were snowed in for three days. And, we were together.

On the first day, in the midst of my kids arguing, I said, God I don’t know if I can do this. And, I went downstairs (we have a daylight basement) and locked the door. I took some deep breathes and I prayed for patience. And, God said, you’ve got this. And, I did. That’s the thing about my God, He’s usually right.

The next day, it snowed a lot. As I stood in the kitchen cooking a big breakfast, looking out at the snow falling, I felt peace. Peace in the simplicity of a morning where we weren’t rushing out the door; or barking orders at each other. Peace in my children’s laughter and excitement over the new fallen snow. Peace in sitting with my husband, drinking our coffee and just being.

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We played, built snowmen and sledded down my in-law’s driveway. We didn’t need fancy sleds. Boxes worked just fine. We used my husband’s childhood sled to walk around the neighborhood, visiting friends along the way. It could have been anywhere; at any point in time. We were just a family – sledding, laughing and being together.

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Sledding

And, God said, Chenoa, I know you’re not a big board game player, but you’re going to play a game as a family, because, really, what else do you have to do that’s more important? And, so we played a game of Chutes and Ladders and we laughed. And, I said, okay God, that was fun but I’m pretty sure that game is rigged because every time you get to the top, you have to slide down one of those damn chutes and it’s impossible to win. And, He laughed, because He knows it’s true.

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We baked cookies, watched movies, did puzzles, danced and sang (I’m pretty sure my husband and I could both sing that “Frozen” song word for word). And, I didn’t worry about running out of wine – because before, that’s what I would’ve worried about. Because, before, that’s how I “coped” with my kids. Now, the only thing I worried about running out of was my coffee and Prozac. Because, God knows I need both of those to function. Yes, my God has a sense of humor.

And, in the silence of the snow, God said, this was good. This was good because it made you be still. That’s what I love about my God. He knows what I need, when I need it most.

Finding Joy in the Silence

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I grew up in the fog on the coast of California, but nothing compares to the thick, cold fog that has engulfed us over the past few weeks in the Oregon valley where we live. It’s hard to tell whether it’s 7 am or 4 pm, each day rolling into night only to repeat itself the next day. To say it’s depressing is an understatement. It’s why so many of us (despite the cancer warnings) are often tempted to find refuge in a tanning bed. I won’t, but, as I write this, it sounds absolutely amazing.

Today, despite the frigid temperatures and thick, white fog, I decided to bundle up and get some much needed yard work done. I was beginning to feel suffocated inside, surrounded by the stale air and constant buzz of the forced air heater. The air was cold and crisp, and hung low covering the yard like a thick blanket. It reminded me of the English moors that I’ve so often read about in the Secret Garden or Wuthering Heights, eerily enchanting.

My outfit on the other hand, was anything but enchanting.

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As I worked my arms back and forth, cutting down the grasses that had become brown and wilted, I felt a surge of energy pulse through my body. I could feel the blood flowing through my veins, heating my body up and giving me a burst of energy. As I breathed the cold, thick air in and out, I felt my lungs come alive, grateful for the fresh air.

Despite the silence and starkness of the yard, I heard birds chirping nearby, perhaps cheerfully optimistic of the upcoming Spring. As I pulled the remaining growth from the raised garden beds, I found great satisfaction in the flat, emptiness of the beds. Instead of seeing them as sad and empty, I saw the great potential for next season’s crops. I thought of the parallels between those garden beds and my life and an upcoming panel I’ve been asked to be part of where I will share my story of recovery. I saw those empty beds as my life when I made the decision to get sober – sparse and barren, yet so full of potential. I’ve been nervous and apprehensive about sharing my story in a panel-like format, but today I realized the power that a once empty, but now overflowing garden bed could have on one looking in from the outside. To see potential is to have hope.

As I walked through the yard, picking up debris from the recent windstorm, I thought of my mom who I often feel closest to while I’m gardening or doing yard work. I felt her presence all around me and pictured her in her robe and slippers working in her yard as I would so often find her growing up. I imagined her pointing out all the new growth on the camellias or the first glimpses of Spring in the daffodils pushing up through the hard, cold dirt. And, I realized no matter how much time passes, I still miss her just as much now as I did back then.

Yet, regardless of the sadness and longing I felt, I found a deep sense of peace and joy in the silence of the cold, thick fog – and hope in the new signs of life growing up all around me.

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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”

Permission to Feel

A Time to Weep and Laugh

It’s been a while, but I’m still here – sober and living life! Now that the birthdays are over (until December!) and school has started, I find myself easing back into that predictable routine that by the end of summer I so desperately miss. I’m hoping a new routine also means a little more writing time for me. I don’t realize how much I depend on my writing for my own sanity until I’m not doing it anymore!

I heard the above scripture read out loud the other day while driving and it really hit me. Usually, I only hear it spoken out loud when I’m watching Footloose and Kevin Bacon’s character is speaking at the town hall meeting trying to convince the community to reinstate dancing…but that’s a whole different story. Way off topic.

When I heard this scripture the other day, it made me think of my life now – my sober life- and how I navigate the reality of living life on life’s terms. For the most part, life is good. It’s really good. I’m the best version of myself that I’ve ever been, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. And, the struggles are just as important as the happy and joyous parts of my life. The difference now, is that instead of trying to numb or guard myself from those struggles by drinking, I have to move through them.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a really crappy day. I woke up feeling fine, but by mid-morning I found myself losing it. My husband had taken the kids to the gym, and as I stood cleaning the stove, I felt this tremendous sense of grief hit me. Tears started streaming down my face and I thought, “I miss my mom SO much right now.” My mom passed away over seven years ago from pancreatic cancer, but sometimes it feels like yesterday. And, then I found myself in the bedroom cleaning, and once again the grief hit me and before I knew it I was sitting on the floor, leaning up against the bed, sobbing. All at once I felt so much loss. The loss of my mom, the loss of my friend Sadie, the loss of relationships with those I was once close to. It was heavy and suffocating and I all I could do was sit there and cry. I wanted the pain and hurt to go away – oh how I prayed for it to go away – but I knew, despite the heart wrenching pain, I had to move through it.  This was me, living life on life’s terms. It’s not easy, but it’s what I do now. I know it’s what I HAVE to do if I don’t want to go back to that horrible place I came from – the drinking and numbing.

I have FINALLY learned (not always the easy way) to give myself permission to “weep” and to “mourn.” And, part of this is also learning how to be honest with those around me and ask for help. When my husband got home, I told him what had happened and said, “I’m having a really hard day. I’m going to be okay, but I need to work through it.” He knows. He knows I will have hard days where the grief of losing my mom and my friends will hit me out of nowhere. But, he isn’t a mind reader (as much as I would like to assume he is) and he needs me to be open and honest so he can step in and give the kids some extra attention or whatever is helpful in that moment. My husband, my sponsor, my friends – these are my lifelines. I reach out, I ask for help – this is what I have learned in sobriety.

The next day I felt better. I went to church, I talked to God – I fed my soul and I continued to move through the grief and depression I had been feeling the day before. By Monday, I felt better. I now know it’s a process, but I didn’t always “get” it. Before, I would stuff it all in, pack it down, put a smile on my face and pretend it was “okay.” I would try to numb it away with multiple glasses of wine, hoping that “one more” would make it all go away. And, it did for a while – until I woke up the next morning and went through the whole cycle over again.

I laugh a lot now. I laugh with my kids, with my husband, with friends – at myself! I laugh a lot more than I weep or mourn. I even dance now – sober! However, my dancing usually leads to even more laughing – if you know me, you’ll understand. For those that don’t, lets just say I’ve perfected the “white girl” moves!

Thank God for my sobriety, which has taught me to live life on life’s terms. Feel it, deal with it and move on. Easy? Not always. Worth it? Definitely!