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.

 

Happy, Joyous and Free

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Happy, joyous and free. To be honest, I never thought I would use those words to describe myself, but that’s how I described myself in a meeting today. Sometimes, it’s even hard for me to believe because it’s such a far cry from where I was three years ago at this time. It was my last holiday season drinking and I was miserable. I was so angry – lashing out at everyone around me; picking fights with those who loved me. The more I tried to control things, the worse they got. Despite the love that surrounded me, I had never felt so lonely before.

I don’t like remembering those times, in fact, it’s painful to think back to what I was like then. That’s not the person I want to remember, but I know she’s part of my story. Because, without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. How did I get here? How could “that” person turn into the person I am today? The only answer I have is by God’s grace. When I was at my lowest point, God’s love and mercy was the only thing that could break through the hard shell I had created around me. Slowly, He put people, programs and a church in my life that would eventually build me up and bring me back from the depths of loneliness and fear I had been living in for so long.

Today, I’m at peace. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or the next day, but it doesn’t matter because I have faith in a God who turned that lonely, frightened girl into the happy, joyous and free woman I am today. I’m done fighting and lashing out at those around me. I’m done trying to control my life. It’s not mine to control anyway. I wake up each morning and ask for God’s guidance and direction. I give it all over to Him. And, by doing so I’m completely and totally free.

Merry Christmas, friends! Peace be with you!

 

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”

Preparing Myself

Temptation

As I embark on this weekend, I’m preparing myself for two big events: 1) my first wedding sober and 2) our annual Easter celebration that I wrote about in my last post here.

This will be my second Easter sober, however, I’m still reminded of previous years where I used Easter (and all other holidays) as an excuse to drink as much as I could in a short amount of time. For some reason, I thought I needed it to cope, to have fun, to “survive.” It turns out, being sober made last year’s Easter celebration a lot more enjoyable – imagine that!

As for weddings, well, weddings and I have a long history – mostly a history of not remembering much. If there was ever an event that called (or more like begged) for drinking it was weddings. I mean heck, I got drunk for the first time when I was fourteen at my mom and stepdad’s wedding! I clearly remember the thrill and excitement of it, yet at the same time I remember my eighty-two year old grandmother helping me up the stairs and undressing me for bed. But, despite the shame and embarrassment the next morning, I loved it and I wanted more.

As I got older and my friends started getting married, weddings became all out parties – or at least they were for me! When I was single, I would find myself in questionable situations and after I got married, my husband would have to drag me (literally) out of the reception. Of course, it was always assumed that he would be the one driving and I would be the one passed out or throwing up in the passenger seat. Ironically, the only wedding I didn’t get drunk at was my own – go figure! Oh, and the one I attended while pregnant, but I’m sure I still managed to sneak a glass here and there. I mean, who could possibly imagine going to a wedding and not having ANYTHING to drink?!

To say that weddings bring up feelings of temptation is an understatement. Fortunately, we didn’t have any weddings last year, however, this year we’ve been invited to three. Tomorrow is the first of those three. To be honest, I’m not as anxious as I thought I would be, but I’m still doing the work in anticipation. I’ve gone to meetings this week, I’ve talked it over with my sponsor, I’ve done my readings and, most of all, I’ve been praying. I didn’t get sober on my own, and I know damn well I won’t stay sober on my own. I need God to help me and protect me, act as my armor if you will as I go into these situations.

Because that first drink is there, it’s always there waiting, tempting and calling my name.

 

 

The Bunny Is Real…And Other Easter Memories

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You know the saying, you don’t just marry the person, you marry their family? Well, that was definitely true for me. Despite both my husband and I being only children, unlike me he is from a very large, close-knit Catholic family who all, despite a few, live within close proximity to each other. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t completely and utterly overwhelmed when I attended my first Easter celebration with his family.

Growing up, we celebrated Easter, but nothing compared to my husband’s family. The week leading up to Easter is filled with excitement and anticipation, especially now that we have two kids who are obsessed with the Easter Bunny and all things Easter. There are Easter crafts, Easter stories, Easter baking, Easter cartoons, and, of course, lots of talk about Aunt Tess’ and the Easter Bunny! And, yes, the “Easter Bunny” makes an appearance each year at the annual Easter gathering at “the farm.” Okay, so Aunt Tess used to work at Hallmark and got the bunny costume at a great deal – but I digress.

The day begins with early Mass and then everyone makes the short trip to “the farm.” It’s not technically a farm, but there are a few horses, a cow or two, dogs and lots of room for the kids to run around – it’s beautiful. It’s the first time most of us have seen each other since Christmas, so there’s a lot of catching up and eating – lots and lots of eating. At some point, someone is chosen (or told!) to be the “bunny.” Usually, it’s one of the older cousins who have yet to participate in this coming of age-like experience.

As the anticipation builds, everyone gathers on the lawn awaiting the Bunny’s arrival. It’s always a surprise as to how Mr. Bunny will make his entrance. Last year, I believe he rode in on a four-wheeler and the year before that being pulled by a tractor – like I said, you never know! Of course, once the Bunny is spotted the kids go wild, some laughing, some crying and some standing in awe. It’s a sight to see!

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how truly special this celebration is. Before the Easter dinner (as with all family celebrations), we stand in a circle holding hands and say the traditional Catholic meal prayer, giving thanks to God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. As you look around, you will see Nornie, the matriarch of the family, along with most of her six children and their spouses, her grandchildren and their spouses and a multitude of great-grandchildren. What a sight to behold!

As the day comes to an end, you will find groups gathered by the fire or playing a board game and a few napping on the sofas, exhausted from the day’s activities. Those of us who have children, will gather them up, load them in the car and drive home, tired yet grateful for another year of Easter at “the farm.”

And, this year, I will be especially grateful for my second Easter spent sober and present, enjoying the excitement and joy of my children and glorifying the Lord who makes it all possible.

Blessings this Easter and always!

Valentine’s Marshmallow Pops

MP Closeup

I’m so excited to share this sweet treat with you! I first made these marshmallow pops as favors for my daughter’s birthday party last year and they were a huge hit. Since then, I’ve been known to make them on a whim as a simple sweet treat – like today! Not only are they yummy (if you like marshmallows) but also super cute! You can make these for any occasion or holiday, however, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner I thought they would be a perfect pre-Valentine’s Day treat!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Jumbo marshmallows (Safeway is the only store near me that carries them throughout the year)

Candy chocolate (I usually get mine at Michaels)

Cake pop sticks

Sprinkles/candy (whatever you want to dip them in)

Directions:

1. Take the marshmallows and slice a small hole at one end. This will make it easier when inserting the stick.

MP Knife

2. Insert sticks. Set on plate or cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. This will help the marshmallows adhere to the sticks.

MP Sticks

3. Set up your marshmallow “station.” I put chocolate first, then sprinkles and end with a plate or cookie sheet covered with wax paper.

MP Setup

4. Heat chocolate in microwaveable safe bowl by following directions on candy package.

MP Chocolate

5. Now is the fun part! Dip marshmallows in chocolate, gently roll in sprinkles and place on wax paper. Let sit for at least an hour before packaging or serving. On a side note, I had some extra chocolate leftover and there was no way I was going to let it go to waste! I just happened to have strawberries and pretzels on hand, so a few extra treats were added to the mix! I think my husband will be happy!

MP Finish

Enjoy!

Tip Junkie

The Shabby Nest