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taught “You are only as sick as your secrets” yet so many of us choose to keep our sobriety secret out of respect to an outdated tradition.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

 

Happy, Joyous and Free

Christmas 14

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!

 

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.

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”

Anonymous…Or Not?

First, thanks to Ellie over at One Crafty Mother for highlighting this issue.

Wow. I had chills as I watched the trailer for the new documentary The Anonymous People, which focuses on the culture of recovery and “the faces and voices of citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, public figures, and celebrities who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them.”

This got me thinking about how we all choose to use our voice in our individual lives – and how voice can be one of the most powerful weapons out there.

Using my voice to shine light on addiction and alcoholism is something I’m very passionate about – ask anyone! In my opinion, the recovery community has stayed silent for much too long. When I first got sober I was scared to death about the social stigma involved in admitting I was an alcoholic. In my mind, I might as well have been telling people I was a complete loser and failure. I worried about what my friends, family, neighbors – really anyone- would think about me. I remember Googling famous sober people because I had a desperate need to know that I wasn’t the only “normal” person out there that was sober (not that famous people are really that normal!). Fortunately, I found a few, but in my mind, not enough. There HAD to be more people out there like me.

Sorry to say folks, but the image of the drunk under the bridge holding a paper bag is long gone. Of course, they still exist, but the reality is that there’s more people who look like you and me in recovery these days. We work, are educated, have successful careers, drive nice cars, wear nice clothes, live in nice homes – yet, we all have one thing in common, we’re all working to stay sober.

I respect the tradition of anonymity, but believe it is solely my choice whether I choose to stay anonymous or not. For me, personally, I NEED and WANT to use my voice to stop the stigma associated with alcoholism and addition. Recovery has taught me that I’m NOT a loser or failure, but a strong, brave and determined woman who will not be silenced about this disease.

So, for those of you new to recovery, who might be feeling ashamed of your addiction and alcoholism, I am here to tell you that you are not alone! There are rooms full of people around this country who are just like you – strong, brave and determined to create a better life for themselves.

God gave me this voice and I plan to use it to share His message of hope, healing and forgiveness. Despite my initial fear and anger, I now accept the path that God has lead me on and will do everything in my power to convey my gratitude to Him for the gift of sobriety.

As long as I have a voice, I will speak my truth and yell from any mountain top “I will not be silent, I will not be silent, I will NOT be silent!”

Let There Be Light

“He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5:45

I woke up this morning feeling kind of blah. It rained all night and was still raining this morning when I got up. My stomach felt kind of cruddy and, well, I was just in one of those moods. You know, the kind where everything looks grey and wet, and despite being the first day of Spring, you feel like the sun might never shine again. If you live or have ever lived in the Pacific Northwest you know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, sitting down with my first cup of coffee I opened my daily devotional to find today’s topic “Thoughts On Rain.” With that, I said to myself, “Okay, God, I’m listening.” Geez, how does He do that?! As I read, the author talked about the dreary feeling of watching the rain beat against her newly planted flowers, yet within a few hours of the sun coming up they were standing straight and strong. Wow, what a beautiful visual! At that point, I said to myself, “Okay, God, I get it.”

And, I thought back to all the times in my life where I had experienced torrential downpours, yet as the “rain” lifted I often discovered new growth and new beginnings. How often do we get stuck in the gloom and doom of life’s storms, instead of focusing on the nourishment God is providing us? Often, we don’t realize the new growth until the wreckage of the storm is cleared and we see the beauty in all the new life around us.

It’s still raining here, but instead of focusing on the grey skies, I’m focused on that small patch of sun illuminating the valley below. Because, in the worst storm, God will always provide us with His light if we search for it.

Happy Spring!

Six Months Sober – Round Two

Stronger

I found this photo fitting since I just got a new VW. I’m sure one day, years from now, it might look like this too. Old, tattered, but well-loved. Kind of like me, however, I wouldn’t consider myself THAT old – yet!

Today, I will attend a women’s meeting and get my six month coin – for the second time. How do I feel? I’m happy, I’m content, I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to be the very best version of myself that I can be and that God intended me to be.

The difference this time around, I’m not angry anymore. I’m not angry that I have the disease of alcoholism. The obsession to drink has been lifted and for that I am truly grateful. Once I was able to let go and surrender to God, I felt free. Free from the anger, the cravings, the guilt. I got to the point of acceptance. I accept the “broken road” that God has led me down. At first, I tried to fight it. God knows, I tried with all I had to fight the truth.

But, the truth is, once I stopped fighting, I was finally able to start living. I love my life today. I still struggle, but I now have the strength and courage to get through things without drinking. Drinking is not my crutch anymore; I have to face things head on. It’s not easy sometimes, but it feels so good – to feel. I feel hurt, anger, sadness, but I also feel an immense amount of joy, happiness, peace and contentment.

Sobriety has given me the opportunity to live, to try new things, to write again. I have so many desires and wishes for my sober life. It’s exciting and sometimes it’s overwhelming because the possibilities are endless.

I have to stop, quiet my thoughts and ask God what direction I should take. I trust in His path for me. I don’t have a plan anymore and that’s okay. With each day, He’s guiding me and revealing to me where to go and what to do.

Today, I am grateful to be alive so I can share my experience, strength and hope with you.

TheBetterMom.com

I Found God

Faith

I know, it sounds so cliché to say “I got sober and found God,” but it’s true for me. I’m not saying I didn’t believe in God before I got sober; I simply had a very distant view of Him. To me, God was this ever powerful guy who was looming down from above, waiting to point His finger at me every time I did something wrong. I didn’t trust Him and I sure didn’t believe He had a plan for me. Truthfully, I was scared of Him and scared of the idea that something greater than myself was running my life. When you’re a “type a” control freak the last thing you want to think is that someone else is making the decisions.

I played the part well. I went to church with my husband, said the Our Father, kneeled, stood (and kneeled again), got my blessing and said a prayer here and there – usually when I really needed something. But, that’s as far as I got. In fact, I used to roll my eyes at “those” people who would go on and on about their love for Christ and all the great things He had provided for them. In my mind I would think, “sure, that’s great for you, but that just doesn’t apply to me.” The truth is, I didn’t get it. Wasn’t our life and the decisions we made up to us? And, if something unplanned did happen to us, wasn’t it up to us to make it better?

Control. That’s how I lived my life. I wanted to control everything around me, including the people closest to me. Manipulation, dishonesty, guilt – I had a lot of tricks up my sleeve. But, you know what? In the end, none of it worked. Not until I hit my bottom and realized once and for all I couldn’t control my life. In fact, I couldn’t control anything or anyone.

I’m envious of those who have always had an innate faith in God. I consider my husband one of those people who has never doubted or swayed in his belief and faith in God. For some of us, like myself, we only come to have that faith through trials and tribulations. I have never experienced something so freeing as when I finally surrendered the control that had held me prisoner for so long and gave it over to God. And, the thing is, life is so much easier now!

When I am worried, stressed or fearful, I give it over to God, knowing that He will take care of it. And, I trust, that no matter the outcome it is all part of His plan. In this crazy world, I cannot tell you how much peace and comfort it gives me to know that I have a God who cares about me and loves me just the way I am.

Making Things Happen

Henry David Thoreau

I did it! I FINALLY registered for my first mud run! What the heck is a “mud run” you might ask? Well, it’s usually a 5k run and obstacle course that takes place in the mud. Yes, that’s correct, in the mud. They’ve gained in popularity over the past few years and I’ve been wanting to do one ever since I first heard about them.

Let’s get this straight. I’m not a runner. I gave up running years ago when I developed bursitis in my knee (getting old sucks!). However, I do excercise on a regular basis, which mainly includes the elliptical and light weights. I figure I can survive the moderate running portion, but I’ll LOVE the muddy obstacle course. I mean, really, how often do grown women have an excuse to roll around in the mud by choice!?

If you ask my husband, I’ve been talking (key word) about doing a mud run for over a year now. I would research them, figure out which one would be best for me…and then do nothing.

When I was drinking, I had A LOT of great ideas. Oh, and let me tell you, they were great alright. I was that typical person who would talk and talk about ALL the things I was going to do, yet never actually take the step to do them. That little voice inside my head would somehow talk me out of it and I would find myself back at the beginning, talking but never doing.

When I got sober I realized fear had kept me from taking that first step from talking to actually doing. Fear had been that little voice inside my head saying “you can’t do that,” “you’re not good enough,” “what would people think?” Fear had held me back from truly living my life.

With this new year of resolutions and goals, I decided fear was no longer going to rule my life. So, when my friend told me about the mud run, I said “yes!” Before thinking, talking or debating it, I went online and registered. There. It’s done. I’m doing it.

Don’t let fear rule your life. Stop talking and start doing. Yes, it’s that easy.