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

 

Have You Ever Heard the Ground Talk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New Year, New Look

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

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

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

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

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

Let the journey continue!

The Little Things

As I sit here on day four of post-surgery recovery, I’m tired but I’m so grateful for some of the little things, like taking a hot shower (alone), shaving my legs, going pee like a normal person without a catheter attached to me and the texts, calls and meals from family and friends.

I’m grateful for my husband who took over all the household duties and selflessly cared for me, which included emptying my “pee bag” and holding it while I took a shower; for my children who were so sweet and caring (and quiet) when I first came home from the hospital; for the first nurse I saw as I came out of surgery who happened to be a friend from my recovery program who kissed my forehead and reassured me everything was okay (definitely a God shot!).

I’m grateful for the message I received today from one of my doctors telling me my results were benign. I’m grateful that I could take my pain medication as prescribed and have no desire to take more than I needed, which can be a major issue for those of us in recovery regardless if we were previously addicted to them or not.

I’m grateful for my God who is with me in not just the good times, but the times when I’m scared or uncertain of what’s to come. Who gives me strength and peace in knowing that His will for my life has already been determined. I am not in control.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this blog. As you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing as much lately. I’ve felt a distance growing, which makes me think it’s time to bring this chapter to a close. Maybe I’ll start a new blog that focuses on something different. Maybe I’ll just focus on life as it happens.

I know this; my main focus is being the best mom and wife I can be. My sobriety has made that possible. My children are getting older and I want to be present for every moment possible.

More than anything, I want to focus on those little things that often get overlooked in our efforts to always be “doing” or “going” or “making.” I feel the need to be still.

God bless you on your journey.

 

 

 

 

The Truth Behind My Gym Clothes

And, the hits keep coming on the health front around here. I’m convinced this is God’s way of reminding me that this is not my eternal home and complacency is not what this life is all about. Just when I thought we were out of the woods (no pun intended) after Tyler’s surgery, the tables were turned.

Okay, so admittedly, I ignored some symptoms that I shouldn’t have – lesson learned. I was so focused on Tyler’s surgery and recovery that I put off going to the doctor when I really should have. So, after a routine annual exam with my doctor last month, I was referred to not one, but two specialists. Over the past three weeks, I have had a pelvic ultrasound, abdominal CT scan and blood work. I have been to my OBGYN, a rehab specialist (for my neck) and a urologist. All of this has confirmed that I have two kidney stones, a faulty seal on my ureter (I didn’t even know that word existed before all this), a uterine polyp and a messed up neck muscle. In two weeks, I start PT for my neck and in a few weeks I’ll have a double whammy surgery for the stones, seal and polyp. And, ironically it will all take place at the same surgical center where Tyler had his neck surgery. Really?!?!

And, of course, all of this is happening in the last few weeks of school and t-ball season. It’s times like these, I look at Tyler and say, “Okay, what gives?” And, it’s also times like these I have to put it all in perspective. None of it’s life threatening and in the grand scheme of things I’m still pretty healthy. And, despite it all I can find the humor in it – thank God for the gift of laughter!

Speaking of finding the humor in things, there’s nothing like sitting in the waiting room at the urologist’s office. As I looked around and observed the 70+ couples sitting together, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “So this is what Tyler and I have to look forward to. Morning dates at the urologist’s office. Perfect.” Sitting there in my gym clothes (aka I’m too lazy to get dressed in real clothes), I have to admit I felt pretty good about myself considering my fellow patients. Well, the joke was on me, because once I sat down in the young doctor’s office and he started talking about broken ureter seals, kidney stones and oh by the way, do you run? And, I say no because I have bursitis in my knee and my neck’s messed up, and oh can you remove the stones while my OBGYN is removing my polyp – yeah, I realize that the gym clothes are a total mask to how I’m really doing inside. Ugh. Another lesson learned…again. Looks can be deceiving.

Driving home, I flashed back to my drinking days and I was reminded how my gym clothes were always a great cover up when I was drinking. Because, really, anyone who’s in decent shape and wearing gym clothes could never be an alcoholic, right? Um, wrong. Those of us who try to cover it up are sometimes the worse.

So, now I’m just laying it all out for you. No more hiding behind gym clothes or anything else. This is it. Life goes on and we deal with those struggles and obstacles that pop up along the way. We don’t drink; we don’t hide; we just take it one day, one minute and sometimes even one second at a time.

Today, I am SO (scream it on a mountain top) grateful to be sober and to have a faith in a God who will always carry me on His shoulders through it all…until I reach my eternal home.

 

 

 

 

Cake, God and 18 Months Sober

18 Months

I had every intention of writing this post yesterday (which was my 18 month sobriety birthday), but it was a LONG day and after a dinner out with Tyler and a piece of my favorite cake, I was out like a light!

18 months. 18 freakin’ months without a single drink. Wow. In many ways it seems like yesterday and in others it seems like an eternity since I took that last sip of beer at our local Applebee’s. I had already had one relapse and despite the anguish and hurt it had caused me and my family, I still wasn’t ready to surrender. It was a hot summer day in August and I had just picked the kids up from going to the state fair with my in laws. There was tons of traffic and it was getting close to dinner time, so I decided to take a detour and get an early dinner at a nearby Applebee’s. I knew before I stepped in the door, that I was going to have a drink. Just one. No one would know. My kids were still too young to realize what was going on. It’s just a beer. So, as we ordered dinner I quickly looked around me (to see if there was anyone I knew) and ordered a Blue Moon beer. Perfect for a hot day. Our waitress returned with my beer and I looked around again before taking a big gulp.

As I took another sip and looked around, I felt embarrassed and guilty. As I sat there with my 3-year-old little boy and 5-year-old little girl, I suddenly wondered what the hell I was doing. Was it worth it? The shame, guilt and embarrassment? The lies? And, that was it. Right then and there with a beer at an Applebee’s, I decided I was done. It was the most uneventful drinking experience I had ever had, but I knew it was over. That part of my life was over and I was finally – FINALLY – ready to move on.

I drive by that Applebee’s multiple times throughout the week and it always sits there as a reminder of that day and that life-altering decision. That day, without fully knowing it at the time, I turned it all over to God. Without fully knowing or understanding, and without the exact words, I mentally said, “I can’t do this anymore. I need help.” I was tired of fighting; tired of hiding; I was just plain tired. And, I knew that I couldn’t do it by myself anymore. And, in my desperation and exhaustion, I decided the only thing I had left was God. I had been hiding from Him and pushing Him away for so long; I honestly didn’t know if He would still be there. But, He was. He was just waiting; patiently waiting for me to say, “Okay, God. I give up. If you’re so great, show me what you can do with this mess I’ve created.” And, yes, I gave Him a little attitude because, to be honest, I was still skeptical.

As I sit here today, there is no doubt that He was there; listening to that broken, stubborn and frightened woman. He took that mess and turned it into a walking, talking miracle. And, yes, I consider where I am, who I am and what I am a true miracle. I don’t pretend to know who God is, what God is and where God is. But, I know for me He is more real than anything in this entire world. He is the only reason I am who I am today and I will forever praise His name without shame, embarrassment or fear of what others might think. I lived in fear and embarrassment for a long time; afraid of what others thought about me. But, no more. I stand strong and proud of the woman I am today. I have done many things in my life that I’m ashamed of, but those things don’t define me. I am defined by who I choose to be today.

Today, I am so grateful for this journey. I am grateful for that moment in Applebee’s; for my sweet, beautiful children who sit next to me as I write this; for my husband who looks at me now with more love and admiration than ever before; for my family and friends who have loved me and shown me the true meaning of forgiveness and grace; for those who have guided me down the path of sobriety; for the humility I have experienced along the way; and thank God for the Old Fashioned cake at Gerry Frank’s Konditorei for getting me through those first few months of sobriety when all I wanted was chocolate cake!

Today is a good day. A very good day to be alive and sober.

And, God Said Be Still

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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.

Betty Draper Gets Sober – A Mad Men Party

Mad Men Party

Disclaimer: For the most part, I write about my recovery from alcoholism. But, I also write about my life in general. Things I’m passionate about, DIY projects, book reviews – and even parties. When I first got sober, I never thought I’d be able to go to another drinking party again, let alone host one. And, at first I didn’t. I was very careful about where I went and the situations I put myself in. As I’ve gotten further along in my sobriety, I’ve come to know what I can do and what I can’t do. What I feel comfortable with and what I don’t. Wine was my thing, so I stay away from wineries, wine tasting, sip and shop events and parties where wine is the main event. Although my husband still drinks around me, he chooses not to drink wine at home – I think mostly out of respect for me. I don’t keep wine in our house and, honestly, I don’t sit too close to someone who’s drinking wine. The smell still gets to me. With that being said, I don’t have a problem being around people who are drinking – socially and responsibly. It’s different for each person in recovery. Some people can’t be around drinking at all, or choose not to have drinking in their home. The key is finding what works for you without fear or embarrassment of what others will think. It’s not their life.

Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t hosted a “real” party since getting sober. But, with my husband turning the big 4-0, I figured it was time! We absolutely love the show “Mad Men” and had been talking about having a “Mad Men” theme party for awhile and what better excuse than a 40th birthday?!

So, with the decision made I put on my party planning hat and got busy! We kept it small, wanting to capture that quintessential cocktail party atmosphere. I created simple invites with silver cardstock and a velum overlay tied together with a red ribbon (I forgot to take a pic). On the invite, I requested that everyone “dress the part.”

With a little help from Google, I found some great ideas for décor and favors. For those who aren’t familiar, “Mad Men” takes place in the early 60’s, so I thought it would be fun to create favors using 60’s candy. I found a great online store called Old Time Candy where I was able to order a “decade box” of 60’s-style candy – how cool is that?!

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And, candy cigarettes because no “Mad Men” party would be complete without some smokes.

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For the favors, I used some simple red bags, some tags, a thank you stamp and a little ribbon (all things I already had) and divided the candy into ten individual bags. I think they turned out pretty cute!

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To set the stage for the party, I scoured our local Good Will for crystal ashtrays, serving platters and bowls. I wanted to find a classic rotary dial phone, but to my surprise they were out – they’re “retro” now which means they’re cool (which also means I’m getting old!). On the day of, I set the ashtrays around the house with a box of candy cigarettes nearby and a classic book of matches. Of course, my kids (5 and 7) were very confused by all the “smokers” in the house.

My husband was in charge of the bar area – which I was happy to delegate to him. Fortunately, we already had some pretty cool vintage cocktail shakers and barware. He stocked the bar with a number of items, so guests would have a variety to choose from. And, of course, we had some cocktail books on hand in case anyone wanted Don Draper’s favorite – the Old Fashioned.

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And, it wouldn’t be a “Mad Men” party without classic Coke in the bottle and Heineken (the featured beer on the show).

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And, for the martini drinkers, I brought out my grandparent’s olive green martini glasses. If those glasses could talk, oh the stories they would tell!

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Now, for the food! When I think 60’s cocktail party, I think cheese balls and pigs-n-blankets. You know, the really good stuff. Luckily, our local grocery store and Costco had all the fixings for a true 60’s spread! I also included sweet-n-sour meatballs, a cracker, cheese and salami tray, veggies with classic ranch dressing, artichoke dip, mini egg rolls and a dessert tray with a variety of bite-size brownies and cookies. Ta Da!

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Our guests came dressed to impress!

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Cheers to great friends and fun times!

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And, I’m happy to report this Betty Draper is still sober and loving it!

Oh, and just for kicks – because sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.

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Thanks for stopping by!

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These Are the Days

Be Yourself

I spent many years trying to be the person I thought others wanted me to be. I tried to act the way I thought they wanted me to act; look the way I thought they wanted me to look; say the things I thought they wanted me to say. Getting sober didn’t just give me a second chance at life; it introduced me to a whole new me – the real me. I was finally able to discover who I was. It was scary at first. I felt like I was learning how to live life all over again while getting to know myself. It was like dipping your toes into a steaming hot bath, until gradually your whole body is emerged in the water. And, once in, you take a deep breath and exhale, because at that moment all seems right in the world.

Very slowly, little by little I immersed myself into discovering who I was. What did I like? Who did I enjoy being around? Without booze, how did I react to boredom, anger, sadness, happiness? It was overwhelming at times, but also exhilarating. I’ve come a long way since those first few months. I’m settling into living life as me – just me. I like the person I see looking back at me in the mirror. I’m strong; I know what I like and what I don’t like; I’m okay with my imperfections; in fact, I embrace them because they are part of what makes up my imperfect self.

Lately, I’ve found myself at a loss for words when it comes to my writing. I’ve come to a place in my recovery where I don’t have daily struggles. Wait, let me re-word that. I don’t have the constant weight of recovery on my mind. Sober life and life have become one, which I believe is a miracle all in itself. Is life perfect? Heck, no! I still struggle like any “normal” person. I’m challenged daily by insecurities and relationships. However, I face those challenges with a strong sense of who I am and who I want to be.

When people ask me how I am, I say “Good, really good.” And, guess what? I mean it. For many years I didn’t mean it. Things might have been good, but there was always a “but.” Nothing was ever okay, just the way it was. There are certain areas of my life that I wish were different. Not everyone likes the person I have become. And, that’s okay. Like we say in recovery, it’s none of my damn business what other people think about me.

For now, I’m just living life. Enjoying those silly and sweet moments with my kids and husband. For those in the beginning stages of your recovery or who continue to struggle with staying sober, I hope you can find encouragement in my story. Life will never be perfect, but if you do the work and stay sober, you will discover a simple, enjoyable and rewarding life – a genuine life that is worth living.

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!