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“You are only as sick as your secrets” yet so many of us choose to keep our sobriety secret out of respect to an outdated tradition.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

When We Feel Too Much

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel so much. I was reminded by my sponsor (again) today that I’m sensitive, emotional and all-too feeling at times. I’m sure there’s a million jokes that could be made about women and emotions, but in all seriousness, it can be devastating for someone like me; an alcoholic who used to drink to escape feeling.

I envy people like my husband who can be sad and empathize with what others are going through without taking on their feelings. Instead, I dive head first and take on their sadness, grief and heartache as if it were my own until it’s no longer about them, but about me (did I mention I can be really self-centered too?). Then, I slowly get sucked into this all-consuming depressive state of mind where everything is wrong and nothing is right in the world. My relationships and my spiritual life suffer. I find myself feeling angry, alone and isolated – the perfect storm for a relapse.

Even though I’ve been sober for a while now, it’s times like these when I know I can’t do this alone. I have to grab onto that life-preserver we call recovery if I’m going to pull myself out of it. Whether it’s going to meetings or meeting individually with my sponsor, I must be reminded on a regular basis that I AM AN ALCOHOLIC and what might seem laughable to some, is no joke for me. Because, that feeling, sensitive and emotional side of me that gets out of control at times could lead me to my death. Is that extreme? Maybe. Real? Absolutely.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as my sponsor looking at me and saying, “Chenoa, you need to put up some boundaries between other people’s feelings and your own.” Just because someone else is experiencing grief, sadness or pain doesn’t mean I have to take on their feelings as my own. I can feel bad for them and reach out to them, but I can’t, under any circumstances, let their experiences define my mood or behavior.

On this Ash Wednesday, I’m feeling renewed; stronger than I was yesterday or even this morning. As I go forward in this Lenten season, I want to focus less on myself and more on my spiritual condition and my relationship with God. I want to step out of myself and what I want for my life, and focus more on what God wants for me. How can I be the best version of myself? And, how can I better serve those around me?

I am reminded, yet again, that this is all part of the journey, and I find peace in trusting that God knows what He is doing and where He is leading me.

 

 

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!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Not So Bright and Shiny After All

After my baptism, I was convinced I would wake up the next morning radiating from the eternal glow I had. I was positive people would see the outward difference because, after all, I was totally free of all my past sins. In other words, I was squeaky clean.

But, the next morning brought the same early wakeup from the kids (earlier because it was Easter morning) and the same zombie-like walk to the coffee maker. The only thing I can compare it to is when you get married. You have this vision that marriage is going to completely change you overnight. But, like every other morning, you wake up and there you are. Same person, different last name (if you changed it). Of course, I’m simplifying this, but for the most part that’s how it felt.

Tyler asked me the next day, “Well, do you feel any different?” The thing is, I didn’t feel different, I felt complete. I felt like my whole entire life and all the experiences good and bad had led me to that perfect moment of my baptism. That’s what’s so great about this journey we’re all on. You never know where you’re going to end up, but at some point we can step back and say, “Ah, now I understand what it was all about.” If I had never come to that point in my life where I had sank to my lowest of lows, I wouldn’t be here today writing about this. Every joy; every sorrow; every disappointment led me to this place.

Yet, going forward, I was determined to make this new bright and shiny self last as long as possible. But, being human and all, it didn’t last as long as I wanted. As Tyler and the kids and I were driving down the street, a truck turned directly in front of us making Tyler swerve and before I knew it my arm was up and I was shaking my middle finger at them. Damn – I mean darn. Well, that was that. Tyler looked at me and said something like, “I guess that was short lived.”

So, I go forward being my imperfect self and continue to ask God for forgiveness, knowing that He knows my totally imperfect heart all too well.

XO

 

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.

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

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.

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”