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!

God Heard Me Today

Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

I haven’t felt very creative or crafty lately. I’ve been having a hard time. My OCD has been acting up and it’s put me in a type of paralysis. It’s strange because I find it more difficult to talk about my OCD than my alcoholism. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid people are going to think I am truly crazy – because that’s how it makes me feel.

Before I had kids, my OCD got really bad. I mean REALLY bad. Fortunately, with the help of my amazing and supportive husband, a good therapist and some medication I was able to get it under control. There are a lot of types of OCD. Mine is the more organizational, must have everything perfect type. Luckily, having kids helped because I didn’t have the time or the energy to spend on obsessing over whether or not the blinds were lined up perfectly (I’m not kidding). Once in a while I will have flare ups depending on my stress level, but nothing catastrophic.

So what happened? Well, we got a new car on Friday. It wasn’t about wanting a new one, we actually needed a new one. My husband’s car had really high miles and we needed something that I could drive around that would get better gas mileage. He took my Jeep and I got the sporty, shiny new black car. ALERT, ALERT. Now, we’ve had new cars before and it’s pretty typical of me to obsess over them for the first few days. However, this time it was worse. Before I go any further, I need you to know that this is real. OCD is a real illness that can be devastating. With some trepidation, I’m giving you a glimpse into this illness. Am I worried of what you’ll think? Yes. I’m scared you’ll think I’m crazy, which, I suppose you could argue that at times I am. Well, here goes.

The second day we had the car, I noticed there was a spot on the sun visor. I tried to get it off, but realized it was a small scrape – it wasn’t coming off. Even though the garage door opener would go directly over this spot, I could NOT get it out of my mind. I cleaned it a half-dozen times, hoping it would magically disappear. Well, of course it wasn’t going to go anywhere, but that’s OCD. I knew I was obsessing and I knew it was ridiculous because it was hardly noticeable. All I could think about was THAT spot. I went to bed thinking about it and I woke up thinking about it. I looked for a pen that might match the color of the visor, but no luck. I thought about replacing the visor. Too expensive and my husband would not go for that. Maybe I had some paint that would match it – nope. Yes, this is the craziness that goes through my mind. Of course, during all of this, I’m trying to put on a happy face for my kids and do all of the normal things I usually do. But, it’s hard. It’s really hard because all I can think about is the spot. I tell myself, I’m done. I’m not going to look at it again, but then I find myself looking at it in desperation.

The thing is, when I’m feeling like this I have no desire to drink. And, when I was drinking, I had less of a desire to obsess about things. Obviously, my happy place is when I’m not drinking and not obsessing, but just enjoying life. This is a fine line for me.

This morning, I was still spinning. I knew I had to do something. I was feeling desperate. I wasn’t going to drink and I wasn’t going to go trade the car in. Can you imagine the look on the sales guy face? Ha! As I was getting ready, I decided to do the only thing I knew I could. I got on my knees and prayed. I prayed to God that He would take away the obsession, take away the anxiety. I needed His help – I couldn’t do this alone. I got up and went back to doing my hair. As I stood there, a thought came out of nowhere. Put a sticker over it. Cover it up with something that will inspire you. And, I knew God had heard me. What a great idea! Why hadn’t I thought of that? I immediately called my husband and told him the answer. For the first time in three days, I felt my body let go of the anxiety it had been holding onto. I felt peace. Thank you, God. A simple answer, but just what I needed to calm the craziness.

I knew I had some inspirational stickers in the office left over from card making. I found them and began going through them. I had no idea what I was looking for – and then I found it. In simple black and white, there was a sticker that simply said “happiness.” That was it. I took it out to the car and covered up the spot with “happiness.”

From here on out, I will look at that sticker every day to remind myself of God’s love for me and that, over all else, I choose happiness.

One Year Later

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This is me. No makeup, no fillers, no lifts, no airbrush – nothing. This is how God made me. Clean and sober. Clean from the lies, manipulation and judgment. Sober from the alcohol that almost ruined my life. I never thought the day would come when I would say this, but I am truly a grateful alcoholic.

A year ago today, my husband asked me if I was ready to stop drinking for good. I knew it was coming, but to hear the words hit me in the pit of my stomach. Was I ready? No. Deep down I didn’t want to despite the devastating harm I had caused myself and my family. I could not imagine my life without alcohol. However, I knew I had to give it a try. If not for myself, I had to do it for my husband and my children. That was the first day of the rest of my life.

On Super Bowl Sunday, I attended my first recovery meeting. Before, we had gone to a friend’s house for a small get together and oh how I wanted to drink. Come on! This was the Super Bowl! Who cared about football, it was a legitimate excuse to get smashed! I didn’t drink and I was miserable. I left my husband and children there and drove to my first recovery meeting alone. It was possibly the scariest thing I have ever done in my life.

It was a women’s only meeting, but it didn’t matter. Walking through the door, I was terrified I would know someone, or even worse that someone would know me. What would I do? What would I say? Of course, it didn’t occur to me that they would be thinking the exact same thing. No, it was all about me. We, alcoholics, are good at making everything about us.

I introduced myself as an alcoholic, not truly believing that I was. It was the last place on earth I ever imagined myself. How could this be happening? How did I end up here? What now? God, I was scared. I was so scared. It was like a dream I couldn’t wake up from. If only they could see the truth. I was smart, educated, well-liked. Sure, I liked to have a good time, but I was NOT an alcoholic. And, yet, by the end of the meeting I found myself with a sponsor and attended a meeting every day for the next 30 days.

I would like to say that I got it immediately. I would like to say that I’m celebrating a year of sobriety this weekend, but I’m not. I was angry and I kept holding onto the fantasy of being “normal” again. I held onto it so tightly that it led me straight back to that first drink. Believe me, no one grows up hoping that one day they will be declaring themselves an alcoholic. It was the LAST thing I ever thought I would be.

I finally got it. I finally stopped fighting and surrendered to this path that God put me on. I cringed when I would hear people say that they were grateful alcoholics, but now I get it. I get it because I have experienced the promises of leading a sober life. I have experienced the joy and peace of living a life that is authentic and honest. I accept who I am; all of me. Because, I am exactly the way God intended for me to be. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Tomorrow, on Super Bowl Sunday, I will be extremely grateful to be surrounded by my sober friends at a sober party – yes, they do exist.

Be safe.

 

 

Taking Inventory

No pictures, no quotes, no DIY, no recipes. Today, was one of those days I needed to write. I started this blog so I could have an outlet to share my experience; my story; my sober life. It’s my therapy; my free form of therapy if you will (I’ve had plenty of the kind you pay for too). Sometimes I just need to vent. You may or may not relate to everything I talk about, but my hope is we will all relate on the human level. The level of just living life.

The last few days I’ve been feeling icky. Not icky in the sense of being sick, but icky in the sense of feeling anxious, agitated and stressed. I’m quick to snap and the smallest thing can push me over the edge. Usually, I notice my OCD acting up and I immediately know something is “off.” For a recovering alcoholic this is not a good place to be because it lowers our defenses against that first drink. And, for us, there’s never “just one drink.” It’s a scary place to be, which is why when I start feeling this way I know it’s time to take inventory.

It’s kind of like when you lose your keys and you have to stop everything you’re doing and go back in your mind to where you last saw them. In a similar way, I have to stop and go back to what happened to make me feel this way. Once I started thinking about it, I realized it started on Monday. For some reason the kids were at each other all day on Monday. I felt like I was constantly playing referee. Monday night my husband had to work late, which meant I couldn’t make my favorite recovery meeting and he wouldn’t be home to put the kids down – something he does every night. On Tuesday morning, he had to leave before the kids got up, which meant the kids didn’t see him that morning either. By this time, our routine was completely off. For better or worse, we are very routine oriented people and anything that deviates from that routine tends to put us all on edge, especially me. So, there you go, I figured it out.

Now, what could I have done differently to change my reaction to the situation? I could’ve prepared better by talking to the kids about the fact that it was a busy time for Daddy and he would be gone more than normal; I could’ve asked my in-laws to watch the kids while I went to my meeting (because I really needed one); I could’ve called my sponsor when I first started feeling stressed (because that’s what you do); I could’ve read out of my recovery books; I could’ve said some extra prayers or opened my Bible. I could’ve and should’ve. The important point I’m trying to make is that, through recovery, I have learned how to STOP and take inventory. How am I feeling and how did I get here?

I tend to think it’s a great tool for everyone, regardless if you’re in a recovery program or not. How many times have we kept tumbling out of control, never stopping to ask ourselves “what is going on?” Taking inventory of your feelings doesn’t mean blaming someone else for the way you feel, it simply means reviewing how you got to where you are and, hopefully, learning ways to prevent it from happening next time.

Yes, I am a planner and I like routine, but as I always remind myself – life is not perfect. Things come up. Heck, life comes up! As long as I am prepared with the tools I need to approach the unexpected and spiritually fit, I can tackle what life throws my way. I truly believe God will not give me anything I can’t handle, including two strong-willed kids!

Thanks for letting me vent!

 

Give Me Ears to Listen

Give Me Ears to Listen

Sometimes you hear the perfect song at just the right time. Like, when you’re driving in your car and a song comes on the radio and you immediately turn it up because it’s THE song. You could swear that you wrote the lyrics because it expresses what you’re going through – then and there.

I love it when this happens and I love it even more when it happens at church. Today, as I sat in church with my husband, I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe I was preoccupied with other thoughts or the strong scent of after shave coming from the old man next to me. We were seated in a different section and it bothered me. I’m a creature of habit (for better or worse) and little things like that make my head spin. I know, trivial, but it’s true (and I’m working on it). Anyway, as we stood to sing, I was overcome with a sense of peace as I sang along to the song. It was one of my favorites and I hadn’t heard it for a long time. As I continued to sing, everything else faded away and I was right there, in the moment.

Give Me Ears to Listen

by Timothy R. Smith

Let me be your servant; let me walk your way.
Guide me on your path; give night the light of day.
Let me be a sure foundation, pure and strong.
Let me tell of your salvation all life long.

Refrain
Give me ears to listen. Give me eyes to see.
Give me words to speak and show your face to me.

In silence, when you call me, let me hear your voice.
Jesus, walk beside me; let my soul rejoice.
When winds and currents batter me, help me be sure.
Give me courage from the storms when they occur.

Last night, when I awoke I heard you call my name.
You refreshed my soul; I felt your burning flame.
Oh, strengthen me to bear my cross and walk your way.
Give me grace to comfort those with all I say.

Please, God, always give me ears to listen – especially when I’m distracted with trivial things. Thank you.

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.