The most beautiful thing

Last week I spent a couple of days away from home. A friend of mine had surgery on her eye and I stayed with her to drive her and take care of her. She’s fine now and it was lovely spending that time with her. While I was there a young lady posted on my FB wall. A beautiful young lady who is beginning her sober journey. She wanted to share with me because she says I inspire her. I sent her a message right before I went to bed that night. I wanted her to know that the inspiration flows both ways. This is a young woman who has traveled the world solo. That is total bad assery right there. This is a brave woman who is completely capable of amazing things. I have no doubt that if she wants to be sober, she can do that too. She comes from a long line of strong ass women. I sent this message to her and then I went to sleep. Which might have been what got my dreaming mind spinning.

When a person is in recovery, it’s normal to have using dreams. Relapse dreams. I have them every so often and I never enjoy them. In this dream I was with a friend. We were out in the world somewhere, but I’m not exactly sure where. Some sort of party or event. I was trying to take a picture of us, but I wasn’t able to hold the camera and push the button at the same time. Because I was too drunk. She told me to just let her do it. This immediately made me feel some type of way. If you know me then you know I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures and NOT being able to do that hit me in a weird place. And I felt it in my dream. Then my friend, the one I was staying with, appeared in my dream. She told me how much fun she was having, dancing like she hasn’t danced in years. There was dancing and I had missed it. It occurred to me that I had been blacked out. I didn’t want anyone to realize that I was drunk and certainly not that I was THAT drunk, so I pretended to know exactly what she was talking about. I was lying in my dreams just like I did when I was drinking in real life. All of the same feelings were coming up for me too. It felt truly awful. So many people I know and love kept floating through. My yoga teacher was there. The special family of Rebel Soul’s that I’ve collected through the years in the studio. And, as always, my AA friend Dave who is 12 days behind me on the sober anniversary schedule was there. He always appears in my drinking dreams because somehow, in my mind, I have to beat Dave. When I am drunk in a dream, Dave is always “winning.” It’s ridiculous really.

I woke up with that “oh thank God it was just a dream” immediately followed by the “what the fuck was that?” feeling. Anyone in recovery is familiar with these dreams and the emotions they bring up. Relapse dreams are a part of sober life. When I woke up that morning, I shared the dream with my friend. We decided it was the message I sent before bed that set off my dreaming mind. I left her house that morning. It was Christmas Eve.

On the drive home I was feeling immense gratitude for this friend. For her heart. For her wisdom. Just so grateful for our connection. And then my mind drifted to home. To my boys who would be so happy to see me. To my daughter who would be coming over later that day. To my Leon who no doubt missed me the MOST for the two short days I was away. And again my heart filled with gratitude for ALL the love in my life. I was in tears. The good kind. The my life is an endless flow of love and it’s amazing tears. It occurred to me how different this particular Christmas Eve drive home was to the one I wrote about recently. (It’s right here if you missed it.) It really is amazing how much things change when we do the work. Then my mind went back to the dream. I thought about every single person who appeared in that dream. They all had one thing in common. Every person in that dream is ONLY in my life because I am sober. These were all people that I was never going to cross paths with in the drinking world. Ever. Because that world was small. Just wow. That realization hit me right in the feels and the grateful tears came again. I will probably never get used to this. When I was drinking, I didn’t notice how small my world was. Because I wasn’t paying attention.

Sober life is expansive. Even in the year 2020 which has felt mostly constrictive, my world has expanded. I know this because Expansion is my mantra word for the year. Hilarious, right? I have laughed about this so many times because the year has felt extremely constrictive. The exact opposite of expansive. A blog for another day. Soon. I have spent less time writing this year, and yet this little blog has landed in 79 countries. Probably because of Covid, and the fact that emotions, feelings and realities have been so amplified this year, more people have reached out to me asking for guidance, resources and support. This isn’t my job, but if someone reaches out, I do consider it my responsibility to help them. When I get to witness the light come on in someone, it’s like nothing else. I get to see their world expand. It’s the most beautiful thing. I have a string of FB friends that I’ve met this way. It’s an honor to watch their journeys from afar. It’s by far my favorite thing about social media. There are just as many things to recover from as there are ways to recover. I always tell the people who reach out to me to just pick a path and stay on it. Whatever path feels right is the path that will lead you home. Always. Even when it’s scary. Especially when it’s scary.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

Some of us have to die…

In the rooms of recovery it’s often said that “some of us have to die so the rest of us can live.” I have never really paid attention to this. It’s just a standard saying that I never put much thought into. I have lost people that I love from addiction, but never considered that they had to die so I could live. My ex husband died from an overdose. The biological father of my two oldest children. I am very familiar with loss. If I let myself sink into it, I can get really sad about it. Because he missed so much. I can easily get caught up in the what if’s. In the “if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved him” mindset. And maybe that’s true. But I didn’t know then. When I entered recovery I heard people in meetings say “get ready to go to a lot of funerals” or something to that effect. But really, I didn’t believe it because who dies from drinking? I identify as an alcoholic. Because, for some reason, that’s important in meetings. I am and will always be an addict. My drug addiction was so bad that it almost killed me by 23 years old and when I got clean, I was DONE with that life. Never did it occur to me that I could be an alcoholic. Until I could no longer deny that I was. But it also never occurred to me that people I loved would die from alcoholism. Because who does that?

The year I got sober, my cousin did exactly that. She was younger than I am now. I had been asked to speak at a women’s AA speaker meeting on the same day of her funeral. I chose not to attend her funeral and instead carry out my commitment to speak. I couldn’t help my cousin, but maybe I would share something that could help a woman in that meeting. Nobody realized just how much my cousin had been drinking. After she passed, her husband found bottles around the house that she had hidden. She must have been terrified. I know her body was giving her signs that it was shutting down. But she couldn’t not drink. She must have felt so alone. Her death was definitely a message to me to stay sober. I went to meetings and talked about it, and I am sure someone said “some of us have to die so we can live.” But it was lost on me what that meant. The real meaning behind it. It was all just words.

Earlier this year I lost another friend. This was a woman I had sponsored in AA. When I arrived in meetings, still drunk and spewing hate, this woman was there. Always with a smile and information about AA and all the things I needed to know. She was the first to give me her phone number and the first to be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. But I bounced in and out and didn’t stay in close contact with her. When I finally arrived in AA for real, sober and ready to do the thing, she wasn’t around. In my mind she had moved on with her sober life. Because also in my mind, everyone in those rooms had been sober forever. I spent those first few years of recovery changing everything about myself. Discovering who I was without alcohol and building a brand new life. A beautiful life. And one day about 4 years into my sobriety, she showed up. She had not been out living her best life like I had assumed. She had been out drinking. For years. She was blown away by how much I had changed. She started coming around regularly and we spent a lot of time talking. She asked me to be her sponsor. This is a woman who had been in and around AA for a LONG time. She had put together many sober years in a row, but just couldn’t manage to maintain it. She knew the literature way better than I did and if AA was a class, she would have passed with an A+. She knew it in her head way better than I ever will. But for some reason she couldn’t stay sober. I agreed to be her sponsor, which just means that I would take her through the 12 steps and be a sober support person for her. My only requirement was that she was always honest with me. And she was. I attribute meditation and yoga to my recovery just as much as I do AA. I suggested these tools to her and she was eager to jump in and try them. She too was ALL in and bought herself every prop possible for yoga as well as a meditation cushion and alllllll the books about the two. I spent a year with her sharing every tool I had. Every tool that worked for me. I encouraged her to find her own things as well. She joined a gym and got a personal trainer. She learned how to wrap crystals and make beautiful jewelry. She danced with me every chance she got and she even tried Kirtan, as weird as that was for her. We journaled and made vision boards. We went through the steps together. And she was joyFULL. A quiet joy as she was a quiet soul. But joyful just the same. It was so beautiful to witness. She made it to one year and then I’m not sure what happened. She lost it. She began drinking again. Off and on. Mostly on. I wanted her to be sober so bad. I wanted to see the joy on her face that I had seen when she was sober. But I didn’t know what else to do. I continued to work with her for a while. Encouraged her to be just start over. But she wasn’t getting sober. So I let her go. I promised to be her friend and sober support any time she needed me, but as a sponsor, I wasn’t the one. I had given her everything I had, taught her everything I knew and it wasn’t enough. I encouraged her to find another sponsor, because clearly, I wasn’t the one. We remained friends, although I rarely heard from her. She was drinking a lot and not contacting me. Then, in early August she called to check on me. The island had been hit by a hurricane and she just wanted to know that I was alright. It was 10 am and she was drunk. We talked for a while, she said she wasn’t doing well, and that she would see me soon. She was ready to get sober. One week later my phone rang and her name lit up on the screen. I told my husband I didn’t want to answer because I knew she would be drunk. I let out a grumble and I answered the phone. It was her husband. He was calling to tell me that she had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She died that evening. Her body could no longer handle the abuse. This one hit me hard. Not that I was all that surprised. We all expect these things. But I also expected to see her “get it.” Wanted her to ‘get it.” I had already seen it once, and it was beautiful. I went to a meeting the next morning and talked about it. The first person to respond said “some of have to die so we can live.” My initial thought was what an asshole thing to say. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach and for the first time, I understood what it meant. It means that I think of her when I dance, holding her in my heart and dancing with her. It means that while I am incredibly sad that she couldn’t get it, I have it and I am not willing to lose it. It means that I will keep writing these blogs for the person who needs to see them. It means that I don’t take one minute of this life for granted. It means that it could have just as easily been me. It means that I wake up each morning and choose recovery. I choose life. It means feeling all the feels and not numbing myself. It means being fully present in each moment, even the ones that suck. It’s life and it’s beautiful and terrible and everything in between. I choose it everyday.

She gave me this little figure for my birthday because it reminded her of me. She was always giving gifts and had the most beautiful, generous spirit. She is called Happiness. I think of her every time I look at it. I remember her joy. I picture her somewhere on the other side dancing with a little smile on her face and her arms stretched out. Feeling complete freedom. This is how I will always remember her. I am forever grateful that I got to experience those moments with her.

Fixmas

I’ve been baking all the cookies, making all the candy and doing all the shopping. I am really feeling the spirit of Christmas this year. Which is different for me. Usually I feel overwhelmed, and not at all excited about the holidays. Usually the Solstice hits, I have a ceremony, and boom. The magic hits me. This year things are different. I feel different. I’ve been taught to get curious about things when I feel different. To ask WHY? The obvious answer is Covid. We aren’t traveling this year and nobody is traveling to us. That could almost be enough. It certainly removes a lot of anxiety from the equation. But there’s a bigger why for me.

We have lived in this house for 15 years and we have spent Christmas here exactly two times. The first was the Christmas I ruined. The second was my first sober Christmas. I don’t really remember that one very well. Which is odd, since I was sober, but then again, it proves to me how jacked up my brain really was. The “Christmas that I ruined” might sound like another exaggeration, but I promise, it’s not.

I had been drinking around the clock for days, weeks, maybe even months. I really don’t know. I just know that I wasn’t able to make any good decisions. My brain wasn’t working properly anymore. I can put it together through Facebook memories and journal entries and it went like this. It was a few days before Christmas and I was on my way to do some Christmas shopping for the kids. Some of my friends were meeting at the bar at the pier for lunch. “Lunch” was liquid and after a few drinks, I wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t go anywhere. A girlfriend gave me a ride home that evening. When I showed up at home, drunk, with no packages because I hadn’t gone shopping, my husband was pissed. Hurt would work here too, but this hurt showed up as anger. He insisted that I get my car home from the bar. I don’t know if I took a cab or if someone came to get me, but I went back to that bar to get my car. Obviously I had no business driving. My husband was always the first one to take my keys and hide them from me, so I can’t really say what he was thinking. Other than he was hurt and angry, at his wits end and over it. The bartender wouldn’t let me order a drink. Believe me when I say it’s hard to get cut off at a bar that makes money selling alcohol. But, I had been there all day and they weren’t thrilled to see me back. So I cried like the raging alcoholic that I was, had a drunken fit and left. I drove to the library and called a friend who came and got me. I think we went to the ABC store, I know we went to a bar, and at some point we went to the home of another friend and really, who the fuck knows. I was blacked out and wide awake from what I’ve heard. It’s not pretty. Eventually I crashed. When I woke up the next morning, still drunk, I had zero desire to go home and face my family. So I went to see another “friend.” I knew I had to get the Christmas shopping done so we set off to the big city of Wilmington. Only I got sidetracked by a bar. And I didn’t go shopping. By this time my family and my real friends from all over were calling and texting, telling me to get my ass home. But I couldn’t. I wanted to. I just couldn’t make myself do it. And then finally, it was night time again. It had been two days since I had gone to retrieve my car. A friend who really loved me called me and talked me into coming to her house. She stayed on the phone with me while I drove to her. She was on the phone with my mom when I arrived. I remember nobody being mad at me. And this surprised me. They were all too scared. She talked me into going home.

When I got home, it was not the same welcoming environment where nobody was mad at me. It was the exact opposite of that. But I also didn’t care. I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember getting in the hot shower, sitting down, crying and throwing up over and over again. A lowest low for sure, but there would be many more even lower lows. I passed out. While I was out my husband went through my phone and saw every awful thing that I was. All of the awful choices I had made. It was Christmas Eve. He called everyone we knew to tell them ALL of it. It felt like he was telling on me. Gossiping about me. And he was. But he was really seeking support in the only way he knew how. I spent the day dry heaving, crying and attempting to be there for my children. I can’t even imagine how this looked. I know how it felt, because I can still feel it now and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I didn’t drink that day.

My husband went out with our friends that evening. It was Christmas Eve and someone was having a party. I stayed home with the children. I played Santa as best I could with the gifts that he had shopped for on his own. We woke up on Christmas day. The children opened their gifts and we tried to be happy. But there was no happiness. Not in the hearts of my husband or myself. And as much as I would like to think the children were happy, how could they have been. My only solace is knowing how this turns out. And then it was Christmas night. While most people were enjoying their holiday meals of Ham and Turkey or whatever they were eating, my family was eating Chinese food and we were grateful that the Chinese restaurants were open on Christmas. Because I just wasn’t able to pull it together and do more than that. This was the real eye opener to everyone who knows and loves me that I had a real problem. And yet, this isn’t when I decided I needed to stop drinking. I stayed sober for a few days I am sure. I found a therapist as well as a couples therapist shortly after Christmas. But it would be another 11 months before I got sober. The longest 11 months of my life. My youngest child has no memory of any of this. My older two remember bits and pieces. I still cringe at the scene of the family in A Christmas Story in the Chinese restaurant. After that awful year, Christmas always felt like a Fixmas to me more than an actual holiday. A time for me to repair the damage I had done in those awful days in 2011. I have written all about that year leading up to my sobriety in this blog, so I am going to skip most of that for today. Except to mention that the year was FULL of ER trips, medical detox, psych wards and treatment centers. As I sit writing this I can’t even recall exactly what led up to the final trip to a treatment center. I don’t think it was a big event and I don’t feel like digging in my memory bank. What I do know is this. My husband dropped me off at the front door and drove off. He didn’t get out of the car. He didn’t come inside and wait with me. He said “I hope you figure it out this time” as I was getting out of the car and then he drove off. I remember that I laid down on the couch in the reception area and when they were ready to admit me they had to wake me up. I spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the treatment center. My family could have came up to spend the day with me, but how awful would that have been? Even I wasn’t selfish enough to ask them to do that. So I spent Thanksgiving with a bunch of alcoholics and addicts eating shitty food. When it was time for me to leave the treatment center, my family wasn’t ready for me to come home. My husband had seen me do the same thing so many times that he was afraid I would immediately start drinking again. We made a plan and I went to a half way house. It was two weeks before Christmas and the women who lived in the house were busy putting up the tree when I arrived. Every day I was planning my escape. The house was less than an hour away from my home, so I was able to visit with my family from time to time. It really sank in with me that this was NOT the life for me. I needed to be with my children. I needed to be present in their lives. These people who lived in this halfway house were not my people. Even if they were exactly what I needed. And they were. My parents came from Kentucky to spend Christmas with my family. They wanted to make it a happy occasion and give some normalcy to a less than normal time. On December 21st my husband picked me up for a quick trip home. He planned to return me that evening, but I wasn’t having it. I knew before he arrived that I wasn’t going back. And I didn’t. I spent that Christmas at home with him, my children and my parents. The only memories I have are the ones I can piece together from journals. I know it was better than the year before because I was sober. My relationship with my husband was severely strained. For obvious reasons. My only thoughts during that time centered on not drinking. What a weird fucking time early sobriety is. Going to meetings, talking to sober people, trying not to drink. Insert a few wholesome activities to fill time and keep oneself from drinking. And repeat. I’ve heard it said that it’s much easier to stay sober than it is to get sober. Damn if that’s not the fucking truth. It blows my mind to look back at my journals and see the me of seven years ago. The me of seven years ago could have never pictured the me that I am today. I honestly only wanted to get well enough to leave my husband. Because I hated him and he was the bad guy, He was the bad guy who told on me when I was doing things I shouldn’t be doing. He was the bad guy who was always mad at me, again, because I was doing things I shouldn’t be doing. He was over my shit. He only real desire was to keep me alive through all of my extreme drinking so my children would have a mother. I never could have imagined that we would be together all these years later. I still aggravate the shit out of him. In different, mostly healthy ways. Recovery changes everything.

And to bring it all back to the here and now…..this year Christmas feels very special to me. For the first time in years. When I am curious about it, I know why. I am excited to be at home with all three of my children. My daughter doesn’t live at home and we haven’t been together on Christmas morning since she moved out, three years ago. Nothing about this year feels like FIXmas to me. I’ve done the work, I have fixed ME. This is the year to sit back and enjoy the blessings in my life. At home. Quietly. With the people I love the most. This is why I am so feeling it this year. In a year where so many can’t spend time with their families, mine is right here. I am grateful and I am blessed. This is my why.

December 21, 2013

No Magic Cure

Here’s a thing to know about me.  I like it when things magically happens for me.  When I don’t have to do any work and shit just gets done.  Rarely does this happen, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping.   I am currently waiting for this to happen with my taxes.  When a warning light comes on in my car, I prefer for it to magically go  off all on it’s own.  I not only prefer it, I expect it.  Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn’t.  When I announced to my readers that I am writing a book, I fully expected that I would magically have the discipline to sit down at the same time everyday and write.  Without distractions.  This has not magically happened for me.  YET.  I’m still hopeful.  I’m still writing.  Just not with the magic discipline I had imagined.  Certainly not with no distractions.  You best believe that when I declared to the world I was going to get sober I had no doubt that it would just happen for me.  Magically.  Because that is my preferred way.  I assure you it did not happen that way.  I pick up a lot of new followers and friends on social media because of my sober status.  Every time I post about sobriety, someone new reaches out to me to inquire about how it’s done.  I know how it worked for ME so that is always where I start. I also know that there are many ways to the top of the mountain, so I share resources that might be helpful.  I always give my time to the people who reach out for help.  If the person is local it almost always ends with them asking me to go with them to a meeting so they don’t have to go alone.  I always agree even though I rarely go to meetings anymore, because meetings are a great place to start.  I know that first meeting is super scary. Here’s an interesting fact.  I have gone to exactly zero meetings with the people who reach out and ask for help.  Because, inevitably, something else comes up and they can’t make it.  And I get it.  I so get it.  They know they have a problem, they kinda/sorta want to do something about it, but ultimately, they want it to happen for them.  Magically.  And I hope it does.  I also know that as much as I want it to happen for me, my taxes aren’t going to get done unless I do them.  My book isn’t going to get written unless I sit down and write it.  The warning light on my car is a toss up.  There’s a chance it actually could go off all on its own.  Doubtful, but possible.  For my readers out there waiting to magically get sober, I promise you it doesn’t happen.  Ever.  When I first arrived in the rooms of AA it wasn’t even because I had a problem with alcohol.  It was strictly because the people around me had a problem with my alcohol use.  I didn’t even try to get sober in the beginning.  I drank on my way to meetings.  I was in a meeting once and the person sharing made a reference to the bottles they used to hide in their active drinking days.  I learned in that meeting that lots of “those people” hid their drinking.  They hid bottles around the house so nobody would know they were drinking, or maybe just how much they were drinking.  That knowledge changed my life.  It was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard.  Why hadn’t I thought of it?  That knowledge changed my life because on that day I started to hide my drinking.  That decision (if you can call it that) changed my life in awful ways.  Seriously.   Once I started to hide my drinking it made perfect sense to have a drink at 6 am.  Why not? Nobody would know.  It would be as if it didn’t happen.  On those mornings I would hold my hand under the ice dispenser and catch the ice as it fell so it wouldn’t make noise hitting the glass.  I would make breakfast and pack lunches while drinking bourbon.  Those days all run together and none of them make sense.  I do know that some of those mornings I would wake up and know that I had things to do and if I started drinking, I wouldn’t be able to do them.  I started to understand the severity of the situation when I would promise myself I wouldn’t drink until 5 pm (or let’s call it 2 pm) but my hands would shake so badly that by 8 am, I was having a drink to make them stop.  That’s when the fear set in for me.  That’s when I really began to understand that no matter how much I wanted to wish myself sober it wasn’t going to happen.  I was depressed and the alcohol was making that, along with everything else, worse.  I felt like the biggest loser in the world.  Really, who drinks so much that their body becomes addicted to alcohol and they have to drink in the morning to function?. How does this happen to a woman in her 30’s who has everything in the world that should make her life perfect?   In my mind that kind of alcoholism was reserved for the people who lived under bridges and drank from  brown paper bags.  But in my heart, I knew what this was. And it terrified me.   I had been addicted to “worse” things.  So I thought.  And I had beaten those addictions.  But once I crossed that line with alcohol, and my body was physically addicted, it was the same horrible addiction as any other addiction I ever had to fight.  And it took me down lower and lower for the next year and a half.  There was no magical cure for me.  I had to decide that I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink.   That meant that I had to choose sobriety above all else.  When things sucked, and everything does in early sobriety, I had to choose not to drink.  I had to stop making excuses and show up every day ready to do the work.  I had to stop expecting that I could latch onto someone who would make it easier for me.  It’s lonely getting sober.  (Latching on is a whole different set of issues.)  We are all familiar with the term one day at a time, but it’s often more about one hour, one minute or one breath at a time.  It’s a fucking battle some days.  In the beginning, I would say it’s a battle most days.  Being in contact with people who are in the midst of it and looking for a way out keeps it fresh for me.  It is so much easier to be sober than it is to get sober.  Getting sober is for the warriors who have the strength to say I want to live.  I never expect the people who reach out to me to “get it” right away.  And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful each and every time.  Because I am.    I just hope they get it before it’s too late.  I’m here for anyone who reaches out.

Solitude Is My Friend

solitude.JPG

 

This weekend I escaped.  All alone. To a cabin in the woods.  I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while.  My sweet husband booked the cabin for me as a Christmas gift.  My intention was to come here and spend the weekend writing.  Which I have done, along with reading, hiking, napping and all the other beautiful and quiet things.  But let me back it up just a bit.  I arrived on Thursday and pulled right up to my cabin.  I walked up to the door and used the code I had been given to open it.  It wouldn’t open.  So I tried again.   And again.  No luck.  I called the cabin rental office and they informed me that my cabin wouldn’t open because that wasn’t the cabin I had reserved.  I was sure they were wrong.  I had specifically told my husband that THIS was the cabin he needed to book.  Surely he didn’t do it wrong.   They directed me down the gravel road to another cabin that they said was mine.  I used my code and it unlocked immediately.  This was NOT my cabin.  This cabin didn’t have an upstairs loft area.  This cabin was one big room and a bathroom.  This cabin meant that I would be sleeping between the front door and the back door with no walls in between.  There would be nowhere to hide should a murderer bust in during the night.   I was prepared to be able to hide upstairs in the other cabin.  I called the man at the cabin rental office again.  He said he was sorry, but, this cabin was the one that had been booked.  I told him I wanted to switch my reservation because I wanted to be in that other cabin.  Again he apologized and told me it was already booked.  I wanted to cry.  This was not what I had seen in my mind’s eye and I couldn’t get past it.  I was pissed and in that moment, all of the things I practice went away.  I had a mini meltdown on the phone with the man.   I was already scared to be here by myself.  In the woods.  Now I was surely going to die here when someone busted through the front door that I would be sleeping near.  The man got an ear full of my F bombs.  Not that there is anything wrong with the F word.  We all know it’s my favorite.  But these were angry F bombs.  Not my norm.  I didn’t want to call my husband immediately, because I knew I was too upset and I would blame him for messing up the reservation.  I also knew he was taking a nap.  That worked out well for him.  I looked around the tiny cabin as I was attempting to calm down and the first thing that popped into my head was that the only thing to do in this tiny place is to get fucked up.   Seriously.  That’s the thought that went through my head because I didn’t get the cabin I wanted.  My next thought was “Holy Shit, what is wrong with you?”  Followed by “Maybe I need an AA meeting.”  Followed immediately by “Hell no.  You are here for solitude, the last thing you need is to be around a bunch of AA people.”   I think a lot of thoughts, all the time.   Which is why I write and why I meditate.  I texted a friend who is also in recovery and while I never mentioned having that thought, I did tell her about the “horrible” experience I was having.  Her response helped me reframe my thinking.  The cabin is far from horrible.  It’s cozy.   It’s actually perfect and after I made myself dinner in the full kitchen, I settled right in.  I came back to gratitude and realized that I was being  a spoiled baby.  Which I can be.  I read all evening and went to bed.  I didn’t get murdered.  Yesterday I decided I needed to get outside in the fresh air.  There are tons of great trails here.  I drove two miles down a gravel road and arrived at the trail I intended to hike.  When I got there, there were three men in the parking lot.  I sat in in my car trying to decide if I wanted to go in or not.  I put my hiking boots on, and watched as these three put all of their gear on.  They had everything.  It looked like they weren’t coming out for a few days.  I didn’t feel good about going in alone behind them.  As I was leaving, I noticed they all had Eagle Scout stickers on their car.  They were probably exactly the kind of people you want on a trail with you.  But, I was over it.   I found another trail nearby, but on the side of the road leading to the trail head were tons of Busch Light cans and boxes.  All I could picture were drunk men in the woods, waiting to rape and kill me.  Or kill and then rape me.  Basically, the woods was full of drunk men waiting to attack me.  I knew it.   I passed on the trail.  I tried one more time.  And I hit it.  No beer cans.  No people.  Perfect.  I went into the woods a little ways, but I was still scared to go too far by myself.  The trail was marked well and I mostly felt safe.  I got the fresh air I wanted and went back to the cabin.  I thought of a million things I could do with my time, but I made myself do the thing I came here to do.   I started writing.  I wrote and wrote and wrote until 1 am.   This morning, I made coffee, got right back in the bed with my laptop and wrote some more.  I wrote a solid chapter in what will  one day be a book.  It might not be the book I have in my head, but it’s definitely a chapter.  But not a first chapter.  A middle chapter.  Which is odd, because that’s not how I had it pictured in my head, but then again, this weekend hasn’t been what I pictured.  But it’s been perfect.  There was a thunderstorm last night.  It poured rain, the cabin shook and the power went off.  And, I didn’t flip the fuck out.  The battery was charged on my laptop and I kept on writing until the power came back on.  And I thought, “Look at me. I am such a bad ass.  I’m not even freaking out.”  LOL  I told you I think a lot of thoughts.  I went back into the woods today.  Back to the trail that proved to be a winner for me yesterday.  This time there was a truck parked at the trail head.  I could see a woman’s jacket inside and that was somehow comforting to me.  I went further down the trail today.  If I had a week here, I might make the entire loop around. Not unlike exposure therapy.   I noticed one can on the side of the trail today.  It was an unfamiliar can.  Blake’s Hard Cider.  Mango Habanero.  6 1/2% alcohol.  It said El Chavo on the side.  Google tells me this is the name of a sitcom.  Or a wrestler.   For whatever reason, I felt better about this empty can than a can of Busch.  Obviously, the person should have carried out their trash, but they probably weren’t drunk and waiting to attack me.  Emphasis on probably.  As much as I love solitude, I don’t think hiking alone far from home is for me.  I wanted it to be, and maybe it will be someday, but I’m not there yet.  But the back porch here is lovely and I am right in the woods.  Tomorrow I will rejoin the people in the world, but solitude is my friend and I am going to find ways to incorporate more of it into my life.

Freedom

It recently occurred to me that I am the face of recovery for a lot of people.  I get a lot of messages and emails from people who want to know about treatment options, meetings, therapy and so on.  I respond to every one of them.  A few weeks ago a friend asked me to connect with someone who is struggling with alcoholism.  She specifically wanted this woman to read my blog. She could have sent it directly to her, but I think she thought it would mean more if I connected with her myself.  So I did.  I emailed her and slipped my blog into the email as a way of introducing myself.  She responded and opened right up to me about her own struggle with alcohol.  I had lunch with her this week.  That’s a thing I do. If a person is struggling and I can be of service in my own small way, I am all about it.  But, let me throw it out there that plenty of people reach out to me who have no desire to help themselves.  I am learning the difference and learning how to have boundaries around that.  Everything is a process, right?  Not that I haven’t been that person in the contemplation stage of recovery, where I knew it was a thing I needed, but wasn’t ready to commit to it.  I get it, but I don’t have time for it.   On Friday I met this woman for lunch.  I was sure it would be a bit awkward, but it wasn’t awkward at all.  She told me she had read my blog and she asked me if I was afraid someone would find it on the internet and read it.  WOW.  That kind of blew my mind and gave me a full understanding of where she is in her journey.  Hiding.  I told her I hope lots of people find it and read it and connect with it.  I told her I share so other people won’t feel so alone in their own struggle.  I assured her that everyone has their own shit.  Not everyone struggles with addictions, but everyone has their own shit that they are dealing with every day.  Some people just hide it better than others.  My heart hurt for this woman as I watched her hold back tears several times throughout the hour we spent together.  She used the word ‘Shame” and it took me right back to early recovery.  Shame is what kept me stuck for a long time.  I could feel her loneliness.  I could feel her grief.  I could feel her unworthiness.  All of these were so familiar to me.  I wanted so bad to give her the freedom I have.  The joy I have.  The self love and self worth I have.  But I couldn’t.  I could just hold the space for her.  I could listen to her.  I could tell her all the things I needed to hear when I was where she is.   I could answer her questions. I talked to her about treatment centers and outpatient facilities.  I talked to her about meetings. I talked to her about meditation. I talked to her about finding things to bring joy into her life.  I talked to her about the power of community.  And over and over I just kept reminding her that she is worth these things. I tried to make sure that she really understood that.   In addiction, those feelings of unworthiness are deadly.  I know because I’ve been there.  Fortunately, I had children that needed me to live.  That made it possible for me to keep going before I understood that I was worthy all on my own.  Figuring that out took work.  That’s not something I can give to someone.  I can give someone my time and attention.  I can give my heart.  I can tell them over and over that they are worthy with every positive affirmation in my being, but ultimately, they have to find it within themselves.  And oh how I hope this woman finds it.  I hope she finds her light and her strength.  I hope she finds community to connect with so she can understand that she is not alone in this world.  I hope she comes out of hiding and steps into a big world that is ready to help walk her through her process.  When she expressed her concern about people finding my blog and reading it, I explained to her that for me, putting it all out there has been incredibly healing.  No hiding.  The years I spent hiding were the loneliest years of my life.  Allowing myself to be seen in this world exactly as I am, not perfect, sometimes messy, awkward, insecure, and whatever else shows up on any given day has given me freedom.  That freedom is there for everyone.  It’s just a matter of stepping out of hiding and showing up in the world.  However that looks.  

Reflecting

I’m coming up on a sober anniversary next month. Anniversaries are always a weird and reflective time for “us sober people.” Last week I was all up in my journals from 2012.  I got sober in 2013.  2012 was a difficult year for me as well as those close to me.  It was 2012 when I landed in my “first” AA meeting.  I mean, technically I had been to meetings when I was 21, but those don’t count because I was obviously in the wrong place.  Right?  People accidentally end up in AA every day don’t they?  The morning of my first meeting I woke up hungover and still slightly drunk like every other day.  I got my children ready for school.  As I was preparing to drive them to the bus stop I couldn’t find my keys.  Then I noticed my bourbon was missing.  And my wallet.  I hadn’t been anywhere the prior evening.  These things weren’t missing.  They had been hidden from me by my husband the night before to be sure that I didn’t go anywhere.  And I was pissed.  I took his truck to the bus stop, put my children on the bus and came back to the house.  Since I couldn’t find my bourbon, the next logical step was to look for other alcohol in the house.  And I found it.  Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Those were a thing in my life.  Technically, I drank Mike’s Harder Lemonade and because that still wasn’t hard enough, I added vodka to them.  On this morning I couldn’t find any vodka.  So I cracked open a Mike’s and called a friend.  It was 7:00 am.  I spent the next 10 minutes on the phone bitching to my friend about what a horrible man my husband was for hiding all of my things.  I hated him.  I hated him policing me and I hated him acting like he was my father.  I told him this regularly.  My friend interrupted my rant and asked why I was drinking at 7 in the morning.  I didn’t understand then that I had no coping skills and drinking AT the problem was my solution.  I was just drinking because I was pissed off.  My friend told me I needed to go to an AA meeting.  For some reason this excited me.  Probably because I was just drunk enough that this sounded fun. It was certainly something different to do with my day. She said she would come pick me up and drive me to the meeting.  She had already found one online and it started at 8 am.  Perfect timing.   I got off the phone and got ready for my new adventure.  Here comes the good part…….My friend called back and said her car wasn’t in her driveway.  She forgot that she had been drinking the night before and left her car parked elsewhere.  She couldn’t take me to the meeting.  At this point, I was ready and I was going to the meeting.  I called another friend who seemed to think it was  a great idea for me to go to an AA meeting.  She came over immediately.  I grabbed another Mike’s out of the fridge and jumped in her car.  She drove me to the church and pointed out the blue AA sign that was hanging in the window.  She was familiar with meetings and had been to many herself.  Court ordered, I’m sure.  I poured out what was left of my hard lemonade and walked inside.  This new adventure was neither fun nor exciting, I promise.  But, I am fairly certain I brought some excitement to the meeting.  It was so weird.  If you have never been drunk in an AA meeting at 8 am, you might not get it, but if you have, well, you know.  There are no words.  Keep in mind that I voluntarily showed up here.  Nobody made me go.  And it was in this moment that I chose to unleash every bit of anger I had inside of me. I was angry at my husband.  I was angry at my life.  I was angry that I was the one in the AA meeting when clearly, all of my friends should be there with me.  The room was full of “old men drinking coffee” and one woman who I now know was new to recovery.  She was probably terrified.  I was asked to introduce myself but refused to do it the way they had done it.  I would not call myself an alcoholic. I most likely told them “my name is Shannon and I am a mermaid.”  That was one of my favorite ways to introduce myself in meetings there for a while.   I let them know that the 12 steps were bullshit and they didn’t work.  Obviously they didn’t work since I had been to a few meetings when I was 21 and here I was, not sober.  I cussed and cried and called them names.  They came at me with smiles and pamphlets.  AA people are big on their pamphlets.  They told me to “keep coming back.”  They invited me to a speaker meeting that evening in the same church.  They told me there would be cake and promised me that it was a fun time.  Nothing about this sounded like fun to me anymore.  However, I agreed to come back and told them I would bring a “fucking casserole to their sober party.”  I still owe them a casserole.  I called a different, more reliable friend to come and pick me up when the meeting was over.  Now I was armed with pamphlets and a schedule of all the local meetings.  We drove to my friend’s house (the one who couldn’t find her car), to tell her I had made it to AA.  She was pleased until I snagged a beer out of her fridge.  That part just confused her. I  made a plan to hit the next meeting on the schedule.  At noon.  I am sure there were several beers in my life before I hit the noon meeting.  My friend (the reliable one) actually went to the meeting with me.  She was my designated driver for the day. Again, when the meeting started, I felt the need to unleash every bit of anger in my being.  The AA people directed their comments to my friend.  Probably because it was clear they were going to be lost on me.  My memory of this second meeting is a bit more fuzzy than the first.  Thanks alcohol.  I promise I was an asshole.  I like to think that was the last meeting I went to on that day, but I can’t be sure.  I do know that I went back the next day.  To a women’s meeting.  I hated it and I hated them.  I am sure I told them about it too.  The women weren’t nearly as kind to me when I cussed and cried as the old men had been.  I was not a fan of that meeting or those women and didn’t go back for a LONG time.  But I did keep going to meetings with coffee drinking old men.  Usually when I was drinking.  Sometimes I would wait until afterwards.  I went to meetings for a solid year without really trying to not drink.  I kept thinking that eventually I would want to be sober, and when I did, I would just stop drinking. I honestly thought it would be THAT simple. Unfortunately, the not drinking part was the hardest part of getting sober.  Who knew?  I’ll tell you who knew…….every freaking sober person in the world.  Every person who had been sharing at those meetings I had been going to.  We all know how this story ends.  I am sober today.  I am sober because I took that ALL IN thing I do and applied it to my recovery.  I went ALL IN with meetings sometimes going to two or three a day. I went ALL in with meditation, creating a local group to sit with and going to meditation retreats. I went ALL IN with yoga which is why I now own a yoga studio. These three things were the magic combination for me. It’s different for everyone but that magic combination is there for everyone. You just have to find what works for you. And now, here’s the kicker……the easiest part of being sober is the not drinking part.  Seriously. 

Self Discipline is the Highest Form of Self Love

Last night I shared a quote in moon circle that I am completely in love with.  “Discipline is the highest form of self love.”  I shared it because there was a woman in the circle who needed to hear it.  There were probably others who needed to hear it as well. I need to be reminded of it constantly.  Someone recently commented on one of my FB posts that I am so disciplined.  And I loved that she saw me that way. It’s more true than not.  I am all about self love.  I am all about naps, and eating to nourish my body, writing in journals and big fat bubble baths.  With snacks.  Self love can look like that.  Self love can also look very different.  I once had a therapist tell me I had to learn to love myself enough to tell myself no.  I have no doubt that I was filling her ears with all sorts of nonsense that was going on in my personal life.  I got away with ridiculous things because nobody ever told me no.  Nobody ever told me I couldn’t/shouldn’t do a thing that was obviously harmful.  In fact, I talked most people into doing those things with me.  I had some pretty unhealthy habits going on at the time.  Loving myself enough to tell myself no wasn’t one of them.  This was just one of many things she told me that I paid no attention to.  Because it was all bullshit.  I really could not fathom living a different way. Until I did. I stopped drinking before I wanted to.  It was a have to.  Looking back, I realize that giving up alcohol was a radical act of self love even though it felt like the exact opposite.  Self love is also saying yes to the things that are good for us.  I had to say yes to AA because that’s where I was going to meet sober people.  Sober people didn’t exist in my world.  I had to go to the weird meetings with “those people.”  I wasn’t like those people.  I was different.  Special.  That therapist assured me that I was not special.  Just like that.  “You’re not special.”  Asshole.  I was pretty sure she was wrong about that one.  I was pretty sure she was wrong about most things.  But, here’s the truth.  I’m not special.  None of us are.  And we all are.  We are all humans doing the best we can with what we have to work with.  Back then, I didn’t have a lot to work with.  But I have had some amazing teachers on this path and I am a completely different person than I was 6 years ago.  Because I pay attention.  This morning I sat down to write about Discipline, but I hadn’t yet been on my mat and I just couldn’t bring myself to write about something I wasn’t practicing.  So I got up, went down on the dock and practiced yoga.  Because I love myself enough to do the things I know are good for me.  I love myself enough to pursue the things that are going to lead to my ultimate happiness even when they aren’t necessarily the things I feel like doing.  My alarm is set for 4:30 am.  On weekdays, I wake my children around 5 am.  This gives me 30 minutes to myself.  I use this time to meditate and write.  My preference would be to drink coffee and scroll on my phone.  I’m not perfect and sometimes that is exactly how I spend my quiet time.  That is NOT what nourishes my soul.  I don’t wake up at 4:30 excited to write and sit in silence, but I do it because I know it keeps me sane.  It keeps me connected. I’m not telling you to wake up at 4:30 am. In fact, every evening before I fall asleep my mind begins to tell me all of the reasons I can’t wake up in the morning and do what I want/need to do. If I listened to this voice, I would never practice in the shala because Wilmington is too far to drive. I would never get on my mediation cushion because I have chores to do.  I would never sit down to write because someone, somewhere, needs me to do something for them.  There are always reasons that I shouldn’t wake up early for my morning practices. They are all very believable reasons.  The little voice in my head throws them all at me when I set my alarm and get in bed. That’s my self sabotage voice.  This voice will have me wasting my time, sitting on my ass, drinking coffee and scrolling on my phone.  Really.  That voice will have me wasting entire days if I let it. I don’t have that kind of time because there are so many things I want to do.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do need days that are quiet and restful.  Recovery time after big “extrovert events.”  I need solitude.  We all know I need my naps.   But, I also need to do the things I know are good for me. Especially when I don’t want to. I only dread these things until I get started.    And then……then comes the sense of accomplishment.  The good feelings.  The joy. I have been practicing this lifestyle for quite a while now, and I know the practices that keep me centered.  I am not a runner, but I am willing to bet that runners don’t jump out of bed eager to go running every day.  I also imagine the people who hit the gym every day don’t always feel like it. Artists probably don’t want to create every day. I could go on and on, but you get it. Everything we do is a practice and being disciplined is no different.  Discipline is loving ourselves enough to say no to the things that aren’t good for us and loving ourselves enough to say yes to the things that are.  It’s dropping the distractions to focus on what truly needs our attention. It’s picking up our tools when we are having a shitty day and using them when we want to wallow in misery.  It’s keeping the promises we make to ourselves.  Discipline really is the highest form of self love.  

I Hope We All Make It.

I never tire of seeing this poem.  Ever.  I came across it on Instagram yesterday and was reminded of the first time I ever saw it.  The therapist that I’ve mentioned a million times here gave it to me.  I realize now that it must have been frustrating for her to see me week after week, give me tools, and watch me not use any of them. I see other people do it and it frustrates me. I’m fortunate that I did have these resources available to me and people who pushed me to eventually use them.  I had people who loved me and wouldn’t let me drink myself to death.  This poem was posted on Instagram yesterday and it stopped me mid scroll. I read the poem for the thousandth time. All the feels came over me.  I used to carry this poem with me in a journal.  I always felt the power in it’s simple message and understood that this was for me. I just wasn’t ready to “walk down another street.”  When I arrived at the treatment center where I finally got sober, this poem was with me.  Honestly, all sorts of things were with me.  I can’t seem to go places without ALL the books, ALL the journals and ALL the pens.  Even when I was too drunk to read any of the books or write coherently in my journals. I’m sure I arrived with a stack of self help/therapy books and handouts. The poem found its way to the refrigerator in the “home” I shared with the other women. I wanted the other women to be able to see it every day.  I wanted to share any inspiration I had with these women.  I wanted to see them get better.  I wanted to see them “walk down another street.” My heart hurt for all of us in that place.  Yesterday, when I saw this poem it brought back a flood of memories.  When I was in that center, I decided that I was going to be sober because I needed to live.  Not because I necessarily wanted to live.  Not because I thought I was worthy of anything that remotely looked like a happy life, but ultimately, staying alive to be a mother to my children was the goal.  I had been in therapy for quite a while as well as going to DBT groups.  You can read about DBT here. I had been going to AA meetings and I owned every self help book ever written.  Not that I ever used any of those tools, but they were there waiting for me to pick them up.  I began with positive affirmations.  As hokey as that was to me. I went to the office where all the rehab “therapists” were and asked to borrow Post It notes. I was denied by the woman I asked because clearly, she was a bitch. And I told her that. Then I got “rehab reprimanded” for letting her know I thought she was a bitch. I probably cried and carried on in a dramatic way after I left the office. I use that word “probably” loosely here. By the end of the day, I had Post It notes in my hand. I wrote affirmations on the Post It notes and put them all over my bedroom walls as well as on the mirror in the bathroom.  My housemates asked me to write affirmations for them. Soon, the ladies from the other houses at the facility were asking me to write affirmations for them. I spent my mornings writing affirmations for all of the women in the center. These women would come find me in the morning and ask me if I had post it note for them. I always did.  I remember so clearly how happy these little Post It notes made them. I believed every positive word I wrote for these women. I believed they were strong, smart, capable, loved, powerful and every other lovely thing I wrote. But I didn’t believe I was any of those things. It occurred to me as I read this poem today that this was where the me who inspires, supports and empowers women was born. It was born from a place of needing to be inspired, supported and empowered. I didn’t believe these lovely things were true about me, but the hope and joy they brought to the women around me was everything. Every word I wrote were the words I needed to hear. I could see the trauma, the pain and the grief that had brought them to this place, but I couldn’t see my own. Writing these affirmations gave me a sense of purpose. It was a positive act that was also an esteem building exercise. In my own small way, I was being of service to others. Ahhhhhhhh. What a concept.  One that up until this point, I had only heard in AA.  Up until this very moment, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing.  Acts of service and esteem building exercises were out of my normal realm. Up until this point, I had been tearing myself down day by day. This was surely the beginning of me learning to love myself. After I left treatment, and went back into the real world, I went public with my sobriety. Being social media drunk was never a secret, so there was no reason to keep my sobriety a secret. Social media has always been a great tool for my recovery. I follow tons of great sober Instagram accounts. I belong to FB recovery groups. I read blogs by women just like me. In fact, those blogs were where I first REALLY felt like there were people I could relate to in this world.  I began to use my own social media pages as a way to share my story and the message of recovery. A message of hope.   People tell me all the time that I inspire them. And I love it. It brings me joy. I love to see people win and if I can support that in some small way, I’m all about it.  But, honestly,  I never set out to inspire anyone. We all have a story.  I just knew I was supposed to share mine.  Being able to write in a way that connects with people is a gift and who am I to not use that gift?  And oh my goodness…..I had no idea how many people would resonate with my words.  I have met and connected to so many amazing people because someone sent them to my blog, my FB page or my Instagram.  I have connected to people’s sisters, cousins, mother in laws, friends of friends, random strangers and my personal favorite is when my therapist friends send their patients to my blog or to my yoga classes.  When a woman walks into my studio and says her therapist “sent her”  and I can see that she’s slightly terrified…I love that the most! I love it because I was that terrified woman going into the yoga class because my therapist said it would be good for me. It’s all so beautiful to me. Friday I had lunch with a woman I met through a mutual friend. I had met this woman exactly one time and I think it must have been two years ago. But we are connected on social media, so it’s kind of like knowing her without really knowing HER. Social media is weird. I know lots of people feel like they know me. And….they sort of do, but you can’t really know someone without spending time with them.  The lunch came about in a random way because I followed my gut and reached out to her rather than ignoring my intuition. This sweet woman, and she is sweet but really, she is a 75 year old complete bad ass, told me that she reads everything I write. She told me that I inspire her and so many other women. She was full of kind words for me and she did it in a graceful way that didn’t embarrass me or cause me to go all weird and awkward.  We were instant friends and it felt like we had known each other forever. It was comfortable. She talked about her daughter during lunch. I had absolutely no idea that she lost her daughter to an accidental alcohol and pill overdose 15 years ago. In that moment I knew exactly why we were together at lunch. In that moment I understood our heart to heart connection and why my intuition had led me to her. It was a powerful reminder of WHY I share my story. A reminder of why it’s important for me to inspire, support and empower the people around me. I know how it feels to be at the bottom. I love to watch people rise. I share my story in service.  It’s part of my path. It’s not about me. It’s about the person I was almost 6 years ago. It’s about the person still struggling who believes they are broken beyond repair. It’s about the person who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love or happiness. I share my story because I am alive to share it. It’s one of those things that I know I am supposed to do. The Universe confirms this for me time and time again in so many ways. I am honored every time someone reaches out to me because they read something I wrote and were touched by it in some way.  I truly am. I hope we all make it. I hope we all get to experience every beautiful thing that this life has to offer. ♥️

Keep Showing Up

I am currently in a hotel in Knoxville with my 10 year old.  He and I are traveling to Kentucky to see my parents.  I thought he would chill and I would write. I was wrong.  He hasn’t chilled yet.   Hotels are way too exciting for children.  Even a Hampton Inn in Knoxville, TN.  Jackson is spinning circles in the chair and asking me thousands of questions.  His most recent question was “are you mad at me?”  I told him “Of course I’m not mad at you” and I asked why he thought that.  His reply was that I seem annoyed.  I had to remind him that it’s after 9 o’clock and Mommy hates everyone after 8:30.  He knows this.  And then, because I am a good human, I assured him I am not annoyed with him and I love him all the world full. I’m just a bit tired and grumpy.   It’s been sweet traveling with Jackson.  He mostly watches videos with his headphones on. But, we also got some good one on one talk time in.  Jackson was in 5th grade this past year.  His last year in elementary school.  In 5th grade the children participate in the DARE program.  He learned all about addiction/drugs/alcohol/peer pressure and such.  He knows I don’t drink but he’s never asked why.  Until today.  My older two children know the story.  They lived the story.  They remember the story.  Jackson was a little guy.  I asked him if he remembered when I was sick and he came to see me in that hospital where he got to play foosball.  He does remember.  He told me he remembers coming to see me a few times in the hospital.  The hospital was a treatment center, and it seems he remembers a bit more  of my stay than I realized.   Once that topic came up he asked what that was all about.  He wanted to know why I was in that hospital.  I have had ALL the conversations about these things with his brother and sister, but Jackson, being the baby, and not really remembering that life, well, it just hasn’t come up.  Until today.   He could care less whether I drink or not.  When I explained to him that alcohol makes me sick, he compared it to an allergy to red dye number 40, or yellow dye 5. He’s not really wrong.  Other than the fact that as well as making me sick, alcohol makes me crazy and depressed.   I guess he’s never cared or even considered why I go to “those meetings.”  Which cracks me up because I have always said it’s Jackson’s world and the rest of us are lucky to be living in it.  It’s just something I do that he’s never questioned.   We talked about those meetings and he decided I go for no reason and I don’t even need to go because obviously I am cured.  Then he threw in the word hippie and eluded to the fact that AA is for hippies.   I love this child.  AA in my community certainly isn’t full of hippies.  Or, maybe they were at one time, but they grew out of it.   Jackson is a joyful child. A young 10 year old. He’s been able to stay little a bit longer than his siblings did. Innocent.  He has no idea that I rolled straight out of jail and went to his kindergarten orientation with him 5 years ago.  Never have I ever felt more shame or guilt than I did that day. I had gotten a DUI the day before and had to sit in jail for 24 hours. Actually, my husband had the option to bail me out, but chose not to.  He was over it and he knew if I was in jail for the night, I was safe for the night.   I got sober three months later.  I remember going to his class and talking to his teacher about my sobriety. I wanted her to know why I had been absent for the past few months.  I wanted her to know how much I appreciated all the love and support she gave Jackson and how grateful I was for her.  When I explained to her that I had been struggling with addiction and had been away in a treatment center she looked at me like I had two heads.  I was sure I couldn’t have been the first person she had ever met with a drug/alcohol problem.  She assured me I was the first.  I was mortified and I wanted to die.  But I didn’t.  I stood there.  I was getting sober.  I was being honest.  I was standing in my truth.  Uncomfortable and awkward, but I stood there.   For whatever reason, I felt like she needed to know.  I felt like that was a conversation I needed to have with her.  It was the first time I had announced with any seriousness that I was getting sober. For the first time ever, I was able to hold my head high in that school.  Simply because I was sober.  I didn’t feel judged by her.  It was just very matter of fact, “I have never met an addict or alcoholic before.”  I think I expected her to share her own personal story of the people in her life who are either addicted or in recovery.  Maybe I expected a bit of praise for my hard work.  Not that I deserved an award for doing what I needed to do, because I certainly did not. That experience was a big moment for me in early recovery.  Being honest about who I am is OK.   Being open and honest made it easier for me to be a good mother.  I no longer felt like I had to pretend to be perfect, because now it was known that I wasn’t.  But I was there.  I was trying.  Not being perfect meant I could be me.  Being an alcoholic mother is hard.  I had a lot of shame about the way I drank.    I had always felt less than when I was with the other Moms at school because it seemed like they had it all together.  They all seemed so perfect.  Then there was me.  Just hoping they didn’t smell alcohol on me.  That was a special kind of Hell. (There are many kinds) Now, after being sober for 5 years and spending time with emotionally healthy people,  I understand that nobody has their shit together.  At least not all the time.  We all do the best we can and everyone has their own problems to deal with.  In whatever form that comes in.  As long as we keep showing up, we are winning at life, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  Today I am showing up for my children by being a living example of what recovery looks like.  They have seen addiction.   It’s not the life I had planned for us, but we made it and became so much stronger and closer through the process.  My children know that they can talk to me about the difficult things.  They know they don’t have to be perfect, because this life is messy and chaotic and beautiful.  We just have to keep showing up.