A Gift in Strange Wrapping

Quarantine Things.  Unexpected and weird pandemic growth edition.

Here’s something most people don’t know about me.  In fact, I would say only my innermost inner circle of people know it.  The people who live with me.  Ready for it?   I hate buying toilet paper.  I fucking hate it.  I can do it if I have a cart FULL of other groceries, but I don’t like it.  I don’t like being in the aisle.  I don’t want people assuming that I need toilet paper.  Never would I ever go to the store to buy only toilet paper.  When I’m out in the world and receive the dreaded “we need toilet paper” text from my husband, he immediately gets a “fuck you” text back.   Imagine my horror when the entire world became focused on toilet paper and in particular, purchasing toilet paper.  When the world ran out of toilet paper, I sent my husband to the hardware store because I heard they had plenty.   Plenty of off brand, one ply, porta-potty approved toilet paper is what they had.  And he bought as much as he was allowed to purchase.  3 packs of 9 rolls I think it was.  And it was fine.  I expected it to last forever, and it would have if I lived alone.  But I live with 3 boys who clearly require a lot of toilet paper.  I have been doing my grocery shopping online and picking it up curbside.  Every week I add toilet paper to the list and every week they have none.  My super awesome neighbor friend was out in the world and ran across toilet paper and was kind enough to snatch up extra for us.  He delivered it to our carport.  Y’all.  It’s lavender scented.  I think just the roll is lavender scented, but it makes all the toilet paper smell like lavender.  Every time I walk into the bathroom where the lavender toilet paper is, it transports me to another time and place.  Not a lavender field like you might expect.  No.  It takes me to a public bathroom.  A public bathroom where sketchy things take place and the smell of chemical flowers attempts to cover it up.  And I laugh every time.  I read on social media that a local friend has toilet paper that smells good, so I imagine half of this island is rocking the Dollar General lavender toilet paper.  Also hilarious.  And the fact that people are just openly discussing toilet paper EVERY DAMN DAY.  What is this world?   On Monday morning, I took a trip to the grocery store because I needed to pick out my own groceries.  I got there at 6:30 am.  Last night a friend said that grocery shopping during this time feels like it’s straight out of The Hunger Games.  She’s right.  It does.  Mask on.  Focus.  Go.  Don’t stop.  Get out.  But, at the last minute, I remembered that I should look for toilet paper.  So I back tracked.   And “blessed be the toilet paper.”   (If you read The Handmaid’s Tale, you know.)  There wasn’t a lot, but it was definitely there.  Brand name, two ply, non lavender toilet paper.  A freaking miracle.  I was allowed to purchase two, but there was absolutely no way I was going to be THAT asshole.  There was another woman in the aisle who was very excited about the toilet paper.  And then it happened.  This woman and I had a conversation about toilet paper right there, behind our masks, 6 feet away from one another, in the toilet paper aisle.  I kid you not.  This was my big moment of growth.  Buying toilet paper while having a discussion about toilet paper with a stranger as I stood in front of a shelf of toilet paper.  This cannot be what I take from my time in quarantine.  This cannot be how I remember this time.  But, it’s etched into my mind and it will absolutely be a moment that I don’t forget.  We will ALL remember the toilet paper crisis we experienced during this time.  There is no way around it.  How fucking crazy is that?   BUT…….I am also going to remember how good it feels to hear someone’s voice on the phone.    I am going to remember how much I love the sound of quiet.  I’m going to remember how much I enjoy watching my 17 year old bake.  How much I love all the extra snuggles from my 11 year old.  How my husband and I have learned to be more patient and kind to one another.  To not seek outside of myself to nourish my soul.  That I actually need very little to be content.   That I am hilarious and make myself laugh out loud several times a day at the things that go on in my head. There’s so much good stuff in all of this.  This time is truly a gift in strange wrapping.  It’s incredibly inspiring to witness everyone adapt and adjust and keep moving forward.

Something a little different for the blog. A question for you. What will you remember most about this time. Good, bad or indifferent. There’s no wrong answer. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just honest.

Addicted

What were you doing on New Year’s Eve in 1999?  And what were you listening to?  A friend just posted those questions on FB yesterday. I haven’t thought about that year for a LONG time, and yet, I immediately knew exactly where I was, what I was doing, who was with me and what I was listening to.  On December 31st 1999, I was living at my parent’s house.  I was in my bedroom, with a man who loved me, detoxing from methamphetamine for the hundredth time.  The man loved me. I didn’t know how to love anyone. And if it wasn’t the hundredth time I detoxed, it sure felt that way.  The what was I listening to part especially hurt, because the ONLY thing I was listening to were the voices in my own head.  I should have been partying and living it up. I was 22 years old and I wanted to die.  I hated my life and the people in it.  I lived in a dark and depressing world.  My “friends” and I were manufacturing methamphetamine.  Dirty.  That’s what my world was.  A sick cycle of misery.  Wait for the sun to come up, (because there was no sleeping), go see people I hated, do things I didn’t want to do, wait for drugs and eventually get high.  After that, the next few days and nights would be spent being paranoid and hiding from the cops that I was sure were looking for me.  Until the meth ran out.  When I was ready to crash, I would roll up at my parent’s house and sleep for days at a time.  I was always sure I was going to die when the crash came.  I didn’t care.  I wanted death to come.  It would have been nice if that New Year’s Eve had been the last time I had to detox, but it wasn’t.  I lived that way for another 6 months before I finally made it into the treatment center that saved my life. “Another 6 months” may not seem long, but meth years are like dog years. When I arrived there I probably weighed 90 pounds and I was the poster child for the “faces of meth.”  Ever seen those adds?  That was me.   I lived that way from the time I was 20 until I was 23.  It is truly a miracle that I didn’t die.  And it’s an even bigger miracle that I was able to get off meth.  I know people that I used with who are still hanging in there, struggling to stop.   Many have died, and lots of them have gone to prison.   Some don’t even struggle anymore.  They just accept that as their way of life. There was a solid year before I got clean where I had accepted being a meth addict as my fate.  I didn’t try to hide it.  When you just accept that and live that, nothing good can follow.   I am forever grateful that enough people loved me to not let that be my life.  Believe me, I was quite unlovable.   And, because everything comes back to Facebook, another thing got my attention last week.  “On this day” FB memories from December 23rd 2011 reminded me that I was right up in my worst days of alcohol addiction.  I was making horrible choices and breaking the hearts of everyone who loved me.  It was at this time that I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic.  The reason this memory really jumped out at me is because of the date.  December 2011.  My sobriety date is November 13, 2013. I lived in Hell for two more years.  And I took my family with me. Seeing those memories was like getting punched in the gut.  I deleted a few, but I kept a few as well.  Just enough to serve as a reminder.  Not that I could possibly forget.  Shit.  I still remember that New Year’s Eve in in 1999.   Addicted life is hard.  I have a friend who is super struggling right now.   I love this girl all the world full.  She’s been reaching out from time to time for quite a while now.  But she’s never actually ready.  I like to throw the “want me to come over right now?!” on her when she texts me asking for help.  I know it’s a little much, but I am always hopeful that it will be the time.  Timing is everything.  And…..when you’re really serious, right now is the perfect time.  I feel like she’s getting closer.  Stringing together more days of not drinking.  She’s aware that it isn’t serving her.  It doesn’t add any value to her life and it causes problems.  Yesterday she texted me and said she needed things to do with her time.  I suggested we go to the beach together.  Right now! And she said yes. She said yes to my pushy ass “right now.”  We sat on the beach and we talked and it was lovely to connect with her.  I don’t see her much these days because of life things mostly, but also because I don’t live in the world where people party and get hammered anymore.  She kind of fell away when I got sober. It’s ok. I don’t judge it, because it was part of my path.  Until it wasn’t.  I know how hard it is to be young and thinking about a life without alcohol.  It’s scary.  Talking with her took me back.  Getting sober is hard AF.  Staying sober is easy.  Maybe she’ll figure out how to manage her drinking.  I couldn’t.  I tried. Maybe she’ll get sober and have an amazing ass life.  That’s my wish for her.  I spent so much of my life struggling with addiction in one form or another. It’s misery. Today, all I feel is freedom. And joy. I wish that for my friend.  However she finds it. I wish that for everyone. I’m sure I’m still “addicted” to things today. It’s the way I’m wired. That “all in” thing I do. Today I choose things that are good for me.

She is a powerful force

I was having breakfast with my daughter recently.  We were having one of those hard conversations that ended with me telling her that hopefully, one day, she would end up on a therapist’s couch processing that.  She told me she was actually ready to do that now.  I immediately pointed across the street to the office of a local therapist that I recommend to everyone.  I asked her if she wanted me to make an appointment with her or if she preferred to go back to the one she had worked with previously.  She chose the familiar therapist.  I was so excited.  I was excited for her to have support from a professional that I know isn’t going to steer her wrong.  It doesn’t hurt that the therapist she picked is a bad ass, spiritual gangster. I wasn’t exactly sure what she needed support for, and I didn’t need to know.  I was happy that she chose a healthy way to deal with life.   The two of them connected and my daughter went to her first appointment last week.  She texted me that evening and said that she was supposed to “talk to her inner child with compassion.”  I asked her if that had been explained to her.  It had.  It all made sense to her.  Then she asked if I had any books about inner child healing.  I did.  Of course. I got the book to her right away and told her to process it with her therapist.  I was immediately excited for her.  I mean, how amazing to start the inner child healing process at 18 instead of at 40.  Wow.  Then, two minutes later, I was terrified for me.  Because sometimes I still think everything is about me. Inner child healing is all about re-parenting yourself in healthy and loving ways.  In my mind this is going to bring awareness to every mistake I ever made raising my daughter.  And there were A LOT.  My daughter was 12 when I got sober.  I wasn’t a raging alcoholic all of her life, but for a few years of it, I definitely was.  There are so many things I missed because I chose alcohol over my children.  I didn’t see it that way at the time, but today, I do.  There’s a lot of shame in that.  I can have compassion for myself, and I do, but I also realize that I wasn’t there when I should have been.  I was drunk. Then I was in treatment centers for months at a time.  I was in hospitals and psych wards.  I once jumped out of a moving car with my children in the backseat, my husband was driving.  My daughter has told me that one was the worst for her.  The worst one for me was one of the occasions when my husband had taken my liquor away.  I had a bottle hidden away at a friend’s house.  I took off walking down the street. Stomping really.  My daughter was following me and begging me to come home.  She was crying.  In that moment she was standing between me and the most important thing to me. My alcohol.  I turned around and told her to stop following me.  Then.  I told her I hated her.  Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.  If there was just ONE thing  I could take back, that is the one.  I would do anything to have a do over on that moment.  Because there is no doubt that no matter how great our relationship is today and how sober I am, that moment will be with her forever.  We have talked about this incident so many times, and she promises me that it’s ok and that she knows I was sick, but nothing about that moment is ok.   This is how alcohol destroys families. We were fortunate to have a lot of love and support from grandparents, friends and other family members through that period. So, yeah, inner child healing work will be good for her.  I didn’t get to be that mom who broke the cycle before I had children.  I am fortunate that I do get to be that mom who shows her children what recovery is. I am truly grateful for that.  I admire my daughter so much.  She is strong and independent in a way that I never was.  I spent years projecting all of my fears onto her.  She isn’t me.  She has shown me that time and time again. She has been successfully adulting since she was 16 years old.  Hell, this child was born responsible. I’m not sure where that comes from. Of course inner child work will be good for her because she grew up so quickly.   I texted her to tell her that she will probably be mad at me and hate me for a while through this work.  She assured me that it will be fine.  I know it will.  It’s not about me anyway and I can’t allow myself to stay stuck in the space of all the things I did wrong.   She is thriving in ways I couldn’t have imagined at 18 years old.  She is on her own journey.  She has been all along.  My job is to love and support her in any way I can.  When I take myself out of her process, I am nothing but excited for her to do this work.  Maybe she gets to be that mother who breaks the cycle by doing the inner work before she has children.  She makes good decisions.  She is capable.  She is a powerful force.  She is amazing in so many ways.  I love watching her grow into all that she is and I am honored to be her mother.  I am convinced we picked each other in another time and place because we have so many lessons to learn from each other.  She teaches me so much.  ♥️

Triggers

Last week my husband went golfing.  I never love the days he golfs, which thankfully are few and far between, because golf tends to includes day drinking.  I have not been around any day drinkers that I enjoy.  I was a day drinker and that’s what ultimately took me down.  Once I decided I was grown and I could drink any time I wanted to, it wasn’t long until I was drinking ALL the time because I had to.  Back to last week……My husband was on the family schedule to pick our boys up from the places they needed to be picked up from.  We do A LOT of running in this house.  If you have children, you know.  I was teaching a class that afternoon when I received a text from my husband informing me that he had been drinking shots and wouldn’t be picking up the boys.  I didn’t open the text, but I could see the entire thing on my phone and I was NOT happy.  I texted him back when my class was over and let him know exactly how unhappy I was.  He responded by letting me know that he was on his way home and would figure it out.  I too was on my way home by this point.  And this is what I noticed.  While I was driving, my heart was racing.  I felt such a need to get home before he did or at least right behind him.  In my mind he was completely fucked up, and as soon as he got home, he would leave again. I would be alone.  I felt like I needed to rush home and stop him.  Or something.  And I was rushing.  Heart racing and speeding down the road.  In that moment, something shifted in me for the first time ever.  I was triggered and I knew it.  I knew exactly what the trigger was.  I could feel the familiar feelings in my body.  Fear. Sadness. And the one that really struck me was grief.  I felt grief.  I noticed all of these things and I slowed the car down. I stopped rushing and I took some slow breaths.   These feelings had nothing to do with my husband and everything to do with my Ex husband.  The father of my two oldest children.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still pissed at my husband, but the reality is that he had two shots at the clubhouse in celebration of a hole in one that happened on the course. (Not by him) He wasn’t going anywhere.   Yes, I would have preferred if he had passed those up and went to pick up the boys, but I was also happy that he didn’t drive after those two shots.  Maybe there were beers involved too, I can’t remember.  He wasn’t hammered.  He just didn’t feel like it was safe for him to drive our boys.  I was pissed because I had no plans and would have liked it to stay that way, but on this particular evening, I ended up doing the driving.  Back to being triggered……because looking at it now, I am certain that I have been triggered in this way so many times without being able to identify it for what it was.  I was reacting to the two years I lived with a man in relapse.  The two years that I tried to hold my little family together.  I was married to a wonderful man with a horrible addiction.  We were both clean and sober when we met.  We married and had two beautiful babies.  Then he relapsed.  I actually think he relapsed when I was pregnant with our second child.   For the longest time, I was in denial about it.  I thought he was sick.  He let me believe that.  He saw Dr’s and Neurologists to try to figure out what was wrong with him.  I had a sick husband, a toddler and a new baby to care for.  It was A LOT.  He had been diagnosed as having “absence seizures.”  The reality is that he was taking massive amounts of pills and nobody had any idea.  One evening I had the children packed up in the car waiting on him to come home from work.  We had an appointment with a photographer to have family portraits made.  He was supposed to come home at 4:00, jump in the car and then we would leave.  But he didn’t come home.  We waited and waited until the babies got tired of being in the car.  He wasn’t answering his phone and I was worried and I was getting pissed.  I took the kids inside and my phone rang.  It was one of the local hospitals.  Apparently my husband had a seizure and was in the hospital.  Then, the rest of the story followed.  After work he had gone to the UPS store to pick up a package that had been delivered to him there.  It was a package from an internet pharmacy.  The package contained a bottle of Soma muscle relaxers and a bottle of Loritab pain killers.  He opened the package in the UPS store and took a handful of the Somas and fell out in the floor.  The UPS store called 911 and he was transported to the hospital.  My life changed in that moment.  My husband wasn’t sick.  He was a drug addict.   I mean, he WAS sick because of his addiction, but there was no medical reason beyond the pills he was taking for the seizures.   The Dr asked if I knew about the internet pharmacy, which of course, I did not.  There were a lot of things I had no idea about.  I didn’t tell anyone in my family or his family.  I had no friends to speak of outside of the Mom’s that I sometimes did kid’s things with.  I didn’t want anyone to know that my world was falling apart. I sent him to the treatment center where he and I had both gotten clean.  Over the next two years, I sent him there several times.  He never stopped using.  His using escalated.  Cocaine. Heroin.  All of it.  After spending the majority of my life addicted, I was clean and had no desire to use drugs.  All I wanted was for my husband to choose us over drugs.  All I wanted was to have my happy family and live the dream that we were building before he relapsed.  But it was not to be.  After two years of fighting for him I had to let him go.  I had to save myself and my children from the horror of drug addiction.  I filed for divorce while he was off on a spree.  He never showed up in the span of time that it took me to file, take the parenting class that is mandatory in the state of TN for parents filing for custody, and go to court two times.  On the day our divorce was granted, he called me.  Not because he had any idea that we were now divorced.  He called because he had used up every last resource he had available to him and was ready to go back to treatment.  I picked him up at a local gas station, gave him $10 and put him on a plane to California.  Then I went home and cried for days. I put the children to bed and drank myself to sleep at night.  My heart had been broken a thousand different times in those years.  My heart hurt for my children.  My heart hurt for me.  My heart hurts right now as I write this.  My children saw their father one more time.  The spring before we moved to NC he came from California where he was now working at the treatment center.  And he was high when he arrived.  He nodded out the entire weekend.  It was incredibly hard to watch and of course I was pissed at him and at the treatment center.  I put him on the plane back to California when the weekend was over and called the center to let him know that he was still using.  We moved to NC soon after that weekend and continued to keep in contact with him.  We all loved him so.  My current husband knew him before I did.  A story for another time.  But, when I say that he was a wonderful human, it’s because he really was.  He was my best friend.   He was brilliant, kind, compassionate and hilarious.  Addiction sucks.  In late September of 2009, I received a phone call from my ex mother in law.  She told me that he had been found dead in the bathroom of the halfway house he was living in.   I had to tell my children that they would never see their dad again.  They were too young to understand words like overdose and they didn’t need to know that at the time.  I held my children and cried with them.  Drug addiction sucks.  I hope that he can see how wonderful his children are.  They are all the beautiful things that I loved about him.  I see him in them every day.   Last week, when I felt the trigger of being left alone, it was a powerful and healing moment for me.  It gave me an opportunity to sit with the sadness.  The sadness that most likely will always be with me on some level.  It gave me an opportunity to talk to my husband about the sadness I was feeling.  And he listened.  We had the most beautiful conversation and he was there for me.  As open as I can be when I sit behind a laptop writing, face to face is still quite a challenge for me.  But I’ll get there.

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.