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.

Connected to Myself

What a difference a week makes.  The dreams about using meth went away after I wrote about them.  I love when that happens. They have been replaced with really weird dreams that probably should make me uncomfortable, but I can roll with most things.  I won’t write about them here because you would probably judge me, but at least they are changing up the scenery a bit.  And they give me something new to say “what the actual fuck” about.  I’ll take anything new and exciting at this point.  I hate to fill you in all things quarantine, but that’s the life we’re all living. I miss the beach.  I miss seeing the sunrise.  Technically the only thing stopping me from seeing the sunrise is my new tendency to sleep in.  I should be really well rested when we get to the other side of this.  I spent the entire winter hibernating.  In my bed. In my bath. In my home. I worked, but I didn’t create new content, workshops or anything outside of my standard schedule.  I felt good about it to.  I said no to so many event invites.  I rested and nourished my soul with zero guilt.  Then one day, I was ready to reemerge into the world.  I was ready to plan, create and live outside of my home. But the world said sit the fuck back down.  And here we are. Sitting.  I have a LOT of practice sitting.  I have a lot of practice with being uncomfortable.  I’m still not good at it, but I know how to do it. My heart goes out to those of you who don’t.  But what a perfect time to learn.   My week was much better because I felt useful.  I found that “purpose” outside of my house and outside of myself that I was looking for. I created my first online writing course. It was so special to connect with a group in that way.  To read their thoughts and feelings every day.  To share tools that are so helpful to me.  To see into their hearts and souls through their words.  I see more of this in my future.  Last night as I was lying in bed, the last thought (and maybe only thought) that went through my head was turning that embodied writing course into a real live studio class.  The thought excited me.   It’s been a minute since I have been really excited about anything other than eating.  Yesterday, a question came up on social media that caught my attention.  The question was “Did you pick one word to focus on this year and how do you feel about that word now?”  My one word is expansion.  It made me laugh.  Then it made me think.  It would certainly seem that this year has been the exact opposite of expansion. I’ve barely left my house.   I haven’t expanded the studio to incorporate online classes.  My circle has gotten even smaller as I have found that there are actually only a few people I wish to connect with regularly.  But, here’s the beautiful thing.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who is important to me.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who I am important to. I actually feel closer to a few people in my life because of this distance.  I suspect I am expanding in ways that I am not aware of yet, but will be so obvious to me by the end of the year.  That’s an exciting thought.  I feel closer to myself today. When I am in a funk, feeling depressed, feeling lonely, feeling all the unpleasant things, I am in need of connection.  To myself.  To my soul.  To God, Spirit, Source, whatever you want to call it.  I know this.  I know this.  I know this.  And I always forget it.   I got away from my meditation practice. I got away from my writing practice. Let me just throw it out there that I did not get away from my yoga practice, you know, in case my teacher reads this. Without taking time to be still every day, my soul doesn’t have an opportunity to tell me what it needs.  Well, technically it does, but I can’t hear unless I am still.  Everything is  a practice right?  I know you’ve heard me say that a bazillion times.  “Discipline is the highest form of self love” runs through my mind a lot these days when I’m doing literally none of the practices that sustain me.  But it’s not discipline is it?   It’s devotion.  Devotion to my higher self.  Back to my cushion.  Back to my journal.  Back to nature.  So simple.  The funny part is that these are all things I taught in the writing course I created.  I always teach the lessons I need.  And then I’m surprised later when I realize that it was all about me.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  I’ll be eager to see which direction the roller coaster moves me this week.  A nice, flat kiddie coaster would be cool, but I’ll roll with whatever comes.

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.

Belonging to Myself

Last week I celebrated 6 years sober.  I considered updating my birthday on FB to my sobriety date so people would post happy birthday on my wall, but that seemed like an asshole move……so I didn’t.  Also, I didn’t think of it in time.  When I say I “celebrated” 6 years of sobriety, what I really mean is that I had a beautiful sober day just like any other.  There was no big party. I posted a sober selfie on social media.  I went to an 8 am AA meeting.  I don’t even remember what I did after that.  It was a non event. I hope I took a nap.  I know I went to the middle school that afternoon to pick up my youngest son and then we went to the high school to take pictures of the band for my oldest son.  THAT was the celebration.  Spending time with my children. And loving every minute. 6 years ago I might have been able to do those things, but it would have been an awful experience.  I would have been worried that I smelled like alcohol.  It would have been an event to “get through” so I could get back home and have a drink.  And I would be ashamed of these things.  That’s how life was 6 years ago. And it sucked.  But I’m not here to dredge all of that up today. Sober life is way more pleasant.  All of my sober years seem to have a theme. You can read a little recap of those themes/years here if you’re feeling it.  When I think back on my last year (year 5) to try to come up with a “theme” it could easily be the year of the bathtub altars. I did a lot of that this year.  But it’s got to be deeper than that, right? Year 5 was the year of community. I’ve known for a while that building community is one of my super powers.  Which is interesting, because I spent a lifetime feeling apart from.  Like I didn’t quite belong anywhere, even though on the surface I could fit in anywhere.  Now I see how this “weakness” is my strength.  It’s fueled my desire to build a strong community where I feel loved and supported.  That community has expanded in such a way that I can see it impacting others. I see others finding the same love and support that I was seeking.  I see meaningful relationships being made.  I see connection.  And it’s beautiful.  We all want to be seen. We all want to feel like someone gets us.   I spent a lifetime trying to fit in to places I didn’t belong.  I was missing the piece where I had to learn how to truly belong to myself first.  It’s ironic that I started using drugs and drinking to fit in and be a part of all those years ago.  To belong.  Only through the process of stripping that all away and peeling those layers to find me, could I truly find a place where I belong. I belong to myself.  I put so much of me out there for the world to see.  This is my process.  It’s not for everyone, but it definitely is for me.  It empowers me to show my real self to the world. All of it. Not just the pretty parts. This is how I belong to myself.  It’s letting go of what other’s will think.  Because it doesn’t matter.  By belonging to myself, I am owning my power.  By belonging to myself, I am living confidently (most of the time) in the skin I am in.  Without numbing out to make myself more comfortable.  Without dumbing down to make others more comfortable.  By belonging to myself I naturally attract others who are walking that same path.  Those who aren’t automatically fall away.  “To thine own self be true.”  Back in my early sobriety I used the term #teamshannon a lot. #teamshannon referred to my family and the 5 friends I had. The team has grown exponentially in 6 years. It has grown because it’s no longer all about me. I have learned how to hold space for others to be seen and heard. I have created a space that allows others to shine. I have created a space that allows others to find their way home to themselves. A community where we all belong. And what an amazing community it is! ♥️

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.

Recovering Out Loud

I have ALWAYS been out loud about my recovery.  I was out loud in my drinking, so I found it necessary for my own recovery to not be anonymous in sobriety.  When I was drinking, I was sure social media was all about taking photos of everything I drank and every drunk thing I did. Including posting photos from the back seat of police cars and hospital rooms. Being social media sober seemed like the natural follow up to that. It’s a tool I have used since day one to help keep myself accountable.  Getting sober was HARD.  Staying sober is easy.  I have so many resources and tools available to me. Really, it’s just not difficult today.  Because I have tools and resources. I live in an alcohol free home with a very supportive husband.  We used to drink together. A Lot.  When I made my first few attempts at getting sober (there were many), my husband thought it would be fine to still have a 5 pm Scotch or two or maybe three.  It was not fine and I ended up right there with him and I kept right on going long after he stopped. I could never have one or two or even three.  It never even occurred to me that I was supposed to drink with any other intention than to get completely hammered.  Because that’s where the fun was.  Or so I thought. I’m sure it started that way. It certainly didn’t end that way. After a few failed attempts at getting sober which included trips to hospitals, Psych wards, detoxes and rehabs, my husband came to understand that if I was going to get sober in our home, there could be no alcohol around.  Even when I didn’t want to drink, I always managed to.  I didn’t like Scotch so that “shouldn’t” have been a problem.   But as soon as something didn’t go my way and I was upset that Scotch of his was good enough to do what I needed it to do.  Numb my overwhelming emotions.  I was convinced he was an alcoholic and that it really wasn’t fair that I was the one getting sober.  Truth be told, he was a little concerned about this too.  We were in the habit of drinking together.  As it turns out, he was able to leave it.  He didn’t have a drink anywhere near me my entire first year sober.  He rarely drinks today, and when he does, he doesn’t get wasted and it’s just not an issue.  He’s one of “those” normal drinkers.  Normal drinkers are cool,  I’m just not one of them.  When I got sober, I had to unfollow a lot of my friends on social media.  I saw them partying and having fun and not inviting me.  I felt left out.  I also appreciated the fact that I wasn’t invited so I didn’t have to say no, but still…I felt left out.  Lonely. A constant theme in my life. I remember calling a friend one evening and as she answered the phone, I could hear her scrambling and banging and making all sorts of racket.  She was in the middle of a party and tried to get into her bedroom where it was quiet so I wouldn’t hear what was going on.  Sweet and hilarious, because believe me, I could hear exactly what was going on.  The more sober I got, and the more practice I had with handling my emotions, the less those things bothered me.  It still hurt my feelings that most of those friends fell away and didn’t invite me to do things, but I am sure I made them uncomfortable.  The majority of them don’t socialize without alcohol (and lots of it).  No judgement, it’s just not where I am today.  And since I’m not invited, it’s not an issue.  Drinking people are not a problem for me.  Drunk people are.  It’s not a fun space to be in. In all fairness , when I was drinking I didn’t want to be around people who weren’t drinking either. So I got used to missing out. Eventually that “fear of missing out” turned into the “joy of missing out.”  I slowly got comfortable in my skin and began to enjoy my time alone.  My family got me back and I like to think they enjoy having me, fully present for them.  I know I sure enjoy spending time with them.  Since I had no friends that wanted to do the “weird” things I wanted to do, I had to learn to do things alone.  Most of the “weird” things I wanted to do were in groups, so I wasn’t even alone, I was just on my own.  In a group.  This is how my world slowly started to expand.  I began meeting people who liked the weird things I liked.  Weird = Spritual.  So, not really weird, just different than what I had been doing my entire life.  And it was ALL new to me.  Today I have friends everywhere.  Sober friends.  Goddess friends.  Yogi friends.  Meditation friends.  Old friends.  New friends.  Internet friends that I haven’t met yet.  Family friends.  And I am a friend to myself above all.  That’s a big one.  I have a huge outer circle and a small inner circle.  I have people I can count on.  Sober me is super lovable.  Drunk me, not so much.  I have extra appreciation for those who loved me through that and stayed.  The girl who doesn’t  get invited to parties went to four parties in the last two weeks.  One of them was mine, but still.  🙂  One of them was a party for a dear friend who I love all the world full.    My invitation went like this, “Would it be weird to invite you to my margarita bar party?”  I think that was the first invitation I have received in 5 sober years.  Seriously.  Or maybe I am making that up and it’s just the first party I actually went to. I’ve been to Christmas parties.  But that’s family, so I don’t think it counts.  I am sure my husband has been invited and by default I was invited, but really feel like this was a sobriety first for me. I went to her party that was FULL of people I love, had a bunch of fun and laughed and then laughed some more that I still managed to shut the party down.  At 8:30 pm.  Because that’s the kind of friends I have.  And I LOVE it.  Last night I went to my first ever sober party.  As in a party by a sober person, for sober people.  I didn’t have to worry about taking my own drink.  Everyone ate food because that’s what sober people do at a party.  I heard hilarious stories that only sober people would think are funny.  Sometimes, when I’m around people who aren’t in recovery, I forget they haven’t lived that life.  Until the moment I notice sheer horror on their faces.  Then I wrangle it back in and explain that THAT is the exact reason why recovery is so important to me.  I am reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray and I really can’t recommend it enough.  Especially to newly sober people.  It takes me back to the early days of sobriety and just how bad everything sucked.  Until it didn’t.  In recovery circles “the pink cloud” is often talked about.  It’s a magical place where some of us find ourselves as the haze of alcohol starts to wear off and we start to find joy in the simplest of things.  At 5 years sober, I am happy to report, that I am still riding that pink cloud.  I’ve learned to look for joy in the small things.  I’ve learned to do things that feed my soul and feel good to my heart.  I’ve learned to stay away from things that suck.  ALL of being sober is an unexpected joy because I knew when I got sober that fun was no longer a part of my life.  My life was over. I could not have been more wrong. We all know the quote “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”  That describes my experience with getting sober perfectly.  Best. Decision. Ever.

Tattoos and Freedom

EE8BD19E-0227-4798-A822-E9462D48AF13Tattoos tell a story.  Ask anyone about their tattoos and you will likely hear the story of their life, or at the very least a very personal piece of their “story.”  I got my first tattoo when I was 21.  The tattoo that will forever be known as the tramp stamp.  Which is total bullshit, but whatever.  The low back tattoo that every girl my age got in the 90’s.  I wanted to get tattooed as soon as I turned 18, but I spent a few years getting pierced instead and waited for the desire to pass.  It didn’t pass.  I had that one tattoo for years and years without ever needing or wanting another one.  But then I fell in a hole.  A hole I couldn’t climb out of.  I have lots of mantras tattooed on my skin.  Those mantras helped me climb out of the hole and truly represent what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.  It goes like this.  Once upon a time, I was a raging, hot mess.  I was hopeless.  Hopeless is the worst feeling in the world and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  I had been exposed to the words hope and faith quite a bit in AA meetings.  I wasn’t sober and I had neither hope nor faith in my life.  I was also attending group therapy.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  To treat my Borderline Personality Disorder that I don’t actually have.  Being Borderline was better to me than claiming alcoholism and having to give up drinking.  I rocked that Borderline Personality Disorder too.  I owned the shirts and I wore the awareness bracelet.  I gave a face to Borderline, “normalizing” it, much like I do today with addiction and recovery.  And, I got to keep drinking.  The best part of the whole deal.  But, I was dying inside.  Failing at life in every possible way.  Even my liver was struggling.  Every day I would tell myself that today I won’t drink and then every day, usually before 8 am, I would be drinking.  I HAD to.  It was the only way to keep my body from shaking.  Every day was the same and every day was awful.   I was reading a self help article about Borderline Personality Disorder when I came across the acronym for Hope. Hold On Pain Ends.  I fell in love with that idea and knew I needed to carry that with me.  My first mantra tattoo.  I really don’t remember getting it.  Most of those first tattoos blend together in a gray kind of memory.  But there it was.  On my hand where I couldn’t miss it and was reminded constantly that I could get through this.  I was able to get clean from methamphetamine addiction.  Nothing could possibly be harder than that.  That’s what I told myself.  I have since learned that addiction is addiction and it’s ALL hard.  I was going to AA meetings regularly, although I still wasn’t sober.  I was starting to like the idea of being sober.  I kept thinking one day I would be ready and I would just stop drinking.  At this stage of the game I was having little spurts of “sobriety.” Or, rather, I was managing a few days in between being drunk.  Or, maybe I was just waiting until 5:00.  Again, it’s such a blur.  AA people use the term One Day at a Time.  I always hated that term because I knew it was bullshit.  I knew if I committed to a sober life it meant every day for the rest of my life.  I was seeing a therapist who was teaching me about mindfulness.  She kind of, sort of convinced me that it simply meant living in the moment.  I could live with that.  My second mantra tattoo is on my foot.  One Step at a TIme.  That’s how I was going to dig myself out of the hole.  I am fairly certain I wasn’t drinking the day I got that tattoo and I probably thought I was done with alcohol.  I assure you, I wasn’t done.  On another day I was in my therapists office freaking out about something. That was a common occurrence.  I had been drinking before therapy.  Another common occurence.  She always knew when I had been drinking.  Most people didn’t notice strictly because it was my norm.    I am sure she yelled at me a bit because that’s who she is.  Then she taught me about a practice called “calm abiding.” Calm abiding is a Buddhist practice of stilling the mind of any thought that might arise.  I promise you I wasn’t able to reach the place of calm abiding, but I fell in love with the concept and knew that’s what I needed in my life.  I left her office and went straight to the tattoo shop and got the word Calm tattooed on the topside of my wrist.  Not sure why I didn’t throw in abiding, but there must have been a reason.  It’s on my right wrist near my hope tattoo to remind me to be calm and have hope.   Not long after that tattoo healed, I was leaving my house to go somewhere, who knows where, and my husband told me to try not to come home with any tattoos.  I am sure it wasn’t my intention to get tattooed that day, but those words lit me up.  It sounded a lot like he was telling me not to do a thing.  In my mind, on that day, it meant I had to get two tattoos.  What I recall about that incident is that it started at a local gas station.  The gas station was right beside the tattoo shop.  I went inside and bought a cup of ice and a can of ginger ale.  I came out to my car, where my 1/2 gallon bottle of bourbon was, and mixed myself a drink.  As I was mixing the drink there was a knock on my window.  I looked up to see a woman I knew from AA.  In my mind she was a sober woman.  In reality, she was anything but.  She was struggling like I was struggling.  I had no idea.  She got in the car with me and offered up Valium and Xanax.  I hadn’t taken pills or any other drugs in years, but I didn’t hesitate for a second.  I don’t know what you know about mixing pills and alcohol, but I can assure you, it’s not good.  There is not one memory after that, but the two tattoos I got that day are the words “Forgive” and “Love.”  Forgive faces away from me, in such a way that I can hold my wrist out and ask forgiveness.  I found it easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission in those days.  “Love” must have been for me. I am sure I wanted to feel love or feel loved or just feel lovable.   I was quite unlovable that day.  I was quite unlovable for a long time.  That was the longest day that I don’t remember.   It’s weird the few things we do remember in those black outs or brown outs.  I remember calling my therapist and yelling at her.  I was in the parking lot of the hospital wearing one of my shirts that identified me as borderline and realizing that this made me look crazy.  I was yelling at her for giving me that label and more than anything for not calling me out on wearing the shirt.  Then I woke up in the hospital room.  There was a security guard outside of my room and the nurses told me they didn’t know what I had done, but I must have done something bad.  They monitored me and they let me go because it’s frustrating trying to treat a drunk person who doesn’t want help.  I remember leaving the hospital and walking through the parking lot.  I remember the security guards but I can’t remember exactly what they said to me.  I do remember that it enraged me and I screamed obscenities  at them until they tasered me.  I woke up in the hospital room again.  This time I didn’t have a security guard.  This time I had “a watcher.”  The person they place outside of your room to watch and make sure you don’t kill yourself.  I must have told them I was going to kill myself or someone else while I was blacked out. I was “a danger to myself and others.”   I stayed there for three days, refusing food and anything else they offered me.  I was eventually moved to a psychiatric hospital.  Every morning in this hospital it was my job to wake up and talk to the Dr on staff and try to convince him that I wasn’t actually mentally unstable.  Unfortunately, my actions proved that I was mentally unstable.  Also, every other person in the hospital was trying to convince the Dr of the same thing.  Some of them had serious mental health issues.  A scary situation that lasted way longer than I wanted it to.  Eventually I was released into a treatment center and almost got sober.  But I didn’t.  I was back with my therapist and back in my DBT group.  My therapist was pushing yoga on me and teaching me weird things, like how to breathe.  I couldn’t breathe.  I hated the breathing part of yoga because I felt like the more I was instructed to focus on my breath, the more I couldn’t breathe.  It was awful and I clearly needed a Breathe tattoo to help me.  I could no longer go to the same place where I had previously been tattooed because my husband made it clear to the tattoo artist that it would NOT be ok to tattoo a drunk me again.  I want to say I was sober when I went for the breathe tattoo, but I was not.  Had I been sober, I might have thought to put it in a place where I could see it.  Instead, it went on the back of my arm, just above my elbow.  It happens to be great for people who are standing behind me.   I am happy to report that the Breathe tattoo is the last drunk tattoo I have.  A few more psychiatric hospitals and a couple more treatment centers where I finally decided I had had enough Hell and it was time to do something different.  I’ve been living sober for 5 years now and when I get a tattoo, the whole process has more meaning.  My first sober tattoo was “Let it be.”   Obviously I would let it go if I could right?   When I let it be, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me or still exist, it just means that I don’t have to let it control me.  Whatever ‘it’ is.   My next sober tattoo was ‘Learn.”  The intention there is to remind me to look for the lesson.  The short form or “what the fuck am I supposed to learn from this?”  So interesting that after I got that tattoo, I started learning more than I ever imagined about my past.  Repressed memories came back and I learned how to deal with that.  I am still learning every day in every way.  and I know that won’t ever stop.  The memories have stopped.  At least for now.  Maybe I am done with that.  Time will tell.   My last two tattoos are my favorites.  At least they are my current favorites.  I have a little Tt “element” tattoo on my forearm that identifies me as a Tee-totalar.  This one is not at all original. It’s a movement.  A community of people choosing to not be anonymous and recover “out loud.”  I love being a part of a community that identifies in this way. I find it’s much better than wearing a Borderline Personality Shirt and identifying in that way.  On New Year’s Eve I got my most recent tattoo.  It’s a representation of where I am at this moment in my life.  “Free.” Along with the word, are little birds flying free.  I love it so much.   I have found freedom that I never knew was possible.  Freedom to be me, whatever that is in each moment.  Comfortable in my skin more often than not, and able to deal with being uncomfortable when that happens.  There’s a special kind of freedom that comes from living through Hell and coming out the other side.  That freedom shows up as gratitude and joy for my life.  It shows up when I catch myself dancing to the music at the grocery store.  

*photo by Ed Speas*

So Grown

I keep sitting down to write and then deciding that I don’t want to share my feelings with the world.  I have been in protection mode lately.  Protecting my heart.  I am ready today.  These past couple of weeks have been so full of growth for me.  I spent a weekend at a women’s retreat.   I had been looking forward to this retreat for months.   I was the first person to register when tickets went on sale.  I was so excited about the whole experience.  It began on Friday evening with a cacao ceremony and Qoya.  How could that not be fabulous?  And it was.  One of my favorite friends was there with me for the weekend and she experienced these two things for the first time.  I loved being there to share that with her.  A Qoya class has 13 pillars.  One of them is dancing with your shadow aspect.  Embracing rather than repressing our humanness.  I found myself triggered in this piece and had a difficult time integrating my light back in.  We left the studio at 9:15 that night and went to the Airbnb we rented for the weekend.  I was up until almost 11.  One would think that’s no big deal, but one would be wrong.  I woke up Saturday morning already tired before we started our day with a 7:30 am yoga class.  I don’t function well when I’m tired.  I’m like a 5 year when it comes to sleep (and food).  I was irritated and I began to close off and shut down. My intention for the weekend had been to remain open and be a part of.  I was so looking forward to being a part of rather than leading.  I was there, I was in it, but I was resisting every thing about the weekend. Partly because I wasn’t in control.  Maybe fully because I wasn’t in control. I found myself being judgemental toward myself and toward the whole experience.  The things I normally love, I had an aversion to.  So. Fucking. Weird.  But at the same time, the experience was beautiful and just what I needed.  How much sense does that make?  The entire weekend I was acutely aware of my shadow aspect.  The fear, the judgement, the insecurity, the anger the need to control and my lack of trust.  All of it showed up and stayed with me.   I showed up and stayed with all of it.  I lived and I learned and I met a bunch of amazing women.  I processed the experience for a week.  It’s a sacred act to sit in circle with women you don’t know and be open and real and vulnerable.  I see women do this in my circles all the time and they are my heroes.  I thought I was ready and I would be WIDE open, but that’s not how my weekend went.  I was disappointed in myself.  It’s still difficult for me allow myself to be seen and heard.  I was in my comfort zone of a circle of women, but out of my comfort zone by not being in charge.  It’s a control and trust thing that I obviously need to work on.  And I will.  Possibly forever.  That was two weeks ago.  This week the growth is still coming.  I went to therapy (for the last time?) on Wednesday.  My therapist let me know that if I was going to keep coming into her office, she needed to feel as though she was being of service to me.  And she no longer does.  What this means is that I am making good choices, I’m processing my own shit, I have no super secret life on the side and I am SO FUCKING GROWN.  I got kicked out of the nest.  It happened so fast.  I think we both knew it was time, but she is better at assertive and saying what needs to be said than I am.  So she said it.  And I rolled with it because I trust her.  But, I was super sad when I left her office and scared that now something horrible is going to pop up that I can’t handle and there I’ll be, alone in the world.  We ALL know this isn’t true, and I’m not alone, but it’s how I felt.  Now that I have had a few days to sit with that, I’m OK. I’m learning more about my need to cling and how it doesn’t serve me.  More space has been created in my life and the good things will flow in and fill that gap.  I do not doubt that at all.  Now I wait.  Patiently.  Without clinging.   Remember that time I choose the word ALLOW for my “One Word?”  I’m putting that into practice on so many levels.