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Get Out Your Party Hats, It’s Time To Celebrate Another Anniversary!

Welcome.  It is my goal in this blog to document my journey of recovery from addiction.  I have 52 days clean, so I am still very new on this path.  I hope to enlighten both myself and others on the daily trials, and the miracles, that can be found along the way.

Even this early on, I know one thing:  it is only one day at a time, one step at a time, that can bring success in freedom from addiction.  Living in the mistakes of the past brings nothing but heartache, and anxiety about the future brings nothing but stress.  Living in the present is a skill that requires patience through repetition, but will eventually bring rewards unlike any that I have ever known… at least that is my hope.

As I continue to document, I will try to include more personal details so that you may know more about me as a person.  I am completely new to the process of blogging, so I hope to learn as I go, and hopefully my site will improve daily.  I welcome all feedback, especially on ways to bring more depth to my story!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I look forward to sharing my story…

-written by me, as the first post in this blog, one year ago today

I said to my husband this morning that I feel like I’m writing about one anniversary or another every week.  But it’s an amazing milestone:  one year of blogging!  When I wrote the words above, my honest expectation was that two people would read it: my Mom, and the friend who suggested I started this “experiment.”  I remember the first time I received an email notification that someone “liked” my post, I had to show it to my husband, and he had to explain to me that, in fact, there are others out there in the world that might be reading what I wrote.  What a concept!  And here we are, one year and quite a few more readers later, and my mind is blown how much this blog, and this community, have come to mean to me.  Now, I write, and cannot wait to read feedback from my friends, old and new.  Now, I get so excited when I see a new post from all of my fellow recovery “experts.”  And when I don’t see a post from someone, I worry about them, and pray that they are well.

The day I started this blog, was, coincidentally (or not), the day I moved back in with my husband after a 7-week break.  So the words above don’t fully convey the chaos that was reigning in my life; and yet, they were my mantra:  stay in the moment, stay in the moment, stay in the moment.  And I was right, that skill did take practice and patience, but man, was it worth it.  My life, one year later, is truly beyond my wildest dreams.  And it just keeps getting better.

So, a million thanks to all of you.  The support, the advice, the praise, the encouragement… there are simply no words to tell you how much richer my life has been because of all of you.

Today’s Miracle:

I would say one year of blogging counts as a bona fide miracle!

My Dad

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.  –Sigmund Freud

21 years ago today, my Dad passed away.  Does that mean he is legal up in heaven?

On this day every year, I spend a lot of time thinking about him.  He shaped so much of who I have become.  In my earliest memories, I can recall spending  a lot of energy seeking his attention.  In the adolescent years, that trend reversed, and I spent equal amounts of energy trying to avoid him at all costs.

My Dad suffered from the same demons as me, and I don’t just mean alcoholism.  I can remember, very vividly, arguing heatedly with him.   I was probably about 10 years old when he told me that he was a functional illiterate, and I did not know what that meant.  When he explained the term, I was outraged, why would he say that about himself?  It was ridiculously untrue, and he was demeaning himself by saying so.  But as much as I tried, I could not convince him otherwise.  He was “just a truck driver,” and therefore, somehow, less than.

My Dad was the guy that EVERYONE loved.  The wake we had for him lasted several hours past the time it was intended, and the line in the Church was out the door.  To this day, I make sure to get to every funeral I can for the people I love, first because my Dad taught me that was the right thing to do for the surviving family members, and second because the overwhelming support we received during that time chokes me up to this day.

Dad was, to date, the most generous person I have ever met.  When I would come home from college for visits, he always made sure to send me back with some money.  I did not realize it at the time, but often he gave me the only money he had in his wallet.  I have tears in my eyes as I type this, and if he were here, he would laugh at me… it was not at all a sacrifice for him, he was just doing what came naturally.

He was the greatest story-teller I have ever known.  He captivated me with his stories, and I believed every word he uttered.  Once, he shared the story of his first date with my Mom.  It would take too long to explain, but let’s just say he painted her in a less than favorable way (he took her to a fancy seafood restaurant, and she ordered tuna fish as her main course, just one part of this tall tale).  I later talked to my Mom about it, and she was FURIOUS, with my Dad for spinning these stories, and with me for believing them.

There are many lessons that I consciously pass on to my children that came directly from him.  Some of the more memorable things… “you are not going to learn any younger” and “stomachs can’t tell time.”   I was also blessed to have older siblings that would tip me off on how to handle him.  Dad was not much for getting into the nitty-gritty of our lives growing up, but once in a while he would decide that he needed to do his fatherly duty and sit us down to talk.  These conversations were awkward at best, painful at worst, but I was so lucky to have older sisters to coach me through it.  They told me if he ever sits you down and tells you he thinks something’s wrong with you, just tell him you’re “having problems with some friends at school.”  The conversation did happen, I followed their advice, and man was I happy to have had it!

I was 22 when he died, and still caught up in the self-centered world of school life (grad school at this point), so one of my greatest regrets is that I did not get to appreciate him while he was alive.  As a wife and mother, I wish I could tell him how much I appreciate the man he was, and the sacrifices he made for me.  I tell my husband often that the two of them would be best friends, if they had ever gotten a chance to meet… they would spend every Sunday of football season together, yelling at the screen.  And when I try to imagine how he would have been with my children, it makes me smile and cry at the same time… both of my kids would have been enchanted by him.

The best gift I can give to my Dad is to live my life in the way that he could not figure out… free of demons, and full of serenity.  My Dad was always very proud of me, and my accomplishments, but there is no doubt in my mind that he would consider my recovery my greatest accomplishment to date, and I know he is cheering me on!

Today’s Miracle:

Choosing to focus on the wonderful qualities of a person, rather than dwelling on painful memories.

 

A Series of Bottoms: The Final Chapter

I hit rock bottom, but thank God my bottom wasn’t death. –Stevie Ray Vaughan

I can already hear my husband challenging the title of this post, he would argue that my next post should be labeled the final chapter, but for me, this is the finale, God willing, in terms of bottoming out.

Okay, quick summary of the past three days… for 8-9 months, I had been attempting recovery, with absolutely zero success (if you are just joining this story, read back a few posts to Chapter 1).  And each turning point during that time took me lower and lower, and feeling more and more hopeless.  Where we last left off, I had been struggling with marital problems, frustration and/or outright anger from family and friends, multiple failed rehab treatments, failed attempts with AA, stepwork, sponsors, and on top of it all, the question mark of legal consequences.

And still I continued my addiction.

My final day was actually this day (Friday), but the date was January 26, 2012.  The day started like any other.  I attempted to pray, but deep down knew that I would get up, and go right back to what I knew… addictive behavior.  I could retrace every step of that day, but I’m not sure it would serve much purpose.  I will, however, recount what has become for me the critical moment.  I had a thought so clear that I actually said it out loud, to myself, in the car:  “There was not one part of this day that was fun.”

Anyone reading who is an addict knows that after a time, your drug of choice becomes totally ineffective, and what you are in fact doing is chasing the high that hasn’t really happened for a long time.  By this point in my addiction, I really had no pleasant physical reaction at all, so of course the question becomes, then why do it?  That question is already answered in the minds of every addict reading this, and will never be answered to the satisfaction of every non-addict.  The ultimate answer:  I do it because I am an addict.

Back to the story:  so at the time I did not know I was uttering profound words, but in fact I was, because that was my last day of using a mind-altering substance.  The day continued, and I actually had plans that evening to go out with some friends.  During the car ride to the restaurant I spoke with my husband, and got a sense that something was amiss, but had no idea what it could be.  I got home later that evening, and waiting for me was a card and a dozen roses… it was the anniversary of our first date.  He remembered, I did not.  And while there were these beautiful things waiting for me, my husband’s mood was not one of them.  I tried to pry it out of him, but he would not budge…. nothing was wrong, he said.

Went to bed, next day, the icy silence continued.  I tried multiple times to figure out the problem, but to no avail.  This is technically day 1 of sobriety, but the ramifications of my behavior are still to come.

My final bottom was more or less like an airplane hitting a runway as it is attempting to come to a stop… a series of bumps, and then… silence.

Bump:  Sunday morning, I wake up, my husband is already out of bed.  He comes into the room, I ask, for perhaps the 1,000th time that weekend, can you please tell me what’s wrong.  He sits down on the bed, and lays it out very simply:  he cannot do this anymore, I need to leave the house, immediately.  He will drive me to my Mom‘s, but that is it.  If I don’t go, he will make a scene in front of the kids, and cause irreparable damage to my relationship with them.  He takes my phone, my keys, almost everything out of my wallet, and drives me away from my home.

Bump:  I am dropped off, like a bag of garbage, at my Mom’s house.  Both siblings that live there and my Mother cannot even look at me, they are so angry, hurt, and disappointed.

Bump:  The next day, I have an already scheduled lawyer’s visit, at which point I am told that there seems to be no other alternative but jail time for my legal consequences.

Bump:  The next day, I must report to a police station to make all the charges official.  My picture is taken, I am finger printed, just like you see on TV.

And then… silence.  And there I sat, my life in ruins, with very little idea of how I ever got to this place.

I’d like to add, at this point, that writing these posts for the past three days has been so much more difficult than I ever could have imagined.  Which is good, because I never would have done it if I had known how difficult it would be.  Mainly, I have discovered in the past few days that I am, at heart, an optimistic, hopeful person, and writing about such dire things really goes against my grain.  But if my story has touched even one person, and helped them in some way, then it is more than worth it.

I will conclude with what has become the beginning of my road to recovery.  The first night that I stayed at my Mom’s, I could not sleep to save my life.  As light was not even breaking on that next day, I got out of bed, dropped to my knees, and I prayed like I have never prayed before.  I believe, and often share, that acceptance of my disease came at that moment, and I got the answer that carried me through the next year of my life.  I need to do 4 things that day, and every day thereafter:  pray, go to a meeting, talk to another addict, and those three will keep me from the fourth, which is not pick up a drink or drug.  And I allowed myself the luxury of having only those 4 things on my “to-do” list for each and every day:  as long as I do those things, I have had a wildly successful day.

And that is where the next story begins…

Today’s Miracle:

If you are a Catholic, you will appreciate this one.  I thought that the past 3 days were much like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday… full of sadness, but also of hope for Easter Sunday.  And then I laughed out loud at the audacity of comparing myself to Jesus Christ!

For All The God-Doubters

A coincidence is when God performs a miracle and then decides to remain anonymous. -Author Unknown

Forgive the extra length of this post.  There will also be extra-candor, but the message is too powerful for me not to share it.

My personal bottom was like an airplane bouncing down the runway towards its final destination…. increasingly shameful confrontations with my husband, time spent away from my children in a rehab, breaking the law and getting caught, and, finally, separating from my husband and children.  At my lowest point, I was living with my mother, facing divorce and an uncertain future with my children, and it was at this time my lawyer told me he did not see a way around me going to jail.

So to say the early days of recovery were fear-based would be an understatement.  I chose sobriety because I was terrified of the alternative.  Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and slowly my personal life turned around.  I was back at home, rebuilding my life with my husband and children within two months, and all my other relationships followed suit.

The last big question mark remained my legal issues, and that is what I writing about today.  From the start, it looked like jail time was inevitable.  For those reading who don’t know me personally, I am pretty far removed from the typical profile of an inmate.  I am an Irish Catholic middle-aged Mom of two with nothing remotely resembling a prior record.  I am Master’s-educated suburban woman who has chosen to stay at home and raise her children for the past decade.  And yet, here I am, looking at jail time.

A few weeks into my recovery, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a county-funded program, that, for simplicity’s sake, I will define as a sort of court-supervised outpatient therapy.  In exchange for my participation in this program, I would, first, avoid jail, and second, clean up my record at the program’s successful completion… miracle #1.  I leapt at this opportunity, only to find out that because my home is located about 2 miles outside the county, I am ineligible to participate.  So my lawyer works a deal and offers me some sort of reduced sentence which amounts to nothing more than probation…. this is miracle #2… no jail time.

But the original offer of the drug program sounds like a better proposition, and I work with my lawyer to fight for it.  It takes time (patience is a requirement when dealing with all legal matters), but eventually it is agreed that if I can establish residency in the county then I can enter this program.  Great news, but how can I do this?  I don’t have the money to have two homes, and I can’t move my children.  Then my in-law’s, who do live in the county, approach me and offer their home to me for the duration of this program… miracle #3, and this is the point at which I am consciously aware that God is working the miracles in my life.  I start tuning in to all the good things happening every day from this point on.

Still more time goes by, but I am grateful, because it allows me to spend the summer with my children, and to not worry about how to explain this upcoming change in our lifestyle.  Meanwhile, I am continuing in my recovery, but it has ceased to be fear-based; rather, it is about building upon the successful foundation that fear built.  Each day is better than the last, and I am at peace with however the legal situation turns out.

About one month ago, I received word that because so much time has gone by, and because my lawyer has been fighting to keep me with my children, the county is considering a pilot program whereby I complete its requirements while being supervised by the county in which I reside.  It has never been done before, and the judge originally dismissed this option outright, but is now willing to consider me being the first person to do try it…miracle #4.

Yesterday I was able to observe the program in which it is proposed I participate, and it is much more positive and encouraging than anything I have encountered to date… miracle #5.  Today I went before the judge, and he agreed to allow this to happen, officially… miracle #6.  This judge has a well-known reputation for talking down to the people in his court room, I have witnessed it first-hand. Yet when it was my time before him, he was respectful and encouraging, and even commended my attorney for his perseverance in getting me this opportunity… miracle #7.

And so, next week I will begin a program designed to aid me in my recovery, while living at home with my family.  At the completion of this program, I will have a clear record, which will enable me to work in my chosen field.  I hope this story clears up any doubts about God working in our lives!

Kids These Days…

When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out. ~Erma Bombeck

If, as the Staples commercial says, back to school is the most wonderful time of the year, then the three weeks preceding it are certainly the most challenging, at least for parents of school-age children.  I can recall when my kids were babies several family members saying, “enjoy them now while they can’t talk.”  I really hope I took full advantage of that time…

Remember, when you were young, lectures that began “when I was your age…,” “you don’t know how good you have it…,” and “you kids these days…”?  Remember rolling your eyes at these lectures?  I really, really do remember, and now, I could take an hour or so to finish each one of these sentences!  To all the people of the generation ahead of me… I get it now, and I’m sorry for causing you the annoyance that the younger generation is currently causing me.

Now, here is the ironic twist.  This morning’s troubles started when I announced we had to go to mass this morning (in the Catholic faith, it is a holy day of obligation).  For the non-Catholics reading this, it is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Without going into too much detail, it is basically Mother’s Day for the most important Mom who ever graced this planet.

So the message I gained, as I listened to the homily about this feast day, is that I need to go to Mary with my kid annoyances, and she will help me out, on this day especially.  She better, for the kids’ sakes!

Happy Father’s Day

A father is respected because
he gives his children leadership…
appreciated because
he gives his children care…
valued because
he gives his children time…
loved because
he gives his children the one thing
they treasure most – himself.

As I wrote in my “Mother’s Day” post, I have been fortunate to have been blessed with not one, but two sets of amazing parents.  Since I took the opportunity to give accolades to Moms on their special day, I figured I would give equal time to the Dads of the world.

If Moms are all about love, forgiveness and quiet strength, then Dads are all about discipline, leadership and not- so-quiet strength.  They are the ones we turn to when something breaks, when we are lost, or when (and this is especially true for me) we need general how-to information. 

As I mentioned, I have had the great gift of having two Dads, the first having passed away 20 years ago, the other for the past 13 years through marriage.  And while I miss my biological Dad dearly, I could not be more fortunate to have my current Dad.  If not for him, I would not, at the most basic level, have my husband and children.  But more importantly, he leads our family by his great example…. there is not one thing that he teaches us (and believe me, he has taught all of us so many things!) that he is not willing to do himself.  So when preaches the value of hard work, he is the first to volunteer when a project needs to be done.  When he preaches family values, he is the absolute first person there for any one of his family members in a crisis. 

He has shown me, and his son, who emulates him perfectly in this respect, the real meaning of fatherhood.  I simply cannot imagine what my life would be lacking without him as a role model, a source of strength, and as a friend.

Happy Mother’s Day

This may be a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short.  I wanted to write this yesterday, but I felt I was better served showing my Mom‘s how much they mean to me, and now today I am going to tell them.

Of all the “Hallmark holidays,” Mother’s Day is definitely the most legitimate because, as all the recent commercials, magazine ads, and various cards we have all just purchased, Moms are a very special breed.  No matter how many kids they have, no matter what ages their children are, Moms sacrifice so much of themselves for their children, and they rarely even think of it as a sacrifice.

But of all the Moms that need to be acknowledged, Moms of addicts truly deserve the most praise.  If the Mom of a “normal” child worries on a daily basis, then what can be said about the Mom of an addict?  It is difficult to contemplate.  And if you could quantify the amount of forgiveness the average Mom allows for the average kid, then to what degree more does she allow for her addicted child?  I am not a mathematician, but I would think that amount is immeasurable.

And the most amazing part of all is how little Moms seem to ask in return for all this forgiveness, all this love.  I believe because for Moms, they don’t even consider how much they are doing… in their minds, it is just “their job.”  But truly, the extra love, support and forgiveness Moms give to their addict children is not a requirement, and, as one of these recipients, I truly appreciate it.

Many people suffer the loss of their Mothers for any number of reasons… death, separation, estrangement.  I am so blessed, despite all of the mistakes I have made in my lifetime, to have the gift of not one Mother, but two, and I am taking the time today (a day late), to tell them both how much their love and support mean to me, and that I wouldn’t have my 107 days of sobriety without them.  If everyone had even one of my Moms, the world would be a much happier, much stronger place.

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