I have taken advantage of the opportunities to learn from my addiction and my former debilitating lifestyle in all its glory; the one that deadened and demanded it have my whole person, but mostly, forcefully snatched my desire or ability to focus on or experience anything that I would perceive as good.
Being an unhealthy person overall (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) was exhausting.
It helped me to keep the traumatic & painful things at the forefront of my mind and I really didn’t know how to shut down the continuous loop that reeled inside of my head.
I was continuously reminded of the pain because I did a good job making sure that my old wounds stayed raw, and fresh. I hated who I was, but most of my underlying rage was directed very specifically toward my mother.
I wasn’t aware that the bitterness and resentment that I had been holding onto would also become the starting point where most of my healing would take place in recovery.
Loving someone who has struggled with mental-illness and addiction my entire life is comparable to the stages of emotion one experiences when they are grieving, except for its a little different.
Physically she has always been here and she is still alive today, but she hasn’t ever been, and still isn’t available. I never had the privilege of knowing her, but I have had a front row seat to watch the slow deterioration process.
So in honor of her and because of my grief,
I never really let celebrate Mother’s Day.
Despite being a young mother myself, it almost felt disrespectful to enjoy the it. Instead, I spent it mourning what I never had and what I would never have. This holiday magnified all of my negative feelings and gave me an excuse to feel sorry for myself year after year.
I would cry throughout the day wondering what things could have been like or what it might have been like to have her around, or who she might be if she was healthy or what our relationship could have been like if it was ever given the chance to develop.
I would imagine what it would be like to meet my mom for lunch or shopping. What if one day we went to get our nails done, what would that be like? Maybe she could have gone to my wedding, or maybe I should have tried to find her to come to the hospital for at least one of my children being born? What would it be like to invite her over for dinner? What does she like to eat? Then I would start wondering how she spends her Mother’s Day. Is it still traumatic for her? Does she still blame herself for my brother’s passing?
Then I would seamlessly transition to all that I never had. I wouldn’t let myself forget that when I was a little girl I never had anyone to watch get ready, or to share lipstick with. No one to talk about adolescent girly types of things, no one to laugh with, no one to talk about boys with. As I got older I didn’t call her when I found out I was expecting my first baby, my second, or my third. My labor came and went without any contact with her or connection of any kind. Post-par-tum days weren’t any different. She didn’t know that my life had changed, and she wasn’t interested.
Just like my addiction in its organic form, this entire process was completely inward focused. I couldn’t see any of the good around me because I was so focused and determined on all of the negative things.
But my recovery taught me how to sort through all of the negative feelings that I had relating to all of those things that I never had and would likely never experience. I learned that In order to allow myself to move forward I needed to accept what is and forgive her for what wasn’t.
And then God took it a step further.
It became so much more than acceptance, and having my feelings validated.
It was more than processing and healing.
It was more than being free and more than the ability to move forward.
Somehow I became grateful that my life went the way that it did.
Somehow I was able to look back without wanting to change it all.
I was thankful for the messes and the trauma and being the ‘unfortunate kid.’
It is why I can sit here with tears welled-up in my eyes, so thankful to be here writing this.
It is why I can celebrate Mother’s Day:
*My experiences are the reason why it is so important to me to encourage other moms to stay sober and why I want to help them to stay strong for their babies. Their kids need them. I know how much of a difference that having them will make in their lives. I also know that it doesn’t matter to a child when a parent gets sober, it really won’t make a difference to them. They will just be over the moon excited and relieved.
*My experiences are the reason why I want to be a part of fighting for people who are struggling with the stigmas that have formed around people and families with mental illness and addiction. They are the reason why I don’t believe in labels. These things make an already difficult situation so much more shameful for all involved. I fight for people who I have never met, because we are all connected in this thing, even if we’re strangers.
*My experiences are the reason why I am so grateful to be a mommy, and I am okay with being an imperfect one. My mother is imperfect and I still love her, so I know that I can’t possibly screw up my kids that bad, so I have already made a little bit of progress with the legacy that I will someday leave behind. Progress people, progress.
*My experiences aren’t debilitating anymore and they aren’t powerful in the sense that they can have me down in my bed for days in tear-soaked bed sheets.
They are powerful in the sense that they have become my purpose, and my primary motivation to love my kids so hard that they won’t ever spend a Mother’s Day trying to figure out what they could have done wrong, or different, or better.
This is what drives me to keep cheering for all of the parents out there who are in recovery.
You guys rock and *you* might not believe it yet, but you are changing the world by changing your life. We can change the trajectory of the little lives we are in charge of, and that is amazing.
You matter and changing your life matters even on days where you can’t feel that it matters.
Our kids see us fighting to get our lives back and they will see how determined that we are- and they will begin to see their own resilience and freedom to choose.
For me, God has taken a holiday that used to have me face down in the mud, and has breathed so much new life into it, so much that I can’t put into words. His love for me has shown me how to love other people. I had a wonderful Mother’s Day with the little people who I have been loaned, and I hope that they know how much my love for them has driven me to be a better woman.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of my beautiful mama friends.
(Side-note: I am not trying to feed stigma here. I am writing about undiagnosed, mismanaged or misdiagnosed mental-illness. It is possible and very common for THOUSANDS of people who have a mental illness to live happy, healthy, productive, stable, awesome lives.)