To live out my step 12 I felt like I needed to be of service. I did practice the principles I had learned in my affairs but I felt like it needed to be more.
I had to reach out and I had give back.
It was important to make myself available and I felt like it was also my duty.
The very least that I could do.
and so I did.
I did, and I shouldn’t have.
Step 12 wasn’t for me, well, not in the traditional sense anyway.
One year sober just wasn’t long enough for me and if we’re being honest, it is safe to say that I did more harm than good when it came to trying to be a sponsor to anyone.
Thank GOD there were (only) two young women who had to deal with my over-inflated, grandiose view of my own sobriety and my own path that I used to get there.
At one year sober I can remember feeling so proud of myself and excited, invigorated, and determined; I felt like I was ready to jump out there and save the world!
Or, any one of the new bodies who walked through the doors of our next meeting.
I was so full of gratitude I cried every single time I thought about my new life.
I still did homework. I still went to meetings every single week, and at that time, I was also sharing my story at churches and co-leading meetings at the treatment center downtown.
Busy, busy, busy.
Giving back, giving back, giving back.
Giving back was good. It helped me to gain confidence and each time I told my story it provided a little bit more closure for me. Over time my story became less and less about the negative and the addiction and more and more about good things; like sobriety and reflection, and coming into my own and embracing who I am.
And of course I wanted people to know that sobriety was a possibility for them too.
That recovery was a real-life actual thing, that could be done no matter what they had done.
That this program worked and there were real-life people to relate with and they really cared.
But none of this means that I was ready (or cut out to be) a sponsor.
I can remember my sponsees sharing their struggles or experiences with a relapse with me and I wondered why?
Why they hadn’t just taken my advice?
Why weren’t they listening?
“What in the absolute f*ck is wrong with them?”
“What a waste of their time, damn, our time..”
“They can’t be doing their homework.”
“Maybe they just don’t want it bad enough”
“Something isn’t going right and that something is them, not doing their part.”
Those are actual thoughts that I am ashamed to say that I had.
As we met every single week I would make a beeline for the table of snacks and coffee to get the hell out of the room for a few minutes.
Why wasn’t this program working for them the way it had for me?
Obviously because they weren’t working it correctly, that’s why.
That had to be why. I felt so annoyed.
It all makes more sense now, almost nine years later.
What was happening was that they were simply being honest with me and with themselves.
They were just sharing their experiences, and instead of being met with kindness they were met with disbelief and contempt.
How completely awful for them to reach out for help or guidance, and in return they get someone who closes the door on them for being who they are?
I truly wasn’t ready to be a sponsor.
Aside from sharing my story the only thing I should have been ‘giving back’ the first few years of my sobriety should have been hugs, smiles, knuckles, or any other morally supportive hand gestures that are in existence.
-I was still not emotionally regulated or stable enough to be relied on as a form of solid support. In my case sobriety didn’t equal stability. Obviously, I don’t think that sponsors or support people need to be a picture of perfection, but stable should definitely be a requirement. Most sponsor/sponsee relationships are some of the first new & healthy dynamics that a person in recovery will build. I wasn’t ready to be that or to offer that to any vulnerable someone’s yet. One day I would welcome their calls and other days I didn’t want to come out of my bedroom, let alone talk on the phone or meet for lunch. Blah.
-I hadn’t developed a whole lot of empathy for others at one year sober.
I am still a straight shooter, but not a straight shooter who lacks empathy.
Yes there is a difference.
The level of cold that I used to be was dangerous to a newly sober person or anyone remotely interested in recovery. I was forward, honest, and direct all right. All necessary qualities, but I needed a large cup of empathy and a few heaping tablespoons of balance; balance between being direct, and also lovingly able to spit out truth without being totally condescending with my delivery.
-I hadn’t yet done life with other people in recovery.
The main difference between how connect and encourage people now and how I did things at one year is simple.
I know more people.
I have met people from all walks of life, from all different programs, and people who are anti-program everything.
I have friends who like me, love God, and others who are atheists in recovery.
Some use counselors and therapies, others use essential oils, some rely on meditation or travel or medications, and others like myself rely on prayer and the Bible, and fellowship.
There are about a billion self-care techniques and combinations out there that we can use to maintain sobriety.
The whole recovery process really isn’t all about the program we choose.
The program itself is merely a blueprint to help guide.
The program (if you look at all of them) are meant to prompt self-discovery and to reinforce certain bottom lines depending on which program you are a part of.
There are all different paths to one goal, and that is to figure out why we do what we do, hence, discovering who we are.
Recovery is truly about self-revelation.
Addiction is about hiding from the truth.
A sponsor should be there for their sponsees to help them through the transition from one to the other until they ready to move forward on their own. To be there for them to be loving, kind, honest, and trustworthy.
Today I know:
*I can’t save everyone and I know it’s not my job to save anyone anyway.
*My personal recovery isn’t worthless if I am not sponsoring someone else one-on-one. I am raising three kids. That counts.
*My sobriety isn’t meaningless if I don’t go to meetings regularly. I go to al-anon now. That counts.
Because like I said, this isn’t about following the strict guidelines of any program.
It is about self-discovery and maintaining balance within ourselves.
So, of course my ‘program’ isn’t going to look like yours, and that’s okay.
I also know:
*My step 12 may not look like yours. You may not even care about step 12. You may not even know the steps and that’s okay.
*I still don’t sponsor people, and that’s okay too.
Codependency has a lot of different faces. The phrase that sums up my experience is that
“I’m happy when you are happy, and when you’re in distress, I feel unregulated.”
At just under a year sober I had learned that my girlfriend had relapsed and wasn’t doing too well. We would see each other regularly and never spoke about whether or not she was using. I trusted that when she wanted help she would ask for help, but it broke my heart and I wasn’t as cool as that statement might make me appear.
I worried a lot.
Each time my phone rang I thought it would be someone telling me that something terrible had happened. I created anxiety in my life by trying to be prepared for the worst at all times.
Eventually she asked for help and I brought her to detox.
We weren’t sure that she would stay more than the night but she made the decision to go and I would sleep well that night; or so I thought.
The funny thing about the mind is that it can control the body. At 11 months I was having panic attacks, I was losing focus at work and I was sleeping in broken patterns throughout the night.
Today it’s easy to see in hindsight that I was waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop– I was waiting for the worst case scenario and I was sleeping lightly because my mind was preparing my body for its “fight or flight” mode, and plus, if I were awake I could rush to her rescue.
For over two months I slept like this.
I became tired throughout the day and kept my ringtone on the highest volume.
During conversations with friends I would scour for service, refreshing my connection to make sure I hadn’t missed any calls or voice mails. I didn’t trust that the universe was taking care of her and I stopped meditating.
In a couple’s session her therapist had mentioned a theory she had about our behavior.
She suggested that I was the sick one because I wasn’t being treated for my own illness.
I thought, “Here we go, here it comes. Jay is always wrong. Everyone warned me about couples sessions.”…I felt like I was set up in a position where I would never be right and I would never win. I tried to switch the focus back to the treatment she was or wasn’t getting, and how this would affect her discharge plans.
The therapist said to me, “You’re trying to control this conversation just like you’re trying to control her treatment plan. In codependency, one person takes control and the other person allows the control. Your fear is that if you let go of that control, you will lose her. Her fear is that if she doesn’t allow you that control, she will lose you. Have you ever asked her what she wants?”
She was right.
I went on to explain how wrong she was, that I was in recovery and I had the experience and insight that I knew was helpful to my girlfriend. I had the cheat sheet with all of the answers.
She didn’t shame me or try to prove me wrong. My girlfriend simply smiled because she had heard the truth and knew it to be spot on.
Her therapist waited for me after our session and gave me a handout on codependency and emotional regulation.
It explained a lot.
It was difficult for me to see. It was difficult to admit.
I hadn’t realized these methods weren’t effective. I was becoming a teacher rather than a supportive boyfriend. I wasn’t listening anymore because I was preparing my response. I always thought there was a perfect combination of phrases for any situation that could dissolve any conflict or confusion.
I found safety within this line of reasoning.
What a difficult pill to swallow to learn it wouldn’t work any longer.
Everyday I meditate and talk to my network of support and try to set the tone to go with the flow of things rather than holding on too tightly to what I believe. For my meditations I began using mantras like “everything is as it should be” or “go with it.”
Acceptance is one of those things that I needed to commit to. It’s hard to accept because it’s hard to let go of my defenses. For me, acceptance today means that my happiness isn’t derived from the happiness or well-being of my girlfriend.
My happiness is derived from the effort I put into being happy and healthy. For me.
Codependency can be subtle or it can be painfully obvious.
An outside perspective with someone you trust is a sure fire way to discover how healthy and helpful your communication techniques and relationship style is. The most important thing isn’t to be discouraged if you’ve found you’re skewed to the codependent side.
The important part is realizing what the problems are, and being willing to work work on letting go of them.
Your relationship will only grow if you allow it the space to do so.
Jay is 27 years old and has been sober for over 1 year.
He is an alumni at Atlas Recovery House, a non-12 step-based program in Los Angeles, where he also works. In his free time he likes to play music and enjoys going to concerts.
Discovering that I have the freedom to embrace exactly who I am in a very organic & authentic way, without feeling a need to conform to restrictive expectations from anyone in my life, has been one of my favorite effects that my recovery journey has had on who I am as a person.
(And if I do accidentally have people who have somehow managed to wedge their way into my small circle that aren’t able (or willing) to try to accept me for me, it appears that I have been ignoring them for quite some time.)
And I don’t want to mislead you:
1.) My choice of embracing who I am and not putting energy into worrying if people like me or not is not the same thing as everyone liking me.
Believe me. It’s not. (and that’s okay).
2.) I would like to be a more social person despite the fact that I am still particularly anxious and awkward in many situations. Liking myself and but having friends who love me for me doesn’t mean I have morphed into a social fairy who enjoys large groups, small talk, or feeling vulnerable. It simply means that I get better every day and I like me. I am grateful to have people in my life who like me as is; countless flaws, sketchy past, and sarcasm included.
But feeling comfortable in my own skin has been a rather slow but meaningful process of becoming.
It took me a long time to make the connection between how getting to know myself, unpologetically embracing who I am, and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to connect with other people, all directly effect each other.
Growing up in an environment as chaotic as the one that I called home didn’t leave me any time to handle much more than surviving. It took a lot of my energy to repress traumatic experiences and I didn’t have time leftover to invest in other areas of my life. I completely skipped vital phases of child development. Things like developing a healthy sense of who I was or learning to be friendly with other humans didn’t register with me and my scale of importance. I didn’t place any value on building meaningful relationships with others, especially not with the one that I was supposed to have with myself; I was also reluctant to open up to people and had a tiny bit of a problem trusting other people for anything.
So building a close relationship with another person was out of my carefully created and controlled comfort zone. Thanks but no thanks. I didn’t have time to worry about who I was.
And I knew that I didn’t fit anywhere so I changed like a chameleon depending on who I was around; always worrying that people could somehow see the dysfunction that i was a bi-product of. Which led to me feeling like I just didn’t fit anywhere and so, I hid.
Living this way allowed me the wiggle room to do almost anything!
Well like everything aside from building relationships or acknowledging my authentic-self.
I preferred isolation over connecting, but what I couldn’t see at the time is how damaging this way of living was. By not being connected inwardly, I couldn’t begin to allow myself to connect outwardly; and most important, I didn’t know why I preferred it that way.
The same isolation that had once been my go-to, safe place of refuge was literally killing me.
Choosing sobriety meant giving up my need for power and control.
It asked that I leap every single day. Leaping without having an idea of an exact landing place or knowing where I was going was scary. It isn’t something that can be controlled. Sobriety just asked that I do the next right thing.
Which mostly meant I had to be around –you guessed it.
I loathed the thought of having to sit in a room full of other people, never-mind that room was located inside of a church. I just hated the whole idea of having to put myself fin a situation where I would most certainly be exposed, while I was also overwhelmed with the anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen when I did these so-called next right things.
On top of everything, I was sober during all of this life-change business.
But it never failed. Every time my home group met I was always greeted by smiling faces. Over time I quit glancing behind me to see if they had mistaken me for someone else or were smiling at the person behind me.
They saw me, and they accepted me, and that’s all it was.
I started to greet them with a hug and a smile right back.
For a long time that was as deep and connected as I was able to get.
But that was okay.
As more time passed I shared and listened and took notes, and I began to excavate parts of me that I hadn’t ever seen before.
As each piece of me was uncovered I excitedly shared the news with my small group and little by little I started to connect a little bit deeper, with myself, and with others.
I felt safe and loved, and I started to feel more and more comfortable with the changes that I had made and the discoveries that had been painfully unearthed.
By connecting with other people and listening to them share, I was learning so much about who I was.
This would end up being the place where I learned how to open up and to allow myself to be vulnerable and that is how I learned the value, importance, and power of connection.
Being comfortable and accepting of who I am is freeing, and allows me the confidence to show myself to others in a way that allows us the opportunity to form a connection, and that can lead to lasting relationships.
I have managed to find an imperfect but perfect for me tribe of friends.
Granted, many of the connections that I have made are mostly with other women in recovery who I have not actually met face to face, but it still totally counts.
The most important part about our kinship isn’t proximity anyway, it is having the freedom to be ourselves and not having to worry if that is acceptable or not.
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.)
Long before I found myself in the process of self-discovery where I was unpacking and finally facing the fact that I was a codependent, enabling, doormat-ish kind of person I was reluctantly facing another harsh truth.
It was time to choose to accept help for my drug addiction.
What had held me back and what had kept me stuck for as long as I stayed stuck was an idea that I held close & tightly clung to for years. Well, it was more than an idea, it had become my belief system.
It whispered to me constantly as it served as a reminder to me every day:
“Not only are you unworthy of living a healthy life, there is no possible way that you could ever repair the damage that you have done. Zero. Don’t even bother. You will let everyone down. It is all too broken, you have made too many mistakes, you have damaged your son too deeply, and you couldn’t fix any of it. Oh’… and good morning.”
The same lies that kept me up at all hours of the night, the same lies that woke me early in the morning, the very lies that compelled me to live a life in isolation, were also the same lies that preferred I stay far away from anyone reaching out to help me to see the truth.
My belief system was built on lies. I operated on these lies. I suppose I got to a point where I relied on them to sustain my way of life.
I had come to believe that the only way to change was to fix everything.
In reality, the only thing that I really had to do was accept everything.
I had to accept help.
I had to accept the that I had made mistakes.
I had to accept that I couldn’t take any of it back.
I had to accept that some of it could be repaired and some of it may never exist the same way again.
For me that meant detoxing. It meant moving. It meant changing my phone number. It meant feeling like I was totally, most likely, going to d.i.e., it meant really wanting to quit but so badly wanting peace and calm, and contentment and it meant doing it anyway.
All of that was just preliminary work that needed to happen before we (God, myself, counselor & my small group) opened Pandora’s box full of things like memory repression, dissociation, long-term effects of trauma, lack of coping skills, inability to self-regulate ..anything, clinical depression and some other complex issues.
I was a hot mess of raw pain and deep rooted unhealthy thinking with a dependency on all things no good in every single area of my life.
In order for my recovery to continue progressing, I had to, had to, had to, continue believing the truth that I chose to believe in the beginning of the process.
I had to choose to accept what is, and I had to vow to combat my need to want to fix it all and call myself good enough.
I had to commit to stop telling myself that everything, all of the things, it all had to be fixed in order for me to be ‘well’ or to be considered ‘good’ ‘acceptable’ or ‘worthy’.
That is crap.
It’s all crap.
It is totally fine, acceptable, and completely normal to stumble into a meeting, or a facility, or a church, or a counselor’s office, or rehab or (Insert your choice of recovery regimen here)
completely unwilling to do anything except- accept.
It really is.
It’s a solid place to hit the ground running and a great start to your very own recovery journey that will enable you to grow into the person who you were meant to be; the healthiest version of you.
Just accept the gift of Grace, and vow to keep moving forward.
And as they say, one day you will look back, and you will be amazed and so grateful that you took that very first step…right into acceptance.
As I have stated previously, I (respectfully) choose not to identify as a drug addict but that doesn’t mean that I am not reminded on a daily basis that I am a rehabilitated person; a previously shattered, broken, empty, lost, human being currently living on borrowed and gifted time.
I am reminded of that every single day.
and every single day gratitude for sobriety spills over into all areas of my life, because that is not who I am anymore.
As a person in long-term recovery I often wonder:
“Will there ever be a day that I don’t consciously recognize that I am a person living a sober life, as opposed to being just a person living life?”
Will I always hug my boys like I haven’t seen them in weeks?
Am I always going to laugh at their jokes, or hug them just a little bit tighter and longer than I need to? (Or what they can tolerate)
Am I always going to peek in on all three of them repeatedly just to stare at their perfect, round, little faces?
It is possible that I will forever be that imperfect parent who doesn’t want to miss anything because I have already given too much away already and my dedication to relishing in every moment that my heart is able to absorb still hasn’t wavered?
……I hope so.
Is it likely that I will always look at my husband as if he is the only man on this planet, every single morning, reminding myself of all of the days that we have left to build new memories, as I push away the quiet reminders of all that I cannot remember or piece together, or do-over, or take away?
Will I be able to continue admitting when I am wrong, every single time, even if it always happens numerous times a day?
When I am being irrational, or have lost my temper, or said something I didn’t really mean because I was hot, tired, or hungry will I do my part to hold myself accountable?
……I hope so.
Will I always see the hurt in other people’s eyes?
Am I always going to be able to see through a phony smile or audibly hear when tears are being held back but are just one word away from surfacing?
Will I always going to be the person who knows intimate details of the lives of young women who bag my groceries, or who spill their hearts out to me when we are standing in line somewhere?
……..I hope so.
Will I always try to make amends whenever it is possible or healthy for me?
Will my promptly’s continue to come quicker and closer together?
Am I going to keep falling on my face, over and over again?
Will I always feel this thankful to my recovery family of supporters?
Can I always embrace my strengths and keep continue being vigilant about *all of the areas that I still struggle in?
……..I hope so.
I open my eyes every morning and I thank God for another day to try again, to get it right, or vacuum that something, or email that somebody…
But as much as I am embracing this sober life,
living out my recovery day-to-day seems to be a constant reminder of who I used to be.
That somebody who I used to know.
Every single day that I embrace sobriety, I find my mind wandering.
Time and time again I glance behind me.
But looking back doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
It doesn’t mean that I completely lose myself or dig up things that I have laid at the foot of the cross- things like resentment, shame, sorrow, or regret.
It doesn’t mean that I yearn for that old way of living or pine away for any component or characteristic of that lifestyle.
It means that I am still able to see that girl.
The one who I used to be.
The girl who thought she had to be strong all of the time, who needed to have it all together.
The one who couldn’t allow herself to let go of control of what she felt or who she felt for, who strong armed anything that felt close to concern, care, compassion, or love; the one who hid.
I can close my eyes and I can see her.
and I am immediately brought right back to where I belong.
I reassured when I am look back and catch a glimpse of that life.
Everything is finally alright.
By alright I mean real.
By real I mean I am present.
I am aware. I am living and feeling and experiencing.
I have come to a place in my journey in this life where I am finally wearing the skin that I am in and I am comfortable being me.
That is all that I ever truly wanted.
Although I seem to continually uncover new parts of who I am, and I am still utilizing the tools that I have tucked away from the recovery programs, from blogs, literature, articles, magazines, books, and now the ever popular podcasts- I have learned one very important thing-
Will there ever be a day that I don’t consciously recognize that I am a person living a sober life, as opposed to being just a person living life?
I hope not.
I got a package in the mail yesterday from a distant relative. It was such a thoughtful and kind gesture, and I really appreciate them taking the time to send it to me.
Before I opened the package, I re-read the facebook message I had received that sweetly encouraged me to enjoy the photos, and expressed that they really hoped it helped bring back some great memories.
Inside of the manila envelope I found a large stack of random pictures that were taken at various stages of my childhood.
I sat down on our porch swing that faces our back yard.
I began looking though them as I listened to my boys playing on the trampoline.
It was great seeing all of my cousins. Everyone was so young, and so adorable. Looking at the smiling faces of my grandma ,my great grandma, and other relatives who I instantly recognized put a smile on my face.
My smile faded as I could faintly hear that apathetic voice that I have intentionally and strategically buried with truth and immeasurable amounts of hours worth of self-care & maintenance.
It was the familiar feeling of disconnect.
If I hadn’t recognized the faces in the photos they may as well have been stock photos that come inside of new picture frames from a local retail store.
I kept trying to envision the specific time in history anyway.
But it was blank.
I tried to carefully study each photo thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I stared long enough; if I really let the details in the photo sink in, surely, some kind of flashback or emotion would surface.
So I took my time.
I examined facial expressions, clothing, photos on the wall, flooring.
I closed my eyes, trying to imagine the scenario. The smells, the sounds. Something. Anything.
But nothing came.
As a sober adult who has been on a complicated, yet gratifying journey working toward being the best, healthiest version of myself for almost a decade now, this isn’t my first rodeo in relation to feeling detached.
I know that throughout my childhood, the effects of trauma seized moments from me before they even had a chance to play out.
I can recall certain instances when I visited a friend, went to school, or attended a birthday party, but what I remember are feelings, not specific memories.
I can remember feeling different.
I can remember never allowing myself to fully embrace a moment or freely express raw, genuine, emotion.
Everything that I said or did was always carefully calculated and thoughtfully dispensed.
But just as I or anyone else thumbing through this stack of photos can clearly see: it wasn’t all bad.
There were blocks of time where I had opportunities to be free, and to enjoy be a kid, but I never welcomed it or embraced them.
My experiences were always negative because of the way I operated day-to-day.
I was always busy surviving even when it wasn’t necessary.
I made my home down in the pit that I was stuck in, and just to be super safe, I was also wrapped in real fear of losing my sense of control.
So much of my life
has had been handed over to trauma.
The good news is: that was not the end of my story.
It could have been, but by the grace of God, it wasn’t over. It was just beginning.
For me, sobriety meant finally having to face the hard stuff and voluntarily giving healing permission to begin its work in my life.
Although I don’t lead a perfect life and I may not ever not rid myself of the shadows left from the scars, today I understand what I have control over, what I don’t, and more importantly, I value how little control I actually need to have.
Never again will I believe that I am nothing more than a channel created for fear, or meant for compulsion, because I am free.
So trauma, you can keep that manila envelope.
I will keep the gifts of sobriety that I have been gifted and am able to open each and every day.
And for that, I am beyond grateful.
It’s Good To Be Alive!
By Midwestern Mama, creator of Our Young Addicts.
My dad was an early riser.
Each morning at the breakfast table, he would stretch and declare, “It’s good to be alive! Good to be alive!” As a kid, I dismissed the sheer beauty of this morning ritual and squirmed at how he repeated the phrase.
Fast forward to age 49, I now understand the infinite wisdom that he expressed and why it required such emphasis. In fact, on my dad’s 80th birthday in 2009, my sisters and I presented him with a tribute of all the things we remembered growing up and his “good to be alive” mantra was top of the list.
At the time of my dad’s 80th birthday, things in my family life were turning upside down and I had no idea what twists and turns we were in for in the years ahead. From this point forward, our middle son became a focal point. Not because he was the middle kid, but because his attitude, mood and behavior was changing. It was becoming foreign to us and we were wondering what the heck was going on. We were very concerned.
Until this point, life had been beautiful.
A great marriage. Three wonderful kids who seemed to be thriving.
Prosperous careers. Friendships. Community involvement. Fun times on family vacations. A home that provided comfort and joy. Lots of laughs and family time together.
You name it. Indeed, we were blessed. Then, as I said, things started to change.
Our son was using drugs.
Marijuana at first, quickly followed by opiates including heroin. Although his grades were exceptional, his attendance record was putting high school graduation at risk. He was lying, stealing, manipulating.
We saw it, but others said it was just a phase. We suspected drugs, but did not have tangible evidence because he hid it well. It got worse and worse, and for those of you who have been through addiction first hand or as a family or friend, you know what I mean.
In short, things were ugly. Yet in spite of the ugliness, I discovered beauty. Yes, I discovered beauty and beauty saved me.
As a mom and wife, I felt responsibility to hold everything together. I was doing OK at this for everyone except myself. It felt like things were getting ready to fall apart. It felt like things were becoming unmanageable (Step One for those who embrace the 12 steps.)
I did not want things to become unmanageable, so I paused. I sought help and through this help, I rediscovered beauty in everyday life and it was more beautiful than it had ever been. This is not to say that things were not sad, mad or difficult. Addiction is all those things and witnessing it as a parent is horrific. What it is to say is that during this harrowing journey of addiction for my son, I intentionally and consciously began to embrace beauty all day, every day.
Just like my dad, beauty began each morning when I woke up. Waking up, alive and with the belief that this was a new day with new possibilities was an amazing starting point. I even began to say aloud his expression when I woke up: “It’s good to be alive. Good to be alive.” From there, I began:
I remember sitting in my son’s room – he was no longer living with us and was sofa surfing at the time – and feeling the morning sun come through his windows; it was warm and reassuring. Yes, the sun rose, day after day regardless of what was happening in my son’s life or my own. That, alone, was reassuring and beautiful.
Beauty continued to reveal itself as my husband and I landscaped our yard and planted a garden one summer early in the addiction years. The physical labor was therapeutic as we lugged bags of mulch and dug in the dirt to plant perennials and annuals that would attract butterflies.
The road ahead was nothing short of hard and challenging, but I sought beauty each and every day.
As our son’s addiction spiraled out of control and blips of hope became mere flickers of possibility, we maintained contact with him and welcomed him home as often as he cared to join us.
While the days and nights were dark and the unthinkable was always possible, I sought beauty; I expressed gratitude for what was and tried to let go of what wasn’t.
Fast forward to summer 2014, through many efforts at treatment, my son decided he was ready to embrace sobriety and recovery. July 11, 2014, remains one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the day that my son began his return, slowly but surely.
Through my son’s recovery, each day has offered up even more beauty than I ever imagined.
Do I look back on the addiction days as ugly? Sure, there was ugliness. Addiction is ugly. But it is the beauty that got me through it and the beauty that keeps me cognizant of today and the future. Without a doubt, as my dad said each morning, “It is good to be alive. Good to be alive.”
Midwestern Mama is the creator or Our Young Addicts, a growing community of parents and professionals who are concerned about the rising number of young people using drugs and alcohol. Together, we share experiences, provide resources and offer hope – no matter where a kid may be on the spectrum of addiction, treatment and recovery. Together, we are the #OYACommunity.
So what I say here isn’t earth shattering- it really isn’t.
It is just a simplified version of my truth.
A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it can be to let go, and allow love in.
To learn how to love ourselves, to accept love from others, and to express love in various ways- didn’t come naturally to me.
Love has ignited all of the healing that I have experienced in recovery.
Late at night, when all is calm, and our house is taking a rest, I see your face in my mind.
My heart aches for who you might be, or who I know that you are, hidden underneath all of your scars, and beneath the pain that you carry on your shoulders.
You would hate to hear that I am your secret prayer warrior.
Sometimes I cry, warm tears.
I let them stream down my face, saturating my pillow.
I say nothing.
I just let it happen.
I feel it.
I let it go, and I go to sleep.
Other times I immediately switch to a happier mental channel.
I do my best to not wonder where you are, or where you are sleeping.
I try to avoid the flashes of good memories.
The one’s of you running around in pajama’s on Saturday mornings.
Mostly because they are overwhelmed so immediately and change to the you accidentally falling into a fire, or unknowingly walking into highway traffic, or living through totaling cars.
Then, it will change to the you that I used to catch a glimpse of every few months, the you who used to still hold out a tiny bit of hope.
For that one day stretch- that you, he can only make it for so long before he is coughing up blood.
You are completely lost in him.
And then, it all starts all over again.
Realistically, I understand that I deserve to accept love.
I know that I have a right to my own happiness.
I remind myself why It is necessary for me to live my life separate from you, and raise my boys somewhere where you, well…..aren’t.
I still have times where I struggle to allow myself to embrace my new life.
I struggle to humbly celebrate my own victories as an individual.
I feel like I am leaving you behind.
So I put it away.
I tuck you safely into my heart and place you into my prayers.
I continuously push you out of my mind and put you back to a place where you can’t hurt me.
I quiet the worry that tends to creep in by staying very close to my savior, who reminds me of the truth.
You are worthy of love and redemption, but it is up to you to accept God’s gift of grace.
You have to choose to change and one day,
I know that you will.
I believe that you will.
I wish that I could hope you back to life.
I want to hug you without fear for my safety.
I want to look at your face and see life in those eyes.
I want YOU to see who you really are.
Until then, I will continue to keep my thoughts focused on what could be; what I believe could happen for you, or anyone else’s loved one who is slowly sinking, swallowing gulps of their own poison as each day passes.
Because hope is real.
Recovery is a real place where real people turn their lives around.
People just like you.
One day, I know you will know what I am talking about.
Until then, broski.
Transformation IS Real, and Daniel Maurer’s website is definitely an amazing place, packed full of all different kinds of life transformations to check out.
Take some time to check out his TIR Tat Tale’s section and read the empowering stories behind the skin art. I am excited to have been able to share the inspiration behind my recovery ink, alongside of other amazing recovery warriors.
I am excited to share this one with you guys. I am honored to share anything on this site, OurYoungAddicts.com. The message and mission there is inspiring and encouraging.
I am becoming more and more comfortable about talking about my experience with being a mommy/parent who struggled with drugs and alcohol. This topic specifically is one that really hits me hard and has taken me quite some time to heal from and to forgive myself for. But when healing happens, transformation happens, and for me, that means that I will feel more comfortable sharing about it. Shame is a powerful constraint, and in this piece I share how things tend to come full circle when we embrace the gift of sobriety.
Thank you for reading– you can find the blog post, Sobriety Gifts, here.
I was skinny as a child.
It wasn’t until the age of 8 or 9 that I really started to gain weight.
That is also about the time my mom started to work outside of our home, so she wasn’t around, and my older brother didn’t really care what we (younger brothers and myself) ate.
I was/am very much loved by my parents and family, but some things did happen when I was young and it was something I didn’t talk about.
So I used food as a way to cope.
Eating became something that I could control in my life.
Food became a comfort to me.
I loved eating but wasn’t interested in eating any healthy things.
I loved junk food, the sweeter the better. Eventually, I stopped playing sports and ended up sitting on the couch more and more
I would say I became addicted to the bad stuff; candy, cakes, cookies, chips, pop, ice cream: Sugar.
I have tried to lose weight what seems like thousands of times!
I have tried so many different ways.
Prescription medications, a few over the counter pills.
Those never worked. I never did it consistently and really wasn’t doing it for myself.
There were times when my dad would bribe me-telling me that he would buy me a whole new wardrobe if I would just lose 100 lbs. I would take the challenge, but I would only half-ass it, mostly to get him off my back. I would lose a few pounds here and there, but not enough to motivate me, and I would usually just get discouraged, and quit again.
I have had gym memberships.
I have tried the Atkins diet.
I even tried herbal teas that claimed to enhance and promote weight loss, and at one point,
My parents even had a food therapist come talk to me.
None of that worked.
I am now 37 years old.
I have to take 3 pills, 2x a day to control diabetes and high blood pressure.
I am tired of being tired all the time.
I’m tired of being out of breath going up a flight of stairs,
I am tired of having to ask a flight attendant for the extra seat belt thing
(or just hiding my waist to make it look like my seat belt is on, even though it won’t fit and because I was to embarrassed to ask for it)
I am tired of not being able to fit on the rides at our local theme park.
For me the biggest motivation has been the prospect of adopting a child.
It almost happened recently, but fell through and things didn’t work out.
But through that experience, I realized that there are so many kids in my life who love me and who want me to stay around and that I want to be around to see my goddaughters, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews grow up. I want to be here to see them graduate high school and when they go of to college.
I want to see them get married. I just want to be here.
This time I know I will be successful because I am committed!
The difference is that before, I was doing it for someone else & for the wrong reasons.
This time, I am doing this for ME.
It has been about 7 weeks since I began this new journey.
My heaviest weight was 358.
I have lost 13.4 lbs total.
I have even managed to be a part of 2 birthday celebrations, and have made it through St. Patrick’s Day & Easter without giving into the temptation around me.
I have changed the way I eat and look at food. I have started to change the way that I think.
I have even started to exercise. I walk every day, I have done my first 5k and I finished it, I am signed up for more walks, one in May and the other in July.
The advice that I would give to anyone else who is trying to lose weight
is that you have to want it.
You can’t do it for anyone else.
Next, I would say change the way that you are looking at it. It’s not a diet, It’s a LIFE CHANGE.
Also, you need support.
It helps not to isolate yourself or keep it secret.
I never realized how much support I could have if I just reached out.
So many people love me and are supporting my journey.
Make realistic goals for yourself.
Do what works best for you.
For me that meant making a meal plan, and no more eating out fast-food. I try to eat a lot of veggies and fruit every day and I count calories. I have also tried out Zumba, home workouts and walking as I said before. I don’t like the gym, so I am trying new things on to see what fits.
You have to commit to this as a life change.
No one can do it for you, only you!
Everyone keeps telling me how proud of me they are, which is great.
I really do appreciate it,
but it doesn’t mean anything
if I am not proud of MYSELF.
Have you ever spent a whole night in total black out to find yourself the next morning in bed with someone you don’t know?
Have you ever blacked out and done something that you totally regret?
Or even worse, have you ever came to in the middle of a black out to find things happening that you’d much rather not remember?
I remember it like it was yesterday.
When a group of friends decided to take a road trip to Austin for a car show, I was all about it. I figured while down for the show I would stop in at the apartment complex where my ex boyfriend lived to see if there was a party going on.
Of course there was… there always was a party going on.
I was really high, (smoking has never been my thing I don’t like the effect it has on me).
I barely remember stumbling to a back bedroom, closing the door and passing out on the bed.
I was alone and fully dressed.
I don’t know how long I was in bed, could have been an hour- could have been 6 hours, I don’t know. What I do know is I woke up to a guy having sex with me.
I remember feeling scared and confused, and I wanted it to end.
Instead of fighting it, I turned my head the other way and passed out again.
I just let it happen.
Through counseling I have come to understand my need to date married men, my bosses, or men who are unavailable.
It is me seeking control.
I use sex as a way to control the relationship.
I figure they will use me anyway so I’ll be one step ahead.
I’ll use them and take all they have and then ..I’m the winner.
It’s a sick way to look at things, but I’m finally working through all of it through counseling.
I am working on having a healthy relationship with myself before I worry about having a man in my life.
I feel comfort in knowing I’m not alone, but at the same time, I am sickened by the fact that it’s more common than we think.
I have come to realize that it’s not my fault that it happened.
We live in a world that tells woman that it’s our fault that we get raped.
We’re told that what we wear causes men to act inappropriately.
As if they have no control over their behavior when a girl wears a short skirt.
It’s unfortunate that women are scared to tell someone when they’ve been raped because they will be called liars.
It doesn’t matter how much you’ve had to drink if you say no the answer is no.
I wonder if I could’ve saved myself years of misery if I had told someone and sought help.
But as always, wondering does me no good.
I have to focus on today and work on being the best possible me for myself and my kids.
Maybe one day I’ll find the right man for me, maybe not.
I’m okay either way.
I’ve learned that I am good enough just as I am, I don’t need a man to make me feel better about myself.
This is the link to her blog: www.MyTruthStartsHere.org
I am borderline compulsive when it comes to certain things. Things like organizing any closet that I walk by, hanging clothes in color and seasonal order, or grouping my book collection by genre because it’s so super important.
But I am also never late, but always right on time, I have always had a bad habit of losing my keys or locking them in my car. All of the batteries in all of the things are likely in panic warning mode desperately in need of a charge …
all in all, I do lack in organization in certain areas.
So I like organizational things that actually help.
This super-simply key holder was a no brainer.
I totally ‘needed’ it in my life and now I have one.
I had an old frame, I already had spray paint and even the cheapo hooks.
This is one project the boys have already laughed at and have voted it unnecessary.
However, I have not had to run around trying to find my keys, so I voted that it stay.
Here is the original pic from the post that I used as inspiration:
So who bought a cheap map of The United States of America and tacked it up in her living room?
I did! I did!
I am excited about it too.
A few weeks ago I was up way too late scrolling through Pinterest -and boom.
This pin caught my eye. I loved it! What a cool idea…
First of all I love photos almost (but not quite) as much as I love actual experiences.
I have folders full of files like everyone else, but I need to touch photos and write on the back of them and hoard them in old books.
I try to print as many as I can.
Yes, I have fallen behind on my boy’s individual albums but I do a great job at printing photos off.
When they will actually touch down and arrive in their permanent homes is anyone’s guess, but I plan on spending downtime in my mid-life ironing out my scrap-booking issues more fully.
This project was something that could be done quickly and minimal expense.
I knew it was totally do-able.
So I Amazon primed the map and ordered a few photos to get started.
It has only been a week or so since I hung it up. I have to figure out a cute way to frame it.
Maybe a burlap border with lace overlay or something…not sure about that yet.
All of the boys like it. It has already opened their eyes to how much is out there to see. We have also had some fun conversations rehashing old memories from our trips.
There are so many places that we want to see, so many places that we haven’t been and we have a ton of ideas for future road trips.
Overall it has been a neat thing to have hanging up.
So it gets a thumbs up from them.
(which is funny, because it is *one pinterest project that they think is legit cool).
Of course you cannot leave here until I get all deep
and squeeze a little bit of sobriety into this post.
Much of my personal self-careish moments throughout the day are simple ones that I am easy able to integrate into a hectic or unpredictable mommy schedule.
They are clustery kinds of tiny moments dedicated to reflection.
For me this isn’t anything fancy schmancy.
It really just means I take time to breathe deep.
Often I will just smile to myself.
Other times I silently thank God for seemingly mundane things, even if that means I am grateful for the not so pretty, or quiet, or clean parts of my day.
So of course I have noticed several impromptu moments inspired by this pinteresty travel map.
I glance at it throughout the day, I can see all of our smiling faces.
It makes my heart happy.
I remember those fun times and particular memories stick out.
I can’t wait to see more places & new things with my people.
The goal is to travel to as many states as possible- to make memories that I will remember forever, but most importantly, I am excited to fill the hearts of our boys with good, positive, healthy, things and for them to experience different things. It will all just end up being tiny parts of the ‘who’ that they become and a small slice of who God created them to be.
What a very cool thing.
For years (way too many) people have been allowed to freely assume, to judge & generalize, and to categorize & marginalized the people out in the community who struggle with addiction.
This is called stigma.
We (people who have struggled with addiction) are finally standing up to tell people that it’s wrong.
If you have allowed yourself to be conditioned by the old school hype, you’re wrong.
It’s all wrong.
For so long people haven’t had any reason to change how they view addiction.
People haven’t had to understand why this issue is so important.
They haven’t found themselves in a situation to care enough about something that hasn’t touched their lives.
Well, for decades, they haven’t.
But it’s beginning to change.
It has started to creep closer and closer to their families.
To their churches.
They have a friend, a co-worker, a niece, a friend of a friend.
It is begun to seep into their world and it is starting to affect them personally.
And that is exactly what it takes sometimes.
Sometimes, it takes a personal brush with something real, to wake up a community.
This happens, one person at a time.
What people are starting to realize is that the old, washed up, sad excuse of a definition of what and who a
drug addict person struggling with an addiction is,
has been a misleading, appalling way to view an epidemic that has killed so many people.
Here are some things ‘drug addicts’ have been labeled:
Losers. Worthless. Street People. Senseless.
Low-Life. Junkies. Drunk.
Here is the online thesaurus lists as synonyms for the phrase ‘drug-addict.’
Just for kicks, here’s one more.
Why does this need to change?
Two important reasons.
First, people die because of this stigma.
No. Stigma is not directly responsible for the deaths of these people.
But do we know how many of them were too afraid to speak up or reach out?
Do we know how many hid in fear of being found out by family or a boss, a friend, a peer group or a team at work?
Do we know how many may have just needed a tiny bit of encouragement but instead, we met with a nasty comment or a dirty look?
No we don’t.
And no, it isn’t your job to baby people who are struggling with something.
And no, I am not saying these deaths are your fault. I am simply saying that I know for sure at least one of these deaths could have been prevented, and maybe, just maybe, we could have unknowingly played a part in that.
Second, the people who live through an addiction aren’t anything like what stigma says they are.You might just be surprised to find the types of people who are living sober lives in your community. We are everywhere. We probably work right next to you.
We are friends with you or maybe your children.
We are your neighbors, your nurses, your counselors, your artists, writers, musicians, advocates, business owners or your teachers.
Before you judge, consider listening to that voice in your heart that tells you that you could be wrong.
You just might have been conditioned to think a certain way about a certain group of amazing individuals who you really don’t know anything about when it comes down to it.
I understand that it is so much easier to wash your hands of something that, if you’re lucky enough, hasn’t personally effected you (yet).
but you just might find that you have been missing out of some REALLY amazing people.
Often, addiction as a disease, is compared to diabetes.
People will say that people with diabetes aren’t being stigmatized for their condition.
And you’re right. I agree with that.
People develop it.
Sometimes it’s random, other times it is a lifestyle combined with genetics.
What would happen if you met a person, let’s call her Jane.
Jane has developed diabetes, but has it under control and is managing her condition well.
She has a diverse plan full of helpful dietary and fitness tools along with a support group as her health regimen.
It has been over 6 years since Jane has had complications with her diabetes!
Congrats, Jane! You totally rock. Well, maybe you, maybe your hp, maybe Jesus. Maybe both, or neither. Which ever you prefer. Congrats in a humble way, Jane.
I know Jane does not look in the mirror every morning and say-
“Oh, hey Jane. You have diabetes. Don’t forget you have diabetes. It can kill you. Be careful Jane.”
Or when Jane meets someone new or introduces herself to a new friend or co-worker, she is not like-
“Oh hey, I am Jane. I have diabetes. Well, I do but I eat healthy and I exercise, go to the doctor regularly and really don’t have any issues with it anymore, but 6 years ago I did, and I could in the future- but only if I chose to start slacking on my personal health and wellness and really just changed most of my lifestyle but it is a possibility. I think it always will be, but it is great meeting you.”
Maybe that’s going too far for you but I don’t think it is.
I think that Jane looks in that mirror every morning and she is so excited to have this full, healthy, awesome life and she is damn proud of herself for pulling it all together and learning to live in a new and different way that was, at one point, completely foreign to her.
Jane has grown and learned so much about herself and she knows, believe me, she knows that things could change in the future if she doesn’t stay committed, but Jane is not diabetes.
Jane has a condition but that is not her identity. It is something that she experienced that she will never forget, something that changed her forever, and it changed how she sees other people forever.
She will always do what she can to help other people who might be in the situation that she was all of those years ago.
Anyway, that is just how I think about it.
My brain might not make sense to you, and that’s okay.
This has been a long process for me to get to this place.
I know that I have always had a problem with the word.
I know that some people out there feel like I am adding to the stigma by refusing to identify as an addict. Many others are feeling empowered and are inspired to finally be hearing someone else voicing a similar (yet unpopular) view point as theirs.
For me, rising beyond what society has always (ignorantly) assumed an ‘addict’ is,
is exactly the opposite of adding to the stigma associated with addiction.
I am not an addict, I am a person who struggled with an addiction, and now I do not.
I might always have a brain that will be susceptible to developing an addiction if I am not mindful and vigilant about maintaining my physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological health, but being an ‘addict’ is just not something that I focus on every single day.
My new lifestyle that I have gotten used to is composed of all of the things that I need to continue on this path in sobriety. I have healthy people in my life, I am content and I am so grateful to be alive to experience all of this.
I have learned that it is my job to take care of me.
Wearing the label of drug addict to me means that I am what society has concocted it to be.
I am nothing like what is (sadly, and unfortunately) typically regarded as a ‘drug addict’.
It is important, in my opinion, to do our part to chip away at the stigma.
It is our job to live lives that reflect the EXACT OPPOSITE of what society has deemed ‘drug addict’.
We are all so much more than that, and we deserve to live free from being suffocated and categorized.
We are managing our lives.
Like any other Mom, I love my children fiercely.
Honestly, the depth of the feeling cannot really be put into words.
The two happiest days of my life were the days they came into this world.
I looked into their faces and vowed to do my best to protect them in every way possible.
Unfortunately the hardest thing I faced was trying to be a mother and an addict at the same time.
I knew the day I left my ex that it was going to get ugly.
But I had no idea that it would turn into the battle it did….
Life as a Mother, and an Addict-
When I began my travel down the road to addiction with an eating disorder, I never thought it would end with me checking into treatment for prescription meds and alcohol use.
For a long time I knew that I was playing with fire when it came to drugs and alcohol.
I knew that I wasn’t like the other people I partied with. I always took it to a different level.
This was something I knew, but never wanted to admit.
Even when bad things started to happen, or when my family started to show concern.
I ignored them and continued on.
For the duration of my marriage I was what is called a “high functioning addict”.
I was able to keep a job, pay my bills, care for my children, cook meals, do laundry.
However, keeping up the guise of normal was exhausting both mentally and physically.
I went to the doctor a lot telling them that I was sick, and trying to find a reason why I felt so bad; unfortunately I never told them the whole story.
For me everyday was a struggle. (and when I say struggle, I mean it.)
Constantly trying to balance work, kids, relationships, and an addiction isn’t for the faint of heart, mind you.
But for a period of time, I managed.
Of course, on the outside my life looked normal, for the most part. My kids were well taken care of.
I read books on parenting and child development.
I had a bedtime routine we read stories every night.
I took them to the park, to birthday parties-you know normal things parents do with their children.
I tried to be the best mom I could.
Addiction made that difficult, and at the end, impossible.
It’s crazy what you can live with when you don’t know any better.
I had no idea how much anxiety I lived with physically and emotionally. I had heard about it, but for some reason never felt like it applied to me-(this is ironic, to say the least. I literally oozed tension and stress.)
In treatment I was forced to feel, face, and seek help for this anxiety.
Before treatment I found a solution in a substance or behavior and that worked but the relief it provided got shorter and shorter. Eventually, there was no relief no matter how much I used or drank- it didn’t work anymore.
The last 3 years before treatment I could not get high or drunk anymore. The feeling evaded me.
The only reason I used at this point was to be able to function, to feel “NORMAL” .
I got sick if I tried to not use.
Miserable is putting it lightly when I talk about getting sick.
I had only known my ex husband for 5 months before we got married. We got married because I unexpectedly got pregnant. I was told by friends and family that I didn’t have to marry him but I did it anyways. I felt like he was all I deserved.
I knew he had issues with alcohol and drugs but I hoped things would change after the baby was born. What I wasn’t prepared for was how drastically he changed and the person he became. It started with a small shove here, an insult there. I kept telling myself it would change and get better.
It didn’t take long for the violence and emotional abuse to escalate.
I could go into gory details but I choose not too. I feel it is more important to focus on the future. In the end, the fact is, we both made mistakes and had poor judgement.
After six years I vividly remember the moment when I had had enough. I couldn’t do it anymore.
The havoc left in the wake of domestic abuse and substance abuse was blatantly obvious at this point.
My children were innocent victims in this whole F@#$%D up situation and I decided it was time to leave.
I packed a couple of suitcases grabbed the important documents and moved back in with my parents.
The Downward Spiral-
Before I moved home I don’t think my parents realized just how bad the situation was.
They kept encouraging me to go to counseling. I did what I always do, please other people, and went to counseling.
It didn’t help, but I have to be honest and say I put no effort into therapy.
I was done. I was not going back to that marriage ever.
The kids stayed with me, and for a while, things were okay.
That was the first 2 months and then I fell apart.
I no longer put limits on when I could use.
I had held it together for seven years, I pulled out the stops and fell apart in a matter of months.
My using spiraled out of control. I was in full-blown addiction, I did not have a good grasp on reality. I blamed everyone and everything else for my problems.
I tried so hard for 6 months to stop using I went to 12-step meetings every day, I had a sponsor.
But the reality is I couldn’t stop.
I got so sick, and this meant that no matter how bad I wanted to get sober I just couldn’t do it.
I can’t put into words how much I hated and despaired having to wake up in the morning. Honestly I wished that I would just not wake up, and that maybe I would be lucky enough to die.
I did not want to have to face another day of hurting those I loved the most.
Finally I had a moment of clarity:
I called my sponsor and asked her if she thought maybe going to treatment would be a good idea. She said it helped her. That was the hope I needed if she could do this so could I. In treatment I would have the supervision I needed to stop.
I called a treatment center at 9 AM on July 29th 2014.
By 5 PM that day I was on my way to treatment and to a new life.
I was terrified but at this point anything was better than where I was.
I knew that they would help me medically detox from the prescription drugs and alcohol. Turns out you can die by just stopping cold turkey benzo’s and alcohol cold turkey.
My first week of addiction treatment was spent in bed asleep I got up to maybe eat and get my vitals checked or take meds. After six days I got up and took a shower and started the process of putting my life back together starting with me. I went to my groups, I went to my individual sessions and I threw myself into getting better. Having had a taste of not having to use I wanted sobriety and I was willing to do whatever it took.
My first treatment center like so many across the US could only get me coverage to stay for 30 days. Come on let’s just put this in perspective I had spent 16 years destroying my life and 30 days is supposed to cure me and have me ready to deal with life. The reality is I was still testing positive on my drug screenings as benzo’s are stored in the fat and take a long time to get out of your system. I had been using Xanax, and Clonopin for 3 years I was still having significant side effects from them and seriously I was an emotional train wreck. . But my insurance felt I was ready for a half way.
I thank God that I knew I wasn’t ready I was terrified of going back to the bottomless hell that my life had been while using. So I asked for more inpatient treatment. They found it to this day I am so grateful that I had those extra 5 months of Partial Hospitalization it saved my life. The healing that took place could not have happened in any other setting. I had intense therapy to treat the emotional pain and trauma that had followed me for so many years.
I finished this program moved to a halfway house and got a job. This is when I started to really see that I could do this. My sponsor worked with and I began to work my way through the steps. I continued an Intensive Outpatient program and eventually moved onto seeing an individual therapist. I will not sit here and tell you this was easy. It wasn’t it was a lot of hard work. A Lot of tears, and a lot of emotions. But I got through it.
I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mom yet, but as I continued to improve and accomplish things sober I knew I was getting closer.
My ex didn’t trust me. He believed that addicts couldn’t get clean and stay clean. He has told me many times that once an alcoholic/addict always one. Based on his thinking, I was a danger to our children, and always would be.
The irony here is he didn’t even care for the children full time until just a couple of months ago. His parents did the caretaking. Somehow he also seemed to have a blind spot not remembering the domestic violence somehow that was ok. But me being an addict was’nt. He did anything and everything to limit and control my contact with my children. To this day every day I have to request through text or a phone call to speak with my children.
Really!!!! Are you F&*$ing kidding me. It’s exhausting and sometimes I don’t feel like doing this. It has been a year and a half. He has no legal order limiting my contact with the children. This doesn’t change the fact that he knows this is the only way he can hurt me anymore.
In the end I just have to keep my side of the street clear. I keep doing the right thing I go to meetings, see my therapist and do the best I can with what I have.
I have a custody hearing in May and I am nervous to say the least. The only prayer I have is that God’s will be done whatever it may be. It will always be in the best interest of the children that is what I really want and at this point I will accept the outcome.
You see the thing that recovery has taught me is that I don’t know what is best. My plans don’t really take into consideration the big picture. God or my “higher power” has a way of always having the best outcome happen. I can take comfort in this and I do. Its gotten me this far.
Don’t get me wrong there was a time where I really thought I was going to lose my kids that it didn’t matter that I had done the right thing and gotten treatment. The thing is even when I was faced with my biggest fear in sobriety. I stayed sober. And at this point I still have a chance of getting partial custody.
In the end my life is amazing compared to what it was a year and a half ago. I am alive I wake up happy in the morning looking forward to my day not dreading it. I have contact with my kids and things are continuing to improve.
I have a job that I love and people in my life that love and support me. This is more than I could have asked for before. My family is back in my life and I am building relationships with them again. I am grateful for each day. Today I can deal with life as they say on life’s terms. I have coping skills and have healed from trauma that I never thought would be possible.
Today I choose to live.
Rose Landes is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
I recently heard about a project called Books For Recovery, and I thought it sounded like a fantastic idea.
Reading really helped me to get through some of the toughest parts of early recovery.
Those hours that felt like days were a little bit more bearable when I had a good book to keep me occupied.
I know that reading has also played a huge part in so many people’s sober lives as well and I really think that Books For Recovery could really help so many people out there.
We all want to do our part to give back and help other people who are new to recovery in any way that we are able to, and that’s exactly what the person behind Books For Recovery aims to do….
Who is he?
Matt is a person from New Jersey, who struggled with alcoholism until he was 27.
He has over two years of sobriety and is coming up on his third. He got sober and began his recovery with the help of family, friends, medical professionals, and with the help of people he met through soberrecovery.com.
What is he doing?
He is providing FREE books to people who are newly sober, and is raising money to put toward the project.
His ultimate goal is to provide one free book to people who are entering treatment facilities. (How cool is that!?)
The money raised will go directly to cover the costs of inventory upkeep, storage, shipping supplies & shipping costs.
Why is he doing it?
Like all of us in recovery he simply wants to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life.
He feels like an idle mind can be a dangerous thing to a newly sober person. (Which we can attest to!)
Reading (and cycling) helped him to pass through the difficult days much easier, and reading offered him inspiration, education, empathy, and perhaps most importantly- hope.
Without cycling, the support of his family, and all of the reading that he has done, he doesn’t think he would be where he is today.
How can we help him?
Matt has been giving back with books since 2014. Let’s help him reach his goal, of not only continuing to do what he is doing, but to grow into something with even more reach!
We can help him by making donations, buying from the Amazon store, or partnering with him.
If you are interested in making a donation here is the Indiegogo link:
If you would like to learn even more about Matt, his project, or are interested in partnering
here are the social media links:
Twitter has become my new drug of choice.
Sorry coffee, the tweets pour in before you percolate.
My wife has noticed a change in me since I got on twitter six weeks ago.
Here’s our conversation in the car the other day:
At a stop light I thumb “notifications” on my black rectangular wonder box.
“What kind of world is this?” My wife asks.
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t sit at a stop light and just be still. You don’t have to check that thing. Nothing has changed.”
Silence. How often am I silent instead of saying “you’re right?”
“Our kids are screwed,” she continues.
“Not if we raise them right.”
“They sit in the back seat and see you check your phone at a stop light? What do you expect them to do?”
My son is three and uses a pine cone as a cell phone, but she has a point.
The hardest part of parenting is modeling the behavior I want to see in my children. And I don’t mean eating broccoli for dinner. I mean demonstrating patience instead of anger, choosing to read instead of watch TV, or refraining from cursing—lifestyle choices.
“So what to do we do?” I ask her.
“We pick up the kids from daycare at 5:30 and they are in bed by 8:00. That’s two and a half hours. Two and a half measly hours that we should not be on our phones. Period.”
We agreed three days ago to place our phones in the kitchen in a designated place for those two and a half hours.
Here is a brief review of those three days and what I’ve learned from them.
Kids playing in the other room. Wife is making dinner. I reach past her for my phone.
“What are you doing?”
“I thought of a text I need to send.”
“What about our deal?”
“Our deal was to leave the phone here, I’m not picking it up!”
Lesson 1: when collaborating with an addict to ‘give up’ an addiction, make the language clear, final, and without any wiggle-room.
We are eating dinner with the kids. A muffled buzzing in the kitchen alerts us somewhere, someone is reaching out to one of us.
We stare at each other between our infant’s gooooos and a toddler request for more milk.
“I’ll get it for you bud.” I jump to the rescue and dart into the kitchen.
“You’re pathetic,” my wife’s response.
Lesson 2: turn your phone off; don’t just switch it to vibrate.
Today was much smoother. Until I came downstairs to fetch my son some water as I put him to bed.
“Be right up bud!”
A quick check won’t hurt.
Lesson 3: when you admit you broke a pact, do it while guest blogging so the likelihood of your wife reading it is not very high.
The phone-hide practice has it’s advantages. My nine month old daughter was able to push a cart, walking (with assistance) for the first time. I was fully present to experience every second of it.
Mark Goodson has been sober since 2007 and has found writing to be a key to his recovery.
He is a teacher and a sober daddy to two children.
Mark Goodson Twitter: @maninrecovery
I am one of those people. I hear a song, and it takes me somewhere.
That link will take you to an old song, from 1996.
When I listen to this song, it takes me back to a meeting that I was sitting in.
This particular worship song played at the beginning of our Celebrate Recovery meetings.
(I can remember the whole playlist from that first year, and each one has a different meaning to me. Crazy, I know.)
I had heard this song played a handful of times before, but for some reason, one particular Thursday night, I cried.
(I should note that I cried a lot that first year. I was in emotional shock. Feelings were everywhere. It was just a part of what was happening to my body at the time. It was like I couldn’t control any emotion that I had, & when I did experience an emotion, it was magnified x 1,000.)
Anyway, not to sound dramatic, but that day this song made a real connection with me somewhere inside of my heart.
Not only should I have been happy that my heart still had the ability to absorb good and feel things,
confirmation that I still had one was a small victory in and of itself.
But the words. Those lyrics.
They were just screaming at me.
They weren’t just appealing to me on a psychological level.
I know that I was subconsciously yearning for a clean slate; pining for forgiveness, and for the possibility of a new chance. This was something more than my needs or desires being met or empty promises of success being made.
I was drawn to this idea of being made white as snow. The notion that anyone could be made white as snow, no matter how dirty their lives had gotten.
I can remember deciding to try this laying my life down at the foot of the cross thing that I kept hearing about. I had heard testimonies and stories about it. I think at some point or another all addicts have someone who wants to talk to them about Jesus. Anyway, I assumed this cross.. was not a literal thing, but a spiritual thing.
I finally chose the cross, knowing that I had already tried a long list of other things.
I tried to do good, I tried to be good, I tried to think positive. I had tried other ways.
Sometimes I did okay for awhile, but I always ended up right back where I started.
It all left me feeling even more lost, and depleted of any strength to keep trying.
I lived life in circles; and hopeless is a bad place to try and live a life.
So I really didn’t have much to say there, at the foot of this figurative cross.
Since we’re being all figurative, I was a tattered, torn, empty shell of a mess of a young woman.
I had nothing to offer but resentment, bitterness, rage & anger, blame, shame, mistakes, fear of failing, and tears.
but I left it all there.
….and it was like magic.
(just joking, my experience wasn’t anything like that.)
I actually walked away feeling weak and still very empty.
I was still malnourished and I still felt overwhelmed & defeated.
My eyes were swollen on the outside and still very empty on the inside- if you took the time to look close enough.
I was still an angry person.
I was still unsure if sobriety would stick and I was really, really scared.
And I was not even sure that I believed that people like me were welcome there, at the foot of the cross.
Still, somehow, it felt like a weight had been lifted off.
I gave everything that I did have to give, as lame as it all was.
It was like I instinctively knew that it wasn’t a quick fix.
What I felt like I did know, it that I was promised a chance for a new beginning.
I gave Him what I did have, and in return I was suppose to have a new chance at this life thing.
The work that I had to do alongside of Him, was what created the basis of a long-term relationship, and since my life changes weren’t instantaneous but slow and gradual, this took time.
Just like any other relationship, it all hinged on trust.
Each time I had no other choice but to take a leap, or choose an unfamiliar path,
I did so with the belief that God would never fail me or forsake me.
What I have learned since is that God is for people like me.
He has always been a healer for broken people and an advocate for people who felt like they had screwed up too badly to be loved ever again.
His church, is the place for broken people.
His hand guided every single phase of my journey to sobriety and recovery.
Not only has He taken all of the stuff that I had to give and turned it all into something usable,
he made sure that I could see why it all mattered and it why it was an important part of my story that lead to him.
He did ‘t erase the trauma, he used it for something good.
He didn’t cause my trauma, but he healed my heart from its after-effects.
He didn’t fix my past, he opened my eyes to all of the reasons why it is okay and necessary to leave it there.
He didn’t promise me a trouble free life, he promised me new ways to get through life’s inevitable troubles and an endless vessel in which to draw strength to do so.
He put the right people in my path, at the right times to make sure that I had opportunities for wise counsel for every season of my life so far post addiction.
Recovery with God isn’t synonymous with ease or success without failure or any work.
God doesn’t take a magic eraser to help wipe our minds clean of all things bad, past and present.
He is not a get out of jail free card that we use as needed.
He also doesn’t always approach us in conventional ways, maybe sometimes he speaks to and through things and people that he already knows that you will respond to.
But what he is in the business of doing is making broken things awesome, and walking with us through each stage of change.
You know that saying “Nothing worth having comes easy?”
When it comes to being a newly sober person this couldn’t be more true.
A person who is has become chemically dependent on a substance has a tough road ahead when it comes to long-term sobriety. They will need a strong support system behind them.
Here are 5 common road blocks people come face to face with on their quest for living a sober life:
1.) The initial battle with the clock.
Why do they tell us to live one day at a time?
Mostly because when you are detoxing or trying to stay sober, one hour can drag on so long,
to us it feels like a week.
Our body is screaming at all times with zero breaks, it is asking for more.
Sometimes people give into the immense pressure.
In the very beginning stages of sobriety we are fighting like hell. You might not be able to see it, but it’s happening.
We are doing our best to figure out what to do with our feelings, our emotions, the physical triggers, and quieting the psychological triggers without any substances.
It’s like an insane bundle of hot mess, squished inside of a physical body,
a body that is watching the second-hand make its way around all of the numbers, in slow motion.
We can hear it move, we feel it move, and it is moving very slow.
So time can feel like public enemy number one when you’re newly sober.
2.) The fear is overwhelming.
We are afraid that we won’t be able to make it and what that could mean.
We are afraid that we have screwed up way too many times.
There is a real fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown.
Fear of letting people down.
Fear of having to face the past.
Fear of having to face all of these people who are rooting for us, after we let them down…again.
Fear of not being strong enough.
Fear of not knowing what to do next.
We are afraid because we don’t have any idea how we are going to face all of it.
This is a huge part of the reason that we keep using when it doesn’t make sense to other people.
We can feel the shame deep in our bones.
Many times, we stay sober just long enough to be reminded of how shitty we are or have been, and all of the harm we have caused, and then, we have heard enough.
Because we have not accepted, faced, and sorted through the damage the aftermath of our experiences will continue to replay in our mind.
In order for healing to begin and for us to make forward progress, we have to make the courageous choice to put this away.
By trying to understand the hurdles that many people face in early sobriety, I think that we have a clearer understanding of just how tough this road can be for them and we have a better perspective on what our roles as supporters should look like.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) offers this definition of Recovery:
“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual
achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”
My personal journey through sobriety and long-term recovery has changed many times over the last eight or nine years.
It is interesting to look back and think about all of the different turns and paths that I have taken when it comes to my own journey.
My first few years were spent in Celebrate Recovery. Over time, I would begin to feel like my personal needs were changing. So naturally, I would begin to change what I was doing.
At some point things transitioned and I moved over to focusing mostly on the principles of Al-anon.
Presently, I only attend Al-anon occasionally- meaning when my stress or emotional levels are screaming for it.
I still love everything CR stands for, but I don’t go to Celebrate Recovery often. I don’t benefit from doing step studies at this point. In the future, I would love to be called to lead a small group or start a new CR somewhere, and I am already pumped about the mental health additions being implemented into the program. If I am asked or am feeling pulled toward a particular thing, I will speak or share with groups, but I don’t go anymore on a regular basis.
My point is, this is my life; my recovery.
I go day to day living out my personal sober journey and adjust my sails as needed.
For me that means that I maintain with Jesus as my guide; He is my sustainer, and my source of strength;
I try to be mindful of things and make sure that I am always moving in a direction that resembles a forward motion.
and my Recovery doesn’t look like yours.
Yours, should not look like mine.
In my opinion, when it comes to being in “Recovery” there are really only two
1.) You have to cultivate humility.
This is true for all of us.
We can’t really move on if we don’t have a realistic view or opinion of ourselves.
We really need to know who we are, what our limitations are, what we need to work on, what our needs are and what works and what doesn’t in order work the rest of our recovery.
We can’t do these things if our grandiose view of ourselves causes us to come to the conclusion that we don’t feel like we have any room for change or need for improvement; this hinders us from admitting our wrongs, or our faults, and eventually we will just be right back where we started.
2.) Remain willing.
– Willingness to learn.
In order to grow, we have to be open to learning. We can learn from mentors or really anyone with wisdom to share. Read things. Look things up. If you have questions, ask. Keep pushing new information in, and all of the old crap, that doesn’t work (evidenced by the pile of mess that became our lives) will be overwritten with new stuff.
-Willingness to accept.
We are willing to accept things that we can’t change. We accept what is. We learn to accept the consequences of our actions despite whether or not we like them or if it makes us feel warm and fuzzy. We learn to accept feelings; positive and negative. (That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or pretty, it just means that we accept what we are experiencing at the time.)
-Willingness to examine.
Listen. Our way might work, but there may be a better way. Or, a way that is better for us. We have to be willing to take some time to examine things; things we can work on, things that we are doing pretty good with and things that we might need to talk about .Examine it all, regularly, and honestly. Get to know who you are.
-Willingness to take care.
Taking care of ourselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally will go a long way toward our sobriety and our overall recovery. Rest, sleep, eat good things. Have some quiet time; force some time into your life to reflect or do whatever it is that you need to do to recharge. Do that.
-Willingness to communicate.
This one is tough, but can be the difference between the beginning of a breakdown or facing some hard things and continuing moving forward. It isn’t easy to voice what we are feeling, or needing, or interpreting, but we really need to learn to do this. Don’t keep things all bottled up, unanswered, unspoken, or just simmering somewhere. You will get better at it with implementation & practice.
-Willingness to interact.
Your support team. My support team was small, it still is and they weren’t the people I was expecting to make up what is now, the best support team eva. We have to learn how to let ourselves interact a little bit. Get back out into the world, so that we can learn how to function as an integrated part of society like the worthy and respectable human citizens that we are. We can do this.
Willingness will keep you moving in the right direction.
One more unsolicited opinion:
We have a common thread.
It is so cool to think that we have experienced the same types of feelings, and have been in eerily similar trenches where where the darkness feels the same.
We are all on the other side supporting each other.
We wait to encourage the next person who rises their head above that darkness; who are scared to death to peek out over the horizon.
We are there. when they dig their way out.
Let us try to focus more on this commonality,
because it is much more important and powerful than any of the differences that we may have.
You just can’t see it coming.
This was me.
Before juvenile court.
Before suicide attempts.
A junior in high school.
-I had just won an award for a photo that I entered into a photography contest.
-In the coming weeks, I would excitedly order my class ring.
-4 months from when this photo was taken I would order my cap and gown &
would complete my A+ volunteer hours required to receive my two free years of community college.
-7 months from when this photo was taken I would be turning in all of my books to my school counselor, choosing to drop all of my classes.
Soon after, I would be kicked out of my family home for repeatedly not respecting or following any rules.
Months after leaving my house, I would be moving on to harder drugs.
How quickly life can change.
Every single choice that we make, is important.
What I casually chalked up to a phase, would change the course of my entire life.
Every unhealthy choice that I made, drove me further and further down into my very own trench.
I chose to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and I really thought that everyone did.
Everyone else seemed to be able to handle their alcohol, and I thought I could handle it too.
Other people were just having fun, yet my fun always seemed a little bit different than theirs.
I couldn’t have foreseen what was to come.
My lifestyle, my choices, the people I chose to let into my life-
it all became something I didn’t recognize anymore.
After a few years of living this way, I became someone else; foreign to myself.
By the time I realized that I had dismantled my entire existence,
it was too late.
No one plans to become addicted to something.
We think it can’t happen to us.
Young people cannot imagine the potential damage & seriousness of ‘experimenting’…
My goal in sharing is to help support #NationalDrug&AlcoholFactsWeek, (#NDAFW ) 2016.
There are ways that we can help our young people, and we can be a part of helping to decrease the chances of them making unhealthy, life-altering, potentially life-threatening choices.
*And for the record, I wouldn’t change my journey for anything. 🙂
When you know better, you do better and that’s all that you can do!
I talk a lot about the difficulties relating to my addiction, recovery, being an ACoA, and also being a recovering codependent and enabler.
As the years have gone by, and as my family has grown,
my personal recovery focus has shifted from focusing solely on myself,
to me taking care of myself so that I can stay healthy for my husband & three boys.
It’s important to me that I talk openly with my children about drugs and alcohol.
(For obvious reasons)
It is also important to me that we aren’t overly obsessive about it, or speak out of a need to control or from a place of fear. I am not a fan of dictatorship or fear mongering. I simply want to make sure that our son has accurate information.
This has been especially true with our oldest son who is 13 1/2. It is prime time for young people.
So we really started having these important, transparent conversations around the time he entered 7th grade.
I always aim to speak to him from my personal experiences.
I really try to remind myself what maybe could have helped me to make better or different decisions as a young person, and have tried to use that as a starting point.
I think it is important to have a plan or strategy in mind when it comes to teaching prevention to our children.
*We all have different ways that we raise our kiddos, and our families are all so different.
I vote that you do your own research, and come up with a little something that aligns with your family’s beliefs and what works for your child and their personality.
Here are some things that we use as prevention tools:
1. Pray for him, and with him.
I pray for him all of the time. That he be courageous and wise, even if he feels pressured. That he understand that is what courage is, it is doing something that looks and feels like it is too hard for you to do, but doing it anyway. It takes courage to walk against the influx of certain peers.
I pray with him, and we ask that he always seek the Lord for strength, and for reminders that he is made uniquely for a special purpose, that he remain steadfast in knowing the truth of what is right and what is wrong, even if it gets really really hard to tell the difference sometimes. You can always feel the difference and its important to listen to that still small voice.
2. Arm him.
We arm him with information. Two key pieces of information, actually.
We don’t flood him or lecture him, but when he asks a question, we answer. When there are opportunities to use teachable moments, we use them. When armed with indisputable information, it can feel empowering.
*So first, we always remind him that this isn’t about rules and things he isn’t allowed to do. It is about his health, his body, his mind and his future. We hit hard on this being his life, and these are his choices, and he is in control of which road he takes. Drugs and alcohol change you. They end up taking control and he has definitely seen first hand what it can do to a person physically and mentally.
*Second we hit really hard on this fact:
-Drug abuse is not a ‘phase’
-It is not something that you ‘try’
-It is NOT something ‘everyone does at least once’ or ‘experiments’ with just for fun.
These are things parents tend to tell themselves sometimes when they are blindsided by full blown addiction, or what other young people tell other young people to ease them into using recreationally.
That’s all bs. The truth is, not everyone ‘experiments.’
(Not to mention that IF addiction were to be infallibly, scientifically proven to have a specific predisposed gene, playing around with it or experimentation sound just as ridiculous as it actually is.)
3. Listen to him.
We try to listen about the small things, and the big things and the in between. We want him to know that we care, we want to hear about his day if he is willing to talk about it. Even if that means I am hearing about girls, lunch, P.E, etc.
I try not to pry about the non-academic topics- but definitely probe when he casually mentions things that I think we could talk about for a couple of minutes.
I have heard the craziest stories. As early as his first bus ride to middle school I have been hearing bits and pieces of overheard conversations about sex, alcohol and marijuana. The questions that I had been anticipating started rolling in faster than I was ready for even after all of my mental preparation and planning.
I guess my point here is that I feel like his voice is important, but more importantly, I want him to know and feel like his voice matters.
I am a person who had a scholarship to a junior college. I got kicked out of my house my senior year.
and dropped out 8 or 9 weeks in, after ordering my senior class ring, and my cap and gown.
I KNOW THAT PARENTS HAVE A LIMITED AMOUNT OF CONTROL OVER THEIR CHILDREN.
Looking back, no one could have talked me out of dropping out, moving into my boyfriends basement, and getting fired from my long-term job for stealing money to pay for cocaine. I was living the life that I chose to live at that time.
This post isn’t my personal proclamation of my superior parenting skills, or a statement to my own parents.
I truly believe that we do what we think is best at any given time as a parent or caregiver, and when we know better, we do actually do better-
and as always, hindsight is seems to be a better teacher than foresight.
Of course, I am aware that there are no guarantee’s that my prevention approaches will deter our son.
Obviously, I will not be with him to help him make important decisions each time he is faced with a difficult predicament.
I feel like that what we CAN do is aim to do our best not to focus on CONTROL,
but to focus on LOVE, SUPPORT, TRUST and INFORMATION/FACTS.
The rest is up to him.
I hope this helps someone!