Struggles of Motherhood

I always wanted to be a mother. For as long as I can remember, I had a desire to have children. I think my motives were based off of my thoughts and feelings towards my own mother, and wanting to prove to myself I was nothing like her. Today I have a better understanding of my mom and her disease of alcoholism, but as a kid I only knew she wasn’t there.

My parents divorced when I was two and my father was granted full custody of me. Knowing what I know now about alcoholism, this probably came as a welcomed freedom to my mother. Without having a child to care for, she was free to do what ever she wanted, and did. No one ever tried to explain, and I never questioned  why my mother wasn’t around, but I had deep feelings of abandonment around it. In my mind, she had made a choice to leave me, without any explanation or reasoning. Part of me felt responsible in some way, like I wasn’t what she wanted or wasn’t good enough for her. I lived with these feelings for years, and decided that when I grew up I would be the best mom in the world. I would be nothing like her.

Having a child to prove your self-worth is not the best reason to have a child. When I became pregnant, I was about 6 months sober and really felt that the pregnancy and child could help save my life. I still feel that way today – and so far, he has. I was blessed to have had a little bit of recovery before getting pregnant. In the 6 months I had been sober, my thoughts and desires began shifting from selfish, self-harming things to improving and enjoying the life I had been given. I felt having a child was an opportunity to fulfill the dreams I had given up on in my addiction, and to begin living a life I had always dreamed of.

I wasn’t naive in the challenges that laid ahead – I had lived with women who had small children while in treatment, and knew that having a baby was not all cuddles and smiles. The difficulties would be there, and I had a program of recovery I needed to rely on. I am extremely grateful for the men and women in recovery who have helped me through my journey of motherhood – who let me vent my frustrations and fears without judgement or criticism. They have helped me keep my sanity, and realize that I am not the only one who has gone through or felt the things I have.

As most mothers will say, words cannot describe the emotions I felt the day my son was born. I had been anticipating this beautiful little gift from God for months and could finally put a face to the love I had been carrying in my heart. That day I not only reaffirmed my commitment to my recovery program, but I committed to caring for another life – not only to keep him alive (which seemed like a tall order), but to raise him into a smart, strong, kind, and loving human being. So far, the keeping him alive part seems to be the easiest.

As an infant, my son was wonderful. He was curious, interactive, quiet – everyone commented on what a good baby he was. I took him with me pretty much everywhere – including meetings. He was a complete joy to be around, and I was bursting with love and pride. I was able to maintain my regular meeting schedule, my sponsor and support time with other people in recovery, and continued to strengthen my spiritual connection to my God. I felt confident in my parenting.

Fast forward to today. My son turned 2 years old in January, and I swear a switch in his brain turned on. In this new phase of exploring and learning the world around him, my sanity seems to be slipping further and further away. Instead of sitting on the floor playing with puzzles or reading a book, he now prefers to climb up and stand on the edge of the couch, or try to climb up and down the stairs on his own. He is no longer interested in noise makers or rolling cars, but rather climbing into the refrigerator or dishwasher while I’m trying to get a simple task in the kitchen done. Now, these actions in themselves can be frustrating, but the real test comes when I tell him no. Or worse, try to remove him from the refrigerator or dishwasher. Not only does he fall to the floor screaming, he throws himself down (insuring his head hits the floor hard to enough to make a loud bang) and unleashes such an ear-piercing sound I never knew existed.

Now, I understand that this phase my son is currently going through is completely normal. I know that it IS only a phase, and he will grow out of it. In the mean time, however, I am left trying to navigate through this uncharted territory and ensure my son comes out on the other side a better version of himself, while I am trying to stay sober. A few months ago, after a particularly rough week of parenting, I gained a new understanding of my mother and her absence when I was young. I admitted to my sponsor (and my husband) that at that moment I fully believed if I were not working a program of recovery, I would have had no second thoughts about walking out and leaving my husband with the full responsibility of raising our son.

Admitting I am not perfect is fairly easy – I know that no one is perfect, and I will never achieve perfection. Seeing my humanness and my flaws in my parenting, however, is a very touchy thing. I know that each day I am doing the best that I can do, but the fear of my best not being good enough is always present. I feel guilty every day that I am somehow ruining my son’s life instead of improving it. When I give him his tablet so I can have 30 mins to regain my sanity, I feel guilty – even more so when that 30 minutes turns into an hour or two hours while I do household chores. When I pick him up off the floor because I can’t stand to watch him hit his head on the floor anymore, I feel guilty that I may not setting firm boundaries. When I fix him his favorite frozen vegan mac and cheese for dinner, I feel guilty because it isn’t a home cooked meal.

Motherhood has been a real struggle for me. Through this process, I have gained a better understanding of my own mother, her alcoholism and her feelings of guilt. I am not perfect. I know I have made, and will continue to make, many mistakes raising my son. The knowledge of my current and future failures would have been enough for me to give up while I was using. Today, I am able to continue to wake up and try again each day with the help of my program, my family, and my God. My son may drive me crazy most days, but I am utterly in love with him and wouldn’t change him for the world.

 

 

Advertisements

Learning The Importance Of Self-Care

When I got sober, self-care was a foreign concept to me. For years my priorities were based off of my need to self-medicate. Hygiene didn’t matter to me.  Showering was not important, brushing my teeth seemed a waste of time, even getting out of pajamas was rare. Nothing happened before I used or drank. From the moment I opened my eyes, my mission was to get ‘well’. It was like tunnel vision – nothing else came into focus until then. Once I got what I wanted, then I would consider showering, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, or eating. It was a horrible way of living, but at the time I couldn’t see it.

As you can imagine, my physical and mental health were not a priority at the time either. The only doctor appointments I made were in an attempt to get drugs. I think I was too numb to feel sick – the only time I did feel sick was when I was in withdrawal. I only went to the dentist when the pain was too much to bare, and as long as I had drugs to numb my mind, I didn’t see a need for any counseling or mental health services. Health, in general, was not a concern or thought of mine.

Today, however, I have a life I enjoy. A life I want to live, and a lot to live for. I have a son who is dependent on me to care for him, to help him grow up strong and healthy. How can I do that for him if I’m not healthy myself? How am I supposed to show him what a healthy relationship is, or the importance of good hygiene and nutrition if I am not practicing these actions in my own life?

I started seeing a counselor a few weeks ago to start working through some past trauma that continues to pop up in life. I’ve met with her three times so far, and we have yet to even discuss the original reason I sought out counseling. Instead, we have been focusing on my self-care, my daily routines and how I maintain a safe space for myself and my sobriety. She is teaching me that in order to work through difficult situations, I need to be healthy and making healthy choices. Without my self-care routines in place, opening up old wounds have the very real potential of taking my sobriety.

My recovery is my first priority – above everything else. Without my sobriety, nothing else in my life would matter. In order to maintain my recovery program, I attend 5 meetings a week, read daily meditations, and take time to pray for strength in the morning and give thanks at night. Throughout the day, I try to remain present and enjoy each moment I spend with the people in my life – my son, my husband, my sponsor, my sober support.

I practice good hygiene today! To most people, this is has always been second nature. For an alcoholic/addict like me, I had to practice keeping good hygiene before it became a  normal way of life. It’s surprising to me how much these simple tasks impact my mental state and how I feel throughout the day. I am more confident, more open to communicate with others, and have an overall better view of the day when I take care of my body.

Nutrition, on the other hand, has been a struggle for me. I’ve always been very slender, and have always had doctors and professionals question my eating habits. The truth is I am rarely hungry. I almost never have an appetite, and because of that I don’t think to eat. I’ve trained myself to eat when I’m hungry – the problem is I can go days without an appetite. My body lets me know when I am crashing, but that’s not a healthy way to care for myself. So, for the last 5 days, I have been practicing eating. Yesterday, I ate some eggs for lunch, and chicken and mac and cheese for dinner. This morning, while getting my son’s breakfast ready, I cut up an apple for myself. At lunch, I fixed myself scrambled eggs and toast. Once I get into the habit of eating regularly, maybe I’ll take a look at the healthiness of what I’m eating. As my sponsor reminded me yesterday, it’s progress – not perfection.

All of this comes back to getting sober. At the time, I wasn’t planning on changing my life, I just wanted the pain to stop. Today I am constantly searching for ways to improve my life – physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have gone from a girl wanting to die, to a woman loving the life she has. I am so grateful for the gift I have been given, and pray I continue to grow in all the areas of my life.

Grief in Recovery

Like most people, I have never been comfortable in feeling negative emotions. Any sadness, pain, anger, irritation, or worry always seems magnified compared to other, more positive emotions. I always sought out an immediate remedy – drugs, alcohol, sex – anything I thought would give me relief from the way I was feeling. The thought of allowing, consenting, or enduring sadness created an immense amount of fear in me. A fear that the sadness would never go away, that happiness and joy might never return. I didn’t realize then that by numbing the negative feelings, I was also numbing myself to the joys and beauty of life. Instead of living in a euphoric state at all times (which was what my intentions had been), I had merely been existing in a numb, almost zombie-like state.

Recovery is a process of change. In the process, everything changes. My solution to everything had always been drugs and alcohol. In order to recover, that solution can no longer be an option. Instead, I am forced to grow up – to face feelings and situations as they arise, no matter how painful, and walk through them. Instead of running away from them, which is still my first instinct, I have to allow these feelings and situations to be as they are. The healing is in the acceptance and overcoming of them.

As I’ve previously written, I had to accept and walk through the process of losing my father last year. Death is a difficult thing for all of us, no matter how spiritually fit you are. Losing someone who had been so instrumental in my life felt as if part of me had died. I suppose, to an extent, part of me did. In mourning my father’s death, I’m in fact mourning the unspoken conversations we’ve yet to have. The smiles and laughter I will no longer be witness to. The hugs and kisses I will no longer find comfort in. My sadness and grief, in a sense, is selfish. Justified, but selfish. My father lived a fairly long, happy life. He was able to watch his children grow and create families of their own. The last two months of his life were excruciating for him, and I imagine that death came as a sweet release from the pain and turmoil cancer had put his body through. In that knowledge, I have found peace and acceptance.

This past week marked the one year since my father’s passing. I was filled with emotions, mostly sadness and pain. Through my journey in recovery, I have picked up some tools along the way on how to handle life’s emotional moments. I knew isolation was deadly, even though all I wanted to do was lay in bed and cry. Instead, I went out and surrounded myself with other recovering alcoholics. Instead of trying to ignore my feelings, I was honest about them and shared how I was feeling with those close to me. Instead of trying to find a quick fix to how I was feeling, I sat quietly at the cemetery and allowed the tears to fall. I listened to the gentle breeze, felt the sun on my shoulders, and welcomed any and all emotions. In that moment, I found peace. A reassurance that, although my heart is hurting, I am okay.

I have learned in my journey that emotions are only temporary. I will never feel joy forever, nor sadness forever. Emotions come and go, without my consent most times. My reaction to them is all I am capable of controlling. Through my experiences, I have learned that trying to run from emotions or covering them up with drugs or alcohol only prolongs the misery. Acknowledging, accepting, and working through life IS the easier, softer way. I know that my heart will ache a bit each day over the death of my father, but my heart is also filled with love and joy each day. If I numb the pain, I will numb the joy as well – and there is still a lot of joy I have yet to experience.

 

Finding God

By the time I made it into recovery, my soul was shattered. I was an empty shell of a human, without any true thought or feeling. I had numbed myself for so long, and focused all of my energy on my addiction, I forgot what it was like to be human. To be capable of truly caring for someone else, in any aspect, was impossible. My entire existence revolved around my selfishness, my need to get high –  there was no consideration of how my actions were affecting those around me. I made sure I was too high to care.

When I was in treatment, each day someone in recovery would come and speak to us about their journey – how they were able to walk away from the hell they had been living in, and begin living a happy life. I knew the hell they spoke of – I had been living there too. A hell I had created, and could not seem to escape from. I wanted so badly to know their secret. These people came in smiling, laughing, able to look people in the eye… I hadn’t been able to experience any of that in years. I decided the best thing I could do is do what they did. I at least had enough sense to know that trying something different couldn’t be any worse than what I was already going through, and if it didn’t work I could return to the hell I was accustomed to.

I was relieved to know there was an entire society of people like me, who didn’t like how they felt in their own skin and had used anything they could to escape from their realities. I was also happy to learn that people from this society met, pretty regularly, to discuss their struggles, their fears, and learn from each other how to handle every day life. I began meeting with them, sitting in on their discussions, and I found something that I hadn’t had in a long time. Hope. A hope that I, too, could live a life without the need of drugs and alcohol. Hope that there were others who knew what I was going through, had been through it themselves, and were willing and able to help me make it through. There was a catch, however – I had to find a God of my own understanding. I had to be willing to believe in something more powerful than myself in order to stay sober. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, but I had grown up in church and felt like I could at least pretend to believe in that God.

It’s hard to describe to people who haven’t been through recovery exactly how it happens… I don’t even know how it happened. But at some point, I stopped pretending to believe in that God of mine, and actually began to rely on Him. There was no firework display, no earth shattering moment that convinced me God was with me. I slowly began to notice little things, things that were just too out there to be explained away. Then suddenly, one day I woke up, and I didn’t want to die anymore! To me, that was miraculous. I started feeling again, emotions not only related to myself and my life, but having compassion for others. Caring about people in my life, wanting to help any way that I could. I was becoming human again – and all I did was listen to others and do what they did.

God is a touchy subject for a lot of people, especially those new to recovery. I’ve seen many people struggle with staying sober because they are so adamantly opposed to the idea of God. Something that helped me with that was when I realized that drugs and alcohol had been my god for so long. I did anything for them, things that I never thought I was capable of doing. I was my own higher power, and my life was terrible. When I try to control the world, I am miserable. Today I know that my job is not to control the world, my job is to not pick up a drink and try to help someone. I have moved out of the pilot seat, and am able to sit back and enjoy the ride I am on.

One great thing about recovery – it’s yours. It is your journey, it is your personal experience, and it is your life. I commend anyone who has a problem with drugs or alcohol that has found a way to live a happy, sober life – with or without God. This is only my journey, and I am so grateful for every step of it.

Today, I am able to see where God has touched every aspect of my life, even the parts of it I thought I was too far for Him to reach. I realize now that the times I thought God had abandoned me, I had actually abandoned Him. I tried to shut God out for many years, and instead of getting what I deserved, I was given love and Grace, and a brand new life. This is how my God works in my life.

Life Goes On

When I first got sober, I was under the impression that the universe was made aware of the changes I was making, and in return, would line up perfectly for me. I had a misguided notion that my life would be forever wonderful now that I wanted to live. But life continues, whether I am sober or not. The only difference is whether I am present for it.

I spent eight months in rehab- 3 weeks in detox, 6 weeks in a 30 day residential program, and moved on to a 6 month residential program. During that time, I was pretty shielded from the outside world. I was safe, in a bubble of recovery based groups 8 hours a day Monday through Friday. My family was also very helpful in allowing me that time to focus on myself and my recovery- I was given the impression that, although I was deeply missed, their worlds were still turning. My life was on hold, but the rest of the world’s wasn’t.

After a while in treatment, I was granted hourly passes to go home on the weekends to visit my family- a slow introduction back into the real world, outside of my safety bubble. My first real life changing news came 2 months before I was to graduate the program- I was pregnant. The news came as a welcomed shock. I was scared and ecstatic- and so was my boyfriend. To me, this is what life was all about. and I finally felt like I was included in it.

I completed the treatment program, and began to build a life with Tim. We went apartment shopping, went to birthing and parenting classes, and prepared as best we could to welcome our son into the world. Let me tell you, no matter how prepared you feel you are for life, it still has a way of surprising you. I’ve learned that those are the hidden joys of living- the stressful, unprepared moments that later become laughable memories. The secret it walking through them- sober.

The next big life change came 5 months after our son was born. Tim and I (with a lot of help from his mother) had planned a small, simple, June wedding. At this point, I had been sober about a year and a half. I came to rely heavily on my recovery family, and knew that preparing (mentally and spiritually) for something big like this was paramount if I wanted to stay sober. The preparation paid off- I was told repeatedly that I was the calmest bride anyone had ever seen! The day (as most of life’s moments) did not go as perfectly as planned. Our wedding was to be outdoors- it stormed all morning. The ceremony was supposed to start at 2, but the Pastor was late- delaying the service to about 2:30. By the time the Pastor arrived, the skies cleared and the rain stopped. We were able to have a dry, outdoor wedding and get our wedding photographs finished before the rain began again. Everything happened EXACTLY the way it was supposed to- not by our plans.

The week after our wedding, my father began chemo and radiation treatments for a tumor they found in his lung. I took him to every appointment. I doubled up (and at times, tripled up) on my recovery during this time. A man I thought was invincible was dying. No matter how badly I wanted to ignore that truth, I couldn’t. I knew that if I wanted to keep my sobriety, I would have to accept it. And so I began preparing again, mentally and spiritually, for the road I was on. I walked, with my father, through that process. When the doctor told us there was nothing more he could do, I helped my father stay as comfortable as possible in his home. The night he passed away, I was at his bedside with both of his sisters, holding his hand. I was present- throughout all of it. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I was available for my father and the rest of our family throughout that time. Though every fiber of my alcoholism was telling me to run, I stayed. And I can honestly say today, being with my father when he died has been the greatest blessing I have received in sobriety. Caring for the man who cared for me my entire life- through the good, bad, and ugly- has been the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.

These big, life changing moments, I was able to see coming and prepare for. Day to day life, on the other hand, can be a struggle. I have learned that I cannot only focus on my recovery during big moments- recovery needs to be my focus every day. I have had days, and weeks, where I put my recovery on the back burner and allowed little, every day irritations build up, and I almost drank. So today, I try to prepare myself mentally and spiritually for whatever life tries to throw at me. Because, 9 times out of 10, I never see it coming.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Throughout my short time in recovery, I have had countless opportunities, (usually many sleepless nights) to reflect on my life- situations I’ve been in, decisions I’ve made, circumstances that all led me to where I am now. Before I was convinced I was an alcoholic, I had a pretty specific image of what an alcoholic was- a bum, living on the streets, begging for spare change. Someone who’s life was filled with terrible circumstances- growing up in poverty, traumatic childhood events- something to point at and say “this is why they are the way they are”. But the truth is, most alcoholics that I’ve met (including myself) have had pretty good childhoods- free of hardships and traumas.

In my active addiction, I found countless excuses to continue my behaviors. “If your life was like mine, you would drink and use drugs too” was a motto I lived by. But the truth is, everything that I endured in my lifetime has happened to countless other people, and they were able to walk through those situations without self-pity and self-medicating. And, in all honesty, I had a really great life! It just wasn’t the “perfect childhood” I thought I deserved.

I grew up in a loving family- my father was a single parent who worked his butt off to provide for the two of us. I went to church every Sunday with my maternal grandparents, where I had a large church family to shower me with love as well. I wasn’t abused, I wasn’t beaten, I wasn’t molested… I was loved. Deeply. But I allowed that love to be overshadowed by the absence of my mother. She was around, I saw her growing up, but the relationship was lacking. My perception was that she didn’t want me- the reality was, she was an alcoholic and unable to care for me.

My father’s love went as far as to put me through private schooling. He wanted me to have the best education possible, which meant paying thousands of dollars a year. At the time, I didn’t care. I didn’t understand the sacrifices he was making, his desire to help me succeed in life. I felt entitled to it.

There was a situation the summer before I started high school- a trusted man in the community took advantage of his position, and in the process gave me a false idea of what love was. I was aware of what would happen to him and his career if I told anyone, and I chose to keep silent for years. Instead, I discovered that alcohol and marijuana had a way of helping me forget the pain I was in. And so, I embarked on a journey of escaping reality as often as I could.

Any reason is a good reason to drink for an alcoholic like me. A great day, a bad day, celebrating, grieving. Alcohol goes great with any emotion. After high school, I was introduced to opiates. I saw this as a Godsend- a completely different euphoria, and a better way to escape my life. I am a person who is maladjusted to life- taking everything to the extreme. If something disappointing happened, to me it felt like the end of the world. The further I got into my disease, the harder it was to handle life. My perception was that LIFE was the problem- if my life were different, I would be happy. If I had a better job, a better apartment, a better boyfriend, I would be happy. The reality was I had become a slave to drugs. Everything came second- my job, my relationships, my bills. Nothing came before getting high.

I had been spiraling downwards for years before my mother died in 2013. She was 54 years old, and died from cirrhosis of the liver. Her alcoholism took her life. Instead of seeing the reality of the situation, and realizing that I was going down the same road she had, my disease told me I needed to numb myself. I didn’t want to feel any of the pain I was in, and I sought out anything that would take that pain away. I found it in heroin. In the short period of 4 months that I used heroin, I lost almost everything. Not only material things, (such as a place to live, all of my money and possessions) but my remaining family. My father no longer allowed me in his home, my sister was ready to change the locks on our childhood home, my boyfriend no longer trusted me to be in his home without him being there. I was, in all reality, homeless. No one wanted me, and I couldn’t blame them. I didn’t even want to be around me. Every morning that I opened my eyes, I cursed God. Every time I used heroin, I prayed that it would be enough to kill me. My soul was broken, and I thought the damage was irreversible.

Today, I thank God every day that my family loved me enough to push (and pray) me into recovery. Without their unwillingness to enable my lifestyle, I don’t think I would be alive today. I am who I am today because of their love, even though I couldn’t see it at the time. I owe my life to them, and I never want to forget that.

That boyfriend, who didn’t trust me to be in his home alone, is now my husband and the father of our 2 year old. That sister, who wanted to change the locks on our home, is now an instrumental part of my life. That father, who had kicked me out of his home, passed away in February of 2016 while I was at his bedside, holding his hand. This has been my journey so far. It has been rocky, and beautiful, and heartbreaking. But it is a journey I am so grateful to be on.

This is my life!

If someone had told me 4 years ago that I would be married with a child, I would have laughed. If someone had told me 4 years ago that I would be married, have a child, AND be clean and sober, I would have cried.

4 years ago, I was lost in a world of drugs an alcohol. I was falling further and further into the hell I had created, and thought the only way out was through death. And I was okay with that. I embraced it, and in fact tried to hurry the process along. I am so thankful I was unsuccessful in my attempts.

Growing up, I didn’t plan on becoming a junkie. I didn’t plan a life of lies and deceit, stealing from my family and causing countless heartbreaks from those who loved me. No one knowingly chooses these things, but it happened. That was my life.

I’m happy to say, today I have not had a drink or a drug in 3 years and 3 months! The journey has not been an easy one, but nothing worth while is ever easy. Through the ups and downs of my recovery, the joys and heartbreak, I can honestly say that I would not change one thing- before or after November 13th, 2013. Every situation, every aspect of my life has shaped me into who I am today. And I kind of like the person I’ve become!

I’ve never written a blog before, and honestly don’t know where I intend on this going, but I feel the need to share my story. If no one had shared their personal story with me, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have known that a happy life was possible for me. I wouldn’t have known that there was a solution to my problem, and that thousands of people who were once just like me had found the solution.

My life is a messy, sometimes disastrous miracle. I am the mother of a 2 year old boy, who tests my recovery on a daily basis. I’m married to the man who stuck by my side through my active addiction and recovery, who pushes me to work on my recovery every day. Both of my parents are dead, and I miss them every single day. But through my journey, I have gained a new family, and a new understanding of joy. This is my life!