Four Years…

It’s been four years today since I’ve had a sip of alcohol
Four years of sober tailgates and concerts
Sober date nights and vacations
Forty eight months of sober girls night outs
Sober quiet nights in
Four sober midnights on New Years Eve
Four sober July 4ths
And 5ths and 6ths and 7ths…
Four sober Halloweens and Christmas Eves
Four years of sober spring days and fall nights
Summer afternoons and Friday nights

Four years of feeling my feelings
1,461 days of nothing to numb to the noise
Four years of battling shame and guilt
Of looking at my husband and kids and beautiful life
A life that exceeded all my expectations
And wondering why the hell I almost drank it all away
Four years of awkward social situations
Finding walls to stand against and corners to hide in
Four years of not feeling my body or mind completely release
And once in a blue moon, finding myself craving that release deep in my bones

And yet…

I wouldn’t trade my sobriety for all the world

Because I’ve had four years of falling asleep sober
1,461 mornings waking up without a hangover
Four years of girls night out conversations I actually remember
Date night conversations that I deeply treasure
Four years of vacations where my only goal was to enjoy my family
Forty eight months of putting myself out there and meeting new people
Forming new friendships and strengthening old ones
Four years of creating a thought life I didn’t need to escape from

Four years of bright eyes and a clear mind
Four years to learn what my feelings actually are
Forty eight months of learning to lean into them
Learning to think them out or write them out or talk them out
And then let them pass on through
Discovering they are not the enemy I thought they were
I am not the enemy I thought I was

Four years of learning that shame is the enemy
That sharing my story will set me free
Four years of cultivating more compassion
For myself and for others
Four years of learning how much the God of the universe loves me
How much He still loved me even when I was drinking
35,064 hours of opening my palms to receive His Grace
And realizing His palms were wide open to me all along

Four beautiful years of living free
Forty eight months of living open
One thousand four hundred sixty one days of living brave
Thirty five thousand sixty four hours of living loved

And a lifetime to go

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A Different Kind of Mother’s Day Post.

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As you gazed at your children today was there a little pinch in your heart?  And not the good kind of pinch, but the one that reminds you of that feeling that creeps up often now.  That feeling of guilt that you’re not quite the best mom that you could be for your kids right now.  By noon were you already wishing you could pour a glass of wine or pull a bottle out of the six pack waiting in your refrigerator?  Maybe you didn’t wait, maybe you chose to celebrate your day with a mimosa or a glass or 2 of wine with lunch.  There’s nothing wrong with that, right?  Except that somewhere deep down you know that for YOU….for you there’s something terribly wrong.  Maybe you can’t imagine a day going by without a few drinks to calm the anxiety.  To shut off that voice in your head telling you you’re not doing it right, that God must have either made you wrong or placed you in the wrong life.  Surely He’s forgotten about you right now, forgotten to equip you with the tools to be a good mother (while also being a good wife, friend, employee, daughter, neighbor….)  He gave up on you so you gave up trying to go that week, day, hour without drinking.  It’s ok though because as you scroll facebook, you see all your friends’ pictures of a glass of wine in the foreground of a beautiful setting.  You see a friend post that meme about wine o’clock and another one with a wineholding purse or a flask in the shape of a bracelet.  Surely there’s not a mom out there that can do this gig without drinking.  And with as much as you see and hear about sippy cups for moms and wine glasses that fit an entire bottle of wine it, everyone must be drinking as much as you.  But you know, don’t you?  When you wake up in the morning to face another day, you know.

And to that mom who woke up today feeling that way, I need you know one thing.  And to know it deep in your bones.  You are so strong. Yes, YOU.  The woman who didn’t want to get up and battle this again today but did.  You,  the woman who wanted this to be the day the war stopped, but knew it wasn’t.  You got up anyway and you did the things you had to do to make life go on.  You fixed the meals and the snacks and refilled the cups.  You listened to stories and watched them win a game on their ipad.  You made plans and even did some of them.  You took care of those kids’ needs, to the detriment of your own. You put one foot in front of the freaking other over and over again.  You are so much stronger that you think you are.  You have so many more people rooting for you that you can even imagine.  You may not be giving your kids the very best you possible but you are giving them everything you have right now.  I know you’re so tired.  Exhausted of feeling this way, so tired of questioning yourself on why you can’t not poor that drink.  You feel like God has forgotten you, but sweet girl, He has NOT.  He is lavishing His grace on you day after day.  Minute by minute.  He is loving you through this with a love we cannot possibly understand.  When you come out the other end (and precious friend, you WILL come out, running or crawling) you will know a God like you never knew before.  You will look back and see His love and grace and provision like you never thought possible. He is working a miracle in you even as you struggle.  He will use everything you are enduring right now for your good and His glory because that’s who He is.

I can tell you this because I am on the other side now.  I can see how strong you are, even if you can’t.  I have the luxury of hindsight (and a therapist) and I know that what you need now, more than anything, is to be so kind to yourself.  For someone to tell you you are strong and worth every bit of love people offer you.  I can also tell you that yes, you can absolutely do this mom gig without alcohol.  And do it well.  You will be a better mom, a better wife, a better friend.   The bad times will still come and go, but the good times?  Oh, they are so much better when you’re not numbing your life away.  There’s a version of you out there waiting for you to come home.  And her arms are aching for you.

 

The Chinchilla

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My 2nd grader’s class adopted a class pet a few weeks ago.  A chinchilla named Salem that my 8 year old is completely smitten with.  He is my animal lover, bug lover, people lover, everything lover.  He loves a LOT.  His day has been completely ruined before because this chinchilla would rub his nose on everyone’s finger but his.  “EVERYONE’S!” he swore to me.  He has been begging me to come see this new love of his life so yesterday I ate lunch with him and followed him up to the classroom to meet Salem.  Chinchillas are much bigger than I thought, but super adorable and I have a feeling I know what will be on Carter’s birthday list.  And I have a feeling I know what his father’s answer will be to that one.

Last night we were discussing this chinchilla and I told Carter and Weston the only way I know about chinchillas was because there was a Diego episode about it.  I was met with blank stares so I said “Go, Diego, Go.  You know, Dora’s cousin.”  More blank stares.  Weston said “was he the monkey?”  “No!  That was Boots!”  I told him, trying to hide my scolding tone.  How could they not remember? Then there were a few minutes better forgotten while I tried to sing the theme songs to both shows.  They didn’t remember them.  So I asked Weston if he remembered the intro song to Paw Patrol.  It took him a few minutes, but it came back to him.  Then I made the mistake of asking Carter to sing the intro song to Thomas and Friends, assuming that, of course, he remembered it.  He did not.  My heart broke.  Thomas was his life since before he could walk.  He (and therefore me) heard that song daily for years and years.  If there was a soundtrack to our life from 2007-2015, that song would be on side A, first song.  I asked Alexa to play the song.  Alexa remembered it, she’s always there for me.  Carter ran and hid, embarrassed by the song that used to bring him so much joy.  He’s too big for Thomas now and while I’ve known that for a while now, there was a sharp pang of a life that seems a lifetime ago now.  A life of building train tracks and little brothers destroying them.  A life of highchairs, park playdates and nap schedules.  Restless days at home because going outside our walls was too exhausting.  Exhausting days out of the house because being contained in our walls was too restless.  A life when all I wanted was a break and when I did get that break there was no guilt because I knew in my bones I had given everything of myself to my kids.  They just needed me all the time and I had to physically get away from them for a little while to breath.

They are older now, 7, 8 and 11, and I can breath perfectly fine around them.  They need me less and I have mixed emotions about that.  My 11 year old won’t let me touch him in public now.  If I’m lucky, he’ll let me talk to him.  Briefly.  If none of his friends are around.  I’m learning to handle this new phase and soak up all the hugs and conversations at home that I can.  My 8 year old never needs me to help him with his homework.  I should be grateful for this, and I am, but it’s an odd feeling.  My 7 year old has always been Mr Independent, except when it comes to tying his shoes.  I cave every morning and do it for him, even though I know if push came to shove he could do it.  I feel myself hanging onto that last bit of him needing me.  I feel it all slipping through my fingers at lightning fast speed.

In those early years I felt suffocated from being needed so much.  Now I feel suffocated by the constant thoughts of how I’m not needed nearly as much now.  For the last eleven and a half years, my identity has been in my children and that’s not a healthy place to lay your identity.  I’m trying to figure out who I am apart from my kids.  My therapist asked me a few weeks ago to list positive things I saw in myself.  I sat there dumbfounded for what felt like minutes and then said “I’m a good mom.”  And that’s all I could find to say.  She assured me there was more than that and forced me to talk to her about it for 45 more minutes.  I feel like I’m spending all my time thinking about how I SHOULD be spending my time instead of enjoying this time that I have and actually doing something with it. (side note, my therapist throws a foam ball at me every time I say “should.”)

I follow a family (the.small.folk) on Instagram that just lost their 3 year old son last month because he choked on a bouncy ball.  It has hit me particularly hard because Weston was 3 when he swallowed that quarter and I’m just reminded of how differently that day could have gone for our family.  She posted a picture this morning of her son that passed away playing with his little brother with the following caption:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you and bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in a quest of some rare or perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
For one day, I shall dig my nails into the earth and bury my face in the pillow and raise my hands to the sky, and want, more than all the world, your return.”

I hope that I treasured those suffocating days of diapers and bottles and babies on both hips.  I’m sure some days I did and some days I absolutely did not.  But I do know that I treasure the memories of those days.  I treasure the joys those days brought me.  And one day I know I will look back at the days I’m in right now and treasure the joys.  My prayer now is that I can treasure each day in the moment, before it departs.

 

(I just wanted to say that these blog posts are just a train of thought more than anything.  I’m not trying to write anything fancy or share-worthy because that’s just not me.  Also, my mind is just too jumbled and cluttered to produce anything more than this anyways.  But I do thank you for reading, it is definitely helpful for me to write)

Ham and Mustard Shake

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I’ve become a podcast junkie lately.  Doing laundry, sitting in carpool, running errands, I let them keep me company.  One I listen to is Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love podcast and at the end of every show she asks her guest “What’s saving your life right now.”  The answers range from the silly to the serious but it got me thinking about how I would answer that question.  And right now I think the answer would be seeing a counselor.  (apparently “counselor” is the cool way to say “therapist” now.)  She’s not saving my life by giving me any magical advice, but she’s opening up a space in which I can tell my truths where they will only be met with kindness, gentleness and grace.  Isn’t that all someone really wants when they get vulnerable.  To not be judged and only loved, just as they are.

I’m not uncovering any deep dark corners of my life.  Ultimately what I am doing in that one hour once a week, is sitting across from a cheerleader who is giving me permission to start loving myself.  She is helping me replace every insult my inner critic throws at me with a truth in love.  I didn’t set out to search for a christian counselor, but she is a counselor who happens to be a Jesus follower.  And because of that she is able to help me replace the lies of who I think I am with the truths of who God says I am.

When I tell myself I’m not good enough, God tells me:
“being confident of this, that I who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

When I feel unworthy, God tells me:
“neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from my love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

When I feel unlovable, God tells me:
“But I demonstrated my own love for you in this: While you were still a sinner, Christ died for you.” Romans 5:8

These are just a few examples of how I’m trying to rewire my brain.  But it’s been wired this way for 30+ years, I can’t rewire it overnight.

I was listening to some music in the car a couple months ago and Stone Temple Pilot’s Interstate Love Song came on.  When that song first came out, the line “feelin’ like a hand in rusted shame” I could only hear as “feelin’ like a ham and mustard shake.”   When I finally got the CD I read the lyrics and realize what they really said but every single time I hear that song, my immediate thought goes to “ham and mustard shake.”  That’s kind of how this whole business of changing my inner narrative is going.  I am learning the right lyrics to my song, but I feel like I will always have the incorrect lyrics running in the background.  Hopefully in time the truth will drown out the lies.

On another podcast the guest  posed the question “who were you before other people told you who you were?”  Let that soak in for a moment.

I know that before anyone on this earth had a chance to tell me who I was, I was shaped and formed by God himself, fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)  If you’re struggling, too, with loving yourself, start there.  Start rewriting your narrative.  Even if you get the lyrics wrong more often than not, you’ll begin to find the right ones and they’ll slowly seep into your mind and heart.

 

Gold Frankincense and Myrrh

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“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:9-11

What gifts can I bring you, Emmanuel?

You can bring me your shame.

You can bring me your failures and your guilt.

You can bring me your worries and your fears.

You can bring me your doubts and your questions.

You can bring me your sadness and your teardrops…every one.

You can bring me your broken relationships and broken heart.

You can bring me your should-haves and should not-haves.

You can bring me your broken dreams and your crushed spirit.

That’s why I came.  That’s why Love and Grace was born to a virgin in a stable.  Bring me your heart and all that it holds and I’ll hold it for you for all of time.

 

 

Anxiety and Advent

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For as long as I can remember I have battled with depression and anxiety, as I know many of you have as well.  Over the past few years the scale has been tipped more to the depression side, but the anxiety is always there waiting to rear it’s ugly head.  And last week it did just that.  I received a text Monday morning that just kind of triggered the feeling of ALL THE CHRISTMAS things I needed to do.  I felt an overwhelming responsibility for Christmas, that the joy of Christmas for my family rest solely in my hands.  And my hands started feeling sorely inept.  From what gifts the boys would get from everyone (in the right budgets) to the right Christmas decorations to what Christmas activities we were going to do, it was all up to me.  I was taking that all own as my job.  Now to many people this won’t seem like a “burden,” but to someone who suffers from anxiety it is everything.  My heart was palpitating for days and I wanted to climb out of my skin.

I was listening to a podcast last week and the guest on it described what her anxiety looked like and I actually paused the podcast to take a few breaths because she finally put words to exactly how my anxiety feels.  She compared it to walking into a room full of clutter, stuff absolutely everywhere and that overwhelming feeling of having to go through everything, item by item, and clear it out.  And then imagine that instead of a room full of items, it’s your mind full of thoughts.  So many thoughts running through it that you just want to climb out of your mind, even if just for a little while. (side note, this is a large reason why I drank, but more on that another day.)  And during acute anxiety, or what I call my anxiety attacks, it literally feels like life or death for me to be able to escape the thoughts.  And if you were in the middle of that cluttered room and you just needed a break from trying to organize the chaos, you could walk out of the room, right?  Well it’s much trickier to walk out of your mind.

So as I spent last week in my tornado of anxiety I kept thinking of the million things we don’t do at Christmas time. All the ways I perceived as “failing” my kids.  The parades and tree lightings we don’t attend, no sitting on Santa’s lap or day long baking sessions, no cute advent calendars, tree farms visits or Christmas musicals…this list can go on and on, but then you’d start thinking I was really crazy (instead of normal crazy) because I could literally name you 100 things I actually feel guilty for not doing this time of year.  And when I sit and look at them logically, I can recognize that it’s ridiculous to have that many expectations.  But maybe on a smaller scale (or not) you do it, too?  We focus on all the things we’re not doing instead of the things we are doing.  We are walking around doing our best and still kicking ourselves for what we’re not doing.

Saturday morning the boys and I made crayon ornaments.  It’s our one Christmas craft.  So as we shredded the crayons, I called upstairs to Grant to see if he wanted to do it this year or not.  He did his usual elephant-pound down the stairs ready to craft.  The boys picked colors to put in the glass globes and held the hairdryer while I swirled the melting crayons.  I did put some Christmas music on Pandora for that extra magic I was trying to create.  The whole activity lasted maybe thirty minutes and then everyone went back to their various screens.  About 5 minutes later, as I was cleaning up the crayon bits off the counter, Grant came in and gave me a big hug.  With an extra squeeze he said “Mom, you make Christmas so fun.”   I teared up (aka held in a sob) and kissed the top of his head.  In that moment I let go of all those expectations I had put on myself.  What a priceless gift he unknowingly gave me.

This post is kind of all over the place, but that’s where my head is these days.  My goal in the coming weeks is let go of expectations and comparisons and to hold on to the joy of advent and the family I get to celebrate it with.

To The Girl

21192879_1773726789322478_867391743974782915_nTo the 4 year old girl hiding under her mother’s vanity because she painted her face with makeup

To the 5 year old girl hiding from her friend’s mom because she accidentally hurt her friend

To the 11 year old girl hiding her tears because her 3 best friends just got a Best Friends necklace with only 3 chains

To the 16 year old girl hiding in her car at lunch because she didn’t have any friends in her lunch period

To the 17 year old girl hiding her true opinions because she realized being agreeable was how to get friends

To the 18 year old girl hiding from her roommate because she’s no longer wanted in that room anymore

To the 20 year old girl hiding her own wants and likes because she just wanted everyone around her to like her

To the 25 year old girl hiding her shopping habits because new clothes made her feel like an adult and someone to be taken seriously

To the 28 year old girl hiding in her home with a newborn because she felt like a failure that she couldn’t soothe her baby

To the 33 year old girl hiding in alcohol because she felt like she was doing it all wrong

To the 36 year old girl hiding in sobriety because that’s all she was getting right

To the 39 year old girl hiding in the comfort of food because it’s all she has left to hide in

To that girl

To that sweet girl

You are loved

You are forgiven

You are worthy

You are enough

You always have been

And you are allowed to stop hiding