Sobriety, Depression, and Answered Prayers

It’s been a while! I haven’t updated my blog for quite a long time, for various reasons. Yes, I am still sober. No, I have not been going to very many meetings in the last year or so. That’s not because I am no longer focused on my recovery, I am. I’ve just found that after five and a half years, there are some other ways that I “practice these principles in all my affairs.” That said, I do want to get back to writing about recovery here, and I hope that those of you who used to enjoy reading this blog will get back into the groove with me.

So, there’s been a lot going on in my life in the last couple of months, some truly awesome things that I never thought would happen, despite the fact that I prayed about them daily. But first, I want to go back a little bit further–to spring of last year.

It was the beginning of about a year of pretty significant depression. There wasn’t a terrible crisis or any life-changing happenings that caused me to be depressed. In fact, from the outside looking in, everything looked great. Before my bout of depression really got started, I was doing ok. Well, as ok as a recovering alcoholic with PTSD and chronic depression can be. I had ups and downs, but for the most part, the ups far outweighed the downs.

My freelance writing was going well, I had happy clients and was usually busy, but not overwhelmed with work. I had no complaints about my husband, Austin, and my step-son, Benjamin–they were, and are, the absolute best. We had a vacation coming up, a road trip to the south to visit family and friends, and I was thrilled! I love road trips and love everyone we were going to see.

Then, I did something simple. Something that people do all the time without having a meltdown.

I mailed a birthday card.

Such a common act, yet it took me weeks to decide to do, and days to work up the courage to walk to the mailbox and, with teary eyes and shaking hands, drop it into the outgoing mail slot.

My daughter, who I had not seen since she was 14, was turning 20. I’ve written about her on this blog more than once. You can go back and read the details, but to put it simply, we became estranged after I went to treatment for my alcoholism. In the beginning, I tried to maintain contact, but my attempts failed and I wasn’t strong enough to force anything. I hadn’t sent any cards or letters for years, and I was terrified to do it then. But I did. And then I waited.

I tried to not have any expectations. I thought that it was likely that I wouldn’t hear anything in response. After all, I had to send the card to the last address I knew for her, my mother’s, even though I knew she didn’t likely live there anymore. Would my mother even give it to her? I didn’t know. But I had this tiny piece of my heart that felt hopeful. I had been waiting, praying, and hoping for six years and I finally did something, I reached out. But I knew that one birthday card couldn’t make up for the time that had passed, and it couldn’t make up for the hurt that I caused, and it likely couldn’t compete with the horrible things that my daughter was told about me (most true, some not) by my family members. And it didn’t. I heard nothing.

The silence made me realize two things. First, that I could no longer live without trying to reconcile with my kid. Second, that I hated myself for letting her get away in the first place. It was the latter that made my depression spin out of control. While I spent time Facebook stalking to see pictures and what was happening in her life, the self-blame and depression over our estrangement only got worse. How had I let this happen, and would I ever have her back in my life?

I started therapy again and I saw my psychiatrist, who changed up my antidepressants. I worked on the guilt I felt about being a mother without my child in my life and tried to resolve myself to the possibility that we might never reconcile. Just as I began to climb out of the pit of my depression, it was May again. Should I send another birthday card? Should I leave the whole situation to God and my prayers? Again, I struggled with what is usually an easy decision. In the end, I made my trek to the mailbox and dropped another card into it.

I tried not to have any expectations or to obsess about whether my daughter would even get the card. I tried to leave the whole situation in God’s hands and prayed, not for reconciliation, but for the strength to handle whatever the outcome was–even if it wasn’t what I wanted.

And then, just a little over a month later, I got an email. Not from my daughter, but from her husband. Before I even clicked on the message, I started to cry. Somewhere, deep in my heart, I knew that this email was going to give me the opportunity to reconnect with the young woman who I hadn’t seen since the beginning of her teenage years. And it did.

A week later, with some gentle nudging from my new son-in-law I suspect, my daughter made the decision to see me. I can’t even begin to put into words the flood of emotions that hit me at that moment. It was pure joy, a kind that I had never felt before. My prayers of seven years were finally answered.

Kari and me.

Since then, we have been getting to know each other again, first with baby steps, and now with all the enthusiasm of two women who had been living their lives with a piece of their hearts missing. My heart is full and I am overjoyed.

It’s amazing, the good things that sobriety can bring. Lost relationships can be restored. Broken hearts can be mended. Lives can be reconnected. I know that if I had not stayed sober, I wouldn’t have an opportunity to be a mother to a daughter again. I would have lost any chances of that. Recovery isn’t easy, it takes patience, strength, and faith, but good things do come of it. Believe me, I know.

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What Recovery Has Taught Me About Acceptance

What Recovery Has Taught Me about Acceptance

There are no two ways about it, we all have things that we wish we could change. I think this is especially true of those of us who are in recovery. We wish we could change the past, things we said or did, or we wish we could change our current circumstances, progress, or feelings. In recovery though, we quickly learn that not all things are changeable. The Serenity Prayer tells us we need to “accept the things we cannot change,” and we do need to do that – for our sanity, peace of mind, and emotional sobriety.

Acceptance has played a huge role in my recovery, and I have seen the difference that it has made in the recovery of others. When we live in denial and unacceptance, we can’t grow and heal, and that makes sobriety even harder than it already is. It makes us feel stuck and unable to move. But when we live in acceptance, we are better able to stay sober, live happily, and be fulfilled.

Recovery is a time of continuous learning, bearing with it many lessons. Sometimes those lessons are absorbed quickly and easily, but other times they are hard-fought and seem to take forever. The lesson of acceptance has often been the latter for me, something that I have had to work hard to have – that I sometimes still have to work hard to maintain. I’ve learned a lot about acceptance along the way though, and when I remember the following things my life is better, my recovery is stronger, and my outlook is happier.

It is what it is. There are so many things that are out of our control. The faster that we learn to accept that things are what they are and that they’re just the way they are supposed to be at the moment, the faster we will know peace. I have to remember this when life gets me down and I am wishing for different circumstances; something that was very difficult for me in early recovery. I would see other people in recovery who had longer sobriety than I did, and they were happy and spiritually fit, and I wanted to be in the same place. Clearly, that wasn’t possible, and I had to learn to accept that my own progress was right where it was supposed to be.

It’s a process. Acceptance doesn’t come all at once. Nothing could be truer than that when it came to accepting my past. I wanted so much for my past to be different – before, during, and after my active drinking. The fact that I couldn’t change any of it, no matter how desperately I wanted to, was hard to swallow, even though the pain of wishing was causing me to suffer. Acceptance of my past only came gradually, bit by bit, even though I became willing to try to be accepting. I had to be patient with myself and my recovery, and I had to celebrate even the smallest amounts of progress.

You don’t have to like it. I really hated it when a therapist said that to me about acceptance. She explained that acceptance doesn’t mean that you condone what happened to you or that you approve of how you handled it. You don’t have to like the things you become accepting of, you just have to do it. It makes perfect sense that letting go of the things that cause anger, sadness, or regret would improve my life, but it was still hard to hear, and equally hard to do.

It’s healing. When you learn to accept the things you can’t change, some miraculous things happen. You begin to see that you are able to cope in a healthy way, no matter what life throws at you. You are able to be mindful – in the present moment, not regretting the past or worrying about the future. You can handle stresses that you didn’t use to be able to. You are able to stop falling into old behaviors that no longer serve you well. You can deal with strong emotions and develop deeper relationships with others. You become emotionally sober and feel optimistic about life. It’s a beautiful and healing progression.

Acceptance in recovery has taught me that I can live life on life’s terms. I don’t have to live at the mercy of my past, and I don’t have to be overly concerned about the future. I can live here and now and know that I am right where I am supposed to be.

When Mother’s Day Hurts

Usually when I write a post on this blog, I write it with the hope that what I have to say will be helpful to someone else. I write it hoping that someone who is going through what I have gone through, whether they are in recovery or not, will be able to see that there is joy and fulfillment on the other side of life’s challenges. This is not one of those posts.

This post is being written with a very heavy heart. A broken heart. One that, despite the fact that I live a glass-is-half-full life of recovery from alcoholism, feels empty and sad tonight.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I will not be spending it with my mother or my daughter. And that makes it hurt. No, neither of them have died, they just aren’t in my life. But the grief is still very, very real.

When I began trying to get sober six years ago, my family washed their hands of me. My daughter, who was 14 at the time, went to stay with my mother while I went to treatment. When I got out of rehab, she didn’t want to come home. I couldn’t make her. I had so much guilt and remorse that making her do something that she didn’t want to wasn’t something I was capable of. It’s my biggest regret–one that I think will never go away.

My relationship with my mother wasn’t great. Not ever. And if I’m honest with myself, I know that I could never have gotten and stayed sober if I had remained in a relationship with her. I’ve done a lot of grief-work around the relationship that I wish I had with her and I no longer yearn to rewrite our history. But on some holidays, especially Mother’s Day, it still makes my heart hurt.

Before I started drinking alcoholically, I had a great relationship with my daughter. We were close, we were happy. We talked and laughed and had fun. I loved being her mom. She truly was my everything. Booze changed that. I wasn’t able to be the mother that she needed, and she did what she had to do to take care of herself. I cannot blame her for that.

I know better than to try to stuff my feelings, I have to let myself feel sad tonight and tomorrow. There have been tears and I know there will be more. I miss my daughter. There is a space in my heart that can only be filled by her. It doesn’t matter how great everything else is, or how much love I have in my heart for others, that space will remain empty until we reconcile. And that might not happen. Ever. That hurts.

I wish that when I had come home from rehab I had known what I know now. I wish that I had been as strong as I am now. I wish that I could’ve shown my daughter that even when you screw up, you can rebound; that even when you’re an alcoholic, you can get better. And I wish that she knew that no matter what my drinking caused me to do, I never stopped loving her.

I think about my daughter every day–there hasn’t been one that has gone by that I haven’t. But the pain I feel on Mother’s Day is just a little bit worse. A little bit deeper. A little bit more intense.

I know that tomorrow is just another day and that I will make it through it. I thank God that my sobriety isn’t threatened, and I’m grateful for all the good people in my life. But, right now, I just need to be sad.