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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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.

 

 

Don’t Stuff the Birthday Blues

Yesterday my husband and I had a discussion about stuffing emotions, and whether or not there is a difference between stuffing and just telling ourselves that those thoughts and feelings may be real, but it isn’t doing any good to wallow in them. It’s a fine line, I think, and when I am struggling with an uncomfortable emotion, I’m often not sure which one I’m doing. My husband’s thought about it that is that it depends on what your self-talk is saying about it. Are you telling yourself to suck it up, that you can’t think about that? Or are you telling yourself that these feelings are there, but there isn’t anything you can change about it?

The conversation that started this was about the fact that it’s my daughter’s birthday today and I’m sad. If you’re a reader of my blog, you may remember that my daughter and I are estranged; we have been for nearly five years. Holidays and her birthday are hard (I suspect they always will be) because I always wish that we were together. It’s not that I don’t miss her everyday, I do, but special days amplify my longing.

So, yesterday I wasn’t sure if I was stuffing my emotions or not. I told my husband I was feeling sad, but when he pressed for more, I didn’t have anything else to add. It was the same as always — little snippets of happy times that I had with my daughter flashing through my mind, willy nilly. That’s all. And that’s what it always is, so why talk about it? I think there’s a saying about a dead horse that applies here. At least that’s how I usually feel about the situation. Is that stuffing?

Actually, thinking about it today, I think it was. The reason I say that is because later in the evening last night, I gave in to the emotion. I let myself cry, and I said out loud, “I miss her so much.” My husband hugged me and held me for a while. I didn’t have to say anything else, I didn’t have to discuss every memory that was in my head, I just had to actually feel the feeling…let it take hold for a minute. I didn’t have to wallow, but I did have to acknowledge what I was feeling, whether I liked it or not. But then, after I took some ibuprofen and a hot bath, I felt some relief.

Some.

I woke up this morning and the sadness was still there. I haven’t cried today, but I’m not stuffing it…I’m writing this post.

Happy Birthday, Kari. I love you.

19th birthday

An open letter to my daughter

To my daughter on her 17th birthday:

Happy Birthday!  Seventeen years ago I was in the hospital at this time, waiting for you to make your entrance into the world.  I was filled with hope and excitement and  little bit of fear, as I think all new mothers are at that point.  Mostly, though, I was filled with love.  It was the only time in my life that I felt such overwhelming love for someone who I had not yet met.  I couldn’t wait to be able to hold you in my arms. Now, seventeen years later, I still feel that overwhelming love, and I am still filled with hope.  And once more, I can’t wait to be able to hold you in my arms again.

I would so love to know you as the young woman who you are now.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I’ve seen you in person.  When I last saw you, you were still a little girl.  A little girl who was hurting and was scared, one that had already had to essentially say goodbye to her father, and that was now losing her mother too.  That is way too much for a young teenager to have to deal with, and I am so sorry that you had to go through that.

I want you to know that I don’t blame you for the choices you made.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like to watch your mother sink into alcoholism like a rock in the ocean.  You were so strong to be able to make the decision to remove yourself from the situation, and I know that you were doing what I wasn’t able to at that time – taking care of yourself.  And that meant getting away from me.  As hard as it is to admit, I think you did the right thing.  It just never occurred to me that our separation would go on this long.

Being away from you these last few years has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through.  When I was newly sober, and trying to get my life back together, I didn’t have the emotional strength to reach out to you, to try to rebuild our relationship.  My thinking still wasn’t quite right, and I had convinced myself that I would be doing you more harm than good by trying to reconnect with you.  I wish now that I had made a different decision.  I wish that I had inserted myself back into your life, whether you liked it or not.  But my guilt and shame wouldn’t allow me to do that, and things became what they are today.

As you celebrate your birthday today, I hope you know that I am thinking about you.  I am remembering all of the good times that we had as you were growing up.  I hope that your memories of those times are as happy as mine.  Now, I hold onto those stories in my mind like a child holds onto a security blanket.  They remind me of what it feels like to be mother, and even though it hurts to know that I lost that privilege some years ago, I love remembering the feeling.

Please know, today and always, that I love you.  I miss you so much that I sometimes feel like my heart might stop beating from the pain.  I think about you all the time, wondering how you are, what you’re doing, if you are happy.  I truly hope that you are.  Your happiness, with or without me in your life, is so important to me.  It is what I hope and pray for every day.

I also pray for reconciliation for us.  I want that more than anything, but I am willing to wait until you are ready.  Just know, that all you have to do is say the word, and I will be there with open arms.  Until then, I will love you from a distance.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.  I love you and miss you terribly.

Love,

Mom