Saturday, December 24, 2016

The day I almost killed Santa

Yes, you read the title right. I nearly killed Santa. Well, not the real Santa. The fake one. You know, Santa's helper.

It was December 2014, a couple of days before Christmas. I was a few weeks post surgery and a hot mess. My days and nights consisted of drinking cough syrup, sneaking into the rum Chad had put up for one of his special recipes, taking medicine that wasn't mine, eating Benadryl by the handfuls, and taking whatever pills I could get my hands on.

I had a few Christmas gifts that I wanted to sell, so I made the exchange and was driving back home on a curvy road behind the wheel of a vehicle I shouldn't have been driving. I'm not completely sure what happened, but I looked up and found myself heading straight into a big Ford truck. I think it was black. I quickly jerked my wheel to the right to get out of his way while he did the same. I made it back into my lane and looked in the rear view mirror to make sure he did as well. What I saw in that mirror seemed to go in slow motion, yet in fast forward.....all at the same time. It's a scene I replay in my head quite frequently, despite the fact that I try to erase it from my memory. I watched the truck swerve all over the road, like a tight-rope walker trying to balance, swaying from one side to the other. I'm pretty sure I didn't breathe while I watched it all unfold. I wanted to close my eyes but forced them to stay open. And that's when I saw it.

The truck was unable to recover and it went flying off the road and over an embankment. And I just froze, right there in the middle of the curvy road, as I tried to decide my next move. Do I just drive away? Get the heck out of dodge? My vehicle didn't make contact with his and there were no other cars around, so there would be no way to know who ran the truck off the road. I couldn't risk getting into trouble, and I certainly didn't want to tell Chad that I had caused an accident. I made the decision to do just that, and as I put my car into drive to take off, I began to wonder if he was okay. What if his truck flipped after it went over the hill? What if he was trapped in that truck and needed help? What if something even worse happened? I couldn't spend the rest of my life wondering....not with that secret guilt.

I turned my van around in the middle of the road and drove up back to the area where his truck had careened off the road. I saw two women running from a nearby house, and that's when I saw the truck, a small tree sticking out of the front of it. I immediately started thinking about what I was going to say. I had a hat on to cover up my shaved head and large incision. I quickly ripped it off and got out of my vehicle. The driver wasn't out of the truck yet, but I rushed over. The door opened and out stepped......Santa. Red suit, black boots, hat, beard, belt...the whole nine yards. He pulled off the beard and hat and stumbled around the truck. I quickly began to tell him how sorry I was, and he put his hand up to motion me to give him a minute. He leaned over the now destroyed hood of the truck and began taking deep breaths. As he continued to breathe like that, I thought for sure he was having a heart attack and that I was going to spend the rest of my life behind bars....for killing Santa. Just call me Scrooge. He eventually turned around to look at me, and I asked him if he was alright. He explained to me that he had been in an accident several years prior to this one in which he and his wife had to be removed by the Jaws of Life, and he was now having flashbacks. I apologized again, and then I began to dig myself out of this mess I was in. "I just had surgery.....see? (as I pointed to my healing incision) I had brain surgery. And I knew I shouldn't have been driving yet, but my surgeon released me and said he thought I was ready. I knew I wasn't! My vision just went completely black. Was I in your lane or were you in mine? I couldn't see anything. You see, my brain disease affects my vision too. I've had eye surgery as well." I continued to pour it on thick. I don't even remember half of what I said, and I hope he doesn't either. He grabbed his phone and called his daughter to tell her that he wasn't going to make it to his grand daughter's Christmas party and that someone would need to come pick up the Santa suit and fill in for him. He began telling me how hard he tried to keep his truck on the road, then how great it was that I came back. The ladies from the nearby house were also telling me how honorable that was. All of the sudden, I felt less like a convict and more like a hero. Well, maybe not a hero. But, at least a Good Samaritan. I deserved a pat on the back.

The ladies informed me that they had called 911, and the pink cloud I was on from my heroic act of kindness quickly evaporated.  I went back to my van and waited for the State Trooper to arrive. I looked around my messy van to make sure there was nothing that could incriminate me. The trooper and Santa's daughter arrived within just a couple minutes of one another, and while I couldn't be completely certain, I think the daughter was on to me. The trooper took Santa's statement, and then he beckoned me to get into his car. I remember the heat was on high, and while I was cold to the bone, I also felt like I was on fire. He took my statement and I retold my story. The trooper seemed to sympathize with me as he made notes on the accident report. He told me he was citing me for failure to control, and then his face changed into a stern yet compassionate expression. I could see in his eyes that he was a kind man, and I almost felt guilty for the load of crap I had just given him. He looked straight into my eyes and said these words that I will never forget. "Mrs. Monroe, you should not have been driving today. It's not safe. You've got three kids and a husband you say? Well, they just about lost you today. That man did you a favor and probably saved your life by swerving out of your way and running off the road. See that truck over there? Well, it's way bigger than your van, and you are lucky he didn't hit you head on. You wouldn't have survived." He had no idea that those words rang through my head with an unrelenting echo. He handed me my citation, I got out of the patrol car, walked to my van, and drove away....right after I folded the ticket up and threw it onto the floorboard of the vehicle, never to be seen again.

I left that day knowing that I had been spared. I walked away without a scratch on my body or my vehicle. And I drove away that day in the driver's seat of a Honda Odyssey, not in the back seat of a patrol car. When people asked me what happened that day, I stuck with my original story and everyone seemed to believe it. Long story short, I never answered when the insurance company called, I never paid the fines, I left for treatment two weeks later, and I lost my license.

This is one of the hardest stories for me to tell. It's one of the secrets that I wanted to keep secret. I didn't want to post this because I was afraid Santa would somehow read this and know what happened that day. I didn't want him to know that the poor girl who he made sure the paramedics checked over before they got to him was actually a drug addict. I didn't want him to know that I almost didn't come back that day because I was afraid of the consequences. I didn't want him to know that I was way more concerned about myself than I was him. I didn't want him to know that I was a liar. But, I'm not that girl anymore. So, if he does find out about her, he will know about a woman who no longer exists.

If I could say something to Santa, it would be this.

I am so sorry. And I really mean it this time. I'm sorry for the inconvenience of having a wrecked vehicle. I'm sorry for the soreness you probably felt the next morning. I'm sorry for the flashbacks I caused you to have. I'm sorry that you missed your granddaughter's Christmas party. I'm sorry that I wasted your whole day. I'm sorry that I prolonged the stress for you by refusing to answer calls from my insurance company.

But, I also want to tell you this.

You were one of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever met. You forgave so quickly, even though you didn't know what you were forgiving. I'm not sure if you would have been so quick to forgive if you had known the whole story, but, somehow, I think it wouldn't have taken you long. Because there was just something magical about you. In just the few minutes that I was with you, I came to the conclusion that probably everyone who knows you loves you. It seems like it would be hard not to.

And I also want to tell you this.

I try everyday to earn that immediate forgiveness you gave me. I try every day to be a better woman than the one you met that day. I try every day to live in complete honesty. I try every day to be the mother that I should be. And to be the wife that I should be. I try every day to remember that I am lucky to be alive. I try every day to live with gratitude for that. I try every day to be the kind of woman others can respect. I try every day to be the kind of person I saw in you that cold December day.

And I also want to tell you this.

I am making memories that will last forever with my kids and my family this Christmas. I am here with them, both physically and mentally. I shopped for the kids' gifts and I actually remember what I bought them. I stared at them after they fell asleep at night, the lights from their Christmas trees shining on their innocent faces. I sat in church and listened to the stories about the birth of Christ as if it was the first time I'd ever heard them. I went to the school Christmas parties. I got to spend many of my days helping with a project that allowed me to give back. I drove all over town, running errands and getting things ready for Christmas, and other than the fact that I truly am a bad driver, I didn't have to worry about whether or not I should be behind the wheel. I didn't have to get nervous when I saw a cop car. I didn't have to worry that I would ruin a Christmas party for a little girl and for Santa.

Oh, and one more thing I want to tell you.

The milk and cookies you will find at my house on Christmas Eve?  Yeah, that's the least I can do.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I was supposed to relapse last month

So, I was supposed to relapse last month.  No really.  It was my time for it.  My season for relapse.

While some people enjoy the holidays immensely (think Clark Griswold-esque), others seem to struggle more during this "joyous" time.  Formerly, I would classify myself in the second group of people.  I always put up multiple trees, buy the perfect gifts, coordinate all of my gift wrap, send out beautiful Christmas cards, play all of the right music.....but I feel empty inside.  A sadness (of unknown origin) creeps up and fills my whole body, replacing any joy that previously existed, like fog slowly covering an early morn. I spend the Christmas season feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared.  I constantly tell myself that I don't measure up, and I sabotage myself....very early on in the season.

(Side note:  This holiday season has proven to be very different for me. It seems that sober Misty likes, maybe even loves, Christmas! But, more on that later.)

Let's jump back to late November 2014

I walked out of Karen's Place (the treatment facility) fully recovered (HA!) on July 18th.  So, that means November lands me at four months post treatment, seven months clean.  I left treatment feeling extremely confident in my sobriety.  Probably a little over-confident.  While I was in treatment that first time, I began having pretty bad pressure headaches again. I knew something was up, just didn't know what. So, after getting out of treatment and the symptoms continuing, I made an appointment with my neurosurgeon. Long story short, before I left there, he had scheduled me for surgery on December 2nd to revise my shunt.  I'm going to be completely honest and real here, and it's embarrassing.  While I tried to act like I was scared and upset about this surgery, I was inwardly happy and relieved.  Almost excited. Giddy.  I got to have my head shaved, have my skull drilled through, have a three inch gash in the top of my head, multiple staples holding everything together, and a three day hospital stay.  But, I was excited. Why? Because I would get a free relapse card.  I would get IV pain meds and probably a large stash to take home.  Twisted thinking, right?  

So, it's the week before Thanksgiving. I'm running around like crazy....putting Christmas trees up, doing Christmas shopping, trying to get everything done before my surgery.  I'm also helping plan and decorate for a Thanksgiving service that our recovery program is doing.  And I crack.

So, when I had first gotten out of treatment, I had "stumbled" across a bottle of medicine that wasn't mine.  A bottle of medicine that I wasn't supposed to touch. On this particular day that I "cracked", I can vividly remember all of the details.  I put the load of decorations from my house in the back of my van and got the kids buckled into the car.  I had parked out back, so I pulled around to the front of the house and started to pull out of the driveway.  But, instead, I stopped.  And I put the car in reverse. And I pulled up to the front door. And I told the kids that I had forgotten something. And I dared them to get out of the car and follow me inside. And I unlocked the front door. And I walked into the kitchen.  And I stood and stared at the medicine cabinet. And I opened it. And, sadly, I consumed a large portion of what was in the medicine bottle. And I walked out of the house. And I got into the car. And I acted like nothing had happened. And I told myself it was a one-time thing...that I wouldn't do it again.  And I knew I was lying. And I knew I was high.

The next day, I got up and tried to pretend I hadn't relapsed the night before, even though I could still taste it in my mouth.  I was good.  I was still sober.  It had just been a one time thing on a chaotic day. It wouldn't happen again. I just needed a little break from reality. I was stressed out and overwhelmed. So, I got everything done that I needed to get done, I got the kids picked up from school, I wrote out the short testimony that I was going to give that night at our Celebrate Recovery Thanksgiving service, and I started to walk out the door. And that little demon started speaking to me. And I, once again, picked up.  That night is still one that makes me sick to my stomach.  I sang in front of a lot of people that night....high. I gave a testimony about my recovery journey...high. I quoted my favorite scripture....high.  I heard my husband share his heart about what he had been through and I heard how proud he was of me.  And he didn't know that I was high. But I did. That night when I got into my dark, silent car, the reality of it set in.  I knew that I was standing on the brink, tiptoeing near the point of no return.  And I did absolutely nothing about it. I pushed the guilt to the back of my mind, and I continued to use.

I remained in the outpatient program that was a continuance from the inpatient facility I went to.  I continued to see my counselor (the one that I love and respect more than life), and I lied straight to her face. Told her I was doing great.  Talked and laughed like I had it all together. Told her how strong my faith was and that I wasn't worried at all about my upcoming surgery. What I didn't tell her was that I was scared to death that I had just failed the drug screen they had given me.  What I didn't tell her was that I had googled how long this drug would be in my system and had rescheduled appointments when I didn't think I would pass.  What I didn't tell her was that I was pretty sure I was headed back to a very dark place.  What I didn't tell her, and what I didn't know, was that the life that I knew was getting ready to a huge way.

During those next six weeks, I hit a low that I didn't know was possible.  I thought I had already hit rock bottom in the mental hospital, but I was dead wrong.  Some of these things I have dreaded writing about....I have sworn to take them to my grave. I have worried that they will completely erase any dignity I have left. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some of those stories with you, and I'm going to ask you for grace.  I'm also going to ask you not to report me to Child Services. Kidding.  Kind of. I actually told a couple of friends this past week that I had some things that I needed to share but I first needed to see if there was a statute of limitations on those things. Ha!  But, when I decided to share my story, I decided to share ALL of it. Even the pages I want to rip out and the stories I wish could be written in fine print.

"Everyone has a chapter they don't want to read out loud." Ever heard that quote?  Well, for me, I'm coming up on that chapter.  And as much as I don't want to read it out loud, it's a part of my story, and it has to be told.  Out loud.  Well, kind of.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Where have I been?

So, it's been awhile.  Somehow, life happened and a month went by.  When recovering addicts disappear for any amount of time, it's kind of natural to think maybe we fell off the wagon.  And, that's understandable.  But, I am here to assure you that I did not fall off the wagon.  I'm sober, clean, alive, and consistently moving forward!  

One of my friends works at a treatment facility and reads my posts to the girls in the house. She finally messaged me because the girls wanted to know why I hadn't written anything in over a month. Sorry girls!

Life is just overwhelming.  So is recovery.  So is being a mother.  So is being a wife.  So is being a volunteer.  So is giving back.  It's so overwhelming, but so good at the same time.  But still overwhelming.  Sooo overwhelming.

I spent so many years just sitting back watching the world go by, that it almost feels completely new to live again.  It feels strange.  I feel like a fifteen-year old girl in the body of a thirty-five year old woman.  One of my friends recently said it this way.  "I feel like I'm driving a car. And I look around and see all of these big people driving cars.  And they don't even know that I feel like a little girl driving a big car."  During my addiction, I didn't take care of my kids.  I didn't feed them.  Didn't wash their clothing.  Didn't read them books.  Didn't help with homework.  I didn't do laundry and make beds.  I didn't spend time with my husband.  I didn't answer phone calls.  I didn't go to family functions.  I didn't go to ballgames.  Didn't go to the grocery store.  Didn't pay bills.  Didn't go to appointments.  Didn't renew my license or pay my traffic fines or fill out important paperwork. I didn't exercise.  Didn't spend time on my appearance or health. 

My average day in addiction looked like this:

Crawl out of bed and find clothes for the kids.  If there were none clean, I would find ones that didn't appear to be that dirty.  I would be grouchy and impatient and rush everyone to the car.  My vehicle would usually be out of gas, so I would stop and get some fuel and send the kids inside to get their breakfast (a candy bar) and something for lunch.  I dropped them off, went home, and crawled back in bed.  I would sleep a few more hours, and by the time I woke up, I would already feel dope sick.  I would then pop open the pill bottle and the day was over.  I wouldn't get off the couch to help my husband or the kids do anything.  I would, however, scream orders at them from my place on the couch.  After he and the kids finally went to bed, I would stay up half the night until I finally nodded out.  What a miserable and useless life.

My day now looks so different.  This is the first week that I have been out of outpatient treatment, but this is just an idea of what my day has looked like for the past six or so months.  Let's look at a random Thursday...the busiest day of my week.  

4:30 am:  Alarm clock goes off.  Convince myself not to push the snooze button. Throw on workout                   clothes, brush my teeth, let the dog out to potty, and hop in my car.
5:00 am:  Meet a couple of friends to exercise.
6:00 am:  Head home, make sure oldest daughter is out of bed, hop in shower, and get ready.
6:45 am:  Get oldest daughter to school while husband drags other children out of bed.
6:50 am:  Get other children ready while husband packs lunches.
7:20 am:  Get youngest two in vehicle to leave for school...make sure they have signed papers and                       lunchboxes
7:50 am:  Drop not-so-littles off at school.
8:00 am:  Arrive at outpatient for hour of counseling.
9:05 am:  Get drug screened at outpatient.
9:30 am:  Arrive at volunteer work.
1:45 pm:  Leave volunteer work to head back to outpatient.
2:00 pm:  Hour and a half group at outpatient.
3:15 pm.  Leave group a few minutes early to pick not-so-littles up.
3:20 pm:  Stop to get frozen yogurt for our self-proclaimed weekly "Froyo Thursyay."
4:00 pm:  Drop youngest daughter off at voice lessons.
4:05 pm:  Arrive at husband's work to wait for said daughter to be done with voice lessons.
4:45 pm:  Pick daughter up.
5:10 pm:  Husband and I throw together a quick dinner for the family and sit down together at dining                 room table to eat. We each share the best and the worst part of our days, and I sometimes                     make us all compliment one another.  Surprisingly, the kids love this.
5:40 pm:  Leave house to head to worship team practice.
6:10 pm:  Arrive at worship practice late (let's just be real here).
7:15 pm:  Leave worship practice.
8:00 pm:  Occasionally hit a meeting on my way home.
8:15 pm:  If I didn't go to a meeting, walk in door, send not-so-littles to the shower while I find and                     press tomorrow's clothes and clean out today's lunchboxes.
9:30 pm:  Send not-so-littles to bed while husband and I argue about whose turn it is to tuck them in                    (let's just be real here).
10:00 pm:  Finally crawl into my bed with a heating pad.  Husband and I try to watch a show together                   (same one we've tried to watch for the past four nights) and I immediately hear him                             snoring.  I wait for oldest daughter to walk in the door from work, ask her about her day,                     tell her good night, turn off TV and go to sleep....if I can drown out the snoring).  Most                         nights, I pay husband back for his snoring by waking him up with one of my crazy                               nightmares that I fully believe is real.  
4:30 am:   Do it all again.  

Oh, and I'm also working my 4th step. My fellow recoverees should understand the stress of this.  

I sometimes look around at other adults and think they make it look so easy.  Like they've been doing this adult thing forever!  And then I look at myself and wonder how long I will make it.  I'm not used to all of the feelings.  They are so new and so raw that I can't ignore them.  They make my chest hurt. I am not used to being responsible.  Or taking care of my family.  Or volunteering.  I am not used to really living.  

Needless to say, I have felt the need to step back and look at my schedule.  To decide what is most important and to find balance.  Sometimes it means giving up something that I really want to do, but I have learned that I CANNOT let myself become completely overwhelmed.  I will crumble.  
I have also learned that I have to prioritize.  Just because my life is crazy right now does not mean that I have to let go of doing the things I love to writing, and having lunch with friends, and helping with classroom parties.  

Ultimately, I felt the need to discontinue going to outpatient.  It was a tough decision and I was a little bit (or a lot) afraid, but God made things fall exactly into place to help me make the decision.  I prayed and talked to my husband and sponsor before I solidified that decision.  They both felt I was ready, and as my sponsor put it....there is a difference between treatment and recovery.  It's time for me to live my recovery.  It's time to stay clean because I want to, not because I don't want to fail a drug screen (believe me.....I DO want to...stay clean that is!!!).  It's time to continue forward.  With a supportive husband, kids who rely on me, an awesome sponsor, and amazing people who hold me accountable, I will do just that.  HUGE sigh of relief here.  Just writing that makes the pain in my chest leave.  I don't mean to brag, but I really do have the best support system ever.  

If you are an addict in recovery, you get this.  And I'm gonna guess you might feel the same way. You might think you will always feel like a little person in a big world.  It gets me.  I think I will always feel "different", but it gets better.  You might think (like I did) that recovery is about "staying busy".  It's not.  It's about being productive and responsible, but also about being comfortable with yourself in the quiet/down times.  It's ok to give yourself a day of binge watching your favorite Netflix or Hulu series!  I do that sometimes (let's just be real here).  

To our loved ones.....please understand that we need your patience.  Even the smallest things can overwhelm us.  There are days that we completely miss the mark, but we are trying.  Thank you that you are still here.  Part of the reason we try so hard is to make you proud of us.  We want to be clean...first for ourselves and our Higher Power, but then for you.  

Most nights when my head hits the pillow, I am so physically, emotionally, and mentally drained that I could cry.  I am so full of gratitude, love, satisfaction, and healthy pride that I do cry.  And I remind myself that I did it.  One more day.  At a time.  And I will wake up the next morning and do it all again.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The day I almost killed myself

I woke up on a Tuesday morning, late August 2013.  I went straight to my purse (where I stored hid my pills).  I opened the bottle and saw that there were only a few left.  Where in the world had they gone?  Surely I hadn't taken that many.  Well, I guess I would have to try to make them last until my script could be refilled.  I could do that.  Couldn't I?  Turns out I couldn't.  I took all three of the remaining pills by early afternoon.  I would figure something out later.  I had to get myself together because I was leading worship and co-leading the Women's Chemical Dependency Group at Celebrate Recovery that night.  Yeah, I know.

I went to group that night, and I noticed a girl and her mother.  The daughter was newly clean and she just had a sparkle in her eye.  She had what I didn't.  Sobriety.  Happiness.  Freedom.  I watched her and thought to myself that I would love to be like her, but that was too far out of my grasp to even reach for.  I got home, took a handful of Benadryl to knock myself out, and went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning feeling wretched.  Not even twenty-four hours and I was already going through withdrawals.  I spent the day feeling miserable.  Unable to lift myself off the couch, head pounding, blurry vision, body aches, runny nose, muscle cramps, restless legs, stomach a mess.  And it would only get worse.  The time ticked away slowly.  I knew that I could get my script filled the next day.  It wasn't technically time for it to be refilled, but I knew that the state law was that when 75% of a prescription had been consumed, it could be refilled.  Little did they know I had taken 75% of the script within the first few days.  (On a side note, one time I didn't even remember taking them and opened the bottle to find more than half had disappeared in a day.  I even called the pharmacy telling them that they had shorted me or that someone there was stealing.  Crazy). Anyway, I simply just tried to make it through the rest of the day, taking large amounts of Benadryl and muscle relaxers.  I got pretty desperate.  I tore through the medicine cabinet, looking in all the boxes for something.  Anything.  I went to my closet and started pulling out my purses.  Maybe one had fallen out and would be in the bottom among the gum wrappers.  No such luck.  I got a wild idea that maybe my old medicine box that was still in boxes in the garage would have something in it.  (I knew that it wouldn't, but my crazy drug-fiending mind had to be certain).  I went into the garage and wreaked havoc upon everything in there.  I threw boxes around, digging through them to find pills.  I grabbed a box of nails from one of the boxes and threw them.  They spilled all over the floor, but I did not care.  At the bottom of the storage totes, I finally found the old medicine box.  I ripped off the lid and dug through it.  And you know what it held?  Antibiotic....after antibiotic....after antibiotic.  I guess I never finished the medicine I really needed.  Ironic.

That night, I tried to go to sleep.  No matter what I took, I couldn't fall asleep.  I kept kicking my restless legs around, slamming them down on the couch and shaking them to try to get that feeling to go away.  I laid and sweated....then got cold chills....then sweated....then got cold chills.  I felt like death.  Around 5am, I finally drifted off to sleep.  I woke up a couple of hours later.  I think anticipation is the only thing that got my eyes open and my feet on the ground.  Today was the day that I could get more pills...legally.  I grabbed the pill bottle and dialed the pharmacy number.  I entered all of my information.  The robot on the other end told me that my prescription could not be filled.  I got online and tried to do it.  Same thing.  Then, I read the front of the bottle.  What?!  My doctor had somehow cut my dosage in half and I hadn't even realized it.  He must have caught on to what I was doing.  I threw the bottle down and leaned over the kitchen counter crying.  I had no clue what I would do.  I was a "virtuous drug addict" (ha!) meaning I didn't buy pills off the street.

I made my husband help me get the kids up and out the door.  He had no clue what was going on.  I drove them out the long, winding, country highway we lived on to school.  I rolled the window down as they got out and yelled, "Bye!  Have a great day!  I love you!"  I pulled out of the school parking lot and into the gas station right across the street.  I just sat there and tried to figure out what to do. Maybe I would call the dentist and tell them I was still having pain....from the dental surgery....I had a year ago.  Nope, wouldn't work.  I exhausted every idea and I decided I would just go try to buy them from someone.  I didn't even know where to start, but I would figure it out.

I pulled out of the gas station and suddenly came up with a different plan.  I would cause myself to wreck.  Semi trucks drove out this road all the time, at high speeds.  I would just swerve into one.  I could not live like this any longer.  My life had become a living hell, and I no longer wanted to be a part of it.  My family wasn't even on my mind at the time.  I just wanted out of this life.  I started driving, and a semi came.  I didn't move from my lane.  I couldn't do it.  Maybe the next one. Couldn't do it either.  I got closer to home and I saw another big truck approaching me.  I knew that it was now or never.  I felt a rage inside of me, and I knew for sure I would do it this time.  If it didn't kill me, then I would at least sustain injuries bad enough to hospitalize me, and I would surely get strong IV pain meds.  My hands clenched the wheel and the courage rose within me.  I started to move the wheel, and I heard a voice.  It was not audible, but I knew it wasn't mine.  I had heard people say that before, and I called "bull crap" on it.  But, I was certain something, or someone, was speaking to me.  It was so powerful that I had to listen to it and I knew then that God was not finished with me yet and that I had to call someone to get help.  I went straight home and did just that.  I came clean that I had relapsed.  I confessed to my husband.  The next three weeks were pure torture, but I somehow made it through.  I ended up relapsing later on, but that's a different part of my story.

People often make the statement that they don't understand why drug addicts don't/can't just stop using.  Withdrawals are one of the reasons.  They are miserable.  They are uncontrollable.  They are vicious and unrelenting.  Sometimes we don't make it through them before we have to pick up again. Even when we consider the idea of getting clean, the fear of withdrawal often stops us from our strongest attempt.

Addiction is evil.  It is deceptive, powerful, cunning.  It makes us sick.  It almost made me take my own life.  But, recovery has given me my own life back.  It is freeing, honest, powerful, and forgiving.  It makes us well.  

My life is so different now.  I don't have to take things to help me fall asleep to avoid the misery.  I don't wake up in the morning looking for my next fix.  I don't spend my days digging through closets and garages trying to find a two-year old pill.  I fall asleep every night, peacefully, with no shame or regrets.  I get myself and my kids ready every morning and I drop them off at school.  I still roll down the window and my youngest ALWAYS gives me a good-bye kiss.  I yell "I love you" out the window, and I drive away.  And I smile to myself.  Because I have so many reasons to live.  Because my hope now is to live until I'm at least eighty.  To see my kids graduate.  To be there for their weddings and the births of their children.  To live life passionately until my time comes.  Because even on the bad days, life is so beautiful that I don't want to do anything but live it.

Today, September 10th, 2016, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Speak up.
Speak out.
Break the stigma.
Break the silence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The day my son had surgery and I didn't even know about it

August 9th, 2016
8:15 a.m.

Right now, this little guy is in under general anesthesia for an endoscopy and a biopsy.  He's the toughest guy I know.  

We entered the same-day surgery unit where he was weighed and checked into a room.  I helped him into his hospital gown, stopping him from putting it on backward.  He chatted with nurses who came in and out, and we walked with him as he was wheeled back to the procedure room. We stood with him as he fell asleep, laughing at the corny jokes of the anesthesiologist until his eyes closed.  I kissed him on the cheek and we walked to the waiting room.  As I made myself a cup of mediocre hospital coffee, my mind drifted back to late April of 2014.  

I was in treatment, sitting in an afternoon group, and I was called down to the office.  As I walked in, the office manager, Cassie, told me that my husband had called with some medical information about our son.  She said he'd had a procedure for some health issues he had been having and the biopsies came back confirming that he had celiac disease and eosinophilic esophagitis.  Now, keep in mind that I am aware that while these diseases are life-altering, they are not life-threatening.  You might even say they aren't a "big deal." But, for a woman standing in a treatment facility hours away from her son who she didn't even know was sick, it WAS a big deal.  And, these were just two more diagnoses on top of the many he already had.  He was my baby.  And I was the last one to know he had something else wrong with him.  I cried.  I got embarrassed.  I got angry.  I asked why Chad hadn't even told me that Ethan would be undergoing surgery.  And the answer?  He didn't want me to worry........and he was afraid I would leave rehab. 

You see, I vaguely remembered that Ethan had a consult scheduled with a GI specialist.  Just seven months prior, he had ended up in the hospital for nine days with a collapsed lung.  It was during that time that they noticed he had some internal bleeding coming from his intestinal area.  It was during that time that I spent those nine days in the hospital with him, withdrawing and detoxing from opiates.  It was during that time that I laid on the floor of a nasty shower because I was so miserable I couldn't stand up.  It was during that time that I went unconscious on the couch in my son's room while a doctor was talking to me and had a Code Blue called and was rushed to a nearby hospital by ambulance.  It was during that time that I begged for them to let me go back to the Children's Hospital with my son and willingly admitted that I was going through opiate withdrawal.  All of that had been a blur, and somehow I had forgotten about the follow-up appointment for Ethan with the gastrointestinal doctor.  Mother of the year, right here. 

It is crazy to me how much drugs can change a person.  I had not started using when Ethan was born, and I was "that mom."  You know....the one who carried germ-x everywhere.  The one who didn't allow people to hold him because he was a preemie.  The one who used a wipes warmer. The one who asked people to not smoke anywhere near him.  The one who only took two or three of the pain pills they sent home with me from the hospital because I was nursing.  The over-protective, by the book mom. The mom who had him on a schedule, who put him to bed with lullaby music.  The mom who bathed him every night and lathered him in calming bedtime lotion.  The mom who read and sang to him any chance she could get. 

And now?  Now I was standing in the middle of a treatment center, a hundred miles away from my family, the room spinning around me, hearing that my little boy had been put to sleep for a minor surgery and I wasn't there.  What's worse?  I didn't even know about it.  

Today every move I have made throughout the entire morning, I have imagined Chad doing alone. Helping Ethan get ready for his himself.  Answering all of the nurse's and anesthesiologist's himself.  Walking to the OR behind the wheeled hospital himself.  Holding Ethan's hand as he fell himself.  Kissing his cheek and telling him himself. Sitting anxiously in the parent's room awaiting Ethan's name to be himself. Getting the test himself.  Learning a new way of cooking and himself.  I was gone for all of that.  And, I had A LOT of catching up to do when I got home.  Life, as we knew it, had changed.

But, today, I was there.  I helped him every step of the way.  As he was falling asleep, his eyes kept drifting back to mine.  Making sure I was there.  I was there in the waiting room, anxiously waiting for his name to be called.  I was there when the doctor gave us the results of the procedure.  I was there when they called for Ethan's parents again and escorted us back to the recovery room.  I was there and stood by his side, rubbing his soft little face encouraging him to wake up.  I was the first face he saw when he opened his eyes.  I fed him his favorite treat, a red popsicle, as he woke up.  I held the miniature can of Sprite to his mouth as he took little sips.  I stood by his bedside and played with his hair until he asked me to leave it alone and not mess it up!  I signed the discharge papers, and I walked beside him as they wheeled him out to the car.  And I went home with him.  

There are so many things I have missed out on.  So many times that I should have been there, but I wasn't.  But, one thing we learn about in recovery is making "living amends."  I can't go back and change the fact that I wasn't there for important moments.  But, I can do everything within my power to make sure that I am there for all future ones.  And, the only way that I can continue to do that is to stay clean and day at a time.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A letter from a drug addict to her newborn daughter

July 27th, 2006

Dear newborn daughter:

I have felt you move inside me.  I have heard your first cry.  I have kissed your soft face.  I have nursed you. I have counted all of your fingers and toes.  I have examined your entire body.  I have stared at you for hours.  I have refused to let the nurses take you away so that I can sleep.  Those nurses surprise me by dressing you in all of the little outfits I have brought with me to the hospital.  Those nurses tell me how relieving it is to watch a baby go home to such a good family.  Those nurses tell me that I am an amazing mother.  Those nurses cannot see the future.  But, I have.  And there are some things I need to tell you.

I love you. 
Right now, in this moment, there is nothing in this world I could possibly love more.
Right now, in this moment, your needs are the only things that matter.
Right now, in this moment, I would do anything in the world for you.

But, one day, all of that is going to change.  Slowly.  Over time.
And, honestly, it will surprise me as much as it does you.

One day, I am going to pick up a pill. 
And I am going to fall in love with it.

One day, I will take those pills, and then I will nurse you. 
One day, your pediatrician will tell me that I need to choose between taking those pills and nursing you, and I will abruptly wean you.  I will choose the pills over you.  And you will be devastated.  Inconsolable. 

One day, I won't wake up when you cry.
One day, you will sit in a dirty diaper longer than you should.
One day, you will cry because you are hungry and I will wait too long to feed you.

One day, I will stop reading you bedtime stories.
One day, the lullabies will cease.
One day, I will let the television put you to sleep.

One day, you will get hurt in my care.
One day, you will wonder outside, alone, while I am in bed passed out.

One day, you will look to me to show me something new that you have learned, and I will be in another world.

One day, I will put you in a vehicle and drive around with you, knowing full well that I am risking your life. 

One day, you will look out the window at the other families outside playing, and you will wonder why we never do the same.

One day, I will drink your medicine.  The medicine you need. 
One day, my desires will turn into needs, and they will matter more than yours.

One day, I will deserve to have you taken from me.

One day, I will steal money out of your piggy bank to buy pills.

One day, I will miss the pre-kindergarten luau, and you will be the only one there with no mommy.
One day, I will show up late for Moms and Muffins.  You will be so glad that I am there, but so sad that I missed the songs.  You will be so disappointed that your teacher will have the entire class sing the songs again so that you can sing to me. 

One day, I will ignore you.  I will just want you to go to sleep so that I can do my thing.
One day, you will want to cuddle/rock/play/sing/read/dance/talk, and I won't have make time for it. 

One day, you will deserve a different mother.  One who deserves you.

One day, I will pack my bags and leave without telling you good-bye.
One day, I will come back home and act as if nothing ever happened.
One day, I will leave again.  This time, I will tell you.  You will be devastated.  Inconsolable.

One day, your innocent ears will hear the words, "Mommy had to go away again because Mommy is a drug addict."  You will fight with everything inside of you to not believe that.  You think Mommy is perfect. 

One day, I will try to rock you to sleep and sing to you.  You will ask me to stop singing, as my songs now only bring tears.

One day, your daddy will kick me out.  
One day, you and I will only spend weekends together.

But, one day, somewhere along the way, I will vow that there will be no more "one days" like those.
I will fight like hell to make sure they don't come again. 

I will mess up....over and over and over again.  But, I will not give up.  Because I know that one day I will get it. 

And, our life will begin again.  You will be like a newborn baby, and I like a new mom.  We will get to know one another again.  You will hold my hand while we are driving.  On the days when all I can think about is the regret I have for ruining your life, you will have an endless flow of stories to tell.  Of happy memories.  Of times that make me sound like I was a good mommy.  You will barely remember the bad.  You will choose to remember the good.

One day, despite the fact that I have repeatedly broken your heart, you will tell me that I am your best friend.  You will want to be with me every second of the day.  You will choose to spend time with me above anything else.

You will grow into the kindest, most compassionate child I will ever meet....despite all of the mistakes that I will make.  You will amaze everyone with the heart for others that you will have. 

You will teach me what life is all about.  Just as I have given you life, you will help me get mine back.

One day, on your tenth birthday, you will wake up.  And I will be here.  Really here.  And I will fix you breakfast.  And we will spend the morning together.  And then I will leave for a short time to go to a "meeting" because that's our life now.  That's what keeps us together.  One day, I will make it, sweet daughter.  One day, we will make it.

Precious newborn daughter, I am sorry.  I am sorry that your innocence will be stripped away from you at such a young age. I am sorry for the days you are going to face...for all of the days you will have to face without me.  I am sorry for all the tears, worry, anger, loneliness, and sadness that will come because of my choices.  If I could change them right now, please know that I would. 

I love you more than the world.  Sadly, I will one day forget that. 

But, don't you worry. 

One day, I will remember it again. 

And, one day......I will never forget it. 

Happy 10th Birthday, Addalyn Faith.  There is no other child like you in the entire world.  If I could have dreamed you into existence, you would be no different than you are today.  You make me want to be a better person.  I love you, sweet girl. 

Click here to read about the day my husband became a single father.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pull up a chair and let me tell you a little secret

chair, basket

Pull up a chair and let me tell you a little secret.  Are you ready?

Sometimes this is hard.  All of it. 

The being honest.

The being transparent.

The "putting it all out there". 

The taking the mask off.

The letting people know I don't have it all together.

It's hard.

The facing the hurt I've caused others.

The working on putting my family back together.

The doing what God (my higher power) calls me to do.

It's hard.

The accepting who I am. 

It's hard.

The not caring if others accept me.

It's super hard.

For as long as I can remember, I have cared more than I should about what others think.  And, just when I think that I've come pretty far in that area, something happens to remind me that I've still got a little too much pride left in me.

I told you several months back that I was struggling.  What I didn't tell you was that I ended up signing up for a twelve-month outpatient program.  I receive counseling 1-2 days per week, group 2-3 days per week, and drug screening 3 days per week.  I have completely fallen in love with the people there (my counselor, the staff, and other clients) and it has already proven to be exactly what I need. 

Anyway,  my drug screening schedule is Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.  Last Saturday, my church participated in a nationwide event known as Serve Day.  We met at a huge stadium in our town, then departed for our separate group projects.  I ran a couple of errands in town and killed some time before the lab at the outpatient place opened. 

At a few minutes 'til 10, I approached the outpatient building, and I noticed people.  Lots of people.  And they were wearing red shirts.  The same red shirt that I was wearing.   The shirt that said this on the front.

No.  It couldn't be. 

But, yes.  There they were. 

There were people standing in the road holding signs.  I turned into the parking lot, and it was full of red shirts.  There was a tent set up, and they were giving free haircuts.  Nice concept, but I sure wish they would have chosen somewhere else.  I parked my car, turned the ignition off, then just sat there for a minute.  What should I do?  Should I just put my car in reverse and leave.....or would that be more noticeable?  I knew that I would never have time to leave and then come back to screen, and if I didn't screen, I could get penalized.  What to do.....

I was afraid the group that was there serving might think I was there to serve as well.  How would I tell them that I was actually there to pee in a cup to verify that I had not done any drugs in the last two days??  Wait....maybe I would just act like I was there to help. Not a bad idea.

I finally put my pride in the glove box, grabbed my papers, and got out of my car.  I didn't make eye contact with anyone.  I finally made it through the parking lot and into the front door.  I expected to find relief once I was safe inside.  Instead, I found about twenty more volunteers from my church inside painting!  What is it with these people wanting to be so nice and helpful?!  I, once again, didn't make eye contact and headed straight back to the lab.  I peeked my head in the door and saw a familiar face that made me feel better.  I pointed to my red Serve Day shirt I was wearing, and said, "I'm not here to serve....I'm here to screen."  He quickly told me to come into the lab, and they made the screening process as quick and painless as possible.  I walked out the door, straight to my vehicle, and high-tailed it out of that parking lot.  I'm sure the group that was serving there thinks I'm an antisocial lunatic (I kind of am), but that's beside the point.

I told you that story to tell you this.  (Woah...I totally just sounded like my preacher Dad). 
Telling all of these things about myself is hard.  I do not take pride in the things that I've done, and I don't write about them to brag. Believe me, I wish I had a blog that focused on home décor, makeup, or fashion.  Or memes.  Yes.  I love memes.  Honestly, I do not find enjoyment in exposing my deepest, darkest secrets.  What I find enjoyment in is knowing that I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  I find enjoyment when I read the e-mail that essentially says, "Me too."  That's what makes it worth it.  What makes it bearable to be so exposed. 

Last night, I sat in a circle of some of the most beautiful people I know.  We talked about addiction.  About life.  About our struggles.  And the topic came up of staying hidden, of not disclosing that we are addicts/alcoholics.  Of keeping our struggle a secret. 

There was a time when that was all I wanted.  I wanted to be known as a stay-at-home PTO mom, a wife, a singer, a business owner, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I didn't want anyone to know the real me.  But, there came a time when that was no longer possible.  When the cat that I refused to let out of the bag eventually clawed his way out.  And at first I was mortified that people knew.  I lost some friends along the way.  I received some judgmental glances.  I had some awkward encounters. And then, at some point that I don't even remember, I started being okay with who I was.  With people knowing the real me.  And what I thought would be the most horrifying feeling in the whole world turned out to be one of the most freeing. 

You see, I don't think that it was that I finally believed that others accepted who I was.

It was, I believe, that I finally accepted who I am. 

I am a stay-at-home mom....who struggles with drug addiction.

I am a wife....who struggles with drug addiction.

I am a singer....who struggles with drug addiction.

I am the wife of a business owner....who struggles with drug addiction.

I am a daughter...who struggles with drug addiction.

I am a sister...who struggles with drug addiction.

I am a friend...who struggles with drug addiction. 

I am me, Misty Monroe, and I struggle with drug addiction. 

And I'm okay with that. 

So, even on the days when my pride tries to rear its ugly head and embarrassment threatens to overtake me, in the end I am still okay with who I am. 

I still accept it. 

And you want to know a secret?
As hard as it sometimes is to be exposed, I never want to go back into hiding again. 

Because, after all, you know what they say.....secrets make you sick. 

Hiding your hurt only intensifies it. 
Problems grow in the dark and become bigger and bigger,
but when exposed to the light of truth, they shrink.
You are only as sick as your secrets.
So take off your mask,
stop pretending you're perfect,
and walk into freedom.
-Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

We don't all survive

   Last night, my youngest daughter, Addalyn, and I went to a late movie.  During the movie, she moved the armrest, covered up with her blanket that she brought with her, and cuddled up next to me.  I thought to myself that there was no greater feeling in the world, and I just sat and basked in the gratitude of being with her. 

   On the way home, we had to make a pit-stop at Wal-Mart.  Yes, it was nearly midnight, but I needed bleach.  I had a load of whites waiting for it.  I walked through the bleach aisle trying to decide if I wanted bleach tablets, regular liquid bleach, or the gel kind.  I've tried all three, but I haven't really committed to a certain one.  Anyway, as I tried to make my decision, my phone dinged.  It was a familiar sound...the Facebook messenger notification.  I reached into my purse, thinking that it was possibly a friend I had just been talking to, or my sister and sister-in-law with a hilarious story to tell me.  I turned my phone on, held my finger to the sensor on the back to unlock it, and saw that it was from a girl I was in treatment with.  We check up on each other from time to time, so I wasn't surprised when I saw her name.  I opened up the message and suddenly bleach no longer mattered.

  "We lost another sister today," it said.  And I read the name.  And the room started spinning.  And the tears started flowing.  In the Wal-Mart bleach aisle.  That message is one that I dread receiving.  We've lost another one.  This makes three now.  Three ladies....sisters....friends that I lived with for months.  Three women with family and friends who desperately loved them.  Three women who tried with everything inside of them to beat this evil beast. 

   This one hit me hard.  You see, this friend and I shared a room. She slept on the bottom bunk right beside mine.  I was bed 4, she was bed 6.  She came in only two days after me, so we spent 98 nights falling asleep beside each other.  98 mornings waking up beside each other.  98 times of me waiting until she fell asleep to go turn out the shower room light, because she was afraid of the dark.  98 mornings of watching her sneak an extra cup of coffee. 

   She was strong.  Tough.  She tried to play the unemotional type.  But, in our room at night, I got to know the real her.  I listened to her cry about her marriage ending.  I listened to her cry about the hurt she had caused her two little girls.  I listened to her talk of a tragic crime that had been committed against her, and I watched her work on forgiving that person.  And some nights I laid there in pure amazement that someone so tough could be scared of the dark. 

    I will never forget helping her pick out her outfits and fixing her hair.  I would be sitting in the group room in the morning journaling and reading my morning devotions, and she would walk in the room with her teasing comb and hairspray.  She didn't even have to ask anymore.  It was a given that I would fix her hair.  And I loved to watch her face as she looked in the mirror afterward.  A smile always took over her self-conscious face. 

   Every time I see hand sanitizer, I will think of her. 
   Every time I make ranch chicken, I will think of her.

   I will never forget laughing hysterically with her.  I will never forget crying and praying with her when she finally came to the realization that her marriage would not be restored.  I will never forget her apologizing to all of us for a big mistake she made while in treatment.  I will never forget remaking her bed after she left the room, knowing that it would never pass inspection as the corners were not done correctly and you couldn't "bounce a quarter off of it."  I will never forget sitting across from her at breakfast one morning when our friend, Kathy, said something completely hilarious and I accidentally spit my coffee all over her face.  I will never forget her laughing instead of punching me.    I will never forget knowing that I didn't want to ever be in a fight against her!!  I will never forget how loud she snored and how much she talked in her sleep.  I will never forget her love for high heels.  I will never forget the body spray she wore that made my nose burn.  I will never forget that she could do a mean smoky eye.  I will never forget what a good cook she was.  I will never forget that one of the counselors called her by the wrong name and that she eventually just went with it.

  I will never forget her.

  This never gets easier.  It never makes sense. It never seems right....never seems fair.  But, addiction doesn't make sense.  Addiction is not right....not fair.  On a daily basis, I despise this evil monster.  But, some days, like today, I hate it more than I can even begin to tell you.  I hate that it steals mothers from their children; daughters from their mothers; wives from their husbands.  I hate that it steals us from ourselves. 

  You see, though...addiction does not care.  It has no remorse for what it does.  It doesn't care who you are or how hard you try to beat it.  It is cunning, relentless, selfish, controlling, and powerful.  It is the toughest demon you will ever have to fight. 

May we never forget how powerful it is. 

May we never let down our guards.  

May we never give up the fight. 

***To my sisters in recovery:  I love each and every one of you.  We may not see each other often or even talk to each other often, but please know that I think of you more often than not.  The bond we formed during one of the hardest times of our lives is something that can never be broken.  You all were there for me, and I hope you can say the same of me.  Know that I look at your pictures on Facebook.  That I smile when I see that you are doing well.  That I cry when I see that you are not.  Don't give up.  Don't let her death be in vain.  My prayer is that I will never again receive the message that I got last night.  Stay strong, girls.  We've got this.  Love you all.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

What do you see when you look at an addict?

Stereotypes.  They are all around us, even when we want to pretend they no longer exist.  We judge people based on how they appear to us.  Pass an overweight woman on the street....she's lazy.  Pass a feminine man.....he's gay.  Pass a woman with worn out clothing and shoes....she's poor.  Pass someone with tattoos and piercings....he/she is rebellious.  Pass a man who is muscular and extremely fit.....he's on steroids.  Pass a person smoking with dark circles under far-away eyes, he/she is an addict.  Let's face it.  Stereotyping and judging have become second nature to us humans.  I am just as guilty as the next person.  And not only do we categorize certain groups of people, most of the time we deem them as worthless....we place a decreased value on their lives.

Sadly, this is especially true for drug addicts.

If you ever want to lose the tendency to stereotype/judge, immerse yourself in a group of people whom you think you are different from.  Learn about them.  Listen to them.  Close your eyes and open your heart.  It's a guarantee that you will see them differently; that you will see yourself differently.  That's what happened to me.

You see a girl walking down the street.  A big round belly protrudes from her much too small t-shirt.  She carries a pack of cigarettes in one hand.  She looks rough. You stare.  You judge.  You wonder why God would give her a baby.  You wonder how long it will take for her to lose it or give it up.  You feel sorry for the unborn baby.  I sit in a circle with her.  I don't know her, but I watch her.  I watch her rub her belly....gently, mindlessly, lovingly.  I listen to her talk of her struggles.  She knows that she still has a long way to go to be the mother that she wants to be....many more changes to make.  But, she has come so far.  She has given up so much already.  I listen to her talk about the life she wants to give this baby.  How she wants him to have what she never had.  I see the love she already has for her child, and I wish I could convince you that there is no reason to feel sorry for him, for he is being born to a warrior.

He walks by your car and you lock the doors. He is covered in tattoos and years of trouble have hardened and aged his face.  He stands behind you in line and you tighten your grip on your purse.  You are certain that he is a criminal, and you think you (or the entire store) are about to get robbed. I sit in a room with him.  His time in prison, behind bars, has made him wise beyond his years.  He offers truth, hope, and experience to anyone he talks to.  He speaks with compassion in his voice and kindness in his eyes.  Helping others has become his sole purpose in life.  He doesn't want others to make the same mistakes that he has made.  When he speaks, people listen. He looks at a woman who still thinks that she is a different kind of drug addict, that she is still somehow "better", and gives her the reality check she has been long overdue for.  However, he does it in such a way that all she can do is thank him, and he extends his tattoo-covered arms and embraces her.  She will never forget his words, for they have changed her life.

You see him walking down the street.  He is wearing a wig, make-up, high heels, and a dress.  You gawk at him and condemn him.  I walk into a room full of recovering addicts and he is the first one to speak to me.  He is the first one to make me smile; the first one to make me feel welcomed and accepted.  He opens my eyes and my heart.  And I realize, I don't have to understand him, I just have to love him. 

You see a woman who has given up or lost her children.  You think that she is scum.  You don't understand how someone could choose drugs over her kids.  Well, neither does she.  Neither do I, yet I look at her and realize that I, too, should have lost my children.  I watch her work her recovery harder than nearly anyone else, because she has more at stake than nearly anyone else.  She has gotten clean, is staying clean, and is rebuilding her life.  I listen to the pain in her voice as she talks about her children, about the years lost, about the mistakes made.  But, then I hear the determination take over, and it becomes obvious that she will turn things around, that she will make things right, that her family will be restored.  She will not go down without a fight.

You and I look at addicts completely differently. 
Perhaps it is because you are looking from the outside in, while I am looking from the inside out. 

You couldn't possibly be any more different from them.  I am the same as them.
You are afraid of what they will take from you.  I thrive on what I receive from them (experience, strength, and hope).
You stay as far away from them as possible.  I exchange numbers with them.  I become friends with them.
You see perpetrators.  I see people who have been victims of more injustices than you could ever fathom. 
You think they are bad.  I see more goodness and kindness in the few hours I spend with them than I do the remainder of the week.
You dare not touch them.  I hold their hands as we recite the Lord's Prayer.
You think they are a burden to society.  I watch them make amends and relentlessly give back. 
You think they are liars.  I hear more honesty from their mouths than most people can handle.
You think they are weak.  I know that they are the strongest people I will ever have the privilege of meeting. 

You look at them and see a group of bad, dishonest, weak, burdensome, worthless, hopeless people.  I look at them and see something completely different.  I see MY people.  And, at this point in my life, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

**It is possible to change the lens through which we look at others.  It is possible to become educated about the struggles others go through.  It is possible to love them even though we don't understand or agree with what they are doing.  The thing is, feeling judged never caused a person to desire to change in a positive way.  But, you know what?  Feeling loved is the greatest motivator there ever was.  I think it's time that love became our driving force.  How about you?

Disclaimer:  I realize that not everyone stereotypes or judges addicts.  My writing here is based on the general consensus of how addiction/addicts are viewed in our society as a whole).  If you are in the group who pursues understanding and compassion rather than judgment, thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

To read about why I have been called an unlikely addict, click here.

Monday, July 4, 2016

What is freedom?

Freedom is clear eyes.
Freedom is clean drug screens.
Freedom is earning back trust.
Freedom is making amends.
Freedom is being present.
Freedom is moving forward.
Freedom is falling asleep at night with no shame.
Freedom is waking up every morning and trying again.
Freedom is enduring the triggers and cravings.
Freedom is not constantly looking over your shoulder.
Freedom is no longer fearing the withdrawals.
Freedom is coming out of hiding.
Freedom is being honest.....truly honest.
Freedom is losing the fear of getting caught....
of being "found out."
Freedom is not being chained to a bottle.
Freedom is stopping the chase.
Freedom is trusting others.
Freedom is trusting yourself.
Freedom is accountability...
to yourself and to others.
Freedom is taking it one day at a time.
Freedom is not giving up when everything
inside of you wants to.
Freedom is sharing your story despite the consequences.
Freedom is a real relationship with God.
Freedom is a real relationship with friends.
Freedom is a real relationship with family.
Freedom is being ok with yourself.
Freedom is forgiving yourself.
Freedom is having a purpose.
Freedom is giving back.
Freedom is letting go of the past.
Freedom is actively participating in the present.
Freedom is having hope for the future.
Freedom is respecting others.
Freedom is respecting yourself.
Freedom is being proud of how far you have come.
Freedom is light instead of darkness;
serenity instead of chaos;
 love instead of bitterness.
Freedom is picking up the key and unlocking the shackles.....
the ones you placed on yourself.
Freedom is liberation.
Freedom is deliverance.
Freedom is choice.
Freedom is power.
Freedom is liberty.
Freedom is life.
Freedom is sobriety.
And freedom.
To read about the opposite of freedom, click here.