Wednesday, March 23, 2016

For Better or for Worse

(FYI...I started this post a week ago, but my house got hit by a NASTY virus that lasts two to three weeks and I've been a little preoccupied...and exhausted).

Sixteen years ago, on March 17th, 2000, I walked down the aisle, an eighteen-year old freshman in college, to marry my best friend.  He was three years older than me, and we had gotten engaged my senior year of high school.  We were inseparable...or so I thought.

We took a ten-day honeymoon cruise, and all I can tell you is that I was extremely homesick.  I had never flown or really been anywhere away from my family.  Essentially, I was still a kid who missed her Mommy and Daddy.

Soon after marriage, a life of hard times came quickly.  At twenty years of age, Chad already had a successful business and made more money than most people twice his age.  However, shortly after our marriage, we decided to open a commercial flooring store, and, within a year, we lost everything.  During that time, we also became parents to a three-year-old little girl who we would later adopt...after years of expensive custody battles.

We went through infertility for almost four years, finally had a baby boy, and he was sick all of the time.  I can remember our fifth anniversary very well.  We took a short trip, stayed in a historic hotel, ate some good food, and did some shopping.  The shopping was what I was most excited for.  I got to walk into a children's clothing store and pick out a little Easter outfit for our nine-month old baby boy, Ethan.  I had dreamed of that day for years.  I vividly remember choosing white pants, a polo shirt, a blue and yellow v-neck sweater vest, a white newsboy cap, and navy and white oxford shoes.  I couldn't wait to get home to show my Mom what I had picked out for him.

Most anniversaries after that one were a blur.

When Ethan was fifteen months old, I got pregnant with a baby girl, and I became sick myself. Within her first year of life, I had morphed from a somewhat normal stay-at-home-mommy into a drug addict.  By our tenth anniversary, I was a mess.  We had planned on going on a cruise or some kind of trip, but we decided to do a few renovations in our home instead.  I was secretly relieved because trips made me so nervous.  It was so hard to plan out my pill usage and have enough to last me the whole trip.  Typically, I would think that I had planned everything out perfectly, then end up taking everything I had within the first few days and feeling miserable the remainder of the week.  Trips are no fun for a secret addict.

We had big plans for our fifteenth anniversary.  March 17th, 2015.  We would finally take that cruise and get away from our crazy lives for some time together.  I had already come out of my first stay in treatment, and, to most, it appeared that I was doing well.  However, I was secretly battling a relapse, and had been for months.  On January 9, 2015, I re-entered the same treatment facility.  There would be no trip.  In fact, it appeared that there would be no fifteenth anniversary.  I had initially only signed a thirty-seven day contract, and I figured even if I were still kicked out of my home, at least I wouldn't be locked up for Valentine's Day, our anniversary, and Easter.  Turns out, thirty-seven days was simply not enough.  Chad had informed me that I was not allowed back into our home, but that he would come and pick me up for our anniversary for a four-hour out visit.  The visit date for that week was Saturday, March 14th, so that would have to suffice.

I was so excited and nervous that Friday night that I could barely sleep.  I was up before the sun, and I laid in bed until we were allowed to get up.  I was too nervous to eat breakfast, so I drank a cup of coffee, got my morning chores done, and started to get ready.  I wore a black top, straight jeans, and black heels.  I did my make-up really well that day, wore my favorite perfume, and sat in the sun room waiting for them to call my name to leave.  Lou came into the room, called my name, and I followed her into the front office to see Chad standing there.  I signed a paper stating that I would not use a phone, I would not mail anything, I would not go into a store alone, I would not drink, smoke, or use drugs, I would not drive a vehicle, etc.  We got into the vehicle, and I handed Chad this picture.                                                

I had painted art therapy (that's what you do in rehab.  make things for people.  it's kind of like being a grade schooler again).  In fact, one of the other girls had gotten mad at me for using all of the gold paint.  I didn't care.  This painting was a big deal.  I also handed him a card that had been quite an ordeal to get.  We typically had personal shopping every two weeks, in which we were allowed to spend twenty dollars (if we had it in our accounts).  A staff member or intern took our detailed lists and shopped for us.  Unfortunately, the week that I needed the greeting card, personal shopping was cancelled.  I went to the Residential Coordinator (who ended up being my mentor and one of my favorite people on the planet) and told her of my predicament.  She said that she would get me a card when she went to Wal-Mart to pick up prescriptions for another resident.  She saved the day.

We drove off the hill, down the long winding roads, and into "town" where we went to lunch at a little local Mexican restaurant.  We only had four hours to visit, and Louisa, KY is a pretty remote place.  I asked begged Chad to take me to a clothing store to get me a few things for spring, and we went to Wal-Mart to get a heating pad.  The treatment facility had a few that were passed around, but it grossed me out to use the "community heating pad."  Our visit was over before I knew it, and Chad took me back to the facility.

I came in with my bags of new things, left them in the office to be searched and returned to me later, and followed a staff member into the bathroom to have my person searched.  It definitely wasn't the fifteenth anniversary celebration I had imagined.  On our actual anniversary, Tuesday March 17th, 2015, I woke up at 7:00 in my bottom bunk.  I went to rec that morning, art therapy that afternoon, then to AA that evening.  I tried to go about my day like it was just any other day, but there was a sorrow deep in my soul that refused to be ignored.  I had really screwed my life up.  There would be no happy ending...or so I thought.

Last Thursday, March 17th, we celebrated sixteen years of marriage.  WE MADE IT!!  We had planned on going out of town for two days (not too far away, but to one of our favorite places), but we ended up with very sick children.  One of our dear friends came out to sit with the kids so that we could go to dinner.  After dinner, we went to look for new furniture.  After sixteen years of marriage, I'd say that's about as exciting as we get.  I was so tired on the way home that I could barely manage to keep my eyes open, and I didn't even ask to stop at Target.  We walked through the door, went straight to bed, and within about five minutes, we had two children lying right between us.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

There were no trips taken, no gifts exchanged, no extravagant dates planned.  The real gift was sitting at dinner, holding hands and realizing that we have what truly matters; realizing that there is no gift that can symbolize how truly grateful we are for one another; realizing that we are happier now than we have ever been; realizing that we made it through that which, by all means, should have torn us apart.  Now that....that is something to truly celebrate.

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