Saturday, April 30, 2016

A letter to my daughter on her prom night

Dear oldest daughter/child of mine who just so happens to be adopted:

It is now after midnight on the night of your first prom.  There are so many things that I want to tell you; so many things that have flooded my mind these past few days; so many things that have brought me to tears. 

I look at you and just marvel at the beauty you are, but no one even knows the true beauty you possess, for the strength that is in you and the scars you bear in your heart are not visible to the naked eye.  Your beauty is so much deeper than anyone can possibly fathom. You are a beautiful soul.  

I will never forget the day that we picked out your prom dress.  It was a snow day, and we took full advantage of it by going to the dress shop.  You had found a dress in a catalog that you wanted so badly, and they just so happened to have it.  You tried it on, and I could immediately tell that is was not what you had dreamed it would be.  We kept looking...and looking....and looking....and looking......You tried on so many dresses, and I encouraged you to because I wanted you to find the perfect one.  I had picked out a dusty pink dress that I wanted you to try on, and you hesitated because you didn't think you wanted a pink dress.  You don't think you like pink.  I helped you into the dress, you walked out of the dressing room, stepped up onto the pedestal to look at yourself in the mirror, and I saw a sparkle when your eyes met your reflection.  And I smiled.  Because I know you like pink.  You see, I saw that same sparkle in your eyes fifteen years ago when we got to experience Christmas with you for the first time.  You were three years old, and you had just come to live with us a few weeks before Christmas.  We were young, newly married, and broke, but we managed to buy you a few things. One of those things was a coat.  And it was pink.  When you pulled it out of the box, your jaw dropped, your eyes lit up, and you immediately begged to put it on.  You wore that coat, and the sparkle in your eyes, for days.  

After you tried the pink prom dress on and subsequently fell in love with it, we realized it was over the budget that your dad had set for you, so we called him. All it takes is a simple, "Daddy?" in that tone of voice you seem to use to your advantage, and you typically get your way.  But, somehow, you are still unspoiled and extremely grateful.  As we went downstairs to get your dress fitted, my attention was drawn to a teenage girl your age who was shopping in the section of the store that held clearance dresses.  Someone who wasn't a parent or family member had brought this girl to look for a dress.  She could not find one in her price range no matter how hard she tried.  I cried and I told you I wished I could buy her a dress. What I didn't tell you, though, was that as I watched her, I thought about the fact that that could have been you, had you stayed in the same living situation you were born into.  No one close to you to take you dress shopping, worrying about how you would pay for an event as expensive as prom.  I know how nervous you get about things and how passive you can be, and I couldn't even bear the image of you trying to do all of that on your own.  In that moment, I mourned for her, but I rejoiced for you.  But, mostly, I rejoiced for me. Because, you see, I'm the lucky one.  

I know these past several years have been rough on you.  I missed so many things. I left the end of your freshman year, and then again your sophomore year.  I missed cheerleading tryouts, cheer camp, and you getting your permit.  I missed Parent night, and I can only imagine what was going through your mind when they announced both your dad's and my name....and I was not there.  I know you well enough to know that your neck and face probably got red.  And it probably made you mad.  But, mostly sad.  

I am sorry for so many things, but mostly, I am sorry for putting you through having a drug-addicted mother...for the second time in your life.  Your biological mother left you because of her drug addiction, and I used to hate her for it.  I couldn't fathom how someone could do they could choose a drug over their child.  Unfortunately, I was given a front-row seat to understanding how those things happen, and, had I not gotten into treatment/recovery when I did, I can say with a fair amount of certainty, that I would have ended up in the same situation....and you would have too.  When she died after her struggle with drug addiction and I saw the hurt it caused you even though you barely knew or remembered her, I knew that it was now my duty to make sure you never experienced that again.

I remember the night of January 10th, 2015 when I asked you to take a ride with me. We ended up in the Wal-Mart parking lot where I told you that I had to go back to treatment...that the first time hadn't been enough and that I had relapsed.  I watched you crumble into a million pieces and you begged me not to go.  You said, "Mom, I don't think I can do this again.  Please don't leave."  When you first came to live with us as a three-year-old, you attached to me so quickly, and you constantly worried about me leaving you.  Every time I got up to leave the room, you would say, "Don't go somewhere".  In three-year-old language, that translates to, "Please don't leave me."   I promised you that I wouldn't, but, tragically, I broke that promise...not once, but twice. I explained to you the reasons why I had to go back, and, when I looked into your light green eyes, instead of seeing the brave teenage daughter I've raised, I saw the scared little toddler who needed protected.  I wanted so badly to tell you that I would not go, that I would stay home for you.  But, in all reality, I needed had to go away for you.  

Tonight was one of the reasons I went to treatment when I did. Sounds silly to say I would go away to rehab for prom, right?  But, when I made a list of things I knew I would miss out on if I didn't get my addiction under control and either ended up in jail, losing you, or dead, prom made that list.  I can't imagine not being here with you for all of this. I can't imagine the look on your face as your eyes pored over the crowd trying to single me out, then realizing that I was not there.  I know I lost my cool and got stressed out and frustrated at/with you over the past couple of weeks, but I wouldn't change all of the running and stressing for the world.  I am grateful for every minute of running you to the tanning bed, to the dress store, to Sephora.  I am grateful for the evening when we got our eyebrows done together.  I am thankful we got to go together and pick out everything for your corsage and then sat at the dining room table until midnight with friends making it. I am thankful that I got to bring you your favorite meal while you were getting your hair done.  I'm grateful that I got to spoil you. Truthfully, it is by God's grace that either one of us is here.

As I was doing your make-up today, I noticed that you have lost that little girl look, that you are beginning to look like a woman.  I thought about how it probably won't be too far into the future when I will be sitting in a room with you, doing your make-up as you get ready to walk down the aisle to the man that you will spend the rest of your life with.  The days, months, and years are passing by so quickly, and I am just sorry for all of the moments I have missed out on.  I'm sorry for you, and I'm sorry for me.

I'm thankful I was in that crowd tonight at Grand March.  I'm thankful that I got to be the annoying parent who was in the very front of the line, who stood up when your car approached, and who made you stop and look at the camera so that I could get a picture. When your date walked you down the sidewalk, my mind wandered back to the evening that he walked you down the aisle at your adoption ceremony. I'm thankful that when I later finally found you inside the prom venue that was swarming with people, your eyes lit up.  We took tons more pictures, and then I hugged you and kissed you, told you to have a good time, and we left.  But, I only made it halfway across the room before I turned back around, made my way back to you, and hugged you and kissed you again.  I said, "Bye, have a great time! I love you!" again, and you said, "OK, MOM. BYE!", which, in eighteen-year-old teenage girl language, translates to "Please just leave now.  I'm not a child.  You are embarrassing me."  I smiled at you, turned away, and a tear ran down my cheek.  Because, in that moment, there was just one thing I wished I could say to you.  "I'm not going somewhere.  Never again." 

I love you, Beef.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I still struggle....there, I said it

When I first started considering sharing my story publicly, I really had to work through "outing" myself, and rid myself of the fear of what others would think of me. I have been able to share some pretty personal/incriminating/embarrassing things from my past here (and believe me, there are MANY more to come).  But, what I didn't anticipate was how difficult it would be to share what I am currently going through.

When I completed my second 100 day inpatient treatment program, I transitioned right into a six-month graduate program/internship at the same facility.  This was, in essence, a fail-proof plan for me to stay clean.  I had a sponsor, I had counseling, drug testing, and accountability at every level.  It was still mandatory for me to do all of those things.  My days and nights were so busy that I rarely had a spare second to think about my drug of choice.  I finished that graduate program on October 27th, and, by this point,  had already moved back home with my family.  I was anxious to get back to a regular life and just hoped to kind of drift back into some type of normalcy.

Normalcy was not what I got. Rather, I ended up having a major neck surgery (more, well much more about that some other time) on December 17th, experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction, then continuing with a slow and painful recovery at home.  Many times I just wanted to give just throw in the towel.  But, with lots of encouragement and support, I somehow made it through.

Over the past couple of months, I have noticed some changes in myself.  I have been isolating, losing focus and motivation, and just kind of drifting backward.  I lost interest in doing things that I love, including singing at church and writing.  I lost interest in doing housework and laundry.  I lost interest in putting on make-up and fixing my hair.  I lost interest in wearing real clothes. I lost interest in getting out of bed. Quite frankly, I lost interest in life.  I let my guard down, and, not surprisingly, tempting thoughts began flooding my mind.  I do what we addicts do best and took a trip into that comfortable place we call denial.  Yet, when I tried to lay my head on the pillow at night, I felt such an uneasiness in my soul that sleep wouldn't come.  My days turned from actively participating in my kids' lives and the lives of others, to days spent lying in bed trying to sleep away the cravings and avoid the reality that I was struggling.  I just couldn't admit that.  I wanted to share with people what I had overcome, but I dare not tell anyone that I was wrestling with the 'old me.'  I noticed resentments starting to arise, and trivial things that I was more than capable of handling became overwhelming.  My life looked just like my laundry room. Too many loads to do, and I wasn't sure where to start; so I did the logical thing and just closed the door.  Tried to pretend the mess wasn't there.  However, when no one had clean underwear, the proof was hard to refute.  

I knew that I needed to talk to someone about this and face it head on, but I was just so afraid of inducing panic upon my friends and family.  I didn't want anyone to doubt me, didn't want my husband to think that he had to worry about me, and I certainly didn't want people to think I was a ticking time bomb.  

I was leading a small women's recovery group, and I felt like I needed to appear to have it altogether for those ladies. Somehow I had skewed the definition of a leader to someone who is perfect and has it altogether, sinking me further into denial. However, a new precious friend of mine in our group had the God-given boldness to tell me that she was worried about me.  I broke down and told these girls that I was worried about myself, that I just felt like I should be further along in my recovery.  My pastor's wife/friend said the words to me, "Who is telling you that you should be further along?  Do you think God is saying that?  Because I don't.....I think He's telling you that He is proud of how far you've come, no matter how much further you have to go."  I went home that night with a myriad of feelings.  I felt relieved that I had opened up and could truly see where I was; yet I felt overwhelmed that I had no clue what to do about it.   I don't currently have a sponsor, and I am no longer in intensive outpatient, so I was just at a loss.  How could I get through this rough patch without relapsing?  Because, to be completely honest with you, this is the point in my recovery that, in the past, I would have given up and resigned myself to being a slave to my addiction.  I wouldn't have fought.  I wouldn't have made it.

The next morning, I got out of bed and stayed out of bed (something I hadn't done in awhile).  I tried to keep busy throughout the day, but I simply felt like I was going insane.  Those troubling thoughts held my mind captive, and I felt so weak.  I finally decided to message a friend who has helped me tremendously in the past.  I met up with her, explained what I've been going through, and she asked me to take a drug test.  After being completely honest about my current mindset, I acknowledged that I was way too deep in the danger zone to safely stay there, nor did I want to stay there one minute longer. We talked about what could be causing this, then made a list of goals/things that I could do to try to get back on track. Listen...this was not a difficult list, nothing unreasonable.  In fact, mostly it just consisted of getting up and living; of doing things that would benefit my mind, health, and my family; of removing things from my life that were causing me to struggle; simple little things to keep me clean.  That's the key to sobriety for me:  doing those daily little things that bring me joy and sanity at the same time.  The very next day, I got out of bed and made it immediately (so that I wouldn't crawl back in it), took a walk as I listened to music and prayed, did some gardening with my husband, and then jumped in our huge fishing pond.  I went to dinner with my oldest daughter and some of our best friends, then went and bought a journal. I doodled some charts in it to keep track of my progress and to keep me motivated and accountable; and then I went to work.  On living.  On experiencing moments.  On enjoying, rather than merely tolerating, sobriety. Because, sometimes you have to work at those things.  In my journal, I kept track of goals I had met for the day, but, most importantly, each day I recorded what I would have missed if I had been either emotionally or physically absent. And you know what was on that list? Things all of the money in the world couldn't buy.  Things I can't believe I would ever choose to miss out on.  

When I first started going through this rut/rough patch, or what I like to call "prelapse", I decided I would not publicly share any of that.  As a matter of fact, I hadn't originally planned to share it with anyone!!  But, I figured out that if I only shared the good times of recovery, the grateful ones, and the ones where everything seems to be falling into place, I would be painting an unrealistic picture of what true recovery looks like.  True recovery is full of ups and downs.  Sometimes you might be walking through a spiritual waterfall, while other times you find yourself in the middle of a desert with no water in sight; yet, other times, you are somewhere in the middle.  Recovery is like that. And if I didn't share that this is true in my life, I would be doing both you and myself an injustice. I read in a book this week that people benefit more from hearing our struggles than they do from hearing our strengths.  

If you've been in recovery, I'm certain you have experienced this a time....or two.  If you are new to recovery, I'm forewarning you that you will probably feel like this somewhere along your journey.  If you are a recovering addict with any length of sobriety, you may be going through this right now, and if you are, I have something to say to you.  Don't grow faint of heart. This phase WILL NOT last forever. If you push through it, there is joy/sobriety/serenity/growth/healing/life on the other side.  Sadly, in the past, I had never pushed through to find that out.  But, this time I plan to and I encourage/persuade/beg you to do the same.  Don't give up.  Don't be embarrassed about what you are going through.  You are not a failure, and you don't need to just give up.  Sometimes recovery/sobriety is wearisome, but, trust me, it is one-hundred percent worth it.  Find someone you feel safe/comfortable with, and share what you are feeling. Addiction thrives on secrecy, and it will lure you into the trap of hiding your true feelings/thoughts/emotions.  But, once you've said it out loud, it gets so much easier.

Find a person.  Make a plan. Change your path.  It is truly that simple......if you take care of it at this early in the game.  

I am doing everything I can to not only maintain my sobriety, but to progress in my recovery.  I may have had a minor setback, but my eyes have been opened and I have found new motivation/purpose/strength for my recovery.  

I'm sure there will be times along the way when I, bluntly put, just want to get high.  Similarly, if you are a former smoker, you might occasionally get the urge to smoke a cig.  If you are a recovering alcoholic, you may want a glass of wine so bad you can taste it.  If you are a workaholic, you may regularly feel that compulsion to put in an eighty hour work week. Or, if you are a former foodie turned nutrition/fitness nut, you {should} routinely crave a big slice of pizza or chocolate cake. That's par for the course.  But, that doesn't mean we have to succumb.  I have learned many things throughout this week, but there is one major revelation that I am completely grateful to have had.  Are you ready for it?  Here it comes.  Just because I want to get high, does not mean I have to.  And you know what?  The same goes for you.  

Because I pushed through probably the hardest week of my recovery to date, I can proudly say that today I have 473 days/11369 hours/682197 minutes/40931877 seconds clean and sober.  And do you know how I did that?  One second/minute/hour/day at a time.  And there were many times in those moments that I felt like giving up.  But I didn't.  And I have no future plans of it either.  But, if I ever even think about it, I vow/pinky promise/swear to tell you all about it.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A New Home

A new home

Home sweet home.  A phrase I've heard numerous times but never really thought about...until I no longer had a home.  What does that phrase mean to you?

To read the first part of this story, click here.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015, I stood in the Great Room on a hill in Louisa, Kentucky in a beautiful home known as Karen's Place.  I was in the middle of a circle surrounded by my sisters in recovery, my counselors, and my mentors.  They prayed for me as I embarked on a very new I headed to my new definition of a home.  I walked out of the door and loaded my stuff into the little red car Chad had driven to pick me up.  I didn't cry as much while leaving the facility this time around, because I knew that I would be back to start the Graduate Assistant (GA) Program in just five days.

Chad let me stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a few things that I needed, and we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to my new apartment.  There was no welcome wagon this time one waiting to greet me. There were, however, signs that the kids had drawn and left for me. One sign that I particularly remember {and still have it put up somewhere in my garage....and if you have seen my garage, you are now laughing hysterically} was made by Addy.  She had painted an anchor and written the words, You are the anchor to my soul.  That made me smile because I was fairly certain I had wrecked her ship, and I rather expected it to say, Mom, you are drowning us...let go. I walked into my apartment and looked around.  I felt a sense of peace and comfort come over me, and I started getting myself settled in. I only had a couple of hours to get things ready before the kids got home from school.  Chad was allowing them to stay with me for my first two nights at home.  I put the bedding on my bed, put up a few little decorations, and put my clothing away.  My room was the smaller of the two bedrooms, but it was a decent size.  I went to the kids room and made sure everything was ready for them. They would all be sharing a single bedroom when they were with me. My then eighteen-year old daughter and nine-year old daughter would share a bunk bed on one side of the room, and my then ten-year old son would sleep in the twin bed on the other side.  They had a dresser, but it was empty.  My apartment was full of furniture that had come from flea markets or Big Lots. Nonetheless, I was extremely grateful for it all, and I think I did a pretty good job with what I had!

The first morning in our apartment

My little bedroom

The Living Room
(that small chalkboard sign hanging on the wall in the middle actually says HomeSweetHome)

My license had been revoked due to an accident I had been in before I went into treatment (another story for another day), so I was stuck in my apartment with no way to leave.  I called Chad and asked him if I could go with him to pick the kids up from school or off of the bus.  I had only seen them two times in the past one-hundred days, and I couldn't wait to get my arms around them.  He told me that he would drop them off to me after they got out of school, but that I was not allowed to go with him to pick them up.  I think he wanted to make sure that I knew my coming home this time was not being celebrated.  I had screwed up....majorly.

I asked Chad if he would take me to the grocery when he brought the kids to me so that I could get some things to make for dinner and to pack lunches the following day.  These were things that felt overwhelming to me.  He agreed, and we went to Kroger where I used a Kroger card to partially stock my fridge and cabinets.  The kids and I went back to my apartment, had dinner, and I got them bathed and ready for bed.  My nine-year old, Addy, loves to tumble, and she was doing cartwheels through my small living room when her arm gave out from under her and she fell to the floor, screaming and crying.  I tried to console her, but she wanted her Daddy, which made me feel both guilty and a little hurt.  I let her call him, and he was at the apartment within five minutes.  We decided that she probably needed to go to Urgent Care to get it checked out, just to be safe.  Since I couldn't drive, this left Chad the privilege of taking her.  Within an hour, she walked back into my front door with her arm in a sling.  She had sprained her shoulder.  Great.  She had been in my care for all of two hours and had gotten injured.  I'm sure that would look good on my case should he decide to divorce me and take custody of the kids.

I put the kids to bed, locked up, and went to my room to read a book.  Since I was a little girl, I had been scared to death of the nighttime.  I was convinced that someone was going to break into my house and kill me.  My sister will probably disown me after I tell this story, but when we were little, we shared bunk beds.  She slept on top and I slept on bottom.  At night, I would lie awake with my eyes closed, holding my breath, with baby dolls and stuffed animals surrounding me.  I had formulated this ridiculous theory that if I was lying completely still and not breathing, when a robber came into our bedroom, he would think I was a baby doll and would take my older sister instead.  What a precious child I was.  And I think I kept this ridiculous endeavor up until I was like eight years old. I don't think life sized Barbies are even remotely close to the size of an eight-year old girl with feathered bangs.  Embarrassingly enough, that only got worse as I got older.  In fact, when Chad and I were first married, I would take a butcher knife with me when I went to take a the middle of the day.  I think I drove him crazy in the night when I repeatedly woke him up asking, "Did you hear that?  I think someone is trying to get in our house!"  And don't even get me started on mice.  We actually stayed in a hotel once shortly after we were married because of a mouse.  My fears were irrational and extreme.

So, when I laid down in bed that first night on April 22nd, 2015, in an apartment that I had never stayed in before, with no one to protect me, I was completely shocked when I realized that all of the fear was gone.  I sat and waited for it, dreading that panicked feeling that was sure to come....but it never did.  I simply fell asleep peacefully, and I woke up the next morning with two warm little bodies in my bed (and no, they weren't mice!).  I woke the kids up, got them ready for school, fed them breakfast, packed their lunches, put their backpacks on their backs, kissed their foreheads, then sent them out to their regular bus which, conveniently, stopped right at my apartment door.  I brewed a pot of coffee, went around the apartment making beds and cleaning up, and sat down to try to figure out my license situation.  The only place that could reinstate my license was forty minutes away, and when I called, they plainly stated that if I were caught driving myself to the reinstatement office, I would not get my license back.  I called Chad and asked him if he would drive me to get it taken care of.  My memory is a little foggy regarding this phone call, but I'm pretty sure that he laughed and told me to "figure it out".  I called a couple of other people, and no one was available to take me.  I proceeded to call every person I could get on the phone in the state of Ohio BMV, and finally got someone who was willing to help me get it taken care of over the phone.  My license would not be valid for another twenty-four to forty-eight hours, but at least it was taken care of, and I had done it on my own.  

The kids came home, and we gathered around a tiny old TV that night (I think it was the first flat screen ever manufactured) with a busted speaker and nearly non-existent sound and watched a DVD.  I was completely embarrassed about my ghetto set-up, and I was pretty sure I was scarring them for life. Turns out, we made some pretty good little memories in that apartment, and for almost six months, we made it feel like home.  We had hand me down furniture, no washer and dryer for the first few months that we lived there, and the place was so small we were always all up in each other's business. But, we made memories.  The kids played in the backyard and drew on the concrete with sidewalk chalk.  I cleaned that little place relentlessly and always made sure that it felt like a welcoming place for the kids to come on the weekends.  We spent hours at the bar in the kitchen working on an art sculpture and painting.  When ants invaded my kitchen, I googled how to get rid of them, drove to the hardware store to get ant baits, set them myself, and conquered an army of stubborn little ants. And, as time went on and Chad and I continued to work on our marriage, it was not uncommon to see roses sitting on the kitchen counter.  Honestly, I grew to love that little place.  Because, it was mine.  My first place on my own.  At thirty-four years old.

The apartment sits on a road that I drive down nearly every single day.  I always look at it when I drive by, and I am never filled with any type of negative feelings or resentment.  Rather, I feel grateful, thinking back on a time when I needed to be on my own to survive.  When I needed to learn what it felt like to not have anyone to rely on. When I realized, with my brain and my heart, that I was not willing to allow my family to be permanently separated.  I moved back home many months later, and that apartment was quickly rented to someone else.  When we drove by the apartment just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the kids looking at it.  I asked if they ever missed that little place, and they all answered yes. Ethan then said, "You know what my favorite memory is from our apartment? That night when we all had to crowd around that little TV, practically sitting right on top of it to hear it, and we watched that movie by reading the people's lips."  I cried when I heard those words.  Because it didn't matter that I didn't have it all together, that we didn't have nearly the amount of amenities that they had at home.  What mattered was that we were together, and that I was actually there, focused on them, and taking care of their needs.  I was their mother, they were my children, and we were under the same roof, albeit a small one.  Those memories are something that can never be taken from us.  And what I thought, at the time, would scar them for life, are actually experiences that make them smile when we reflect on them.  Good memories.  Home Sweet Home memories.

So, what does the phrase Home Sweet Home mean to me?  It means exactly what it sounds like.  Home is a place where sweet and lasting memories are made; where the people who live there are free to grow and learn; a place that is full of peace, regardless of the way it looks; a place where forgiveness is visible; where love and faith and trust are restored.  For me, I quickly learned that home was anywhere we were.  It was anywhere that I could be with the little people that I love so dearly.  And, even though I didn't live there at the time, I still considered our family home my home as well.  It felt awkward when I went there, but it was still home. But, my little apartment was home as well.  

How can someone call two places Home Sweet Home?  Well, when your heart lives in two different places, you don't have much of a choice.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A New Journey

    April 22, 2016.  One year ago today, I found myself walking out the door of a treatment facility (Karen's Place)--not for the first time but for the second time--after completing a one-hundred day inpatient program. Over the past week, I have thought about that day so many times.  I logged onto Facebook this morning, and one of my best friends, Ashlea (who actually works for the treatment center), posted the above picture that she had taken one year ago at Karen's Place.  A beautiful sunrise.  The sun that rose on the morning that I stepped out of a comfortable, protected, loving place, back into a scary world and into a living situation I had never found myself in before.......alone.....on my own.

Just a few weeks into my program, I received the news that my husband was refusing to allow me to come back home.  (You can read about that here.)   I was also informed that I would have to find a place to live and get all of that taken care of before I left treatment.  You guys.....I had never paid a bill in my life.  I had approximately nine-hundred dollars per month to do all of this, and I was freaked out.  I had nothing, and Chad told me that I could take nothing from the house.  At one point, I actually considered the idea of pawning/selling all of my jewelry to be able to survive on my own. But, then I remembered that Chad had taken anything of mine that was valuable and locked it up after I relapsed.  The only thing I still had was my wedding ring, and I wouldn't dare part with it.  In fact, I vividly remember the day that he got it out of the safe, brought it to me, and said, "Here.  Take it. Whatever you decide to do with it is on you.  I don't really care anymore."

So, with the news that I was officially going to be on my own and the realization that I was like a naive child who had always been taken care of, I put in a request to see the Case Manager, Johnda.  I explained my situation, and she decided I should probably go over to the Adult Learning Center and learn some know, like how to pay bills, get utilities turned on, and how to balance a checking account.  I truly had never done any of those.  On a side note, the girls in treatment used to make fun of me because I had a house keeper.  I had definitely been spoiled.  However, it appeared that there would be no house keepers in my immediate future.  It was all me, baby!

   I reluctantly agreed to go to the Adult Learning Center, even though my pride tempted me to refuse the help.  On a Wednesday morning at 10:00, a lady from the Learning Center picked me up in her Jeep Cherokee to take me into town.  She said her air conditioning was broken, so all of the windows were rolled down.  We took the back roads, and I simply enjoyed the peace and quiet.  Sharing a home with seventeen other women didn't allow for much peace and tranquility.  Times like these were special.  Plus, I got to get Subway for lunch, a rare treat for sure.  Windows rolled down and a Subway salad....seems like I was starting to be grateful for the small things. Maybe I wasn't so spoiled after all!  Anyway, we drove up to this building, and I walked through the green door.

    I was led to a room where I was given a "locator" test to determine where my educational skills were.  There was a teenage boy in the room who was taking some kind of test, and when the "teacher" walked out, he asked me if I was there to get my GED.  I replied that I wasn't, and he asked how much schooling I had.  When I answered that I actually had a bachelor's degree, he questioned why I was there.  At this point, I had nothing to lose, so I explained to him that I was a drug addict in treatment, that my husband had kicked me out, and that I needed to learn how to pay bills and do things on my own.  He replied, "Oh.  That's cool."  Then, he began to tell me about his life, how he was in foster care, and about all of the trouble he had been in.  I was intrigued by this because my parents have been foster parents for over fifteen years and have fostered hundreds of kids, most of them being teenage boys.  The "teacher" walked back in, caught him talking, and asked if he was bothering me.  I told her that he wasn't, but when she left, I told him he needed to be quiet so that we both didn't get in trouble.  I couldn't take my eyes off of him, though, because he had a cell phone.  I hadn't touched one of those in months.  

  I worked as hard as I could on all of the material they gave me and they helped me put together a preliminary budget, taught me how to balance a checkbook, and showed me how to pay bills.  As I sat at the table toward the end of the day, the man who ran the educational center came back to the room, showed me my test results, told me that I had gotten every single mathematics question right on the test, and that he was confident that I would do well with my finances and budgeting.  I sure hoped he had enough confidence for the both of us.

  I shared with one of the staff members, Mrs. Muncy, what I was dealing with, and she sat down with me to attempt to offer some insight.  It first looked like my only option for a place to live would be in a hotel.  However, we went through my budget, and I'm pretty sure that she removed everything other than the basics.  She told me if I could even afford make-up at all, I would have to buy it at Wal-Mart... rather than Sephora.  We went through that budget several times, marking off things that weren't necessary, and we got within ten dollars of making things work.  All I could afford was gasoline, groceries, car insurance, my student loan payment, water, and electricity.  Sadly, internet, dining out, and cable/satellite did not make the cut.  Neither did furniture or a television.  

  I worried incessantly about where I would live.  My counselor had worked with me about my fear of living alone (a true, legitimate fear), but now I was just afraid I would be homeless.  I was at the point of asking people if I could live with them.  I met with one of the pastoral counselors, Pastor Greider, and we talked about my plans and prayed over it.  He prayed that something would just "appear" for me, and that I wouldn't have to worry about having a roof over my head.  Chad and I had been having counseling sessions with Pastor Greider every couple of weeks.  Chad came for a session just a few weeks before I was to leave, and he shared with me that he had woken up early one morning with the sense that God was telling him that he needed to provide me a place to live, and although that could not be in our family home, he had found an apartment and had pictures of it on his phone to show me. Pastor Greider left us alone for a few minutes to discuss it, but I didn't even need to look at pictures or think about it.  Rather, I just quickly signed the lease when Chad said that he would pre-pay six months of rent for me. That was probably the biggest relief I have ever felt in my entire life.  I would not have to resort to sleeping in someone's basement on their velvet floral sofa.  When I walked out of the counseling office, Pastor Greider said, "Well....what did you think?"  I replied, "I don't know.  It didn't have granite or hardwood floors."  His jaw dropped as if to say, "Are you crazy?", and I quickly assured him that I was only joking, and told him that, at this point, I was so desperate that I would live in a playhouse in someone's backyard.  He laughed and got that little sparkle in his eye that he often did, and replied, "We asked the Lord to provide, and that is exactly what He did."  

   The treatment facility had a Graduate Assistant program, formerly referred to as an internship.  I applied for the program and found out that I had been accepted only a few days before exiting the program.  This made things seem much less intimidating as I would only go home to my apartment on the weekends and then come back to stay at the facility through the week.  So, I had an apartment to live in, Chad was willing to let me have the kids on the weekend, and I had a safe place to come back to during the week and give back, while still attending groups and meetings, receiving counseling, and maintaining accountability through drug testing.  This definitely was not what I envisioned my plan would look like, but, nonetheless, it was a plan...and it felt right.  

  Chad picked me up a couple of weekends before I left the program for an out-visit and brought my money that he had been saving for me.  We went to Target and a few other places to get the essentials for my apartment.....a place I had never seen.  I can remember wanting to buy everything in the store, but knowing that I couldn't.  I picked out cheap bedding, a couple of throw pillows (of course!!), and some dishes and silverware.  Chad had already bought white sheets and towels for me.  He also finally agreed to let me have the furniture from our sitting room.  I thought that was only fair, as we rarely ever used it.  

   I spent my last couple of weeks at Karen's Place making sure I was as prepared as I could possibly be to leave treatment.  More than anything, I was afraid of a relapse, and I was ready to do whatever it took to no longer have that be a part of my story.  It had happened enough.  The night before I left, the girls made me a cake and went around the room saying nice things about me.  I think that may have been difficult for a few of them!!  One of the Graduate Assistants got my luggage out of the locked storage room in the basement, and we went through my items, one by one, packing them and marking them off of my inventory sheet.  I went to bed and barely slept a wink.

  I woke up the next morning with more anxiety in my heart than excitement.  I was ready for the next part of my journey, but I was also stricken with panic, unsure that I could truly make it on my own. So many people who supported me seemed to believe that I would do just fine.  I, on the other hand, felt like a kindergartner waiting for the bus on the first day of school.  I had no idea what to expect and I just wanted someone to hold my hand.  I didn't want to be a big kid.  

***Read Part 2 of this story by clicking here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

You've got some explaining to do

You've got some explaining to do.  Six words that can invoke instantaneous panic. 

 Especially if you've got something to hide.


The weather has been absolutely perfect this week.  Sunny and seventy....doesn't get much better than that.  One evening this week, we fixed dinner on the smoker and the grill, then had dinner outside on our picnic table, overlooking the gorgeous view from our backyard.  

We finished dinner and I had the privilege of watching my youngest two play on the swing set.  The swings are both broken, but they happily took turns doing tricks on the rings, diligently trying to outdo one another.  I thought to myself, "It doesn't get much better than this."  And then I wondered how many of these evenings I had missed out on during my eight year addiction.  Hundreds of them, I'm sure.

My husband left to take our oldest to cheerleading practice, and I went inside to clean the dinner mess up and get ready to head down to visit my parents.  As I happily did dishes, wiped off counters, and checked on my playing children in the backyard, I heard my phone ding, notifying me that I had a message to read.  I picked it up, noticed it was from my husband, and read these words:

You've got some explaining to do.

My stomach hit the floor and my knees went week...........

Until I remembered that I have nothing to hide.....that I'm no longer concealing a miserable secret.  

Once I remembered that, I let out a sigh saturated with relief and gratitude; and then I started thinking about the things that would have been running through my mind if I had heard those words in the past.

Oh no.
Did he count my pills?
Did one of my doctors call and say they had caught on to what I was doing?
If not the doctor, maybe the pharmacy....or the insurance company?
Did he realize I took the pills he was prescribed after his dental surgery?
Did he figure out I had also taken someone else's medicine?
Did he notice the twenty dollar bill was gone from his wallet?
Did he get the bill from Urgent Care?
Did he read my text messages or look at the browser history on my phone?
Did he notice the scratch/dent/busted mirror/cracked windshield, etc. on my van that had mysteriously appeared?
How in the world did he figure out I had relapsed?

All of those questions would have raced through my head in a span of sixty seconds, and I would have to decide whether to face him and tell the truth, to come up with yet another brilliant lie, or to jump off a cliff.  Most often, I felt like choosing the latter.  It is a miserable feeling to be accused of something, but it's even more miserable to know you are guilty before even knowing what you are being accused of.

What would immediately cross your mind if you heard those words?
  "You've got some explaining to do."
You don't have to be a drug addict to have something to feel guilty about, or to have a secret or struggle.

Perhaps you have a problem with overspending, and you are pretty sure this means your husband opened the credit card bill or the bank statement.

Maybe you struggle with pornography and you immediately fear that your spouse, or maybe even your mom or dad, found the incriminating evidence on your computer.

Perhaps you battle a food addiction and one of your family members just found the opened, half-eaten jar of frosting (clearly this has never happened to me).

Maybe you have gotten into some trouble with gambling and your wife is starting to realize there's something not quite right with the money.

Perhaps you are involved in an inappropriate relationship and you suspect your significant other figured out the password on your phone and read your messages.

Maybe you are a stay at home mom/closet alcoholic who takes your kids to Chik-fil-a story time and drives home afraid that your husband found your stash of boxed wine you thought you had hidden so well.

Whatever the situation or reason, when we are hiding something and believe that we have been caught, it's an immensely terrifying feeling.  Sheer panic and torture. 

 In fact, I know a man, a good Christian man,  who found himself trapped in a secret so deep and dark, that when he was confronted about it, threatened to murder those who had found out and exposed him.  Sounds extreme doesn't it?  That is what living in bondage to a secret life will do to you.  It destroys you....breath by breath.

But, oh, what freedom you find when you come clean and no longer have anything to hide.  When you can lay your head on your pillow at night and not worry about being found out.  When you are able to take a deep breath and not choke on it.  When the words that come out of your mouth taste sweet rather than repulsive.  When you can finally look the people you love in the eyes again.  When you can read the words "You've got some explaining to do"
 and not freak out.  

Oh, and why did I have some explaining to do?

I dialed my husband's number, and when he answered the phone, I laughed and said, "What did I do....leave trash in your car?"
(He's a clean freak and had just had his car detailed)
His reponse:  "No.  You left an ice cream cup and a spoon."

Now that, that I can handle.....without wanting to jump off a cliff.