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My people. They get it and they don’t try to fix it. My people listen and hug me and remind me I am loved and doing great. I am loved and I’m doing great! Yes, that is true. Sometimes, I am loved and not doing great, that’s just as real.

I was a mother of two and nearly twenty-three years old when I got clean and sober. A counsellor named George helped me to see there was more to life than substance abuse and a marriage destroyed by domestic violence and addiction. George met me where I was at and helped me move along the path to a better way of living. He introduced me to authors whose work changed my thinking and my life’s trajectory. George would say at the end of every appointment, “You haven’t had your best day yet, kid!” He was right.

Wayne, my AA sponsor found me pretty humorous. He would chuckle while I belly-ached about something or someone, then give me some wisdom to live by via a question like, “Who can you change?” or  “What’s your part in this?” He would remind me, “This thing isn’t gonna crawl up your ass and into your heart, sweetheart! You gotta do the work!” Wayne was the first man I knew in my soul, loved me for me. He never expected a thing from me. He also did not believe my bullshit. He was the first man I trusted with my truth, no holds. 

Those were the early days of change for me. I was a single mom and trying to figure out a creed to live by. I was learning to adopt the 12-Step program into my way of life along with the wisdom of authors like Leo Buscaglia and Hugh Prather. 

Since those days I have been blessed by the addition of tremendous women into my life, the same women I have walked the path with for more than twenty-five years. Most of these women hail from the addiction recovery world, however, two come from my church background and a couple of them are past colleagues. Two recovery women in particular, made the ride much richer and more bearable because they chose to love me no matter what. Wendy and Anne stayed the course, whether I was sitting, singing or squawking. Forever, I will be grateful for the heavy blanket of unconditional love and acceptance they have covered me in.

Being connected to others has been life-restoring for me. My journey has been shaped by all kinds of learning; physical, emotional, spiritual. A few years ago, I read enjoy every sandwichby Lee Lipsenthal, M.D. (2011). In the book he speaks to what we can do when we are living within “four small walls” of pain, depression, self-pity, etc., those things that make us stuck:

“…scratch away with prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise, laughter, art, movement, gratitude, acceptance, and love. Scratch away with the knowledge that there is so much more to life than what we imagine it to be. There is so much to death than what we imagine it to be. And there is so much more to living and loving and being than can be seen from inside our little walled-in world. If you choose not to, there is no one else to blame.” Lee Lipsenthal, M.D. (p.193)

Long before I read his book, I had utilized all of Lipsenthal’s suggestions. I add to his list, my own items that encourage growth and change in me: therapy, 12-Step meetings, service to others, workshops, silent retreats, running, writing and reading. Where would I be without writing and reading?! 

I just keep making the effort, and when I am unable or unwilling to do what is needed, I have folks in my life who encourage me, wait for me, push me, sit with me, pray with me, and prod me when it is time to change forward. These are my people, changelings like me, people doing the work, the ones whose magic fairies have not yet climbed up their asses into their hearts to fix everything. These are the ones who stayed, they are tellers of their own truth, they light the path should the path be of interest or need to others. It is a path of love. And I am surrounded by it, enveloped in its juicy, healing heat.

The Red Plaid Rambler

Lipsenthal, L. (2011). enjoy every sandwich. New York, NY: Random House Inc.

My ex-husband showed up drunk at his Christmas with our kids. It really, really sucked. I have three kids; one cried and yelled, one would not acknowledge him, and one disappeared until things calmed down. Something in me broke.

I have spent years protecting both him and our kids, in order to keep his healing journey safe, and so as not to embarrass or expose my kids. While I believe I did the right thing for the kids’ sake, I also ignored that I am part of this life experience too, and it is part of my story. Does it need to be public? No, it doesn’t, but in my life purpose of helping others, my experiences can bring meaning, help and hope to others. This is part of my story and I should be able to share it as such.

Pain comes in many forms. Watching my kids that night propelled my pain to a whole new level. There was nothing I could do to make any part of it okay, because it simply wasn’t. We were able to salvage some of the evening, but when I went to bed that night, I was shattered. Do I understand why his drinking has escalated over the past year? I sure do. Does that mean I turn a blind eye to its effect on others? A resounding NO.

Some lessons from that sh** show night:

  1. I realized a couple of ways I’ve been enabling bad behaviour.
  2. My kids (all teenagers) still need me to be their safe place, and to provide a safe place. While I fully recognize I have done a great job, for the most part, this showing up drunk thing is fairly new water to navigate.
  3. It reminded me that I’m not always strong, and that’s okay. I have a reputation for being kind, compassionate and resilient, but there are just some crappy moments that I’m allowed to be upset about. If I don’t handle it perfectly, I will still survive. One of my greatest fears is falling apart and not being able to support my kids’ emotions through the traumas they’ve been repeatedly exposed to.
  4. I am not alone. I know that, but I sure felt alone that night. It’s the holidays, who wants to ruin someone else’s Christmas?! When I woke up the next morning, I reached out to a friend. I vented, she listened, we talked, and I hung up feeling like I could carry on.
  5. I can change how I do things, I can still be kind and compassionate while drawing strong lines and boundaries for my own mental health, so my job as the mom isn’t derailed. After all, if I’m not okay and don’t take care of myself, I am not teaching my kids how to navigate the deep, dark waters of life either.

Simply put, what I allow is what will continue.

My wish for you and for me is that we will take time during what can be a difficult season to reflect on who we are, how far we’ve come, and how the challenges we face give us the opportunity to become bitter or better.