| 9/17/19 Tuesday
I have one year clean and sober today, which is a miracle to me. If you had told me ten years ago that it was possible for me to have an entire year without drugs or alcohol, I would have called you a liar. And probably some other names too. When my children Ethan and Kaylee died, and for many years afterward, the thing I would hear the most after people found out was, "Oh, God. I would just DIE if that happened to me," and other variations of the same sentiment. Some people would come right out and admit that they would have long ago killed themselves. And this was OFTEN, not just every once in a while. As a matter of fact, people STILL say that to me on a regular basis. Here's the thing: that is NOT uplifting, or hopeful, or inspiring even in the smallest way. That made me believe to my very core that people do not and cannot get through the death of their child, and that they stay broken forever, so I accepted the fact that I was doomed to live my life in this way, and I started drinking and drugging as if it was my job. The only people that I saw in my life that seemed truly happy were the people at bars. They were having a great time, and I discovered that I could have a great time too and escape reality completely, if only for a short while, if I joined them. The first time I laughed after my daughter died was at a bar. It was the only time that I could forget that my only two children were buried in the ground, and also forget all of the pain and suffering that they had endured before their deaths, and the immense pain that I was in nearly every second of my existence. Suicide on the installment plan became my plan. People called me strong for just existing, but that's all I was doing. Strength is not just going through the motions with a beating heart. It's not. That's not courageous either, which people also told me I was. I could do this, I thought to myself, if being drunk is brave and strong, well--that's what I'll do then. I quit life. And people gave me a pass. They wrote me off as a lost cause, and I believed that I was entitled to drink and drug because I had the best excuse in the world--two dead kids. I mean, nobody actually expected me to DEAL with that, did they? I read books on grief. I went to therapy. I attended grief support groups. In all of those places, the same idea was reinforced to me over and over and over again--that I was irreparably broken, and nobody really expected me to change that. So I live like that for over a decade. I got married again, I had three more healthy children, but even if I stopped using for a pregnancy, I always went back to it. I was married more to drugs than I was to my husband, and I never even tried to change that. I mean, he met me in a bar--what did he expect anyway? Obviously, that worked out really well for me.
In any case, fast forward to getting charges and landing in the Potter County Women's Recovery Center for an entire YEAR, because I couldn't stay clean or sober on probation. There we went to an outside NA or AA meeting every day, which was not negotiable if we were there for a drug and/or alcohol problem. The supervisor asked me if I believed I was an addict. I said, "Some days." This was after nearly 13 years of continuous use besides pregnancies. I just didn't see it. These people weren't like me, I was different. I used to teach at a college. I was smart....I had been dealt a bad hand of cards by God, and that was why I was an addict. I had no responsibility in the matter--it was God's fault. He hated me, and I hated Him right back. And if I heard one more person tell me that God had a plan for my life, I was going to inflict bodily harm. If God had PLANNED this for my life, then He was some special kind of asshole, and I wanted nothing to do with Him.
Today I had to do a treatment plan with my case manager, and she asked me when the turning point was in my recovery. I told her it was at an NA meeting, while I was at PCWRC, in fact. This guy walked in one day and started talking about hope and joy in recovery, and he had memorized the entire NA text. I was mildly impressed. He seemed happy and smart, he had nice clothes on, and he was passionate about recovery. Okay, I thought--this guy seems to have his shit together. Then he told us that he had lost two adult children--one to an overdose, and one to murder. Now I started listening. Wait, what? Someone who has a worse story than me?? That never happens. Then he said the words that would change my life forever--that his sons had died while he was in recovery, and he didn't use over it. Wait a minute--come again? Was that even possible?? My entire adult life I had been hearing the same message over and over and OVER again--that losing a child is the worst possible thing that can happen to a person, and that by and large, people do not recover from it. I was okay with that. I had accepted my doomed fate, and that's where I lived--wallowing in a pit of despair, anger, and self-pity. It was my smug, entitled place. This was my Grand Excuse, and non-addicts in my life seemed to accept it unconditionally. Then I started hearing people saying over and over in the rooms things like, "Don't use--NO MATTER WHAT." I was like, well, they don't actually mean no matter what. I mean, if one of their kids died, they would surely go back out. There's no manual on burying a child, and people seem to accept whatever you do in the aftermath. But then this guy comes along and blew my bullshit Grand Excuse right out of the water. He had also buried two children, but had done it clean and sober, and furthermore, had come into the rooms of NA to spread a message of hope and joy around......I couldn't wrap my head around it. I had given up on experiencing things like joy again a long time ago, and was entirely convinced that it was a myth after losing children, like rainbow unicorns or something. But here's this walking, talking example of actual strength, courage, hope, and joyful living sitting right in front of me, and he had two dead kids too. The wheels started turning in my head, and the security blanket wrapped around my way of living started to dissolve. I mean...was this guy some sort of anomaly, or was personal growth and happiness actually possible for me? I had been written off even by therapists, but this guy is telling me that there's a light at the end of this tunnel...and he kept coming back to these meetings week after week.
After that, I started listening a little more in the meetings and dismissing people as somehow different from me a little less. I learned about gratitude and humility, two things that were entirely foreign to me. What on earth did I have to be grateful for anyway? And I thought of the word "humble" as a person that was some sort of doormat with a weakness for people pleasing. But these people seemed so happy...and they weren't using even a little. They had actual tools for coping with life on life's terms, and they all seemed to subscribe to this idea of a loving, compassionate Higher Power, which is honestly what I struggled with the most. Even if I had always believed in God--I certainly didn't believe that He loved me and wanted good things for me...
Despite myself, I began to try a little to identify with the people in the rooms, and didn't that same damn supervisor harp on my about humility until he was blue in the face... He also asked me one day what I had learned from the loss of my two children. Rage immediately flared up in my chest as I thought to myself, "Is this guy seriously asking me to 'Silver Lining' two dead kids?!" I rejected his line of questioning as ridiculous and pointless and walked away. Who did this guy think he was?? He didn't even have kids, so how could he possibly fathom losing one even in the most minute way??
Today I know that when I talk about my story, especially in the rooms of NA and AA, people sincerely listen, and it brings them inspiration to be able to handle their own troubles. It's still true that most people haven't experienced the tragedy of losing two children, but it's also true that most addicts have had to endure an enormous amount of trauma and personal tragedy, which usually contributed to them becoming an addict. They are some of the strongest people I know, so when people in the rooms tell me that I am brave and strong today, I believe them, because I have finally started to actually live my life, instead of just existing on this planet. I have experienced some of the most inspirational, intelligent, and spiritual people among recovering addicts, and although I still miss the mark frequently, I have begun to try my hand at principles like gratitude, humility, and spirituality. I finally believe today in a loving and compassionate God who has plans for a bright future for me too, and I have found the silver lining in my personal tragedy in that it helps others who struggle with hope. I never had a close knit or supportive or even loving family in the people that raised me and/or are blood related to me, but today I have a family who loves and supports me unconditionally in the fellowships of NA and AA, and that is a miracle for which I am eternally grateful. I can look myself in the mirror today and be proud of my progress, because although I know I have a long way to go, I'm certainly not where I used to be, and that, like I said, is a miracle straight from God.
Endless thanks to all of those who have supported me through this journey, and to those who believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.
"When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move,
When You don't part the waters
I wish I could walk through,
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You,
I will trust,
I will trust,
I will trust in You."