When Addiction Wins

Every time someone’s addiction wins I panic.

I wonder how it happened. How long had it been “that bad”. How many people really knew how bad the struggle had been over the last few months. How long and how well had they hidden what was really going on.

Then I really go down that rabbit hole. What will it look like if when Rob’s addiction wins. I’ve had a few glimpses… Just not to that degree yet.

The last time was even scarier than the other times – I just didn’t realize it until 3 hours into an ER visit. His shaking (detoxing) was worse than I’d seen in a long time. We went to two different urgent care clinics and neither would see him so I convinced him to go to the ER.

After they ran some blood work and got his IV’s started, the conversations got extremely difficult. The dr asking about his drinking, Rob continually denying any drinking.

Me, outside the room, standing in the hallway, trying to talk to his nurse so someone knows the truth. Not even the truth. The little bit of truth that I know. Of which one truth is that I cannot tell you the last time I saw him sober. My guess is he was up to a bottle every two days. That would change when the dr came back in with the test results.

The dr coming back in the room and explaining to Rob that he’s gotten all of the test results back and telling Rob that if he had waited another day he wouldn’t have been able to bring himself to the hospital. And might not have woken up the next morning.

Rob still in denial. Because that’s what addiction does. It makes the addict believe their own lies. It makes the truth very subjective. And the only truth an addict knows is what will get him to his next drink the quickest.

The dr is in on Rob’s game. He’s seen it. Knows that it doesn’t really matter what he says, Rob has his own version of reality and he will not see anyone else’s reality.

So he starts talking in “if’s”…..

IF you’re drinking everyday and you want to stop drinking, you cannot stop cold turkey. The amount of alcohol you have been consuming for this length of time has made that impossible. You’ll need to slowly reduce the amount of alcohol you consume. Take one less drink a day. Slowly detox and let your body become accustomed to less and less alcohol over a period of weeks, possibly months. All of this needs to be monitored by your physician.

I don’t like this. I have seen him try and every time, fail, to do this. I don’t think it’s a viable option.

IF you’re drinking everyday and you can’t slow down/reduce your drinking on your own, you need to check into the hospital and go through a medical detox. You’re too far gone to try to just do this cold turkey all at once and without medical intervention.

I needed the dr to insist on this. To admit him. But me needing that didn’t make it the right thing to do. Rob had to want that. And it was obvious to everyone that Rob was not going to commit to being admitted, when he wouldn’t even admit he was drinking at all.

BUT since you aren’t drinking and you don’t have a problem, despite what your BAC levels and liver enzymes would indicate, even after we’ve been treating you with multiple IV meds for several hours already, then at the very least you need to check in with your primary physician and get a treatment plan in place so that you don’t end up back in the ER.

Or dead.

And he walked out. And he left those words hanging there. Trying to get an addict who is in the very early, painful, probably not even voluntary, stages of detox, to understand that he can make a choice. One of several choices.

And one of them, is to die.

And I don’t even think Rob heard any of it.

Not one word of…if you don’t make some kind of serious change, you will die. It may be weeks or months or years, but until you’re honest about your drinking, until

You decide you want to get sober

these decisions you’re making…or not making… they’ll decide for you. There will come a point,

And very soon if you don’t make some drastic changes

There will come a point when you won’t have any other options.

You will drink yourself to death, which could be a long process or fairly short, based on your history of extremely high BAC’s

Or your body will start to shut down, slowly, painfully, and there will be nothing that can be done except to make you as comfortable as possible. And wait.

I don’t know if Rob heard any of this. I heard it. I replay it over and over in my head so I can somehow prepare myself for his addiction to win. To prepare myself for something you cannot be prepared for no matter how much you play out how it will go in your head.

You can feel the dread and the worry and the wondering about when and where it will happen. But you feel that along side the hope that he will win out over his addiction. So you pray that he will overcome his addiction. And in the same breath, you pray for protection for your girls’ hearts when addiction wins.

But there is no preparing for someone actually losing to their addiction. Because deep down, we always think there will be a second/third/fifteenth chance. There will always be time to start over. Someday the want to overcome his addiction will win.

Until there isn’t. Until it is too late. Until addiction takes your friend. And there’s no more chances to start over for them. And no more hope for you to hold on to.

Sometimes addiction wins. And we lose a friend. And we relive what we could have done differently, how we could have helped – and none of that matters but it’s all we can think about.

And quietly, we plead to God that this will be the thing. This will be what convinces our person that overcoming their addiction is worth anything it seems to cost.

And we convince ourselves that if losing our friend is what it takes for one person to overcome their addiction, then their loss wasn’t for nothing, their loss has purpose….because if it doesn’t…if this isn’t the wake up call our addict needs…can we still hope they’ll live to overcome their addiction?

So we hope. And we pray. And. As long as they have breath in their body…we don’t give up.

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Brave Girl

Sometimes we make decisions while we are deep in the trenches…Often those decisions are made out of fear…or the need to isolate and separate ourselves from people…Or simply survival. We can only see that this decision is going to give us breathing room for the moment. We can see that making this choice is our only way to survive the right now. We are mostly incapable of factoring in what the decisions will mean long term…because we don’t do long term.

We don’t plan past the right now. We dream. We hope. We play out how things could be.

But we don’t plan.

We have planned. Over and over. Down to the smallest detail.

The first time the plan fell apart we were surprised. Caught completely off guard.

The second time it felt like this might be a pattern.

The third time we stopped planning.

Out loud. To anyone. We had no expectations. We hoped this would be the time, but we weren’t tied to a plan that included long term sobriety.

Except. That is a lie. I planned. I had expectations. I just had those conversations with myself. With anyone else, I was non-committed, not counting on it working.

Because really. How many times can someone on the outside hear your plan and see it fall apart before they consider it their role to remind you of the last few times and “let’s not get our hopes up because you know how devastated you were the last time.”

So you cut that off by saying it yourself. Before someone else can. You hide deeper within yourself and silently make those plans. Because if no one else knows you think this time may work, you only have to deal with your own disappointment, not theirs.

But life looks different now. We’ve learned how to separate pieces of our lives from the whole. We decide that this one part is manageable and we make a decision to move forward.

We wrestle with it and poke it to find holes and we weigh possible outcomes against doing nothing.

And we find that doing something in this one small piece of our world feels like….

Success. We are proud of the decision that we made because this decision comes from one of us who is slowly pulling herself out of the family trench. She still has her own trench to climb out of, but she is moving forward. She is taking control of what she can control and….

And I feel like screaming. And celebrating. And I want to tell everyone what she’s doing!

And I want to keep it quiet and let this be just between us. Because this thing she’s doing – this hurdle she is running towards – it’s there because of the last failed plan.

And the last failed plan is still failing.

But she is rising. And she is working towards a goal that gets her back on track to some kind of normalcy. And I want to celebrate the bravery of this goal. I want to celebrate her lifting herself up and chasing after normal.

And I want to quietly and privately encourage her because this is not something she should have had to chase. This is not a track she should have fallen off of. This is the cause and effect of all of the times the plans didn’t work.

So I help how I can. I tell her I’m proud of her. Quietly. I don’t announce it on social media.

I will be her biggest – private – cheerleader over her decision. Because I know the strength and the overcoming this has taken.

But the world doesn’t need to know. Her peers don’t need to know. This thing – this normal for everyone else thing – this thing no one else knows to celebrate because it’s just what you do and it’s not special because it’s been part of the normal plan for everyone.

This thing is my girl rising up. Taking back her life. Deciding she can still have a plan and she gets to decide what that plan looks like.

The other plans falling apart don’t get to decide that her plan for her life will fail.

Her plan is independent of the others. It is impacted by them. It is partly made because of them. It will be harder because of them.

But she finally sees that she can go after what she wants. She is free to be happy and successful and to be whoever she wants to be.

And nothing can stop her. She is amazing and strong and beautiful and determined and I will always be the one quietly cheering her on in the corner. Making sure she knows I’m there, but also showing her that she is capable of great things simply because of who she is.

One small step for most….but a hundred halted, hesitating, then long, brave strides for her.

Brave girl, you can do hard things…

You already have…

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Sitting In The Circle

It’s often the smallest things that stop you in your tracks. The things that you don’t even think about and then you see something or hear something and all of a sudden you’re overcome with a memory…a moment…a season of life…

Driving the kids to ACT prep and an ad comes on about Magic Springs, and you remember a month earlier when the girls asked if we could get season passes again.

All you could see in that moment was last spring. How often we all went as a family. How many memories were made. And then, before summer had even really started…we stopped going. Rides are Rob’s thing. He loves Magic Springs. Waiting in line for a ride with one or all of the girls. Deciding which rides HAD to be ridden before lunch, what order to do the rides in…He was at ease there. It was his happy place. We all loved going, but mostly we loved going with him. So when his relapse turned out to be more than a few bad days…when our life got turned upside down again…we just never went back.

And it’s that way with so many places…favorite restaurants where we used to have dinner after church on Sundays…Beebe flea market on Saturdays… our no kids allowed Saturday morning dates…stores that we only went to together…family gatherings…

There is a feeling you get when you pass one of those places or wonder what to do with a free Saturday or know there’s a family party coming up…

It’s a tangled up ball of so many feelings, all fighting to win. Dread. Fear. Sadness. Anxiety. Anger. Regret. Loneliness.

None of those words wholly encompass the feeling. But each word is a part of it.

Dread. Not wanting to be at that place or event because even if no one else knows what is different, you know. You know that you will walk by a ride that only he and the girls would ride and someone will say something and you’ll wonder if it can ever go back to how it was.

Fear. As hard as it is for you to be there, you’re so afraid of how it will make the girls feel. Will they say anything? Is it worse for them to be there and feel something or is this going to make things worse?

Sadness. Do you ever get to the point where you don’t wish you could have things back the way they were? Are you always going to associate this place with everything you lost?

Anxiety. Can you do this? Do you want to? Is there anywhere else you would rather be than here, with these people, in this place, where you think everyone is wondering where you fit in with them anymore?

Anger. Oh, anger. If your anger could make someone else break their addiction….If the anger you actually let show could set them free…If the anger you never let come to the surface could somehow fix your relationship. Well. There’s so much anger. Couldn’t it do something good? Couldn’t there be some good that comes from it?

Regret. What you would have done differently if only you had known. Why didn’t you see the signs? When did it really start again? You relive every moment and try to rewrite what you would say and do, praying that somehow you get a do over. Knowing you don’t.

Loneliness. Walking into that family gathering. Knowing everyone there knows more than you wanted them to. Sometimes he’s there and it’s awkward and no one says what they’re thinking. No one asks the questions. But more often you’re doing this one alone too. And you wonder how many more times you can walk into a room alone and feel like you will never belong again before you just stop showing up.

And then that’s what is happening. You stop going. You don’t show up. You cut places and events and people out. Not going is easier. And lonelier. And you regret not going. And you’re angry about how someone else’s decisions have taken away parts of your life that are so important to you. And your anxiety over what will be said about you not showing up is uncontrollable. So you stay away and you deal with your sadness alone, crying your silent tears into the same tear stained pillowcase. You fear that this is what the rest of your life will be now. And that fills you with so much dread because this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

So the circle goes on…the broken circle that never seems to end…that won’t end. You sit in the circle. Which seems endless. But you stay there. In the circle. Waiting for your miracle. Knowing that if you leave the circle, you won’t be there when the miracle comes. And even after all this time, you still know it will. You know the miracle will come. You don’t know when or how or how broken you will be when it happens. But you can’t stay without believing it. And leaving isn’t an option.

So you sit in your broken circle and wait for your miracle.

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Separation

At this point, the number of years we’ve spent apart outnumber the years we’ve lived under the same roof.

Despite that fact, I had never used the word “separated”. Anytime I would fill out forms…for the doctor…rehab…insurance…Job applications…anything…I always use our home address.

When he was in rehab the first time, it was just for a couple of months, then right back home again.

When he went to a rehab for 14 months, it was just where we visited him and sent letters to.

The next rehab was only 35 days. It wasn’t going to be long enough. So I found a sober living home for him – 30 minutes from us, close enough to go to church together, spend time together during the week.

When he changed his mind and went to a different sober living house instead. In a different state. Hours away. It wasn’t his home, it was just where he stayed.

Then he moved in with his parents. I’m careful never to call that his home. He’s just staying there.

A few months later we commit to starting counseling again.

We’re filling out paperwork. By default I check the box: ✅ Married

I put the same address down for both of us.

It’s the last thread of our marriage that I hold onto. Putting down somewhere that we don’t have the same address. It means something I am not ready for.

I can feel my face flush as our counselor starts reviewing our forms.

Married ✅

“And you currently live together?”

Rob and I look at each other. For once, I think, please say something first.

My look worked I suppose.

“No. I’m staying with my parents right now.”

The perfect answer. For both of us. It sounds temporary.

He looks at us. Looks at the paper. Scratches out what’s written there. Writes down the address Rob gives him.

Then says, you checked married but you’re separated?

I don’t want to be here anymore. Why is he saying this? Of course we aren’t separated. We just haven’t been living together. For a while. It’s temporary. I repeat this over and over. Silently. In my head.

Rob speaks out loud. It startles me. “Yes we’re separated. We have been for awhile. I haven’t lived at home for probably 4 of the last 5 years.”

The counselor scratches again.

Marks instead

Separated ✅

I start to argue. We aren’t separated. We just don’t live together right now. But we’re still married. He’s just been in rehab for a long time. And then the sober living house. And now he’s just staying with his parents.

I think I say most of this out loud. I’m never sure though. How much I say out loud and how much is my inner monologue.

Then he circles it. Separated. “That’s what separated means. I understand you’re still married. But you’re also separated.”

I’m trying to understand why this panic is building up inside of me.

Stop saying we’re separated. I want to scream.

I have stood by him through rehab, relapse, sat next to him as he goes through withdrawals, over and over; wiped his face, held his cup of water so he could drink, held his hand and told him it’s ok, we’ll get through this. Tried to make my face look like I believed him every time he said this is the last time. I’m going to make it this time. Smiled at him. Believed in him. Encouraged him.

I have spent my weekends going wherever rehab was – I have not missed a promotion ceremony or graduation – I show up for every family day – I drive 5 hours each way to spend 3 hours with him so he is not alone on Sundays – I write letters so he gets mail – I arrange my schedule around what time he’s allowed to call – I schedule our whole lives around him.

We do not live in the same house because he’s been in rehab over and over and he’s still not sober. We finally had agreed that he would get sober and then he could come back home after the girls are graduated and moved out. But no sooner. How is this separation?

How can my husband see this as a separation?

I have stayed. Every time. Through every relapse and new hospital stay and rehab and relapse…I have stayed.

Living at two separate addresses is not separated. Not when I put everything that I want our life to be on hold. Every time. I put what he needs. Where he needs to be. What kind of support he needs from me. I put that first. My life happens around his needs.

I. Stay. I have stayed. I always stay.

Don’t tell me that we’re separated now because I made the decision not to let him come home while the girls are still home. Don’t tell me that making sure our girls feel safe in their own home means we’re separated.

I am not moving on. I am not halfway out the door. I am all in. I am waiting for our miracle. Waiting for his sobriety. Waiting to start our marriage over. I am waiting because I have stayed.

So please don’t disregard the sacrifices our family has made by labeling us “separated”.

We are a broken, fragile, burdened family. But we have not given up.

I realize now I’ve said at least half of this out loud. Most of it in a very defensive tone.

It’s time to go. You give us our homework. We set up our next appointment. I reach over for the card and it’s right there. In black and white.

Married

Separated

Posted in Addiction, Addiction is a family affair, Alcoholism, Celebrate Recovery, Communicating in marriage, Dealing with relapse, Family, First NLR, Marriage, Mom of girls, Our Life, Prayer, Recovery, the Road to Becoming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Surviving

The first few days your husband starts rehab – it’s like the 5 stages of grief except you don’t get anytime to stay in any of the stages so you don’t get to process the feelings. All you get to do is feel all of the feelings.

  • Denial. Really this starts before the decision to go (back) to rehab is made. After all. We’ve been here. Done this. Why will this time be different. Doesn’t he know what he needs to do to get sober? Why are we doing this again. What about this program will make it stick.
  • Anger. Are we ever not angry during the whole addiction? It’s not even the anger that anyone really questions. What are we angry about? Who are we angry at? Because anger feels like my right. It feels justified. I am not angry that Rob needs to go back to rehab. I understand that. I do everything I can to help facilitate that. I am angry about what this is going to mean for me. For our kids. I am angry because once again he is going to go off to some place where he’ll be told what to do, when to do it, where to do it, encouraged to read and study the Bible, participate in group therapy, one on one therapy, quiet time….the specifics vary from each rehab, but the idea of rehab is a time of rest and renewal. Working on themself. If I had a dollar for every time I heard them tell my husband and me that he needs to be selfish and take care of himself…well. I could pay for his rehab. He needs to put his recovery before being a father, husband, having a job, or anything that might work against his ability to get and stay sober.

And I just want to say. NO.

This is not what I need. I need a break. I need a week – a month – when I get to take care of myself and not worry about anything else. I need to process everything that’s happened and what that means for our family and I need to try to make sure our kids survive this with the least amount of scars as possible. <<<Spoil alert – the least amount of scars are a number so high you cannot count them. You mostly cannot see them. At least for the next few weeks – months – because they are also just surviving.

Surviving. That is all we, the family, get to do. We get to survive. We have to do all of the things and go to all of the places and keep all of the plates spinning and never drop one because if one plate falls while we are in survival mode…we may stop surviving.

  • Bargaining. Oh this one. Why isn’t this at the top and in the middle and at the end? Because it is. We bargain with the addict to get him to agree to go to rehab. We bargain with how long he’ll have to stay. We bargain about what we will and won’t tell people. How much we will and won’t share with people. We bargain about when he’s ready to leave rehab. None of these bargainings go well. And when, its the end of the last most recent rehab and for the first time you tell your husband he can’t come home. You tell him it’s too soon and you have to find some kind of sober living house for him to go to. Is this the ultimate bargaining? When a mom and a wife finally decides that she and the kids have to figure out how to move forward. And she knows she can’t do that wondering if he’ll relapse in 6 months or 5 days. So we bargain. Make plans. Change those plans. No one is happy with the end result of the bargaining. It’s literally just what you have to do to survive. Nothing more. And honestly, not even close to enough.
  • Depression. Sometimes you get to admit your depression at this point. Unless the addict is depressed and points to that as why he drinks. Because when the addict is depressed, your depression will always get put on the back burner. Your mental health will not be a priority. Your job is to keep the family together and to be as supportive as possible to the addict. You will go deeper and deeper into the hole you started digging to get away, ultimately to realize you aren’t getting away, you’re only digging a hole deeper than you could ever pull yourself out of on your own.
  • Acceptance. In grief – or, the death of a loved one, acceptance simply means. You accept what has happened and move forward. Yes. Life will look different but you have accepted what has happened and you start to learn to move forward. In an addicts family, acceptance is layered and confusing and fluid. There are some facts you have to accept. These are the next steps. You accept that. This is what the next steps mean for you and your family. You accept this not because you agree with it or like it or it is how you want it to be. You accept it because it is happening to you. Your influence on what happens to you is minimal at best. The family of an addict accepts what is happening to them because there is often no other choice.

Then there’s the acceptance of changed plans. You made a plan. Details were ironed out. Dates were set. You had a sense of knowing this is how we start moving forward.

Except. That’s not how it’s going to be. You’ve barely had time to accept the plan before it changes. And not a small change. A big change. And he isn’t asking you. He’s telling you. And he isn’t even just telling you this is what he wants to do. He’s telling you. This is the plan I made. And when you try to remind him you had made a plan together, all he says is. This is the plan I made. And. Once again. You realize all of this is happening to you. You don’t get to have a say. You get to figure out how to survive. And not complain because let’s not forget that he’s being told in his meetings – Your Job is to stay sober. Not to worry about your family or being a husband or father or employee. Your job is to not drink and to work on yourself.

Maybe one of the hardest parts of acceptance is this. Accepting that whatever his behavior looks like, he is being encouraged to behave this way. It is drilled into his mind that he has no responsibility except to stay sober.

But bills still have to be paid. Jobs have to be worked. Children have to be raised and sent to school and church and fed and bathed and taxi-ed to every. Place. Life goes on. No matter how much I need life to stop. To have time to breathe and sort through all the feelings and time to make long lasting decisions instead of making snap decisions that you know you are going to regret sooner than later but you don’t have time to figure it out so the snap decision is what you have.

Time is not your friend. The longer he’s in rehab or the sober living house…you and your family are learning <again> how to live without him. You take a minute and wonder if it’s better with him gone. Or if it will be better when he comes home sober. Except at this point you don’t even know if that will ever be an option.

You wonder if you should put a timeline on him moving back home. And you think you have that figured out.

Then. A year later. He’s kicked out of the sober living house and you look back on the last 6 months and beat yourself up for not seeing whatever signs would have told you he had relapsed. You relive the weekend visits and tear apart each moment. Trying to pinpoint those little changes. Angry at yourself for not seeing what was happening. Angry at him for relapsing and hiding it. Except you realize you can’t be angry at him for hiding it because there were signs and you just did not have the energy to admit you were seeing them. It was easier to brush off those little heart checks you felt and instead just count down the hours until he went back to the sober living house.

And you try to weave through the complex web of lies he’s been telling. Still is telling. You are in full panic mode now. He can’t come home. He can’t even stay sober in a sober living home. So you fight. And he goes to his parents.

And now it’s a year since he’s been there. And there’s no progress. And you’re still angry…depressed. You’re moving away from acceptance because you’re so stuck on anger and you need him to get sober. You need something or someone to mean enough to him for him to decide he needs help. But after more than 20 years of this, you’re almost ready to give up hope and resign yourself to this being the rest of your life.

So we wait. We know that nothing is changing and we wait. And we don’t bargain because there is nothing left to bargain for. We aren’t in denial. We just don’t talk about it. We only talk about it to ourself. I have all of these conversations in my head with him. And I tell myself I will Be brave enough to have these conversations with him in real life. And I back down every time. Because fear is a real thing.

I fear he will drink so much he loses his job

I fear he will drink and drive

I fear he will not survive the next time he has a 4.3 BAC

I fear he will become sick because of his drinking and I will be left taking care of him but still unable to control his drinking.

I fear our girls will move as far away from me as they can because they need to distance themselves from just surviving.

I fear there is nothing I can do or say or be that will help him.

I fear that I will never get past feeling like this is all my fault.

I fear that he will convince me he’s sober and he’ll come back home…and I fear that that next relapse will leave me paralyzed and unable to even just survive

I fear he will come back home because he is sober and I will not be able to stop fearing and dreading and planning my reaction to his next relapse.

I fear that one of my girls will fall into this addictive life. As the addict or as the addicts family. It’s what they’ve known. I fear they won’t break the cycle. I fear that this is my legacy to them. The one thing I pray against more than anything.

I fear that no matter which of these things happen, one or some or all, I fear that I have already lost myself. I don’t know where she is anymore. And I don’t have time to look for her as long as I’m stuck surviving.

Posted in Addiction, Addiction is a family affair, Alcoholism, Celebrate Recovery, Dealing with relapse, Family, Marriage, Our Life, Recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concrete Floors

Two and a half years ago…I remember a time where I wasn’t always wondering when the next rug would be pulled out from under me.

It was Thanksgiving. My youngest girl and I had gone to Ohio for the week. My husband stayed home. And. Ripped up all of the carpets. We had talked about it. Wanting to replace carpets with hardwood.

All of a sudden I’m 14 hours away and he’s sending me pictures of his progress. As slowly the rug is pulled up. Taken away. Leaving a cracked concrete floor.

Looking back now, it seems like an omen of what was to come. The carpet that had covered so many flaws, breaks, cracks…it had left while I wasn’t paying attention to it.

All that was left was a concrete floor that had a crack so wide and deep and long…with nothing to cover it anymore. The brokenness of it all was out in the open. It couldn’t be hidden.

Months later and it’s Spring Break, the girls and I went on a trip. The plan was to pick out flooring when we got back. We had googled and pinterested and knew <mostly> how to do what we wanted done. We didn’t want to just cover the cracks and breaks and flaws. We were going to fix them. Then put something beautiful over the concrete. Not because it would need to be covered – the cracks would be fixed – but just to add a layer of protection over the cracks and add a new, updated look.

Two days in and it’s not going as planned. And we had planned. I didn’t go on vacation blindly.

We talked about what my husband would do while the girls and I were gone. Who he would reach out to if he needed help. We methodically listed out the steps he would take if A, B, C happened… We had a plan.

Except the plan hadn’t worked. All of a sudden, 15 hours away, the rug was pulled out from under me. Slowly, not all at once. I tried to stay on the rug. Tried to keep it in place. Then when it was halfway out from under me, I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. The girls and I needed this vacation. This break. These few days away with family, not having to worry about what was going on at home.

So many things I didn’t know. I assumed. But didn’t know. So I sent the girls to an aunt’s and drove home. A day early. With zero idea of what I would find.

The next part of this story isn’t ready to be told. The rest of that day had me feeling heartbroken. Angry. Overwhelmed. Ashamed. Afraid. Guilty. Trapped. More than anything though….Alone.

So let’s skip to following the ambulance from my home to the hospital. Sitting in the waiting room for hours until they finally made me go sit with my husband told me I could come back to his room. I sat there, my legs dangling with nothing under my feet that I could reach. There was no solid ground for me to stand on. No floor and definitely no rug.

Trying to understand what a blood alcohol level of 4.3 means. Not .43. Not .043. It takes me a minute to google that because all of the default results have the decimal in the wrong place.

4.3

They retake it every hour, telling me until it comes down to under the legal limit they can’t even get him on a waiting list for rehab.

It takes forever for it to even start coming down. He sleeps. I sit. He wakes. Needs something. It gives me something to do and my feet are on solid ground again.

A kind nurse starts making calls to find him a bed. Even before his BAC is where it would need to be to get him a bed.

I go home to pack a bag for him. Trying to remember from the last rehab what he could and couldn’t have. Writing the list in my head as I drive. How did I drive. I hadn’t slept in more than 30 hours.

I walk back in the house to get his bag. Not through the garage. It’s weeks before I can walk through the garage without forcing myself.

Again, I see the concrete with cracks and breaks and flaws. I think that instead of putting new floors down, we’ll be spending my bonus on rehab. Again. And I’m angry again. Angry that he’s leaving us again to pick up all of these broken pieces. Angry that everyday I will look at these floors and remember the day the rug that hadn’t even been laid yet was yanked so violently out from under me.

So here we are. Two years later. And I don’t know how I got here. How can life fall apart in so many ways in two years. If I told you about every time a rug was pulled out from under me in these two years, it would read like fiction. There’s no possible way all of these things happen to one person.

And they don’t. The twist is, they happened to our whole family. And in the sharpest twist of all, the rug that was pulled out 5 months ago – the old, threadbare, overused, pulled so many times the drag marks are permanent – looking at it you might think it wasn’t strong enough to pull out from under a whole family.

And it wasn’t really. Because in the pulling, it twisted and tore and there was no neat or precise single graceful pull. There was tugging from all directions. It turns out pulling, tearing and twisting an already tattered and threadbare rug doesn’t result in that rug being pulled out from under you. Instead it tosses people away. It tears families apart. It leaves remnants that cannot be put back the same way by even the most skilled seamstress.

Until all you’re left with is the one piece of the rug that you held on to, trying so desperately to keep at least one part of your life together.

And as you sit alone with that torn patch of rug at your feet…all you can see is the cracked, broken, flawed concrete floor.

And you wonder – if everyone brought back their torn patches, could you put it back together again?

Or are we forever going to be walking around on cracked, broken, flawed concrete floors…

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Circles

Sometimes your loss and grief is so tied up in someone else’s choice – your pain is so intertwined with someone else’s story – so much so that when you try to move forward, your steps either make the other person feel like you’re walking over the path they’ve created – crushing their footprints – afraid that you’ll expose the part of that path that you’re forced to walk – and you’re forced to walk it because walking away will never be an option. Or. You find a way to walk around their path -careful not to let your path cross theirs, slowly, intentionally, circling around them. Waiting for them to see the circle you’ve created is an open one. An arc – bigger than half a circle, never big enough to completely close the circle. Slowly walking that line on the edge…sometimes you step over thinking it’s time- they’re ready to let you pull them back out. And then with one foot in, you lose balance and fall back. Not in. Back. Out of their circle. Off of their path.

Both of you wanting to be back in that old circle. Both of you forcing yourselves to create new circles that you don’t fit in, and, devastatingly, there’s not room for anyone else. So you stand in your new, oddly shaped circle. Alone. Uncomfortable. Unable to understand or even see in to the other person’s circle – so different from yours in most ways, but sharing the same odd shape that makes it a perfect barrier to keep everyone else out…and keep you trapped inside.

The way out of these circles is a puzzle. The clue to the way out is leaving the circle behind, not going back, moving forward to the first circle – the circle where both of you fit – where you both want to be – knowing that if you ever make it back to the first circle, you won’t fit in the circle the same. The things you left in the first circle… Things that you knew would always be there whenever you decided to come back.

They’re all still there. But they’ve been broken. The rectangle is split into 4 triangles. Soon you realize you’ll have to make the first triangle fit…then the second…then third…all of the pieces will have to learn how to fit back as one. And even if all of the pieces learn to fit together again, there are cracks where there was wholeness before. There are sharper edges. A small piece never came back together. That piece will never get put back in place.

But you work on it. Trying every way you can to make that piece fit. Spending so much energy on that one piece, you let three of the triangles fall back apart. As you put the triangles back together and they merge with the 4th piece and you can see the rectangle again, you notice there isn’t a space for that broken piece anymore.

Suddenly you see that the broken piece belongs back in the circle you left – the lonely circle – but you can’t put it where it belongs because stepping back into the circle would mean letting the just healed rectangle fall back apart. Maybe into more pieces this time.

So you stay in the old circle…that isn’t the old circle. But it has remnants of the old. And both of you bring jagged pieces from the oddly shaped circles you trapped yourselves in. So now some things from the old circle have to break in order to let in the jagged pieces.

Before you even realize it, you’ve brought in the most unwanted pieces of your oddly shaped circle into this new shared circle and crowded out the familiar, comfortable pieces you thought would always be there.

And now that those pieces are in the circle and you have to deal with them AND all of the things that were already in the circle, you start to look back at your oddly shaped, lonely circle, and think it must not have been so bad to be over there.

So you try to find the key to get out of this circle and back to your oddly shaped one….it’s that one jagged, broken piece…. that piece that was part of you, that piece that isn’t whole any more.

That’s the key to getting out of the safe circle and back into your oddly shaped circle.

The problem is, no matter what circle you think you need, you’re stuck with the jagged, brokenness. So you go back and forth, never completely committing to any circle. And you hang on to that jagged, broken part, convincing yourself you need it…defending its existence to anyone who doesn’t want to let it in their circle.

Until all you’re left with is that jagged, broken part – whose sole purpose is to keep you out of all circles. The old one, the lonely one, the new version of the old one….even any new circles you come across are off limits to you and your jagged, broken part. You’ve been asked and told and begged to put that part down and not pick it back up… So you stand in your new, oddly shaped circle. Alone. Uncomfortable. Unable to understand or even see in to the other person’s circle – so different from yours in most ways, but sharing the same odd shape that makes it a perfect barrier to keep everyone else out…and keep you trapped inside.

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How to Paint on Ambien

Sometimes you get home late on a Friday after being out of town for work all week. There’s dishes in the sink. Not really sure when the dryer lint trap was last cleaned. Pretty sure the vacuum was used beyond its actual capacity and the covers are half off your bed and the dog hair is a pretty good indication that most if not all of the 3 dogs decided your bed was a wrestling mat/naptime mat.

Then. You walk into your girls bathroom and see they’ve cleaned and painted it. And are still working on getting it accessorized. But it looks soooo gooood.

Then you walk by the paint swatches painted on your entryway wall and think. I really should do this sometime soon.

But you’re tired. So you start to unpack. And by unpack I mean find your Ibuprofen, Zyrtec and Ambien out of your purse. Realize you’re out of everything so you grab a Capri sun to take the meds with. Dig through your suitcase for your cute pajamas and walk into the kitchen where you see the paint supplies are still out and ready. And you’re tired but not fall dead asleep tired because you’re a certain age and your body doesn’t work like that right now 😐😐😐

So. You decide if you paint just a little more tonight you can have a better idea tomorrow whether you love the paint you chose or are just meh about it.

You have no paint trays so you get a little creative. The Capri sun box was empty and let’s be honest. If not for moms, that empty box would’ve stayed in there for a week. So you decide a half Capri sun box and some wax paper would be a perfect paint pan.

You know better than to paint without taping off, so you run the painters tape along two edges and decide to start there.

You do such an amazing job of staying off of the tape that you decide, despite many years of failures at painting without taping off, that this will be the time you will conquer it. Listen, we’re all out here living our best lives. It could happen.

So you paint that wall with a roller but the Capri sun paint tray was possibly not your best idea.

You then switch to a brush. Which. Can we just take a moment of silence for falling brushes everywhere and the mess they leave behind for someone else to clean up .

There. I feel so much better now.

Then there’s the second time you drop the paintbrush and almost fall off the ladder because you would rather die from a fall than ruin your one painted wall by grabbing onto it while it’s wet with paint. Am I right?

By this time you realize that your outlet and light switch covers won’t work in their current color. Painting over them with your paintbrush is super easy. Just be careful not to paint so heavily that the outlets become useless. Ask me how I know.

One wall done except the edges and you’re ready to try the accent wall. In the Navy. No. That’s the color. Salty Dog was a heavy contender. But in the end. In the Navy won the war. I mean. The color choice. Same difference.

Have we mentioned the taping off has stopped? And one wall is gray and the other is navy. I see no reason to think the corners will turn out anything but crisp, defined lines.

Oh sure. You can already see that they won’t. Whatever. Listen Linda. You do you boo.

One tiny tip here. Tape off the corners. Just do it. I know. You can make a perfect line without the tape. But. Will you? Learn from me. Let my sacrificial wall be the end of blurry lines.

So you’re in the kitchen cleaning the Paintbrush and notice that there is all kinds of paint paraphernalia sitting on one of your good kitchen towels. Spilt paint all over it. Obviously we cannot have nice things in this house and here is exhibit 1 your honor.

As you’re painting the lower part of the wall you notice that paint has somehow dripped off of the wall – because you certainly didn’t let any drip off of the paintbrush while you were painting or the one 4 times you dropped it on the floor and you reach for the paint towel that you did manage to grab and try to clean up the paint from the floor.

Then you decide. I’m not going to have beige walls anymore. I bet I could use some paint to paint the tiles a nice gray tone. Not now. Because obviously it may be half done for me by the time I finish the walls. Don’t ever say I don’t think ahead.

At this point you’re pretty much done and ready to pass out because you took your Ambien 3 hours ago. And this has in no way inhibited your ability to live your best painters life.

Also. Somehow paint has gotten all over your fav pajama shirt. So you go to the bathroom to change. And realize you’ve painted a lot more than the wall.

All in all, painting on Ambien is probably not for everyone. But I’ll wait to see the results tomorrow.

P.S.A.One sample jar from Sherwin Williams will paint one side of an entryway so. You’re welcome.

Good night. God bless. Don’t wake me up unless the house is on fire.

Posted in Addiction, Alcoholism, Dealing with relapse, Family, Marriage, Mom of girls, Our Life, Proverbs 31 wife, Raising Grateful Kids, Recovery, the Road to Becoming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith

I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

Mustard seed faith has been a recurring theme in my faith journey since I was a young girl. The first time I really understood the concept I was probably 15. Our church was doing a mustard seed project – start with little, and with faith and the gifts God has given you, that tiny seed can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Life is all about mustard seed faith. Believing that the smallest seed of faith, planted in the right place, at the right time, in the right way…that small, hard to hold on to, easy to slip through your fingers, faith – that faith is enough. When you have nothing. When the road in front of you is full of sharp turns, roadblocks, dead ends…That mustard seed faith is still enough.

It’s enough to get you through the first day of knowing your husband has relapsed. Again.

It’s enough to get you through the second day when he still isn’t answering your calls or texts and you are 300 miles away and have no way to make him talk to you or find out the truth of what is going on.

It’s enough….when you cannot find the strength to go through this again, knowing it’s probably not even the last relapse….when your husband chooses this over you and your family…when you are almost ready to give up and just be done…

It’s enough because you have this necklace FULL of mustard seeds from a sweet friend who prays for your family, who loves you and your husband and your children, who never gives up and intercedes for you when you give up.

It’s enough once you place it in God’s hands – once you turn it over to Him and give up any false sense of control you struggled to have.

It’s enough because He is enough. Not because of anything you can do or not do…not because you think you can predict the outcome of this trial. Especially when you can’t convince your husband to even talk to you.

It’s enough because when you hold that vial of mustard seeds in your hand, pressed against your breaking heart, you remember that these seeds represent hope. Hope that exists as long as you have even that little bit of faith – that faith the size of a tiny mustard seed – you have faith that even in this new storm, you are not alone.

So you become determined to keep those mustard seeds close to you at all times, knowing you will need that physical reminder, that even with all of the doubt and unknowns and fears and anger and heart ache….there is always that little bit of faith there too.

The journey will be long again. It will look different again. I don’t even know if he’s willing to walk it again yet. I may be walking this one without him. Maybe not forever. Maybe he’ll join me somewhere when the road has twisted and turned so many times that the only way out is to come home. Or maybe he’ll ask me to walk with him sooner than I’m ready. But then where would that journey lead to?

Faith as small as a mustard seed. Small. But visible. Tangible. Powerful. Worth holding on to. No matter where this journey takes me, as long as I remember my mustard seed, and the friends who will intercede when I seem to lose my way, somehow I will make it down this path.

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Fear

Fear. The rock I put down at the marriage conference a brief 6 weeks ago. Only to pick back up a few short weeks later. Not unfounded. Unbearably heavy.

June 3rd

Day Zero

June 4th

Day One. Again.

He’ll go to get his blue chip at some point today he says…

I try to stay hidden, to find time to process the meaning of starting all over again.

This time was different. Every time was.

Knowing that it’s been coming – and possibly had already been happening for weeks now – there’s no relief in the actual knowing. The forward thinking doesn’t soften the shock to see it in black and white.

Words not sent to me. Not meant for me to see. Am I sad or relieved….the line is blurry…

My mind will be playing the blame game for the next few days…weeks…trying to remind myself he made the decision and I can’t take on the responsibility of yet another of his relapses. I don’t know how to not blame myself.

Thankful that it happened 300 miles away. Thankful that as hard as it has been, living apart for the past year means that our girls didn’t have to live through whatever led up to him reaching out for help. Wondering if he reached out or if he was found out. Worrying that it makes a difference.

Reliving all of the signs, the conversations, asking him if he was struggling, the lies about so many things…the knowing this was coming doesn’t make the pain any less…

It just intensifies the wondering of what I could have done differently… said differently….prayed differently….

Unable to convince myself that I can survive this again. Trying to imagine how to keep boundaries in place so that I can survive, worrying those boundaries will leave him feeling abandoned.

I know abandonment. It’s a lonely place to live.

Struggling between my need to protect myself….give myself permission to ask for time to start this healing process all over again…and reassuring him that I will never give up on him.

Surrounded by reminders over the last few weeks – my friend Stacy, writing about opening our eyes to those around us and seeing their life from within them – That guy who has found himself in the pit again? He’s not there for fun.  I couldn’t get her message out of my thoughts.

The series that just started at church yesterday, Come Home. I didn’t want to go yesterday morning. And once I was there I didn’t want to listen. Every time our pastor said “you can always come home”, I whispered to myself – but not yet…

My friend Staci posting June’s scripture writing…on forgiveness…and starting that last night….before I knew what I “knew”…

I’m torn between needing grace and giving grace. Between needing healing and giving forgiveness. It’s the simultaneous activeness of these that make them  irreconcilable…at least for now. How do I actively show grace and forgiveness and whatever else he needs from me when I need space to grieve this loss…space to forgive and begin to work towards trust again…knowing that he needs me to be more present with him so he can begin his healing. Not because I am responsible for the work he has to put in – it’s that boundary of being supportive but not enabling – the blurred line that constantly shifts.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as Christ forgave you.

Putting down my rock….my fear…starting all over again…

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