Life on Life’s Terms

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As I near the end of my treatment, I find myself in a mode of reflection and also one of mentally and emotionally preparing myself for going back to work. This may seem silly to some. I mean, why is going back to work such a big deal?  There are many things that come along with this transition. There are a lot of triggers for me there, which is fine, I guess. There’s triggers everywhere. Shit, going to the supermarket is a trigger simply because they happen to have a liquor department that I frequented. It’s more than that. It’s entering into life again completely on life’s terms. It’s entering into life again as the new Eve that I have become. This new Eve is different than the old, drunk Eve.

What if no one likes this Eve?

Then there’s a whole slew of other complicated, lifey stuff. I have been afforded the great blessing of being able to take off work for almost two months to focus solely on me and my recovery. Most people are unable to experience even a quarter of this, which makes me very sad. Addiction is a vicious, relentless, and abstruse disease that requires more than a week or two to begin to treat it. Going back to work means getting back to the grind. Having very few stressors in my life, as has been the case these past few months, is much more conducive to recovery. In other words, it’s easier to stay sober when I’m not working and have very little stress. Going back to work will introduce all that stress back into my life, which means I really need to put all of the coping skills I’ve learned to work.

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where all that I’ve been working on gets tested.

Naturally, I’m anxious. I desperately want to not fail. I desperately want to get it right this time. I have relapsed so many times and each time is worse than the time before. Each time, it chips another piece of my self-esteem and self-worth away. But I have learned that if I practice these three things, I will almost certainly stay sober.

1) Live life on life’s terms.

This means accepting that not everything is going to go Eve’s way. Imagine my internal temper tantrum when I learned this! I used to live “life on Eve’s terms”, and we all know where that got me. No, I must take everything that life throws at me with stride and take what lessons I can from it. Does this mean I will never be anxious or upset or sad? Of course not. Life is going to continue to be life no matter how much I don’t like it. There is so little in life that I have control over, so I’m going to let life be life, and only focus on controlling myself and how I react to it.

2) Don’t drink or take drugs.

I know, you’re probably laughing. But it’s the truth, isn’t it?  It’s guaranteed sobriety if I just don’t pick up a drink or a drug. No matter what emotion I’m feeling, I’m used to taking a drug or drinking to numb it. I’m not a fan of feelings. And I don’t have to be a fan of feelings, it’s life on life’s terms, remember? Not on Eve’s terms. So, I better get used to having them. I can be sad and throw a temper tantrum that would put even a Kardashian toddler to shame, which I’ve been known to do by the way – but as long as I don’t drink or use, I’ll stay sober. I’ll get over it. I can be depressed or anxious or whatever, but as long as I don’t drink or use, I’ll stay sober. I’ll get over it. I have enough support and resources to reach out to when I’m in need. No matter what life throws at me, as long as I don’t pick up a drink or a drug, I’ll remain sober.

3) Focus on one day at a time.

This isn’t a concept that is helpful exclusively to alcoholics or addicts – it helps every human being on this planet to live this way. We are not promised a tomorrow. Even when someone asks me, “Do you think you’ll ever be able to have a drink again?” I don’t say “No”. Why? Because all I know is that today I am going to stay sober. Who gives a shit about tomorrow. Every tomorrow will come with it’s own set of anxieties, stresses and challenges, and living in today has its own too, which is enough for me or anyone to handle. My life experience has taught me that your life path can change in the blink of an eye. So many things could happen and will happen in our lives that we didn’t see coming or didn’t prepare for. So each morning, I make a commitment to myself to stay sober for the next 24 hours, and send up a prayer to God asking for His help in achieving this. When I break life down into 24 hour measures, it seems much less scary and much more doable.

Having had this time to focus on my recovery has truly been invaluable, and no doubt a contribution to my success in staying sober almost two months now. I know there have probably been many rumors flying around at work or gossip as to where I’ve been, and I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t make me anxious too. But no matter what, when I return next week, I will hold my little, sober head up high and face the music, even if I don’t care for the tune.

Posted in addiction, change, God, health, life, self-care, sobriety, strength, work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude

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Gratitude. It’s so freaking important, yet so difficult to practice. I just learned about an experiment that was done on people who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis. Those that did exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). This doesn’t surprise me. But why do we always seem to get stuck on the negative things going on in our lives?

I had a pity party the other day. C’mon, we all are guilty of this once in awhile! I was stuck in a sad, negative place all day. Thinking about how much my family had to say about how “bad” I was while in my addiction, yet they have been mysteriously quiet ever since I entered treatment. Maybe this shouldn’t hurt my feelings, but it does. I was stuck in a place of fear and anxiety while contemplating going back to work. What if I’m not ready? What will I say when people come up to me asking where I was? Then something awesome happened. I started making a mental gratitude list.

As I sat in my group, I started looking around at all my peers. There’s the guy with no teeth, whose family is all in California. No job, no support. Then there’s the young girl who just had a baby. The father is in prison, and she admittedly cannot stay clean from pills. She’s also pregnant again and doesn’t know who the father is. Then there is another young girl who’s overweight and just sits in the corner quietly sleeping. She never talks unless prodded by the therapist. When I study their faces, I see something familiar…despair, hopelessness, anxiety. They are lost. Unsure of what life will be like sober and seemingly unsure of whether or not they want to stick around to find out. I know this look. I know this feeling well. But today, I don’t feel that way.

Today, I have 31 days sober. I feel wonderful. I feel strong. I may not have a huge support system, but the support I do have is unmeasurable. I’ve learned that it’s quality over quantity. I may be apprehensive about going back to work, but at least I have a job that has been extremely supportive and am fortunate enough to be collecting some of my pay by way of Short Term Disability. I also have my health. I have my faith. I have faith in this process. I went into treatment with the belief that if I just took that leap of faith, God would provide the safety net. And He did.

When you go out into the world this weekend, look at the people around you. Notice the old man or woman in the grocery store alone, moving slowly. Perhaps he/she just lost their spouse or are experiencing serious health problems. Or the young mother trying to calm her fussing children, never a moment to herself. If you really pay attention, you can always see reasons to be grateful for your life. My life may not be perfect, and I still have a long way to go before I get to where I want to be…but I’m a hell of a lot farther from where I used to be.

And for that, I’m grateful.

Posted in addiction, change, Faith, gratitude, life, self-care, sobriety, strength | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boundaries & Forgiveness: Under Construction

under-constructionFor those of you who have never been in any sort of treatment facility for your alcoholism or addictions, I’ll let you in on a little secret. You can take away an addict’s substance of choice, but the destructive behaviors still remain. This can include lying, stealing, and manipulating others. Aside from the obvious, this is primarily why they are in treatment – to learn how to change these toxic behaviors. This always thrusts me into the uncomfortable position of working on my own unhealthy behaviors, like not setting boundaries, avoiding conflict, and being a people pleaser. But hey, that’s what I’m there for.

I’ve only been in this treatment facility one week, and already there is drama. There are only 2 other girls in my primary group, and one of them stole my iPhone, the other is giving me sob stories about not having any Suboxone left until such-and-such day, with the hope that I will offer her some of mine. It is a knee jerk reaction for me to want to help someone out who is suffering or in need, and perhaps I would if my Suboxone situation were different. I no longer have a Dr that I see since I sort of fired my previous one, which I knew ahead of time I was going to do. Knowing this, I weaned myself down to a very low dose without telling him and just stockpiled a bunch of them for my use until I either came off of the medication completely or found a new Dr that took my insurance. Also, now that I’m not drinking, I see that the reason I was able to wean down so quickly is because I was self-medicating with alcohol. Now that I’m sober, I need a higher dose of the medication to help me control cravings.

The stolen iPhone. This was a huge issue for me earlier in the week when it happened. I felt extremely angry, frustrated, and violated. I immediately knew who the perpetrator was as this patient had already stolen medication and money out of two other patients’ purses prior to my admission. However, the rules of the facility prevented me from confronting her. My entire life was on that phone – photos from my recent trip to San Juan and other family photos, important passwords, all my contacts, etc. Thankfully, I had insurance on the phone, but it still set me back $100 that I don’t have and several days without a phone while I wait for AT&T to ship me a new one. What made me even more angry was my therapist’s response to the incident. “You really need to move on from it and practice ‘radical acceptance’.” Radical acceptance?! Really?  I felt as though she was minimizing the whole thing greatly. After all, if this were her phone that was stolen, wouldn’t she feel as angry as me?

Now, several days after the incident, I’m still without a phone, but have come to the realization that this is a situation that calls for the F-word. No, not that one. Forgiveness. The perpetrator is not suffering at all – she got the better end of the deal. She sold the phone, the nice case I had it in, and got exactly what she wanted. I’m the one who is stirring, filled with anger and resentment. But how do you forgive someone that stole something valuable from you right under your nose?  I mean, I left that group room for no more than three minutes and she jumped at the opportunity. The answer is I don’t know. If I knew, I would have done it already. But I think prayer plays a big role, and as of now, it’s the only tool in my toolbox when it comes to forgiveness, and I intend on using it.

As for the Suboxone-seeker…this is where boundaries come into play, something I suck at. I know what it’s like to be without your meds when you really need them, and how uncomfortable it is to feel Suboxone WD’s, which is why I sympathize. However, I know she had her script filled last week Thursday because she told me. So, I have to remind myself that she probably sold some to either get money or worse, drugs. And then I have to remind myself that it is not my responsibility to make sure she has enough medication to last her until her next Dr. appointment – it’s hers. Just as it’s my responsibility to make sure I have enough medication to last until I find a new Dr and I refuse to give her any.

There’s a saying that’s used frequently in the program, “Practice not perfection”. I may not have all the answers, nor can I expect to be a pro at setting boundaries, forgiveness, or all of the other difficulties that arise in early sobriety, but I can start simple and practice. After all, the Suboxone girl never came right out and asked me for some of my meds, she’s just hung out with me long enough to see a weakness in me – feeling sorry for others. She’s playing on that weakness with the hope that I will succumb to it to her advantage. This means that I don’t have to tell her “NO”, I just have to not offer her some of mine. Simple enough, right?

As for iPhone thief, I can try to remember that she is homeless, has no phone, no job, no money, and is continuously relapsing and talking in group about how no one wants her around – even her own family. She really has no support of any kind. What a sad state of affairs. I have hit rock bottom many times in my life, and can definitely relate to the chronic relapsing, but to have my own family or loved ones not wanting me around? That I cannot entirely relate to. Being homeless? Thankfully, I’ve never had to stay in a homeless shelter before. I’ve had my fair share of difficulties throughout my life, and it hasn’t always been easy, nor is it now. I’ve suffered extremely painful consequences as a result of my lifelong struggle with addiction. But I still have more than she does. I can try to look at her with compassion rather than contempt. How would Jesus look at her? With love, not hate or judgment.

Its safe to say my first week has been full of provocation, but the most important thing is that in spite of it all, I didn’t drink or use. I am now eighteen days sober, and that is a huge accomplishment in itself. I have not missed a day of treatment, and even though I’ve been through this before, I am learning new coping skills, and still trying to absorb as much as I possibly can before my insurance decides they will no longer cover me. My boundary setting and forgiveness skills may still be under construction, but God knew these were my challenges, and the only way we grow and change is through facing uncomfortable situations in which we are required to use these skills. So I may not be in the “radical acceptance” phase just yet, but for now, I am content just being in the  “under construction” phase.

 

Posted in addiction, change, health, life, people pleaser, self-care, sobriety, strength, trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Relapse

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Wow. It feels good to be sitting here right now, where I sat so many times over the past couple years, writing about life and all its hangups and beauty, recovery and all its woes and victories, faith and all its questions and comfort. Things were going great, until the writing stopped. I no longer had anything to say. Nothing to offer my readers, my family, my loved ones, and most of all, myself.

I relapsed.

It was last May/June. Boyfriend and I had a highly complicated and emotionally and mentally grueling breakup. All of the sudden what was safe and comfortable and “normal” became scary and confusing and chaotic. So I did what any sane alcoholic would do – I drank. I drank and drank and drank. We all know how it starts. “Fuck being an alcoholic, I am NOT an alcoholic. I can drink like everybody else!” And that’s where I stayed for a long time. After some time apart, and many heartfelt, raw, and sometimes unbearable discussions, boyfriend and I decided to get back together. Little by little things got better. It was summer, I could sit on my patio and drink some beers, or partake in the libations at all the summer festivals. You know, just like a normal person. I was loving it.

Then came fall, then winter, where I decided there isn’t much to do when it’s freezing outside except sit inside and drink. So I drank more. I drank during the day, on my lunch breaks, on my regular breaks. And by the way, whoever said “vodka doesn’t smell”, I’d like to personally punch in the face for misleading alcoholics everywhere. I was diligent to  brush my teeth after every single break and follow it with gum and perfume and still people told me they could smell it on me. Speaking of work, I was a highly functioning alcoholic, which, in my opinion, is the worst kind. I was getting my work done, and doing others’ work on top of it. My managers could depend on me to get shit done. This is a great feeling, don’t get me wrong, but in my own sick mind it only validated me and my drinking at work even more. In January, boyfriend became fiance.

Each day began to feel like Groundhog Day. The same thing over and over and over. As soon as my alarm went off in the morning I was overcome with a feeling of complete dread. I felt like I had two full-time jobs. By this time I was drinking a liter or more of vodka a day. Do I have enough vodka to get me through break until the liquor store opens by my lunchtime ( I work 4am-1pm)? Will fiance wake up just as I’m digging out my vodka (that I was careful to hide in a water bottle) from the bottom of my jeans drawer before I leave for work? Is today the day that I will get fired? Is today the day that I will get in a car accident and God forbid injure someone or even kill them? How will I explain the daily lunch break grocery store charges on my online bank statement that fiance frequently checks? I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I was consumed with fear and anxiety and even paranoia. Even the smallest of tasks felt like a chore. To say my life was unmanageable would be an understatement.

Then came the physical shit. Unexplained bruises appeared all up and down my legs and butt. I mean seriously, who gets bruises on their ass? I told myself it was because I was anemic, which I am, and took Iron supplements. They didn’t go away. I felt like complete shit every single morning. My stomach ulcer had returned so my stomach burned so bad some days that I’d be at work finding it difficult to even stand up straight, I just wanted to lie in the fetal position all day. I had mysterious pains and soreness in my internal organs on both sides of my abdomen. I had the shakes constantly to the point of embarrassment. Constant hot flashes where my entire neck and chest would be bright red and I felt like I was on fire. And the sweating, my God the sweating. I was beginning to forget everything, and I really do mean everything. I was completely isolating. Avoiding certain coworkers or my managers for fear they would sense (or smell) that I was under the influence. My mood had changed. I had changed. I prayed and prayed for a way out. For help. Guidance.Safety. I knew deep down I wasn’t safe. I knew terrible consequences lie ahead if I didn’t get better soon, but felt completely helpless and stuck.

Fiance and I took a trip to San Juan very recently. It was much needed for us both, and I was able to enjoy sunrise to (after) sunset drinking the entire time. I did little other than lay on the beach all day, drink, and listen to music, and at night we enjoyed some of the best restaurants. Very early on in our trip, a very clear and unavoidable revelation smacked me in the face so hard, it was impossible to ignore – I cannot go on like this anymore, I NEED HELP! I kept this thought to myself throughout the day, as I didn’t quite know how to express it to fiance, or what his reaction would be. But after several martini’s, sitting on the patio of our gorgeous oceanfront hotel room, watching and listening to the waves crash, I told him.

I thought he would be angry. After all, he had asked me several times in the past 6 months if I was drinking during the day. Every single time I denied it. Then there was the time he happened to take my car to the gym, and found an empty vodka bottle that had rolled to the back seat from underneath it, where I habitually hid them. I minimized it greatly and said “only in the last week” I had slipped and drank at work during the day. I had a few extra vacation days planned for after we arrived home that I had taken with the intention of just having a couple days to unwind before going back to work, but now I decided that it would be a prime opportunity to go into detox for 3-5 days and still be able to go back to work on Monday. I presented all of this to fiance, and he was supportive from the start. He said he felt a sense of relief. His days were filled with worry, he said. This gave me tremendous consolation and further confirmation that this is the path God has led me to.

I made the necessary arrangements with work, and to my surprise, my management and HR team were beyond supportive. I know they knew. Even though I thought I was fooling everyone…I knew deep down I wasn’t. I checked into the hospital on April 13th. No more cigarettes, no more phone or shoelaces or creature comforts. Just me, myself, and my new housemates. I don’t think I have to explain how horrendous alcohol detox is and I will spare you the unpleasant details. Lets just say, I’m grateful I was in a facility that specialized in detoxification from all substances and their primary goal is to make you comfortable. So, they made me as comfortable as possible.

Now, on my 12th day sober, I am enrolled in a Partial Hospitalization program for Dual Diagnoses. It is a 3-4 week program and it’s pretty intense. After this one is over, I intend on completing the PTSD program, which is another 3-4 weeks as well. Today will only be my fourth day, but so far I absolutely love it. The therapists, my peers in group, the program, the facility, everything. I feel beyond grateful to fiance for making sacrifices so I can be there, to my job for being supportive and understanding, and to my family, fiance, and friends for loving and believing in me when I didn’t love or believe in myself. I’m a very blessed girl, and I don’t forget that for a millisecond.

It feels great to be writing again. I named my blog “living in the really real” on purpose. Because if you’re not living in the really real, you are in danger. There are so many lies we tell ourselves to validate our destructive behavior, but really, we are not being real with ourselves or others, which leads to serious trouble. I know the toughest days lie ahead, and I can’t pretend to know how well I will handle them. Those of us in sobriety know that this is a one-day-at-a-time operation. So that’s where I’m at. My hope, of course, is that I will accumulate enough one-day-at-a-time’s for a lifetime so I never have to go through the nightmare of a relapse again. But I know that is too much to think about in the here and now. So for now, I will stay in the moment, be present in this day, day number twelve.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness. Its one we all share, no? But how does one know exactly what will make them happy? I’ve mostly found happiness to be a trial and error business. There we are, trucking along on our journey and something starts to alert us internally. Either we feel sad or trapped or scared or…unhappy. Not like ourselves. So we start to look at our lives as if we are an outsider looking in. We need to act as our own best friend in this situation, and as that best friend, what do we see that is out of place? Sometimes its our relationships. Sometimes it’s our own selves or our own bad habits. Sometimes it’s our workplace. Or for some of us, and I won’t mention any names, it’s all of the above. We can almost always spot what it is immediately, even when we pretend we are confused as to what it is. That just means we do not want to identify it – or in other words, we are in denial. Once we identify and acknowledge it then it requires action, and sometimes “action” means we are broke and alone and have to start over, which is daunting. Maybe we just aren’t ready to deal with all that shit. And that’s okay too.

I was recently alerted internally. Well, it wasn’t a single event or alarm bell. It was more like a constant low-grade siren that was gradually getting louder. I know myself. I am usually happy go lucky, smiley even. I was becoming someone I didn’t recognize. I was internalizing everything, isolating, sad, depressed — unhappy. So I decided to pretend I was an outsider looking in. Most of you already know, I am a professional self-diagnoser anyway. What I saw made me sad. Very sad. I had allowed so much to go on that I wasn’t ok with in all areas of my life. I didn’t view myself as having any value. I believed I was unintelligent, forgetful, ditzy, irresponsible, and so many other things because I believed the negative voices around me — at work, in my personal life, and in my own head.

With so many sources of negativity around you, it becomes so much more difficult to pinpoint the primary or most significant source. I made my best efforts to pinpoint what I thought it was and chose to make a huge change there. Chaos ensued. And I do mean chaos in every way possible. However, I did have some really good people there to catch me when and where I fell. I had some not so good people too. I learned some very important lessons on who to trust and who to not. I learned just how steep the price you pay is when you choose to look the other way for so long.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, but I finally can say that I believe I’m back on solid ground. At least for now. Changes and promises have been changed and promised. I have a renewed hope in my own strength and resilience. I have faith that if I just trust God – who I believe is the One who puts that internal alarm in us when something is not right – to provide the safety net, He will. But for now, I am staying put with the hope that change is possible, the hope that love will always prevail and conquer evil. Call me naive, but I will never give up that hope. I used to always say, “I’m a lover not a fighter”, but now I believe I’m a lover and a fighter. No matter how much the big scary world and the people in it try to make me believe otherwise.

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Life, Interrupted

IMG_8635It has been a rough week. Really rough. Both physically and emotionally. This week has truly been a testament to the unbelievably minute amount of control we really have in our lives. I have come to believe that we control close to nothing, absolutely nothing, and that every single, seemingly unimportant detail acts as a thread of yarn, carefully and purposely woven together to create the tapestry that is our lives.

Sometimes life does this to us. It interrupts everything and demands our immediate attention, requiring confrontation, action. It says, “Drop everything and take care of this now!” And we do. We have to, it’s part of the human experience. Sometimes it gets resolved and sometimes it doesn’t. We just have to keep on keeping on, trusting the process and trusting the One weaving the tapestry.

One of the greatest fears is of the unknown. But everything is unknown really. We can make our lists, agendas, schedules, itineraries, plans, but ultimately those are just illusions of control we create to make us feel better. To allow us to feel as if we have some level of control. The truth is, we can prepare all we want, but we can never control the outcome. It’s perfectly okay to not know what will come next. It’s okay to say to yourself, “I don’t have it all figured out; in fact, I don’t have anything figured out, but for today, I’ve given my best.” Even if your “best” happens to be just getting out of bed.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I haven’t a clue as to how it will unfold. All I do know is that the most feared outcomes in all of this week’s chaos were avoided. Everyone survived, is healing, and will move forward stronger and more grateful people, one day at a time.

Here’s to hoping for a better week ahead!

 

 

 

 

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Remarkable Women

FullSizeRender (14)I visited my old friend, Jamie,  this weekend, with my other old friend, Heather, in tow. Jamie and I used to be inseparable. We were probably 19 or 20 when she started working at the sports bar I worked at and we instantly hit it off. She was going through a pretty emotional breakup, and was now single for the first time in many, many years. Talk about a butterfly coming out of its cocoon, this girl really bloomed into an awesome woman right before my eyes. She was vivacious, wild, fun, driven, ambitious, sassy, and a loyal and nurturing friend to me, which was no easy task considering the train wreck I was. We couldn’t have been more opposite in that regard. She was going through college while working nights, and I was making a living waitressing, bartending, and partying. Regardless, we spent a lot of time together and had some of the best times of our lives.

Years later, she married a wonderful, kind, supportive, loving man. I followed a few years after that, only my husband was none of those things. Our friendship was becoming strained mostly because of me and my bullshit. I was a junkie. I was not capable of being a good friend to anyone. I’m sure there was a part of me that was resentful of her happy marriage and successful career. She was on an exciting and positive trajectory, while I was spiraling further into despair. We still talked but not like we used to.

After I completed rehab in 2007, I stayed in the Twin Cities and got an apartment. Relapse came shortly after and I found myself alone and scared most of the time. I was divorced but living with someone. His drug use made him want to isolate a lot, and when he did, I would wander the dark Twin Cities’ streets alone. Drunk, out of my mind on crack cocaine, and feeling depressed. I would often call Jamie in this state. Surprisingly, she always answered the phone. I could always hear the trembling in her voice when I would tell her where I was. I was constantly putting myself in harms way. “When you hang up with me, I want you to promise me you will do something,” she said once. “Save the letters I C E in your contacts, and put my number in there.” “What does I C E stand for”, I asked.

“In case of emergency”.

My friend Heather and I go back even farther. My first job, when I was thirteen or fourteen, was washing dishes at a diner in my small town. Heather worked at the little pharmacy/gift shop that was next door in the same strip mall. We developed an easy friendship right from the start. We have very similar personalities, and could talk for hours and hours about anything and everything. She knew about my substance abuse, but never touched drugs herself. She never judged me, never scolded me, only supported me and listened when I rambled on and on about how shitty my life was and how badly I wanted to get clean but couldn’t. She always was fiercely quick to defend me when I was beating myself up. “You are such an amazing woman, Eve, don’t ever sell yourself short,” she would say, “You have so many gifts to offer this world.” We lost touch a little bit in the last several years with me living in MN and then NYC, but every time we talked, we picked up exactly where we left off. Our bond is deep and strong.

During this gap in my friendships with both of these women, they – and I – had endured great challenges and hardships. Both Heather and Jamie are breast cancer survivors. I was shocked when I learned that Jamie had breast cancer, but I knew her mother was a survivor so she had always feared she would face an encounter with the disease herself. Knowing this, she took the necessary precautions and got regular mammograms. But when I found out several years later that Heather had breast cancer also, I was just blown away. I was still living in NYC and felt completely helpless from where I was. I was also already well into my most recent relapse with alcohol, so I spent my days drunk, self-centered, and unable to see beyond my next drink. What a piece of shit I was.

Both women endured harsh chemo treatments, depression, great fear, sickness, pain, and suffering. And where was I? By their side offering love, warmth, friendship and help? No, I was busy getting loaded. Two years ago, Jamie suffered a brain aneurysm. While in surgery to remove it, she suffered a stroke and her brain was without oxygen for two hours her husband told me. She was near death as the family was called in on four separate occasions for last rites. Remarkably, she started slowly showing signs of improvement. Physical therapy came eventually where she had to learn how to do the most primal things like how to chew food again. She was also paralyzed on one side of her body. To add to their difficulty, she and her husband, Ryan, had been fostering two beautiful little girls that they had begun the adoption process for.

On Friday, the three of us finally got together after months of trying to coordinate around all of our schedules. I was pretty anxiety-ridden leading up to it as it had been at least 8 years since I last saw Jamie & Ryan. Most of it was probably shame. It’s always shame with me. Shame is such a buzzkill. Shame over abandoning my friends when they needed me most. Shame over being so self-absorbed and so fucking selfish throughout my entire addiction, shame that I consistently failed to “show up” for those I loved. Heather and I had gotten together several times since I moved back, and I was so glad to have her there too. I felt an equal amount of shame for not being there for her as well. And that is only a tiny sliver of why these women are so remarkable. They don’t care. They are not keeping score. They know where I came from and the darkness they eventually lost me to. And all they are is happy to see me alive – to hug me, to see me healthy, to spend time with me, the Eve they know and love, not the sick Eve they watched me become. I’m so happy to see them healthy and alive too. I could have lost them both. We all could have lost each other.

It is a miracle we didn’t.

There was so much to catch up on. and we wasted no time getting right to it. Jamie and Heather were able to talk about and share their experiences with breast cancer treatment and recovery, and I filled her and Ryan in on what I’ve been up to. We got to meet their two adorable little girls for the first time, which was so special. Ever since they got married, I knew they struggled to find the best way for them to expand their family, and it was pretty amazing to see those dreams a reality for them now. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t heartbreaking to see my once vivacious, vibrant best friend confined to a wheelchair, unable to care for herself. I wasn’t prepared for this part, and I felt on the verge of tears the whole time. It was all so cruel, so lifey.

“I am just so excited to get all dolled up and get my hair, nails, and makeup done,” Jamie said, referring to being a bridesmaid in her younger sister’s upcoming wedding. “I really miss that.” I choked back tears and thought about the hours and hours the two of us used to spend in front of the mirror doing our hair and makeup, getting ready for a night out. These are things she can no longer do for herself.

After we left, I drove Heather back to her car, and we talked a little bit. In so many ways, she and I have the same core struggles – us, being our own worst enemies. Not fully believing in ourselves, not knowing which step to take next or how to get to where we want to go. The only one holding us back is us. This can be the most destructive thorn in one’s side, and all sorts of other thorns can grow from this one, threatening to take you down entirely. I wish so badly that I could make Heather see what I see in her, which is a strong, courageous, beautiful woman, with unlimited potential, and the most selfless heart.

Once I was alone again, I thought about us three women. What we were like ten, even fifteen years ago. The kind of women we were hoping to become, the kind of lives we wished for, the children yet unborn that we dreamt of mothering and nurturing. And then I thought about what we had all been through since then, and where we are now. It kind of blew my mind. Not one of us is even close to where we’d hoped or dreamed. Life is kind of uncooperative that way, isn’t it?  There’s a saying they use a lot in recovery that goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.” I never could understand the meaning behind this better than I can now.

These two remarkable women, who have faced great tribulation, and have come out the other side better, stronger people, are inspiring to me in every way possible. How undeserving I am of these two friends. I never was even a quarter of the quality of friend to them that either of them were to me, and here they are, after all these years, still wanting to be with me and be there for me. Still rooting for me. God may have laughed at all of our “plan”s, but believe it or not, His plans were much, much better indeed.

Posted in addiction, change, Faith, Friendship, God, health, life, love, self-care, sickness, sobriety, strength, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to Reality

Condodo Beach, San Juan

Condodo Beach, San Juan

I arrived back home from my vacation late last week. Words fail to capture just how rewarding it was to be in a warm, sunny, soothing paradise for seven whole days. Forget chicken soup, this was meat and potatoes for my weary soul. I literally fought back tears when it was time to leave. Just as we do on every trip to the Caribbean, we bounced scenarios back and forth of how we don’t have kids so why not just find jobs and stay? Why can’t paradise be our home like it is for so many others? The reality is….we are there on vacation, fantasizing about  this scenario from a tourist’s perspective. Making a home there would come with the same responsibilities and stresses that we endure now, only much better weather. “We would get bored after awhile,” boyfriend says. He may be right…but where would you rather be bored — confined to your home due to subzero temperatures, or by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea with the sun shining down on you? Thank you.

My first week back at work went exactly as I expected. Crazy, overwhelming, chaotic. I was surprised and grateful that two of my bosses actually worked on some of my deadline-required tasks, even if they didn’t get a ton of it done – just the gesture, the fact that they cared and respected me enough to not want me to come back to a pile of shit to do meant the world to me. Also, much to my surprise, many of my coworkers were so happy to see me back and were asking me all kinds of questions about my trip, showing genuine interest and happiness for me that I was able to get away for a bit. “You work so hard, Eve, no one deserves a vacation more than you,” said one sweet woman I work with.

Unfortunately, the weather had not transitioned  into Spring as swiftly as I’d hoped. The whole time I was away, I kept thinking that by the time I got back, we would be well into the 50’s and 60’s here. I guess I forgot I live in Wisconsin. I was quickly reminded though when it snowed – yes, snowed – two days this week. Hail too. I find this totally unacceptable. It’s been a bit arduous, to say the least, making the transition from basking in the sun in my bikini to bundling up in my sweater, winter jacket, and scarf. It’s the end of April, people.

Aside from coming back to the cold, this vacation was just what the doctor ordered. It made such a difference in me, my psyche and my state of mind. Before I left, I was beginning to feel like a dark cloud was hanging over my head everywhere I went. I was increasingly negative, resentful, exhausted, and easily irritated. I was letting the ordinary daily formalities of life beat me up even though there was nothing terribly troubling going on. While I was away, I was very mindful of how important it was for me to be fully present in each moment, savoring the experience in its fullness – I knew that if I didn’t, it would go by so fast. Each day I laid on the beach, taking in the ocean and all it’s smells and sounds, I was filled with gratitude. I felt so fortunate to be in this beautiful place. But we all must return to reality eventually.

Culebra, Puerto Rico

Culebra, Puerto Rico

I can either be sad that it’s over, or grateful to have been there. I choose gratitude.

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A Welcome Reprieve

FullSizeRender (12)You know that feeling you get when if you have to be fake nice to that bitchy, condescending, two-faced coworker just one more day, you will spontaneously combust? Or if you have to read one more email from your higher ups reprimanding your poor performance as evidenced by a bunch of bullshit percentages that no one cares about, you are seriously at risk of marching up to one of them and drop kicking him in the nuts? Or when waking up at 2:45AM to the shrill of your alarm just one more time, standing in one more long line at the store, or dutifully completing the obligatory domestic chores for another day just sends you reeling into a semi-psychotic breakdown complete with hair pulling, crying for no reason, and angry outbursts?

Yeah, I’m there.

The good news is that a beautiful, shiny, delicious, sparkly reprieve is within my reach. Today is the last day I have to endure all the woes of corporate retail and the monotony of daily routines before I say “peace out” for eleven whole days. Yes, eleven. The only thing standing in the way of me and my beloved Caribbean is that “one more day”, two flights, and 6 hours of travel. I just have to try my best to not spontaneously combust, and refrain from kicking my boss in the nuts. Seems simple, right? Trust me, it’s not.

But this is what I work so hard for. This is what makes it all worth it. So many people live their whole lives without getting the opportunity to travel or take a vacation, and I am just so grateful that I am able to. Besides music, writing, and my faith, travel is up there on my list of things I’m passionate about and I try to make a priority. Of course, the Caribbean is my favorite, but I just love exploring any new places, cultures, foods. There’s a whole world out there and I’ve always had an innate curiosity to discover it.

So here’s to making it though this one more day without harming myself or others, ending up in jail or the psych ward, and keeping my eye on the prize. Anyone can handle the pressures of just one day, right? Tomorrow afternoon, my toes will be in the sand, and the sweet, salty ocean breeze will soothe my soul. Just one more day.

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Radical Love

FullSizeRender (11)We are so far removed, in the physical sense, from the Crucifixion of Christ, and the events that preceded and followed. We read about it in Scripture, we see it depicted in sensationalized dramas courtesy of cable television, and if we attend church, we hear the message there too. But none of these mediums can possibly convey the radical, irrational, all-encompassing Love that served as a constant catalyst throughout.  I’ve talked before about certain seasons in my life where I felt closest to God, and in those seasons, I could feel a significant portion of that love so strongly. Stronger than ever before. I became so motivated by it – to love and serve others, to share it with nonbelievers and believers – not in a preachy way, and to live my life in a way that was an expression of my gratitude for what Jesus did for me. After all, a simple “thank you” just wouldn’t cut it. I knew there were no words to thank Him sincerely, only actions.

But that season in my life has come and gone.  As I sit here today, I can admit that a distance has accumulated between me and God. I suspect this happens to all of us from time to time. We are human, yes, but our primary malfunction is that we are sinners. Our relationship with God is no different, in terms of what is required of us in order for it to thrive, than our physical relationships. If we are married to someone we love and adore, yet never make them a priority, put our own desires before theirs, and communicate with them only when it’s convenient for us or when we want something, how healthy or fruitful do you think that marriage would be? Are your actions really a reflection of your so-called love and adoration? In my case, I have fallen into the habit of putting other things before God, not making Him a priority, and really only communicating with Him when it’s convenient for me. All things I didn’t do when I experienced such closeness with Him. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak. We have to give in order to receive. It’s a two-way street.

The good news is that there even is good news. Seriously, the history of mankind could have had a much different outcome, and if you’re familiar with the Old Testament, then you know how crazy things got. Mankind was on a destructive path pretty much from the start, and no matter how much God intervened then, the people still couldn’t seem to get it right, save for a few good men and women. Much like the crazy world today that seems to have shut God out. I often picture God, up in the sky, tears in his eyes, shaking his head thinking, why don’t they just listen to me?  The even better news is that God didn’t give up on us, He had a plan all along. A plan that would alleviate mankind from the curse placed upon their souls by their own evil and disobedient hearts.

It’s hard to imagine how Jesus must have felt – physically and emotionally – when He endured torture, humiliation, horror, taunting, temptation, and ultimately death. Even though He was part-God, He was not spared from the pain, not even a little bit. We know that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matt. 26:38). Never before in Scripture have we seen Jesus this distraught. He had already faced demonic opposition, Satanic temptation, and a raging sea with calm composure. This shows just how much terror and anguish he was really in. He prayed so hard, drops of blood fell like sweat from his forehead. This grips me. This brings me to my knees. This Jesus, part God, part man, God’s Son, who loved the sinful human race so much, was about to face unthinkable torture and suffering, and he knew it. Only He didn’t run away, or try to bail like any one of us would do.

Jesus, the Answer to our human dilemma, the Lamb without blemish to atone for our sins. Not because we deserved it, or because we loved God, but because of God’s radical love for us, and His unbelievable mercy. As long as we are in the physical realm, we will never be able to fully understand a love so great. But we can try. And when we sincerely try, and seek Him wholeheartedly, we will experience a portion of it great enough to transform us and move us into action.

Instead of getting the watered-down, “feel good” Easter Message this year,  I’m going to open up my Bible, pray for God to give me understanding, and read about Jesus’ last days on Earth. I’ve read about it so many times before, but it never loses it’s power.  I need to be reminded of the price God paid for my soul’s freedom. I need to rearrange my priorities and put God back on top. And I need to remember how close I came in my own life to becoming spiritually – and physically – dead, until God showed mercy on me, scooped me up, and carried me to a place of safety and recovery – a place closer to Him, where He could heal my wounds, breathe new life into me, and show me a new path.

Instead of wishing you all a happy Easter, my wish for you is that you tap into this radical Love that comes from God. Bathe in it, absorb it, breathe it, and then pass it along to others. Much love and blessings from my heart to yours.

 

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