Thursday, June 5, 2014


How I wish I could find a way to share with you what the past nine weeks have been like. 

For once words fail me, because one of my greatest gifts - the gift of story - is also one of my greatest liabilities.

I love a happy ending; a hopeful garnish to ease the sting of pain.  

There is no room in my life for decorative flair these days. I am on a journey inside, to the unvarnished truth.  I am traveling through time and space, to the very core of me.   It is both a wondrous and terrifying experience.  I cannot afford to dodge unpleasantness or pain.  This is not to say I do not have hope or happiness; I have plenty of both. 

But I have learned that my preference for a neat, tidy, happy ending has allowed me to avoid uncomfortable truths about myself. 

I read my own words about the difficulties of the past three years, and I see a lot of grace, hope and gratitude.  I see myself weather the loss of my Dad, battle cancer, wrestle with depression, anxiety, and struggle with relapse.

The words I have written in this space are all true. I am skilled at finding grace in the darkness. 

It's what has not been on the page that matters now.  I wielded my words like a shield, hoping they would protect me from the increasingly shaky ground under my feet.  I didn't want to look down, at the cracks. I wanted to reach for the sky.

The thing about the sky?  It is unreachable.  What matters is what under my feet, a solid foundation. The parts that nobody sees, deep in the earth, are what holds everything else up. 

I don't know where I belong these days.

All I know is that it is impossible to go on a sacred internal journey and write about it for the world to see.  

But because I have written so publicly about recovery for so many years, I do want to share this:  I have spent the past 60 days at an all women's inpatient residential treatment center.  I completely stepped away from my life, my family, my kids, my world.   It is the hardest thing I have ever done, because I so want to be needed. I want to be the mortar that holds everything together. It is much easier to do that than to look at myself. 

Moms aren't supposed to do this, step away and focus only on ourselves.  We are hardwired, most of us, to sublimate our needs to help others.  We aren't supposed to put ourselves first - especially after the selfishness of addiction has held the whole family hostage. 

I have hurt a lot of people over the past few months.  I lost myself, and instead of asking for help, I thought I could tough my way through it on sheer force of will.  I was so, so scared, but I kept madly weaving myself a tale of strength and hope, instead of admitting that fear had me by the throat.  I would like to say I should have known better, but the irony is that all the knowledge in the world can't help against addiction.  I forgot about God. I took my will back.

When it comes to addiction, self-care is key.  In general, women struggle with this.  Women in recovery have an even greater struggle, because we wrestle with so much guilt, shame and remorse that we overcompensate and give even more of ourselves away.  At least I did.  Maybe this will sound familiar to some of you, too.

As much as I want to be with my kids, at the moment that is not fair to them, because they can't make me well.  It's an inside job.  I need to be here, among other recovering women, and I am no good to anyone, especially my kids, until I am on steadier ground.

So here I am, post treatment, sitting in a little room in a sober house on Cape Cod, living with four other recovering women.  I am taking it slowly this time, my re-entry into life.  I have lost a lot of things I used to take for granted, everything from driving to the privilege of being part of my kids' everyday lives. 

I don't know what my life will look like going forward. It's no longer up to me.  I am living moment-to-moment, praying, doing my best and letting go of the outcome.  I am sitting in lots of discomfort. I can't afford to wonder what people are thinking of me, if I am being judged or scorned.   I don't know what will happen.  All I know is that if I am sober it will all work out the way it is supposed to, and that may not be the way I would like it to.

My suburban life feels very far away at the moment.  I have spent two months living with people who are battling for their lives, and it changes my perspective on a lot of things.  I feel disconnected from the things that were so much a part of my identity: writing, blogging, advocacy, jewelry making. 

Those are things I do, but they aren't who I am.

I am a work in progress: a flawed, joyful, messy, broken, hopeful, grateful woman in recovery. 

And today, that is enough.