I’ve been MIA for a while now. A bit of writers block. The past few months I have been feeling a lot of inadequacies at my job. I’ve felt a lot of blame and criticism from one of my coworkers that has fed my stories of “you are inadequate” and “you aren’t smart enough” and my personal favorite “you will never be good enough”. In addition, I work in a very demanding financial industry where we are in the midst of our busy season. It seems that no matter how much I put in, I’m failing in some way. If I spend lots of hours at the office, I feel I am failing as a mom. If I put in my normal hours, I feel I am failing at my job. Any way I slice it, I see failure. Those stories of “you are inadequate” and “you will never be good enough” continued to grow.
I took two days off work to go to a women’s retreat and getting to the retreat was quite the ordeal. I realized as I was getting things ready to leave that this career path wasn’t working for me. The amount of drama and pressure that was mounting for missing two days of work was overwhelming. I acknowledged again the reality that my current career doesn’t align with my beliefs any more. I used to believe that success was measured by how much money I made and by what my job title was. I don’t believe that any more. Success to me is found in fulfillment and by giving back to others. Finding purpose in life rather than just living life. For a while, my job gave me the financial security to find my passion in other ways. That worked for a bit, but I’m realizing it doesn’t work for me now. I need more. I need to feel like I’m making a difference in the world rather than just “working for the man”. I need to feel like I am helping others around me and I want to see the names and faces of those I am helping. I wasn’t sure where this would come from but I know I needed a change.
At the women’s retreat we talked about fear. One of the questions that was posed was “What would you do if fear didn’t hold you back?” My immediate response was “I would get a new job.” To be precise, the response is really “I would change career paths. Fear has kept me in this job for longer than I’d like to admit. Fear of what will happen with my current job (I currently work for my brother). Fear of what others will think. Fear of what a new job/career move would entail. I might not love my current job but I know what to expect. Fear of how this job change will affect my family, my finances. Most of all, fear of failure has been my biggest fear. Fear of wanting something so badly and not getting it. Fear of putting myself out there and being rejected. Fear of not being “good enough” or “inadequate”. All the things I’m already feeling currently. It’s as if I would rather feel the inadequacy and not good enough I already feel than branch out and reach for something more.
So the question was posed, my answer was given. And as only the universe can do, it gave me something to grasp. I went to my room to journal about what we had just talked about and happened to check my email. There, in big letters from an organization I am passionate about were the words “Position Opening: Local Service Director”. This was like manna from heaven. The universe’s way of telling me it had heard my answer and it too wanted something more for me. Could it be? I looked through the job description and realized….I wanted this. BAD. This job is literally my dream job. In the past, my desire would have created a fantasy that included me getting this job with little to no preparation, and it was magically mine because I asked the universe for it. And then, when it didn’t happen. The self fulfilling prophesy of “I can’t ever get what I want” was fulfilled.
But I want this job. I want it bad. I put together a new resume, cover letter, and got my letters of recommendation. I did what I could. And the universe responded. Again. My daughter got a scholarship at our local university and we went to an awards brunch. We sat down at a random table and made conversation with the people we were sitting with. One man was a professor at the university and talked about some humanitarian work some of his students were doing. He said to come talk to him about humanitarian work if I was interested in a career change. I figured he was just being nice and didn’t really think much of it. After leaving the brunch, I googled this man’s name and lo and behold, he wasn’t just a professor but the executive director of the university’s community service center. Universe wins again!
I emailed him my resume and cover letter and he responded quickly, kindly, and with additional information. He said to come visit him any time and he would be happy to help me in my search of a more rewarding community oriented career. It was as if the universe was telling me that even if the job that originally started this quest didn’t work out, there were other rewarding pieces to the puzzle being put into place. There were other options for me. It wasn’t the dream job or stay in my current job. There were variables in between.
So I started just looking around at other job posting, and applying for random jobs, in the event my dream job didn’t pan out. And I started getting calls and interviews. In my entire 39 years, I think I have had 3 job interviews and all of them were before the age of 21. My entire adult life has been owning a business and working for my brother.
I interviewed for jobs I didn’t really love. I looked at it as experience. Each of the jobs I interviewed for, I wasn’t real excited about. They were jobs I wasn’t sure I would really take if offered. Yet, when I wasn’t offered these jobs, the old stories of “you’re not good enough” and “you’re incompetent” were playing on repeat in my head. In addition, there were several jobs I applied for but was never called to interview. These stories only grew stronger.
Yet having job interviews for jobs I didn’t really feel passion around was helpful. In some ways, it was as if they were the warm up for the main event. Finally, after several weeks of waiting, I got the call to interview for my dream job. And by this time, I had been through several types of interviews. I had been through a behavioral interview. I had been through an interview with the entire board of an organization. I had been on phone interviews. Interviewing wasn’t so scary to me anymore because I had some experience. I walked into the interview a bit nervous, but calm. (I know it seems paradoxical) The interview was organic. Real. It felt more like a conversation than a job interview. And when I walked out, I felt confident in how I presented myself. I don’t know if that means I will get this job or not, but what it does mean is that I know I gave it my all. Fear didn’t hold me back. Fear of being “not good enough” or inadequate didn’t win.
I made a decision to do whatever it takes to find a new, rewarding career. Maybe it will be with this company I am so passionate about. Maybe it will be with another company I don’t even know about. Maybe it will be with the company I am interviewing for this week. What I have learned is that once I made the firm decision I needed more in my life, my current career choice is no longer serving me, the universe (AKA my Higher Power) has responded. I think often I have felt like I’ve made a decision to do something, when in reality I have made a decision to try until it gets too uncomfortable. I’m willing to try something with having failure as an option.
Deciding is freedom. Indecision is torture
When I wasn’t sure what I wanted, I let fear lead the way. For years I’ve been unsatisfied in my career but felt like it was all I could do. Torture is a great way to describe what I was feeling. It was as if what I wanted was just out of my reach and I couldn’t find a way to get to it. Fear had a big hold on me and I felt powerless in it’s grasp. Deciding that maybe I could do something different but not making a decision was torture. Making the decision to do whatever it takes to find a new, rewarding job was freedom.
It got me thinking, indecision has been torturous in every aspect of my life. When I’m indecisive any way, fear gets in my way. It’s like I’m telling fear that it still has a chance. When I’m indecisive I let fear win. When I make a decision, I chose freedom. That doesn’t mean that every step of the way will be a breeze or that I won’t continue to need to make the same decision over and over. When I made the decision to live a life of recovery, I found a new freedom. Prior to that point, I wanted recovery but hadn’t made the decision to do whatever it took. I was indecisive. I wanted it some days, and didn’t on other days. Living my life with one foot in recovery and one foot in addiction was torture. I never felt settled or secure in what I was doing. Once my decision was made to really live in recovery, whatever that took, I felt a freedom I had never known. Admitting powerlessness was an incredible relief. When I made the decision to turn my will and life over to the care of a Higher Power, I found a new freedom. I didn’t have to feel in control any more. I didn’t need to worry about every aspect of my life and the lives of those around me because I had a Higher Power that was taking care of it all. I could relax and let my Higher Power do his thing. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t invested in my life or the lives of those I loved, but that I didn’t run the show. Deciding was freedom.
I’m not sure what the next few weeks will bring. I am not sure if my “dream job” will pan out. What I do know is that I have made a decision to make a change, and I am leaving the results of that change to my Higher Power. He’s pretty awesome at taking care of me.
“Life moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop to look around once in a while you could miss it” -Ferris Bueller
Last week I went on a field trip to a local tulip festival with my daughter. The flowers were AMAZING and there were so many different colors, sizes, and shapes of tulips. As we overlooked the whole gardens, I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of tulips in front of me. There were so many different walking paths lined by rows and rows of color. It was easy to get lost in the largeness of it all. Our group started out with the purpose of getting through the gardens. They were so expansive and we had such a limited amount of time that I was afraid we wouldn’t see it all if we didn’t hurry. A few walking trails in, I started to notice the “sameness” of it all. Each walking path had different variations of flowers yet they were all similar, almost predictable. What started out with such a sense of awe was starting to become mundane. And then, we decided to start a scavenger hunt to look for specific items. An acorn, a spider web, a flying insect. The items on our scavenger hunt list were things we needed to pay attention to. If we didn’t pay attention, they were easily missed. As I slowed down to look for these items, I started noticing the small variations of each tulip. Different patterns within the petals, even variations in the shape of the leaves. There was so much I was missing in my race to get through the garden.
It hit me, in the middle of the garden, with a bunch of 3rd graders at my side.
How much of life do I miss trying to just get to the finish line?
Get to the next day, next project, next experience. How much of life passes me by because I am so consumed with just getting by? How much of my life is missed because I am just busy scanning the whole field instead of looking at a single flower in all of it’s individual glory? How much of my life is missed because I’m completely unaware of what is going on around me? How many acorns, ants, flying insects and spiderwebs are missed because I’m not opening my eyes to them? How many variations of color in my life are missed?
This is what recovery is teaching me. To slow down, enjoy the small things in my life. I don’t need to start over at the beginning to see it all. I can start where I am today, in this very moment and start to notice what is going on around me. I can be present in this very moment and enjoy all life has to offer me today. I can chose to focus on the end of the garden, or I can chose to focus on the flower in front of me. It’s important for me to check in to make sure I’m on the right path to get to the destination I want, and it’s equally important for me to enjoy the journey. Today I am choosing to make the most of this day. Not with endless to do lists or a laundry list of chores, but to be present in every aspect of my life. I’m choosing to notice the external view around me and I’m choosing to notice what is going on inside of me as well. Life moves pretty fast and I don’t want to miss it.
Since November, my family has spent an enormous amount of time (and money) at the doctor’s office. We’ve had a run of Influenza A, Pneumonia, Mono, as well as our fair share of the sniffles. I was hoping the warmer weather would bring welcome relief from the doctor’s office but so far, that hasn’t been the case. My youngest daughter woke up last week not feeling very well. She had a headache and sore throat, that soon went into body aches. The body aches turned into chills and a fever, and before long we were at the doctor with a strep throat diagnosis. Within a few days, this was passed on to two other children and we had made several more trips to the doctor and the pharmacy for antibiotics. Popsicles and ice cream have been consumed in large quantities and there have been many days spent on the couch snuggled up in a blanket.
So it shouldn’t have been surprising when I woke up with a bit of a headache. Yet, my initial reaction was to reach for the ibuprofen and ignore the warning signs my body was trying to send. I didn’t think much about my headache, because the ibuprofen did it’s job. It masked the symptom and I felt pretty normal for a few hours. By lunch time, I started feeling my body aching and I felt a little cold. I chalked it up to stress and work and cooler temperatures, and again reached for the ibuprofen to numb those achy feelings of physical discomfort. As I caught a glimpse of those pills in my hand, something inside me stopped. It was as if there was a little part of my being that was saying “PAY ATTENTION! Your body is trying to tell you something.” When I stopped and took a moment to listen to this voice, I knew that I was sick. Not just a case of the sniffles, I knew that I had strep throat too. I didn’t want to pay attention to the signs, but they were there all along. If I had been paying attention instead of numbing the symptoms, I would have recognized my need for medical attention sooner. Yet it was so easy for me to numb out.
It got me thinking…my entire life has beens spent numbing, hiding, disconnecting from myself. From a very young age, I learned to ignore what was really happening in my life. I learned how to numb out with fantasy, food, and a variety of other substances. I learned how to look outside myself for answers.
Disconnection was way I learned to survive. It’s the way I learned how to cope with things I didn’t like in my world. I ignored anything that was uncomfortable and pushed it out of my mind. The more I ignored, the easier it became. Soon, disconnection was all I knew. My life became one big game of “how to avoid pain”.
Disconnection was at the core of my addiction. I was treating the symptoms, ignoring what was really happening. I was disconnecting instead of stopping and allowing myself to feel hurt, sadness, anger, frustration or a host of other emotions. I was taking the proverbial ibuprofen every time I felt the slightest ache or pain. I bought into the idea that if I stayed busy enough, I wouldn’t have to face the truth of what my life was really like. Sometimes I disconnected with “good” things. I numbed out, masked what was happening inside by taking care of my family, serving others, focusing all my time and attention outside of myself. I stayed busy. Busy with work, busy with family, busy with endless to do lists and projects. Sometimes I disconnected, masking these feelings with negative and self destructive things like unhealthy relationships, drugs, alcohol, food, and sleep.
Whatever the case, whatever the reason, when I ignore what is going on inside of me, I am disconnecting from myself. I’m numbing feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. Disconnection has kept my life painful and complicated. Instead of feeling fear, I push it away.When I dismissed my headache, and chose to take some ibuprofen to numb, I was disconnecting from myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to connect to what was really happening inside, so I wasn’t allowing the opportunity to heal. I would rather stay in an endless state of numbing than to face the problem head on.
The moment I stop resisting what is going on, I open myself up to new possibilities that weren’t available to me before.
When I stop resisting, I can connect to the parts of myself I’ve been longing for. Listening and paying attention to my body allow healing to begin. When I don’t allow myself to feel hurt, grief, or pain of any sort, I get caught up in disconnection. In trying to protect myself from the pain of a headache, I was actually making myself more sick. In the same way, when I’m trying to protect my heart (by not allowing myself to feel), I actually allow the negative thoughts and feelings to grow rather than experience them and free myself from them.
Each day I take my antibiotic for strep throat, I heal a little bit more. Each day, more and more of the bacteria that caused me to be sick is removed from my body. In life, reconnection is my antibiotic. Each day I practice this, more and more of the disconnection that caused me to be sick is removed from my body. When I experience whatever it is that I am experiencing, I line myself up with what actually is. I stop pretending that it isn’t. Denying what I feel doesn’t make it go away. I’m ensuring that it grows and gets stronger while I ignore and pretend it’s not there.
It is easy for me to fall back in these patterns because they have been my lifeline for so many years. I have ignored, pushed away, avoided, and fought back for most of my life.
Some days I get frustrated when I fall back into these old patterns. Ok…most days I get frustrated when I see old patterns in my life. But I’m learning to listen to myself and take note. I’m learning to breathe deeply and check in with myself to reconnect. I’m learning to share that connection with others. And little by little I’m seeing healing in my life. And for that I am grateful.
Uncertainty. Even writing this word brings up a sense of uneasiness for me. The definition of uncertainty according to Merriam-Webster is “indefinite, problematic, not reliable, not known beyond a doubt, not having certain knowledge, not clearly identified or defined.” This word has been on my mind a lot recently. It has been one of the driving forces of addiction for me. It’s been a driving force for my need to control the world around me. A life full of uncertainty has been problematic, unreliable and terrifying to me. In order to keep uncertainty at bay, I’ve tried to keep my life as constant as possible. Change has meant uncertainty so I would rather be “certainly unhappy” than to explore what change might allow into my life.
I don’t like change. I don’t like the unknown. I’m realizing that this fear of the unknown has dictated most of my life decisions, both big and small. My life’s unspoken motto is “take the safe route”. I am realizing that I wanted safety outside of myself because internally, there hasn’t been safety. Taking the safe route meant I didn’t have to deal with loss or change. It meant I didn’t have to deal with any emotions that would come up. It meant that I could be lured with a false sense of certainty or security that I could create safety in my life.
I’ve been more aware of this uncertainty in my life because the hubs was recently offered a new job. This process has rocked my world. The interviewing and negotiation process was long and drawn out and at every step of the way, I have been completely frozen in fear. His current job offers so much certainty to me. It’s a well established company with good benefits and little pressure to “do more”. There are many wonderful aspects about this company yet to get the salary my husband desires, it requires him to put in extra hours and be on call 24/7. The new company gives him the salary he was looking for, with the opportunity to grow inside the company. (Something his current job doesn’t allow for). Seems like a no brainer, right? Instead of weighing the pros and cons for both companies and deciding what is best for our family, I have been frozen in fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of uncertainty. I am a creature of habit. I like routine. His current job is certain. I know what to expect. I know that he works most Friday nights. I know that he can get called in the middle of the night or while we are at the movies. I know they don’t give pay increases, I know that they don’t encourage growth within the company. These are known to me. I might not like them, but they are known.
The uncertainty of this new company is completely terrifying to me. I know the words that have been spoken, but I don’t know if what they are saying is true. Will he really be required to work extra hours? Will he really be on call more than they have said? Will they really promote from within? What is their benefit package really like? Will he get along with his coworkers? Will it be a good environment for him to work in? Will the company keep growing or if the market changes will he be jobless? There have been many times throughout this process that I wanted to just give up and have him stay with his current company. If we stayed wth things as they are, I wouldn’t need to face the unknown. That thought was comforting to me. And stifling.
My amazing therapist gently reminded me that this feeling of being frozen in fear is trauma repetition every step of the way. When I was 8, my dad was in a really bad motorcycle accident. He spent a lot of time in the hospital learning how to walk, talk and eat all over again. Being the youngest of 5, this was a big T trauma for me. I went from the safety and security of a two parent household, to the uncertainty of my dad’s future. Because of my age, most people didn’t really talk to me about what was going on. Yet I heard bits and pieces of conversations that were happening around me and formed my own conclusions. In my 8 year old brain, my family as I knew it would never be the same and that uncertainty immobilized me.
The hub’s job change has taken me right back to this time in my life where I was frozen in fear. Terrified of what my life would be like if my dad passed away, if he became a vegetable, or a host of other equally terrifying options I was stuck in freeze mode. The instability or changing of a job to me signifies uncertainty. It’s not known. it’s not reliable or certain to occur. I am terrified of what my life would be like if the hubs suddenly becomes unemployed. I am terrified if we make this move and it doesn’t work out. Yet I also know that staying with what is certain, or safe, is stunting growth. It’s stunting the growth of the hubs as a professional and it’s stunting our growth as individuals. How do I allow growth in my life if I’m not willing to grow in every part of myself?
I’m realizing that change is a form of loss. Things can’t go back to the way they were. Or the way I think they should be. They can only go forward. Part of my process includes grieving how things were, how I wanted them to be and then moving forward, with uncertainty. I am learning to do this with my 8 year old self that never really dealt with the loss of how life was before the accident. I’m learning to do this by grieving the loss of how I thought life should be at 8 years old, and compassionately accepting how life was and is. I’m learning to do this with my 39 year old self by grieving the loss of my illusion of safety and certainty within the hub’s current company. I’m learning to grieve the loss of how I would like for things to be (Safe, certain, and all wrapped up in a pretty bow). And I’m moving forward with uncertainty. And faith. I love how Brene Brown defines faith:
“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty”.
THIS is the faith that I am moving forward with. I am looking for the courage to believe in something I cannot see. I’m seeking the courage to make this move and not fall back into old self destructive numbing behaviors. I’m looking for strength to let go of my fear of uncertainty. I’m seeking the strength to allow this new change in my life and not try to control it at every turn. I’m trying to lead with faith and not fear.
So as the hubs starts his new job this coming week, I will be rereading this post over and over to remind myself that uncertainty is part of the human experience. It’s what I chose to do with this uncertainty that will make the difference in my life. Wish me luck, strength or peace, or all of the above. I’m going to need them all.
This week I am celebrating one year of sobriety. ONE YEAR! It seems crazy that only one year ago I was in a very different place in my life. In some ways, I feel like it was yesterday. There are some feelings and memories that are so fresh, it doesn’t take much to remember them. In other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. There are some feelings and memories that have been laid to rest, and I feel so disconnected from them.
I started thinking about all the things I’ve learned in the last year in REAL recovery. I’ve been in “recovery” before. I went to a drug treatment center when I was 16. I went to my religious organization’s version of 12 step programs on and off for 3 years. More on than off. And yet, in all of this time, I can recognize I was not in REAL recovery. I knew deep inside that I was longing for something different, something that I wasn’t getting. But I didn’t know what it was. It took some courageous experiences to get to my first 12 step meeting and to embark upon this healing journey.
It’s been hard. And scary. Incredible and frightening. I’ve recognized how much of my life has been driven by fear. I was afraid of this journey and it’s one of the many reasons why it took me so long to get here. I wish I could go back and tell myself how important this journey will be. When I walked into my first 12 step meeting, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I want to go back in time and tell myself so many things. I decided I would write myself a letter. This is the letter I wish I would have had one year ago. So here it goes:
You are embarking on a crazy journey. I’ve compiled a list of things you will learn along the way. Embrace these points and you will heal. Slowly, ever so slowly. But it will happen.
1. It’s going to be HARD. Really hard. Probably the hardest thing you’ve done in your life. You are going to change and grow and the people around you aren’t going to like it. Your change and growth requires something different from them. It might require that they look at their own unhealed parts of themselves. It might bring up fear of abandonment. It will bring up feelings they might not want to look at. The people closest to you will resist your changes. It will change the dynamic of each of your relationships. Stay with it. It’s worth it.
2. Every single relationship you have will change. Some will be for the good. Some people will grow along side you. Some relationships will heal and grow into something you never imagined. Some relationships will deepen and become richer. Other relationships you will find aren’t worth the energy it will take. You will find that in some relationships you bring your representative. You aren’t willing to bring your true self. Those are the relationships that will start to fizzle out over time.
3. You will learn that grieving is a constant in your life. You will learn that you grieve over large and small things in your every day life. You will learn that you grieve expectations you have of yourself and others. You will grieve for the loss of how you hoped things would be. You will grieve over lost friendships. You will grieve for the little girl who lives inside of you. You will grieve for all the ways you have been hurt by others and you will start to grieve for the ways you are learning that you have hurt others. You will grieve for the loss of your children’s innocence. You will grieve for lost hopes and dreams. You will grieve parts of yourself. Stay with this grief, it will heal you.
4. The sooner you learn that connecting with yourself is the key in inner peace, the sooner you can start this healing journey.
Your first REAL step is to turn inward.
If you don’t feel like you have anything to offer the world, go inward. Not inward in a hiding way, but inward in an exploratory way. Go inward, DEEP inward. Breathe. Open and discover your true self sitting quietly inside.
Your true value and worth won’t ever come in gaining approval, losing weight, being “better”. Your true value will come in meeting yourself. Finding your way to her will bring you healing you never dreamed possible. When you are lost, you are really longing to meet yourself. Nothing will satisfy that need. When you are feeling lonely, isolated, resentful, angry, or any other negative emotion it’s a gentle reminder to go back to that place within.
5.You are going to experience a new level of darkness that you’ve never experienced. It will be important to stay with it, experience it fully. It won’t go away until you do. Its the way you will experience the very center of yourself. You will need to experience every part of yourself to get there.
“Let it hurt, Let it heal, Let it go”
is a mantra you will come to love. Until you let it hurt, completely, you can’t heal. Healing takes time and you will feel this stage will last forever. It won’t. But there will be many, many dark days. Stay with it.
6. You’ve developed lots of ways you chose to numb what you feel. You run, divert, distract, over consume, over do, point fingers, create drama, fight, push away. You do these things so that you don’t have to carry hurt, anger, or sadness. You do these things so that you don’t have to feel the full joy that some feelings bring. You numb because you are scared. Scared to feel. Fear has driven your life and most of your life choices. You are afraid of yourself. You are afraid of your own feelings. But these feelings need to come out. You can chose to speak to them or they will claw their way out in other forms. Speaking to them seems scary, but try it. Giving yourself a voice is liberating.
7. You will find people along your path who will inspire you to be a more authentic version of yourself. You will find people who you will strive to be like. You will want what they have. You will see them walking the walk and talking the talk. This will help you take pieces of their recovery into your own. There will be others along your journey who are talking the talk but not walking the walk. You will learn from them as well. You will learn ideas, beliefs and behaviors you don’t want in your journey. Every person on your path gives value to your recovery.
8. The more you seek, the more you will find. Truth seekers find truth. You are a truth seeker and you will find truth. Some of these truths will be spoken differently than you’ve ever heard them. You will find truth in spoken word, in written word, and in physical ways. You will learn to recognize truth in any form. Each step along the way will lead you to more truths. Don’t stop.
9.You have what it takes. You’ve had it all along. You will doubt yourself many times along this journey. Love yourself through this doubt. When you chose everything other than love, you are running away from your own magnificence. You run because you don’t feel it is something you are worthy of possessing. Love yourself to know that no matter the outcome, you are enough.
10.I love you. Genuinely and completely. As you are, right in this moment. I love every part of you. I love the little girl who lives inside you who has wanted her voice to be heard. I love the bratty teenager who wants to rebel against anything and everything. I love the logical you who likes to use reason and not emotion to solve problems. I love the critical you. I love the caretaker in you, the one who puts everyone else’s needs before her own. I love every part of you, especially the parts that you don’t want me to love. There is nothing you can say or do that will make me love you more or less. YOU as you are, are enough, complete, and worthwhile
This past summer I lost a dear friend and her 11 year old daughter in a tragic accident. The details surrounding their deaths were horrible and seemingly senseless. They were taken tragically, in a place they love, in front of all their family, including my friend’s husband and young son. Upon hearing of their deaths, I was overcome with grief. There was a gut wrenching emptiness that seemed to go on forever. It didn’t seem possible. Or fair. My mind went back to the last time we were together. A new layer of grief and guilt was added to my already broken heart. I hadn’t been present with her. I was in the same room and talking with her, but my mind was somewhere else. I wasn’t sure that I would ever be able to forgive myself.
This week it would have been my sweet friend’s daughter’s 12th birthday. As the day of her birthday came, I felt a new sense of grief I wasn’t really prepared for. As the feelings started to come, my first instinct was to push them away. This was the way I lived most of my life. I blocked out any negative or uncomfortable feeling I had. It’s how I survived. I’m learning to push through this survival instinct and allow the feelings to come, however hard this process might be.
One of the beautiful gifts of recovery for me is the ability to grieve. I started grieving for the things that I lost when I entered recovery. I started grieving for my children’s loss of innocence, the loss of my character, the loss of a relationship I wanted but couldn’t have. I learned that there were many “deaths” I had to grieve. Once I could start grieving these losses, it was as if every thing I had ever lost in my life came back to me. All the feelings of loss and grief I had stored up for 39 years was coming back. Patrick Carnes calls recovery a program of dealing with losses. I find this so incredibly true in my life. The more i grieve, the more I understand how much more grieving I still have to do. Sometimes this grief is overwhelming, like in the case of a death of a dear friend. Sometimes this grief seems more insignificant. I have learned that I grieve big and small losses often.
If I can’t grieve, I can’t fully accept what is going on in my life.
In order to fully accept that my friend and her sweet daughter were tragically taken much too quickly, I have to grieve this. Over and over again. I grieved when I heard of the news. I grieved when I thought back to the last time we were together. I grieved when I saw them snuggled up in the same casket together at the viewing. I grieved at the funeral as I heard members of their family pay tribute to them. I continue grieve when I think of her brokenhearted husband and son who grieve in their own way. I grieve on special days like Christmas and birthdays. I grieve when I see a young girl riding a horse and when I look at my children’s American girl dolls, both of which were things her daughter loved. I grieve a little bit each time I see the color pink and when I drink a Diet Coke in my friend’s honor.
What I’ve learned in each of these experiences is that grief looks a little different. I might shed a few tears in one moment of grief and I might feel emptiness in another.
Grief forever changes me. I become a new person through grief.
Part of my grieving process includes taking time to get to know this new person. This new me. This new me who is undeniably changed through grief.
Giving myself permission to grieve has been one of the most incredible gifts of recovery. Giving myself permission to grieve as long and as often as needed has opened me up to a new level of acceptance. Acceptance of myself. Acceptance of my feelings. Acceptance of my experiences. Acceptance of the experiences of others. Acceptance of the process. Acceptance of reality.
Grief is an acceptance process. For me to grieve my friend’s death, it’s accepting reality. For me to grieve the loss of time spent in addiction, is accepting reality. For me to grieve that I have hurt my own children through addiction, is accepting reality. Acceptance doesn’t make it easy. In fact, grief is anything but easy. Grief brings acceptance and acceptance brings peace. There was a time in my life that I chose easy. I’m not choosing that any more. I’m choosing peace.
So today, the day after my sweet friend’s birthday, I’m grateful, I’m grateful that I have the ability to grieve. I’m grateful that I loved someone enough that this grief is hard. I’m grateful for recovery and for teaching me that grief is not only good, but necessary for healing. I’m grateful to be able to celebrate a life that was cut way too short. I’m choosing to grieve in order to live.
Happy Birthday Princess!