One week from today I will celebrate 31 years of continuous sobriety. April 11, 1987, was my first day clean and sober after losing everyone, everything, and trying to end my life. It has been an amazing journey filled with joys, pains, grief, love, adventures, and so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Nic Sheff, an alcoholic and addict, wrote his story in a book called Tweak. He was able to capture so well what I know to be true in these words:
“And though I have done many shameful things, I am not ashamed of who I am. I am not ashamed of who I am because I know who I am. I have tried to rip myself open and expose everything inside – accepting my weaknesses and strengths – not trying to be anyone else. ‘Cause that never works, does it? So my challenge is to be authentic. And I believe I am today. I believe I am.”
In order to be my authentic self, I had to find my way back to God. Glennon Doyle Melton expresses it best saying, “Recovery is an unbecoming. My healing has been a peeling away of costume after costume until here I am, still and naked before God, stripped down to my real identity.” The biggest surprise was that even stripped down to my real identity and becoming my authentic self, God loved me. I had always heard that God is love, but I assumed that love was only for the good people.
I didn’t believe God loved me. In fact, I felt so empty on the inside, and I just wanted to know God the way other people said they did. Jesus was their best friend. God spoke to them all the time. I tried so hard to find the perfect formula to make God love me. All the work I did in the church, starting the day with devotions, reading my Bible, not listening to secular music or certain tv shows, being a submissive wife, and more. But it just didn’t work.
In Anne Lamott’s audiobook, Word by Word she shares a poem written by her dog Sadie Louise. You read that right. Anne Lamott’s dog Sadie wrote a poem. One line from the poem reads, “Drunks drink because they miss Jesus.” Sadie the dog got that right, I believe. In recovery programs, it is better known as “drinking and using tries to fill the God hole in our soul.” Nothing could fill that hole until I let God in.
The person who helped me understand that had started out as my therapist, Jan F. She “made” me get sober. Ok, no one can make you get sober, but it was get sober or stop seeing her. After I finished with therapy, she became my best friend, as well as spiritual mentor and guide. On March 7 of 2008, she unexpectedly passed away from a massive heart attack leaving me hurt, angry, and questioning God once again. Her memorial service wasn’t held until April 5. During the weeks prior to her service, I slipped back into depression and began having panic attacks. I wanted to drink with every passing day.
It was at her memorial service the week after Easter that I found a sense of peace and acceptance. Her pastor shared the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus after their brother Lazarus had died. Martha runs out to confront Jesus, saying that if He had only come sooner her brother would not have died. I questioned God in the same way after Jan’s death. “God, if you had paid attention, she wouldn’t have died. You could have saved her,”
The pastor went on to say:
“Make what you will of this narrative. It gives license to those of us, who like Jan, struggle with times like these and even struggle with any understanding of God, to let God have it like Martha does. In fact, I suspect one of the lessons Jan learned, very much like Martha, is that it is far better to let God be the object of our anger and frustration, because God can handle it and transform it into something different, new and better, sparing anyone else upon which we may unload it from harm, and us from harming others, whether intentionally or not. So, we come to acknowledge our loss, to acknowledge the pain and even the anger of this loss, but also to recognize that our lives are already mysteriously being changed and transformed as we reflect upon Jan’s life and Jan’s death.”
It has been ten years since Jan’s death and memorial service. I still miss her especially on holidays, or when I want to share important life events with her, and particularly on my AA sober anniversary. I do believe in the Easter message of resurrection. I know that death isn’t the end. At times, I still feel the presence of Jan’s spirit.
As I approach the coming anniversary, I am filled with a sense of awe, a spirit of gratitude, and a renewed belief that God loves my authentic, real self. I also know God is asking me to follow an unknown road during this season of my life. I will celebrate this anniversary with family and friends who love me just as I am. As Anne Lamott says, “You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child.”
Period! No more needs to be said.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It was created in 1949 to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for all. This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is – Life with a Mental Illness – and will call on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and video by tagging their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike (or submitting to MHA anonymously). Posts will be collected and displayed at mentalhealthamerica.net/feelslike.
I am 1 in 5. I find it easier to tell you that I am a recovering alcoholic and addict than it is to tell you I have a mental health condition. I would almost rather admit to being a cat burglar. Even in our more enlightened time, mental illness still carries a huge stigma. A friend who works for our local mental health department says, “I wish we could put a huge band aid on the fore head of people with mental illness. Maybe then people would really understand it is an illness.”
I have heard people say there is no real test for mental illness. It is all just something a psychiatrist or therapist labels you. I want to take a moment to explain those “labels” to you. Mental health practitioners make a diagnosis based on the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and covers all mental health disorders for both children and adults. There is another manual called ICD (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.) Both manuals contain very strict, complicated, and definitive guidelines for diagnosing.
I was 36 years old when I received my first diagnoses (plural for diagnosis). It should have happened years before. There were several reasons for the delay. Mental illness wasn’t as treatable as it is now. Most people were afraid of being sent to a mental hospital. Doctor’s weren’t as knowledgeable as they are now. I also grew up in a household where mental illness was a taboo subject. My grandmother sent my great grandmother to the state mental hospital. They told her she was going for a ride in the country and then lied to everyone about where she was. That is what I understood happened to people who didn’t behave properly. She also felt that mental problems were from the devil. They were perhaps even punishment for a lack of faith and bad behavior.
When I was in my early twenties, I told my doctor some of the things going on in my life. He smiled. He said it was just my nerves. He said “all us women” didn’t cope well with stress and pressure. He gave me a prescription for Valium. Then he gave me another prescription. And then another. This went on for a couple of years. Valium was actually one of the worst things he could have given me. It was my first “drug” addiction.
As I told you, I have several diagnoses. My first was “Alcohol Dependence” That code is 303.90 in case you were wondering. There was also 304.10 (drug dependence for short). They didn’t come first in my life but were my first diagnoses. You can’t get to the problem when you are covering it with alcohol and drugs. I also have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and Panic Disorder. I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), BiPolar II, Clinical Depression (which is actually covered in BiPolar II), and PTSD.
Wow, that looks like I must be a total mess. Truth is that I WAS a total mess. I don’t have time share all of that here, but let me assure you, my life was a mess. I tried suicide at one point. However, medication and therapy have changed my life. Prayer and faith play a big part in life, as well. I can’t make these things go away. I live with them. I make adjustments. Most of my friends learn the hard way not to come up behind me without warning. I don’t know who jumps higher, me or them. It really isn’t any different from someone with diabetes. They watch their sugar, they exercise, they check their sugar levels, and do whatever treatment it is that allows them to lead a normal life.
The old question comes up about nature and nurture. Did my genetics cause all of this? I am sure it contributed to it. Was it the way I was raised? Not exactly, but childhood trauma and abuse does contribute or cause some of this. Scientists and doctors are learning more all the time about our brains and the way they work or don’t work.
Why am I telling you all of this? We need everyone’s help. Here are ways you can help.
- Fight The Stigma. Learn the truth about Mental Health. Often the media portrays people with mental illness in an untruthful, unflattering, and hurtful way. You can help set the record straight. Sites like NAMI http://www.nami.org/ or Mental Health America http://www.nmha.org/ will give you realistic information.
- Please don’t tell me (or others) these things: “Cheer Up, it will be OK”. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” “You are so strong-you don’t really need that medication do you?” “Oh come on, we all get down sometimes.” “You have so much going for you. How can you be depressed?” “There is nothing to be scared of or worried about.” “Just eat healthy food and exercise!” ‘It’s not really that bad, is it?” “Everyone has problems.” If you want to understand, ask me and be willing to hear what I have to say.
- Continue to push for Mental Health legislation. The Mental Health Parity Act was a great step but some insurance companies are finding creative ways to try to get around it.
So there you have it. I have an illness that affects my brain. My serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are all out of whack. My reuptake receptors don’t function right. My prefrontal cortex didn’t develop normally and I have poorly integrated cerebral hemispheres. (Those two are attributed to abuse.) But I am still me. I am the person you hang out with, call or text, chat with online, work with, play with, and pray with. I am a mother, grandmother, and friend. I worked most of my life. I have been blessed with two wonderful therapists in my lifetime and have found the proper medications that work to keep me in balance. I have an amazing family and group of friends that support me. I am a child of God. God made me and loves me.
As Anne Lamott says: “You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child. God loved you no matter how crazy you felt on the inside, no matter what a fake you were; always, even in your current condition, even before coffee.”
How can you argue with that?
If you need help or know someone who does, there is help available…
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. (Chat available as well)
Trevor Project: The Trevor Project also offers a 24-hour toll-free confidential crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Call 1-866-4-uTREVOR (1-866-488-7386).
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (799-7233)
To Write Love on Her Arms: Crisis Text Line Text “TWLOHA” to 741-741 www.twloha.com
9862 days ago, I managed to walk up the steps to a fellowship building at a large church in Severna Park, Md. I was looking for a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. My therapist Jan F. told me I had to go or I couldn’t see her any more. I had to hitchhike to get there, because I missed the only bus that would take me there. There were so many people that I thought the church was having some kind of special meeting. I saw a set of double doors and peered in the window. I could see lot of chairs and a set of tables in the front of the room. I had never been to a meeting, so I had no idea what to expect.
I walked in and saw two women at the front of the room. I looked around and noticed a rack with AA literature and pamphlets. I slowly and cautiously made my way to the front. One of the women, a tall, mean looking red head, looked up and said hello. I told her that I didn’t know if I was in the right place. It must have been obvious to her that I was a drunk, because she looked at me and asked how long it had been since I had a drink. I shrugged my shoulders and told her that it was sometime around midnight. She said that I was in the right place and told me to sit down on the front row. She left for a moment, came back with a cup of coffee with lots of sugar, and another woman she introduced as Pat. Pat said it looked like I needed the coffee. Honestly, my hands were shaky and I wasn’t sure I could even hold it.
I sat or I should say squirmed my way through the meeting. I heard some of what was said, but I kept looking on the wall at a banner where “the steps” were written. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the third step that said, “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.” I wasn’t ready to talk to or about God right that moment. At the end of the meeting, someone stood up and said, “If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and you want to try our way of life, come up here and get a white chip. All it takes is a desire to stay sober for 24 hours.” I watched as a couple of people walked up and got chip and a hug. Pat nudged my arm, and told me to go get one. I wasn’t sure about any of this, but I went up and got one.
Since that day, I have not had a drink or used any mind-altering drugs (unless you count sugar- only kidding). It has been 27 years of working the steps, praying, living one day at a time, praying, being in pain, experiencing joy and happiness, praying, starting over in new cities with new people, praying, losing people I love, praying, feeling as if my heart were breaking and my soul was wounded, praying, – you get the idea. There have been days that I wanted to drink more than I wanted to live or breath, but I made it through them.
In most meeting, we read something called the Promises. These promises have all materialized in my life. THE A.A. PROMISES found on page 83-84, of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and selfpity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
I am so grateful for my sobriety and all of the people who have helped me on this journey- some alcoholics/addicts and some “normal” people. I am grateful for a program of recovery that helped me find a relationship with God as I understand God. I am grateful for my family and special friends who have my heart.
I remember the day I celebrated my first AA birthday/anniversary. I received my first medallion surrounded by my first home group. I still have the banner from that night and the cards from friends. Two very special people were that night–my new friend Donna who is still my friend today, and my friend Jan F., who would be my friend, support, and mentor for the next 20 years.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring; No one does, really. I do know there will be more heartache, pain, and loss in life. It is inevitable. Yet, I know that there will be happiness, joy, and serenity as well. All I can do is live this life one day at a time. Through the grace of God and the program/steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I don’t have to drink today.
Scott Peck wrote in the Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Life is filled with complicated questions. “Why?” is the one that comes to mind most often. I wonder if knowing why something happened would really make it easier. If I knew why my friend died, would it hurt any less? Would I miss her any less? If I knew why parents and grandparents were the kind of people who would hurt a kid, would it really matter? Why did I become a drunk? Does it really matter why I gained weight ? Why did I get sober when others can’t? Why did I survive so many obstacles and come out in tact and with my faith when other didn’t ? I don’t have answers for all those “why” questions. “Why” often seems like searching for a treasure box only to find it empty.
I wonder if my time would be better spent accepting that life is filled with mystery and things we will never understand. Maybe my friend was right after all. Whenever something happened that just didn’t make sense she would ask, “what is the lesson you are supposed to learn from this?” As much as I loved her, I often wanted to throw something at her when she would ask this. Here is what I usually seem to learn in those times: Take the next step, do the next right thing, love the people in your life, and trust in God (whatever you may call God).
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women’s Act. (VAWA) You can find information about the VAWA online if you want to know more about it. Here is one such document. Basically the act provided $1.6 billion to offer community based responses, investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, allowed civil suits if prosecutors failed to prosecute a case,and established the Office of Violence Against Women.
It was reauthorized in 2000 and in 2005 with some expansion each time. Statistics show that there has been a marked decrease in the rate of intimate partner violence and deaths. More cases are being reported and more victims are being supported in recovery. All states now have laws in place to provide for warrantless arrests, “rape shield laws”, laws concerning date rape, and stalking. This act has had a major impact on changing the way violence against women is viewed and handled. In 2011, Congress failed to reauthorize the act.
Here are the reasons the House Republicans oppose the re-authorization of the act.
- The act gives limited powers to tribal authorities to prosecute non-Indians accused of assaulting their Indian partners on tribal lands. Currently, non-Indians who batter their spouses often go unpunished because federal authorities don’t have the resources to pursue misdemeanors committed on reservations. **39% of Native American and Native Alaskan women will be abused physically or sexually in their lifetime. Most abusers go prosecuted.
- The act would extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking. **Many states have established laws for stalking, but this would now be included in the VAWA definition . Republicans say this “dilutes” the definition. Really?
- It would also allow some battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas. **It seems this provision is being dropped by Democrats in an attempt to appease the Republicans so this act can pass.
- It would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence. **Again Republicans say this will “dilute” the focus on domestic violence. I think not passing this act dilutes our ability to protect all victims of domestic violence, but that is just my humble opinion.
Some have gone so far as to imply that the money used for rape crisis centers and domestic abuse hotlines, etc. is really going to support feminist programs. They say this act increases divorce, causes marriages to break up and is set up to cause the hatred of men. If a woman is in a violent marriage then the marriage should break up and divorce is a viable solution. I don’t hate all men. I dont’ hate men at all, although I will admit I don’t always understand them. I just hate the violence inflicted on women by men.
And, before you go postal and scream that women can perpetrate violence against men, I will concede that you are correct. Men typically have access to more resources to leave and the ability to protect themselves. I dont’ want that debate to get in the way of why we don’t have a VAWA in place after documented evidence that the act saves lives. Also, part of the reason the Republicans are opposing the act is the language inferring that men could be recipients of help from this act. Oh my, that would be just dreadful.
This is my view and my opinion. All I am asking is that you look at the facts. Do some research. Get involved. If you find that the VAWA is valid, and saves lives, and helps your community, your city, your state, and your country, then PLEASE do something about it. Write your congressman/congresswoman. Call them, email them. Do something. Don’t just sit back and say, “All this violence a bad thing.”
We often stand in horror and disgust as we hear stories from other countries of women being mutilated, tortured, and baby girls being killed because baby boys are the only ones of value. Slavery was abolished in our country a long time ago, yet girls are sold into slavery around the world every day. We ask how these other countries can allow such atrocities to occur. Yet, we stand by while our politicians squabble over language in an act that prevents death and violence in our own country.
I am a Christian. Yes, a church attending, praying, Bible reading Christian. I stop just short of wearing the WWJD bracelet. Jesus showed us the way to treat other human beings and that included the women in his life. I dare you to read Luke and not come away seeing Jesus treat women with respect, caring, and love. WWJD-What Would Jesus Do? I will let you answer that question for yourself. For those of other faiths reading this blog, I challenge you to look into your own beliefs and find answers about these issues.
I don’t believe we can be rid of all violence in our world. I am not a Pollyanna. I do believe we can effect change. We see evidence of that all around us. I don’t believe the VAWA is going to rid our society of domestic abuse, violence, or rape. I do believe this act can make a difference. Yes, I was once a women who lived with abuse. I lived with child abuse in many forms as a child and as a woman I lived with abuse in my marriage. I found help and a way to live my life free of violence. I hope this act will be reauthorized and other women find help as well.
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” Sally Koch
How is that possible you ask? I know-I don’t look a day over 40 myself. I certainly don’t feel old enough to have a son turning 40 tomorrow. It was devastating when I turned 40, but this seems even bigger. His birthday gives me reason to stop and reflect.
I remember finding out I was pregnant. I was 20 years old and had been married for 2 years. My husband was very excited about having a new tax deduction. I was excited and TERRIFIED! I had no idea how to be a good mother. I certainly had fine examples of what not to do.
I had a list of things I would never do. I was not going to be like the people who raised me. I hesitated to call any of them parents. I lived through abuse of every kind as a child, two sets of alcoholic parents, abandonment, fear, and almost always felt alone in the world. I wanted to provide my children with love, encourage them to be individuals, support their hopes and dreams, and give them a safe and loving home.
I went to the library and read every book I could find on parenting. I read about everything from breast-feeding to disciple. I read about physical care and emotional well-being. I even had to read about the birthing process. The only thing I really knew was how to get pregnant.
My son was the most amazing baby. He slept through the night at 6 weeks. He wasn’t fussy or colicky. He was usually happy. He said his first words at 6 months and could sing all of “Take Me Home Country Roads” at 18 months. He would sneak away from me at the store and head to front desk area. He would tell the clerk that his parents were missing and ask for candy while he waited for them to find us. He was outgoing and everyone loved him.
When he was 4 years old, his little sister joined the family. He has always loved his little sister. He nick named her “Coochie.” I have no idea how he decided on that name. He loved to carry her around and dote on her.
Life didn’t turn out the way I planned. The effects of my childhood, undiagnosed PTSD, anxiety disorders, and clinical depression took a toll. My marriage was not a good one and that added to the problems. I started drinking as a way of escape and trying to find a sense of normalcy.
My children never saw me drink nor saw me drunk. I hid it well. I started to make poor choices for my life. At the end of my marriage I was sleeping on the couch. My kids came to me and said that my daughter was moving into the room with my son (and his bunk beds) so I could have her room and sleep on a bed. It broke my heart. I knew I had to make changes. However, I made the wrong changes. I moved out of the house and tried to be a good mother living apart from them.
I don’t need to share all the details of that time, but my husband filed for divorce and asked for physical custody of the kids. I was allowed to have them every other weekend and one night a week. The pain was too much to bear and I used drinking more as a way to escape. I made another bad choice to move to another state and try to start my life again. You can run away but you always take yourself and your problems with you. Eventually I found my way into therapy and recovery.
The next years would be very difficult. Living so far away from my children made healing the relationship a daily struggle. My daughter did return to live with me but my son did not. He was in high school and stayed to finish. We would have highs and lows in our relationship over the next few years. I know he felt abandoned just as I had so many years before.
In 12 step programs of recovery, we are taught not to regret the past nor shut the door on it. We are taught that our past made us who we are today. My past created a path for my way to a relationship with God that I never had before. I understand those things in my head; My heart is another story. Tears still come from time to time when I remember the days of missing my children. I still carry shame and hurt from that time.
My son turns 40 tomorrow and I couldn’t ask for a better relationship with him. He is an amazing husband and father. He has a strong faith and we share our thoughts and ideas about that. We are able to talk about the past with understanding. He has an amazing wife and is father two of my grandchildren. They are both a joy in my life.
A few years ago, he gave me the best birthday present I could ever imagined. He bought tickets for us to go to Charlotte, NC and see the Panthers and Redskins football game. Of course, he was wearing his Panther’s blue shirt and I was wearing my Redskins’ burgundy and gold shirt. We stayed overnight and enjoyed the time talking, laughing, and enjoying each other.
This summer we took a day trip to Charlotte to see the movie premier of “Blue Like Jazz.” The movie is based on a book by Donald Miller. We both love the author and book. These rare moments give us time to talk and continue to grow our relationship.
My son turns 40 tomorrow. I still call him Teddy. His big boy friends call him Ted. I am his Mom and I am allowed to call him anything I want. He is still that precious baby boy, inquisitive toddler, and bright/gifted little boy to me. He always will be.
Happy Birthday, Teddy! I love you with all my heart.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.” was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady (1933 – 1945) and reform leader.
I know it is none of my business, but I am a people pleaser and I want everyone to like me (even if I don’t like them so much) and think the best. I want to defend my life and choices if someone doesn’t agree or challenges me. I get angry when I feel judged or misunderstood.
I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about something my therapist calls “baskets.” She says I only have to be concerned and deal with what is in my basket. What people think of me is in their basket. I need to stay out of other people’s baskets, even if I don’t want to.
I was reminded of this quote and these lessons yesterday. I stayed quiet during a conversation in a group even though I had personal experience I could have shared. I knew I would be judged because he conversation including judging others who had similar experiences. I might have been able to offer some insight that could have been helpful, but chose to allow “what they might think of me” to control my actions.
When I become preoccupied with what someone else might think, I don’t share my honest self and voice. I have given up too much of my life to “them.” I got lost and had no idea who I was or what I believed. Truthfully, if I try to make everyone think the best of me, I am going to disappoint everyone at some point in time.
This doesn’t mean ignoring the feeling of others. I don’t want to say or do things that are mean or hurtful. I just don’t want to hide my voice or dishonor who I am in order make you like me or approve of me. I still worry about what you think about me, but I am spending much less time in that part of my brain. I am learning to speak the truth, share my voice, and be an honest, authentic me.
In the Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse tells the Rabbit about becoming real.
Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
This blog post is part of NaBloPoMo. The theme for November’s NaBloPoMo is blogging for blogging’s sake.
No, not 56 moves in my life, just since I was 18 years old. The moves include 7 states and 25 different cities. I don’t know how many there were before 18, but I did live in the same house from the time I was 7 until I was 18. And before you ask, no, we were not military.
My first husband changed jobs or went to school just about every year. After my divorce and time being a practicing alcoholic/addict, I moved several times. Recovery brought new challenges included major moves. Divorce added to the numbers. Some moves were temporary while looking for a place to live. Looking at the number of moves, you might say all were temporary. Moving from a temporary situation to a longer term place was exciting. The dream was always the same; I wanted to live in a place long enough to have the Christmas tree up a second year. It didn’t happen very often.
Moving to a new city was the most frustrating. Finding the grocery store, new doctors, registering kids in school, feeling isolated were all part of the move. Up until the past few years, calling family and friends long distance was expensive so calls were on Sunday afternoon and kept to ten minutes. Letters were the best way of keeping in touch before email. I made the decision to make acquaintances and not friends. It was too difficult to keep starting over.
There were some moves that were devastating. I moved from South Carolina to Baltimore, Md. after a divorce where my husband had physical custody of my children. I was heading towards my bottom with my alcoholism and addiction. I left to escape the pain of living and with the smallest glimmer of hope that I could change things. It would be four months before I found my way to recovery.
Leaving Baltimore after three years in recovery was overwhelming. I was leaving the people who had become more than friends. They had helped me get and stay sober. They had cried with me, laughed with me, watch me grow, and supported me in so many ways. I remember standing at the doorway as I left my therapist office for the last time. The tears were burning my face as I struggled to catch my breath. We hugged one last time and I walked away. My daughter had come back to live with me and I was moving to provide a better life for her.
This move was different. I was ready to leave a difficult marriage. I moved into a home with my daughter and son-in-law. We have lived together before and are comfortable together leading our own lives in the same space. I don’t have a three bedroom house with all my stuff. I have given up and let go of a lot. This is home now and I am at peace and comfortable. I haven’t been able to say that for a while.
I have lived in many houses and apartments over the years. Some of them were home while others where just places to eat and sleep. I grew up in a house with my grandparents. It was never home. I spend a great deal of time at my friend Carol’s house. That was home and that was family.
I spend a good deal of time with my friend and her family. Her home is a place I call home as well. Her family is my other family. When I leave her house at night or she is driving home from another destination, we have always text each other. A couple of weeks ago I texted her and said, “I am home…no I am at my house. I just left home.” Perhaps a cliche but we both agreed that “home is where the heart is.”
I feel blessed and grateful to have a place to live that I can call home. I have adult children and grandchildren that I call family. I also have my second home and family. I have a circle of other friends and a church family who make up a larger community in my life. I hope I don’t have to move too many more times in my lifetime, however I am sure I will move again. I just hope it isn’t too soon.
I wrote a post about my one of my experiences with Domestic Violence several months ago. I thought it would be appropriate to share it again. Here it is. Walking Down Another Street.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:
- Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you.
- Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive.
- Tries to isolate you from family or friends.
- Monitors where you go, who you call and who you spend time with.
- Does not want you to work.
- Controls finances or refuses to share money.
- Punishes you by withholding affection.
- Expects you to ask permission.
- Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets.
- Humiliates you in any way.
You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner has ever:
- Damaged property when angry (thrown objects, punched walls, kicked doors, etc.).
- Pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked or choked you.
- Abandoned you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.
- Scared you by driving recklessly.
- Used a weapon to threaten or hurt you.
- Forced you to leave your home.
- Trapped you in your home or kept you from leaving.
- Prevented you from calling police or seeking medical attention.
- Hurt your children.
- Used physical force in sexual situations.
You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:
- Views women as objects and believes in rigid gender roles.
- Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.
- Wants you to dress in a sexual way.
- Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names.
- Has ever forced or manipulated you into to having sex or performing sexual acts.
- Held you down during sex.
- Demanded sex when you were sick, tired or after beating you.
- Hurt you with weapons or objects during sex.
- Involved other people in sexual activities with you.
- Ignored your feelings regarding sex.
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions you may be in an abusive relationship; please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or your local domestic violence center to talk with someone about it.
One of the things I love about the Olympics is hearing the incredible stories of some of the athlete’s lives. I have been following the story of Kayla Harrison, who just won the Olympic gold medal for Judo. Here is a small piece of her story.
Yet winning gold has not been the most difficult challenge of Harrison’s life. When she arrived at Pedro’s training center in 2007, she was an emotionally devastated 16-year-old who had suffered years of sexual abuse by a former coach. She lacked self-esteem, had suicidal thoughts, and hated judo because the sport’s small community whispered about the abuse.
Like many survivors of sexual and physical abuse, she found someone to trust and help her heal from the abuse. She found a champion to help her fight. Then she found the courage to share her story. In the article she says, “I wanted to tell my story and I wanted to get it out to victims all over the world,” said Harrison, originally from Middletown, Ohio, who first discussed her sexual abuse publicly last fall. “I wanted people to know it was OK. It was definitely therapeutic. The first time I told the story I cried the whole time. It got a little bit easier every time.”
Social media and the press have shared her story since the Olympics began. Someone made this comment on a site yesterday, “The key word here is: SURVIVOR… She chose to NOT be a VICTIM!” I often hear this type of statement when someone shares a story of healing. It is a statement that while I believe to hold truth, is also a statement of condemnation for someone still struggling with their life.
I had my choices taken away from me the first time someone sexually abused me as a young child. I had no choice when an adult hit, slapped, or threw me down as a little girl. As the abuse continued, my choices disappeared. When I was an adult, I only knew what I learned as a child. I had no defenders. Those who might have made a difference, made their own choice not to interfere. I did not CHOOSE to be a victim. That was a CHOISE someone else made for me as a very little, scared, helpless child.
I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I will be done with this crap and be a survivor.” Like Kayla, someone came into my life and helped me find a way to heal. Yes, I had to make the choice to do the work. I had to find the courage to tell my story. When I was an older child, I tried to tell someone but they didn’t (or chose not to) hear. The biggest fear is sharing my story is the fear of not being believed.
Today I am a “thriver.” I am also a victim of childhood sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse. For me to say, I am not a victim, is to deny what happened to me. I survived. Surviving means I lived through it and continued to exist; just exist. Then someone reached out, believed me, saw my pain, and helped me tell my story. I became a “thriver”. I started to flourish and grow. I found support and I found a way to reach out and support others in their journey.
This is my truth and this is how it works for me. If you are finding your way or have already become a “thriver”, find what works for you. Most of us will never win an Olympic gold medal, but we can fight to reclaim our right to choices. Today I have the choice to live my life as a “thriver.”
“We can’t control what happened, we can’t control what has been lost. What we can control is how we fight to take that control back, and the voice within us is powerful in doing so….” Cathy Gipson