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Two Years Sober


It’s been two years since the end of my first relapse. First and only, I’d say, except I can’t predict the future.

Two years ago I became belligerently drunk at a party and, when my boyfriend couldn’t stand me anymore, I was dropped at my sister’s house to recover. I drank myself into alcohol poisoning instead.

That weekend is important for me to remember. It’s important to remember what happened the last time I made the mistake of thinking I could control my drinking through good intention and force of will. It’s important to remember that, though it took a year to get there, I eventually became the out-of-control, violent and angry drunk I’d been before.

That weekend, after a blacked out Saturday night (the recounted stories of which are still embarrassing) I woke up and started on a stout 6-pack. Old school Seana. After my boyfriend dropped me at my sister’s in frustration, I started on another. I drank all day, moving on to the liquor she kept on top of her fridge. Rum and coke. Rum and a splash of coke. Rum. Sleep. Wake up. Drink. I called in sick. I talked to my boyfriend, told him I was going to have a strict two drink rule moving forward. Eventually, I ended up back at his house, vomiting every 45 to 60 seconds, sometimes every two minutes if I was lucky. Drinking water just to be able to throw something up because the dry heaving hurt so bad. I spent hours like that, while my boyfriend took care of me. I started telling him, and others, that I wasn’t going to drink for a year. I don’t imagine they believed me, I barely did.

But, thanks to the ten months I’d spent in rehab three years earlier, my eyes opened that weekend and I saw my addiction for what it was. I realized I am an alcoholic. I’d never thought that before. I’d gone to rehab to recover from a cocaine addiction, not alcohol. I thought I could control alcohol. I was wrong.

And so, as realization hit, I told everyone that I was done entirely. I highly recommend being very transparent in the beginning of sobriety. Telling the world clearly and definitively that you have an addiction and are getting clean creates a useful web of accountability. I told people I realized I had relapsed, that I was an alcoholic and I was done drinking. And, so far, I have been. I have not had a drink in two full years.

The boyfriend in that story
is now my husband, we celebrated our first year of marriage a couple of weeks ago. Together we share a perfect baby girl and a house with a white picket fence. We have exciting goals and plans for the future. It would seem that life is back on track, like that little year-long relapse didn’t actually happen.

Which is why it’s so important to remember that it did. I got comfortable in my sobriety, overly confident in myself, and lax about self-protection, and it led to a relapse that could have ended a lot worse.

It’s especially important to remember my history on this, the second anniversary of sobriety, because this is when I relapsed the first time. I had my first drink, a Guinness, almost two years to the day after getting sober the first time. I entered rehab in March 2008 and I had my first drink in March 2010.

As though my addiction also knows this anniversary, and the ease with which I failed to make it through the first time, I have been consumed with thoughts of substances. Pondering bottles of wine in the grocery store, craving the burn of a cigarette, eyeing my sister’s mimosa at a shower, absently wishing for a reputable dealer as I glance at my postbaby body in the mirror; my addiction is everywhere these days.

I see it. I know it’s there. Life goes on. I drink my kombucha in a wine glass the way I did in the beginning, and I leave an event if I need to. I shared my cravings with my husband, my sister, now with all of you. I do not know the future, it’s true, but I know this moment, and I have some pretty clear vision of the next. And the next.

And I know that when enough of these moments line up we’ll be here again, except we’ll be celebrating anniversary number three.

See you there!

Everything I Asked For


Before my daughter was born, I prayed for and over her daily. I prayed that she would be strong and healthy, that she would be smart and curious, and that she would be full of joy.

I did not pray that she would sleep, that she wouldn’t cling, or that her need would only equal what I wanted to handle. In the greater scheme of life, those mundanities lacked import.

I remind myself of this as we struggle our way through this latest developmental leap meets wonder week meets teething meets learning to crawl and cruise.

She is strong enough to pull her body up, to support herself on her own feet; strong enough to practice the fine art of motion while laying in bed. She is curious to see and know the world; she is curious enough to be captured by the restless wonder of it even after the lights are dimmed at night. She is healthy enough to be meeting her milestones one after the other, an often arduous practice that keeps her awake. She is smart enough to already have learned a handful of words, to know animal sounds, to comprehend instead of just see the world around her; she is smart enough to practice these important skills at night when the rest if the world quiets. She is joyful; trusting that her needs will be met, that her development will be supported, that she won’t be left alone, she lights up any room with the exuberance of her laughing smile,

She is every single thing I asked for.

I was not prepared for the work of it. I was not prepared for the depth of her need; a need that is more emotional than physical. I was not aware that I would sometimes want nothing more than to be where I could not hear her, where she could not see me, where I could just be alone. I didn’t know that the sound of her whining cry would sometimes twist in my spine and make me grit my teeth while I, reluctantly, lifted her and we snuggled both of our frustration away.

It is more than I thought. But she is everything that I hoped.

And if I were to do it again, to pray it again before she arrives, my prayer would be the same.

Healthy and strong, smart and curious, full of joy.

Waiting It Out


Could I let my baby cry? Could I firmly remind her that “it is time for bed” and walk away, in tears to the sound of her tears? Yes. I could. I am “strong enough”, if that’s what you believe it takes.

Last night my 10.5 month old had a rough night. We had a rough night together. There was very little sleep for either of us. At a little after 5 this morning we got out of bed grumpily and with little interaction. An hour passed. I dressed her in warmer clothes. Changed her diaper. Gave her a snack. Found some solutions for her aching teeth. We went back to bed. Grumpily and with little interaction.

We lay in bed together, tummy pressed to tummy, as I nursed her. It took a long time for her to settle in to sleep. She lay still, and close, and our breaths found rhythm together and our heart rates slowed. I studied her face and saw her fatigue and my grumpiness melted. I stroked her hair and her eyes drifted closed.

Once asleep she turned from me and laid on her back. I turned from her and laid on mine. In her sleep she reached out a tiny hand and wrapped it around mine. And my heart melted and I slept. My larger hand held in the tiny one of my sleeping babe.

Could I let my baby cry? Am I dutiful enough to do the hard thing if it is the best thing? Yes. Am I grateful that crying it out and controlled crying are Not The Best Thing? You bet! Moments like these is why I have, do, and will continue to wait it out. 

Early Riser


My kid is toying with the idea of becoming an early riser. Two days ago it was 4:30 a.m. That’s right, before the sun. Today it was 5.

5:00 a.m. is like 4:30′s slightly prettier but still poorly dressed cousin.

7. 7 is the earliest acceptable wake time. Say it with me, Mabel… “Seeevven….”

Coffee.

Sunday


Sunday’s are normally the day I get refilled, a day of renewal. After a week’s worth of nurturing a baby, running a home, cooking meals, nodding and smiling and decision making and go go going, Sunday’s are the day in which I get a little return. No, I don’t go to church, it’s our family day. It’s me and the husband and the baby all together. We run errands or we don’t. We pay social calls or we don’t. We accomplish things, or we don’t.

On Sunday’s it’s more than just feeling like, for a day at least, it’s not at all on me to keep it together. It’s getting to spend the day with my husband, who is laid back and calm and decisive and gentle and affectionate and kind. I draw from his strength on Sunday’s. I replenish my stores.

This system usually works very well. Except right now. Right now it’s not working.

My husband is going through a hard time all of his own. Overwhelmed with parenthood, sleep deprived, more to do lists than time? Who knows really. He’s not great with communication and his issues aren’t my business to write about.

Thing is, his hard time is getting harder it seems. And, while I want to support him through whatever he’s going through, and be patient and kind and replenishing to him, I just have nothing. Whatever it is that eats away at my mind is taking big, ravenous bites, and I’m disoriented from it all. My moods shift faster than ever, my highs aren’t happy, they’re frantic. My lows aren’t sad, they’re furious. The world is a merry go round spinning faster and faster and I’m nauseous from the ride. No, I’m literally nauseous.

I’ve absorbed whatever my husband is going through into myself. Assuring myself that, whatever his problem, it’s me. It’s me. It’s me. It’s always me.

And I’m left without a support. The only person I trust to talk about these things with is distracted at best, disinterested at worst. There is no checking in, there is no pulling close. There is me and my thoughts and my trying ever harder to keep a tight grip on a falling world.

Yesterday was Sunday. It was stilted and silent. It was irritable and short. It was his way and mine. It was not a refilling. There was no replenishing. I tell myself that it’s okay. That he’s allowed to go through his seasons as I am allowed mine. I tell myself, and believe, that everything will eventually get back on track.

Eventually.

But in the meantime I can’t breathe.

And so I keep on keeping on, breath be damned, because somehow it’s all got to keep moving forward. And Mabel eats and sleeps and plays. And I’m right there for every bit of it.

Nauseous and not breathing.

I hope we don’t miss too many Sundays.

Methodical Wellness


Parenting makes me purposeful. I sit on the floor to read or play and I place myself with purpose. I align my back and cushion where needed, prepared to stay as long (or as short) as necessary. I am more aware now. I pay attention to where I lay us in bed, careful to leave enough space for her to roll away and still be safe. I am purposeful with my words, aware in my actions, knowing little eyes are watching and learning in every moment. I do not try to escape this monumental undertaking; I do not shy away from this methodical living. It is necessary and important for safety and wellness and health of all forms.

I am very often sad or anxious lately. The anxiety comes and goes, sharp and ferocious and then gone, but the sadness lingers. It becomes an undercurrent of which I am only sometimes aware, but which dictates the direction in which I flow. While I am a purposeful swimmer when it comes to parenting Mabel, in the rest of my life I have begun to simply float where the current takes me. My epiphany this morning (during laundry, how cliche) is that this current is not my friend.

While I am forever asking and answering questions as a parent – Is the sun too hot? Is she safe with that toy? Will she be alright on the ground? Why is she crying? – I realize that I have stopped doing so as a person. This is not an acceptable state of being, especially for a being in distress.

I wake up. I notice I am sad. I lay still and think, “I am still sad. It feels so heavy. Something is very wrong. I wish xyz would happen so this sadness could be fixed. The baby is stirring. She’s awake. Go away sadness, I have to be a Mom now.”

Two things. First, I am not a compartmentalized person. I cannot be a sad person between the hours of 6 pm and 5 am, when I am not solely responsible for Mabel’s care and well being, and a stable and healthy parent the rest of the time.

Second, there is no purpose in those thoughts. There is no awareness, no method. There is only blind acceptance, of what is not an acceptable long term reality, and blame.

If she hadn’t….I wouldn’t be feeling such anxiety.
If he would only…I wouldn’t feel so sad.

It doesn’t matter what I fill in those blanks with, those statements are not true. The answers to what is wrong within me do not lay without.

Why am I sad? What is this emotion surrounding? What does it feel like when I allow it to be felt? Is there an action I can take that will help alleviate this feeling? If so, what is it? Why aren’t I taking it? Do I want to feel better? Do I need to feel sad? What am I feeling anxious about? What lies am I believing? What is the truth? What am I hiding from?

I know the questions. I know the method to wellness. I have steadfastly and adamantly refused both, whether consciously or not. Perhaps I have needed this time. I can allow for that possibility, but it is needed no longer.

My husband needs me, my friends need me, my house needs me…I need me.

And so it is time to sit with the scary questions and find out their quiet answers. It is time to be well again.

Because, really, why not?

Lazy Parenting


I hang out with a really cool group of mamas. Online, of course, like I have time, energy, and the wherewithal to consistently hang out with anyone in real life. We get together during our Velcro Babies (they taught me that term) naps, from our various countries and time zones and pieces of furniture. We talk about our challenges and throw tantrums and encourage each other, we share advice and ideas and brainstorm. It’s great.

Thing is, some of these moms make me look at my own parenting style and think, “man, I’m lazy!” They’re always teaching their babies stuff about sleep and sensory bins and the world at large. (Not training, we don’t train, training is for dogs.) It’s admirable, really. Some women are working on teaching their kids how to get through a sleep cycle without nursing, some are teaching how to sleep in their own space. Some moms are working hard to achieve important family goals (admittedly, most goals for most of us revolve around sleep).

Me? Although Mabel is nearly 10 months old, I’m still in the “oh thank God she’s asleep” category. I’m not trying to teach much of anything. You want to sleep in my bed? Fine, just sleep. You want to nurse all night long? Fine, just go to sleep. You want me to lay in bed with you while you nap? Well, you get the idea.

I call it lazy parenting, but I’m pretty okay with it. Sometimes I get all inspired by my awesome Internet friends and their cool success stories and think, “yeah! I’m gonna try something new!”, and then I’m up until 1:00 a.m. wondering what in the hell I was thinking. (That may or may not have happened last night. Hint: it did.) Truth is, Mabel wants to learn the things that are important to her – in the order and timeframe she wants to learn them in. And, honestly, I’m too lazy to demand otherwise.

So we’re making slow progress. (I may or may not be typing this on my iPhone while she naps. Hint: I am.) But it is progress. She no longer nurses all night long. I didn’t tell her to stop, she just did. She rolls away from me now to find her own space to sleep in. She doesn’t wake up at every noise. She doesn’t need the comfort of nursing between every sleep cycle. She sleeps longer and deeper and better, all by herself. Why would I want to mess with that?

in fact, she might not even need me to stay here for her nap. I’m not going to push it though. I mean, thank God, she’s sleeping, right? Besides, it’s dark and cool and comfy in here and there’s a machine that sounds like the ocean. Lazy parenting.

Someday Will Come


Watching my baby girl sleep and suddenly I am struck with the thought that I don’t want her to know how much ugly there is in the world, how much cruelty and violence, how shallow and hateful it can be. It pains my heart to think that, after she conquers crawling and walking and close-mouthed kisses and sleep, there will be a darker world of things to learn. Some of it is important and necessary (there are bad people in the world), but some of it is so unnecessary! It saddens me to think that someday she will look at herself in the mirror and hate what she sees, someday she will feel less than she is and far from anything safe and secure. Someday our world will try to label her and box her in and she will have the choice of giving in or fighting back. Someday her eyes will be opened to a world where you have to fight culture and status quo in order to live free.

And just when I think I will become overcome with sadness at the thought of such pristine innocence tarnished, a friend reminds me that there will also be much joy to be felt and good to discover, there will be sights and sounds that will astonish and delight. There awaits her in this world such remarkable beauty to be found.

And so I breathe again, a little bit easier, reminded that if I were to spare her every pain I would be robbing her some of the fullness of her joy. I remember that one must understand darkness to truly appreciate the light; a smile seems brighter after tears.

Someday she will flush with the satisfaction of a goal obtained, an obstacle conquered. Someday she will know the love of a partner, someday she may know the bliss of a child.

There are many somedays. There is only one today. And so, as she sleeps, unaware of the battle in my heart and head, I snuggle her close. I breathe in her soft baby smell and focus my thoughts upon my own moment of joy, my own little bliss.

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Emotional Onslaught


My mood is all consuming these days. Every distraction from it is fleeting at best. I agonize over the cause and effect. Exhausting. It’s exhausting. An excerpt, for your amusement:

Am I having a bipolar induced depression? Am I even bipolar? If I was bipolar wouldn’t the Zoloft I’m taking for PPD trigger mania? Mania doesn’t feel like depression. So I’m probably not bipolar. Why do I feel so sluggish and sad; why so irritable and short tempered? Should I take more Zoloft? I need to have an actual doctor. A doctor will just put me on more meds. Still, I need a doctor. No doctor has Saturday hours. I need to do something. I’ll take more Zoloft. Why aren’t I sleeping? Why am I so anxious? Is it going to go away? Is it because of the raised dose? How long will it last? Is this a manic episode? Does this mean I am bipolar?

I feel very much overwhelmed by the requirements of the day to day. My attention stays on Mabel and getting her successfully through. I am rewarded by a cascade of giggles and gooey baby kisses, but the rest of life remains untouched. I wonder if this is just the effect from the sleep deprivation that has been the last few weeks of development and growth for her. I wonder when I come out on the other side. I’ve forgotten what the other side looks like. I always do when I’m in the mire.

I’m either a good mother or a good wife, I can’t seem to manage both. Either I look good or the house does. Either laundry is done or dinner is. I want to be sweet and understanding but I’m not. I tell myself I will be but I can’t. I’m snappy and frustrated and demanding and I can’t figure out why. There’s nothing wrong at a glance, but the feeling is that everything is. I need things. Not material things or more purchases. I need love and spontaneous affection and declarations of delight. I ask for them. They do not come. Suddenly I need to buy more things. I assume I’m asking for too much. I tell myself my marriage is failing. I tell myself that I am failing my marriage. I tell myself the problem is that I’m now fat and we don’t have enough sex. I believe myself. I want the things I cannot buy. I do not want to ask for them again. I am lonely, hurt, and sad. I feel like I brought it on myself. He’s adjusting to being a parent, too. I excuse him. I belittle me.

I have no answers to the constant onslaught that is my mind. I have no easy solutions to the anxiety that bubbles beneath the surface. Day follows night. Night follows day. I get up and I do what that day expects. I giggle with the baby. I cook dinner. I sweep the floor, eventually. I wait. I wait and know that this can not be forever. I remember that I have felt lost in the tidal wave of rampant emotion before and that I have somehow come out on the other side. I remember that things look their worst when I feel mine and that my vision is clouded in times like these. I stare at my baby. I breathe.

Should I have raised the dose? Maybe it was going to end all by itself? It had been a few weeks and it wasn’t getting better, I’m sure more Zoloft was the right choice. But now this anxiety… will it go away? It’s just a side effect, right? Just a temporary problem to what was a good solution. Should I go back down? I need to find a doctor. I can’t find a doctor…

And so it continues. Until it eventually ends.