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The Life List: Condensing your Story for Sharing 

I could write a memoir of my life story so far. Problem is, who would read it? I’m not famous. I’m socially awkward and wouldn’t know the first thing about sales or promotion. I know though, that I’ve got a story to tell. 

I know because I have a belief in the divine. The things you return to time and time again, like writing, are not coincidental. We return to our purpose. Writing gives my life a pulse, and puts my heart out there into the world. 

Without further ado, I present to you my life story in a list. The “life list” is easy to read, yet powerful. It is minimal but effective. Check it out and consider sharing yours….you never know who it might inspire, touch, or encourage. After all, the greatest commandment is to love one another…even if it means making yourself completely vulnerable. 

I’ve survived:

An absent (addicted/alcoholic) father

Sexual abuse 

Teenage pregnancy and miscarriage 

Opiod addiction 

Ecstasy addiction

Depression

Anxiety

War (I was in OIF1)

PTSD

Emotional abuse

Alcoholism

Rage and anger issues 

Being physically aggressive 

Suicidal ideation 

Marriage separation 

Grieving a parents death

Social anxiety 

I’ve survived because of:

Jesus

God 

Purpose and calling 

Protection 

Celebrate Recovery

Alanon

AA

Friends

Family

Sponsors

Accountability partners

Battle buddies 

My daughters

My husband

Marriage therapy

Counseling

Psychiatry 

Medications

Coping skills

Stamina

Self will

Stubbornness

Resiliency 

Most importantly…I’ve survived because of the love of others and the father

Consider sharing your “life list” below in the comments. 

Stay sober my friends,

Rachel 

Nature is my Dope. 

For a brief time, we are all connected; God, the earth, and I. Nature is mindful and the mind is full in nature.


Nature is my dope. There’s something about shimmying up a tree trunk, swinging my feet around a limb, and just climbing to the perfect little perch. It’s like all the branches were put there at the perfect distance from each other just for me to explore the wonders of nature. While I’m a little older and busy adulting, all I really want to do is get outside and climb a tree. 

Nature is my serenity. It’s where I hear God. I hear his spirit speaking to me through the birds…through the insects…through the frogs. I hear the Holy Spirit speak to me through the running creek bed, through the wind in the leaves, and through the silence.  


When I see a flower I can’t help but think my creator put it there just for me. I notice even the smallest of petals and appreciate its delicate beauty. Tiny blossoms spring forth messages of new life. 


The forest is a magical place. The barrage of shades of greens and browns overwhelm my senses, as I decipher all the different shapes and textures the forest flora has the offer me. 


The smell of the freshly oxygenated air takes me someplace else entirely. I notice the bark on the trees…the moss….the twigs. The nuts…the berries….all strategically placed amongst the trees to provide nourishment to the forest critters. 


The sky is a reminder of heavenly realms. There are clouds and light and all I can imagine are chubby little cherubs…greeting all who enter heavens gates. The expansive blue sky calms my nerves and resets my soul onto greater things….like purpose. 


For a brief time, we are all connected; God, the earth, and I. Nature is mindful and the mind is full in nature. 

Faith on Four Legs: In Memory of Bones

At the time Bones came into our lives we were a mess. Our family status was up in the air. I had one foot out the door, ready to run. We needed a miracle. We were meant to rescue Bones…but he ended up rescuing us.

“Are you sure you can handle this?” I asked my impulsive husband. He mumbled something under his breath. I replied with “He’s not gonna last long, why would you commit us to something like this? “We can’t even take care of ourselves, or our kids, let alone some sickly animal.”
My eyes glanced downward, I felt a twinge of pity on this poor creature. His hips protruded from his back in the most disturbing way. His ribs projected from his fur. I could count 8 on each side. His ankles were sunken in on each side, and his muscle was nearly deteriorated on his backside. His spine distended toward the ceiling. I counted 7 vertebrae, shooting upward in an awkward half moon shape. His nose ran and his jowels were covered in slime. His fur left much to be desired. It had the potential to be a beautiful brindle and white coat, but years of neglect left it covered in dust. Then….my eyes met his. 

He had the softest, kindest eyes I had ever seen on an animal. They were a deep brown, with an amber inner color. We connected much like the starts connect with the cosmos. I was suddenly in love with this fantastic beast. 


“Well, kids…what do we call him?” Ideas came from everywhere. Sergeant seemed appropriate. He reminded me of a crusty old sergeant in the Army that refused to die. Ali seemed a decent name, he was a boxer. We went round and round and finally settled on the perfect name…Bones. He was a bag of bones after all. Bones it was. He was now named and part of our family. 

At the time Bones came into our lives we were a mess. Our family status was up in the air. I had one foot out the door, ready to run. I was tired of being in a broken marriage. Jesus was a stranger I hadn’t met yet. I drank to escape my own personal demons, and became my own worst enemy. I was a terrible mother, I was selfish and angry all the time. 

We needed a miracle. We found our miracle in Bones. What we needed was a sense of God’s forgiveness, his mercy, and his unconditional love. Bones was to be his messenger of these things. He was sent to us to reunite our family.


Bones had been mistreated. He was neglected in the most horrific ways. The rumor is that his previous owner was a crippled blind woman. She couldn’t take care of herself, so she couldn’t take care of the dog. He was emaciated. He was 45 lbs or so when we got him. The vet found rocks in his stomach, he had eaten them to ward off his hunger. He wasn’t physically abused to my knowledge…just horribly neglected. 

In spite of his circumstances and health condition, he looked me straight in the eyes, wagged his tail, and kissed me. He forgave the human race much like God continues to do. He trusted us, he didn’t hold mankind’s sin against us. He believed in us. Bones showed us the power of forgiveness. Our marriage needed forgiveness. 


I’m sure Bones wanted to give up many times while he was being starved and neglected. Like many of the apostles and christians of the Bible, Bones suffered until God granted mercy on him. He had a purpose and needed mercy to intervene so he could fulfill that purpose. What we needed in our marriage was to allow God to help us grant each other mercy. Much like Bones, we had a purpose and we needed the mercy of God to be able to fulfill it. 

When Bones and I locked eyes the first time, he had no idea who I was. Yet…he trusted me. I could see it. He knew how to love unconditionally. He didn’t base his love for me on someone else’s actions. In spite of being nearly starved to death by another human…he decided to love me. How about 1 John 4:18. It says “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Our marriage and family needed to learn about the father’s unconditional love for us, and we needed to set unconditional love as the standard in our marriage and home. 


We were meant to rescue Bones…but he ended up rescuing us. We nursed him back to health over the years. He spent 8 long years in our home. He couldn’t go to dog parks, he caught pneumonia every time he caught a cold. He was diagnosed with cancer many years ago, but lived for another 6 years despite his one year expectancy. He had his limits, but he had a long and somewhat healthy life. Even with home made food, we never were able to fatten him up, but we got him to where only a few bones were showing. He was still unsightly to most, but to us he was healed….much like our marriage. Our marriage isn’t perfect, we have our limitations, but we are now able to extend forgiveness, show mercy, and love unconditionally…just the way Bones taught us. 


My daughter pointed out to me that Dog spelled backwards spells God. Coincidence? I think not. 

Stay sober my friends. 

-Rachel 

When Jesus says “I Got Your Back” 

Yesterday I experienced the grace of God. I’m not talking about the touchy, feely, grace. I’m talking about the kind that startles you. I’m talking about the grace that left me with my mouth open whispering “WTF…..”

Yesterday I experienced the grace of God. I’m not talking about the touchy, feely, grace. I’m talking about the kind that startles you. I’m talking about the grace that left me with my mouth open whispering “WTF…..” 


Yesterday was my last day at home. I won’t be back for over two weeks so I was determined to make the most of it. I asked my husband if I could bring him anything for lunch. I ended up deciding on pizza, which meant I would have to walk in the rain from the car to the store. Ugh. First world problems right? 

I managed to get the pizza without drowning in the rain. Everything was looking fine, despite the downpour. I was approaching an intersection. The light turned yellow and I decided I should stop so I did. I was the first in my lane facing the intersection. The left green arrow light on the opposite side sent the traffic facing me across the intersection. One guy was not so fortunate and didn’t make it through the intersection. 


Next thing I know he coming at me, full force, skidding sideways. He had no control of the vehicle. He couldn’t turn. He couldn’t brake. His 2,000 pound vehicle was now a trajectory and I was the target. 

I remember thinking “well…shit.” There was nothing I could do. If I drove forward he would hit me or I would hit someone else in the intersection. I couldn’t go right because there was a car parallel to me. I couldn’t go left into oncoming traffic either. I was stuck. 

I was bracing for impact when the screeching of the tires stopped. There was a scraping sound but no thud. I opened my eyes to see this guys vehicle 3 feet from my front bumper. He had slid sideways onto the median to my left. His car was perched on the median with no wheels touching the ground. I sat, dumbfounded, and watched for a minute.

The airbags didn’t deploy, and I could see he was angry. He hit the steering wheel a half a dozen times, screamed some curse words, and threw his hands in the air. I get it. I’ve been there. I waited a minute for him to settle, put on the flashers and approached him. He was clearly upset, but did not need medical assistance and didn’t need me to call anyone. I went about my day. 

The next intersection I was faced with a potential disaster of another sort. I was the second vehicle in line this time with a ditch to my right, and a vehicle to my left. Immediately in front of me was what appeared to be a uniform truck. You know, the trucks that drive around to businesses and pick up and drop off uniforms. 

The driver let off the brake, and the back door of the truck flung open. A rack of freshly laundered uniforms was to the right and directly in front of me was a huge laundry cart full of dirty uniforms. The truck inched forward and the cart started sliding my way. My jaw dropped and all I could do was mouth “WTF?”


As much fun as it would have been explaining this collision to my insurance company, fortunately I didn’t get the chance. The cart jammed between the door and the clothes rack to the right, just in time for me to inch past on the right hand side of the shoulder. 

Two thoughts occurred to me next. First, I realized I was supposed to be making this trip out of town. There were two opportunities to make it a complete disaster and they didn’t stop me. Second, I realized my Daddy was watching. 

I gave thanks to Jesus for being there with me and gave thanks to God (Daddy) for protecting me. It was like there was a force around me that day that was impenetrable. If I let my imagination take control I can see a forcefield around my vehicle and my lord watching over….but let’s not go there. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

I began this post by talking about God’s grace. Maybe it’s a better example of his mercy, but I was left with a overwhelming sense of grace when all was said and done. After the second incident I pulled over (sorry for the cold pizza, hun). I began crying. I haven’t cried in a while. I thanked Jesus for being there with me. I thanked God for allowing me to go on about my day without any injuries or inconveniences. I prayed for the angry guy, and for the negligent uniform delivery workers. Certainly they were praying for mercy. 

I cried because I don’t deserve the grace of God, but he keeps coming through. I haven’t been attending church. I haven’t been doing devotional time like I should. I haven’t even prayed in quite some time. God came through anyway. 


God reminded me that I can’t earn his love and attention. He reminded me that no matter how distant I am, he is right there beside me. Just when I needed it most, Jesus said “I got your back.” 


Critics can call it coincidence. They can look at the science of each situation and justify why I escaped both situations unscathed. That’s fine, but that’s not how I choose to live my life. 

A big part of any recovery journey is having a belief system in a higher power. I don’t know about you or your journey, but my higher power is a constant reminder of how vulnerable I am. It is a reminder of how easy it is to slip off the path. Most importantly it’s a reminder that Grace wins. Every. Single. Time. 

Current view:


Stay sober my friends! 

Triggered: When music takes you back to the dark times.

The news of Chester Bennington’s death hit me hard. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t write about it until now. I realize what happened inside me when I heard the news, but it didn’t come to fruition until I found myself in my doctor’s office.

Rockstars often go before their time, it really shouldn’t shock anyone anymore. But it still does. Often times, it shocks us because we connect with their music on an emotional level. Sometimes musicians are the only ones with the words or rhythms that describe the mess that’s going on our heads. This connection leads us to bond with those we never even met.

“Do you know what may have triggered your Anxiety/PTSD?” She asked, with genuine care and concern in her voice. My eyes filled with tears. I tried to fight it but it was out of my control. My heart knows what triggered me. “It’s stupid” was all I could mutter. “It’s really, really stupid” I said again. The room was now a blur, my vision was compromised by tears. I felt alone, vulnerable, and helpless. I took control again, and told the doc, “There’s this lead singer of a band. He killed himself. Since then I’ve listened to the music and it took me back to some of the darkest days of my life, and I’ve had a hard time bringing myself back. That’s why I’m here.” She turned back to her computer and began typing a prescription, but only after expressing empathy for all I’ve been through (please don’t judge, my meds are not narcotics and prescription meds are an entirely different article) .

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The news of Chester Bennington’s death hit me hard. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t write about it until now. I realize what happened inside me when I heard the news, but it didn’t come to fruition until I found myself in my doctor’s office. I was desperately seeking relief from anxiety and PTSD symptoms that were triggered by listening to the music created by Linkin Park. The music took me back to two periods of my life that I’ve worked really hard to overcome.

I listened to the first album by Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory, while I was in the midst of drug addiction. I had a miscarriage my senior year of high school. I abused the Vicodin prescribed to me to deal with the emotional pain and trauma I experienced from the miscarriage and social rejection/isolation. I listened to this album on repeat for what felt like months, while I was secretly snorting pills in my room. Listening to the music reminds me of the tingle in my spine from the Vicodin that I loved so dearly at the time. Hence, the trigger.

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The second album carried me through a portion of my deployment to Iraq. I was now in the Army as a Military Policewoman (oh the irony), and I was “outside the wire” in a war zone on constant missions with the infantry and scouts. Meteora was what I played on repeat this time. I was clean, sober of course, but struggling with the realities of war. Not only was I struggling with seeing humankind at it’s worst, I had a husband there with me experiencing the same thing. Hearing these songs after the breaking news of Chester Bennington’s suicide triggered my PTSD.

Here’s the good news though. I truly believe we are forged by the fire. The fire of these triggers will not consume me like they have consumed so many. While Chester Bennington’s suicide remains a tragedy, it’s a wake up call for those in recovery. Smooth sailing will never last. Triggers will happen and we must face them instead of turning away, which only leads to depression or relapse. Then the depression and relapse leads to suicidal ideation. See the cycle?

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Music is a powerful tool. It can heal, if you let it. It can also trigger repressed memories, situations, and emotions. The musical trigger is often a surprise. Part of a good recovery plan is dealing with those triggers as they come. I have someone in my life who could see I was struggling and encouraged me to get the help needed to get out of the dip, and keep moving forward. A good accountability partner or sponsor can help you recover from triggers too. The key, is to know thyself, and to reach out. I guarantee there’s someone there to listen, even if it’s just me.

I do believe Chester’s soul is resting in peace, and I continue to pray for his family and fans. Tragedy always has the possibility to turn to triumph, this is where hope is born. The triumph in this case is not his life decisions of course, but the impact he has had on his listeners who are in recovery. I hope his death allows those in recovery such as myself, to identify triggers and heal.

In the words of Bono, “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

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Healing Through Art and Nature

When words dissolve somewhere between the head and the heart, what you’re left with is art. Art to me happens to be the processing of feelings and transforming them into something beautiful. Art is what I’ve been up to. I’ve been processing in an entirely new way….through creativity with my hands. 

I seem to have taken a short leave of absence from writing lately.

Sometimes I just can’t find the words for my experiences.

Sometimes words just won’t do the trick. 

Sometimes words are avoided because processing them is just too much.

Sometimes writing might bring me to the brink of a dark place I don’t want to be. 

Sometimes words are stuck. They’re stuck somewhere between yesterday and today, lodged in my heart and head. 

Sometimes they dissipate, they dissolve into something else entirely. 

When words dissolve somewhere between the head and the heart, what you’re left with is art. Art to me happens to be the processing of feelings and transforming them into something beautiful. Art is what I’ve been up to. I’ve been processing in an entirely new way….through creativity with my hands. 

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Some people may see what I’ve been up to and think it’s silly. Maybe even ridiculous. I never set out to be a soap maker, or someone who takes from the land and creates with it. Some of the most creative minds in history never set out to do what they did, but a barrage of experiences led them there. 

The truth is that art, be it in writing or other newly discovered forms, is healing. It helps with my addiction recovery. It helps with my PTSD. It helps with my anxiety. It helps with my depression. As I ride the unpredictable waves of life in recovery, I discover there are many different forms of anchors along the way. Sometimes that anchor happens to be creating something tangible with my hands, instead of stringing words along to form a piece.

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Like most of those in recovery, my personality traits include obsession, perfection, and striving. I’m learning to laugh these off when it comes to putting creativity out there in the world. I fully accept that I am my own worst critic and am constantly striving for success. The trick is not to use other people’s terms of “success” in my life. As long as I’ve processed something through creating and left a tangible piece I’ve been successful. 

Another wonderful way to process things is to get lost in nature. Not literally of course, but figuratively. When I’m at my homestead in progress, Rattlesnake Ridge,  time stands still. I get completely lost in every wildflower sown by my creator. I get lost in every birdsong I’ve been blessed enough to hear. I get carried away by the trickles of water flowing through the creek. You should see the trees. Oh, the trees take me some place else entirely. The view from our future home plot takes my breath away. Every. Single. Time. 

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I don’t know where all this is going, but I know I’m on to something. I know there’s healing in the arts, and healing in nature. I guess I hope one day to be able to offer that experience to those who seek the refuge of nature. 

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Maybe I’m on to something. Maybe I’m completely missing the mark. Either way, I’m healing…and that’s what matters. 

Check out my new family Etsy shop here. 

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“The Talk” with my Tween: How my Teenage Pregnancy went from Tragedy to Triumph 

Once upon a time I was a pregnant teen. I didn’t know it then, but my path to self destruction had only just begun. It wasn’t until I found recovery that I came to terms with the loss and suffering I endured as a result of my poor decision making. Read about how I turned that tragedy to triumph and used it to help me explain the birds and the bees to my own daughter.

The sun was shining through the tall oak trees, the grass tickled our bare feet. My 12-year-old and I had just settled under a tree. The weather was impeccable, warm with a slight breeze to cool the balmy spring day. We were watching the little one do her second day of swim class. I was reflecting on the nerve-wracking tryout, and the many years of swim classes it took to get us here. I was feeling pretty darn proud as a mother. I was so grateful for this opportunity to teach my little 8-year-old that hard work, natural talent, and dedication pay off in opportunities like this one.

Suddenly, my perfect little mommy world stopped spinning, and what came next was a thunderstorm of emotions. My perfectly satisfied mommy moment was interrupted by my 12-year-old girl mouthing the words, “so, there’s this boy.” I was instantly spinning in a vortex of racing, panicky thoughts. This girl has never been boy crazy. As a matter of fact, she never even liked a boy singer until this year. Oh crap. This is it, this is the moment where I have to explain love and lust and everything in between. What do I say? What do I hold back? Where do I go from here?

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She went on to tell me about how there’s a boy she likes and they’ve been hanging out at school since the beginning of the school year. “He’s really cool” she tells me with confidence. Apparently the boy plays soccer and shoots guns (please don’t go all liberal on me, we’re from Texas and yes, it’s a sport) and they have “so much in common.” Then she asked it. “I was wondering if we could go out.” Ugh. My heart sank as I realized I was about to become the enemy instead of the mom friend she was looking for. “Well….” I replied. “First off, I don’t make any decisions without talking to your father first, you know that.” The look in her big ole’ round eyes told me she was almost regretting telling me. I followed up by asking her what it means to “go out.”

She was actually tickled by the question. She told me she really doesn’t even know what “going out” means, but she feels that’s what you’re supposed to do when you like a boy. I asked her what the boy thinks “going out” means. She couldn’t answer that either. I told her to him, it might mean holding hands and kissing, while to her it might mean talking and hanging out after school. She then understood the importance of defining it before committing to it. I also reminded her that her parents are crazy old combat vets, and fully capable of taking care of any boy who hurts her. I felt good about it. I felt like I handled it well. Deep down, I knew it was time.

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What I wasn’t expecting to follow-up with was the conversation about the birds and the bees. She went to a sleepover that next weekend. Her and her friends went for snow cones, and the boy was there. Then they hung out at the lake. My immediate vision was her embraced in the water in his arms, being young, in love, and carefree. I had to talk myself back to reality. She’s 12, not 16. She’s not the girl I was. She would never do that. She’s not interested in that. Is she? I realized now I had to have “the talk” and I was completely overwhelmed once again. I was overwhelmed because once upon a time I was a pregnant teenager.

It was after I tucked the little one into bed that night, and kissed her sweet innocent little cheek, that I realized I had to have the talk with my tween…like right now, it can’t wait. I knew it was time to tell her about my teenage pregnancy, and the baby I lost to miscarriage. I knew this moment was inevitable, and I knew the situation would be used for good someday (as God promised). Part of my recovery has been making peace with the past, a past that involved a teenage pregnancy my senior year in high school. My teen pregnancy was a consequence of drug and alcohol use, and bad decisions with bad guys. Ugh. I still shudder at the thought of it. It’s only by the grace of god, that girl I used to be is a foreign stranger I don’t know anymore.

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Then the words just fell out of my mouth. I told her I was pregnant in high school and that I lost the baby to miscarriage. She was shocked. She followed with all kinds of questions, “If you had the baby how old would it be now?” “Would you have joined the Army?” and followed with “Wow, you wouldn’t have had me because you wouldn’t have known dad if you still had that baby!” She figured out the consequences of my poor decision before I had to explain it. I did tell her that I made a terrible decision, that it nearly cost me my high school diploma, and it cost me my reputation and cost me a lot of friends along the way. I told her how humiliating it was to have to leave school pregnant, then go back without a baby, all the while rumors flew all over the small town.

I told her that tell her I know more than she does, not because I’m an adult, but because I have really been there. I told her she could trust me and I trust her to come to me with these feelings. I didn’t tell her I was already in alternative ed. for skipping school before I ended up pregnant. I didn’t tell her about the opioid addiction, or the ecstasy addiction that resulted from the pain of losing a child at a young age. I didn’t  tell her about being an alcoholic. All these things are left for future conversations when the time is right. My story isn’t over, it had only just begun.

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The moral of the story is this, if I hadn’t found recovery when I did, I wouldn’t have been able to use my story for good. When you’re in the middle of an inventory or amends step, God’s timing sucks. It isn’t fast enough, and it takes entirely too long. You have to remember, on the other side of that inventory and amends, the pain you endured will be used for the good of others. No matter how grisly the truth is, no matter how difficult the forgiveness process is, no matter how deep or intense the grief is, God is there, and his timing is perfect (though never convenient).

After this conversation with my daughter, I realize that instead of walking in shame and anger over my past mistakes, I walk in wisdom and freedom. I walk with a sense of wisdom and freedom that the next generation can learn from. They don’t have to make the same mistakes I made. The chains have been broken, just as God promised.

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Through sobriety and recovery, my daughter gets to witness God’s redemption from my sinful past. Recovery has also remade the little girl inside me, and she blossoms each time I share my story. How cool is that?

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Stay sober my friends.

-Rachel