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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

 

Not Tonight Honey: 3 Tips on How to Stay Sober with an Occasional Drinker

3 solutions on what to do when your spouse is an occasional drinker while you’re sober.

My husband and I have been through war and back. Literaly. We met on active duty while we were in the Army and married at 20 young years young. We honeymooned in Iraq for a year. We spent our first date drinking at a party, and spent years binge drinking when we could. We were young, and I’d always been a binge drinker, so it was nothing new to me. I’m pretty sure he knew I was a hot mess when I was drinking early in our relationship, but he accepted me anyway. Apparently he was up for the challenge.

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It wasn’t until years later that my blackouts became violent. He ended up being the babysitter when I drank. Perhaps it was the effects of war, or the unhealthy patterns in our relationship, or the father wounds I struggled with, whatever it was; my drinking days had to stop. When I bottomed out I realized one doesn’t become an alcoholic, they are born that way, and I was ready to accept that about myself. The problem was that even though I was sober, I didn’t set my boundaries in place correctly in my marriage and house, so I relapsed after a year and a half. I was still a control freak, and a demanding one.

After this relapse I was determined to stay sober, so with the help of recovery program material and counseling, we were able to find a healthy balance in our marriage with me being sober, and him (not being an alcoholic) having the occasional drink.

Here are some helpful tips on setting rules for drinking when you’re sober and your spouse is an occasional drinker. 

1.  Don’t judge.

Don’t assume because you have a drinking problem they do…most often they don’t. There were a couple occasions he drank too much with his friends after I was sober. This didn’t make him an alcoholic just because it hurt my feelings. I made the mistake of judging my husband’s drinking after being sober. Mostly I was jealous of the fact that he could still drink and control himself while I could not. There is however, a certain accountability they should maintain with you. What that accountability is, you have to determine amongst yourselves with boundary rules.

2.  Set the home environment to be safe, but do so with tact and sensitivity.

You’ve made the commitment to live sober, meaning no alcohol…not one drink….great for you but hard on the family. How are you going to communicate to your loved one who is not an alcoholic that they can’t come home and have a beer on the couch…ever? That they can’t have a beer while grilling in the yard? What about when friends and family visit? How do you tell them no alcohol?

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Sounds harsh, but it’s the life I live. I don’t want alcohol in my home…..I can’t have it in my home. Its very presence in my home creates a conflict in me so deep I get upset just thinking about it. Besides, allowing it in my home before led to relapse. I had to explain that my home is my safe place in sobriety. While the rest of the world goes on with alcohol everywhere I look, I have to have one place I can go to where I know the pressure isn’t there, a place where I know I can go and not think about alcohol. We had to compromise. My husband will occasionally have a beer with the guys after work, not in the home. Anyone who comes to my place to celebrate holidays knows not to bring wine. No biggie.

3. Be proactive (not reactive) with your triggers.

Know whether or not that beer they have at the restaurant or at that social gathering with you will piss you off. Talk about it in advance. You would think this would be easy, don’t drink in front of me, enough said. The problem is, I made a commitment to spend the rest of my life with this man. The rest of your life is a long time to commit to being sober in front of your wife when you don’t have a drinking problem. Social situations are sometimes unavoidable and sometimes awkward – but sobriety is worth it. I have to admit that in the wrong environment, in the wrong mood, being around the wrong crowd, with the wrong music playing, at the wrong time of night, these are triggers that can make me pissed when he has a drink. Other times, I can be totally cool with it. My responsibility is to know where I am at in my sobriety each day. If I’m struggling I have to say so, respectfully. If I don’t feel up to the social gathering, I have to say so. It’s much better in a marriage to be proactive instead of reactive.

I don’t have an answer for every situation or every relationship, all I know is what I’ve experienced to be true to my sobriety success. Everyone’s boundaries are going to be different. While some can never set foot in a restaurant that serves alcohol, some can, with the right boundaries in place. While some spouses have to live alcohol free for the support of the alcoholic in their life, some can still have a social drink with the right communication in place. I made the mistake the first time in recovery thinking you could put sobriety in a box, and thought that I was allowed to dictate rules with no regards to others.

Realize too, that it took 14 years of marriage (the good times and the really bad) to get us to where we are. We spent more years in counseling than not in counseling, I’ve spent more years working on myself than working on us. Realize too, that it takes two people willing to work hard at it, two people willing to compromise and sacrifice. Once I became healthy enough, I realized that love is not simply abstaining from something that poisons your relationship, it’s investing the time and energy to coming up with a solution that works for everyone involved.

While this recovery is a long and treacherous road, it’s truly a remarkable one once you learn to love yourself, and even miraculous when you learn to love others well.

Stay sober my friends.

Mommin Ain’t Easy

“Why are you so grumpy?” my 12-year-old tween asks as I drive aimlessly from the middle school down the bumpy road home. My shoulder is throbbing from a rotator cuff injury that I failed to attend therapy for this week because I found myself just too busy once again. My arm twitches in pain as I flex to keep the off-road wheels of the lifted jeep straight. “I’m not grumpy,” I impolitely snap back. “Oh, really?” she questions me. This kid actually has the balls to question me on a day like this. The drive then turns into a 15-minute lecture on communication, with me encouraging her to use I statements instead of accusatory questions to begin a conversation.

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The truth is I was grumpy. I am grumpy. Today I’m grumpy mom. It wasn’t until my daughter accused me of being grumpy that I realized just how grumpy I was. As soon as she mouthed the words I felt it. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, pressing me down into wet cement as I tried to reach for a life ring that no one was holding. No one was holding a life ring for me because I’m too stubborn to admit defeat. I immediately felt defensive because I was defeated. I was beaten by the universe of suck today 1-0.

My fingers are stained from the numerous failed batches of bath bombs I’m selling on Etsy. None of them came out right today…none of them. I have 2 burns I’m nursing on my left thumb from grabbing a hot pan after dinner. The husband just came over to see if I’m working on that 12-page paper that’s due tomorrow. Nope. I’m sure not. I’m simply not capable of doing anything academic until I process the suck of the day first.

It all began yesterday. My 8-year-old girl had a complete meltdown. It was a doozy. It was one that involved loud, hysterical sobbing and I’m pretty sure she had boogers from her nose to her ears by the time she was done. She told me she’s no longer going to school. She told me the kids were distracting and she’s miserable and insisted on being homeschooled from now on. She’s been bullied off and on this year so it’s no surprise. Then I start putting it together. The emotional outbursts, the anger, the mean things she’s said this year, and the training bras. She’s hitting puberty early. Crap.

I do believe this realization was what triggered the type of day I would have today. It began with me listening to that little voice inside. The voice of criticism is completely overwhelming for me when poked. It began with me telling myself last night that I’m a crappy parent for being more involved in her schooling. To be honest, we haven’t touched the books in weeks, I don’t volunteer, and I haven’t even had lunch with her even though I’ve been off work. Suddenly everything is my fault and I feel like a terrible human. There it is, my old familiar friend, the voice of criticism.

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The critic inside me continued from last night through the day today. Nothing I did was right. Nothing.  I couldn’t get started on my paper because I couldn’t cite right. I couldn’t do the bills because I’m not responsible enough, and I certainly couldn’t do the laundry because I’m lazy. I did manage to ruin a dozen things I attempted to do throughout the day. I plugged along, “failing” at everything and listening to the voice of criticism all day until my daughter reminded me I’m grumpy mom today.

In a feeble attempt to get out of my head my little one and I head to the nursery to look at some plants I want to buy for the land. That’ll do it. I convince myself that this distraction is everything I need at the moment. Before I knew it the 8-year-old was poking pollen filled flowers and then rubbing the pollen in her sensitive, allergy ridden, eczema surrounded eyes. She soon howled in pain and whimpered while I checked out. I was frustrated at the events of my “distraction.” Now I was a selfish mom. We get to the parking lot where she demands I call a doctor to save her. O.M.G….

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I demand she stop touching her eye while she continues to poke at it, she’s now poking the bear. The momma bear in me roars out to her to stop being dramatic. One minute she’s a pubescent little mini tween and the next she’s a toddler poking her allergic little eyes with pollen. What the hell am I supposed to make of all this? I don’t know what I’m doing. We ride home in silence. The voice in my head is screaming, telling me what a crappy mom I am and what I could have done differently. I probably should have taken her to the bathroom to wash it out, why didn’t I do that? Why am I so stupid and selfish?

A tear runs down my cheek as my shoulder pulsates in pain from the stupid speed bumps in the parking lot. “I’m sorry,” I say it from the bottom of my heart. My heart is apologizing for the things I’m not as a mother. She looks at me with those big brown eyes and tells me it’s ok. I tell her I’m just having a grumpy mom day and nothing is going right. “I love you momma” she reassures me. I tell her I love her too and reassure her we’ll go home, and be just fine.

Motherhood is hard. There are difficulties when they’re babies, difficulties when they’re children, difficulties when they are teens, and the difficulties never really end. They just change with time. The most difficult thing I find in motherhood is overcoming that nagging voice of inadequacy, the voice of criticism that constantly torments me.

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Oftentimes I find myself floating aimlessly in this turbulent sea of motherhood until someone throws me a life ring. That someone sometimes ends up being my children. That doesn’t make me a terrible mother, it makes me a raw human being, and I think the world needs more of that.

I hope you get to enjoy your Mother’s Day weekend. Try not to listen to the voice of the inner critic. That bitch is a liar anyway.

Mommin ain’t easy. But it sure is worth it.

The Baggage of Co-Occuring Disorders

Hey, friends and fellow folks in recovery! Hope your sober weekend is off to a good start. One way to make the weekend even better is by taking the time to read my new featured article for SMH (Screening for Mental Health). It’s on the topic of Co-Occurring Disorders, and you can read it on their blog by clicking here. Thanks again to Sober Nation for this writing opportunity!

That moment I became Wendy from Peter Pan…Grief does magical things when triggered.

Everything was great. Life is great. I’m living the dream. I’m sober, and I have an amazing job, and I’m pursuing my MA in Addictions Counseling. My marriage is awesome, and my kids blow my mind every single day with their growth and perspectives on life. Yet, here I was, sitting in the driveway of my gorgeous two story suburban dream home, in a vehicle worth more than my annual income, crying my eyes out to a song about Peter Pan.

So there’s this song, called Lost Boy by Ruth B. It sent my head spinning when I heard it the other day. I was driving and fortunately I was close enough to home to pull in the driveway and listen to the lyrics. A torrential downpour of tears quickly fell from my face down onto my lap. I guess I was surprised because there was no sadness in the forecast for that day.

Everything was great. Life is great. I’m living the dream. I’m sober, and I have an amazing job, and I’m pursuing my MA in Addictions Counseling. My marriage is awesome, and my kids blow my mind every single day with their growth and perspectives on life. Yet, here I was, sitting in the driveway of my gorgeous two story suburban dream home, in a vehicle worth more than my annual income, crying my eyes out to a song about Peter Pan.

I realize now after I’ve had time to process, that I was in the midst of a grief storm. It was three years ago this month that I received the call that my father passed away, and it was 17 years ago this month that I suffered a miscarriage. I shouldn’t be surprised at all that grief would sneak up on me. But alas, every year it hits me as quick as the last. I suppose it still hits me hard because I still find myself thinking “I should be over this by now.”

The infamous tick tock the crocodile from Peter Pan comes to mind. In dealing with death you quickly learn that time is not your friend. Someone’s always taken too soon, or not soon enough. You always think you have time with someone until time is no longer an option. The past, the present, and even the future are obsolete in dealing with death; none of it even exists anymore. Time is irrelevant, but it’s everything. Time heals all wounds is bullshit. Some wounds never heal; they just change year after year. Each year perspectives change and a little more gratitude is won on the never ending battlefield that is grief.

The truth is that this father wound is the biggest heartbreak I’ve faced. It has forced me to accept a truth about humanity and addiction I’ve tried to deny my whole life. Substance use disorders not only cost precious relationships, they sometimes cost you your life. Fortunately for me, my substance use disorder has become the cornerstone of which I have built my career, in mental health and in addictions counseling.

That being said, my heart still breaks for the boy inside my father. No amount of education, licensure or expertise will cure that. Deep down in my grief, I’m not grieving the loss of him as a family, because he was anything but. He wasn’t capable of being a father because he was a lost boy. I’m grieving the life he didn’t get to live because of the lost boy inside him.

He was abused, awfully so, by his family while growing up. The cycle didn’t stop for him, so he continued it. He was abusive because it’s what he knew families did to each other. He was an alcoholic probably because he hated himself for his twisted family values. He wasn’t able to stop the cycle of addiction and it eventually helped kill him. I imagine he was quite lonely as a child.

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Then, I imagine he found his Peter Pan in the bottle.

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The alcoholic in him chose to run from responsibility. He chose not to be a father. He chose to not have contact.

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Soon enough, I became an adult and the false promises of his recovery were made. I wasn’t able to see past the illness, I was scared. I rejected him. I focused on my marriage and children instead.

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I carried on about my business till that day he died. I assumed that there was time. Knowing what I know now, I would think that the lost boy in him has found his home. I like to think Heaven is his Neverland. Perhaps his Peter Pan is Jesus, and one day I might just be his Wendy Darling.

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And there you have it. My moment of grief in the driveway turned into a fairytale story ending with me as Wendy. What I learned about grief is it comes and goes. If you try to control it, you’ll surely drown. If let go and you ride the wave, it’ll bring you to shore……but not before that turbulent rainstorm passes.

I Love Me Some Yoga Pants….But I’ll Never Be a “Wine Mom”

Seems to me everywhere I look I see that some form of Mom happy hour is happening. Wine is the new most popular drink of choice. Maybe it’s because wine is “classy.” Perhaps it’s because wine is stronger than spirits but not as “bad” as hard liquor. Maybe it’s because wine is delicious. The self-indulging of wine at the end of a rough day may be harmless to some. To those of us with alcohol use disorders, it is playing with fire.

I’m just going to say it. Motherhood sucks at times. Sometimes I’m on top of the world and deserve a prize. Other times, I’ve earned nothing more than a participation trophy. On my worst days, I quit. I have literally told my children that I am done being their mother. Not one of my most stellar moments, but I was at my wit’s end. I have two girls, ages 8 and 12. When the premenstrual hurricane blows in every month, the three of us are affected by the barrage of estrogen and hormonal outbursts. Before I was sober, I would grab a “mom drink” at the end such a disastrous day.

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Seems to me everywhere I look I see that some form of Mom happy hour is happening. Wine is the new most popular drink of choice. Maybe it’s because wine is “classy.” Perhaps it’s because wine is stronger than spirits but not as “bad” as hard liquor. Maybe it’s because wine is delicious. I did love me some wine back in the day. My social media is filled with all types of sarcastic memes encouraging Moms to drink as the day goes to shit.

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The self-indulging of wine at the end of a rough day may be harmless to some. To those of us with alcohol use disorders, it is playing with fire. Unfortunately, society still sees the alcoholic as the bum on the street and not the mom next door. Most people don’t realize that you can be an “alcoholic” and not be physically addicted to alcohol.

A lot of people fail to realize people that it is medical personnel that diagnoses alcoholism. Counselors and psychiatrists generally diagnose symptoms of alcoholism as an Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD. The very presence of 2-3 symptoms in a 12 month period can lead to a diagnosis of a mild alcohol use disorder or AUD. Some of these symptoms are as simple as a craving and taking alcohol in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended. Drinking wine to cope with a sucky day of parenting is dangerous for everyone because the behavioral impulse can lead to an AUD, even in mild form.

Drinking as a coping skill just doesn’t work. This isn’t something I learned from a textbook, it’s something I learned from experience. I tried escaping my failing marriage and kids in a bottle on several occasions. It started with one glass of wine or one beer. It ended with me completely intoxicated each time. The very things I was trying to escape were the trigger for my anger while I was intoxicated. I never really “escaped” life while drunk because it just brought the feelings I never processed back to me, 10 fold. Then I became the angry wife and mom.

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There’s nothing glamourous about waking up with regret. There’s nothing glamorous about being told about the awful things you did to your family the night before during a blackout. There were many occasions I could have had my kids taken away from me while I was drinking wine. There were instances in which my husband would be totally justified in leaving me because of my inappropriate behavior while drinking wine.

Fortunately, we found Jesus and I found sobriety in time to save our family. I had struggled with a severe AUD for decades before getting help. I suffered for years in part because I didn’t fit the “alcoholic” definition that society projected. I wish I knew then, what I know now.

I write this with the hopes that some moms who are participating in this “wine-o after the kids are crazy” behavior; that they might consider the fire they are playing with. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of responsible adults out there that do not struggle with an AUD or alcoholism, and if you’re one of them, go on and do your thing. If you’re on the fence about whether the behavior is a problem or not, it probably is.

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So, I say with complete gratitude that I will not be getting off my wagon to indulge in a glass of wine after a crappy day of parenting. I do love some yoga pants, a messy bun, and some good ole’ Target browsing though. I made a promise to my kids to never have wine again, and they come before fitting in. I’ve found that the days that are the suckiest, are the most rewarding if you don’t give into the false lie of escaping into a bottle. Self-care comes in many forms.

On the sucky days of motherhood, sometimes I lock myself in my room for a mommy time out. Don’t knock it till you try it. Sometimes I just need a good long bubble bath with candles. Usually, it’s an adult oriented television show (my faves right now are The Walking Dead, The Americans, and This is Us….) and a dessert that will do the trick. The hardest part is choosing to process the situation with the kids instead of escape it.

I choose to discuss each problem as soon as the storm has passed. Even during the worst meltdowns, a child can throw at me, it’s worth it. Yesterday in my child’s anger I was told I was a horrible mother, and she was going to call the police because I wouldn’t give her the fast food she didn’t deserve. She went on to slew angry slurs at me for a good 30 minutes, in the car where I couldn’t escape. When I pulled into the drive I craved a glass of wine. If I wasn’t an alcoholic I could totally justify having a glass, which only pissed me off more.

The thought quickly faded as I stepped inside and felt the safe haven of my home. Then she finally broke. I heard her praying after we got home, and begging God for a do-over. Shortly after, she came to me and apologized and asked me if I could ever forgive her. “Of course,” I said. “Nothing you do could ever make me love you less, and I’m proud of you for making the right choices.”

The right choices aren’t easy, they’re often the last thing we want, but the rewards are often magnificent.

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That Day I Cussed God Out….and he Healed My Father Wound.

Today I write about the father wound. It’s a wound all too familiar for many people. The father wound has always existed in humankind. It’s nothing new. It exists because mankind is fallen. We are all far from grace. We all make mistakes in parenting. It goes way back to Adam and his decision that “knowledge” was more important than his father’s warnings. Adam’s son Cain was so upset by the rejection of his offering to his heavenly father God that he killed his brother. And the cycle of father wounds continued all the way to the present generation.

Let me tell you about my father wound. This wound ran so deep in my heart and soul it was part of my identity for decades. It was a wound that couldn’t be cured by running away. It couldn’t be cured by sleeping around for men’s attention. It couldn’t be cured by drugs or alcohol. It couldn’t be cured through co-dependence. It couldn’t be cured through isolation and depression. It couldn’t be cured by the obsessive striving for success. It couldn’t be cured by the becoming a control freak. It couldn’t be cured through anger and anxiety. It couldn’t even be cured through therapy and medication alone (though they were helpful). No. What it took was a relationship with my heavenly father to cure the broken relationship I never had with my earthly father.

Let me explain. My parents divorced when I was 5. My father had been abusive and controlling of my mother. We went to a safe home after we left for a while. I was confused and didn’t know how to share my feelings, so I stuffed them. I swallowed my feelings and went through the motions for the sake of others. This was a pattern I would continue until it nearly destroyed me as an adult. I was confused because I wanted to love the man we were leaving, I missed him. He was broken, but I missed him. He wasn’t involved after we left. He had one chance for visitation and he messed it up. There was one occasion we received gifts for Christmas but I was so rejected that I threw them away. The stage was set, the roles were cast, and I would be given the part of the girl without a father.

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I felt rejected. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt unloved and unwanted. I was young, and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of love. I didn’t attend Sunday school; I didn’t attend church for many years. I didn’t know “God the father” was an option. I began my journey toward God as a father in the chapel of a Catholic church. It was in the silence that he awakened my spirit. It was when I was reading a book full of testimonies from the nuns that work a youth outreach shelter on skid row. The stories of the displaced children resonated with me. I began to ponder, that if God could love these kids making all these bad choices, maybe just maybe, he would love me too. Maybe he was my father after all. Little did I know that this reading on runaway youth would inspire a short-lived runaway journey of my own.

I was in middle school and was desperate to escape. I was convinced I had lived long enough in the streets of Detroit that I would have the “street cred” I would need to survive. Who was I kidding? I was just a crazy little white girl from northern Michigan now. I wanted to go somewhere bigger. My father wound had convinced me I was the biggest reject at school. In my delinquent mind, it was his fault I was binge drinking alcohol in the 6th grade while other kids were doing productive recreational activities. It was his fault I was hooked on cigarettes, not many other 6th graders understand the depth of nicotine withdrawal, so I was isolated. I hung out with the other “rejects” and “loners.” I felt less than, so I became what I thought was less than. I convinced someone else she needed to run with me. I had the accomplice, the plan, the food and supplies, and the journey had begun one afternoon after school. We had taken a path that ran parallel to the highway and walked a full 7 miles. My young feet thought they might just fall off and die. We came across a factory and decided the next thing to do was hitch a ride with a trucker. We could have been murdered and dumped somewhere. But we weren’t. We were picked up by the police and taken to the station after making it to the next town. Our God is a good father, he had plans for our lives, and we were protected on our ignorant journey.

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I spent the next decade trying to earn attention from boys. Once again, I was that little girl, setting myself up for the rejection I felt I deserved. I kept men at an arms distance and kept them emotionally detached. This behavior led me to a teenage pregnancy that defined my relationship with God. I kept the baby but soon miscarried. When I reached all the humiliation and pain I could handle, I then committed the ultimate sin. I told God he gave me a shitty father, and that he himself was a shitty father, and I didn’t need him in my life anymore. I then filled the void with pain killers and club drugs till I found myself in the bottom of a ketamine hole on the bottom a dingy motel floor. It was then that I cried out to him again.

He should have told me to piss off. I certainly deserved it. But that’s not who God the father is. Through sobriety, I learned he is the ultimate father I felt I never had and he was there all along. God is a gentleman, and he will not intrude in your most sinful moments unless you ask him to. I scraped up enough faith to do something with my life. I joined the Army to travel and go to college. I went to war instead. I also met the man of my dreams, the one God designed for me. The costs of war took their toll on our marriage and I was once again begging God to step up and be part of my life again. I had this pattern of using God until something resolves then putting him on the shelf for use at a later time. Long story short, my father God restored my marriage. He did it by introducing me to his son Jesus. What a good father indeed.

When I finally admitted defeat I found myself in a church full of strangers hugging me and welcoming me, as if they had known me forever. I remember thinking to myself, “what a bunch of weirdos.” It was during worship one night, though, that my soul was touched and I finally came undone. I was in a program called Celebrate Recovery. I didn’t know what I was there for. I just knew I was a broken sinner with a dozen different hurts, habits, and hang-ups that needed to be fixed. I thought my marriage was over, I even had a lawyer. Back to that moment of worship. I began to see a vision of the hand of Jesus reaching out to me. He smiled and told me “come along little one.” Here I was, a grown woman, and this guy Jesus was speaking to the broken little girl in me. He knew that underneath every hurt, habit, and hang-up, was the father wound. He knew I wouldn’t be right until that was made right with my creator. I trusted him, he led me to the cross, and I surrendered that wound once and for all. Or so I thought.

Man feeling freedom on open sea

Flash forward a couple of years, and I was back in the middle of an alcohol relapse. My career wasn’t going in the direction God had planned, and my marriage was once again weak. We were living, but not really living. God had been put back on the shelf, even after his son intervened on his behalf. What a wretched sinner I am indeed. I was feeling terrible about my walk with my heavenly father when I got the call. I got the call that my father had passed away. Not only did he pass away, but he passed away 4 months prior. There was no memorial service, no funeral, no body, and no grave. There was nothing. I had to do the research and the medical examiner contributed his death to depression and alcohol dependence. I was numb for a good month. Then the emotions came. Grief was a tidal wave of emotions. I cried more than I ever had in my life for a father I never really had. I made attempts through the years to reconnect, and it never worked. I thought I had time. I was wrong.

I found myself on the floor of my bedroom in the fetal position one night. I was absolutely devastated. I was cussing my dead father out. “You couldn’t even die right, you fucking jerk.” Yeah. I said it, and I didn’t even regret it. What came next was even worse. I cussed at God for leaving me. I cussed at him for disappointing me. I cussed at him for taking him before I got another chance. I told him once and for all, to piss off. I questioned if he was ever there at all. Was it all just a fallacy of my imagination? I was afraid it was all make believe. I felt absolutely abandoned and I considered ending my life. I was once again the worthless little girl, only I was all grown up, and had little girls of my own looking up to me. I begged God to show me his presence. It was more of a challenge than a request really. My daughter knocked on my door to check on me. She entered the room and the thought of death fled. What a selfish, terrible thought to have had. She saw the pain on my face, a pain I could no longer deny, and she held me. Here was my baby girl, comforting her grown mother. It dawned on me suddenly all at once.

She was Jesus in the flesh. I called out to him and he showed up. God sent his son to save his girl, and he did so through this little girl in this moment of surrender. He was showing me that that little girl inside me was capable of healing and helping others. So, that’s what I’m doing with my life. I’m helping others who have had the same walk. My father wound left me with one hell of a scar. I can’t say it’s healed or finished, about the time I do, grief comes in with buckets of tears to remind me I’m not alone. There is a process to healing, it is slow and methodical. It is difficult and it is painful. It is the road less traveled, but it’s a beautiful journey. What happened next was a miracle. My father’s body came back to me in the form of ashes and I planted them into a tree. This tree is now growing on my property. How good is our heavenly father? Only he could make that happen. Only he can take death and create life with it.

I’m obviously not formally educated in theology. I leave that to the professionals. I simply choose to share my story. That’s the structure of the bible anyway, right? It’s a combination of books, of stories, of testimonies that tell of his promises and healing…and to think, it all began with Adam. Check out the Father’s Love Letter below, it has all the biblical reference you need to confirm the love of our father, God. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out. All the healing you could ever want is on the other side of fear.

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