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 

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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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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